Are you smart enough to innovate?

by Kamal Hassan

Are you smart enough to innovate?Last year, I ran across an nice blog on innovation from Egypt. One of the posts was called “We are not intelligent enough for creation.” The author explains how Egyptian innovation is not valued by Egyptians:

“The Egyptian Consumers perception of an Egyptian made invention is not positive if not negative. An Egyptian invention has to climb a steep ride to be given a chance & put into use. In comparison to an international brand the odds of an Egyptian brand or idea succeeding are very low simply due to the fact that one of them is Egyptian. That is not to say that Egyptian Innovation is perfect. Believe it or not the major cause of that is not the international market or demands; it is the Egyptian innovator, executive, and consumer. Each one of these individuals, contribute to this perception with their lack of belief in an Egyptian made innovation.”

I don’t believe it’s a matter of not being intelligent enough to innovate (and neither does the blog author). As he says, people in Egypt (I would say most Middle East countries) don’t believe they are good at creating new things.

My question to you is… how can we get past this belief that we can’t innovate? Or should we even try?

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Kamal HassanKamal Hassan is President and CEO of Innovation 360 Institute, an innovation management and operation advisory group based in Dubai. Mr. Hassan works with public and private organizations on business model innovation, innovation strategy, innovation project execution and organizational change. He leads international workshops on Business Model Innovation.  www.i360institute.com.

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  1. Getting past the belief requires understanding how ideas form and innovation begins.

    If we compare to evolution/natural selection, it’s true that there are ecosystems (and even species) that are more “innovative”. Rainforest/Coral reefs are more innovative vs., say a desert (same solar energy going in, but more genetic diversity, more new “ideas” forming every day. Why they are more innovative is complex, but it comes down to things like: high density of “ideas”; networks between “ideas” that allow them to spread; and platforms for innovation (like the coral reef itself for all the species living there).

    This would substantiate a claim that you can have more innovative environments. Egypt (I don’t know for sure as I have no personal experience) may be less innovate if it is more closed, ideas spread less quickly, and it doesn’t have these flowing networks for innovators to meet.

    It’s why silicon valley is a perfect place for innovation. It’s a dense network of ideas and the culture allows for free flowing combinations of those ideas. Add in the money and it’s a lot easier to come up with “innovative” ideas there than most places.

    I agree that fundamentally we all have the same rough number of neurons in our brains and same wiring. We have the same general rough innovative potential. And we can do things to mimic more innovative spaces like rainforests or silicon valley. But we have to be conscious about it – thinking harder won’t do the trick.

    1) Travel – look at other markets
    2) Allow more inflow of ideas/products from other markets
    3) Create more fluid networks for innovators to meet, combine their thinking within the country
    4) Invest behind platforms like universities to bring innovators together.

    These are a fraction of the ways to do it.

    There is no one answer. Your hunch is right. No one culture or person is less “innovative” by nature, but in practice some places have evolved to be richer environments for ideas to grow.

  2. Hi, I think one way to overcome this situation is to communicate succesful innovations from egypt inside the country. Usually, strong communicate helps to increase the belief in the own strenghs.

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