Disruption placing innovation at the forefront of business success

20 April 2021 Consultancy-me.com 4 min. read

Despite a forward-looking mindset, businesses in the Middle East are taking an incremental approach to innovation rather than a disruptive one. A new Accenture report presents the maturity of innovation efforts in the region.

The global consulting firm surveyed C-suite executives from 200 large corporations across the UAE and Saudi Arabia – for its yearly roundup of how business in the Middle East is coping with the rate of change. This year’s study was all the more poignant, given the unprecedented scale of disruption over the past twelve months.

“To digital disruption, we must add climate change, conflict, trade volatility, and now, unexpectedly, contagion,” said Xavier Anglada – strategy, consulting and innovation lead at Accenture in the Middle East. “The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic underscore how important it is for businesses to be both agile and resilient to respond effectively to rapid and unexpected change.”

Middle East innovation maturity in 2021

“Companies with a strategy for innovating across the business types within their portfolio – i.e. across core, new and emerging business – will have greater success in weathering the storm.” Based on the survey, businesses in the Middle East have work to do before they can thrive in the new normal

The researchers break innovation down into two parts: innovative design refers to the structure, strategy and culture of a business – and how its geared towards rapid change; and ‘innovation practices’ reflect how data, technology and talent are used to stay ahead of the curve. ‘Innovation maturity’ is when both these parts work in concert.

Despite widespread disruption, the number of mature oranisations in the Middle East has crawled up by 1% in the last year. Design has remained stagnant, while practices recording a marginal 2% increase – mainly owing to increased tech investments in light of the pandemic

Incremental innovation vs. breakthrough and disruptive innovation

“Companies must intensify their innovation and make greater strides in their business transformation,” stressed Anglada. Setting the example are a handful of innovation leaders – 14% of organisations in the Middle East that are demonstrating the link between maturity and success.

Innovation leaders

Rather than making incremental tweaks through technology, these businesses use digital as a means to new product and service offerings – or in some cases to reinvent their entire business model in line with market changes. Accenture laid out twelve ‘habits’ that these businesses embody to stay ahead – spread across inspiration, ideation, experimentation and scaling.

12 habits embodied by innovation leaders

Themes include putting innovation at the heart of strategy, communicating this need through the workforce and building a disruptive culture. Being open to ideas from any employee, and speaking to experts and tech partners for new ideas. Setting a space and incremental budget to experiment, and using the business ecosystem to scale new products and services. 

“Between 2014 and 2019 this group of companies experienced both higher employee productivity and higher profitability than companies that have adopted less than six of these habits,” explained Anglada.

“And they have a very positive business outlook. By 2025, these organisations expect to more than double their profitability over the Rest, and we believe they will experience even higher employee productivity by continuing to practice extensive innovation governance.”

With the remainder of the pandemic to see out, and an evolving consumer market to prepare for – the imperative is strong for the broader business environment to follow this example. “As disruption accelerates, the gap is growing between leaders and those unable to keep pace,” concluded Anglada.