Meirc Training and Consulting
Your Development. Our Passion.

Articles

Exploring Innovation Drivers: A Case Study on Meirc Training and Consulting

  Ahmad M. Rashid | Partner

  15th September, 2015

#

Introduction:

It is said that the “only constant thing in life is change”. Organizations are faced everyday with new challenges in their external and internal environments. External challenges such as a slow economy, an increase in competition and technological advances put pressure on organizations to innovate their products and processes. Internal challenges such as employee engagement and retaining talent force organizations to create a motivational environment for their employees by encouraging their ideas and building their entrepreneurial spirit.

Training and consulting organizations are not an exception to the above; they also need to carry out projects for adopting and diffusing innovation in their organizations. The training and consulting field is becoming very competitive and incremental and radical innovations must take place to avoid short and long term suffering. Stagnant organizations will eventually collapse as illustrated in a well-known proverb, a favorite of his highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoom, ruler of Dubai who said: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up knowing it must outrun the fastest lion or perish. At the same time, a lion stirs and stretches, knowing it must outrun the slowest gazelle or starve. It is no different for the human race. Whether you consider yourself a gazelle or a lion, you simply have to run faster than others to survive.”

This article discusses a customized and practical framework for innovation drivers as applied at Meirc Training & Consulting.

Discussion:

The figure below summarizes the practical framework for innovation drivers at Meirc and critically analyzes its external and internal innovation drivers. The framework also includes a model for the successful diffusion of innovation within Meirc (which will be thoroughly discussed in a second article).

#

Figure 1. Practical Framework for Innovation Diffusion at Meirc Training & Consulting.

Drivers for organizational innovation vary depending on the timing of the introduction of the innovation. Applying innovation ideas prematurely may cause serious damage to the organization’s credibility in the market and to its corporate image. Hence, Meirc thoroughly examined internal and external innovation drivers before attempting to apply any new ideas. 

Drivers for organizational innovation vary depending on the timing of the introduction of the innovation. Applying innovation ideas prematurely may cause serious damage to the organization’s credibility in the market and to its corporate image. Hence, Meirc thoroughly examined internal and external innovation drivers before attempting to apply any new ideas. 

External Drivers:
The original PEST framework was used as a basis to analyze the external micro-environment and external innovation drivers at Meirc. 

Political Drivers:
These drivers are related to political developments that affect organizational strategy. They assist businesses in putting forward the government’s point of view regarding certain business activities. Meirc’s political innovation drivers are:

  • The naming of 2015 as the “Year of Innovation” by the UAE Executive Cabinet. This forced all federal government entities to revise their policies in order to create an environment that encourages innovation with the aim of having the UAE ranked among the top countries in innovation. Hence, organizations based in the UAE are required to adopt practices that contribute to the achievement of this national goal. 
  • The decision made by most GCC (Gulf Cooperative Council) governments to increase training budgets was a driver for Meirc to introduce more innovative training services and products.  
  • The movement towards more localization/Emiratization in UAE-based organizations was also a driver for offering more training and consulting products. Organizations demanded more training for their local staff as well as more consulting work in terms of implementing competencies gap analysis and bridging the uncovered gaps through training workshops. 

Economic Drivers:
These relate to economic factors existing in the country, region and worldwide that may affect the business. Meirc economic innovation drivers are:

  • The economic growth of the GCC region in the last years due to the increase in oil prices was a driver for Meirc to introduce more innovative products and services. Governments spending levels on training and consulting projects increased dramatically.
  • The fact that GCC countries are tax-free countries encouraged many international and regional organizations to move their head offices and regional training centers to Dubai. This increased the demand for innovative ideas in products and processes related to training and consulting projects. 
  • The corporate social responsibility functions at international organizations operating in the GCC led to an increase in the demand for development programs for locals employed by these organizations. 

Social Drivers:
These relate to the competitive advantages organizations might gain due to social changes. Meirc social innovation drivers are:

  • Changes in the region’s and country’s demographics, such as the growth in the younger segments of the population and their growing interest in attending training workshops and expanding their knowledge. 
  • These same segments are also interested in training workshops that lead to professional certifications and international accreditation. Thus, more innovative products were introduced to meet the younger generations’ expectations in attending accredited programs and getting certified by international bodies.
  • The growing number of females entering the workforce resulted in new products designed for female audiences (such as leadership programs for female leaders).
  • The increasing role of social media networks was a driver for Meirc to put an effort behind trying to reach its customers using these networks. The decision was made that Meirc would use the most popular networks, such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, to communicate with customers. Internal workshops were designed and Meirc staff was trained accordingly.  
  • The growing portion of the population using the Internet as a training channel influenced Meirc to offer training programs in the form of webinars. 
  • The change in the way society views environmental issues led to the introduction of new environment-friendly tools such as smart tablets and environment-friendly bags in its training workshops.  

