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Ali Omari


Applying the science of systemic innovation

Safe City Group (SCG), CEO


Ali Omari founded the Safe City Group in Abu Dhabi in 2016 to provide a one- stop shop for innovative turnkey public safety, national security solutions, and advanced transportation management technologies. With an engineering background, his passion has always been finding practical technical solutions for challenges that others would have considered impossible. This approach has become a key focus within the Safe City Group where eight different business units specialize in unique public safety solutions. This development is supported by the Safe City Artificial Intelligence R&D Center. Omari is a strong believer in the value of family and community, and this is also embedded throughout all his organizations’ corporate social responsibility initiatives.

SCG is amongst a small percentage of companies that are successfully making innovation their core business driver.

INNOVATION IS ONE OF SCG’S CORE STRENGTHS in achieving its global standard targets and Made in UAE focus. In particular, it recognizes it is amongst a unique small percentage of companies successfully making innovation a core business driver. In a recent survey of global executives, 84% acknowledged that innovation is extremely important to their growth strategies. How- ever, an astonishing 94% were unsatisfied with their own innovation performance. The harsh reality is that the vast majority of innovations fall far short of ambitions. Historically, only 20% of all new products and services that enter the market were successful, and only 10% of business start-ups survived. Within those that do survive, improvements are made, but often on the wrong things—plenty of activity, but little productivity.

While SCG initiatives like Vulnerable Witness Evidential Recorders, Emergency Services Command and Control Centres, and Smart Patrols may appear to be all about technology, the secret is that its SCG innovations are ultimately all about understanding people, the needs of the community, and the government. Using our SCG employees—who are highly trained as change agents in the discipline known as the science of systematic innovation with the distinctive name of Sigma Force. This is based on a unique, powerful synthesis of the Lean Six Sigma methodology and other scientific disciplines. Each employee within the SCG Sigma Force is equipped with evidence-based management and performance optimization skills. Their Sigma Force ranking of captain is based on both their level of Lean Six Sigma proficiency and the economic benefits they have achieved for the company.

Through a systematic structured innovation approach and the SCG Sigma Force, based on a recognition of the economic benefit achieved to the company, SCG has created an incentive-based and skills-based performance and innovation management framework that doesn’t just talk innovation, but makes it a core part of everything it does.Through this approach, SCG provides a performance management and innovation framework that enables its employees to become great employees, its leaders to become great leaders, and Emiratis to become great Emiratis.
Key success factors within the SCG innovation framework are:

SCG does not wait for the “Aha” moment of epiphany. It invests and develops its staff in the systematic innovation process and provides the appropriate performance management/Sigma Force incentives to live and breathe innovative and creative thinking.

In truth, everyone is capable of innovation. Innovation is a systematic business process that brings out innovation in everyone when put correctly in place. Provide the right innovation incentives, and processes and innovation will flourish. Those who understand and master this possess a distinct advantage over those who do not.

At a given point in time, SCG focuses on delivering three different types of innovation through its internal systematic innovation Sigma Force agents. It focuses on:

(i) Innovation that delivers new-to-the-world products, services, technologies, and information delivery systems;
(ii) Innovation to improve existing recognized products, services technologies, and information systems; and
(iii) Innovation to incrementally improve existing SCG internal processes and delivery systems.

Each type of innovation requires a different skill set and systematic approach. SCG’s Sigma Force agents are proficient in all three.

Early in his career, inventor Thomas Edison learned why a needs-first approach to innovation is superior to an ideas-first approach. He spent an incredible amount of time, effort, and resources inventing the world’s first electronic vote recorder. This brilliant innovation was met by a completely uninterested market. This painful and costly failure taught Edison a lesson that forever shifted his innovation approach to a needs-first process. As a result, he put himself in the shoes of his targeted buyers, literally travelling to their workplaces and homes to analyze their tasks and discover where their struggles and pain points might be. He applied the innovation process to those areas.

SCG applies this needs-first strategy as a fundamental concept within its systematic innovation approach to public safety. We focus on important needs of the community and government, including:
• Safety within the home, when outdoors, or commuting;
• Emergency services support, when and where it is needed;
• Consistent and fair enforcement of law and order;
• Timely follow up and investigations; and
• Strong community outreach and confidence in the system.

In each of these areas, it drills further down to reveal the hierarchy of critical public safety needs to which it applies its systematic innovation methodology.

A common misconception that often hinders innovation can be seen in a popular quote from automobile inventor Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
The key here is to recognize the error of mistaking a solution for a need. If we look closely, we see Ford himself was not talking about customer needs. Consider it re-written as, “If I had asked people what solution they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” The horse is actually a solution, not a need. This reply came from the customer because Ford’s question was poorly crafted, predictably eliciting responses that are framed around solutions (i.e., products, characteristics, and features) rather than needs.

To determine its customers’ needs, SCG goes behind the traditional mindset that people “buy” SCG products and solutions. Instead, it realizes that they actually “hire” its products and services to get an important job done. If SCG does the job well, clients will hire that same product again in the future. However, clients will also review its offering with newer solutions and innovations over time. This is where the “hire” concept comes in. As innovation and technology drive better solutions, clients will “fire” its previous solution and “hire” the next new, innovative solution if it better solves their existing or changing needs.
This is why SCG asks “What job did they hire that product to do?” and “What are the obstacles and frustrations the customer encounters when executing such jobs?” SCG use these needs-first identification questions for successful innovation and product/service support.

Knowing the right questions to ask, SCG’s Sigma Force has combined its expertise in public safety, technology, and AI with the science of systematic innovation in order to create breakthrough solutions that its customers really need. It has begun to interview and interact with potential customers in new ways, successfully unveiling not only hidden unmet needs, but also under-served needs and overshot needs for the first time. Its customers are noticing. Its existing products are better at meeting real customer needs. SCG’s new product development is more focused, and its delivery systems are smarter and leaner. It has become an exciting part of the organization, and with this success, more and more SCG staff seek to join its Sigma Force.
SCG is also regularly demonstrating its innovations to many delegations visiting its SCG headquarters. Guests always enjoy seeing such innovation from a UAE-based subject matter expert. Just as more and more SCG staff wish to become Sigma Force change agents, so too will more companies wish to learn about its science of systematic innovation. SCG strives to be the champion of real innovation. It is pioneering growth initiatives within the UAE by applying the science of systematic innovation to public safety. It is also committed to sharing its knowledge across other entities to further promote innovation competency across the UAE.



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