Joining the Conversation: Emerging Research Directions in the Middle East (1/2)

Wow! It was a wonderful caucus at the Academy of Management this week. We organised the caucus to, in essence, start to push MENA based research into the Academy (and highly rated journals). We also hoped it would act as a catalyst for new research collaborations - across institutions and internationally. We had scholars from numerous schools, representing almost as many countries as scholars!

Beginning our conversations...


Joining the conversation

I think the one common theme that emerged was that we, as management scholars doing research in and about the large Middle East/MENA region, need to join the conversation with our interesting research problems, stories and contributions to existing theories (and developing some of our own in new areas such as the possibilities of social media in education and more, entrepreneurship, the concept of Wasta, Islamic Finance/management/ethics, etc.)

We started the session welcoming the 17 or so scholars gathered and spoke a little of the progress made by regions and countries such as India, China and more recently Africa and Latin America as they continue their process of entering the mainstream of management scholarly research.

Misconceptions in the mainstream

For many Western based scholars, the Middle East is one big melting pot of people of are Arab and Muslim. For people from the Middle East we know that the term "Middle East" comprises of ancient and new countries, many religions, many languages and many different socio-economic and political contexts. In fact, most Western-based theorists tend to put all issues and research problems "in one cultural basket"... So we know we have a big job ahead of us, to find our voice in the larger academic community, and to help firms, organisations and government organisations understand their problems better and hopefully offer up some long-term solutions.

Areas of research interest

There were many research areas that the assembled scholars were currently working on and ideas given on how to best present our research at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting next year. In general the following main areas were mentioned, Culture/Context, Islamic banking/ethics/management/etc., Entrepreneurship, Management Education, Organisational Development and Innovation.

Each topic of course is worthy of a blog post (at least) to speak about past, current and future research. For now I will just provide a few notes that will be developed over the next few months (deadline for the Academy is early January) into special issues, workshops, symposiums and articles.


There are a number of ways that were mentioned about using the rich and new "context" to do replication studies of existing theories, about doing special issues of journals, and developing the interesting stories that could have theoretical and practical implications to the wider academic and business community.

The point was made several times that MENA is not one culture and to better understand organisations and the socio-political challenges and problems then a better understanding of regional and individual country context in required.

Islamic banking/ethics/management/entrepreneurship

A large stream of emerging research is looking at the new norms, rules and implications of the application of Islamic principles to traditional Western concepts and ways of doing business. This does not just imply the application of Sharia law - but the application of cultural norms and new ways of doing in Western organisation operating in the region and for indigenous organisation.


No, this wasn't just brought up by me :) Entrepreneurship is an important concept in many of the nations and regions of the Middle East - not just because of the huge youth population, and the alarming percentage of unemployed, but entrepreneurship is seen as a means to develop diversified economies, with enhanced opportunities for citizens and residents of the region.

Management Education

Developing case studies for use in the Middle Eastern classroom, developing case studies of wider interest for Western business schools, the use of new media in the classroom and to a wider audience and the emergence/impact of American and Western style business schools are all topics that are being researched. Of course, more needs to be done and there are many questions that need to be asked... and answered.

Organisational Development/HRM

Organisations, both new and more established, develop in processes that are not dissimilar, and yet are rich in new research problems. Human resource management is also an area of current research - in the Gulf in areas of Emiratisation/Saudisation/Qatarisation where many efforts are being made to include more of the local population into the active workforce - but also in more general areas such as managing in organisations with dozens (and more) languages, cultures, religions and ethnicities under one "roof". Under this theme I would also put leadership studies, in particular we have many researchers at Zayed University working on this and there are already interesting results being disseminated and published.


Last, but not least is innovation. Regular readers will know this is a subject dear to my heart and we have published a chapter and an article on this. Innovation is at the heart of knowledge industries, which is where governments in the MENA region are targeting for growth. Innovation is also a founding block of entrepreneurship... In fact, there is a special issue being edited by one of our group - not just for the Middle East of course, but it is edited by researchers who are aware of the context of the region.

Special Issue on Technology Business Incubation Mechanisms is for the Journal Technovation - an important journal for innovation researchers.

About half way through this post I realized that I have material for at least two... so I will leave the advice we got from senior scholars at the meeting on how we, as scholars, can join the "conversation" on management research.

Perhaps by raising awareness in the global academic community about research in the Middle East we can raise more regional and local awareness about the need for funding research... not just so that our universities can raise in the global ranks, or that local populations can increase their own research capacity, but for a better understanding of the context in which we live and work - our problems and hopefully to come up with a few solutions.

The gang is all here (I am represented by my ipad cover - I did that on purpose!)


  1. Greetings,
    This is very interesting. I am senior manager in UAE and DBA candidate at Grenoble Ecole de Management researching in the field of cross-cultural leadership in UAE.

    I am interested in such gatherings and discussion and appreciate if I will invited next time.

    Ahmad Salih

    1. Thank you Ahmad, we will be organizing for the next AOM in the coming months... I will be happy to keep you in the loop, please email me at

  2. Well done Connie! Excellent summary.. Victor