Falafel Ecosystem



A while ago I was reviewing some of the entrepreneurship ecosystem mapping I did for Jordan during previous projects.

I found some interesting trends over the past 15 years in Jordan. I would say the entrepreneurship ecosystem is like our Falafel ecosystem.


Have you ever noticed that when a new Falafel restaurant opens in a new area, within few months you will notice that more and more Falafel restaurants are opened in the same area. Not only that but if someone introduced a new kind of bread, all nearby restaurants will copy that. At the end, all restaurants will be providing almost the same sandwiches, same quality and even same decoration. 

In this ecosystem most of the surviving restaurants will have groups of loyal customers from the neighborhood who will buy exclusively from their restaurants. Yes I mean it “their restaurants” because those customers would have relatives or friends who work in these restaurants and most probably they will continue buying regardless if there is any changes (positive or negative).

Moreover the restaurants owners will keep checking the feedback or opinion of their customers (friends) about what they can improve without checking with the nontraditional customers to have wider/different opinions.


The same approach is followed by almost all other sectors. For example today I noticed that a third pharmacy will open close to my home copying models of existing ones without providing any clear value to me other than it is new and I like to find out about.


The purpose of this article is not to highlight that entrepreneurs or startups are copying each other as this is a different story, but what is interesting that the entrepreneurship support organizations are following the same trend of the Falafel ecosystem.


Jordan has faced different waves of kinds of entrepreneurship support activities/initiatives over the past 15 years that ranges from incubation, training, policies to different funding’s.

In general what we lack in our ecosystem is not any of the entrepreneurship ecosystem elements, but it is the abundance of the same specific support offered at the same certain time period.


Over the past years I noticed the following waves of support

  • incubation programs that host startups
  • wave of scattered investment levels but not structured toward specific target
  • almost at the same time many microfinancing banks and programs start to appear
  • a wave of lot of grants mainly funded by international and local public institutes
  • at some time some success stories from the IT sector start to appear which increased the focus on IT and web startups
  • following that some initiatives of angel investors start to appear and form some networks to support early stage investments
  • then the time of seed investments start to appear along with local and regional acceleration initiatives
  • this was directly followed by the rise of local and regional VCs focusing on the large investments
  • besides that lot of mentors and mentorship programs start to be developed and services are offered to enhance the startups quality
  • at a certain period many donors and public institutes start to notice that most of the startups are generated in Amman and other areas are left behind so many programs came out to provide grants and support to people from those areas and forgot about startups in Amman
  • Although Amman was left behind most of startup grants, much development happened in the area of co-working spaces and areas where entrepreneurs would meet brain storm and develop their IT projects mainly.
  • at that time many  entrepreneurship culture awareness activities  started to create lot of buzz around Jordan through development of workshops, events, promotion, tools, and even books.
  • many people and companies start to take the advantage of that and started offering lot of entrepreneurship training programs and capacity building so where ever you go you will find an entrepreneur who is willing to offer such kind of training and support program. 
  • on the other hand large companies local and international wanted to get engaged and offer similar programs to the community
  • at the same time several governmental organization noticed that they are away behind the progress of policies and strategies of entrepreneurship and they want to get involved through developing national policies and strategies, which include but not limited to entrepreneurship strategy and innovation strategy.
  • when the Syrian crises start to affect the Jordanian markets, many donors driven by public organizations start to focus in social entrepreneurship especially outside Amman, refugee camps and women startups.


What is funny that similar to the Falafel ecosystem, each active program has their own active customers or beneficiary for their services. Which makes not only the development of these programs difficult because they are surrounded by the same customers and stakeholders, but also the startups would not be easily survive if they jump outside their micro entrepreneurship ecosystem. Alternatively, some entrepreneurs shop around for the same service from different supporters but with achieving major growth target.


In general I like the development of our Falafel entrepreneurship ecosystem and having many initiatives, but the challenge is to offer what and when by all actors.

Entrepreneurs and startups themselves evolve as well and need new kind of support but each time a new entrepreneur start his or her idea would need to go to various stages of support. If they need for example seed fund, mentor or shred co-working space they should be able to find not wait till the next wave of support rise again to get access to these services.


In short what I wish to see is a mature ecosystem that each actor would focus on their core competency and develop it rather in innovative way rather than jumping to the next wave of support because others are moving in that direction or some donors are ready to fund it.


For example currently if I want to find a good active mentorship program in Jordan for my entrepreneurs in my programs I can not find any active one, or if I want to help them in applying for a grant or seed fund which we used to have abundance of them, I can find only one or two who could offer that for the stage the entrepreneurs I support at the German Jordanian University. On the other hand, currently, I am promoting on weekly basis different competitions for students but no follow up programs are offered.


All kind of services are needed at all times to have healthy entrepreneurship ecosystem. As the entrepreneurs need all and different services at their different stages of development.


I cannot blame the donors and program funders on the duplicated efforts but it is more on the coordination and development of innovative programs generating impact rather than looking for simplicity and short term results.

