Jeffrey L. Sampler

Adjunct Professor of Management, CEIBS
Author of Bringing Strategy Back

Uniting strategy and technology to weather turbulent markets.

Add to Shortlist
Featured Media


Jeffrey L. Sampler straddles the intersection between strategy and technology. He is an expert in helping businesses make plans for the future — even when the future is too uncertain to plan for.

Jeff’s current work focuses on strategic shock absorbers — attitudes and approaches that allow business to stay grounded when they encounter unexpected change. The foundation for the research is 15 case studies on Indian companies.

Jeff’s broader interests include the strategic implications of new technology, and the management of information as a strategic resource. His newest book is Bringing Strategy Back: How Strategic Shock Absorbers Make Planning Relevant in a World of Constant Change. He has also written two books on the economic transformation of Dubai, Sand to Silicon and Sand to Silicon — Going Global.

Educated in the U.S., Jeff has very strong international credentials. His knowledge of Europe, the UK and India is especially deep. He has special expertise in outsourcing, especially in India.

A fine presenter with a great sense of humour, Jeff is articulate, enthusiastic and facilitative. He has a probing, even challenging style that makes links between trends across disciplines and sectors. He has described his blend of humour and substantive content as "business Seinfeld.” He is extremely good at tailoring his presentation to his audience’s situation and giving them concrete ideas that they can translate real competitive advantage.

Jeff is Professor of Management at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS). He was Fellow of Strategy and Technology at Said Business School and Fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford during 2004 and 2012. He has also been Research Scientist in Center for Information System Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) since 2001.

He has advised and been a board member of both FTSE 100 corporations and start-ups. Notable assignments include being advisor to former president of Nokia for 5 years and advising two heads of state.

His work has appeared in such journals as Accounting Management, Information Technology, Fortune, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Management Information Systems, MIS Quarterly, Sloan Management Review and Strategic Management Journal. His paper with John Cross and Michael Earl on the "Transformation of IT at British Petroleum Exploration" won first prize in the Society of Information Managers' paper competition.

He has been featured in Newsweek, BBC Radio, CNBC, Economic Times, Financial Mail, and IT Web.


  • Adjunct Professor of Management, China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)
  • Former Fellow in Management of Strategy and Technology, Templeton College–Said Business School, University of Oxford, England (2004-2012)
  • Author, Bringing Strategy Back, Sand to Silicon and IT Concepts for Business Leaders
  • Former director, Executive Education Programme on Strategic Planning for Senior Management, Daimler Benz
  • Executive Education programs for 3M, British Aerospace, Barclay’s Bank, ABN Amro and others -Former Research Scientist, Center for Information Systems Research, MIT


Bringing Strategy Back

How Strategic Shock Absorbers Make Planning Relevant in a World of Constant Change

Jeffrey L. Sampler

Executives talk about developing innovative new strategies. They go to conferences on change and hire consultants to manage strategic reinvention. In short, they equate great strategy with great performance. Yet, all too often, strategic change occurs in reaction mode. Sales are down and market share is declining. Profitability is worsening. New types of competitors enter the fray and permanent turbulence disrupts business. Only then do we find we can rally the urgency and the focus to drive business in new and better directions. The problem with reactive planning, of course, is that it happens too late. You find yourself playing catch-up. The damage is done and someone else claims the competitive advantage. The challenge is to make strategic planning proactive and preemptive as a matter of course. That type of fast, fluid approach requires a mind shift, to be sure, but it also requires a new set of tools.

This book offers both. It presents a new ethos for thinking about strategy and a practical response to chaos. Even better, it contains a rich set of new ideas that come together to form a critical model to enable strategic change. In essence, it redefines how organizations approach strategic planning. More specifically, it addresses a strategic planning process that has been made obsolete by permanent change and turbulence. It does so in three ways:

  1. A Current Diagnosis of the Problem: The book argues persuasively that the conventional tools of strategic planning have been made irrelevant by four overlapping challenges: opportunities are getting smaller, growth across markets is uneven, competition is difficult to identify, and the window of opportunity is closing faster. It goes on to evaluate the traditional strategy planning process and explain how companies can manage change efficiently in this rapidly shifting, turbulent environment.

  2. A Prescriptive Solution: The book presents a novel, research-based model for strategic change, made-up of four general components: Accuracy, Agility, Absorbing Impact, and Anticipate the Future. These components come together to form a framework that is robust yet accessible, enabling organizations to be proactive and dynamic, not reactive.

  3. New Examples that Illustrate the Entire Model: The cases in this book demonstrate all of the ideas in the framework, as opposed to proving one piece at a time. This suggests two key insights. First, the findings in this book are robust and shared across a variety of industries, companies of different sizes, and countries. Second, the ideas in this book are part of an integrated system–if just one or two ideas are implemented the results will not be the same.

John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (24 Dec 2014)

Sand to Silicon

Achieving Rapid Growth — Lessons from Dubai

Jeffrey Sampler and Saeb Eigner

Over just three generations and within the past half century, the tiny emirate of Dubai has raised its profile globally through a range of bold developments and clever ideas—and, unlike many states in the region, Dubai has not had the benefit of huge oil resources. These innovative developments include its free zones for business that have made it a regional centre for many firms, its biennial air show, the Dubai World Cup horse race, its development as a tourist centre that is home to some of the most stunning hotels in the world, the building of the Palm islands, and the planned construction of the world's tallest building.

