Pioneers use new approaches to responsible risk taking to innovate while retaining control

Written by Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas FCMI - 29 April 2015

Dubai conferenceThere is a particular requirement for creativity, innovation and local entrepreneurship in many more places and including the Middle East according to Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas. Speaking in Dubai to business leaders he suggested “Current consumption patterns with consumers queuing up in shopping malls to pay hefty premiums for imported brands may not be sustainable. They set a poor example for a world that needs to make more effective use of available resources.”

The CMI Ambassador suggested questions that need to be addressed in many countries: “Where are the local entrepreneurs and the locally designed goods and services that would better suit local needs? Where are the local architects who could use traditional methods and styles and provide alternatives to the services of international practices that better match local topography, history and climate”.

According to Coulson-Thomas “Goods, services, buildings and practices could be differentiated and developed to stress what is unique, special or different about the local situation, circumstances and context. While the vision for Dubai is an exciting one, simply importing overseas goods and services can lead to a buildings that could find a home in many cities and external fast food outlets can result in the obese children one finds waddling through shopping malls.”

The author of Winning Companies; Winning People suggests that: “If responsible entrepreneurship is to thrive business practices and approaches need to change. In particular a new balance between freedom and control is required. Building checks into the support provided to key work-groups can enable them to be set free to develop new solutions and create additional options. The provision of 24/7 support can allow people to be given new freedoms in terms of where, when, how and with whom they work. New leadership shifts the balance from monitoring people to helping them.”

After sharing new research findings from his latest investigations of how to balance freedom and control Coulson-Thomas went on to explain how applications of performance support can reconcile the requirement for compliance and prudent control with the need for greater freedom and diversity that can lead to innovation and new options and choices. He gave examples of companies that have used approaches based upon his work to transform their performance and quickly achieve multiple objectives and deliver benefits to both people and organisations. The lessons are relevant to both large companies and small businesses in many sectors.

CMI Ambassador Colin Coulson-Thomas holds board, public and academic appointments and has helped companies in over 40 countries to improve board and corporate performance. He has authored over 50 books and reports. Prior to joining the University of Greenwich he had professorial roles in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, India and China. He was educated at the LSE, the London Business School and the Universities of Aston, Chicago and Southern California. A fellow of seven chartered bodies he secured first place prizes in the final examinations of three professions.

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas was speaking in Dubai at the Etisalat Academy Centre of Excellence on the subject of New Leadership and HR: A quicker, affordable and more sustainable route to high performance organisations. The findings of his investigations into less expensive, disruptive and time consuming ways of transforming performance and simultaneously delivering multiple benefits for both people and organisations are set out in three reports Talent Management 2, Transforming Public Services and Transforming Knowledge Management. They set out the change of emphasis and new leadership required and can be obtained from

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas FCMI, an experienced chairman of award winning companies and vision holder of successful transformation programmes holds a portfolio of corporate, public and academic appointments. He has helped companies in over 40 countries to improve director, board and corporate performance. In addition to chairing corporate boards he chairs the group audit and risk committee of United Learning, chairs the statutory Education and Registration Standards Committee of the General Osteopathic Council of which he is a lay member, is a member of the business school team at the University of Greenwich, Director-General of IOD India for UK and Europe and leader of the OLJ's international governance initiative. Colin is the author of over 60 books and reports, including ‘Transforming Knowledge Management’, ‘Talent Management 2', ‘Transforming Public Services’ , 'Winning Companies; Winning People' and ‘Developing Directors’. Since being the world's first professor of corporate transformation he has held professorial appointments in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, India and China. He was educated at the LSE, the London Business School and the Universities of Aston, Chicago, South Africa and Southern California. A Change Agent and Transformation Leader Award winner, Colin is a fellow of seven chartered bodies and secured first place prizes in the final examinations of three professions. He can be contacted at His latest books are available from

Read more opinions