Finally I agree that there are many people who are (and will continue) looking for Falafel with homos, or foul or tahina but there are others who might like to have Falafel with peanut sauce or Falafel made of oat and lentil for example.


These thoughts and ideas are not really based on scientific facts but they are based on my general observations over many years. For that I appreciate your feedback and suggestions to improve this article.


Who are the Entrepreneurs? Entrepreneurs are the successful Alchemists.

During Rick Salmon’s visit to Palestine Rick conducted a workshop discussing investment opportunities for entrepreneurs.

I will in this article and the following ones start summarizing my opinions based on Rick’s notes and the discussions in the workshop.

I will start with who is the entrepreneur and what characteristics the entrepreneur should have. (Some found characteristics are based on studies)

The entrepreneur is Alchemist of the modern world. Alchemist is the one who works in Alchemy and according to Wikipedia

Alchemy is an ancient tradition, the primary objective of which was the creation of the mythical “philosopher’s stone,” which was said to be capable of turning base metals into gold or silver, and also act as an elixir of life that would confer youth and immortality upon its user”

An Alchemist endeavors to turn base metals into gold while the entrepreneurdrives to turn opportunities into successful business. This analogy between theentrepreneurs and alchemists is not only about gold or money it is about the drive to transform the low value into high value.

An Alchemist is committed to what he is doing and is stubborn to turn metals into gold, and the entrepreneur is the same as he is committed to bring his idea to reality and he is a great believer in his idea and stubborn in achieving it.

One of the skills the entrepreneur has is that he can look at positive things and find opportunities instead of barriers or problems and tries to overcome the barriers by utilizing new innovative approaches. This is the same with the alchemist who looks for every new way and tries different opportunities to get the gold.

Although the entrepreneur keeps trying different opportunities sometimes he succeeds and other times he fails, he learns from both the success and the failure and build experience from that and lead his ideas, team and new opportunities into better position. Failures are seen as speed bumps rather than barriers and encourageentrepreneurs to look for options in their approach. Alchemists historically were driven by the creation of gold.The byproduct of their experiments contributed to the humanity countless innovations that may never have been discovered. Alchemistslearned from their trial and errors and helped in the formulation of the science of chemistry we know today.

Alchemists faced lot of risks while trying their experiments which is similar what the entrepreneur faces every day in leading his ideas into success and market.

One of the hardest things in the world the entrepreneur tries to do which is harder than combining material to get gold, is creating win-win human relations.  Anentrepreneur is an alchemist at combining people together.

Finally, alchemists are crazy as are most entrepreneurs. Both are driven by what could be rather than being limited by what is and has been. This helps them in introducing innovative solution by not thinking as the rest of the others, asInnovation comes from creative with persistence.

To summarize entrepreneurs have the following characteristics:

  • Commitment to achieve their ideas (sometimes stubborn , driven and persistent);
  • They see and seek opportunities rather than focusing on barriers or what has been;
  • They keep trying alternative solutions and learn from results and gain experience
  • They are risk takers and treat their failures as learning opportunities
  • An entrepreneur is an alchemist at combining people together.

References and Thanks


Note: This post was published originally in 2011

It is to me; that’s the point.

Few days ago I was facilitating my first Mowgli mentoring workshop in Amman, the Leader Mentor Training Programme (LMT). I was too excited to move to the next level of the Mowgli Experience . Each level and role has its own flavour, lessons learned and relationships.

During that session, I was listening to my colleague Raed while he was explaining the relationship and the empathy between the mentors and the mentees, at that time a scene from my favourite TV series the Big Bang Theory came to my mind (or my internal journalist start to talk to me, a familiar concept Mowgli family members).

I shared the story of the scene to the workshop participants, which I invite you to watch before I continue with my comments. (The transcript of the scene is available at the end)


As Sheldon Cooper said in this video “It is to me; that’s the point.” I liked this scene because it shows how the what happens to people when they open up and start to talk about themselves and the real feelings. The role of the listener sometimes it is much harder to balance between being transparent, show empathy and truest worthy. The listener should not focus on the problem from his/her own point of view, it is important to listen to the deep feelings of the speaker as it will help building the trust in the relation.

I liked what Prof. Sheldon Cooper said in this scene “It is to me; that’s the point.” and I will keep it always in my mind and share it with my colleagues whenever I can. In my opinion this is the best Mentor Mentee relationship and I hope one day I can prove it with the success of the mentees



Scene: The apartment.

Sheldon: Here is a hot beverage to comfort you. It’s in a to-go cup. Make of that what you will.

Penny: Come on. It’s still early. Let’s do something.

Sheldon: Well, I have been toying around with an idea for 4D chess.

Penny: How about we just talk?

Sheldon: All right. In 4D chess…

Penny: No. Come on, let’s talk about our lives. Tell me something about you I don’t know.

Sheldon: I own nine pairs of pants.

Penny: Okay, that, that’s a good start, but I was thinking maybe something a little more personal.

Sheldon: I see. I own nine pairs of underpants.

Penny: How about I go first?

