x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Old heads can learn from up and comers

The Life: Dipak Jain, the dean of Insead business school, discusses why senior executives in the region need to be more innovative and entrepreneurial.

Dipak Jain of Insead international business school says social media is redefining the way people are doing business. Ravindranath K for The National
Dipak Jain of Insead international business school says social media is redefining the way people are doing business. Ravindranath K for The National

Dipak Jain, the dean of Insead international business school, led a special master class this month for more than 100 working professionals in the Emirates on how to be more innovative and entrepreneurial. He explains why staying proactive helps executives stay ahead of the next wave of competition:

Why teach established professionals, and not just young up-and-comers, about innovation and entrepreneurship?

The reason is because in this new economy the new employees would be people from the Facebook generation. We senior people should be learning from the new people coming into the organisation. They are well-connected with the rest of the world and you need to learn from them. They bring a different set of skills the senior management might not have.

Like what?

Social media skills that the company may not be fully utilising … [and] redefining the way people are doing business. That's where the new generation comes up with ideas.

How can execs start being more innovative?

The world is changing very rapidly. We need to be proactive rather than reactive. We won't have a chance to react. What I mean by proactive is redefining business and thinking beyond the traditional boundaries.

Is there an example of how executives in this region could put this into action?

Look at airlines in the Middle East. Abu Dhabi has Etihad. There's Emirates Airline, Qatar, Gulf Air. Lots in that region, OK? My view is the future competition is not going to be another airline. It'll be video conferencing. Senior executives are making five to six trips to China a year. It's not that video conferencing is going to [completely] substitute. They'll still make the first trip to get to know the team and go again at the end of the year to plan for the next year. But five to six trips can get reduced to two to three. That's how you can think about your competition. Think beyond your traditional boundaries.

What do you think is needed to build entrepreneurship among established business leaders?

Three things are necessary. First is a business-friendly attitude. Regulations and bureaucratic processes can slow down the process. Second is emphasis on education. Education is a key, both in terms of attracting and shaping talent.

And what's the third element?

It's what I call the availability of resources and accessibility to capital. Because if you look at the way Silicon Valley grew, we had this whole group of venture capitalists and angel capitalists and private equity firms, so here we need something on the venture capital part. Three things- access to capital, education and a business-friendly attitude - would be very important in terms of moving forward.

* Neil Parmar