Top ten blog posts in 2013 (1-5)

As I continue my top 10 list with the top 5 most popular blog posts I am reminded of the many wonderful memories I have from our field trips and action learning activities. I am also reminded of the amazing students I have had the pleasure to teach here in the UAE for the past four and a half years. I have learned as much from them as they have from me.

Number 5:

The blog post about one of my favorite areas of the UAE came in at number 6 with 216 views. Eco-tourism development in Dibba combines the results of two graduation projects about the possibilities of developing sustainable tourism hand in hand with small-scale locally developed (and locally run) activities that concentrate on the cultural, historical and natural beauty of the area. I was proud of the efforts they made to interview people living in the area to see what they would like to see developed as well as interviews with potential tourists - wanting to see the "real" UAE and experience its beauty first hand.

I love how much they love the UAE flag - they manage to place it everywhere in the mountains... look high up next time you visit and you will be rewarded with a tangible example of pride, ingenuity and no fear of heights!
Number 4:

The fourth most visited blog post brings back very bitter sweet memories. We were invited to a student's family mountain retreat to learn about the strategies of survival from the past (the ruins of old family dwellings are still there) and the strategy of maintaining traditions and heritage going into the future.  Hassan Shemali, his father and family welcomed us into their home and beloved mountains. Hassan passed away this past November when his truck was swept away in a powerful wadi (flash flood) - we were blessed to have known him and to have known his mountains. Strategy trip to the mountains of RAK provides photos of a largely undiscovered part of the UAE for expats and tourists and proves that young people do hold on and maintain their traditions... and enjoy passing them on to their friends and professors.

Hassan is on the far left - his father, cousins and friends join in the Nekbah - how the Shehhi and Shemali tribes communicated in the past in the mountains

Number 3:

I am Canadian - so when I saw on facebook that one of my former female students was playing ice hockey at a National and international level I had to learn more. Hockey Night in Abu Dhabi: Spotlight on an Emirati Hockey Queen was viewed 243 times and tells a story through photos of ice hockey in Abu Dhabi and how Fatima Al Ali became so enamored with the game she now plays on the National Team :) She is also the first Emirati sport's photographer and has had a documentary made about her accomplishments! (Click to view documentary)

Fatima in her uniform after the game!

Number 2:

Keeping with a female theme - the second most popular blog post in 2013 at 368 views was Characteristics of Female Entrepreneurs in the UAE in 2011. It contained information from the 2011 UAE GEM Report we published at the end of 2012 in a condensed form. The data and our analysis shows some challenges and also some hopeful signs for the future.

Knows someone who started a business in the past 2 years
Expected Job Growth of Established Business
Employed by others in Full-time work
Full-time Homemaker
Stage of Activity as Nascent Entrepreneurs
Stage of Activity as Baby Entrepreneurs
Informal Investors in the Last 3 Years

Number 1:

The most popular blog post of the year was about a wonderful trip to learn about the strategies and tactics used by ranchers of racing camels. At 808 views Camel racing farm visit - another adventure in learning strategy from traditional industries really was a clear "winner". The video we took of the robot jockey was also popular on youtube.

Eating really expensive hay!

Training as the day get cooler... 

It was a wonderful year of adventures in research and learning - I look forward to see what the next few months hold in store!

Smile and courage and best wishes for an adventurous 2014 to you all, Dr. Connie


Top ten blog posts in 2013 (6-10)

As I mentioned in my "Lessons” of blogging post in May (you can read here, readers seem to like lists. As the final days of 2013 countdown I thought it might be interesting – for me as much as for you – to countdown the top ten blog posts of the year as rated by number of views. (I know this places a bias on posts published at the beginning of the year, but hey, the world of lists is full of biases!)

Number 10:

There are three article snapshot posts that made it in the top 10. Coming in at number 10 with 136 views is the post Article Snapshot: Business Opportunities in the UAE. The post provided an excerpt of an article I wrote for a newly launched online magazine in Canada – Canadian Business Strategist Magazine. It outlined the many untapped opportunities available to Canadian companies (or really any company) in health care, adventure and eco-tourism, metals, convenience stores, fashion and food and beverage.

Number 9:

The ninth most read blog post at 145 views was Male Youth Entrepreneurship in the UAE: a Research Project. The project was to study the motivators and deterrents of young men to become entrepreneurs and also looked at the lessons learned from two Emirati entrepreneurs interviewed by Yousef Al Shehhi. Yousef (now graduated) did a great job and he presented his findings at the MIT-Masdar Institute Forum on Entrepreneurship and Innovation  to great interest by researchers and the general public. 

