Business Lessons from Egypt's #30June Revolution

Egypt's Silver Stars Skywriting Egypt Flag Red, White, Black: Egypt's Military jet contrails over downtown, Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt 2013. Taken from the Gizeera Club on Friday morning.
Egypt’s Silver Stars Skywriting Egypt Flag Red, White, Black: Egypt’s Military jet contrails over downtown, Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt 2013. Taken from the Gizeera Club on Friday morning.

As the Egyptian Army took control of the country last week, I revisited Nicholas Kristof’s article from February 2011: “What Egypt Can Teach America.”

In the past two and a half years, Egypt’s political system has evolved, but citizens are still struggling with one thing that we take for granted: peaceful transfer of power and basic inalienable rights. When Kristof wrote this article, none of us knew what lay ahead for Egypt.  Writing this Sunday afternoon, I am sure it will take more time before Egypt’s future is clear, but I know this: more people are participating in the process, hopefully peacefully.

The lessons Kristof outlined struck me because they rang true beyond the world of foreign policy.  Just as Egypt is developing many voices to advance democracy, creating leaders, representatives, systems, and processes to function effectively, so too do companies develop many voices to create corporate culture, structure and personnel.

Technology and media give us a window into what is happening throughout the world and we are lucky to be able to apply the lessons from what is happening globally to our own lives.

Here are Kristof’s lessons from Egypt’s revolution and what you can learn from them.

1)”Stop treating Islamic fundamentalism as a bogeyman and allowing it to drive American foreign policy.”

Who is your company’s bogeyman? When it comes to top investors, competitors, and partners is your strategy reactive or proactive? Identify what force in the market is creating fear and brainstorm with your leadership team what steps you can take to step outside of that fear and lead.

2)”We need better intelligence”

How do you gather the information you need to make decisions? What information are you using? As more companies rush to create tools that make Big Data useful, you must strive to embrace new information that is readily available and the interpretations that come along with it. Abhi Rele from Magento recently wrote about how SMBs can leverage Big Data by tracking new customer metrics and streamlining A/B testing.

3)”New technologies have lubricated the mechanisms of revolt.”

People choose the path of least resistance and will engage with whatever new technologies are available to most effectively perform their job. Are you engaging with your employees by giving them the tools they need to do their best work? If you don’t, someone else will.

4)”Let’s live our values”

First, what are your corporate values? Inqune works with companies to identify, disseminate and develop corporate values.  Once you have identified them and shared them publicly with your team, commit to them. When making strategic decisions, it is important to cross-check possible choices with your corporate values.  Making the team consider whether or not a plan is in line with those values reinforces to your entire organization that your company has a meaningful center. One example is Fairphone, out of Amsterdam. Their values of “sharing, opening, positivity, creativity, and access” contribute to creating a human feeling of ‘fairness’ and have driven them to create a phone through a supply chain that reflects these values. Their values are central to their marketing, targeted toward people who want their devices to reflect their moral codes.