Innovation: It’s What You Get When Startups and Large Enterprises Collaborate
By Rania Rostom, Chief Innovation Officer for GE in the Middle East, North Africa & Turkey
If you’re ever in need of inspiration about the prospects and potential of this region, attend a gathering of regional startups. The smart thinking, energy, can-do optimism and ability to get things done is striking. It’s infectious and it’s real.
I’ve got this on my mind because we recently hosted a group of six startups from across the region for a series of discussions on issues such as innovation, disruption, and collaboration, that drew entrepreneurs from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the UAE.
They not only shared entrepreneurial best practices, effective leadership skills, and employee engagement strategies, but they also took away – as I did – a renewed sense of possibility and confidence.
We also discussed, not only how startups and SMEs can collaboration amongst themselves, but how they can work with larger enterprises as well. By breaking down the false dichotomy between SME and large enterprise, and by recognizing there’s no need for each side to view the other with uncertainty, we can generate major benefits for all parties.
In fact, when startups and large enterprises collaborate, the diversity of experiences created by different operating and market requirements can be a source of unexpected insights and innovation.
There also is much that we can learn from each other. Large companies such as GE have enormous experience, both geographic and historical, when it comes to issues such as customers, markets and change management.
On the other hand, startups have their own valuable views toward customer care, markets and how to organize a company. After all, the 2016 GE Global Innovation Barometer study found that the startup culture is seen by the vast majority of companies of all sizes, both here in this region and globally, as the best way to create an environment that fosters innovation.
As well, we as a company have experience incorporating the startup culture into our organization – an example of which is GE’s FastWorks, a set of tools and behaviors designed to help GE deliver better outcomes for customers faster.
We also continue to move forward on the transformation of GE’s operations and our own thinking, from being a purely industrial company to being a digital industrial company. We see that this is the only way to really unlock the enormous benefits of the industrial internet of really big things that will deliver huge improvements in efficiency, productivity, availability and reliability of large industrial equipment and systems. This makes us ideally positioned to work with startups and SMEs.
We also are already working with SMEs in countries across the region as we build out our local supply chains for our manufacturing and maintenance operations in countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. By develop these local suppliers, we can better, and more quickly, serve our regional customers.
At the same time, we are working with these local companies to help them develop the required technical abilities and quality systems required to produce reliable, high-precision parts.
We also support the broader startup, SME and entrepreneurial ecosystem across the region. This includes working with regional startup programs – including our initiatives with Wamda (this site being one of them), and the GE Garages co-working spaces around the region.