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  • Writer's pictureMichael Padilla-Pagan Pay

Enabling customer to work in Complex Environment

I left the US Military to enter the business world after 26 years of service. I was extremely aware that I was entering a totally different environment and thought process. I expected to learn countless lessons about business theory and responding to consumer needs, but to be truthful I never imagined how much I would rely on my military experience. In fact, in my 10 years advising global corporations on risk mitigation solutions, have been struck time and again by how many of the military’s teachings apply, and how many valuable lessons business should be taking from the military. Here are is one of the  most important I remember and employ in my business: If we were to remain competitive, then we have to adapt faster than others. In short, we have the 3R: Recognize, Reflect and Resolve.  So when building our business model, we had to lay the foundation of how we would operate - and for me it was my counter-terrorism background. We were going to leverage COIN, (Counterinsurgency), in every aspect of how we work with our customers and how we create solutions. 

With our two companies Al Thuraya Consultancy and ICESERVE24, we built the foundation of our work using COIN doctrine to process and understanding the environment, and to enable success solutions to our customers, vendors and projects. We utilize a comprehensive set of tools (political, economic, and informational) to achieve strategic objectives in line with the wants and needs of the local community.

We view that the COIN doctrine offers the perfect strategic starting point for businesses operating in complex environments. We have used this approach operating in Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, South Sudan and Mexico. Our goal is short, our role is easy: ‘winning hearts and minds’, or, in business terms, gaining social license to operate.

In our experience adopting an approach that maximizes your commercial advantage and local standing, while also operating in a way which restricts the same qualities in your competitors, embodies an approach which should be utilized in both hostile and permissive markets.

Understanding the community or tribes is crucial in securing your business. But as we state, security starts long before the first personnel arrive on site. Facilitating the most sustainable approach to business operations requires a company like Al Thuraya Consultancy and ICESERVE24 at the conceptual stage of operations. Understanding the needs of a community helps you to gain the ability to secure your reputation as a positive contributor before you even arrive. And the consequences of ignoring your potential footprint and impact can be severe. Too often we have witnessed that community engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plans are decided from afar, without an understanding of what is really required . This can lead to plans and cash drainage that are ineffective, or have unintended consequences and loss of life.

Our approach

We take a different approach to risk. We have developed a trans-regional assessment process that looks at threats beyond their geographic features the threat is based on a more comprehensive understanding of its underlying environmental, economic, social, and political tensions.

We are more nibble and have no problem in sharing information in our approach with our partners or customers. In short, we want to provide early warning of emerging problems which cultivates the influence that we can use to undermine the efforts of violent extremist organizations. Let’s be frank: Effective ground knowledge since early stages eliminates threats.

The battle for social license to operate begins long before operations start. An effective security strategy begins with securing and managing risk in the conceptual stages of any project, mitigating impact in the planning stages through to effective community liaison. This ultimately not only enhances position of companies in the local community and reduces overall risk, but it also reduces costs in the boardroom on expensive and reactive security measures, or on correcting CSR measures that have not had the desired effect.

Finally, the financially vague benefit of reputational enhancement is not to be underestimated. An effective local community outreach program not only impresses on the ground, but it contributes to the much pursued ethical and environmental approach required of modern and progressive business.

In closing: Conflict of any type is one of the many consequences of human behavior. Human behavior can at times be difficult to predict yet alone model. Successful COIN models is dependent upon human interactions and the consequences of those interactions. By focusing on societies, down to the community level, we accurately forecast threats before they unfold, and provide engagement strategies to mitigate their negative impacts. Our methodology pinpoints the systemic drivers of instability across any ethnic, religious, political or economic condition. Know your environment.

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