More than Talk: Obama, Gulf Allies Need Relationship-Centric Investments

"The U.S. and its Gulf Arab Allies share a broad vision for the Middle East," the Wall Street Journal reported recently, breaking the news that "mom and apple pie" have been discovered in the land of hummus and tabouleh. Obama and Saudi Arabia's King Salman agree the summit was "constructive and fruitful" and that they are both committed to "developing strategic relations" between our countries and regions, in service of world peace.

As a growth strategist who consults with Fortune 1000 firms and the thought leader who pioneered the phenomenon of Relationship Economics®, the quantifiable value of business relationships, headlines about "strategic relations" capture my attention. And as a native of Iran who came to the U.S. as a teen, news from the Gulf States still hits close to home, and it hurts. I see too clearly how business leaders, politicians, and academic forums throw around "strategic partnerships" but fail to walk their talk. They change alliances like you and I change undergarments. What is missing is transparency, candor, and substantive dialogue on relationship-centric investments.

Personal and professional success--and in this case, urgently needed geopolitical success as well--depends on the diversity and quality of relationships. Yet most of us don't spend nearly enough time identifying, much less nurturing those relationships. Neither our leaders nor those in the Gulf States have made the relationship-centric investments over time that could have made this promise of "strategic partnership" a reliable indicator of future performance.

President Obama seeks a relationship in which all parties have knowledge of what the others are doing. To achieve that, he--and the others at the table--must be credible in their description of the real status of the relationship. The goal must be true co-creation of reciprocal value moving forward, not merely knowledge of each party's tactics.


If any of these leaders, on either side of their intellectual as well as geographic gulf, were to seek my counsel, I would encourage them to:

1. Map who can add value to the search for stability and peace, and how to reach them.
2. Relate to each other to deepen connections around mutual best interests.
3. Nurture that relationship over time through the transparent delivery of value--no quid pro quo, no hidden agendas.
4. Sustain the relationship with proactive communications where listening is the top item on the agenda. Only then can we--
5. Request action in such a way that it is possible for others to say yes, and
6. Capitalize on the value that has accrued in the relationship over time.

I offer these six components of Relationship Economics®, my proven formula for co-creation of a shared future in the Middle East. Bring on the transparency, the candor, the dialogue, through relationship-centric investments. Now THAT would truly be newsworthy.

Nour Takeaways
1. As a thought leader on the quantifiable value of business relationships with roots in Iran, I see too clearly how the recent talks between the U.S. and our Gulf Arab allies fall short of investing in truly strategic relationships.

2. President Obama and our Gulf allies must have the courage to be candid about the real status of the relationship, to co-create future reciprocal value.

3. Applying the six components of Relationship Economics® could bring the transparency, candor, and dialog needed to make this geopolitical relationship stronger and more resilient.


David Nour has spent the past two decades being a student of business relationships. In the process, he has developed Relationship Economics® -- the art and science of becoming more intentional and strategic in the relationships one chooses to invest in. In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, The Nour Group, Inc. has worked with clients such as Siemens, Disney, KPMG and over 100 other marquee organizations in driving profitable growth through unique return on their strategic relationships. Nour has pioneered the phenomenon that relationships are the greatest off balance sheet asset any organizations possesses, large and small, public and private. He is the author of several books including the best-selling Relationship Economics -- Revised (Wiley),ConnectAbility (McGraw-Hill), The Entrepreneur's Guide to Raising Capital (Praeger) and Return on Impact -- Leadership Strategies for the age of Connected Relationships (ASAE). Learn more at