Abu Dhabi Innovation Forum

Guest post by AmalAlMutawa (@amalA)

I had the pleasure of attending the AbuDhabi Innovation Forum in January, 2012. The Forum consisted of many intellectual minds with great discussions with a snap shot of it in this post. The main highlights of the forum was to think big and different while utilizing the skills & knowledge you have.

A great example to show innovation was the case of Tesco Homeplus Virtual Subway Store in South Korea using QR codes:

Mohammed AlAnsari (Director, Technology Program – Saudi Aramco), broke the norm of using the traditional norms of presenting and replaced it with Prezi. AlAnsari believes that when it comes to innovation, there is no ideal system & nothing works forever. He also highlighted the 3Ts that makes up the “Intellectual Power” of any organization: Talent, Team, & Technology. It is important to understand that when an employee leaves your organization, they  take away part of its Intellectual Power(the Talent that person has &their relationships – Team). The idea of the 3Ts was re-emphasized by WimRoels, CEO of Borouge, who highlighted that innovation is not an action, it’s a culture manifested through people, skills & partnerships. This culture is not built over night, it takes years – 3M has a great innovation culture which has been rooted in the company  since the 50s. Check out the following video:

WimRoels stated that innovation is more than just bright ideas or inventions, it’s being able to take them and create real value out of them and making them a succeed. Another recurring concept during the forum was the ideation system within an organization.  It’s important to note that ideation should not simply be another suggestion box. A real transparent process needs to put in place.

Another great speaker was Kamal Hassan, President & CEO of Innovation 360 (@innovation360). He kicked off his segment with a 60 seconds presentation to highlight the importance of speed in innovation and being different. “Who are the most innovative people?” Hassan asked during his session. The first answer that come to my mind is kids, but he added to that answer criminals – which to my surprise is true; it got me thinking that I don’t just need to spend time with kids, maybe explore some of the criminals minds.

 Some key takeaways from @innovation360 segment:

»   If you focus on your current needs, you will only get incremental improvements; look at your untold needs

»   Customers are key: they will tell you where most of your opportunities are – ideas don’t just come from within your organization, look outside

»   Don’t always rely on Brainstorming; it is only one tool to get ideas. Try other methods, like brain-writing

Next was a great showcase of Innovation: AlHilal Bank (@alHilalBank). The Senior Vice President of IT, Ghazi NabeehQarout (@GhaziQarout), listed a few of their innovative ideas of how they are different than a traditional Bank. Their Services range from depositing your cheaques by simply sending a photo of it, to creating your own customized account number. They also have kids Banking and Car Loans at Car shows where they promise to let you drive out with your brand new car in 60 minutes – now that’s something to test out.

A discussion panel at the forum

The Forum continued with other speakers such asTarekDaouk, Chief Innovation & Integration Officer (@TDaouk) – StarcomMediavest Group who spoke about the difference between life before internet existed & after. Before the internet, it was all about command & control. After the internet came to life, it became command & no control; and with 2.0, it’s all about sense & respond.

A key speaker at the event was Richard Boly, Director-Office for eDiplomacy (@Beaurichly), US State Department. He highlighted the need to move from a need-to-know culture to a need-to-share culture. @Beaurichlyshared a lot of examples on how the U.S. Government is utilizing social media in their daily work (wikis, blogs, etc). He also highlighted that in today’s world, your business card is not a true reflection of what you are. It may explain what you currently do, but it’s not the best for collaboration. Tools like Linkedin, is very useful to both connect and share biographies. Two nice concepts that @Beaurichlyspoke about were Microtasking (delegation of tasks through targeted crowd-sourcing) and Reverse Mentorship (Young employees would mentor the older ones on how to use the new online tools) –(to read more about it: article)

At the end of Day 2 of the Forum, NourShakhour, Senior Organizational Development Officer at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City touched upon Innovation KPIs. As always when it comes to measurements of success, we shouldn’t be so keen on numbers as they may be misleading. The focus needs to be on the impact (Quality vs. Quantity). As a country, innovation KPIs can consists of the following: Patents, Important inventions per person per year, Investments in R&D and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Some of the interesting tools that came up during the forum:

»   IDeaScale – innovation software solution for idea management and suggestion box software

»   Sparked – a platform for employee, customer, and volunteer engagement

»   CrowdFlower – the world’s largest crowdsourcing platform

»   SamaSource – social enterprise that brings dignified, computer-based microwork to people living in poverty via a proprietary microwork distribution platform

So at the end of the day, we can saythat this is the time for innovation. If it wasn’t in your plans already, it’s only February, maybe you can adjust your yearly plan to incorporate innovation. Would innovation drive us towards artificial intelligence sooner than we thought? There is no better way to conclude this post other than to get you excited about the future: check out this video of Ericsson Technologies on the Social web of Things:

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(4) Comments


  • othman

    Great atricle! Huge potential for virtual stores in Dubai!


  • Hessa Al Bahli

    An Interesting read with many interesting out-of-the-box initiatives. An article to refer back to for sure!

    Thank You.


  • Gabriela Dow

    Excellent summary; once again impressed by innovation and analysis at UAE. Would love to see this forum repeated in California 🙂


  • Hi Amal, Thanks for your concise analysis of key speaking sessions. If we apply these told innovations in the UAE, they would really simplify our living. Interesting reference and keep up the good work!



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