INSEAD Participant Interview

Gaining New Perspectives on R&D Management

Mohammed Khalil

Executive Program Manager
Entrepreneurial Business Developer
The Netherlands

"When you come to INSEAD, you take distance from your day-to-day activities. This helps you think and get the most out of the programme. It was a week immersion in strategic R&D management, with exchanges and experience sharing on the subject."

Strategic R&D Supply Chain Managment past participant 

Can you please introduce yourself and where you are in your career?

I spent 18 years working for Philips, mostly in roles at the interface between R&D and business and market development. The aim was to bring product innovation to markets. In my last role, my focus was on growth markets in Africa and Central Asia. 

Over the past few months I have been transitioning into a different role, working as an executive advisor for a University board in an emerging market. The target is enhancing employability of graduates through employability skills development, entrepreneurship and relationships with local SMEs and locally based-MNCs. Within the University, I develop and manage projects portfolio in-line with employability strategy. There is a great need for the creativity, innovation management in that field.

Why did you decide to come on the Strategic R&D Management programme?

I decided to come on to the programme because I am involved with business creation and development in growth markets. We can see that there are large upcoming markets, but which have much smaller business customers, as well as consumers with much lower buying power than in developed markets. I came to the conclusion that replicating the existing model may not be efficient. The go-to emerging markets require innovation in products, capital and labour markets so as to create value. And effectively creating, delivering and capturing this value in emerging markets may require different approaches.

I came to the programme with questions: how do you translate learnings and experiences acquired in emerging markets into strategic objectives and how do you create a sense of urgency for the potential required innovations?  

What were your expectations before coming on the programme?

When you work for an innovative company such as Philips, you acquire good knowledge and experience about creativity, innovation, portfolio and performance management, and also about how to bring innovation to market.

My expectation of the Strategic R&D Management programme was to acquire the tools to structure and process this experience and knowledge and make it usable and transferrable. I also wanted to learn from other participants, coming from different horizons, how they do it in their organisations.

And were these expectations met?

Absolutely! Somebody said that innovation is the commercialisation of creativity.  We learned that “selling” creativity must already happen inside our own organisation. The management of the supply chain of ideas, the decision-making and the prioritisation of processes, the management of performances and the importance of fairness were addressed and made clear. Using my new insights and knowledge gained in the programme, and at INSEAD, the European mecca of management teaching and research, I feel that I can be more effective, persuasive and have more influence on decision-making processes in my organisation.

The programme gave me new competencies that I will use to better manage approaches to bridging developed and emerging markets. It gave me processes to put all this in place to make it happen.

You have lots of professional experience. Did you find the programme useful?

When you have substantial professional experience in R&D and in bringing innovation to market, especially to growth markets, you feel the need to make this experience and knowledge transferrable and available to others in the organisation. Winning in emerging markets requires strategic innovation management. The programme was very useful in that aspect as it gives the structure and a framework to do that. 

Did you feel there was a good mix between the theory and the practical?

Absolutely. The case studies used were very relevant. They helped to put things into perspective and I learned a lot from them, as well as from exchanges during the reflection teams. The right mix of theory and practical cases drastically improved the shape of my “forgetting curve”. Thanks to the cases studies, and the discussions around them, I took on more knowledge than if the programme just focused on the theory.

Did you find that the participant mix made for an enriching experience?

It is definitely enriching and beneficial to the learning experience. There were people from the pharmaceutical industry, electronics, IT security, shipbuilding, banking, agriculture and education. There were also very different cultures in the classroom.  This highlights the fact that no matter the industry or culture we come from, we are all faced with the same issues and all ask the same questions regarding strategically managing creativity, innovation, prioritisation and performances. You learn a lot by listening to how others tackle the same challenges that you encounter.

And what did you think of the teaching?

The faculty members really went to the essence of all the topics explored. They guided us and gave us new insights. They were always very available and open. Some of them even have YouTube videos and so, I can enjoy listening to them when back at home.

Does the learning environment help you take a step back to reflect?

Absolutely. When you come to INSEAD, you take distance from your day-to-day activities. This helps you think and get the most out of the programme. It was a week immersion in strategic R&D management, with exchanges and experience sharing on the subject. I think that most of the group is linked on LinkedIn.

The environment of INSEAD really helps take distance. From the hotel, to the campus and the town; everything is in place to encourage you to switch off from your daily work. The charm of INSEAD adds to the value of the programme.

I left not only with a set of tools, but also with an action plan that I used from day one once back home.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of doing the programme?

I quote Maya Angelou as answer: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I felt that everything was done to help me achieve my learning objective. I would say: just do it. It is worth time and money investment.

To find out more, consult the Strategic R&D Management webpage. 

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