TechieNotes: Leading Technology Innovation in the Middle East – 4 – Academic Leadership

Fact #3- Leadership in this field is left to Academic Doctors, not to professional business leaders and according to proper business planning, and this is a fact, most of the Research and Development companies, are led by professors, who are not business professionals, they know very little about business, and too much about research, so they keep micro managing, and getting down and involved with their research projects, without proper business planning, and without focusing on profitability, and research management, you can rarely find a research project that is well managed in terms of resources, budget, timing, and profitability”

This article may cause some discomfort to some of the academic doctors, who I consider have an upper hand on me personally both as coaches, and teachers, so before proceeding with the subject explanation, I would like to apologize to them if this caused any offence, but this is my witnessing and opinion in these articles, and I may be correct, and may be not correct, so to keep objective, please continue reading to the end, and then challenge my opinion if I am mistaken about it. And this opinion is not meant to downsize their value added in the business, but to make better use and selection of leadership role, and rectify an on going challenge that is one factor of holding back the Technology Innovation in the Middle East.

Let’s start with the fact of how academics make their way up. Most of the Academics spend their first 10 years after graduation in the Academic and Research environment, which is not a real business driven environment.

During the time other graduates are requested to start dealing with customer needs, performing reports, learning proper business writing, having tough performance reviews, managed on tough business targets, that evaluates how much money they made to the company, or how much money they saved according to their professional area of responsibility. The academics are measured against delivering their research papers, projects, and teaching hours, depending on the roles they take in the universities.

The same time, the business environment business leaders comes from link between the customer needs, and translates it into business drivers. The Academics are translating new technological trends and tailoring new directions to teach their students, and make their papers and researches.

During the time Academics are turned down, or poorly evaluated because of the dissatisfaction of their seniors, or professors of their research methodologies, or their end results, which is mainly a focus on “BOSS Satisfaction”. Business Professionals are evaluated against customer satisfaction, their professional attitude at work, conflicts management, stress management, life balance and delivering under pressure, team working, the communication skills, results, and organizational behavior.

It is obvious, that if we need to take Technology Innovation seriously as a business, leaders should start with business drivers, which are mostly related to what the customers want? and how do we make profit of that? And of course not what the bosses need, and what they see proper way to deliver the project.

That why from the behavioral perspective most of the Academic leaders tend to :

1- Focus on micromanagement

2- Play it in a one man show, they want to shine whatsoever, and the least of them allow room to others to shine with them

3- Focus on the technology trends and not the product

4- Rarely have the ability to set clear road maps with clear budget, resources, and timelines, set competitive advantage for their organization, and create products that are competitive in the market

5- Business support functions, and management areas are mostly not well managed, giving priority to the technical work, thus causing the organization to unplanned risks, related to legal affairs, financial management,  facilities, Human Resources Management, staff motivation and engagement, and building a proper organization culture.

6- The focus mostly in the development of the company and the achievement satisfaction, is mostly in the wrong domains and communities, like standards communities, research organizations, and top universities. Where Professors keep pride of their connections in these areas and what I believe in is that the proper business leaders should be more available on the headlines of the top gadgets and brands lists. Looking at the value the customers pay to their work in the first place.

Of course there are other issues, that cannot be resolved on the spot, and to adjust this dilemma, the serious investors and those who want to lead serious start ups in The Middle East, have to look into this kind of business differently when opening positions. Top Brand Executives are not PhD.’s, some of them are hardly BSc.’s and some are MBA’s. But all are those who started businesses from the business perspective, and used science and research perfectly, their organizations include R&D, and lots of PhD’s are recruited, and these PhD’s may be paid more than the Business Leaders, but they are NOT The Business Executives.

To resolve this issue, is to understand that the companies which have PhD.’s on its tops and heads, should be the research arm in the business, to those companies which are competing in the market, i.e. sort of contractors, and there should be some serving companies to help them develop their businesses and consistently keep their market and ensure their customers, and help them develop product road maps, however, I know that this idea will be resisted by the Academic leaders in place now, and it will need a tremendous effort to change this culture. So better it be in the new start ups, and the young ones.

From the market experience, top failures were because of this kind of leadership, mentioning, MEMsCAP, Ellipsis Digital, and Bahgat R&D, where their main failures, that they had wonderful resources, but leadership that is not focused on Marketing and Selling, thus they had to close.

However, the bright side in the market is reflected in two of the successful companies currently is AsgaTech, and Silicon Vision, which are the most two promising companies because they started with this business oriented mindset, more than the research mindset, and I believe they will show more success as a model than others in the market that are of the same age, unless the other companies start seriously about changing the academics from their top executive level leadership, or work with partner business companies that could help them adjust their business management style.

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About Sharaf شرف

Change is a life essential, if you do not master making it.. you will be affected by it.. In other words.. Lead, follow.. or get out of my way.. التغيير في الحياة شئ أساسي، اذا لم تتقنه، فرض عليك اما أن تقود، واما أن تقاد، واما أن تذهب بعيدا عن طريقي
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2 Responses to TechieNotes: Leading Technology Innovation in the Middle East – 4 – Academic Leadership

  1. k.p.sreejayaraman says:

    with ill feelings against none,I appreciate the sense of reality of the article.it very nicely depicts the scenario of yawning gap between academics and technology drive required for a successful venture involved in manufacturing and selling.I am a technocrat in a small way.Academics gives you the capacity to think,technically-repeat-technically.Business houses look for name,fame and profit.When I got out of the college with high merit I thought I knew everything under sun.After 40 years in industry I felt I was reborn only when I joined the industry.

    Like

    • Thanks K.P.
      Actually you are very true, failure to launch Technology Innovation in the Middle East, comes from the fact that most of the initiatives and startups till 2006-2007, were all in the hands of academics, who were trying business for the first time in their life, and till now, none really survived, except the outsourcing model of Mentor Graphics, because real business is managed outside the engineering pool in Egypt.
      However, to do real business and take Technology Innovation business to the next level, real business men, supported by academics are needed
      I have to say, that Academics are scarce resources, and have to stay in the frontiers of Technical Management, to assure results.

      Like

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