Huang & Van Horne Four E Entrepreneurship Policy Framework and Key Recommendations

This post provide a condensed exert from the GEM UAE 2011 Report and is copyrighted material of the authors of the report. It can be downloaded here: UAE 2011 GEM Report

If you would like to quote the report or this blogpost please use the following details: 

Van Horne, C., Huang, V., and Al Awad, M. 2012. “UAE GEM Report 2011”, Zayed University, UAE

This year the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2011 UAE report presents the Huang & Van Horne Four E Entrepreneurship Policy Framework. This model is based on the assumption that entrepreneurship is the intersection of enterprising individuals and the availability of opportunity.

Huang & Van Horne 4 E Entrepreneurship Framework 

There are four interconnected components which support entrepreneurs and the opportunities they have recognized, from the birth of their ideas to scaling up and going global with successful products and services.

Education is at the heart of giving future entrepreneurs the confidence to make the leap, make wise decisions and to know where to go for guidance and assistance. It can also help build an entrepreneurial mindset in individuals, who might have ideas – but fear the unknown. Education about entrepreneurship helps reduce fear by equipping entrepreneurs with the tools and skills needed to bring dreams to life.

Ecosystem is the supporting infrastructure in which an entrepreneur operates. Regulations, licensing processes, incubation centres, banks, capital markets, and universities, all support entrepreneurs taking maximum advantage out of opportunities.

Export and looking outside of national and regional borders for ideas, for customers and suppliers is essential in a small market such as the UAE. Taking advantage of the unique geographical and demographic makeup of the UAE can give entrepreneurs operating here an edge over international competition.

Enthusiasm is all about supporting the passion that makes an entrepreneur tick. Being a successful entrepreneur means overcoming frustrations and putting in the long hours necessary to transform dreams into reality.

The following are recommendations and action steps that can be taken by policy makers to develop a coherent strategic entrepreneurial policy framework to support a diversified, innovative and competitive economy.


•           Link knowledge creation and venture creation to speed the conversion of ideas into market-ready enterprises. Government as well as large business conglomerates need to invest in research and development activities, building industry-university collaboration through government facilitated and funded applied research project.

•           Improve the match between education and employment opportunities. Develop a job-ready workforce through various levels of education opportunities, training, and apprenticeships as well as other education-industry links, including new structures for schooling. Entrepreneurship ecosystems must contain the skills competitive enterprises need to grow and prosper and must connect people with opportunities to gain those skills.

•           Inject entrepreneurial mindset and behavior into national/regional curriculum at all levels - primary, secondary, vocational, higher education and non-formal education and training, alongside integration of profession-based teaching and learning in all disciplines and curriculum.

•           Encourage UAE youth to acquire some level of entrepreneurial experience before leaving secondary school either as a formal part of the curriculum or as an extra-curricular activity that is overseen by the school or a non-formal education body.


•           Establish or invest in institutions that are sources of enduring strength, including centers of innovation zones, technology transfer (such as MASDAR, KUSTAR), knowledge creation, university based incubators or innovation academy, apprenticeships, and high-quality education linked to long-term human capital development.

•           Support integrated and coordinated solutions that direct resources to regional coalitions, initiatives, programs and public-private partnerships with coherent strategies, such as small company mentoring or ties between established businesses, corporate social responsibility projects and higher education institutions.

•           Review current small business regulatory environment against international best practices. Stringent immigration related labor regulations coupled with the current regulatory system negatively affect the number of high-impact entrepreneurs. This is an important point for policy makers to note because these entrepreneurs contribute greatly to job creation.

•           Develop strategies that improve the flexibility of labor, communications and market openness while eliminating bureaucracy and invariability of business start-up process across different Emirates, which will contribute to a more entrepreneurially-focused business environment.

•           Mediate the connection between small and large enterprises to promote the growth and success of SMEs in the UAE and revitalize large corporations through partnerships with innovative SMEs. When a small business becomes a corporate supplier, it can experience significant growth. For large companies, increased supplier capabilities could lower costs, improve performance, and simplify its supply chain.

•           Foster an efficient private and public mechanism for entrepreneurship finance. Governments can overcome finance and knowledge gaps through increasing the availability of financial and informational resources. Policies aimed at the development of a venture capital market, direct financial support and the knowledge base can be increased through access to capital market and dedicated small business finance schemes


•           Build a holistic international export strategy by facilitating collaborations through strengthened partnership with rapidly advancing economies (i.e. BRICS countries), as well as building a government led SME cooperation platform and policy to deepen existing strong UAE trading partners such as China, Japan and South Korea.

•           Improve the information and advisory network (accountants, lawyers, investors, etc.) of start-up business owners with more than one stakeholder about their position towards each other, support and resources available. Policy makers have a role to play in defining the growing and competitive markets for the future in UAE and invest in small businesses to penetrate those markets.

•           Develop a dynamic, international competitive human capital strategy to attract and retain highly qualified talent in the UAE. Mobility and diversity of human capital are often key ingredients to enhanced global trade and internationalization. As one of the most international oriented, culturally diversified nation in the world, UAE is yet to reach its full potential.


