Lara El Kalamawy
Impact Entrepreneurship Team
Cultivating a culture of innovation within a company is no easy task. In a world where innovation is everywhere, it would be myopic for a company to close its doors to the potential innovation, creativity, and dynamic change that can manifest itself within a community. In this age of globalization and connectivity, open innovation has become common, ideas are shared and deliberated, and if successful, even implemented. Companies like IDEO through their platform, OpenIDEO, regularly have a call to action on various projects where members of the community can innovate and contribute their ideas. If selected, they get to work with IDEO and use its expertise and tools to implement their idea.
Last January, Tatweer Misr, a real estate development company in Egypt, approached Ahead of the Curve (ATC) to form a partnership in launching a competition built on the principles of open innovation. As part of Tatweer Misr’s social responsibility goals and stemming from their belief in youth and creativity, Tatweer Misr launched a competition to collectively gather marketing, finance, and architecture ideas that blend ingenuity, innovation, and creativity. The competition attracted innovative ideas and was an initiative that invested in the Egyptian community.
The timeline of the competition involved pre-launch preparations between Tatweer Misr and ATC; outreach events to reach applicants with innovative solutions and ideas; filtering applications; an initial training that involved design thinking principles and problem solving skills; a second training that prepared participants for pitching their idea; and finally, the pitch night event.
One of the core components of the competition was ATC’s training of the top participants, offering young people the chance to build on their skills and enhance their personal development. Even candidates who did not win received an invaluable opportunity to train, develop, and learn. Moreover, elements of the training included peer-to-peer feedback, which further added to the collaborative approach. This exposed a certain vulnerability on everyone’s part as their idea was openly shared, but also meant that they received a lot of constructive feedback.
The competition ended with the final pitch night event, where invitees included a variety of stakeholders from the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem, CSR, sustainability managers at corporations, as well as family and friends of the participants. The pitch night ended with Tatweer Misr announcing a winner from every category. However, this competition was never made with the focus on just ‘winners’. Tatweer Misr’s Managing Director announced that numerous other ideas had potential and could be further developed in collaboration with the company and through possible internships. Part of the prize was mentorship hours with experts in the field, as we believed that this would further highlight the knowledge sharing aspect of the competition where mentees would greatly benefit from a mentor in a field they are passionate about.
Open innovation is a win-win situation for all parties engaged in the process. The private sector in Egypt must tap into the hidden potential behind open innovation to attract the brightest minds to help them innovate and disrupt their own value and supply chains. Benefits include innovating old products and services, getting in touch with different stakeholders, and becoming an expert in your ecosystem.
For the contributor, open innovation tests, validates and consequently implements his/her ideas, giving a sense of purpose to anyone who collaborates with the company. It provides the participant with the tools, the capacity and the team to turn their ideas into a reality. For a company to limit itself solely to the talent within itself is unsustainable, particularly when economies today are constantly collaborating. Merely looking to the outside community can make a significant difference. ATC calls upon companies in Egypt to open their doors to their local communities, to find mutually beneficial solutions to common issues, and encourage innovative ways to address those issues.