Top international business guru highlights value of innovation to local companies

Putting innovation at the core of business operations will help companies in Northern Ireland weather the downturn and emerge stronger and more competitive.

That was the message from world-renowned business strategist, author and innovation expert Rowan Gibson, as he addressed delegates at the fourth Invest Northern Ireland Innovation Masterclass in Belfast today.

One of the world’s most in-demand corporate speakers, Mr Gibson set out how businesses of any size can become more adaptable, overcome obstacles to change and embed a culture of innovation in their people. In turn this can inspire everyone involved and help deliver better customer service and leaner operations.

Speaking at the event, attended by around 130 local companies, Invest NI’s Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development, Tracy Meharg, said: “The global economic downturn, whilst causing many industry sectors to experience significant challenges, can also present a valuable opportunity for some companies to reassess their operations and consider how they can improve in order to survive, and even prosper.

“This is a healthy business practice at any time but can be even more crucial during periods of economic difficulty. Our guest speaker today, Rowan Gibson, has a wealth of experience in helping some of the world’s leading companies rethink their approach, improve strategic direction and adopt an open-minded attitude to innovation.

“As Mr Gibson demonstrated, by becoming more adaptable to change whilst encouraging new ideas and not being afraid of the occasional failure, businesses can be well equipped to identify improvements to operations that could reduce overheads, open up new market opportunities and improve their ability to compete on a world stage.”

Rowan Gibson added: “The absolute worst thing you can do in a recession is assume that you can continue to sell the same old product or service to the same old customers in the same old way, and at the same old price. Instead, you need to get busy working out how your customer’s financial priorities have changed and then come up innovative ideas that give your customers new reasons to buy from you. That’s the only appropriate way to respond to a recession.”

Over 750 Northern Ireland businesses have so far attended Invest NI’s series of Innovation Masterclasses. The events have given local entrepreneurs access to some of the business world’s leading innovators, thinkers and consultants. A further event is planned for September this year.