•           Create energy for making positive social changes through entrepreneurship, facilitated by media attention, events, and awareness campaigns. Entrepreneurship is not a heroic act of a few individuals, but the accomplishments of many people who pursue their ambitions in a supportive cultural and institutional environment. GEM global data reveal that cultures which reward hard work and creativity, rather than social and personal connections, will encourage entrepreneurial development.

•           Develop a program for Emirati government employees to take an entrepreneurship leave, similar to an education leave, to reduce the high level of risk associated with leaving a secure and well-paid government job to start a new venture. A certain number of employees could even be provided with office space and basic support to incubate their ventures.  This type of sabbatical program can also be applied by the private sector which can also develop programs to incentivize and recognize innovation and entrepreneurial pursuits.

•           Identify and reward excellence, invest in the best ideas, and spread institutional innovations. National competitiveness requires the unique capabilities and involvement of organizations in collaborations that produce innovative solutions and businesses. Intrapreneurship training and initiatives (such as a short-term career break to pursue entrepreneurial venture for public sector employees) should be encouraged and launched. Leaders tomorrow can be institutional innovators.

•           Connect business, education, social leaders across different sectors to develop regional strategies and produce scalable models that build on local assets, capabilities, and attract new investment. Ecosystems are inherently local. In each emirate, city or cluster, government organizations together with educational institutes, community, social groups - must come together to enrich the ecosystem.


Youth Entrepreneurship in the UAE: Results of the GEM UAE 2011 Report

This post provides a condensed exert from the GEM UAE 2011 Report and is copyrighted material of the authors of the report. It can be downloaded here: UAE 2011 GEM Report

If you would like to quote the report or this blogpost please use the following details: 

Van Horne, C., Huang, V., and Al Awad, M. 2012. “UAE GEM Report 2011”, Zayed University, UAE

Youth are seen as the greatest potential resource in the Arab world, with 30% of the population between the ages of 15-24. However, unless these youth are able to find and sustain gainful employment this resource could turn into a drag on economic and social development, instead of the rich source of new ideas and energy. The UAE, in particular amongst the local Emirati population, has a large portion of its population under aged 20, and recent statistics indicate that there are high levels of unemployment amongst the young population, reaching 25%.

In the 2011 UAE GEM Report, the percentage of youth who expect to start a new venture in the next three years sharply declined from 2009. This mirrors the results of both the total adult population survey and the Emirati population (Table 1). The lowered intentions of youth to form new businesses should not be attributed to self-perceived business start-up skills, as the perception of their skills remains high and far exceed the levels seen in other innovation driven economies. There is a need to better engage the youth in new ways to better inspire a more entrepreneurial and innovative mindset as youth are a critical contributor to attaining sustainable economic development.

Expects to Start-up in the next 3 Years
Skills Perception

18-24 years
25-34 years
18-24 years
25-34 years

With government employment opportunities reaching saturation and low participation in the private sector, entrepreneurship opens up many possibilities for a dynamic and energetic part of the population.
It is highly critical therefore, to nurture entrepreneurial skills at an earlier stage by integrating entrepreneurship into the education system particularly at the primary and secondary levels.  Of course, this would require academic institutions to adopt the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship and qualify their teaching staff to better engage the youth in a meaningful way as they strive to prepare a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders.

It is hard to envision a prosperous and dynamic entrepreneurship ecosystem without a strong education, training system that prepares UAE youth for productive and self-sufficient lives. Entrepreneurship and education cannot be separated as the essence of entrepreneurship comprised of skill-sets that could be learned and taught through education, the UAE government has actively supported several educational reforms, strategies, and models in the past five years.

Some of these initiatives translated into great success, for example, the Injaz-UAE connects corporate volunteers to mentor youth (ages 11-24) through its programs, which prepare students to enter the world of work and succeed through interactive, impactful and practical mentoring sessions. Volunteers undergo an orientation and training before they start their experience to enhance their mentoring sessions and readiness to inspire youth. To-date, INJAZ-UAE has reached 15,000 students since 2005, through 1,500 volunteers at 43 schools and universities - and growing.

Another important initiative of the UAE to support the development of youth is the newly launched Emirates Foundation for Youth Development, which aims to empower, inspire and guide the youth of the UAE.  Initiatives are focused on Social Inclusion, Leadership and Empowerment and Community Engagement. Most notably is the successful Takatof program which trains volunteers for community events and local institutions. This program trains and provides skills to young people to better prepare them for the future.

In the Emirate of Dubai, the Young Entrepreneur Competition is an annual initiative by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders and is targeted at young Emiratis who have a business idea and wish to develop it. The program runs over two months and allows young people to learn the basic skills of the entrepreneurial process and culminates with the young entrepreneurs selling their products in individual stalls setup in one of the leading malls, providing youth with hands on experience in an entrepreneurial endeavour.

