HomeMiddle EastGrowth requires innovation: Chris Renfer, managing director of Al Mansoori Group – Business – Arabian

Growth requires innovation: Chris Renfer, managing director of Al Mansoori Group – Business – Arabian

How do best performing companies and leaders deliver value with a vision and foundation for success? SAP works with some of the best companies and CEOs across the region in helping them achieve transformation through innovation and technology. This new CEO Innovation Series, supported by SAP will share and tell the best stories of achievement and feature top leaders on how they continue to lead by example.

For someone unfamiliar with the business, what do you do?

Al Mansoori Group was founded in 1981 by HE Sultan Al Mansoori, Minister of Economies of the UAE. Headquartered in Dubai, we are focusing and known for best-in-class projects, innovation and technology across the GCC region. We are targeting three strategic segments; Green Technology, Smart Data and Sustainable Transportation.

Where were you before this?

My background is in economics and IT, and I used to work as a consultant. From 2006 onwards, I’ve worked in the financial industry, founding and leading a Multi-Family Office, which also brought me to Dubai. For the past three years, I have been the Managing Director of Al Mansoori Group.

What’s most exciting about your work?

Working in one of the most vibrant regions of the world and being part of an environment which expects you to stretch boundaries daily, is the breeding ground for innovation. Being mandated to shape, develop and lead an organization like Al Mansoori Group with an amazing team of professionals and friends makes my job nearly unbeatable.

Where would you like the company to be over the next five years?

Al Mansoori Group has a clearly defined vision, mission and we’re executing this strategy day by day, by investing in passionate people and by pursuing our vision. We’re dreaming of making the world a better, cleaner and safer place and simplifying lives with pervasive use of smart technology.

The word ‘innovation’ is overused in today’s business world. What does the term mean to you?

In my opinion, innovation is an attitude, a way of thinking and has nothing to do with the size of an institution. A lot of remarkable innovation has been found accidentally: the microwave, Teflon, Velcro, X-ray or Penicillin. What’s the learning out of it? Walk your way with open eyes and an open mind and allow for non-linear solutions and ideas. As entrepreneurs, we must cultivate an innovative way of thinking and behaving.

Are there any specific examples of how your company has innovated in the market?

One recent innovation is our real-time management cockpit which provides a new dimension on how airlines, ground handlers and airports are managing their operation. The solution is providing tailor-made, predictive and real-time information to the operations centre and management, allowing to intervene the operation before an incident negatively influences the on-time performance of a flight. The credo: fire prevention instead of firefighting. We’re achieving it by aggregating historical data, data from sensors and staff and link it to sophisticated analytics.

How has SAP helped your company in its mission of innovation?

With HANA, SAP has reinvented itself and unleashed a new dimension in data processing, which is eminent for the Internet of Things to become a reality. HANA is a vital key component and provided the performance to build the mentioned management cockpit. Beside the technology, SAP has convinced us with a passionate, committed cooperation starting from the engineering staff to the very senior management.

Do you believe some companies can ‘over-innovate’? Are there dangers to this way of thinking?

The risk is less when people or companies over-innovate but becomes more when they set the wrong priorities. In my opinion, the entrepreneurial cultivation of innovation is dependent on strong leadership to drive innovation towards economic success. It’s about releasing teams to think out of the box and enable the passion to get things done. Innovation is failing not with the idea but with the execution. Allow your organization to learn from failures.

How do you plan for an uncertain future?

Future is uncertain by nature. Abraham Lincoln quoted that, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” Success is built from many small steps that we take here and now – this is what we can do.

With the world moving at such a fast pace, and technology ever improving, do you think there any ‘business truths’ that you believe will stay the same, regardless?

It is less about business truths, but more about values. I believe that businesses don’t create value, but people do and that is the reason why we have established a stronger of values as the foundation of everything we do.

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