Technological Drivers:
These drivers identify the new technologies that might affect the organizations’ business activities. Meirc technological drivers for innovation are:

  • The wide use of the Internet. This was the driver for launching a new interactive website in both English and Arabic. 
  • Changes in customers’ lifestyle and the increased adoption of new technologies such as laptops, tablets and smart phones were drivers for introducing live chats with website visitors and for developing new smart phones applications.
  • Increased demand for faster response to customer requests and queries led to the adoption of the “remote office” concept. Meirc employees were given access to office documents and were able to send emails from their company account using the Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology without being in the office. 

Internal Innovation Drivers:
The major internal innovation drivers for Meirc are organized under the following factors: strategy, climate, leadership, entrepreneurship and resources.

Organizational Strategy Drivers:

  • A redesigned organizational platform was created in a brainstorming session that involved all staff and resulted in the revamping of the organization’s mission, vision and values. This new corporate platform became a catalyst for innovations at product and process levels. 
  • The company’s corporate values were summarized in an acronym that matches the organization’s name in order to make it easy for employees to remember. One of the new introduced values was innovation.​
    • Mastery
    • Excellence
    • Innovation
    • Reliability​
    • Client-Centricity
  • The new mission statement emphasizes innovation:  “We will continuously innovate to ensure we are aligned with our clients and we will strive for excellence in everything we do.” This acts as a powerful driver for the whole team to innovate on a continuous basis in order stay aligned with the organization’s mission. 
  • Annual strategic meetings are held at the beginning of every year for the purpose of brainstorming innovative ideas and transforming them into tangibles. Relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are defined and assigned. The number of innovations increased due to employees’ participation in setting their own KPIs. 

Organizational Climate Drivers:

  • Meirc measured its employees’ satisfaction with the organization’s climate through a morale survey conducted by a third party. The survey showed some dissatisfaction among employees for not being fully involved with the organization which, in turn, affected employees’ performance. Based on these results, and in order to help engage its employees, Meirc introduced new ideas such as brainstorming planning sessions, annual celebration parties, informal gatherings, employees’ of the year and more. The result was improved employee morale which had a positive effect on external customers satisfaction
  • Empowering employees in all areas related to their job performance, with management support for their decisions.
  • A new competency was introduced in the performance management sheet related to organizational climate: “team work and collaboration: the ability to cooperate with personnel at all levels in order to maximize individual and company productivity”. This acts as an invitation for employees to collaborate for sustaining organizational innovation. 

Organizational Leadership Drivers:

  • Engaging employees in leading and managing the organization led to vast innovative improvements. After 50 years of managing Meirc, the owners decided to select a new management team directly from among the consultants. The new management team, consisting of a Managing Director and three Deputies (one for operation, one for marketing and one for developing consultants), introduced many needed internal processes and assisted employees in developing new products. 
  • The transformation of the organization from a traditional hierarchal organization to a flattened organization (a fishnet model). Employees were assigned to specific taskforces with an emphasis on communication and the sharing of ideas for improving organization performance and innovation. 
  • The new management move from a ‘directional’ leadership style to a ‘delegating’ leadership style. Employees became responsible and accountable for their performance rather than obeying specific instructions that limit their creativity and innovation. 

Organizational Intrapreneurship:

  • Encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit among employees is a driver for innovation. For instance, trainers and consultants are allowed to experiment and introduce new training programs and consulting services such as psychometrics tools and assessment centers. 
  • Meirc assists its employees in increasing their job maturity (technical skills) and psychological maturity (interpersonal and psychological). 
  • Job maturity is being increased by encouraging trainers and consultants into becoming subject matter experts in their chosen fields. Management allocates a substantial training budget for consultants, provides an open budget for buying resources like books and journals, and sponsors their higher education such as masters and PhD degrees. Creating subject matter experts has a direct impact on the rate of innovation driven by the consultants.   
  • Employees’ psychological maturity is being increased by building confidence and creating a motivating environment. Employees are given the option to becoming partners in the company by buying shares and enjoying healthy profits at the end of each year. One of the requirements for being given this option is the contribution of the consultant towards sustaining organizational innovation. 
  • A new competency related to entrepreneurship was introduced in the performance management sheet: “Creativity and innovation: the ability to think laterally and outside the box and use such thinking to improve individual and company performance”. Needless to say, employees are motivated to innovate since now it is measured in their annual performance. 

As a conclusion, training and consulting organizations need to understand that creativity and innovation are not the same thing. Creativity is thinking of new ideas while innovation is a deliberate and intentional action taken to transform these ideas into reality and applying them in the relevant context. In this changing world, training and consulting organizations need to focus on methods that make them more innovative in their products and processes. Meirc is a perfect case study that shows that for innovation to take hold, the organization’s customers must benefit from this effort. Without the associated customer benefits innovation cannot be sustained; it will be seen as change only for the sake of change and it will slowly but surely dissipate into nothingness. The true benefits that will sustain the innovation effort are those that will have an impact on the attractiveness of the organization’s offering as perceived by its customers.