Building an Innovation Culture in Egypt

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“Innovation requires awareness, collaboration, passion, persistence, risk-taking and a willingness to fail.” I was inspired by these words from Steve Todd, EMC VP Strategy & Innovation, as well as hearing our CEO Joe Tucci say that “innovation is the lifeblood of EMC and the key to our success,” and EMC President David Goulden say that “we have to be willing to disrupt our existing business model — before someone else disrupts it for us.”

EMC has created several Centers of Excellence (COE) around the world as part of a global network that can respond to local market needs quickly and assist the business in a variety of ways from customer services and engineering to translation services and technical support.

While innovation is a cornerstone of the strategy for the Egypt COE, colleagues were still surprised when I introduced a formal innovation program here in Egypt because we are very much focused on the service side, not engineering or product development. The main challenge was figuring out how to transform the COE from that state of being only operation-focused within the global delivery model to contributing more significantly to EMC’s growth and success.

Big IdeaWe started participating in the EMC Innovation Roadmap, a program where 28 of EMC’s business units, COEs, and departments describe their toughest challenges and EMC employees and teams  from around the world respond with potential solutions.

The first year, we submitted seven solutions. I told my team, “Who knows? In a few years we might see the Egypt COE contributing 700 ideas.” That prediction came true and then some! Our target had been to consistently increase the number of ideas submitted year over year and ultimately reach 500 submissions in 2013. It was a challenging objective and then in the middle of this past year, we had to apply a work-from-home policy due to political unrest in the country. Despite this added obstacle to collaboration, the Egypt COE team delivered – submitting a final count of 821 ideas, with three selected as global winners that are being evaluated to put into practice!

Building an innovation culture through a formal program meant creating a structured approach, allocating additional resources where necessary, and defining timelines, targets and metrics for success. This approach has delivered more than just innovative ideas. It has helped us retain our talented people, identify future leaders, increase the efficiency of processes and procedures, and enhance cross-functional collaboration.

Ultimately, and most importantly, it has created a better – more innovative – place to work.

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