There are also youth led initiatives such as The Zayed University Entrepreneur Club (ZUEC) – a true exemplar of a student-led entrepreneurship initiative, which was founded by students at Zayed University, with campuses in the Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, aimed at inspiring and stimulating interest in entrepreneurship among Emiratis youth. Officially launched in the fall of 2011 with support of Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi government investment company, the ZUEC provides a conduit by which students can access entrepreneurial tools & resources, network opportunities with community entrepreneurs, and chance to share ideas. The Entrepreneurship Club is dedicated to furthering understanding about new and small businesses.

At Abu Dhabi University, the Entrepreneurship Incubator has been set up with the aim is aimed at supporting innovation and growth for new businesses in the UAE. The University cooperates with Khalifa Fund, as well as public and private business sectors in order to develop a real enterprise culture across the university and to provide immediate support and encouragement to all those who are able to potentially create new businesses in the future. 

Other examples of university based entrepreneurship activities include: Khalifa University Etisalat BT Innovation center, and the American University of Sharjah’s Start-up weekend, and HCT.


A review of Al Bidiya Mosque: a visual essay by Marco Sosa

Back cover of book

*UPDATED AGAIN* Marco's images are now available on ARCHNET, an MIT website for researchers and practitioners of architecture. You can access the photos and rich infomration about the site here: Jami' al-Bidiya Badiyah, United Arab Emirates

*UPDATE* Please watch the video from the official book launch to know more about the research process and how Marco got this amazing project from initial idea to amazing final result:

I work with some pretty amazing people.  I count myself lucky that I have been blessed with wonderful students and colleagues with talents and passion for teaching that amaze me daily.  I need to share with you a recently published book by just such a colleague, and friend, Marco Sosa.

Front cover of Marco's book (available at MacGrudy's!)
Marco started this project almost three years ago. As a working architect/artist before coming to teach Design at Zayed University in September 2009 he was looking to show students what architecture was - and how it can have a major impact as something we live, pray or work in - but also as a symbol, of our heritage, culture and religion.

He heard about Al Bidiya mosque and decided to investigate himself. He went to visit and had to know more.. and knowing more for a researcher means learning more, discovering more and getting your hands dirty.

The research process involved many meetings and discussions with experts and reading about the mosque and about the region close to Dibba, where the mosque is located. In late spring 2010 he went to take the photographs of the mosque. And since then he has been working at bringing his photos to print.

Entrance - Marco Sosa
I would talk about his project with my students from the region and they were surprised that anyone would be interested... and yet Mr. Sosa was.  When my students saw the finished book they felt proud and mentioned that there should be a similar book about other archaeological sites around Dibba - such as the old houses in Watt and the old forts. They are going to use the book, and Marco as a reference and source for their Capstone projects about economic development in the Dibba region through eco-tourism. 

Al Bidiyia Mosque - Marco Sosa

Marco's Art & Design students had to same reaction to the project and to the book - we should do this too! We CAN do this too. They too are working on projects to capture their heritage through images and the written word.

All I can say is buy the book to feel the beauty of the mosque and to learn of the history of the mosque and the journey Marco took to realize his project from idea to realization. If you aren't in the UAE you can see a video of it here: Marco's video

This is the description of the book provided by Marco:

"The book provides a pictorial insight of the Al Bidiya Mosque in the Emirate of Al Fujairah,
United Arab Emirates. The publication aims to express the building’s importance as a
place of worship, as a living, working ‘vessel’ of historical, cultural and religious importance
in the UAE and provides a personal view of the mosque to the public, nationally and internationally.
The book uses black and white photography to capture the phenomenology of the place.
The book also contains an essay adding historical context by Dr. Ronald Hawker and an
artist conversation between the artist Marco Sosa and International sculptor Udo Rutschmann."

The description provided of course does the book justice - but it is not just a book. Marco has created something which will inspire students to look at their heritage in a new way, it will inspire and motivate them to take on the challenge of doing something similar (knowing they can ask Mr. Marco for guidance along the way).

Thank you Marco for this - we really all are proud of you for this beautiful piece of art.

A quiet corner - Marco Sosa


How blackberry lost its competitive advantage: An unscientific view from the UAE

I started using my Black Berry again (long story why I stopped using it) - and it got me to wondering why blackberry went from number 1 in the UAE to "I can't wait to get rid of my bb" in just two short years.

Of course, when I want wisdom from my students (and they are wise and speak with their very high disposable income), I ask them. So, on our mid-term one of the questions they could answer was about how blackberry lost its competitive advantage (I use blackberry and not RIM - but you all understand what I mean):

The question:

In November 2011 Blackberry phones made up over 50% of the smartphone market in the UAE. That is no longer the case. Competitive advantage can be built (and lost) using several different factors.  Please provide a brief definition of competitive advantage, list the different factors and briefly define each in your own words.  Then, please explain why and how Blackberry has LOST its competitive advantage in the UAE market. Use specific and real examples for each point and explain what you mean (don’t just list items).