Sheldon: But I don’t want to know how many underpants you own. Although, based on the floor of your bedroom, I’d say it’s a thousand.

Penny: Okay, look, here’s something people do not know about me. When I first moved out to L.A., I did a topless scene in a low-budget horror movie about a killer gorilla. Ugh! After I did it, I felt so ashamed. Thankfully, that thing never came out.

Sheldon: I’ve seen that. Yeah. Serial Apeist. Howard found it online the day we met you.

Penny: Oh, God.

Sheldon: And it was literally the moment you walked out the door. But I see the type of personal revelations you’re going for. Okay, here’s one I thought I’d take to the grave.

Penny: Okay.

Sheldon: Hmm. A while back, YouTube changed its user interface from a star-based rating system to a thumbs-up rating system. I tell people I’m okay with it, but I’m really not.

Penny: That’s your big revelation?

Sheldon: Yes. Whew, I feel ten pounds lighter.

Penny: Okay, you know what? I give up. I’m going to bed.

Sheldon: Here’s something else you don’t know about me. You just hurt my feelings.

Penny: What did I do?

Sheldon: I opened up and shared something deeply upsetting to me, and you treated it as if it were nothing.

Penny: I, I didn’t think it was a big deal.

Sheldon: It is to me; that’s the point.

Penny: Sheldon, you are right. I’m really sorry. I should’ve known better.

Sheldon: Your apology is accepted.

Penny: Thank you. How about a hug?

Sheldon: How about a hearty handshake?

Penny: Come on.

Mapping the minds of the students

Recently I started teaching at the German Jordanian University and wanted to experiment some new techniques in teaching and introduce new study approach for students. As a result, the students developed the following drawings and diagrams.


Those drawings were not produced by art nor graphics design students, they were developed by students of the management and logistics school. The drawings represent mind maps of one of the chapters they studied. All students can be creative and produce artistic works to utilize them for studying.

“A mind map is a diagram used to visually organise information. A mind map is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank landscape page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.” Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map

Mind maps help in two main areas:

  • Learning and memorizing

Where the mind map stimulates both sides of the brain / thinking and creates associations between the items to be learned and memorized with visual, colorful and artistic images or drawings.

  • Creativity and ideas generation

Where the mind map stimulates the brain to radiate outside the core idea and explore new areas through creating association between current ideas and new ideas by unleashing and utilizing the power of both sides of the brain / thinking

There are lots of resources and examples describing how the mind maps help in both areas. One of them is in my slideshare site

In the experiment I wanted to check the effect of mind map development on learning improvements. For that I asked the students to summarize one of the chapters from the text book as an extra work. I was also asking the students to review the in class case studies and summarize them in mind map format to discuss and analyze them. Not to mention that I used to draw some mind maps during some lectures.


The drawings shown in this article are examples of students’ works summarizing some chapters of the Marketing, Technology Management and Social Entrepreneurship courses. The students had the freedom to prepare the mind maps on computer software or by drawing them on papers.


Although some drawings show that some students were taking the process seriously and hopefully improved their understanding and memorizing the subjects, but I had no clear tool to measure the possible improvements. For that as a following step, this experiment should be improved through introducing measurement and validation tool to check the change in the results of the students before and after utilizing the mind map process.


During the same period I had the chance to deliver a workshop on mind mapping and creativity to group of university students and fresh graduates volunteers who are participating in youth coaching program. Although the participants were excited, but some of them who know about the mind maps previously from their school time, told me that they tried to learn from mind maps and that was not helpful for them and they find it difficult to memorize. I investigated about this issue with them and I found out that their schools teachers used to summarize the lessons in mind map format/drawing and gave them to the students to learn from.

This was the problem; the mind maps were prepared and given to the students. Although this might look nice and the mind map were drawn in good way and summarized the lessons or books with high quality, but this approach misses the core concept of mind map. Mind maps are not much about the final result / map; they are about the process of creating the map. The process helps in writing down the words, creating the associations, adding the images and colors, all that will stimulate the brain and not the final drawing.


Finally it is important for the students to continue preparing and developing mind maps as one time only will not generate the expected results, it is like training in the gym, one visit to the gym  will make you tiered, but frequent visits will improve your health and body. And remember, watching the trainer will not help you if you do not practice.

German Jordanian University Innovation ecosystem

The German Jordanian University in early 2014 started the development of innovation and entrepreneurship center to support its students and staff on startups development and innovation. The proposed model was introduced in the workshop. The following presentation highlights the model.

As a first step to the implementation of the center, it is important to develop the entrepreneurship ecosystem and integrate the university center with the local ecosystem. The following program was used in the workshop to assess and engage the actors in Jordan on building the local entrepreneurship ecosystem

More than 50 local/international organizations in the innovation and entrepreneurship support participated in the workshop. The following report highlights the main findings and recommendations from the workshop.


Download (PDF, 1.76MB)

تحدي الاعمال وتحدي الانجاز


هذه الصورة التقتط يوم الاربعاء 21/5/2014 في حفل توزيع جوائز برامج انجاز لريادة الاعمال لطلاب المدارس. واظهر في الصورة بين مايزيد عن 40 طالب ومعلميهم  من عدة مدارس.

