Suhail is involved in so many different projects that it’s hard to list them all in one breath. He is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, startup investor and mentor, author, marketer, consultant, TEDx speaker, and activist based in the Kingdom of Bahrain. As if that wasn’t enough, as a member of our 11th Amsterdam Creative Leadership Program – a 6-month part-time learning journey starting in March, he will be developing another project that is particularly close to his heart; the Bahrain Foundation for Dialogue.
Suhail kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his motivations for joining the Creative Leadership Program, his plans to help bring civil dialogue and social reconciliation to Bahrain, and what he hopes to gain from his THNK experience.
What drove you to join the Creative Leadership Program?
I first heard about THNK through my colleague Leena al Olaimy. Leena is also a board member of the Foundation for Dialogue. When she did the program some three years ago, she was raving about how good and unique it was. This motivated me to check out the website and get in touch, and it just went from there.
Can you tell me a bit more about the project you’ll be bringing to the THNK Amsterdam Creative Leadership Program?
The Bahrain Foundation for Dialogue is concerned with social reconciliation and civil dialogue in Bahrain. I want to see how I as an individual can contribute to the betterment of both a country and a society as a whole. Perhaps the bigger question is – how can I contribute to the increased happiness of the people of Bahrain? It is a very lofty goal.
I am keen to hear from some of the other creative people who are going to be with me on the program starting in March, and from the school’s faculty and leaders, to listen to their experiences in creating large-scale social change.
What was it that excited you about the Creative Leadership Program and what did you find unique?
When you look at the THNK program there is no proper definition, there is no single sentence that explains what it does, so it’s hard to pin it down. It’s the application of Design Thinking to creative problem solving that is what attracted me. This is a whole new world for me. Most of the courses that I have been on, such as leadership courses and business courses at MIT and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, there is nothing compared to what THNK provides.
What has been your biggest challenge over the past year?
I think as far as the Bahrain Foundation for Dialogue is concerned, the biggest challenge is to have people see things from the other person’s perspective. When we look around the world we are becoming an increasingly polarized global village. There is this complete inability to empathize whilst it is precisely empathy that is so important in dialogue. The same thing is happening in our region as well. You have the conflict in Syria, the conflict in Iraq, the conflict in Yemen, which all increase the sectarian tensions we have.
I want to help people to overcome this entrenchment. In other words, the biggest challenge for me is to help people to look beyond their ideology, beyond their moral high-ground and their righteousness, to truly look at the other person and to see them as a human being that also has value, that also has opinions that are worth listening to.
Looking forward, what do you dream about creating?
My dream is to help Bahrain become one of the top 10 countries in the happiness index. If I can contribute to that within my lifetime I think that I will have achieved something really great. Bahrain was 42nd in the latest happiness report. The top countries tend to always be Scandinavian countries.
I want to be able to help my country reach a level of contentment, of happiness, of stability that will make us a model for the rest of the region. Eventually people will not just talk about the Nordic countries as the model for an ideal country, but I want people to talk about Bahrain as a model for them, and for them to copy the Bahrain model. Perhaps there will even be a Bahrain model for reconciliation, a Bahrain model for democracy, a Bahrain model for reconciliation and dialogue that others can follow.
Suhail is one of the many inspiring leaders participating in the next Creative Leadership Program starting at THNK Amsterdam in March 2017. To find out more about the Creative Leadership Program, or if you are interested in joining Suhail as a Class 11 participant, then please download the program brochure or apply here.