Fostering Innovation: Insights From An Entrepreneur Middle East Round Table Presented By Du Whether you're a startup or a corporate, here are a few key points we've learned from this edition of #EntMERoundTable on how you can go about fueling innovation within your enterprise.

By Pamella de Leon

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With a range of experts from both the corporate and startup world, the latest edition of Entrepreneur Middle East Round Table, presented by du, looked into how different enterprises go about innovation internally.

Moderated by Entrepreneur Middle East Editor in Chief Aby Sam Thomas, the round table presented insights from Dr. Peter Stojanov, Partner, Innovation and Future Strategy at Black; Sherief Elabd, Director, Industry, Strategy, and Innovation, Oracle; Dr. Chris Cooper, Director, Middle East, Turkey, and Africa, Lenovo Data Centre Group; Hany Fahmy Aly, Executive Vice President - Enterprise Business, du; Daniel Gould, Deputy CEO, Anglo-Gulf Trade Bank; Anthony Shiner, Chief Digital Lifestyle and Innovation Officer, EITC UAE; Kawther Bin Sulayem, founder and CEO, KBS Communications; and Pedro S. Pereira, Director, Strategic Innovation and Digital Transformation, SAP.

Whether you're a startup or a corporate, here are a few key points we've learned from this edition of #EntMERoundTable on how you can go about fueling innovation within your enterprise:

1. Engage with your people

Kawthar Bin Sulayem, founder and CEO of KBS Communications, noted that when it comes to implementing an innovation strategy, it's vital that the leadership must communicate their vision across all layers of the enterprise. She explained three crucial steps that every entity should make to encourage out-of-the-box thinking: understand the problem, provide the solution, and really engage with the people, regardless of whether they're consumers, or internal employees. Often, she said, although a company might be adept at identifying problems and solutions, a challenge remains in engaging with people. A piece of advice pushes towards her clients and partners (and to herself, even) is to "focus on identifying [a problem], finding a solution for it, and [then] identifying how the people engage with this- from the grassroots level."

2. Make sure that people understand "the why"

While Hany Fahmy Aly, Executive Vice President - Enterprise Business of du, wholeheartedly agreed on the significance of engaging with people, he stressed that it's also about actually believing in and following with through the action plan. It's essential for the entire organization to buy into "the vision," otherwise you're bound to have resistance from within. "It doesn't mean just repeating a message, it's the content of the message- making people understand why they need to buy onto this, and why it's going to impact them. What's in it for them?" He emphasized that not only should momentum be created, but an enterprise needs to build on that by making people believe that they are part of the change.

3. Find your innovation champions

Sherief Elabd, Director, Industry, Strategy, and Innovation of Oracle, said that he spends time searching for the company's most valuable team members when it comes to building an innovation-first mentality. Instead of just finding someone with "the level of the most enthusiastic champion, [find a] person who is really committed to answer through all the processes." He likens it as to when an entity starts the journey of digital transformation, and while everyone may initially have ideas on how to go about it, what often happens is that motivation may falter as you move forward. Right from the early get-go, he advises to build a culture of discipline in leading innovations forward by finding your trusted players, "I really spend time finding that person who's really getting that commitment."

4. Encourage small steps as part of the progress

Daniel Gould, Deputy CEO of Anglo-Gulf Trade Bank, said that nurturing change doesn't have to be just about big changesit can start from shifting the notion that it isn't a big scary process, and it can start from making small changes every day. "If you can get them to be comfortable with doing something differently every day, experiment, and if it doesn't work, give up, and do something different, they're going to be much more comfortable with the mindset of doing things differently at every level."

5. Be willing to be flexible for your customers

Dr. Chris Cooper, Director, Middle East, Turkey, and Africa of Lenovo Data Centre Group, said that for a business's efforts in innovation to succeed in today's day and age, it's vital they focus on their customer base, particularly on millennials and the youth of today, and be willing to adjust and change as an organization based on their needs. "Let's win some cornerstone opportunities that demonstrate how wise innovations work, and then leverage and proliferate it."

6. Engage with startups

If your entity is indeed striving to change things up, Pedro S. Pereira, Director, Strategic Innovation and Digital Transformation of SAP believes that corporations, and the private sector in general, should embrace startups and their offerings. "If you really want to do something differently, and if you're looking for partners, give a fair chance to startups," he says. Startups are more adept to change and are looking for opportunities to boost themselves to the next level, and with support, they can receive validation and will more likely also accelerate your transformation.

7. Accept that failures will be part of the process

Anthony Shiner, Chief Digital Lifestyle and Innovation Officer of EITC UAE, said that failure is essential when going about a process of innovation within an organization, and as such, it should be embraced as a strategic tool for success as an entity goes through the journey of experimentation with new projects and processes. "If you are not [failing], and everything works, then you haven't pushed it hard enough. Failure has to become part of your DNA. The manner in which you come together to resolve that determines your success."

8. Always have a proactive mindset to innovation

Dr. Peter Stojanov, Partner, Innovation and Future Strategy at Black, pointed out that it's important to realize that the biggest disruptions that will happen to any industry are manifesting outside of their industry. With a proactive outlook that is open to the possibility of failure, Stojanov encouraged companies to look beyond the current status quo. "We need to think about the future not from a perspective of uncertainty and trepidation, but instead to reframe the narrative around one where it's more about exploration- which is the fundamental mindset that needs to be embraced when you're thinking about innovation."

Related: Bridging The Digital Divide

Pamella de Leon

Startup Section Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Pamella de Leon is the Startup Section Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East. She is keen on the MENA region’s entrepreneurship potential, with a specific interest to support enterprises and individuals creating an impact.

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