Representational image. 93% of UAE, Saudi business leaders will invest in top tech. Image Credit: Pixabay

Innovation and change — these two factors are taking control of every aspect of business. In this unprecedented digital era, a commonly-heard phrase comes to mind: innovate or die. And this phrase is relevant when we consider the correlation between innovation and its purpose.

With the importance placed on technology as the platform for innovation in an organisational context, a common pitfall is focusing investments on the latest and greatest technology, without a clear vision as to what this is actually going to do for the organisation. Closer home, our recent Digital Transformation Index found that 93 per cent of business leaders in UAE and Saudi Arabia plan to invest in powerful technologies in three years.

And yet, only 44 per cent are already integrating digital goals into all departmental and employee objectives.

In these tech-defined days, it is easy to consider innovation as only related to technology. A common misnomer is that innovation must be undertaken only when there are significant and disruptive trends that affect the success of an organisation’s ability to stay relevant. Relevant reinventions of processes — effectively anything that improves upon a previously-accepted way of doing something — are also sometimes examples of innovation.

This approach stems from a lack of three key factors: vision, context, and purpose.

A three-step checklist

Innovation has to tie-in to the vision of the organisation. We live in an era of disruption — of sectors, of products, and of ways of life. How an organisation chooses to respond to disruption says a lot about how committed they are to achieving their vision.

Innovation in response to disruption can severely test this commitment, and this is a responsibility that the leadership shoulders, considering their greater custodianship of the organisation’s objectives.

This also helps define the context of this innovation. Is it reactive, and, if so, is it mission-critical? If it is proactive, is it being driven for innovation’s sake? Or is it going to positively impact the customer or employee experience?

While there may be calls for innovative solutions or practices even at a department-level within organisations, it falls on the leadership to see the bigger picture and draw focus towards innovations that bring stakeholder benefit.

Now we have agreed that this innovation is mission-critical, and the last bridge to cross is the assurance that it is also purposeful. This is where the leadership must look through their long-term plans, to ensure that the innovation is fit-for-purpose for today’s requirement as well as for the foreseeable future. If there appears a clash with either the vision or context, then this is cause for pause.

The onus is on the leadership

If you’ve noticed, the common thread that runs across all stages, is that innovation is very clearly a leadership priority. KPMG estimates that decisions, guidance and behaviour of leadership accounts for 70 per cent of the impact to culture, while elements such as training and engagement programs account for the rest. Leadership buy-in also fosters a culture of innovation with a longer-term view and prepares the organisation to be the disruptor, rather than the disrupted.

Innovation cannot be rushed in response to sector disruption or competitor moves. The forward-looking and future-ready organisation is every stakeholder’s dream, whether customer, investor or employee.

Innovation is the opposite of complacency — and strategic innovation is, in fact, how disruption is delivered.

— Mohammad Amin is Senior Vice-President — Middle East, Russia, Africa, and Turkey at Dell Technologies.