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Khalid Al Ameri: The greatest challenge to innovation in the UAE
February 25, 2015
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Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower
– Steve Jobs

During this month’s annual government summit held in Dubai one of the breakout announcements by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential affairs, was a massive 4.1 billion-dirham, seven-point, scheme to make innovation the driving force in schools and universities.

The innovation initiative is highly focused on the education sector and includes everything from robotics labs in high schools, promoting young scientific talents, to summer innovation camps. Delivery on this initiative has been happening at warp speed with the UAE Ministry of Education recently announcing a partnership with Microsoft to deliver on the ambitious plan.

With all this much-needed focus on revamping our education sector, which is highly tied to a longer term innovation strategy, the questions remain, what about government entities currently operating? How do we facilitate and instil a culture of innovation within these organisations today? Fortunately we have an answer. In addition to the seven-point plan for the education sector, Sheikh Mansour also launched the new post of ‘Chief Innovation Officer’ in every government institution.

So everything is covered, innovation in our schools, innovation in our universities, and innovation in our government organisations, now it’s time for the hard part, delivery and execution. I have no doubt that all our objectives and dreams of an innovation driven society will be realised. There is however one significant challenge I feel our organisations are going to encounter along the way, and that is our UAE’s record of success.

You see the UAE has always held bold dreams, back when Sheikh Zayed imagined one of the greenest cities in the world in the middle of the desert, to when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, envisioned having a giant palm tree shaped island in the water, everything they wanted to bring to life, came to life.

 In short everything is working well for the UAE, economically, socially, and politically. But that is where the challenge lies, as one of the hardest things to do when things are working well is to innovate. Why? Because innovation carries a risk of failure, innovation requires hard work that could seem unnecessary to people who are part of a system which has gone smoothly, and innovation is a strategic long-term process of which short-term results might not be visible, making it difficult to show results.

It is important for us as a society to understand regardless of how successful the UAE is today that is not a guarantee of success in the future.

Our leaders work tirelessly to ensure that we are always thinking about the future, and working towards it  so that generations to come can experience the same prosperity, stability, and security that we enjoy today.

No matter how comfortable you are, or how well things work, nothing is ever perfect. That means we need to constantly be thinking of how we can become better and relevant in a world that is becoming more competitive every single day. A world that is making its way towards the future and leaving behind anyone who doesn’t join for the ride.

Government organisations need to ensure that their new Chief Innovation Officers have the tools and resources to bring their ideas to life, because even though their responsibility is not necessarily making sure things work today, they hold the key to ensuring things still work tomorrow.

 
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The author is a columnist on education and youth development.
 

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