The London Business Forum hosts speaking events with prominent speakers on topics such as leadership and management. Hany Mwafy, the organisation's chief executive for the Middle East and North Africa, discusses how business leaders can become more distinctive in how they run their companies.
You recently relocated your regional office to Dubai from Cairo, due to the unrest there. What's your goal by holding regular forums in the Emirates?
To present one idea that can have an impact or change on what they're doing,something that can help any of their stakeholders, whether customers or brand [partners]. Our objective is to empower people to conquer their future.
What's a challenge business leaders face in this region that might get discussed in your forum?
We are so busy trying to do things faster, better or cheaper. [It's] the trap we're all caught in, where we don't have the luxury of thinking differently, because we're not exposed to what's happening globally in terms of new stuff. This is the key challenge facing businesses today. It's so easy for those who think differently.
How can leaders think differently about their business?
By getting exposed to the big picture. By learning beyond your scope. Executives in Dubai and the Middle East, on the science part, have not [studied] that. They all have MBAs, bachelor's degrees, but we're all lacking the external stuff that's going on globally.
Where can leaders start to make their business unique?
Any function. It could be a human resources function or sales function. It could come from the top, as well. We have to look at alternatives. For example, we have to steal with pride from other industries. Get inspired, so if you are in aviation you can get inspired by banking or by another brand in banking.
And copy them?
No, get inspired. We're moving into a new economy. It's not the same economy based in the 20th century, when it was resource-based. We call it now an ideas-based economy, which is based on a unique proposition.
Can you share an example of a company with a unique spin?
AirAsia. It's unique because they set up an airline with a budget, but with a service of the top-notch airlines. Passengers fly in a very affordable course but get premier service. They have one of the most successful models globally and are loved by their customers.
As a leader, what idea has inspired you the most in your business?
I like this question. Our big idea is democratising knowledge. Everyone has the right to learn [and have] accessibility to power and content. [We were] inspired by the budget airline: it's low-cost, high-frequency and high-volume. We believe everyone should learn from global thought leaders. We don't want this to be exclusive only for the people who can pay US$3,000 [Dh11,000] and fly to London. [That's why] we are bringing these folks to Dubai for Dh999.
* Neil Parmar