Before I get to the answers, first a short refresher on competitive advantage: competitive advantage is simply being better than your competition - so you can sell more stuff, sell it for a higher price or be so awesome that people put themselves on waiting lists or travel 100s of km to buy your product or service.
Well, there is that - but nerdy researchers (like me in case you are new to this blog) look for patterns (patterns make us giddy) that explain the why of things. We always need to know why (yes, kind of like a three year old that is never satisfied with an answer...).
So, after looking at these patterns the simplest theory is that there are four ways to build competitive advantage in your organisation:
  • Quality
  • Responsiveness to customers
  • Efficiency
  • Innovation

So, where did BB go wrong? BBM used to be THE preferred means of communications even a few short months ago... now everyone has an iPhone and/or Galaxy and if they have BB it is just because they have so many contacts on it. The main issues for the students seem to be decreasing quality, a total disregard of customer's concerns, lack of new models and lack of innovation (so yeah, everything!)

First, students point out that the camera is better with iPhone and Galaxy, service is unreliable, it crashes easily and is not "secure" and they break easier than before (remember, this is not scientific, but an almost straight retelling of what they told me).

RIM does not listen to customers, "Biggest problem is not responding to customer needs and wants and the same defects are in each new version of the Black Berry - like the battery!". Another student said that BB does not have a system that fully connects with their customers (now RIM, if you think you do have such a service, uhmmm, I do not think it is working).

Lack of efficient system to have new versions of the phone (and again with no improvements on the major issues).... They blame that you laid off all those engineers to try to save money a few years ago (yeah, I might have something to do with that opinion).

Finally, and the biggest concern was a lack of innovative apps such as instagram and google maps... and they said that iPhone apps are just better - BB apps tend to be boring.

So there you have it - words of wisdom from my at the cutting edge of consumer electronics students ... Also, a word of warning to other businesses that think they have people locked into their products - sorry, if they feel ignored they will move on to a company that does not ignore them...

However, all that being said, they do not think I should get an iPhone... it is much too complicated for me :)


Advice to Emirati entrepreneurs at each stage of the entrepreneurship process

So, in researching and writing and writing and writing about Emirati Entrepreneurship and working with Emirati students on a daily basis I have come up with some simple advice for each of the four stages of the entrepreneurship process (read my blog post about it is you are curious about that). So here goes!

There are four basic phases of the process :

1.      Recognising opportunities
2.      Assembling resources
3.      Launch of venture
4.      Harvesting and succeeding
Entrepreneurship process
Phase 1: Advice to Aspiring Emirati Entrepreneurs       
Live your passion! Don’t just look for opportunities, turn your passion into your own business – this will ensure that you will gladly make the necessary time and effort commitments to turn your dreams into reality.

Become an expert! To overcome your fear of failure and lessen insecurities learn all that you can about your new business idea. Research on the internet, talk with experts, read biographies of successful entrepreneurs and learn all you can about your chosen industry on an international, regional and local level.

Find a mentor! Whenever we try something new it helps to have someone to turn to for advice and motivation. Find a mentor at school, at work, in your family or in the community. Attend local events organized for entrepreneurs and volunteer in the community to expand your network.

Phase 2: Advice to Budding Emirati Entrepreneurs
Don’t give up! The road to success is a long one and often full of challenges we don’t expect. But, if you believe in your idea and know your stuff, don’t let the challenges stop you – learn from them to better prepare for whatever life throws your way.

Seek advice from experts! Although we might not find an ideal mentor everyday, we can and will encounter people who would be willing to share their experiences with us. We can also read profiles of successful entrepreneurs and attend events where our entrepreneurs will be speaking – seek and you shall find!

Use your networks! We all have networks and sometimes we might be shy to ask people for advice when starting up a new venture. Don’t be shy, the worst that can happen is the person will not be able to help you, but they might or might direct you to someone who can help.

Phase 3: Advice to New Entrepreneurs

Watch your cash flow! In the early days there will be more cash flow out than in – but that is no excuse not to keep careful records and to watch your fils!

Listen to your customers and suppliers! Be a hands on owner and get to know your customers and your suppliers – they are your source of ideas for improvements, new products and services and also can tell you what your competition is up to!

Look for support! You are not alone, there are many organizations out there to help you. Look to your local Chamber of Commerce for training programs, local entrepreneurship agencies of women centres for support from fellow entrepreneurs.

Phase 4: Advice for Established Entrepreneurs

Be creative! There are many ways to expand your product/service line. Think “outside the box” for complementary industries or where your unique goods could be adapted for new uses.

Take calculated risks! Once we have established ourselves and have found our “comfort zone” in our operations we might not know what to do. Consider all options, do your research and take risks if you feel prepared and ready for growth!

Look for international opportunities! In the global scale the UAE is a small market – but look at where we are positioned! At the cross-roads of burgeoning markets, with access to over 200 nationalities on a local scale we can test our products at home before heading abroad!


Strategy is... a look at strategy in the UAE before 1971

My Strategy class starts up next week - this will be a ten week intensive course after the students' internships to cap off their undergraduate degree in business.

As regular readers of this blog know I love strategy - and my goal is for my students to love it as much as me - and be able to use it in their lives, their organisations and their future work with their communities.