In Sand to Silicon, Jeff Sampler and coauthor Saeb Eigner outline a model for how this large-scale rapid growth has been achieved and they pinpoint the reasons for Dubai's success:

  • Leadership that is visionary, inspirational and embraces risks, that is demanding but supportive, and that builds confidence.
  • A leanness of organizational structure and bureaucracy, which helps to speed things up.
  • Openness to outside influence and competition, and to the views of all stakeholders.
  • Good communication channels and access to decision makers.
  • A business culture founded on trust — but not without regulation where it is necessary to reinforce trust and confidence in the system.

The use of the “stratetic vortex model” — building strategies one on top of another. These are all things, say Sampler and Eigner, that any organization can use to power its own rapid, large-scale growth.

Motivate Publishing (2008)
Profile Books; 1st edition (18 Sep 2003)


Jeff tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

10 Commandments for Competing in Turbulent Times

Much current strategy thinking assumes you can predict the future and involves developing a change process to achieve the future you want. But you can’t always predict the future. Instead of gazing into a crystal ball, Jeff Sampler suggests developing a business model that is so fundamental and flexible that it can deal with any business situation. This presentation offers ten principles as a foundation for a robust, future-focused business that can successfully navigate the most turbulent times.

Core Incompetencies

The idea of “core competencies” has become one of the cornerstones of most strategic thinking today. As it has been applied, the message to corporations is clear: focus on the things the market desires that you do best and get rid of the rest (via outsourcing or alliances). However, this view assumes that current skills or competencies will remain relevant into the future. Yet technological change can quickly destroy the value of existing competencies and cut you out of the market. In this presentation, Jeff Sampler explains how to add to core competencies a strategy based on core incompetencies — what you are bad at today, but need to develop for the future—as the essence of successful strategic thinking.

Sand to Silicon: Lessons from Dubai in How to Achieve Large-Scale Rapid Growth

Most corporations use mergers and acquisitions to achieve large-scale rapid growth, but the M&A strategy has two problems. First, one typically pays a premium for the company, because it is a finished good. Second, over 60% of M&A’s fail, often because of business and cultural integration challenges. On the other extreme, many corporations have traditionally tried skunkworks or more recently, internal venturing units. These have met with mixed results because they are very slow to develop and have high mortality rates. In this talk, Jeff offers a new model for strategic thinking, large-scale rapid growth, and leadership based on his research on the transformation of Dubai. The lessons of Dubai are: lead creatively, create assets where none existed (and carefully manage the asset portfolio once it’s been created), and harness the power of the strategic vortex model—building strategies one on top of the other.

New Technologies and Changing Sources of Risk and Value

Several fundamental technological developments or processes are on the horizon, in particular the genome project and BPO (business process outsourcing). This presentation discusses how these will alter sources of business risk and value creation, and it highlights their macroeconomic implications.

Strategy as Synchronisation

In an environment of rapid, often nonlinear change, one of senior management’s key challenges is synchronizing the organization with its ecosystem. Jeff offers new perspectives on how to keep business and IT strategy in step with the evolving environment. As an essential tool for avoiding “earnings whiplash” (from changing too slowly), he explains how to use strategic assumptions as an early warning system to know when change is needed.


What is the impact of information technology on a business and its strategy? Jeff presents an integrated framework for identifying the major sources of advantage and the potential challenges to managing the impact of technology, based on business findings over the last 30 years. His “Five Forces of Technology” gives senior management new and valuable insights into the risks and rewards of technology.

Technology Peloton

Why does the “next great” technology so often fail (such as WAP Phones or B2B exchanges)? Similarly, why do so many other technologies seem to succeed, often with very limited initial expectations (such as SMS messaging)? The answers lie in the technology peloton — an integrative framework showing the interlocking nature of the technology industry. Success or failure cannot be measured on the individual merits of a single technology. The critical issue for firms developing or adopting technology is understanding the intertwining features that will influence adoption.

Managing Technology in Today’s Organisations

How should firms manage technology in today’s organizations? How do you achieve cost advantages (through outsourcing) without giving away the strategic capabilities for creating value in the future? Jeff uses the transformation of technology management at British Petroleum as a model for a framework that can be used in any business.



A major CFO conference:
Jeff was spectacular, natural and irreverent. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Typically this audience never asks questions in the middle of a speaker’s presentation, however this audience felt so comfortable with him they interrupted his talk and he enjoyed the exchange. He got all 5s in his ratings.

Once again the Masters Forum provided a great speaker. Jeffery Sampler's comments were directly applicable to how I will address strategic planning during the coming year. Thanks.

  • This was one of Masters Forum's best-excellent presenter and right on target with material applicability to a wide variety of circumstances. Well done.
  • Sample's discussion on the decision-making process for our customers and our role in the process was an "ah-ha" moment for me.
  • Very relevant message with lots of thought provoking questions sprinkled in.
  • Jeff Sampler hits the nail right on the head. His presentation was both informative and entertaining and he provides very good insight to the future of business.

An executive development program on Ten Commandments of the Digital Age:
An outstanding presentation, very stimulating and thought provoking excellent approach.

The best presentation of the course — electrifying.

Loved the 10 commandments — think it is applicable for all types of strategy and would look to use it at the earliest opportunity.

Fantastic! Very well presented, enthusiasm, energetic.

Engaging and lively. Really enjoyed this session as interesting and relevant. Definitely deserved more time to fully benefit from the content. This is a current big issue facing management in terms of understanding and applying.

Wanted much more of this subject. Tragic that it was not a mainstream subject. Highly relevant for the future of every business.

The greatest actor — wonderful. Very deep insight into the future.


— MIT Sloan Management Review