Yousef and his poster 

Number 8:

Looking back at the numbers I was kind of surprised at number 8... The post Joining the Conversation: How to get our voices heard from the Middle East (2/2), with 149 views, is all about research and becoming a bigger part of the global management research community. As we approach the deadline for 2014 Academy of Management submissions I hope there will be more submissions from the Middle East in 2014 than 2013... I know many in the group photo below are working towards that goal!

Caucus participants AOM 2013
Number 7:

The second article snapshot is an article wrote in collaboration with researchers in Tunisia and Yemen. At 165 views, Entrepreneurs and their networks in MENA: an article and project using big data (and policy recommendations too!) was the results of a much larger grant project supported by the IRDC involving 14 MENA countries looking at the networks used by entrepreneurs. (I wrote about the five day workshop we had in 2012 starting in daily blog posts - day 1 here). Taha, Lotfi and I found that there was significant difference between entrepreneurs at various stages of venture development for network size and network diversity and that entrepreneurs with larger networks (number of advisers and more diverse (from different environments, e.g. private, work, professional advisers are more likely to launch their business in a short time. However, most entrepreneurs in the region have shallow and narrow networks... which leads us to our policy recommendations... 

The number of networks used by entrepreneurs in the MENA region

Number 6:

The third article snapshot - in a way a culmination of a project begun in August 2010 in the very room I am currently working in in Lorraine, Quebec - had 178 views. Article snapshot: “Technological innovation in the United Arab Emirates: process and challenges” is about the innovation process of an Emirati inventor and entrepreneur - Mariam Al Hallami, the first author, found that while the process used by the entrepreneur in the UAE is similar to that of entrepreneurs in the West, the lack of Industrial Research Centers puts a hamper scaling up inventions and innovations.

R&D expenditure - the MENA region needs to step up spending!

So that was 10 through 6... the top 5 will follow shortly....


(More) Teaching Strategy through Legends and Stories: the Presentations

Yesterday was this term's presentation of teaching strategy through legends and stories. The blog post on the first term's presentations available here

Of course they were awesome... and I learned a lot about the UAE, how my students think of the world and that Aladdin had more than a magic lamp going for him... and it got me thinking of how to incorporate these legends/stories even when I go back to Canada (eventually). Some even challenged some ingrained mental models of history (that Aladdin drove out the Crusaders is seen as a good thing here... awk, panic, awk.... smile!)

Grandfather, teacher, story-teller and healer
The first presentation spoke of a man who was also spoken about in the first term - Mr. Akeeda Al Nuhairi - of course this term his grandson was on the research team. They focused on the stories he teaches his children and grandchildren - and it was fascinating. The lesson of the stories he would tell were about using and understanding nature and traditional knowledge to understand and succeed in the the present. The legend of Bin Sqhan's ghaf tree was interesting - about respecting nature - as the tree is at the court round about in Al Ain...

Another military "strategic guru" I had not heard of...

Saif ad-Din Qutuz started as a slave and ended up as a vice-Sultan...his most famous battle was the battle of Ain Jalut, where he used hit and run tactics to provoke the Mongol troops (or hoards as I am more familiar thinking of them as) by making the most of the synergy of his troops/divisions, using innovative new weapons (in an innovative way) and through determination. What can I say? The group demonstrated they "got" what I have been teaching and then taught me something new - can a professor ask for more?

The three finger hand salute was started by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid to support the (now awarded) Expo 2020 bid
I have been "harping" on about strategic execution this term... for many reasons, but mainly because many great visions and strategic plans fail because the "execution" is left in the hands of people who should not even be trusted  buying groceries to make dinner for guests! (I could say so much here but won't) This group looked into the Federal Government Performance Management System launched by His Highness called Adaa 2.0 to follow and track the implementation of UAE Vision 2021. A very well researched presentation of a well-thought out program... En'shallah the program is itself "executed" with the same care and attention taken in its development.

Diversifying the economy and continuing with the historical tradition of trading...
The military has a long and storied tradition in this country and region. Trade too has been the lifeblood of the economy for centuries. Now, recent strategies in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi support developing a weapons manufacturing industry to diversify the economy and for use in the Emirati armed forces, but also for sale to armies around the world... A two-for one strategy that works towards achieving the vision of the country and Emirate. (P.S. Saeed basically got a standing ovation from the class for some PowerPoint wizardry - bravo!)

Learning about sustainability through the story of Sheikh Zayed starting a conservation program in the 60s
Teaching strategy isn't just about the best way to maximize profits and establish competitive advantage in the market (well at least not in my classroom). It is about remembering that any strategy developed and implemented needs to think about sustainability - of the environment, economy, society and culture (especially in a time of globalization when cultures risk becoming homogeneous). The oryx is an important animal in the region... the legend has it that after a hunting trip in the 1960s where many oryx were killed and then not eaten, Sheikh Zayed knew that something had to be done to preserve this great animal - or it would risk going extinct. He then established Sir Bani Yas Island (read about a trip we took to the island here) and as a protective breeding zone for oryx and other animals indigenous to the region. Animals from this program have been used to reintroduce oryx in Jordan - where they had disappeared from over-hunting and destruction of habitat. Well planned out visions are never realized overnight - they require adequate resources, dedication and determination to see them become reality.