على الرغم من انني لست من فاز بالجائزة الا انها كانت من اللحظات الجميلة في حياتي وانا اشاهد شباب المستقبل ينجز ويحصل على الجائزة فشعرت بالانجاز بعد التحدي.

بدأت هذه القصة منذ الشهر الاول لهذه السنة عندما تقدمت للتطوع مع مؤسسة انجاز بناء على نصيحة من احدى الزملاء وخاصة انني كنت احاول ذلك منذ عدة اعوام. كانت المقابلة الاولى مع فريق انجاز للتعارف وتحديد برنامج التطوع. وكان البرنامج الذي عرض علي اسمه “تحدي الاعمال” فشعرت ان به الكثير من التحدي خاصة عندما عرفت ان البرنامج يقدم لطلاب الصف العاشر بالمدارس الحكومية ويركز على ادارة الشركات وريادة الاعمال.

على الرغم من انني دربت في السابق مجموعات من طلاب المدارس بنفس الجيل، الا انني في البداية شعرت بالتخوف فعلى ماذا انا مقدم؟ لم ادخل مدرسة حكومية في الاردن من قبل! ولم اتعامل مع هذا العدد الكبير من الطلاب في صف واحد (ما يقارب 40)! ومعتاد على تدريس مواضيع التفكير الابداعي وريادة الاعمال للاطفال والشباب المبدع ومن لهم اهتمام بريادة الاعمال، لم اجرب ان ادرس من قبل لمن ليس مهتم ولافكرة لدية عن الموضوع. كيف ساتعامل مع الطلاب والمدرسين؟ ماهي المادة التي يجب ان ادرسهم اياها وما هي الامثلة التي يجب ان اسردها للطلاب ليستوعبوها؟ هل ساتمكن من انجاز هذا التحدي واوصل رسالة البرنامج للطلاب وانجح بزراعة التفكير الايجابي بينهم؟

على الرغم من ان فريق انجاز قدم المساعدة بالجلسة التدريبية للمتطوعين وتسهيل الزيارة للمدرسة والتعرف على الادارة الا انني اول يوم دخلت الى المدرسة دخلت متفحصا مستكشفا وكلي امل بأن أتمكن من احداث أثر في الجيل الجديد. بالصدفة كان أول من شاهدت  طالب في الخارج والذي رأني احمل حقيبة انجاز المميزة بالوانها. فسألني لاي صف ستدرس وكان يتمنى أن يكون صفة. ولكني اعتذرت منه لانني لن ادرس صفة. وهذا الموقف زاد رهبتي من التحدي لانه يبدو ان للطلاب توقعات ايجابية عن متطوعي انجاز وبرامجهم.

اصطحبني الاستاذ الى الصف و بدات الدرس الاول بتحدي الطلاب التعرف علي وعلى عملي وخبراتي وكنت ارسم اجوبتهم في خريطة ذهنية على اللوح. ومن ثم بدأت بشرح اهداف البرنامج ولعبة الكومبيوتر التي سيلعبوها ويتنافسوا في تحدي الاعمال وتعلم اساسيات السوق.

كان من أصعب الاسئلة التي لفتت انتباهي في تلك الجلسة، هو لماذا تطوعت بوقتي لهذا البرنامج ولماذا اهتم بالطلاب؟ على الرغم من انني اجبت عليهم ولكن هذا السؤال اشار لي بان هناك خلل ثقة في مجتمعنا ويبدأ منذ الصغر. فعلى الرغم من عدم اعتراك الشباب للحياة الا انهم يشعرون انه لا يوجد من قد يهتم بهم الا ان كان له منفعه ذاتية يريد تحقيقها.  وهذا ما نراه في مجتمعنا وليس فقط في مجال الاعمال. فكيف سيكون مجتمعنا في المستقبل عند تفشي عدم الثقة بين الاجيال وعدم ثقتة بان هناك قيمه للانسان والمستقبل افضل من المال والمصالح الشخصية. فيجب علينا تصميم وتنفيذ برامج لاعادة الثقة في مجتمعاتنا وأهمية الاجيال الصاعدة بناة المستقبل وليس فقط ثقافة التطوع. وهذا ما تعلمته من خلال تدريبي في برنامج المنظمة العالمية للشباب على التعامل مع الأجيال الجديدة واحترامهم لبناء الثقة بينهم وبين مجتمعهم حتى يتمكنوا من الثقة بأنفسهم وقدراتهم وضرورتهم لبناء المجتمع.

على الرغم من انني كنت احضر لكل درس الا انه في كل حصة ونتيجة لتفاعل بعض الطلاب كانت امثلة جديدة تظهر وكنت اطور طرق جديدة للتعامل معهم. فكان هذا تحد اخر هو ان اتوقع غير المتوقع من الطلاب الذين لا يتوقع المجتمع منهم الكثير. وكانوا دوما يبهروني باجاباتهم  والتي تضاهي وتنافس اجابات الطلاب الذين ادربهم على مهارات الابداع، فهم مبدعون حقا ولكن لا يوجد اهتمام او توجيه حقيقي لمهاراتهم التي تضمحل مع الزمن.

