How is UAE driving innovation and what can international business learn? Patrick Stroh, author of new book Advancing Innovation blogs on solutions from big data to crowdfunding
I recently returned from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to America. I was leading a three-day course on how to lead and drive Innovation Impact. We had a great mix of participants in this training and certification program, not only from the UAE, but also from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Spain and Kenya.
This talented mix of people led to some interesting and thought provoking discussion about how businesses, organisations and governments lead and drive innovation. Everywhere you look around Dubai and the Emirates, you see development and growth, but this is a region of the world that has the accelerator to the floorboards on growth and innovation.
Upon my return from this trip, many people have asked me, how is the UAE driving so much innovation and what could my organisation learn from that? Let me offer some thoughts.
When trying to achieve innovation, declare what type of innovation you are looking for:
Are you in need of Incremental innovation in an already solid and robust value proposition?
Do you need Distinctive innovation that may include new products or reinventions to create competitive differentiation in your particular market space?
Or do you need Breakthrough innovation to enter into new markets, with new customers and products and maybe new overall economic business models?
The first step is to declare it to those that you expect to lead, drive and be part of the innovation process.
After this, how do you begin to drive and enable innovation? The following three constituent activation channels are a good start:
Open Submission – create a simple activation channel where all employees and citizens can submit innovation ideas. This channel gives people a chance to be heard, and gives leaders a pulse on what is happening at a grass roots level and a source of potential innovation ideas for implementation.
Business Challenge – create a channel where you highlight a business problem and ask constituents for solutions. People are natural problem solvers – why not tap into that intellect? Give them a challenge, then stand back and watch them innovate – you may be pleasantly surprised.
Crowdsourcing – create a channel similar to a business challenge, but open it up to your customers, suppliers, universities, venture capital firms and virtually anyone that wants to participate. Using crowdsourcing processes and technology to get fast and virtually free market insights as well as ideas, is not only smart, but necessary in today’s hyper fast and changing world.
Lastly, with an innovation declaration from the top, and activation channels in place, how do you measure and manage innovation progress? In Advancing Innovation we lay out a balanced scorecard model with which to measure and manage innovation impact. There is no singular metric to measure innovation value, but we highlight 24 metrics that can be used in any organisation to internally measure and manage innovation, then compare and contrast against benchmarks.
The first key in this model though is to clearly identify your ‘strategic archetype,’ which in turns dictates which are the best metrics to focus on in your business depending on if your strategy is being a Product Leader versus a Custom Solutions Provider versus a Low Cost Leader. Using these metrics allows you to innovate with strategic intent.
Top 5 Tips for Business Innovation Breakthroughs
Sometimes Incremental and Distinctive innovations are simply not enough. Your organisation may be in a position where you really need to reinvent yourself and your value proposition. This can be a daunting task and where do you start? The following are five potential starting points:
1. Focus on several Distinctive innovations versus one Breakthrough idea. Sometimes, one of the best ways to find a Breakthrough innovation is to bundle several Distinctive innovations together and create a new business line or going after a new market segment. It’s less daunting and risky, and may be a fast path.
2. Look at the economics of your business and industry. Can you move to a subscription model? Rental model? Free/Premium pay model? Micro payment model? By changing how your customer base receives/pays for your products and services, you may be able to disrupt and take a proprietary position in your market.
3. How do you or can you use different crowd models? Membership clubs, Crowdfunded ventures, Open sourced communities, Group Buying, Reverse Auctions. These may be new business models that you can consider to go after new markets with tangential products or services. Think beyond what you are doing today and consider a new model.
4. Big Data. I normally like to say, ‘Big Data, Big Deal. Its only ‘Big’ if I can action something from it.’ Having said that, are you using data and trend information to your advantage? Should you be buying more data and information? Could you be selling your data and information to others? Most data is useless without applying a keen eye to it, with years of business experience. Then you can see the forest for the trees and discern new paths forward.
5. Intentionally identify and shatter your Orthodoxies. Orthodoxies are the ‘way we do things round here’ built over the years by the owners, managers and employees of a business. They present self-imposed boundaries on how a company competes and can be deeply held and widely shared conventions or beliefs about the product, market, or the industry. When you give employees or an innovation team the assignment of shattering orthodoxies, you may just find a breakthrough innovation in your business that is hiding in the wings.