TL;DR – Here’s our chance to learn how to innovate from the best
Very soon, being innovative will be a ‘hygiene factor’. That is according to Audrey Kuah, the managing director of Dentsu Aegis Network’s Global Data Innovation Centre. That means that all jobs in the the future will require people to continually innovate. There are already signs pointing to this future. Companies which are known to be disruptors run the risk of being disrupted or losing competitiveness in a crowded market if they stop innovating.
That is a sentiment that is shared by the top executives who spoke at the launch of the Innovation Exchange (IEX) by NTUC.
IEX is a programme organised by NTUC. It is a programme where participants from NTUC’s U Future Leaders Programme gets to tour innovation centres of various MNCs in Singapore. Currently, the MNCs who will be hosting the IEX include Microsoft, MasterCard, Unilever, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Global Data Innovation Centre, Proctor&Gamble, DHL, and Intel.
At the launch, top executives from Microsoft, MasterCard, Unilever, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Global Data Innovation Centre had a lively discussion about different aspects of innovation.
Here are the key ideas about innovation that they agreed on.
Everyone at every level needs to be part of innovation process
While the leader of the organisation is responsible for setting the tone for having an innovative culture, everyone will need to be part of the innovation process. It doesn’t matter what your designation is. Even if you hold a junior position, you will need to be able to contribute to your company’s process of innovation.
Be comfortable with failure
Innovation is a process of trial and error. It’s not possible to innovate without making mistakes. Making mistakes often result in failure. In other words, anyone who wants to be part of the innovation process needs to be comfortable with making mistakes and failing. It is only by failing forwards can you truly innovate.
But failure is a terrible “f’ word that Singaporeans have a phobia of. That’s why Susanne Arfelt, Managing Director of Unilever Singapore, said that any organisation that wants to encourage its staff to be innovative need to create culture that celebrates failure whenever it happens. That will let staff know that there is a safe testing ground for them to try out new ideas.
Richard Koh, National Technology Officer of Microsoft Singapore, echoed this view. He emphasised that it is important for companies to have a growth mindset. This means that companies need to have a culture where everyone sees failure and challenges as opportunities to grow.
Embrace chaos, be excited by change
Innovation is a process of change in response to changing contexts, expectations and technology. It is often messy and chaotic. In order to help your company drive the innovation process, you will need to be willing to move out of your comfort zone. You should be excited by changes.
Audrey elaborated that people who are good at innovating are those who, even though they may start knowing very little about the situation or subject, have the sensibility to come up with a viable options very quickly and deliver results.
Start small, move fast
Innovation is about dreaming big. That’s a point that Tobias Peuhse, VP of innovation management at MasterCard, made. To him, a key component to innovation is the ability to envision what the future could look like. But Tobias was also quick to point out that vision without execution is merely ideation. In order for there to be innovation, you will need to be able to turn the vision in to reality. That means that even though you start by dreaming big, you should start small, and move fast.
The idea of moving fast was also echoed by Susanne. She highlighted that Unilever has put in process to change from being a tanker, that is sable, but slow and difficult to change course, into a speedboat that is fast and nimble. This process includes empowering staff at every level to be innovative and training staff to understand the impact of technology.
Want to be better at innovating?
After listening to what the four panellists said about innovating, and looking at the world around us, we are convinced that it is necessary for all of us to be more innovative. We think that IEX would provide a great opportunity to learn from others who are successfully becoming more innovative. Not only would participants visit the innovation centres, they will also be able to speak with the people leading the innovations in those companies and be mentored by them.
We will certainly be keeping an eye out on details of how we can participate!
The IEX has been strategically designed by the Labour Movement to help cultivate the growth mindset in our working people and inspire them to think out of the box. The IEX will bring participants on a journey of innovation where they will visit leading innovation labs of multinational corporations (MNCs) and engage the MNCs’ key innovators in roundtable sessions.
The pioneer group of participating MNCs comprising Dentsu Aegis Network, DHL, Intel, Mastercard, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Unilever, all of which are part of the Labour Movement’s U Circle of Friends, will be opening their innovation labs to the larger community, comprising NTUC members and past participants of the U Future Leaders programe, for the first time. The inaugural IEX will take participants to the labs of Intel on 3 February 2017, Dentsu Aegis Network on 17 February 2017, Procter & Gamble on 7 April 2017 and Microsoft on 5 May 2017.