Management by Innovation in the Caribbean

Cdr. Bud Slabbaert


by Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

We have a challenge on our hands but being able to handle a challenge creates strength. Employment is needed for a healthy economy since it creates buying power and enables us to afford the things we want. We also need to create a brain-gain, whereby well-educated Caribbeans return home and bring the expertise and knowledge that we need. We need a unique global sustainable industry development with a secure return of investment!

My suggestion is to develop large floating platforms. Why not grow coffee beans? Because coffee beans are a commodity. People on the land pick the beans and some others do the packaging. They work hard but make little money. Brokers and speculators on commodity markets abroad are making the big money. Producing commodities doesn’t create talent; no skills needed, thus no specialized teachers needed. Forget commodities. We need something specialized, highly valued and significantly priced whereby we can deal and negotiate directly with the client. It should be made in the Caribbean. It should involve employees from all levels of educational backgrounds. It should inspire young people and open training opportunities. You may think that building large floating platforms or even mega-platforms is the idea of a dreamer or someone from a different planet, for one because the Caribbean does not have mega-space for building mega platforms.

Nothing that is mega, is built out of one piece. There is an option to build in modules; the more modules attached to each other, the more mega a structure becomes. No accurate cell count has been done but estimates of the number of cells in a human body vary from five to 68 trillion. A trillion is 1,000,000,000,000. Even when you were born and your mama held you in her arms, you were already a bundle of 1-5 trillion cells. I’m thinking of a float that consists of only 20-400 modules. It will take more individual parts and components to put float together for a particular function. An Airbus 380 is constructed of approximately ‘only’ three million (3,000,000) parts. Major structural sections are built in France, Germany, Spain, and the UK and are done in sixteen cities with accessories that are imported from various parts of the world. Eventually, the A380 is assembled in one location.

The Wright Brothers ran a bicycle shop and built the first flying gadget that was called an aircraft. Imagine in their day and age if they had suggested that future planes will be built out of 3 million parts and carrying more than 800 passengers, they would have confined the Bro’s at “Happy Acres” and fed them three times daily with a teaspoon. My point is not to put limitations on what can or cannot be done. If construction is done modular, how can the modules be brought to other Caribbean islands? If it is a floating component, use a tugboat! And if it should go beyond the Caribbean, then what? How do most imports come to the Caribbean? By container ship! So, what is the option to export our modules? When built in container size sections, they can be shipped from the Caribbean all over the world. At their destination port they can even be loaded on truck or train and become a floating solution in land locked lakes. It will take Caribbean engineers to travel abroad and supervise the assembly.

Who is going to figure that all out? In a human body there is a department on the top floor called the brain. For our project we are going to create something similar, and we will call it ‘Research and Development Center’. Isn’t that what the brain does: observe, find out, react, and act? To put our brain together we need the equivalence of neurons. Specialists will become our ‘neurons’. Where will we find them? There are some exceptionally talented people in the Caribbean. If they are willing and able to subscribe to the mission and vision of the project and they have the passion and creativity to turn challenges into opportunities and further into results, they may be just the right people. There are well educated Caribbeans in various parts of the world who may want to return and contribute with the knowledge and experience they have acquired abroad. To make it complete, we also need the talents from non-Caribbean. They may be our guests for a short time; we may like them so much that we want to hold on to them a bit longer. Once we have the highly intelligent human resources on board, we can start training others in our community. It is not going to happen in a wink. Call it a plan for now but, the sooner the initiative is started, the sooner results will come.

“Why would I want to invest in the Caribbean?” Was the question how the story started? Either you are closing your eyes to a situation you don’t wish to acknowledge or, you are not aware of the caliber of opportunity that is growing here. We are in the process of growing ‘Human Capital”. I put ‘Human Capital’ in the category of ‘Own Capital’. Own capital funds are generally a condition for outside financiers. Without sufficient responsible own capital resources, outside capital givers are not ready for a payment. With the Research and Development Center we are creating a vault of ‘Own Human Capital’. Great, now we’ve a group of geeks restrained in a room and call it our brain center. What enlightenment are we confronted with next?

Whether building floats in one piece, modules, or container sized segments, where will it be done? A wharf is needed. It doesn’t have to be huge if things are built in modules. It requires engineers, but we cannot have all Chiefs and no Indians, so, we need jacks of different trades which means that there will be new employment opportunities of various kinds. I have made impact studies in the past; trying to put a figure on the socio-economic impact that activities of an operation have. It’s difficult if there is no operation yet. One can do some guessing that is so intelligent that it becomes quite realistic. Just some brief points here. Additional employment creates more buying power. A new industry means that suppliers and service providers are needed. Some of those services will be developed by entrepreneurs of the island. We develop a unique global industry; due to the uniqueness, companies from abroad may wish to be closer to the action and set up a representation. That is what is called cluster development and those clusters also have a socio-economic impact. They are amplifiers, pumping more decibels in an existing composition.

I invented the expression ‘Management by Innovation’ since it wasn’t found yet in MBA-coursework. It is my concept by which management aims to develop and maintain a leadership position in the market by actively looking for new ways and questioning existing ways internally and externally. It is totally different than ‘Management by Numbers’ which I consider to be ‘Management for the Ruthless’ and utterly unintelligent. I see it as the most effective way to get rid of the most brilliant and dedicated minds. The result of managing a business by the numbers is that engagement, creativity, and innovation get lost. It looks for saturation, like consuming large portions of fattening food and becoming obese. It is about out-proportioning to gain weight. It may be a great concept for managing a Japanese Sumo wrestling team but let it be known that the life expectancy of a Sumo is at least 10 years shorter than the average Japanese male. They develop diabetes, high blood pressure, and are prone to heart attacks. The stress on their joints causes arthritis.

With the intelligent concept of ‘Management by Innovation’, I dare to say that the Caribbean could become a hub of science and technology. “Gosh. If we are becoming so freaking smart, maybe we can do more with it,” you might think. Yes, you can hold intellectual property rights and get royalty payments from newly developed technologies and innovations, while enjoying being with your family in the Caribbean.