Sir Najmul Hasan of IBA and How to Determine the Extent of Your Success in Life

Yesterday, during my PhD class with students I was trying to explain the complexity of real world and how models (and theories) help us in making sense of this complexity by focusing on a few concepts and their relationships. The discussion moved towards perception and reality and from there to this phenomenal lesson by Najmul Hasan Sb about how to determine the extent of our success in life. Sir Najmul Hasan did his MBA from 1955-57 as part of the first batch of IBA, Karachi offering the very first MBA program outside North America in collaboration with USAID and University of Pennsylvania. He served as a faculty member of IBA from 1969 till 2006.

Sir Najmul Hasan of IBA. Photo taken for NIC card in 1972-72 

This is 1985, my first semester of MBA at IBA and the course was Organizational Behavior. Mr Najmul Hasan in the very first class emphasized that he would be focusing on psychology, which is his favorite subject and the subject in which he did his masters from USA. I was coming from the electronic engineering background where the focus is on scientific observations in areas far removed from understanding people. I found this course by Najmul Hasan sb a refreshing perspective on the world of reality, and our perceptions resulting in our behaviors. The course gave me the opportunity to observe applications of psychology concepts. I would try to apply the concepts being learned to the characters of hundreds of fiction and literature books that I had read and loved. To me analyzing the psychology of these characters and their behavior that I often hated or loved, using the course concepts, became a scintillating experience. I then started applying the concepts to the people whom I would meet and would try to connect the observations with the theories of psychology. The book and its concepts are with me to this day, because I had been actively analyzing the situations that I encountered in my subsequent interactions and readings with many of the concepts that I learned from this course, including the concept which helps in measuring the extent of our success in life.

Mr Najmul Hasan had a reputation for being a hard task master and students were afraid of being penalized for not remembering minute details. Despite the apprehension of my class fellows, I have understood by the end of second hourly (monthly exam) that I would not only pass the course but would also score an A! It was true that he wanted students to master the intricate details and to answer questions which tested fine differentiation of concepts, which I tried to do. But more importantly, I realized early on that he actually had a single point agenda from this course. The agenda was to make the students understand the concept related to “measuring the extent of their success in life”. I could predict from the frequency with which he emphasized this concept that if I master this concept, and can demonstrate its application in different situations, he would be happy to give me a good grade. His agenda was for us to understand the full import of the following concept:

“The extent to which our perception matches the reality, determines the extent to which we will succeed in our life”.

This concept emphasizes that reality is too complex. The picture of reality that we hold in our mind is called the perception. This perception is an incomplete and often an inaccurate representation of what exists in the real world. Success is a function of our perception matching the reality because our perceptions determine our behavior and are actions. If perceptions are imprecise and inaccurate our actions would trigger inappropriate responses to the challenges we face. Hence greater the match between reality and perception, greater the chance of our actions being appropriate and directed effectively to meet our goals of life, and hence greater the chances of our success.

Having understood this concept and the emphasis he was putting on it, I made sure that in answer to each question I will link the answer of the question to this central concept. I did that and I think this was the major determinant of my scoring an A in the course.  There were a couple of other students who scored an A, but for that they had to put an extra ordinary amount of more time and effort than me (this is my perception!).

One of the things that I learned from Sir Najmul Hasan is how to ensure that the students come to the class prepared with the assigned text. I was not too much aware of the impact of this technique while he was teaching the course but became aware of it when I was a fellow faculty member at IBA from 1995 to 2000 during which time Najmul Hasan sb was teaching Managerial Policy. The students were in awe and intense pressure of coming prepared to the class with the assigned case study. For each student who would participate in the class discussion,  he would make some shape in front of the name on a sheet similar to the attendance sheet. The difference in this sheet was that instead of marking absent or present for a given day, he would make a triangle, rectangle or a kite. No one knew the quantification of such shapes which acted like codes. The students would only see that having participated in the class discussion or having answered a question, Sir Najmul Hasan had assigned a coded shape mark. Later, the students were failed or given grade based on these coded shapes representing participation marks. I also learned the effectiveness of this technique when I observed the students not coming to class prepared with the assigned text. I typically dedicate the first ten fifteen minutes of the class time for questions and then marking coded shapes of mine. I could sense a silence and tension descending on the class  during this interval. Once I had finished with marking their preparation, I could hear of sigh of relief sweeping the class. A very effective technique indeed. 

I also learned from this course that 5 to 7 is the maximum number of concepts that can be held sensibly in our mind simultaneously together. My presentations and teaching about presentations to students continually emphasize minimalism. Hence our talks should not try to make more than 5-7 points, there should not be more than 5 lines in a slide, and no more than 5 words on a line.

There were several other concepts from the book “Introduction of Psychology” by Morgan and King that I learned from this course and have been applying them since. These include:

  • Comparison level of alternatives in our relationships. 
  • Group psychology and crimes committed by crowds. 
  • Source and sink in group dynamics. 
  • Emotions and Moods.
  • Etc.


Najmul Hasan Sb’s Picture above: I had to make an effort to get this picture. I was surprised when i could not find any picture of him on IBA website. He did his MBA from IBA with the first batch 1955-57. He served IBA as faculty member from 1969 till mid 2000s. I was surprised not to find any picture of Sir Najmul Hasan on the Internet. I searched in some old prospectuses of late 1990s that i had, but could not find any picture of him there. I then called him yesterday. He told me that he didn’t use to get the photos taken for the prospectus. On my request, he then assured me that when his son will come for the visit, he would ask him to send me his picture. And here it is through whatsapp. It was nice talking with him and hearing his voice after a long time. I later remembered that while developing prospectuses of IBA from 1997-2001 when I was there as a deputy director, we could never find his picture and he was always reluctant in giving the picture. 

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    1. Your blogs are very simple and like story telling, this kept the reader intact till end. Really appreciate your way of writing. Take home point is very important, it also cleared my understanding regarding perception and reality.
      "The extent to which our perception matches the reality, determines the extent to which we will succeed in our life".

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Thanks for commenting.

    4. I think you missed the thrust of the post which was the understanding of the lesson that a teacher really wanted to convey. As teacher we always look for students who really master the real message and essence of what we are teaching. The decision to give an A or a B+ is always marginal and typically depends upon the teacher noticing some thing more than just mastery of the assigned text.

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