BLG Leadership Insights Proactive Leaders

Proactive Leadership in Afghanistan: Saad Mohseni

Saad Mohseni is Afghanistan’s first captain of industry and chairman of Moby Group. In this week’s New Yorker, Ken Auletta profiles Mohensi who owns radio and television networks, an advertising agency, a movie production company, and many other businesses. Mohseni’s rise is important to American concerns in the region and may offer a view into what a post-occupied Afghan economy could look like.

After decades in exile, Mohseni returned to Afghanistan in 2002 with the hopes of raising money to begin producing radio content for news starved Afghans. Prior to Mohseni’s network only the state run Voice of Sharia was accessible to Afghans.

After pooling resources he was still about $200,000 short. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) stepped up and provided the remaining angel funding. “Without United States support, Saad Mohseni could not have succeeded at what he did” Auletta writes, “He needed that infrastructure, that capital expense that the government supported.”

Currently USAID sponsors “On the Road” a weekly reality show. Starting next year the State Department will pay for another program about, in the words of David Ensor, director of communications and public diplomacy at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, “cops who may be tempted by bribes but don’t take them.”

A major reason for the Karzai government’s unpopularity is the perception that corruption is condoned, particularly among the police. The show, Ensor explains, is meant to help recruit police by demonstrating “that cops can be heroes.”

Through Mohseni’s reality TV, dramas, and soap operas, young Afghans, especially woman, are beginning to view themselves as equal stakeholders in the Afghan society. Since the eve of the Soviet invasion many bright and ambitious young people have fled Afghanistan creating a brain drain that could impede Afghanistan from emerging as a democratic and economically viable nation. Mohseni’s programs and other NATO led initiatives can restrict this flow.

As should now be clear after many failed nation building excursions relying on ‘hard’ power all but ensures disaster. Instead, partnerships between state and non-state actors must be formed to foster a collectivist mentality and most importantly to provide hope to a people besieged by corrupt officials.  By actively building and deploying political capital, Mohseni has paved a road of other entrepreneurial leaders to follow.

Picture Credit: Spuz

BLG Leadership Insights

Uncertainty and (Maybe) A Paradigm Shift

Paradigm shifts aren’t easy. As Thomas Kuhn pointed out, it may take a crisis to bring on a change. Academic ideas can be stuck in inertia in the same way organizations can be. The movement beyond inertia implies leadership, the capacity to take risks, and the ability to look at something differently.

Sometimes this may mean looking at something that’s been staring you in the face and suddenly saying to yourself, “I never realized what it meant before.” Sometimes it means looking at an old idea that you disregarded and seeing its current utility.

The John Cassidy, in his New Yorker piece, After the Blowup, maintains that Keynesian economics is an example of this phenomenon. Keynesian economics was there all along and now there’s a possibility that it’s coming back to life.

The reemergence of the Keynesian economics might even by overshadowed by the legitimization of the behaviorists who seem to be feeling that their moment has come. Pure Chicago economists, with their expected utilities and optimizing markets, are meeting the reality of the recent financial blow-out. Now, economists are learning what good leaders have known for a long time. Uncertainty is inevitable, very few things are held constant, and close models are dreams. Economists are now seeing things through a lens of social psychology and arguing that personality and culture inevitably play a role in market theory.

Cassidy’s article is a critical read for any leaders who still hope that cost/benefit analysis, expected utility, and markets are the only solutions to everyday problems. Further, if you let yourself go beyond this article Cassidy will help you understand that there is a possibility of a new paradigm of economics–but a paradigm that’s not restricted to market economies. It’s an exciting paradigm that can offer guidance to anyone who has to make choices. I strongly recommend that you read this piece in the New Yorker.

Picture Credit: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
BLG Leadership Insights

Media Companies on the Edge: Should Businesses Invest in Social Media Campaigns?

Traditional media companies are turning to online videos in order to attract a new generation of fans and followers.

Media companies from Forbes to Fast Company have their own ‘video’ sections on their websites—as well as their usual article offerings.

That’s right, even the New Yorker has a few videos proudly displayed.

What can their transformation teach the business world and leaders?

What Can We Learn From This Media Revolution?

It’s wise for traditional media companies to realize that they aren’t exactly in the business of selling books or articles, but rather distributing needed/desired information. So, it’s no surprise that some established media companies, knowing their audience is increasingly online and equipped with smart-phones, are trying to produce interesting online video.

Traditional media’s desire to publish online content is similar to companies pushing for an increased social media presence in order to target and talk to a larger audience. However, as we have seen, efforts to use social media have sometimes failed…and badly.

So what does a business do? Risk reinvention in order to target a new generation of fans, but potentially lose focus…and customers? Or, stick to its core business, perfect it, and abandon all efforts to remain cutting edge?

The problem is highlighted best in the media industry. Let’s look at two examples of media firms that have either chosen to embrace the internet or merely accept it.

Successful Online Reinvention:

HarperCollins: You can’t leave your house in the morning without hearing about the ‘death of print’. However, HarperCollins refuses to lay down and collect dust. They have decided to kick their online presence into overdrive and host a series of highly produced videos that revolve around their newest offerings….