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Executive action: the CEOs Without Borders concept gets a reality check.

High atop the category "Suggestions That Have Been Far Too Long in Coming" is a proposal to establish a corporate version of Doctors Without Borders. The idea, advanced by the African-based journalist Jonathan Ledgard, appears in strategy+business, published by consultants Booz Allen Hamilton. Ledgard proposes that mid-career executives in the mood for a change of scenery, who are seeking an opportunity to "make a difference," should band together to form an organization called Executives Without Borders.

Much like Doctors Without Borders, Chemists Without Borders, Engineers Without Borders and Lawyers Without Borders, Executives Without Borders would hang out their pro bono shingles in troubled nations and help the locals set up businesses, open markets, upgrade infrastructure, and even establish multiregional trading centers, eliminating the high costs imposed by middlemen.

Alas, since many Third World countries are ruled by thugs, it is not clear how these "middlemen" would react to this career-ending innovation. At the very least, harsh words might be in the offing, perhaps even fisticuffs. Anyone signing on with Executives Without Borders must be aware that Thugs Without Borders, Middlemen Without Borders and Astonishingly Dishonest Bureaucrats Without Borders are a potent obstacle to their success. But then again, you can't make that goodwill omelet without breaking a few bad eggs.

Executives Without Borders would make a fine addition to a global network that already includes such organizations as Celebrity Chefs Without Borders, Life Coaches Without Borders and Model Train Buffs Without Borders. Though there has been talk about establishing Numismatists Without Borders, Factotums Without Borders and People Who Want To Act Like Jimmy Carter Without Borders, to date these suggestions have gotten no further than Washed-Up Rock Stars Without Borders. What makes Executives Without Borders so appealing is that it could easily spin off into even more specialized professional associations: Certified Public Accountants Without Borders, Chief Financial Officers Without Borders, Vice Presidents in Charge of Community Relations Without Borders. The possibilities are literally endless.


What would be the mission of such organizations? Certified Public Accountants Without Borders could help Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe get his financial house in order. And Interest-Rate Forecasters Without Borders could help Venezuela's embattled Hugo Chavez combat the spiraling inflation that threatens to sabotage his dreams of bringing prosperity to the entire Caribbean.

Is there any downside to such innovations? Yes, the very real possibility exists that predatory, non-compassionate business people might set up competing but most decidedly non-altruistic organizations of their own. Examples include Private Equity Firm Guys Without Borders, Corporate Raiders Without Borders, LBO Specialists Without Borders and Short-Sellers Without Borders. Since short-sellers already have no borders, it is not clear why they would even refer to themselves as Short-Sellers Without Borders. Short-Sellers is bad enough as it is.

How likely is it that Executives Without Borders will ever see the light of day? About as likely as a Cubs dynasty. Still, the long odds against a dream ever coming to fruition does not make the dream any less worthy.

One day, the Third World will finally rid itself of all those crooked politicians, rapacious bureaucrats and murderous policemen. When that blessed day arrives, Executives Without Borders will step forward to take its place in the sun. And right behind the beaming executives will be Chief Knowledge Officers Without Borders, Seasoned Veterans of Numerous Down Economic Cycles Without Borders and Elliott Wave Theorists Without Borders.

You can feel the excitement building in the Third World already.
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Title Annotation:FLIP SIDE
Author:Queenan, Joe
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Date:Oct 1, 2007
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