Sia Partners embarks on USA innovation trip for UAE government client

31 January 2019 3 min. read

Management consultancy Sia Partners has embarked on an innovation tour of the US on behalf of a UAE government partner, returning with several key takeaways.

Global strategy and management consultancy Sia Partners has conducted an innovation exploration visit to the East Coast of the US, meeting with Fortune 500 companies, leading start-ups and academic institutions in Boston and New York to explore ideas on innovation for one of the firm’s key UAE government clients – where Sia has two of its four Middle Eastern offices (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) in addition to locations in Doha and Riyadh.  

In the resultant report, ‘Boston: Another Molecule in the Mole of Innovation. Will There Be an Avogadro of Innovation?’ (which isn’t a reference to guacamole and avocados but instead refers to the innovative 19th century Italian scientist Amadeo Avogadro who lends his name to a unit of molecular measurement), author and UAE-based Sia manager Cesar Moukarzel outlines the key takeaways from the trip – which was a component of the consulting firm’s larger global innovation programme.

The programme, which primarily consists of building organisational capabilities and defining key challenges and issues related to a partner’s undertakings – “leading to finding the right solutions at the right timing with the right resources” – is certified by the Global Innovation Management Institute (GIMI). Recently, in association with GIMI and IXL, Sia Partners gave a keynote address on leading disruptive innovation for leaders of the Dubai Government.

Sia Partners embarks on USA innovation trip for UAE government client

As to the report, firstly it states; “You don’t innovate because you want to, you innovate because you need to!” While noting the contemporarily debatable nature of such a contention, Moukarzel forwards that any innovation journey starts with a well-defined challenge or ‘need’ – such as ‘violence in the streets of Boston in the 90’s’, which Sia in their meeting with local pastor Jeffrey Brown learned of the social innovation measures that led to a nearly 80 percent reduction in crime in just eight years.

With the baseline challenge established, effective innovation efforts then rely on the second takeaway; “Innovation success is about a well-designed Ecosystem”. Boston, says the firm, boasts one of the most established and successful innovation ecosystems in the world, anchored by its large concentration of leading universities and complemented by some of the globe’s most innovative companies and an active start-up scene fueled by the availability of capital.

The consulting firm in its visit to the city was then able to identify the main pillars of a successful innovation ecosystem, centred on the core components of talent, technology, capital, partnerships, and understanding the key challenge – the starting point of an innovation journey. But before that journey can commence, and as a foundational block, perhaps the most important of those pillars is talent – leading to the third innovation takeaway.

“Retain talent and incubate innovation, otherwise you might be a catalyst of your own competitors!’ says the Sia report, with the firm citing a visit to SAP’s ‘impressive’ Innovation Centre in New York and learning of the strong mechanisms the ERP giant has put in place to retain its own entrepreneurs. On the other hand, firms which follow a strict, traditional management approach tend to lose their innovate talent – identified in the report as being passionate, curious and knowledgeable.

So how does any of this relate to a 19th century scientist who identified the number of molecules in a mole of substance? Innovation is a ‘chemical’ reaction, ventures Moukarzel, a process in which ‘substances’ interact together to produce specific outcomes. He concludes; “Like a chemical reaction rearranges the constituent atoms of the reactants to create different substances as products, innovation can result in rearranging players of an entire industry and in reshaping markets.”