Constant innovation brings changes to group-think, and that is what businesses need right now. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Every shrewd business understands the imperative to innovate to remain relevant, let alone stay ahead of the curve. As we witnessed over the last year, COVID-19 demanded new behaviours, and companies had to adapt overnight..

From new business models to new forms of customer interaction, the pandemic served as a catalyst for growth, innovation and technological transformation. Innovation is no longer just a buzzword or technical jargon. It is a critical element in fuelling business growth and maintaining market share.

At the height of any crisis, companies that invest in innovation consistently deliver superior performance. According to McKinsey, organisations that maintained their innovation focus through the 2009 financial crisis emerged stronger, outperforming the market average by more than 30 per cent, and continuing to deliver accelerated growth over the subsequent three to five years.

The extraordinary circumstances brought by the pandemic have demonstrated the urgency for businesses to creatively adapt and pivot to ever-changing consumer behaviours. Consumers shifted dramatically towards online channels, and companies had to innovate to new means of operations and develop new capabilities. Digital transformation that would have taken months - and possibly years - to implement, was adopted in weeks.

An instant switch

This ability to envision new ways of doing things is key to not only weathering the storm but also to unlocking potential for post-crisis growth. But innovation goes well beyond technological developments; it is a mindset that must be woven into the fabric of a company – or even a country - by its leadership to create an enabling ecosystem for creativity, productivity and growth across all areas from talent development to new products, services and more.

The UAE’s leadership is a beacon for weaving innovation into the fabric of a nation, as it has always had an aspirational forward-thinking approach. The UAE is undoubtedly at the forefront of innovation, which it has successfully applied it to nearly every aspect of life from healthcare, transportation, and education to infrastructural developments.

In fact, the UAE’s story is a ‘lesson’ in the role of innovation, and what can be achieved in a relatively short space of time. In just 50 years since its formation, the UAE has a global reputation for being at the cutting-edge of developments. With the launch of the Expo 2020 Dubai, we are reminded of opportunities and the chance of building a better tomorrow.

Question those norms

We are also reminded of the importance of celebrating creativity, diversity, widening our imagination and championing innovation to improve people’s lives and create a brighter global future. For companies to stay relevant, innovation must be adopted as part of the business model.

When we embrace creativity and new ways of operating, we create opportunities that drive positive change for all. By adopting an innovation mindset – we question the ‘norms’, and find ways of doing things better, faster, smarter, and with more value-add.

As the pace of innovation is rapidly accelerating and the intense competition for market share continues to increase by the day, innovation is the imperative for business continuity and sustainability. To facilitate meaningful transformation business leaders must also have a solid understanding of how to bring said innovation to life. To spearhead these initiatives and ensure changes stick, businesses must create ‘innovation teams’ or ‘re-imagination teams’ that set the course of transformation that will eventually lead to growth.

Secondly, companies should take notice of the current landscape and analyse the changes that have occurred within their industries. It should be noted for example that we will see bounce back in some of the behaviours developed during Covid lockdowns. Some adaptations will be temporary responses to the pandemic, but others represent more permanent shifts in the way the world does business.

Therefore, businesses leaders must ask themselves, what will the new equilibrium be and what are the new markets that are ready for disruption? Next, companies should internally review their own adaptations and develop a future-focused strategy.

By creating a business roadmap with a ‘fit for future’ mindset, businesses ensure that responses to short-term risk can be used as a building block towards a future state that will stand the test time and will keep evolving. It can easily be said that there is no future in doing business the same way as before.

There is a different future, potentially a better one for all; regional businesses must see and ensure that their innovations grasp the opportunity this different future presents.

John Iossifidis

The writer is Group CEO, Al Ghurair Investment.