This blogpost is about their first assignment - yes, it's an essay (bonus points for those who guessed). The purpose of this essay is to find out what strategy was before the UAE became the UAE in 1971... with this I hope students can think of how to adapt from the past, combine with some Western theory and come up with a personal strategy suited for here - the culture, the environment and the societal goals of Emirati (which, from reading about 60 of these essays so far, has not changed much).

The students' task is to interview someone over 60 years old and ask them how things were and how they planned and organised and survived - over 60 because I want them to have been old enough to remember what it was like when the seven Emirates were brought together... this wisdom needs to be captured and written down, or these stories could be forgotten...

A normal complaint it that people don't use the word strategy and won't understand what it means - I say to that - "I know" - explain what strategy is in their words, listen to their stories and make the links between the theory presented in class and what your interviewee is saying...

I haven't sat down to analyse the results of the previous essays - but I will when this batch is handed in. I can tell you that he basic strategy was survival - but not personal survival - survival of family, tribe and community. I heard that one time an interviewee was out fishing for days, but returned with little to sell - so he jumped in his car and became an "on the spot" cab driver.

One student discovered his Dad had been a pearl diver when he was very young, another that his grandfather had travelled to many countries in the region trading ... now we could say there was a diversified strategy in place, that changed with the seasons... and camels really were the ships of the desert...

I am looking forward to this semester's essays... and hearing the stories first hand of what it was like... and seeing the students learn from the past and adapt those lessons for the future.


What is competitive advantage?

My Introduction to Management boys (uhm, young men, sorry) are working on their interview assignment as we speak... deadline is November 14! This semester we decided, as a class, to look into the theory of competitive advantage and how it is interpreted and applied by managers here in the UAE.

The three questions all 29 students will ask are the following:

  1. Please define quality for your organisation
  2. What is the basis of your competitive advantage?
  3. What do you do to maintain your competitive advantage?
Using the data (answers) from the interviews the students (hopefully) will analyse the responses from their interviewees and compare it with the management theory we have seen in class.
So what exactly is the theory on competitive advantage that I teach? You might be thinking competitive advantage is simply being better than your competition - so you can sell more stuff, sell it for a higher price or be so awesome that people put themselves on waiting lists or travel 100s of km to buy your product or service.
Well, there is that - but nerdy researchers (like me in case you are new to this blog) look for patterns (patterns make us giddy) that explain the why of things. We always need to know why (yes, kind of like a three year old that is never satisfied with an answer...).
So, after looking at these patterns the simplest theory (I prefer simple and I prefer to teach the simplest theories... usually they explain the most) is that there are four ways to build competitive advantage in your organisation:
  • Quality
  • Responsiveness to customers
  • Efficiency
  • Innovation
Now quality means different things to different people. I have a 75 dhs phone (about 20$ I guess) that I bought three years ago and it even came with 75 dhs free credit. It is read and I like it - the quality is just fine with me. Would the quality of this phone be fine with my students? Uhm, not exactly (even my housekeeper has a better phone than me...).
Quality, as every successful business person knows, is in the eye of the beholder. Target your customer right - give them consistent, reliable quality and they will keep coming back for more.
The second way to build competitive advantage is through efficiency. So what is efficiency exactly? A lot of people get this word mixed up with effective, and while the two should go hand in hand - effective means getting the job done right and efficient means getting the job done right while using less resources (contrary to the belief of many managers I encounter on a daily basis).
So efficiency is using less resources (time, money, people, material, energy, etc.) to get the product made, the service given or any "value" delivered to the customer. But - we cannot sacrifice saving time or money with actually getting the job done to the quality demanded by our customer or to the specifications required by law (sorry, mini-rant).
When we think of efficiency, we think of the Japanese of course - Toyota and the Just-In-Time supply chain. Here I think of the Lebanese restaurants who are able to deliver and produce copious amounts of food in a very short amount of time.
Responsiveness to customers is the third "way" to build competitive advantage. What this means is giving your customer what they want, when they want it, or maybe even before they know they want it. For example, the produce and store manager of your favorite grocery store (Waitrose on Reem Island in Abu Dhabi) figuring out how to make up a fruit basket for you to bring to your friend's house for Eid - when they don't do fruit baskets really (I heart Waitrose).
I ask my students why they choose to get their kandoras made at the specific tailor they use - they tell me my Dad has always gone there, they know my measurements and my style and what I like (yes, in a class of 29 boys, there will be exactly 29 different kandoras).
The last way to build competitive advantage - the most important way maybe, is innovation. During my PhD I spent months working on the definitions of innovation and value - so I get excited about this topic... When I ask my students to define innovation I get a lot of superlatives - the first (Metro in the Gulf), the tallest (building in the world, the Burj Khalifa), the best and the fanciest hotels in the world (Burj al Arab and the Emirates Palace). And they are right - but innovation is more than that.
When I first came to the UAE I asked my female students what was the best innovation for them in Abu Dhabi - in the past few years. I got the most awesome answer ever - "Dr. Connie, the best innovation in a long time is that KFC delivers". And she was right - I don't know which fast food chain started delivering in Abu Dhabi first - but I am sure when they told head office that they wanted to hire a delivery guy the people sitting in a Western office someplace said "huh? We don't deliver - people come to us - we are fast food!". But gas and labour is inexpensive and traffic and parking is horrible here - so fast food restaurants deliver. And fast food delivery is an innovation.
Wow - this turned out a bit longer than I had planned - and I didn't even give all the examples I like to give in class... Of course when the students hand in their brilliant reports I will be writing about the results... cause I am a nerd and that is what nerds do for fun!
Eid Mubarak everyone!