وبعد 6 جلسات انتهى البرنامج ولعب الشباب بلعبة الاعمال وانجزوا الواجبات وشاركوا بالمنافسة على مستوى المدرسة والمملكة للمرحلة الاولى وتوقعت ان دوري قد انتهى وخاصة ان هذه اول تجربة لي في هذا البرنامج فلم اتوقع ان يتأهل احدى الفرق للمرحلة الثانية.  ولكن بعد فترة وصلني اتصال من فريق انجاز لابلاغي بان احدى فرقي قد تأهل للمرحلة الثانية من المسابقة وقد حصل على المركز الخامس. لم اصدق ذلك وكررت السؤال ولكن كانت الاجابة بالتاكيد. وبذلك انتقلت للمرحلة الثانية من تحدي الانجاز بعد ان انجزت المرحلة الاولى مع الشباب، وبدأ تحدي الارشاد.

كان لقائي الاول مع الطلاب الفائزين شيق لاني بدأت اتعرف عليهم وعلى طموحاتهم وافكارهم. في اللقاء ناقشنا فكرتهم وتركتهم يفكروا ويقترحوا افكارهم وانا كنت أرسم امامهم الخريطة الذهنية لافكارهم عن المشروع الذي ينون تنفيذه. وبعد ان شرحوا لي مشروعهم بدأت بلفت انتباههم الى بعض النقاط التي ذكروها فبدأت افكارهم تتبلور ومشروعهم يتضح لهم.

في يوم الحفل والمسابقة، كان هناك عدد من المشاريع والمنتجات ذات العلاقة بمشروعهم فوضحت لهم انهم يمكن ان يستفيدوا من هذه المعروضات لدعم فكرة مشروعهم فقاموا بجولة وجلبوا افكارا لمشروعهم وهذا ما لم يتمكن طلاب الجامعه من استنتاجة في نفس الظروف. بل اكثر من ذلك، فقد أعجبت ان الشباب بداوا يحللوا الزبائن وما يريدون،  فقد تمكنوا من ملاحظة اهتمام وزير التربية والتعليم وشاركوة فكرتهم بما يتناسب مع اهتمامه فاعجب بهم وبفكرتهم وحتى ذكرها في كلمته في الحفل.

اما عن انتظارهم وتدربهم على اللعب والقاء كلمة المشروع فكانت ممتعه لي لاني شاهدت مختلف ردود فعل التوتر وكيف تختلف من شاب لاخر.

اما فرحتهم بلقاء زملائهم في الاحتفال فكانت لاتوصف لانهم يريدوا الاحتفال معهم ومساندتهم. اما بالنسبة لي فكان لقائي بطلاب الصف مختلفة فحيوني واخذوا الصور معي.

وبالنهاية ازداد توترالشباب وانتظارهم ولكن كانت فرحتهم كبيرة عندما سمعوا اسم فريقهم ومدرستهم معلنا فوزهم في المركز الثالث على مستوى المملكة. وبدأ الاحتفال واخذ الصور وكانت هذه الصور.

اما بالنسبة لي فلاحظت اني تعلمت العديد من الامور من خلال هذه التجربة ربما اكثر من الطلاب انفسهم. فقد تعرفت اكثر على قدراتي وانجازاتي والتغلب على التحديات الجديدة.

عرفت ان المبدعون ليسوا دوما من يحضر لتعلم برامج التفكير الابداعي بل هم موجودون في الاماكن التي لانتوقعها فيجب علينا البحث عنهم.

بالاضافة لذلك بدأت اتعرف على هموم المدارس والطلاب والاساتذة والتحديات التي يواجهونها وكيف انهم على الرغم من كل هذه التحديات ينجحون بانجازات قد تنمي مجتمعنا في المستقبل.

اخيرا اتمنى للطلاب الاعزاء كل التوفيق في دراستهم وعملهم وتحدي انفسهم لينجزوا ما يرغبون. واتمنى ان اكون قد انجزت ولو قليلا في تحسين مستقبل عدد من الشباب.

فهذه هي الحياه مليئة بالتحديات التي نتعلم منها ونبحث عن الانجاز من خلالها.

اما بالنسبة لمحتوى البرنامج فلدي قصة اخرى لمقالة جديدة.


الاخبار الصحفية:

«إنجاز» تكرِّم المدارس الفائزة في المسابقة السنوية لريادة الأعمال

Workshop on Entrepreneurship and Innovation at GJU

The Office for Industrial Links at GJU in cooperation with Queen Rania Center for entrepreneurship (QRCE), organized a workshop on entrepreneurship and innovation, which is a part of the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), on Wednesday 20 November 2013.

Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is a worldwide movement that celebrates and promotes entrepreneurship in more than 125 countries. The movement will touch and engage millions of people throughout the world. The Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship is the Official Host for GEW. The event included many sessions started up with Mr. Mohammad Obaidat, Program Manager at QRCE, who defined GEW as an awareness campaign supported by world leaders and celebrity entrepreneurs. It is about unleashing ideas and doing what it takes to bring them to life—spotting opportunities, taking risks, solving problems, being creative, building connections and learning from both failure and success.

Arch. Maisa Al Shomali, Committee Head of the JEA Graduation Projects Competition, gave a presentation entitled “Bridging the Gap between Academia and Industry, JEA Graduation Projects Competition”.

“Competition of Graduation Projects Conducted at the Industrial Sector“ was presented by Eng. Fadel Labadi, Manager of the Industrial Development Department from the Amman Chamber of Industry.

For his part Eng. Jamil Khatib, Innovation Consultant from Ibtikar, talked about Innovative Graduation Projects. Eng. Alia Gharaibeh, Faculty Member of the School of Management and Logistics at GJU, took part to talk about Entrepreneurship 4 Myths.

Dr. Yousef Abdalat, Director of National Program of Faculty for Factory, explained what the aim of (FFF). Dr. Sami Alnajjar, Faculty Member of the School of Management and Logistics at GJU, gave a very impressive presentation entitled “Unlimited Value: Entrepreneurship with Emotional Intelligence”.

“Leader in Progress –A charity Initiative “was presented by Mr. Fahad Qarasmeh and Ms. Hala Jurf, GJU students. Dr. Abdel Monem M. Rawashdeh, CEO of the Applied Scientific Research Fund (ASRF), presented “from Research to Investment (R2I)“.

GJU participated for the first time in this global event and is looking forward to implement different activities tackling entrepreneurship in the near future.

The article is published in GJU newsletter


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Cup of Coffee: The distance between industry and academia

Cup of Coffee: The distance between industry and academia

Last week I was at the German Jordanian University to give a talk during the global entrepreneurship week (GEW). During the day we had different presentations about innovation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration between industry and academia. The overall event was very interesting with lots of inspiring speakers and networking.

After that a group of the speakers had coffee together at the university cafeteria. Sounds like all the other events we have attended. But that simple informal setting and chatting, while having the coffee was amazing. The participants got to know each other as individuals and the organizations they represented by sharing their concerns, questions and experiences.  The best part of the conversations they were genuine, spontaneous, drink coffee and share the reality each of us was experiencing.

At my table were people representing: university staff, professors, private sector, and industrial association, plus students keen to do more than learn in classrooms. The cafeteria was and full of energy and buzzing with future opportunities, NOT just issues.

I noticed that the level, age and experience of the person wasn’t as important to bridging the gap as the ability to listen, question and share.  Everyone was equal and respectful; it is our chance to build the future.

Moreover the people around that table have different backgrounds and they each had a range of experiences with a spectrum of roles (student to business executive to academics). The table combined experiences in engineering, sciences, management and more.

So who said universities and industry can’t share real issues, and consider the others perspective?  Where was the big gap I have heard so much about?,

Maybe, just maybe the gap is in our minds just like other cultural divide (men vs. women, adults vs. youth, German vs. Arabs, academics vs. industry). It can be addressed by not assuming we are the same and exploring the other party and try to understand each other and know different roles and perspectives.

It was great to watch mutual respect turn into trust between academia, industry and students as they learned more about each other.   A cup of coffee was a real first step to mutual understanding.

So a few lessons from a coffee with academics, industry and students:*

a)     Don’t assume we see the world or issues the same,

b)    Consider asking questions to learn about the other parties issues might be more valuable than telling them about yourself (until they ask),

c)     Consider investing time over tea or coffee, to learn about those in your expanded community (not everyone lives, works or thinks like an academic),

d)    Explore opportunities more than issues; future possibilities create more energy than complaining.

e)     Consider reaching out to those you do NOT know every 2-3 weeks to expand your understanding face to face.  Not everything is on the web.

f)      Be ready for fresh insights.

All what we need to bridge the gap, is to share our concerns, opportunities and talk about positive results we achieved in our roles. Such moments will build trust and further collaboration.

So let’s have a cup of coffee, chat and collaborate.

*Special thanks to Scott Gillespie for his inputs and the lessons learned.

Cup of Coffee

Lessons from The puzzle of innovation 2

In the last few weeks I was under stress and wanted to relax and do something I have not done for many years.  I thought of many things and looked around the home without finding anything interesting that might be relaxing.

hile I was looking at my library of books, I noticed on the top shelf an old box that I bought for more than 7 years but never opened.  It is a Jigsaw Puzzle, in box, with a picture on the top of a country side view with trees and houses. I opened the box and just started putting the pieces together and piece by piece solving it. It was surprisingly fun and relaxing. Puzzles have grown into a daily activity for me.

So what this has to do with innovation?

Upon reflection, lots of ideas came to my mind about the analogy between solving Jigsaw puzzles and solving the innovation process puzzle, in organizations.

