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Thinkers50 in 50 Seconds with Shameen Prashantham

All 50 Second Q&As

Shameen Prashantham is an Associate Professor of International Business & Strategy at CEIBS. His research focuses on new venture internationalization, and in particular on how internationalizing new ventures and large multinationals interface with each other, a phenomenon he refers to as “dancing with gorillas”.  He took time out to get pithy with Thinkers50.


What book are you currently reading?

China’s Next Strategic Advantage by George Yip and Bruce McKern

Rough Diamonds by Sam Park and colleagues.

How do you describe what you do?

I research, teach and write on “dancing with gorillas” – large corporations engaging with startups.

I try to connect scholars and practitioners interested in multinationals with those interested in startups.

More generally, I aim to bridge the worlds of research, teaching and practice.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

CK Prahalad, who gave me the phrase “dancing with gorillas”;

Andy Murray, for his resilience and persistence;

My mother, who exemplified living with compassion.

What does success look like?

Aligning one’s strengths with the ambitions one pursues to accomplish meaningful outcomes.

And doing so in a balanced way – balancing the professional and personal, the material and the spiritual.

What is your competitive advantage?

Having a network of incredible thinkers and writers who care both about scholarship and making an impact on practice.

My European training as an academic – which makes talking to real people in real organizations come naturally.

A first-hand experience of different parts of the world: I am an India-born, China-based British national who started life watching Sesame Street on the telly in the US.

How do you keep your thinking fresh?

Talking to entrepreneurs and managers in diverse locations;

Reading material and watching videos featuring leading thinkers (including on Thinkers50!);

Watching what my young children do on my iPad.

How much time do you spend travelling?

On average, a fortnight every quarter; too little and life can be stale, too much and the joy goes out of it.

What is the secret of a great presentation?

 A logical train of thought with clear takeaways;

Well-crafted slides that convey enough without overwhelming;

Interacting, showing you care about the topic, and adding a touch of humour.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Be true to who are. Step out of your comfort zone periodically. Don’t lose sight of the big picture.

What is your next goal?

Writing a booked called Dancing with Gorillas on winning strategies for engagement between corporations and startups.

Then, extending the ideas covered in the book to the pursuit of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 17 – strategic partnerships to achieve the preceding Goals 1 to 16.

Describe yourself in three words.

International. Reflective. Creative.

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