Sheikh Zayed the First  and his strategy to manage internal and external conflict
Sheikh Zayed the First was born around 1840 and ruled Abu Dhabi for 54 years until his death in 1909. At the time he dealt with much internal conflict of warring tribes in the Emirate itself and external conflict from military threats from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. To "solve" the internal conflicts he established a distributed power arrangement - with a chosen Sheikh in control of Al Ain and another in the Western Region (from separate tribes). To deal with the external threats he developed alliances with more friendly nations such as Oman... to join their resources to defend against a bigger "organisation". Another presentation where I learned a little more about the fascinating history of the UAE.

Alladin has more to teach us than about making wise wishes :)
Last, but not least was a presentation about Alladin (or rather Salaheddin Yousef Al Ayoubi) who drove out the Crusaders through clever military tactics, patience and finally mercy to the conquered forces and their families. The Battle of Hattin started the push to win back Jerusalem on July 4, 1187. Alladin (sorry I will use his Western name... I cannot destroy all my mental models in one fell swoop) used the hottest time of the year to use weather and geography to his advantage - first he captured or secured all nearby water sources, then waited and waited and then attacked! Again, he used small forces and quick attacks to make the enemy think he was just part of a group of bandits... He also would warn cities before he laid siege to them - surrender and you will be spared... there is also the story that when Richard the Lion-hearted lost his horse in battle,  Alladin sent one to him. It is better to be honorable in competition and respect the "enemy".

Really quite excellent presentations and the best part was that they demonstrated they have been paying attention in class, that they are able to do research that interests them to show me that they understood what I am teaching them and they showed me that they will be able to use the strategic process again when they will be required to in the future.

I am a happy professor :)


Visit to Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival: Strategic Implementation of a Grand Vision

Wow! What a wonderful class... This term I am really concentrating on the Strategic Process and the importance of implementation... As regular readers of this blog know I like to use heritage and traditional industries and stories from the past to teach us about strategies to use in the future... So instead of sitting in a classroom for two hours we went to the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival about 15 minutes away from campus.

The Festival runs until December 14 and there is a video here:

And you can read more about it here: Festival Guide

We arrived and went into the main tent... We were greeted by the wonderful people from the National Center for Documentation & Research and were given a tour about the early recorded history of the UAE, in and around Dibba, Fujairah to present day. The heart of the photographic exhibit was about the implementation and realization of the vision of uniting the Emirates into one country. 

Our guide, Mr. Farman Al Marzooqi, Director of Corporate Communications, had so many wonderful stories and background for the photos... And of course this was supplemented with additional information from my students. 

The next photos will take us on a brief tour of what we learned.... 

Mr. Farman begins at the first recorded record of the current UAE from the archives of Portugal about the port of Dibba (yes my students did a research project on eco-tourism in Dibba and you can read about it here

Pointing out the mosque in the first Portuguese settlement was still in existence! (I didn't say I have had the pleasure of spending hours on the site)

You can read about Marco Sosa's book about Al Bidya Mosque here (also on my blog)

Before the UAE was the UAE there were treaties of agreements with the other Emirates and countries in the current GCC (Sheikh Zayed's vision of a united country required long term planning, commitment and work)
The details of the flag :)

HE Ahmed Al Souwadi announces the UAE to the world! Vision realized!

The first UAE Cabinet
Students and professor fascinated with the photos and stories
A medal from Queen Elizabeth to Sheikh Zayed

Sheikh Zayed and his sons

Sheikh Zayed and Nelson Madela on his official visit to the UAE

An excellent tour through the history of the UAE - from vision to reality!

A gift from the organizers - I could not believe my luck to receive this book - I cannot wait to start reading!!!!!

My photos do not do justice to the story told by the photos of the process taken from the Trucial States to Sheikh Zayed the First to the realization of "Etihad" - the vision of Sheikh Zayed - and then to the present day. 

Strategy is not a plan we write on paper - strategy needs to be implemented, adjusted, reevaluated and worked on.... but when it is done well, the word impossible does not exist.

I heard from the people there that this exhibit will be moved to the Nation Center's offices in the new year... you know I will be taking my next strategy class there... if you are in the UAE and have time before the 14 - please go for a visit. 


