Monday, March 21, 2011

Dubai - learning about "change" from a city that has defined change

I’m fortunate to be in Dubai, UAE this week speaking to a meeting of global managers on the topic of “change management.”

How fitting we should be discussing change in a city that has seen some of the most enormous and swift changes in the history of modern civilization.

In fewer than 20 years, Dubai has transformed from a barren wasteland into the most rapidly developed city on the planet.

Here are a couple of photos that illustrate the difference between 1990 and 2009 – with the dramatic construction, architecture, man-made islands, tall buildings, 7-star hotels and much more.

This morning, I had the chance to step back in time to enjoy the old neighborhood of Bastakiya, a traditional Emirati area in Bur Dubai. The expert tour guide led a small group of us on a walk through the unique narrow sikkas and beautiful wind towers built atop the original homes in this historic district.

After the tour, we enjoyed a traditional Emirati breakfast The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. In addition to the “home-cooked” meal, our Emirati host shared insights about UAE culture, customs and religion – overcoming many misconceptions about all of them.

One specific program he discussed was an effort to bridge the divide between Emirati and non-Emirati employees in the workplace. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding has set up the initiative aimed at large companies to offer presentations to address questions about Emirati and Arab culture.

"The initiative is bringing the corporates of Dubai and all business institutions to become partners with us, so we are partnering with big banks, companies at large, to have their staff run through our programme and allow them the freedom to ask, and that enhances the knowledge and alleviates the misconceptions," said Nasif Kayed, the general manager of the Centre.  "It becomes less stressful to live in a place when you don't have so many unanswered questions. We do indirectly enhance their ability to make deals. It yields better productivity."

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