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On the day of Britain’s general election, many in the Criticaleye Community have expressed concern that British organisations have become overly nationalistic and focused on problems within the country, directly affecting their ability to innovate.

Members in the Community contend that a major feature of a post election UK will be reducing government borrowing and paying off consumer debt. Actions on these fronts will need to be complemented by a strong push on exports facilitated by a competitive sterling exchange rate.

“UK business has a critical role to play in driving the recovery. We need to find a renewed passion for exports focusing hard on new geographic markets, new business partners and tapping into more international innovation clusters. In an ever increasingly competitive world, future winners will have proven strengths in both developed and emerging markets,” says Mark Spelman, Global Head of Strategy at Accenture.

A new approach to open innovation will involve humility and openness to new international ideas.

Kevin Appleton, Chief Executive, Lavendon Group plc, says, "There are some great examples of international businesses based in Britain, but there are equally grounds for continued concerns about our ability, as a nation, to act internationally rather than imperialistically.  You only have to visit the Costa del Sol to understand the capacity of the average Brit to wish everywhere else was like home!  Our general level of linguistic skill, or lack of it, is another piece of evidence of the psychological hurdles we need to clear before we can become a true success on the global stage. I am personally confident that we can and will be successful on the world stage, but it will require us to find levels of humility and openness to the new that do not come naturally."

For British businesses to be innovative, they must reach out to other nations and absorb examples of best practice.  If you look at this idea from the perspective of what leading global companies are doing now, coupled with the likely accelerated expansion globally of Asian companies in the future, then an insular approach to ‘innovation’ could not possibly be a winning formula.

Dan Londero, MD, International Sales Group, Reed Exhibitions, says, “If we miss the opportunity to tap into the diversity of thinking that exists internationally then, in a decade or two, we may well scratch our heads and wonder what happened. Whilst others are embracing and accelerating their global aspirations, we should challenge ourselves to assess the risks to our future prosperity should we not engage at an equally steadfast pace.”

“Business leaders are constantly challenged to respond to changing circumstances and conditions and that forces the need for innovation. It is precisely at times like these that opportunities arise - and competition is never more fierce or international than it is currently. This also means that it's not just about looking outward from the UK - but also about other countries being attracted to and seeing strength in UK companies. It's a time to look forward,” says Gary Kildare, Vice President, Human Resources - Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific at IBM.   

Although at times like these it is easy to become focused on fixing problems at home, it is important to look at best practice further afield to become more innovative.

“Little Britain thinking worked in the past with low global competition, a captive market and a strong financial and industrial base – international partnering, flexibility and innovation are the path to a truly Great Britain,” says Ian Stewart, CEO, UK and Germany, Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies.

If you would like further information on today’s topic please look at the Insight pages on the website. In this Criticaleye TV clip, Unilever’s Marc Engel talks about innovating during the downturn and when innovation should start again.

Please get in touch if you have any comments about the issues in today's update.
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