First, most innovations result from the need of change. This change could be crises, improvement or even merely change.  Here I would like to emphasis that innovations and change are faces of the same coin which could bring resistance or open new perspectives. This is what happened with me, I needed a change, and this change opened new perspectives to me to think about innovations and creativity.

Moreover when I was looking around I was not expecting to find a box of jigsaw puzzle in my library, this opened new experience for me of solving the puzzle and writing this article. This is exactly what happens with innovations. Sources of ideas are the most unexpected places, people or incidents. Sometimes if those sources are not available we have to create them by looking at the past how we used to do things, what were the technologies in the past or in short try to chat with your grandparents.

So let me start with the Jigsaw puzzle solving process and tips to consider in piecing together your innovation process.

The beginning

As a first step I took the pieces out of the box which is the most important step is to start with by taking the pieces out of the box (and think out of the box) otherwise they will not be solved.

At the beginning, as always, it was not clear where to start, which side, which color, lot of ideas and lot possibilities. All can be right, or equally wrong.

For sure this is normal and parallels the first step in the innovation process, innovation seems to start in a messy chaotic way, lacking clarity and focus as we did not get used to the novelty and the change. I would say if every step is clear at the start, then it is unlikely to be innovation; it is more likely marginal improvements or a routine activity. That is why creative people are motivated to break routine processes by innovating, to face the unknown.

This is similar to solving Jigsaw puzzles.  If you have solved it many times, then each following time will be well known and the result will be predictable, coupled with less challenge and interest as the process is ‘easier’.

It is important to have the right mindset at the start with the innovation process or when solving puzzles.  Start with NO expectation other than it is possible.  Avoid traditional habits and approaches by considering something new or ‘innovative’ and see what arises.


To start with the process of solving the puzzle, I usually start with having an overall look at the picture I want to build, try to gather as much information as I can without going into details. The aim of this step is to group pieces of similar color or shape together that might fit in specific areas of the picture. Usually I have maximum 3-4 groups at the beginning. Sure some pieces will be misplaced because I do not go into details in this phase, otherwise I will spend more time in the grouping rather than solving.  In my case I started with the following groups (sky and river, houses, grass and trees).

During the innovation process, one has to understand the overall problem and not jump into details of possible solutions in the first step. Consider grouping process issues and possible solutions by theme, without judging the solutions for ‘doability’.   After that, you can define sub-problems to solve and do not go into details also in this phase.

Frame and boundaries

I usually start with building up the frame of the picture to know the boundaries and the expected size of picture.

Frame and boundaries are important in innovation as well. Boundaries are not meant to limit the thinking nor the solution.  Constraints are important to know as they frame the possible solutions. When I am looking for an innovative solution, I focus on questions like, ‘For whom I am innovating?’  ‘Who are my current customers?’ ‘Will novelty lead to success in my innovation or is it just another new technology’?

Entrepreneurs and innovators tend to fly in the sky of ideas and possible solutions but once they want to start they have to face reality and focus on specific ideas and practical solutions.

Innovation boundaries are not as fixed and hard edged as Jigsaw puzzle’s boundaries.  Innovation boundaries can be flexible, as we tradeoff one constraint (be it time, deliver,…) for another (resources, money,…), and we can redefine the problem accordingly.

The process

After you have an overall view (the whole picture) and defined sub-problems (groups of pieces) you can start looking into details. This is the time to start combining and matching pieces of certain areas of the picture depending on the details of the area and the pieces.

In the innovation world after you divided the holistic problem into smaller elements, you can start solving each element alone while keeping one eye on the overall picture to see how sections fit together.

During the process of the puzzle solving I used to keep the picture in front of me to check the pieces and fit them together according to the reference picture. This is also an important step in innovation is to keep always the defined problem in front of your eyes as a reference to any solution.

Trial and error

A bit of trial and error in matching puzzle pieces is part of the puzzling process.  There is no penalty for trying to solve the areas by trial and error when you are unclear as to which piece fits next. After I find some pieces (2-3) that fit together by trial and error, I can return to the systematic approach of matching pieces based on their details (color, holes, edges,..).

Sometimes I place a piece that seems fit but after a while I find that it is a misfit.  Even if the 2 pieces fit physically, they are not an ideal match and need to be split apart. To some this is an error, to others this is an insight of what does not fit (work).

Sometimes I fit group of pieces together but in order to fit them to the whole picture I have to rotate them.  Innovation process and puzzles both require perspective which is flexible rather than fixed.

In innovation, it is good to try and experiment with possible solutions, where you cannot predict the reaction and learn from the experiment. This leads to new options to achieve success. This approach is referred in the “lean start up” as the pivot. When the innovator tests and experiment with potential solutions(products) and learns what doesn’t work then they are advised to change or pivot their business model.

All to often innovators ‘PUSH’ a product or solution that the market just isn’t ready for.  By experimenting, experienced innovators learn that pivots can include finding what the market ‘needs’ and delivering PULL based solutions, to address market needs.  Similarly, with puzzles forcing (or pushing) pieces together seldom is the correct solution to the overall puzzle.