    Management is important in the UAE because...

    Since I began teaching at Zayed University, the first assignment I give students in an essay…. It began with the topic, “Men are better managers than women” (to both my female and male students), then “Management is…” and now “Management is important to the UAE because…”.

    I have always had brilliant essays and well thought out work (and some rushed assignments which reminds me of my own undergraduate courses) – and sometimes the simplest arguments, with solid evidence are the essays which receive the top marks.

    This past essay is another case in point. When my 29 male Emirati students were asked why management is important to the UAE I got some interesting answers. In general they said that there are scarce resources, so we need management to ensure that the benefits of a finite resource are available for future generations. We need management because there are over 200 cultures and nationalities working in the UAE – and we need to work together to achieve a common vision, although we do not have a common background.

    Some spoke of issues of the day such as the dress code – and that new residents and visitors should have information about what is proper and what is not to wear – and also why, explaining the culture and the importance of modesty.

    A few others spoke of management innovations such as Saeed (the traffic police in Abu Dhabi) and Mawaqif (metered parking in Abu Dhabi) and others spoke of managing projects such as the Burj Khalifa. Economic diversification was mentioned by more than a couple, and how Abu Dhabi and Dubai need management to plan and organise the development of the tourism industry.

    Two students cited my blog (yes, feels even better than receiving an apple J) and more than a couple cited Abu Dhabi 2030 (OK, I might have sent them the pdf and suggested it might be a good document to start from).

    All of them agreed though… management is important, and that the basic steps of planning, organising, leading and controlling (feedback) can be used in all different situations and are a very  simple process to use and reuse to make sure things get done, the way they were supposed to, in the time allotted and with a happy workforce.
    Because, they all know that the greatest resource in the UAE is not oil, it’s …


    Managing and Managers in the UAE: an Investigation by Zayed University Students in Abu Dhabi

    Article written in collaboration with the young women in BUS-309-001 & 002 – Fall Semester 2009 AUH.

     It is that time of year again when the interview assignment is given to my Introduction to Management students. Here are the results from my first attempt with this project three years ago.

    There is very little written about managers and managing in the UAE.  This makes it hard for new management professors to use relevant, local examples in class.  However, it makes it even harder for students as they must listen and then try to put into context examples from North America and Europe (and my students have had an even tougher time of it as many of my best examples are from the dreadfully exciting Canadian forest products industry).  As a first step to remedy this situation I asked the students in my two Introduction to Management classes to interview a manager.  Not just interview for interest and curiosity though, interview for research.  Yes, there is a difference, as my students found out.

    First, we had to decide on the purpose of the interview.  We wanted to see if what Henry Mintzberg and Henri Fayol wrote about the roles of managers in the West is applicable to managers in the GCC.  (Dr. Mintzberg is a contemporary Canadian management guru who has written many influential books on strategy and the roles of management.  M. Fayol, wrote the Principles of Management when he was the CEO of a mining company at the beginning of the 20 th century in France.)  Then we had to decide on the questions, which actually took a few weeks as we debated the best questions to ask and the best way in which to ask them.  Before we could venture into the “field” though we had to write generic query emails.  Which again took more time than many had thought it would.  Finally, into the field.

    Students interviewed by telephone, email and face-to-face (and one by proxy, with follow-up emails to verify the gathered information).  Some students found they had to use more than one method to verify information, and one student used all three!  We soon found out that managers are busy people, but that for the most part are very willing to share their knowledge with students.

    The knowledge that was shared with students was priceless.  There were managers from all levels of the organization, CEOs and Board Members of major corporations and senior officials of ZU, senior military officers, senior government officials, owners of SMEs, men, women, Nationals and expats.  However, even with all these differences there were many similarities in their answers.

    The first question asked managers what was their greatest challenge managing in the UAE.  There were many diverse answers of course, but the responses fell into four main themes: recruiting skilled Nationals, the great cultural differences of employees, motivating and guiding employees, and managing change.  The drive for Emiratisation was not seen in a negative light, rather it was just the challenge of finding qualified people to fill positions at every level of the organization. Of course, for my students this can only be considered a good thing – there are many challenging and rewarding opportunities out there for them when they graduate.  The challenge of cultural diversity was also not seen as a “problem”, but rather it was considered as a source of competitive advantage in a globalised marketplace to have a global employee base.  However, managers did mention that they had to learn about these different cultures in order to manage effectively.

    The follow-up question was to ask what managers had done to overcome these challenges.  Here there was an overwhelming insistence on the importance of training and continuing education, for both the manager and employees.  Training was done in house, through continuing education and through seminars and conferences abroad.  Managers insisted that “learning” can never stop, it is just part of the continuous evolution of the organization and the individual.  The need for communication, open communication based on trust, was also mentioned by several managers.  Some said they had an “open-door” policy, others had regularly scheduled meetings and others used on-site visits.

