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Gulf firms urged to make innovation a priority

1/09/2015 by Julian Frankum


Senior executives in the Gulf states are hindering future growth by harbouring a "deeply ingrained culture of risk-aversion", according to a new global innovation survey.

The report by PA Consulting Group found that just 27% of firms in the three Gulf countries are striving to be pioneers or pursuing risky but high-potential innovations.

Meanwhile, 22% of the senior executives quizzed in the Gulf region admit they talk more about innovation than actually putting it into practice.

Given UAE's ambitions to become a smart nation, the findings come as something of a surprise – but Jason Harborow, head of PA Consulting Group, Middle East and North Africa, suggests the focus on low-gain, low-risk ventures is representative of what executives consider to be good business sense.

"Seven years on from the global financial crisis, many executives still refuse to invest in projects that do not guarantee a strong ROI" he explained.

"Yet these tight expenditure controls are actually stifling future growth by preventing potentially brilliant ideas from making it to market."

However, the report suggests that it is a deep-seated culture of risk-aversion that is preventing new ideas seeing the light of day, with 78% of respondents saying they need to develop staff to think more creatively.

From the research, PA Consulting Group were able to identify five common 'innovation killers' that are putting the brakes on innovation activity.

These are a reticence to backing high-potential risky innovations, lack of focus and a clear innovation strategy, taking too long to develop and commercialise the best ideas, difficulty in measuring ROI and unwillingness to invest.

Harborow offered organisations some advice on solving this "productivity crisis".

"Our overall view is that companies need to shake up the board and bring in new skills and talent, create a chief innovation officer role; focus on value, not profit and loss; make innovation a whole-company priority by making innovation part of their total reward."


UAE, Middle east, innovation

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