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Muslim, Western biz challenges: Plenty of common ground

Whether you are in Saudi Arabia or Chicago, executives and entrepreneurs face some of the same challenges when it comes to keeping audiences engaged.
By Bill Connor
FORTUNE -- As I huddled with a Saudi business contact in a conference room in Madinah, just a few miles from the final resting place of the Prophet Muhammad last month, I was struck by how exotic and yet how familiar it all felt. My friend, a banker, wore the traditional kafiyeh and thobe to my blue suit. Outside, the temperature approached 112 degrees Fahrenheit. On the breakfast table: fried lamb liver, cardamom-scented coffee, and camel's milk.

But my friend spoke of exactly the same goals, hopes, and anxieties that I discuss every day with executives from D.C. to Dallas. How can I make more time for my family while growing my business? How do I stay ahead of the competition? How can I communicate more effectively with employees, customers, investors, and the media? And so, after years of working with clients from all over, I once again realized that in the world of business at least, we are much more alike than we think.

My conversation with Abdullah took place at the Madinah Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship (MILE), an executive-education program created by the Saudi government and corporate backers with help from McKinsey. Every day, over the course of each two-week program, a different marquee-name B-school professor from the U.S. or Europe delivers an eight-hour program to a group of 30 or so senior executives from the Middle East and Asia. The goal: to give executives from the Arab and Muslim worlds relevant business education without having to send them to Philadelphia or London. I was there to conduct media training and presentation skills coaching in small sessions. And I saw first-hand that public speaking challenges know no cultural bounds.


July 2010

Dr. Constantinos Markides | Robert P Bauman Chair of Strategic Leadership from London Business School
Dr. Constantinos Markides| Robert P Bauman Chair of Strategic Leadership accepted MILE's invitation to participate as a Speaker in our program. A native of Cyprus, he received his BA (Distinction) and MA in Economics from Boston University, and his MBA and DBA from the Harvard Business School.

He serves on the Editorial Boards of several academic journals including the Strategic Management Journal, the Academy of Management Journal, the Journal of Management and Governance, the Sloan Management Review and the European Management Journal. He is a member of the Academy of Management and the Strategic Management Society and was a Fellow of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland during 1999-2003.

He has done research and published on the topics of strategic innovation, business-model innovation, diversification and international acquisitions. His book: All the Right Moves: A Guide to Crafting Breakthrough Strategy was published by HBS Press in 2000 and was shortlisted for the Igor Ansoff Strategic Management Award 2000 as the best strategy book of the past two years. His next book (with Paul Geroski), entitled Fast Second: How Smart Companies Bypass Radical Innovation to Enter and Dominate New Markets was published in January 2005 and was on the Short List of the Financial Times-Goldman Sachs Management Book of the Year in 2005. His latest book was entitled: Game-Changing Strategies: How to Create new Market Space in Established Industries by Breaking the Rules and was published by Jossey-Bass in June 2008. He is currently working on his new book, entitled: Disrupting the Disruptor: Using counter-attacks to defend against disruptive business models.

His current research interests include the management of diversified firms and the use of innovation and creativity to achieve strategic breakthroughs.

He teaches on the Senior Executive Programme at London Business School and covers several topics such as:

  1. "Strategic Innovation: How to win by breaking the rules in your industry";
  2. What mistakes people make in Strategy Execution and how to avoid them;
  3. How to energize a team to implement our strategy with passion;
  4. How to make your company more innovative;
  5. How to radically change your strategy;
  6. How to play two games at the same time;
  7. What role do individuals play in moving the organisation forward.

Dr. Markides also suggested to conduct an online survey on Competitive Strategy which would be to cover PALM 2 participants and MILE alumni.

Its a pleasure to have him as our speaker.

June 2010


Paul Siegel, the Managing Director of The Globecon Group extended several ideas for providing value added services to PALM participants covering

  1. a multimedia CD with a sample course and other information.
  2. Participants access to the elearning courses before the program date.
  3. 50% discounts to PALM delegate’s companies for elearning for their executive and staff if they register individuals within 60 days following completion of the workshop

Global Best Practices by PricewaterhouseCoopers

MILE secured a 25% discount from Julie Hodges-Lemberg at PwC-GBP. PwC would be willing to offer a 25% discount on subscriptions to GBP for PALM members. The individuals would need to license through the company they work for or own to become subscribers. As most of our alumni members are business managers, controllers, finance or CEOs, finance, presidents or business owners, hence, GBP would definitely be of great value to their companies.

Talent Q

Mr. Hood (Managing Partner) of Talent Q in Saudi Arabia offered MILE a competitive solution i.e. "Dimensions" which measures behavioural preferences at work. It explores how one prefers to manage his/ her relationships with others, his approach to tasks and his sources of energy and motivation.

Egon Zehnder International

Dr. Claudio Fernández-Aráoz from Egon Zehnder conducted a half day workshop on "Great People Decisions" at Panda Head Quarters. The event was organized as part of our Life Long Commitment with our Alumni i.e. their continuous professional development. Mr. Claudio was also accompanied with his other colleague Mr. Johan Brand. Both are Partners at Egon Zehnder International and based out of Dubai, UAE.