    Managers were then asked what they considered as their most important role.  There were many roles listed here, the most commonly listed were the role of leader and mentor, the role of decision maker, recruiting and supporting qualified employees (both Nationals and expats), creating a positive work environment, creating a culture of continuous improvement and working towards achieving the organization’s mission and goals.

    The final question asked about how the role of manager had changed over the years.  The word increased was used a lot.  Increased competition, both global and local, increased focus on innovation, increased work load, increased attention to strategic plans and increased need for continuous training.

    The feedback from the students was overwhelmingly positive.  Many said that they wished that they could have followed-up and would like to interview more managers and compare answers.  They even enjoyed analyzing the answers by comparing what their managers’ said to the theory we have covered in class.  And there were some powerful insights made that will help me next semester when I teach the course to another few groups.

    Finally, there were a few enterprising students who asked their managers for advice.  They were told to enjoy their jobs, listen, respect, make goals, work hard, challenge yourself, be loyal, don’t take short cuts and to continually develop their skills.  What wonderful advice from generous people.  This valuable new knowledge would not have been possible without the generous support of the fantastic managers interviewed by my students.  So thank you for your time and wisdom, your interviewee learned from the interview, the rest of the class did through each presentation, I did by reading and listening to your words and the general ZU community through this mini-article.

    Managing and managers in the UAE… a story to be continued.


    Entrepreneurs and their networks

    You are an entrepreneur – or you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur… who do you go to for advice? Who do you trust for advice? Why?  Well, according to the research in the UAE and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) I have participated in (and as soon as the articles and reports are published I will write about the specifics of our findings) – entrepreneurs in the region turn to family and friends first and professionals (accountants, banks, professional services firms) last.

    We tend to think about entrepreneurs as independent beings, succeeding and failing solely by their own efforts. Of course, this is not a totally accurate view. Entrepreneurs are part of a larger network made up of social and professional actors. These actors provide resources and support which entrepreneurs capitalize on to achieve their goals. Networks are the  relationships that each entrepreneur as an individual is involved in that provides resources – for the subject of this blogpost: knowledge/information/advice – one resource commonly needed across all phases of the entrepreneurial process.

    A network is the “set” of contacts (individuals, organisations,  around an entrepreneur who provide a resource (advice) to an entrepreneur. Networks should be considered as social entities.  An entrepreneur’s social network supports her business network (in fact it could be the same network viewed from two different angles) as these networks promote trust and reduce transaction costs (for services, resources, etc.).  This is done through superior information gathering and a reduction in opportunistic behavior – because network actors could and would lose reputation through a misuse of information or erroneous information/advice. 

    Networks are also a key means of accessing external knowledge, knowledge we don’t possess.  This knowledge involves both formal and informal exchanges and the exchange and creation of both tacit and explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is know-how, know-why and our instincts developed through experience. Explicit knowledge is what is written down, but which also often needs interpretation.

    Trust of course is the key to these networks working – which is maybe why entrepreneurs turn to family and friends before the professionals – at least in developing economies where professional infrastructures are not as “trustworthy” or are simply unknown to entrepreneurs.

    From research we know that the use of different kinds of networks leads to different results. For example, the more contact a person has internationally, the more innovative their products or services and of course the more likely they are to export their products or services internationally.

    More innovative products and services are also more likely to come from entrepreneurs with closer and a greater number of links in their industry/market. When an entrepreneur knows what her competitors are offering, the more likely she will try to be a little different – offer something newer, better – more innovative! Also, links with suppliers (e.g. a fabric manufacturer for an abbaya designer) will although the entrepreneur to know more about what will be available in the future – raw material wise – which will help her creative more innovative designs which better incorporate the new materials.

    My PhD thesis was about knowledge and technology transfer from universities to industry – well, you can imagine not many entrepreneurs in the MENA region use the results of university research … hopefully that will change, because a knowledge economy is built on – uhm, well knowledge – and the most cutting edge knowledge is produced by universities and working researchers… Yes, the Google guys are university “drop outs” – but they dropped out of a PhD program and Google is a direct result of their (and their professors) research there…

    Finally, an entrepreneur or future entrepreneur can seek and gather advice for years – but it is making the leap which is the most difficult part – which is perhaps why the support we receive from our family and friends (and professors J) might be the best resource any network can produce.


    Charity group project for Intro to Management - an experiment

    A  school new year and new classes have started. I want to write about an experimental project I will be doing with my Introduction to Management class on the male campus - and ask for input from any reader who is involved in a charity in the UAE.

    Past group projects in this class I have taught for 3 years now, have included a focus on Abu Dhabi Plan 2030, organizing a charity event on campus and focusing on an innovation introduced in an Emirati company in the last five years. Now I want (well am forcing) my students to be innovative themselves and organize something in collaboration with an organization operating in the UAE.

