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CIO advice: Disrupting the enterprise innovation strategy model

To thrive in today's competitive business world, it is imperative for organizations to continuously innovate and have an innovation strategy in place to guide them. But it's important to remember that innovation is not always about doing new things, according to Harmeen Mehta, global CIO and head of digital at Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel Ltd.

"Innovation is more about doing the same thing differently," Mehta told the audience at the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium.

In this video from the Symposium, she shares her perspective on an effective enterprise innovation strategy and discusses how the innovation strategy at companies like Uber and Airbnb helped them devise new solutions for existing problems.

Editor's note: The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

How do you define innovation?

Harmeen Mehta: If anybody were to ask, 'Which companies do you think have been the most innovative in the world?' You would think of companies like Uber, Alibaba, Airbnb, etc. What have they done? They have not created anything new; they have not manufactured anything new. They basically found an existing problem and found a very different way of solving that problem.

Taxis have been in demand forever -- we have been using them for decades -- but, only now, we have come up with the concept of: If you've got a car and you've got some time, well, you can be an Uber driver.

That's really disrupting the model. They brought in a lot of platform thinking, which is really about connecting a lot of producers to consumers, and finding platforms to actually do that, and not necessarily about manufacturing new things and creating new things in order to create an organization or create value.

There's nothing better than studying these companies that give us an example of how innovation is really about finding different solutions to solve the same existing problems that we have been trying to solve over the years.

The entire problem of hotels, which Marriott and chains like that have been trying to solve for years and their solution had been, 'Let's go to different cities and build new hotels.' Then came companies like Kayak, etc. that said, 'OK, let me optimize all the hotels that are out there and bring you the best value.' And then came Airbnb that said, 'You got a mattress and you got a room? Well, you are a hotel.' So, the problem remains the same, but the way of solving it is completely different.

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