Fostering purpose-driven innovation in a new digital world

By Mohammed Amin, SVP – Middle East, Russia, Africa & Turkey (MERAT), Dell Technologies

Johannesburg, 21 Apr 2022
Read time 4min 30sec
Mohammed Amin, SVP – Middle East, Russia, Africa & Turkey (MERAT), Dell Technologies.
Mohammed Amin, SVP – Middle East, Russia, Africa & Turkey (MERAT), Dell Technologies.

When we think about the leaders who have changed our world, we often focus on the big events that shaped human history. The speech Martin Luther King Jr delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or Gandhi’s salt march that proved to be a turning point in India’s struggle for independence, or even Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first steps on the moon. But the history of our world is also full of examples of leaders who might not be out there – but who have brought about a change through new ways in which things are done. 

In the last few years, a new breed of leaders has emerged. They are purpose-driven innovators, and their impact on the world is just as significant as any other great leaders in history. Purpose-driven innovators don't just introduce new ways of doing things; they introduce new ways of thinking about the world and the future.

They are persuasive, lead through example and don’t shy from storming through adversity for better days. We are fortunate in that we have been privileged to witness this leadership in action across the Middle East, particularly from the Gulf markets. From mitigating the pandemic’s impact, mobilising and ushering the economy towards a digital future, and showcasing a future full of possibilities, the region truly is at the epicentre of innovation.

Innovation is a leadership priority

Today, as global businesses weather the storm, we need leaders who have the foresight and drive to prepare their organisations to embrace the digital world. As leaders start to think about what “work” looks like in a post-pandemic world, we must consider what this means for business.

We now stand at a critical juncture with the latest tools to revitalise and reimagine vital industries. The fusion of technologies means that over the next decade, every successful business will need to be digital at heart. As we pursue emerging technologies such as AI/MI, big data, IOT or robotics and embrace digital transformation, business leaders need to practise innovation with a purpose.

Leaders are instrumental in fostering a culture of innovation and preparing the organisation to be the disruptor rather than the disrupted. A KPMG study estimates that decisions, guidance and behaviour of leadership accounts for 70% of the impact to culture, while elements such as training and engagement programmes account for the rest.

While innovation is clearly a leadership priority, a common pitfall is focusing investments on the latest and greatest technology without a clear vision of what it is going to do for the organisation.

In a recent Dell Technologies’ Digital Transformation Index study, 80% of global business leaders have fast-tracked at least some of their digital transformation programmes – accomplishing in a few months what would normally have taken years. Yet, the same study revealed that "data overload and inability to extract insights from data" is one of their key barriers to digital transformation.

Innovation cannot be rushed in response to sector disruption or competitor moves. It has to tie in to the vision of the organisation, and an organisation that chooses to respond to disruption says a lot about how committed it is to achieving its vision. Innovation in response to disruption can severely test this commitment, and this is a responsibility that the leadership shoulders.

Technology remains the great enabler

Moving beyond recovery and settling into a new reality, technology will do more than sustain us. Companies that invest in innovation during a time of crisis outperform their peers during the recovery. Industry leaders can achieve even greater productivity increases from investments in new technology, pushing them ahead of later adopters.

Tomorrow, technology will take us a step further – helping us reimagine the way we live, how we connect and stay healthy. It will transform the relationship between citizens and governments, personalise blended learning in schools and put patients at the heart of their care plans. Businesses will provide services that are truly innovative, giving consumers experiences they don’t yet know they desire, thanks to new 5G speeds, AI-powered insights and Edge computing capabilities.

Technology will drive the recovery agenda and enable truly innovative proposals and programmes that are citizen-centric, reform focused and promise to make a meaningful impact. This all requires out-of-the-box thinking, excellent use of digital tools and brave leaders to set our world on a different, more harmonious course.

A forward-looking and purpose-driven innovator is every stakeholder’s dream, and a leader who can link innovation to a company’s vision will be well-positioned to deliver organisation and, subsequently, industry-wide disruption. The future belongs to those who seek opportunities to innovate and impact generations to come. Now is the time to be bold and drive recovery and long-term resilience through technology-led innovation.

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