Discussing the Challenges of Innovation in Brazil at Mecânica

Mecânica Manufacturing Experience took place this week, one of the largest international trade fair of its kind in Latin America, covering mechanics and integrated manufacturing systems. One of the main events at the trade fair was the Meeting of Industry Leaders summit, in which economists, CEOs, presidents, directors and executives met to discuss the future of industry in Brazil.

Photo: Maria Moraes Robinson

It was an extremely interesting trade fair to attend, with many highly interactive exhibitions including robotics, AI, smart energy and educational solutions. Not only was it an opportunity for a wide range of enterprises to come together over three days, it was also an excellent opportunity for teens and young adults to explore the work of mechanical engineering, to help them in their choice of careers and understand the opportunities available, both here in Brazil and internationally.

As the co-author of Customer Experiences with Soul, and a leading business strategist, Maria was invited to host a panel session of senior executives which explored the question of the challenges of innovation and the barriers to success in Brazil. She was joined on stage by Arthur Lavieri, CEO of Solaris, Sebastião Furquim, CEO of Tópico, Diogo Corazza, Application Manager at Trumpf, and William Macedo, Technology and Business Development Director at White Martins.

Photo: Simon Robinson

It was an absolutely fascinating hour of conversation in which Maria introduced a number of key themes for the panel to explore.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Early on in the introductory presentations exploring the definition of innovation, Arthur Lavieri made the point that innovation should not be confused with technology, the two not being interchangeable terms. The theme of customer centricity was central to the whole debate, with Sebastião Furquim adding that “innovation is not technology, it’s a focus on customers and understanding the soul of the organisation”. This ability to really think about the essence of the organisation in relation to soul is exactly the point of our work, and so it was great to hear him respond in this way to Maria’s opening comments.

Furquim continued with the observation that “a focus on the client is not an option”. While this of course may seem obvious to those of us who have been involved in innovation and customer experience design for many years, for many CEOs and senior executives, the key audience for this conversation, this is not always the case. Other members of the panel agreed, the key point being made of making the client the centre of innovation.

It was also extremely interesting to hear William Macedo discuss the importance of diversity in innovation, with many businesses and enterprises consisting of business cultures with the same group of executives from the same social, economic and educational backgrounds. Without genuine diversity, it would be almost impossible to achieve truly groundbreaking innovations from different paradigms of thinking.

The final key theme to emerge was the central role of communication. I do feel that here in Brazil that many large organisations struggle with innovation due to the rigid communicational hierarchies which are in place. I spent many years working at BT, first at BT Laboratories and then BT Cellnet (now O2) and I was involved in many world-first and award-winniung innovations, as well as being one of the founder members of Genie Internet, a start up formed inside of BT.

BT of course has a highly-defined hierarchy, but this did not inhibit the free flow of communication, and the ability to circulate throughout the company socialising and evangelising new ideas and opportunities, as I did with my work in the 1990s on taking customer experience design into the commercial departments (see for example this article Designing the Customer Experience).

It was extremely clear that presenters on the panel had extremely clear and focused approaches to innovation, both from a technological and also customer perspective, and many people in the audience took notes and had the opportunity to speak further after the session with those who had taken part.

As the largest and most important trade fair of its kind, this Meeting of Leaders was an extremely important contribution, allowing some of the most senior members of Brazilian commerce and industry to share their thoughts. It was also especially inspiring to see the fact that Maria was invited not only to discuss innovation in general, but also for her to be given the space to invite such a thoughtful and wide-ranging conversation which also was able to include a discussion about soul in an industry based on mechanics, robotics and engineering.

Main image photo credit: Mecânica

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