Capstone research poster presentations: research for the future of the UAE

For our past National Day celebrations at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi my students presented their research in the form of a poster presentation. While I desperately missed the military band - my students made my heart fill with pride as they presented their research with pride, intelligence, eloquence and creativity.

I will again use photos as my medium to guide you through their projects - you will see common themes and notice that they are all strategic and practical in nature... My fault sorry :)

My instagram of a tweet concerning an email (yes I have a klout score of 60 - I know how to use social media for effect!) I knew I was asking a lot of them... and I was a wee bit stressed :)

The above photo describes the pressure I put them under - while they had been working on these projects for awhile, they might have been on the back-burner as the deadline is far - and the deadlines for course projects are more pressing. Of course, I had no need to worry - but I figured a few "panic email" and rants in class would help :) The two week deadline was a bit short - considering they had no idea what a research poster was when I told them I had "volunteered" them for National Day!
Setting up -everyone there helped :)
The set-up was interesting - they had brought gawa, dates and karak from home - and while we "found" tables to use, there were no table clothes (if I had asked our wonderful facilities team they would have been there - but I am a simple girl and my life never involves table clothes - they know to ask ahead of time now or bring their own!)

I would like to note that the men's Student Council (aided by  Student Life) set up our very traditional display back drop - chainsaws, scratches, pizza and very little sleep all involved!

Waiting for the "show" to start

The provost and his people

I was really pleased that the provost made time for each poster and spoke with all six groups - asked questions and was interested in their research and looking forward to the results. There was also great support from other staff and faculty from the men's campus - and fellow students. I remember my poster presentations as a graduate and post-graduate student and they were always a good way to learn about what others are doing (yes, I credit my ability to teach research poster making to CIRRELT)

Now to the projects - as I said, they are largely strategic in nature (e.g. they are concerned with the strategic direction of the UAE and Abu Dhabi), but they are also practical and interesting - problems or issues they would like solved. I just try to teach them that the best way to solve problems is by doing robust research - YOURSELF :) (of course as professors we help them out)

The group I have never had a moment's worry about!
The first project is about convincing an Emirati neighborhood (by developing a financial and strategic argument and plan) to install solar panels on their roofs. They used an interesting research method - the majalis - to speak with their fathers, uncles, brothers and neighbors about their project, what type of information would be needed and finally to convince them that the project was worthwhile.

The motivation for the project was to follow the lead of the government - who are investing billions in green energy - and make a difference and change habits on an individual level.

Venture capital with a twist
This group decided to work on a purely finance project - with a twist. There is a need for venture capital for projects in the UAE (OK, they might have been told to read the GEM UAE 2011 Report) and my students have big dreams and access to some extremely successful business people in the UAE. Combine all this and you get the development of a business model for a venture capital fund that incorporates capital and knowledge to support ideas from young Emiratis (men and women).

Why are there no "garage" based successes in the UAE?
This group is my tech savy group - and we started with the question why are licenses for home based business so restricted - mainly geared to traditional women's crafts, cooking and artisanal endeavors. What about the app maker or tech guy that wants to be "legit" and grow his business... so yeah, why not? (Yes, GEM Report involved again!). They are doing a great job and are contacting the right people - and proposing some great policy :)

Ambition student - ambitious project - ambition goals!
The Abu Dhabi pension plan has the lofty goal of achieving financial stability for 90 years...  Ibrahim is working on this project by himself and en'shallah he will be presenting it to the Executive Council. I can't really say much (it will be the first project I supervise here where I have to sign a confidentiality agreement) - but the project is looking at other pension plan reforms (including Canada) and all I can say I am proud for all the work he is putting into it!

Exporting dates to Canada! (and other less important places like the US)
This group is doing a project near and dear to my heart. The UAE has some of the best tasting dates in the world (and there are more date trees than in any other country as well) and yet I can never find them in Canada. There is a projection that dates (and camel milk) might become the super foods of the next decade - but the UAE industry needs to concentrate on innovation and new markets to extract all the value they can from this valuable resource. The students are doing a case study on a local company who are working on this - and I cannot wait to "sample" the results :)

Looking for success stories of Emiratisation
Emiratisation is a big issue here (and in the region) where there is still a surprising degree of unemployment among Emiratis - in particular the youth. While much negative attention is giving as to why it is not working - these students decided to look to a place where it is working - and look to why it is. In a second stage they will also look to the lessons of affirmative action in the US... looking for methods that might be "translatable" to this context.

I think all the students enjoyed doing this - and I think I will try to organize it next semester as well - when we don't publicly present our research sometimes it just sits on a shelf... I have a stack of projects from last year, and before when I supervised projects on the women's side, most which warrant further work to turn them into conference articles, and all that deserve a blog post...

Great job gentlemen! Now to finish off the final report :)