"I am a big believer in the power of experiential communication. To be truly effective, many elements need to come together – architecture, environment, technology, and of course, the story. And usually after it's all done, and you do the ribbon cutting, handshakes, smiles and photos, the work truly begins to bring the space alive. "

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In our business, we talk a lot about metrics: cms, columns, seconds, clicks and so on. We always want to see a metric leading and outperforming against set goals, objectives and KPIs. Today, I would love to share with you some of our experiences in an entirely different, more tangible metric: the ‘square meter.’

Almost two years ago, I took on the role of Chief Innovation Officer for the region. Our vision is focused on creating an innovation ecosystem that builds localized solutions for and with GE’s partners, customers, academia, think tanks and other key stakeholders. We started out with a thought that I very much believe in – we will drive creative collaboration and the power of the collective with a focus on customer outcomes; everyone, everywhere can innovate.

One of our key tasks to accomplish this goal was to build a regional network of innovation centers. I must say, as we brought together some of the best minds in the Company and asked them to dare to dream about how a blank canvas of 1000 or 2000 sq.m. could transform into a place that engages and inspires, an exciting journey began to unfold. Of course, at the core of the conversation was ‘What’s the story?’

Going through the complexities and triumphs of building three Centers, I would love to share some of our learnings with you here:

There must be a thread that ties it all together. ‘It’ is the brick and mortar, the hardware (and more than I ever wanted to know about construction!), the technology, the software etc. Weaving a narrative continuum through all of this physical material can be challenging. We set out to curate an experience where the outcome would be greater than the sum of its parts. We started with thinking about what our customers and visitors want and need to know. What are their most pressing challenges? Who are the most important players in their (and our) worlds? By identifying the characters and challenges clearly, we can tie all the elements in the Centers together and have a story and discussion that is truly meaningful.

Walking outside the walls, taking the inside out, and pushing boundaries is something we must aspire to do every day. I believe that when we build and map out stories in a space, they must transcend its physical limitations. Today, with digital redefining how communicators work, we can – and must – extend the conversation outside the sq.m. of the building. When collaboration is our focus, and we know we don’t have all the answers, digital allows us to invite the world in. We’re able to ask what challenges our customers face, and how we can help to solve them. It’s a discussion that starts before they set foot in the Centers, continues as we roll up our sleeves together when they walk in to the space, and moves forward into solutions beyond their visit. As with the whole comms world now, digital engagement is the key.

It’s not about you – it really isn’t. It’s about the industry, the issues and opportunities, and other key influencers. As a Company, we strive to solve the world’s toughest challenges. The Centers are focused on context, environment, and the region in which we and our customers operate. We are not preaching about what we know. We’re asking what they need. And we’ve found that this seemingly simple task of just listening is the best way to innovate in the right direction.

I am a big believer in the power of experiential communications. To be truly effective, many elements need to come together – architecture, environment, technology, and of course, the story. And usually after it’s all done, and you do the ribbon cutting, handshakes, smiles and photos, the work truly begins to bring the space alive. Or maybe – and this is what we should all strive for – if we do it right from the start, even before the sq.m space is in place, on opening day, it is alive, connected, integrated, and we are talking already!

 

 

 

 

 

Rania Rostom

Rania Rostom is GE’s Chief Innovation & Communications Officer, Middle East, North Africa & Turkey (MENAT). She currently leads innovation and communications including Healthymagination and Ecomagination for MENAT.