About 22% of Gulf firms say they only ‘talk about innovation’

A new survey shows that Gulf firms are not big risk takers in terms of innovation



Around 22 per cent of private firms polled in the Gulf countries said that they talk more about innovation than doing it, according to a new survey by PA Consulting Group.

The results of the survey are drawn from a global study conducted among executives in countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom and Unites States of America.

The study also noted that leaders at firms in the three Gulf countries were not “big risk-takers when it comes to innovation and only 27 per cent are striving to be pioneers or pursuing risky but high potential innovations.”

One of the barriers that limits innovation in these countries is the inability to measure an innovation’s return on investment to a company.

Almost 67 per cent of the respondents in the Gulf said that less risky innovations delivered more value to them than breakthroughs. Around 38 per cent of firms in the region also said that innovation has, at times, proved a costly failure.

The survey also showed that efforts to innovate could have been handled better. Over 16 per cent said that they saw brilliant ideas fail for reasons that could be avoided.

In addition, only four per cent of firms surveyed provided bonus and salary hikes to encourage innovation among employees while zero per cent agreed that their leadership is fit to drive innovation.

“These figures are encouraging but a low failure rate does not mean the best ideas are being developed in the Gulf,” said the head of PA Consulting Group, Middle East and North Africa Jason Harborow.

“Managers in the region appear to acknowledge the need for more creative approaches, with 78 per cent saying they need to develop staff to think more creatively.

“Taken together, it points to a deeply ingrained culture of risk-aversion where cost-cutting almost always takes precedence and investment in innovation is viewed as a ‘nice to have.”

Although innovation is widely espoused in most Gulf countries, the UAE has taken solid steps in encouraging innovation and has pledged to be the world’s most innovative country within the next six years.

In order to further build on this aim, the country is also hosting an Innovation Week later this year that will see both public and private companies exhibiting their innovations.