Before Greek businesses invest in innovation, they need to re-invent themselves. There is a single reason for this. The current Greek business culture contradicts innovation in principle.
Greek society is conservative throughout the political spectrum. It is a patriarchic society with archaic principles dominating family, faith, business, government and recreation. Experience wins over knowledge, emotions win over logic, men win over women, short well groomed haircuts win over dreadlocks in all circumstances. Sexism is ubiquitous. Older people are heard whereas younger people are dismissed and generally ego wins over modesty in all aspects of Greek everyday life. One could say that despite Greece is part of 2017 Europe, its core values belong in the 1950s.
These traditional values may have served Greek business for centuries. At least they have helped Greek business survive. But one has to keep in mind that since the creation of the Greek State, Greek business has mainly revolved around trade and almost not at all around innovation. In 2017 business, this framework of values is infertile! Mainly, because the world has advanced and the Greek business culture has remained stagnant for decades. The two worlds are now completely incompatible and all that remains is for this realization to spread. It would all be fine if Greek business was confined to catering for the internal market. However the recent crisis, and the weakening of the internal market, motivated many Greek businesses to become more extrovert and seek markets abroad. That’s where we are today.
Yes! There are exceptions to the rule. They are few and usually, they have certain things in common. Innovation in Greece usually happens from the younger generations when management points to a direction, provides the resources and then lets innovation happen! When investors or managers are young and creative, they may be able to understand what it takes to create something new. They get innovation. They foresee opportunities.
Usually when it doesn’t happen it is because management slides towards the values of trade rather than the values of creation. Greek business people are traditionally programmed for short term, quick results, quick money, easy fixes, tight deadlines early on and foreseeable results. They are accustomed of scanning the shelves and picking out ideas they can sell with slight modifications. Sometimes, they attempt to mimic foreign insightful entrepreneurs they read about in business media and usually it is quite hilarious as they doubtfully borrow the necessary vocabulary of innovation and wear its style in meetings but fail to embody the culture of innovation as this, clashes with their core values and when they consider the notion of unforeseeable results they cringe in terror assuming that unforeseeable results can only be bad news. But innovation always inhabits this field of unforeseeable results.
To learn this, and become the patron of innovation, means to create the space inside one’s mentality by throwing away obsolete assumptions and deep rooted notions that have shaped their identity. Essentially, to re-invent themselves. If this proves a far reached inaccessible endeavor, then there is still hope. One can recognize and accept their deficiencies and hire help. They can then create more distance between themselves and the creative process they understand so little of, by hiring a person that knows how to manage innovation.
Ten years ago, this idea would still be relevant but also unnecessary. Business could still be going well in an internal market when distribution, pricing, communication and other aspects of business came to a healthy equilibrium and products could be exploited to the max. Nowadays though, if Greek business “means business” then it should learn that innovation is not only important but also urgent. Greek businesses can float first and then thrive, if they attack innovation with all their might. Innovation takes time to understand and resources to cultivate. This is why it is urgent to set extrovert goals and create the appropriate conditions to achieve them.