Hockey legend Mark Messier teaches great leadership lesson in Bratislava

note: this piece was originally written for the Orange Business Live blog

On May 10, 2011, the Orange Biznis Forum meeting took place in Bratislava, Slovakia. The guest speaker at that meeting was the much revered Canadian Ice Hockey legend Mark Messier, who is now retired. Mark had come to share with us some of his best tips with regard to team management and leadership inspired by the strong moments in his rich and long career. This business meeting had taken place the morning after we had witnessed the splendid victory of the Ice Hockey team of the Czech Republic, at the Orange arena in Bratislava [footage of the match available from our Posterous account]

a living legend

It’s not everyday you come across a living legend, and even though I’m rather new to Hockey, I could well sense that we were experiencing a very special moment when Mark Messier came to talk to us about leadership and management at an Orange Business Meeting organised by our Orange representatives based in Bratislava, the Capital town of Slovakia in central Europe. Mark played hockey for 26 years and he retired only six years ago. He played in Edmonton, Canada for 12 years and then joined the New York Rangers with whom he won the Stanley cup in just three years. He is credited for the amazing turnaround of the New York City team, despite incredible media pressure.

I have taken extensive notes during that meeting, so here are my takeaways from Mark’s presentation. An impressive and extensive biography of Mark is made available online on Wikipedia.

the wolf inside you

Mark opened his presentation with an old Cherokee quote: “there are two wolves inside you” he said, “one good and one bad; guess who wins? The one you feed!”.

The real challenge is how to convey a “positive and energetic attitude”; something he understood when talking with his uncle Victor Messier “some sort of Guru and philosopher”, in a “Buddhist kind of way” according to his own words. Victor showed him the pictures of one Alex Grey, an artist interested in anatomy whose paintings were trying to make personal energy visible in 7 foot-high paintings. Mark described this as a defining moment. Although he admits that this kind of revelation could happen in various ways according to who you are and how you feel. What is important is to understand “how you can capture the energy in order to show a positive attitude which can lead you to success”.

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the status of Social Media in the Middle East straight from the Arabian horse’s mouth in Cairo

I have just come back from Cairo, where I was invited by the heads of the Cairo Orange Labs (see the video here) and their French counterparts in order to perform a presentation of what we do at Orange Business Services in the field of social media for a large carrier. I had the opportunity to present in front of a panel of representatives its form various carriers from the region including our local partner Mobinil. In this presentation, I not only presented what we do at Orange Business Services in Western Europe and in the United States, but also what is happening in the Middle East itself, as seen through the eyes of this excellent report entitled the Media Arab Outlook, the third edition of which can be accessed from this link.
The exchange of views that we had during that meeting was quite frank and quite direct and very eye-opening on the status of social media in the region. As a matter of fact, the development of social media in the Middle East is a bit schizophrenic. On the one hand, the uptake social media sites like Facebook in the Middle East, and particularly in Egypt is tremendous. The numbers which are quoted by the Media Arab Outlook report are even probably grossly underestimated. The report quotes something like 900,000 Egyptian users of Facebook whereas the audience mentioned almost immediately that this number was far below what it really is.
Of course, the status of broadand adoption (see picture below) in these countries is not at all what we are witnessing in Western Europe and the United States, which is easily understandable. If we except a few places in which broadband equipment is close to 0 because of local warfare or particularly difficult situations like the one in Sudan, Egypt is unfortunately coming at the bottom of the list in terms of broadband adoption namely.
Optimists would see that as a tremendous opportunity for carriers to equip the country with better broadband and better Internet access in general. Yet, it seems that in this kind countries the usage of the Internet is collective, a bit like what happened in India 10+ years ago and is still happening now in poorer areas; I suspect that people are grouping together around one Internet access and lend each other computers. The cybercafe, I was told by some attendees, has become so central to the life of villagers in Egypt and other Arab countries, that “cybercafe” itself was turned into a verb in Arabic, and is now part of the everyday vocabulary, and is commonly used by farmers and workers alike. Sometimes in India, it’s even shop owners who actually resell their Internet access to their clients when they shop. I also witnessed in Lebanon, more than 10 years ago, that people went to each other’s homes to look at the computer, check their mail and do things on the Internet.
Therefore, on the one hand, we have a tremendous uptake of social websites like Facebook, at the same time a terrible lack of broadband in countries like Egypt, and other countries doing a little bit better like Saudi Arabia and others doing a lot better, understandbly, like Qatar and the  United Arab Emirates.
There is also this widespread feeling that there is a terrible lack of content in Arabic available, because the vast majority of the country does not and will not speak and write in English. After all, Germans prefer to StudyVZ and Xing to respectively Facebook and LinkedIN, so it is perfectly understandable that Arab people favour local platforms. At the same time, local versions of the equivalent of Facebook and the like, are few and far between. There is one successful platform coming out of Jordan (Jeeran, see the report on page 72), and there is the famous Maktoob which was taken over by Yahoo! recently (important question: will it survive this change?).
Facebook in itself is not an issue in the Middle East: people type either in English or in Arabic on the same walls and fan pages and it doesn’t really matter to them. But the main question is that of the ownership of Facebook which is definitely seen as American, which poses problems not only in terms of “not invented here” syndrome, but also from a political point of view (think about who created Facebook for instance and his origins even though he considers himself an atheist, and imagine how it resonates in the Arab world, regardless of westernised political correctness if I am allowed).
So, at the end of the day, there are tremendous opportunities in the Middle East for the development of social networks, in an area where conversations are anything but a view of the mind. It’s a way of life, which preexisted in real life way before the Internet arrived. Those service providers who will be able to seize this opportunity and provide social media platforms and services in Arabic, from/in partnership with independent Arab-owned media companies, will reap the harvest of a booming sector and, judging by the liveliness of the Facebook fan page of Orange Tunisia, which has now reached a little bit more than 110,000 users in just a few months, we can imagine what can be done in terms of advertising, brand loyalty programmes and co-creation.