Take a break

Whenever I see that I am too focused but cannot find any solution, I step away from the puzzle, have a break and have another look at the whole picture.  When I return, like magic the missing pieces I was looking for appear as if they were just under my finger tips.  Sometimes when solving a puzzle and I answer a phone call, I find pieces that I could not find before, because I am not ‘trying’ so hard.

This is exactly what happens in innovation projects. Participants tend to be too  focused on the details and forget the whole picture. This is due to the high efficiency of human brain that is determined to find an optimum solution.  Is the right part of the brain, working on the right part of the problem? This is why, when we change the context for thinking innovatively, when we have a shower then we find solutions to problems that we never thought of. (Stimulating different areas of our brain is like turning the puzzle to see it from a different perspective).

Anyhow switching the context or the focus too much is not suitable because the brain will not have enough time to focus. There should be a balance between focusing on the problem and switching the context. We have to give the brain it’s time to focus it’s attention on the task at hand before we decide to shift the focus on the context by taking a good look at the whole picture, again.

There are several techniques that help innovation teams and organizations to switch thinking context such as six thinking hats, mind maps, etc. Sometimes hiring external consultants, that are independent provide that objective perspective to help in guiding the team to the areas they have yet to consider.


Solving a Jigsaw puzzle requires commitment, passion, continuous effort and patience.  I find that I cannot leave once I start a puzzle. For me “Once I start I can not stop” until I complete the whole puzzle.

This too, can parallel what happens with innovation projects.  Once you chose to go into this direction you shall not stop till you find the final result (product or market).

Near the end

As completion of the puzzle approaches, the puzzle picture gradually becomes clear.   As the innovation process approaches a new solution, clarity of how it will all fit becomes visible.

For some of us, the final assembly of a puzzle can be challenging as the less obvious or tricky pieces remain unattached.  Naturally our brain tends to solve the easiest parts/simplest problems first.

This can be seen in the innovation process, where at the beginning it is easy to develop products and sell them to the early adopters of innovations but after that it is a major step to move from pioneering sales to engaging the lagging majority who are waiting to see if it is safe yet.

Finally done

When the whole puzzle is complete it must be maintained glued and put in a frame otherwise the effort will be lost. Besides that I have started looking to buy a new one and start the puzzle process all over.  I did say the process was relaxing, didn’t I?

The same can be seen during innovation initiatives where the process must be documented to capture the pivots and decisions.  Otherwise all the effort can be lost.

Moreover to stimulate and encourage further innovations in organizations, it is important to show and celebrate the success. This will give recognition to innovators and motivate them to look for new challenges to overcome.

This is what happened with my picture, I put it in a frame and mounted it to the wall and started looking for new challenges and opportunities.

Next time when you think of implementing innovation process in organizations think of the simple and easy concepts derived from the puzzle solving process. It will not cost you much to develop your personal and organizational culture of innovation, Jigsaw Puzzle could be the start.

Barriers of Applying Gained Knowledge of Training Programs in Organizations

Barriers of Applying Gained Knowledge of Training Programs in Organizations

A presentation delivered at 3rd Symposium with the theme “Professional Training in Developing Human Capital”, 17-18 September 2013, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia organized by King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital


Presentation abstract

Capacity building programs aim to provide the human resources of organizations with the right knowledge that will enable them to perform their tasks, improve their skills and capabilities to innovate in their activities. Although all kind of trainings (on the job, public, etc.) help in providing the knowledge and skills, but still organizations may suffer from the lack of applying the gained knowledge in achieving the tasks, not to mention the lack of creativity spirit.
This is because the lack of knowledge and skills are not the only barriers in utilizing the knowledge in organizations. Such novel skills and knowledge to organizations are considered as changes or innovations and have more barriers than the lack of knowledge (do not know) which is the first barrier in overcoming innovations. The other three barriers are the lack of will (not willing to do), the lack of capability (cannot do) and the lack of permission (not allowed). Although these four barriers might seem trivial, but the lack of knowledge is the easiest to identify through training need assessment and get solved. The other barriers involve several factors that cannot be easily identified without understanding the organizational culture, strategies, or policies. Even if these barriers are identified, trainings alone can solve them.
In order to identify those barriers, they must be included in the training or capacity building need assessment process where:
– The lack of capabilities in general can be identified through the availability of human and financial resources and can be overcome through providing those resources.
– The lack of permission can be identified through the organizational culture, policies and regulations which can be overcome by changing the organizational policies to utilize the gained knowledge.
– The lack of willing can be identified with personal characteristics or needs which can be overcome by identifying those needs and reducing their effects.
– The lack of knowledge can be recognized through the traditional training need assessment which identifies the technical knowledge and offer the right training program.

In my presentation I will highlight the different four barriers and how they can be identified. I will discuss the opportunities of overcoming them to complement the training and knowledge acquisition as part of the capacity building programs. Besides that I will show case one of my capacity building projects and how I utilized the four-barriers concept to develop that program.


Symposium Program

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