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Innovation in the Caribbean: Mission impossible?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

As I navigate the space of many Caribbean enterprises, I see a desire to do things differently, but a lack of capacity to do so. The innovation and growth drought we currently live in is not new, but a product of generations of professionals being bystanders in the adoption, adaptation, and/or creation of new products, services or processes.

We are risk takers but in our own turf. Maybe the greatest quantum leap we can make as Caribbean entrepreneurs is to move from a Caribbean-centric risk-taking approach to one that demands an understanding of internationalisations trajectories and international entry modes in non-Caribbean markets.



Why is internationalisation critical for the Caribbean?

Because our local markets and economies are too small for offer a sustainable development path.

There is some innovation in the Caribbean, however, the existing innovation initiatives—either from the public and private sector—are not leading to the creation of extraordinary value propositions that could become growth platforms per se beyond Caribbean borders.


What is an innovative company or organisation?

Let’s use the example of Goddard Enterprises. Headquartered in Barbados and headed by a global and brilliant CEO, Anthony Ali, Goddard has been able to grow and expand beyond the Caribbean.

Using as its growth platform a JV deal with a major European airlines, this lead them to develop very deep international trajectories in Latin America in countries like Peru, Ecuador Guatemala or Uruguay. The vast majority of the revenue and employees come from non-Caribbean countries.


What is their product? Meals for airlines.

Is that innovative? No, however, the way they have orchestrated their strategy is quite innovative. Using a European partner, the choice of value propositions (industrial mid-size kitchens as manufacturing plants) for airlines, have created the capacity for Goddard to enter into more profitable non-airline markets like hospitals, prisons and even catering.

The fundamental innovation in Goddard’s case is not the creation of a new product, or service, but the creation of a growth platform (an international joint venture) that lead to the creation of other growth platforms (like an operation in Colombia offering food for hospitals).


How do we then know if we have an innovative enterprise?

If the value proposition creates or enables growth platforms or trajectories. Novelty in innovation is over rated. Innovation should be less centred in the creation of new stuff but maybe in novel ways to combine old stuff, or in other words, vu-ja de instead of de ja vu.


Innovative questions

a. Why we are afraid of doing business with and in other non-Caribbean non-English speaking countries?

b. Is innovation the mean toward an end or the end itself?

c. What is the biggest enabler for innovation in the Caribbean?

d. What is the biggest disabler for innovation in the Caribbean?


Contribution: Professor Miguel Carrillo, executive director and professor of strategy, Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business. Need to know how to innovate your company? International authority on innovation and creativity, Sir Ken Robinson will be speaking for the first time in the Caribbean (LIVE via interactive satellite) at the Distinguished Leadership and Innovation Conference in T&T on May 5, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency. He will be accompanied byJim Collins (also LIVE via interactive satellite) and Pankaj Ghemawat (in person).Don’t miss the opportunity to learn how to innovate and take your company global! or email: [email protected]


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