enterprise 2.0: are you ready for the Yammer take-off?

this is the latest post from our friend Rob Evans. Rob is an expert blogger and he joined the Orange Blog Live community recently. The reason why I’m relaying this post is that Rob is describing here how Yammer is becoming really big in the business community. Yammer being a new micro-blogging platform to which employees can register using their business e-mail address. The suffix of your e-mail address (@ibm.com, @hp.com etc.) is the tag which will automatically identify you as part of a Corporate community. And it’s true that Yammer is catching like wildfire.

Now guess what! Rob and I got in contact precisely through Yammer and this is how he ended up enlisting in our blog initiative. Did you need a proof that Yammer is a great tool?

Over to Rob now:

Will Yammer follow hot on the heels of Twitter? by Rob Evans (Orange Business Services)

Use of Twitter, the micro-blogging web-site that allows people to post 140-character updates, has exploded in the UK over the last few months; traffic to the site increased by a staggering 974% over the past year according to Techcrunch UK. The site itself now ranks as the 291st most visited site in the UK, and was described by the Telegraph as the best known microblogging site:

Twitter is probably the best known of all the “microblogging” sites, and it has been incredibly popular with geeks and the technorati since it launched in 2006. People post messages to the site, either via the web or by text message, and these “tweets” are forwarded on to their network of friends and contacts

Twitter’s seminal moment in the UK was on the Jonathan Ross show on the 23rd of January . This show marked the return of Jonathan Ross following an “enforced holiday”. Both the presenter and his guest Stephen Fry– a self-confessed geek and blogger- are avid users of Twitter, and on the show they discussed how the site works and how they use it.

>> Read on at the Orange Business Live Blog http://blogs.orange-business.com/live/

business value and ICT blog now open!

A brand new Orange Business Live blog dedicated to business value and ICT has just been made available to the worldwide community of readers and possibly contributors. A registration form will soon be made available in order to enable users to engage in passionate discussions online on the subject of the impact of ICT on business.

the business value & ICT blog

This blog is about creating business value from ICT and provides a focal point for passionate discussions about how information and communications technology can bring actual value to your business. The blog is structured around seven topics (see bottom of the page) ranging from application performance to unifying communications. Subjects such as the impact of ICT on business, ROI calculations for communications services, and golden rules for new ICT transformation projects will be tackled. Our pool of authors will grow over time and new members are welcome to join as writers for the Orange Business Live blog.

read on at this address