Interview with Professor Sa'ad Medhat, founder and chief executive of NEF: The Innovation Institute: How knowledge is captured, purposed and leveraged to overcome challenges, improve business growth and drive performance excellence.
Many businesses and organisations are full of ideas already. Why do we need a conference about it?
Companies can have lots of ideas, and that’s great. But ideas alone will not bring lasting transformation. Ideas should be aligned to genuine problem solving: tackling issues and challenges. All too often we see ideas developed that are a distraction. They don’t move the organisation forward in a way that could generate economic value.
So what would you advise organisations to do?
At the NEF we’re helping organisations to embed a culture of learning and development across their entire structure. Companies can have brilliant R&D divisions but they’re all too often isolated from other departments. It’s like having a highly functioning heart and liver, but the rest of the body is sick. Integration is essential.
What advantages does this bring?
One big advantage is that it helps organisations create processes to help them better capture knowledge across their networks. At the moment, a lot of highly valuable knowledge is lost. We need to harness it’s power to strengthen the organisation and make it more resilient.
Is this transformation limited to just the organisation?
You can start with the organisation, of course, but once you’ve strengthened your systems internally, it could include the whole supply chain. We’re encouraging open innovation. Some of our partners have introduced co-laboratories where scientists from partner organisations work alongside each other. This kind of interactivity can bring ideas to market much faster. Of course, there are issues with Intellectual Property rights, but, with each decision, you have to balance these risks and ask yourself: how long would it take to make the idea reality without any help from outside?
How are you helping organisations implement these changes?
Our Innovation and Knowledge Exchange (IKE) helps organisations review their performance internally. This year we’re launching a new programme: Investor in Innovations, which helps organisations benchmark their innovation performance against their own and other sectors. We’ve been developing the programme for the past two and a half years, in close collaboration with our industry partners.
What kind of organisations could apply for it?
We’re already working with vocational colleges, businesses, but the Investor in Innovations framework could also be used in the public sector, NGOs and Government departments. We’ve been really excited by the initial response and will be making more announcements shortly.