9 Leaders in Malaysia Share their Corporate Innovation Advice

 9 Leaders in Malaysia Share their Corporate Innovation Advice
March 27, 2023

9 Leaders in Malaysia Share their Corporate Innovation Advice

Malaysia is currently ranked 37th in the Global Innovation Index and is quickly climbing up the rankings. Leaders of enterprise are driving this growth. Following on from our write-up on insights from Singaporean innovation leaders, find below insights from their Malaysian neighbours.

What is the biggest barrier to corporate innovation you’ve encountered and how did or are you overcoming it?

Nathanael Noiraud

Founder and CEO, N-Strategy Consulting Services

From my various experiences implementing corporate innovations such as internal organization simplification and improvement, Sales workflow optimisation, new strategy and commercial tools adoption etc. the main barrier has often appeared to be the insufficient onboarding of the team members in the process.Rather than a traditional top-down approach, it is crucial to involve from the early stage the main actors of the upcoming transformation: your team members. As such, I always approach corporate innovation, whether big or small, as a team decision. The coercive approach often proves unsuccessful and generates unnecessary tensions. We often mislabel the lack of consensus and positive team dynamic as a reluctance to change or adapt. It is easier said for a leader that the team is not ready for the change than to insufflate this change by involving the collaborators into the corporate innovation process. From my experience, proceeding with a constructive and teamwork approach not only fosters the support and adoption of the innovation but also contributes to the ongoing improvement of all related processes, leading to better results at individual, team and corporate levels.

Galia Forouzesh

Digital Strategy & Innovation (Head of Digital), Dentsu Malaysia

We should define innovation in the first place. I personally have faced more than one barrier. The mindset, the fear, the hows and the which way do we go and many more. The digital world is so very dynamic that one minute we think VR is the future the next we are worrying about a particular Facebook ad and whether it has reached enough people to meet the KPI.

So where do we start? Do we look after the current 2018/2019 needs or do we commit resources to coming up with an IoT solution that can change future behaviours?

To overcome these barriers, we start small, innovating within a task or within a mindset, Innovation doesn’t need to be a new embedded system with a brand new chip. Using the tools around us and changing one detail at a time – a significant change of course. It is important to never look back and always thinking about what else we can do and how else can we do it.

Sean Wong

Director, Digital Innovation, WGroup

Many believe a big barrier to corporate innovation comes from leadership being fearful to try new things. I would instead say most leadership understand the importance of innovation and are instead looking for a pragmatic approach to innovation which minimizes disruptions to the business processes.To me, the biggest barrier to corporate innovation would be achieving total alignment across senior management into what it really means. Having a transformation strategy and bold plans will only go so far without clarity on how it would benefit the people running day to day operations. I find the best way to approach it is to build momentum quickly by identifying quick wins (eg digitizing inefficient processes to improve work experience and unlocking analytics) while consistently addressing the next concerns before they appears in the horizons. This momentum will then enable larger transformation possibilities and higher levels of participation from the organization compared to just pushing it down from the top.

Leon Jackson

Director of Innovation, Strateq

What is it about corporate culture or realities that stops us from having reinvented ourselves like AirBnB, Uber, Netflix and Amazon? I think the answer is a combination of factors including the following:

  • Doing a Kodak – what I mean by this is being caught in a Kodak moment, whereby an addiction to an old business model can make a company miss a chance to develop and invest a new one while there was still an opportunity. Selling film was too lucrative for Kodak that they missed the digital camera opportunity even though they had produced some of the first working technology.
  • Not allocating resources to experiment and persevere – since we are trying to define what markets want, it makes sense to experiment. To start with a small area, perhaps do a MVP experiment, or engage a really enthusiastic or passionate group of customers. This is the biggest blunder I see, organisations are so used to working on large 5-10 year blueprints and commitments, that they don’t form separate teams to run experiments and keep collecting data on what works and what does not.
  • Having the right mix of talent. You are probably going to be competing with the Startups for talent – so prepare to engage with them like Startups while offering them better benefits for working with an incumbent.

Hazim Nazlan

Senior Executive (Strategy & Innovation), Sime Darby Plantation

Organisations in Malaysia face a big challenge to execute ideas. There is no doubt that we have the ability to generate great ideas, but the ability to follow through is lacking. It is vital for us to increase our pace of commercialisation in order to keep ahead in today’s ever changing world.A major driver in executing innovation today is the ability to leverage the digital economy. We have great potential in harvesting valuable results from abundant data, insights and unlimited connectivity between all stakeholders. Organisations should increase the number of collaborations in order to create more sustainable and efficient innovation execution platforms.

Melissa Woo

Product & Innovation, Media Prima Digital

We’ve always been known as a traditional media company, so there was much to catch up on in this digital-first era. I would say the biggest challenge to corporate innovation is changing mindsets and attitudes that are resistant to change and adopting digital innovation as part of the company culture. The shift in paradigm from traditional to digital has not been a bed of roses for us, but being the digital arm in the company, we’ve started experimenting with new ideas, taking risks and working closely with partners in the industry who are able to add value based on their experience. We seem to be on the right path so far!

Suresh Naidu Sadasivan

Innovation Advisor, BLOKTEX

Innovation is considered to be important to the continuing success of an organization. We are currently advising corporates, both private and government linked companies, on implementation of Blockchain Technology. The biggest innovation barrier that I have encountered is the reluctance of organizations to adopt a new technology. When a need is identified through workshops, the management takes a few steps back. To overcome this it is important to get buy i from higher management or the board of directors.

One more barrier is lack of urgency among most executives to push themselves for continuous learning. I have to make sure that they unlearn what they have learnt first before adopting the new area. In most cases I always encourage them to read as much as possible.

Arnold Aranez

Director of Innovation Delivery, AIA

There are two pieces of advice that I’d like to share to organisations who are embarking on an innovation journey : think big but start small and get the right people.

“Think Big, but start small” is about incremental and iterative delivery of value to provide evidence to support your experiments and concepts and grow trust in your teams capability to deliver. Without this trust, it’s difficult to gain supporting coalition members from the executive team. There’s a massive difference when your CEO and CFO get what you are doing and backing you all the way and I found the best way to gain their trust is by frequently showing them progress and learnings.It’s also imperative that you get the right people on the team from the get-go. I seek individuals who have experience leading enterprise change and delivery, influencers, life-learners and those passionate about innovation. As you can see, I don’t emphasize simply employing start-up people or entrepreneurs since many of them have not had to teach elephants how to dance. Find those who have and your chances of victory will increase tenfold.

Namanzee Harris

Head of Content Strategy & Innovation, Astro

Change. It’s probably the most overused word in organizational culture and structure. Change is constant, change is inevitable. You hear it more often than your parents telling you to clean up your room or be a good person. Changing requires a deeper and more engaged process than just deciding that one needs to learn coding and programming. Change is the single biggest barrier to corporate innovation and the single biggest challenge to change is corporate structural legacy.So much time and energy is lost to the political whirlwind that by the time an idea gets through or gets approved, 10 other companies are already generating revenue from it and launching 2.0. The structural wall of hierarchy needs to be demolished and a much more flat structure needs to be re-introduced. Dynamic organizational structure is the way of the future.Bring down the hierarchical wall of corporate culture and change will happen and inevitably, bring about corporate innovation.

Innovate or die.

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Shay Namdarian

Shay is the General Manager of Customer Strategy at Collective Campus. He has over 8 years of experience working across a wide range of projects focusing on customer experience, design thinking, innovation and digital transformation. He has gained his experience across several consulting firms including Ernst & Young, Capgemini and Accenture.

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