    The project involves choosing a charity in the UAE, contacting them and working with them to discover their needs - then planning, organizing and leading an event, awareness campaign, fundraiser, etc and then explaining the results and all the feedback loops involved (the control phase). The final report will be a one page summary outlining the highlights of POLC and a five minute video of the POLC process they took.

    Now, given cultural and other boundaries, the video will force them to be innovative and creative and sensitive (all things they actually excel at). I think it will go well, but then again (as any regular reader will know) I am extremely biased concerning the outstanding talents of my students.

    The input I could need from you – do you run a charity that needs some support? Do you know of a charity that needs support? If so please contact me at the email listed in my profile.

    Of course I will keep you updated as to the results of the project, and also keep you updated of several other completely awesome projects students in my other classes are working on.

    Smile and courage J


    Entrepreneurship as Process

    Although many believe that entrepreneurship is a singular concept – as any entrepreneur will tell you, it isn’t. In the scientific literature, entrepreneurship is described as a process which entrepreneurs take from opportunity recognition to established business to harvesting the rewards of hard work, through sale or closing down or continued success (or well-earned experience). Each phase of the entrepreneurial process requires support from the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and each has its own learning curve for the entrepreneur.

    There are four basic phases of the process :

    1.      Recognising opportunities

    2.      Assembling resources

    3.      Launch of venture

    4.      Harvesting and succeeding
    The process (GEM terminology in brackets)
    Phase 1: Recognizing  Opportunities

    How do some entrepreneurs recognise opportunities and others don’t?  What types of training or backgrounds support this (e.g. international experience, wide interests, specialised knowledge, etc.) and what factors impede it (e.g. fear of failure, limited interests, lack of access to R&D findings, etc.).

    Also, how do we support recognising opportunities within organisations (be it governmental or private firms)? In the UAE we can look to successful intrapreneurial ventures such as Saaed traffic unit of the Abu Dhabi police which are responsible for traffic related accidents in the Emirate (I had a group of students do an excellent report on this) or the start of the Entrepreneurship Club at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi J. In global firms my favorite example is Nestle’s Nespresso – now one of the main profit centres for the huge multinational (and the innovation that makes me smile every morning).

    Phase 2: Assembling Resources

    From idea to beginning to assemble resources takes support – and courage, and gathering the necessary resources for any new entrepreneur can be a daunting task. Here is where the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the nation, city, region, economy, really plays a supporting role. There are several parts of the ecosystem which can be used to support this sometimes difficult process, including physical infrastructure such as roads and ports (like the newly opened Khalifa Port in Abu Dhabi will create many opportunities for entrepreneurs in the Emirate and the country) and telecommunications systems; non-physical infrastructures such as supporting networks of external advice for entrepreneurs (e.g. RUWAD, Khalifa Funds, Saud bin Rashed funds,  Mohammed Bin Rashid Est. for Small & Medium Enterprises), access to capital markets,  availability of necessary data needed for researching opportunities and the general supportive culture of the economy (e.g. awards, and television programs such as The Entrepreneur to launch this fall).

    Phase 3:  Launch of New Venture

    What are the rules, regulations and costs associated with starting a new business? Where can a potential entrepreneur go to get the licenses and permissions? Future entrepreneurs will not launch new ventures if the environment in which they want to operate is not considered supportive. This environment, or entrepreneurship ecosystem is an absolute requirement in any economy that wishes to foster entrepreneurship risk taking.

    Entrepreneurship Ecosystem: Ecosystems are inherently local. While national policies shape the economy in profound ways, the institutions and activities of regions differ. Indeed, multiple actors that share an interest in entrepreneurship —large firms and organisations (e.g. banks, large scale manufacturers), government entities, educational institutions, community non-profits, etc.—must come together to enrich the ecosystem.

    Previous research has found that start-ups that become dominant players have strong early-stage relationships with established companies. Large companies could give smaller suppliers access to internal resources helping them break into global export markets through referral or international assistance.

    Clusters of Innovation: Often arise out of large physical infrastructure (e.g. ports) and large anchor companies (such as Aluminum smelters, Yas Marina Sports Complex, etc.) – they spur smaller entrepreneurs to take advantage of the customers that are drawn to these places, or the companies and people working in them (e.g. a laundry service to service hotels).

    Phase 4: Success and Harvest

    The final, and perhaps most enduring phase of the entrepreneurial process is the success, or continued existence of the new venture and could even mean the exit of the entrepreneur through the sale of the firm to another.  A great example of an Emirati SME that is “harvesting” their hard work is Just Falafel – which is now franchising around the world.

    Of course, many SME ventures do not succeed – but, in the West (especially in the United States and most especially in Silicon Valley) a failure of a venture is seen as a badge of honour and courage and experience. So the first “failure” might teach the entrepreneur to be a better entrepreneur the next time, or might inspire another to take the leap themselves.

    So, the basic four phases – the story will continue with a more in-depth look at each phase and some local entrepreneurs and their stories (so if you have a story to share, please contact me). Entrepreneurship (and intrapreneurship) is exciting and a key to economic diversification and personal job satisfaction – if our jobs were just about pushing paper how boring would life be?