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Innovation is everyone's job: DBS' Neal Cross

Nurdianah Md Nur | Sept. 14, 2015
The Singapore bank's Chief Innovation Officer shares tips on how to encourage innovation across an organisation.

The job of our innovation group is to get the rest of the bank to innovate — we're all about being inclusive. There are a number of ways to do that. If you want to include everyone inside the organisation, do something like crowdsourcing, in which you get everyone in the company to contribute ideas, comment on them, and collaborate to bring them to life. That's a good way of warming them up.

Another way is to introduce employees to the innovation ecosystem by enabling them to collaborate on innovative ideas with startups, industry partners, and universities. The important thing is to bring in new processes — you need to bring in things like design thinking, experimentation and lean startups. These will help employees frame their thinking to be more innovative.

Leaders also need to change how they reward employees. Employees that embark on innovation projects should be highlighted and rewarded, even if the project is not successful. It is important to celebrate failure because if people aren't failing, they're not being ambitious or trying hard enough.

Innovation is said to be based on ideas. However, it is not viable for organisations to pursue every single idea proposed. How should leaders decide if an idea should be embarked on or not?
Firstly, innovation is not about ideas - instead, it is about culture.

Next, the problem with innovation today is that companies are building innovative products without consulting the customers/end-users. To counter this, organisations should rapidly come up with ideas and innovation, then visualise them in a cheap way -for example, drawing it out on paper- before proposing the new idea/ "offering" to customers for their feedback. After which, organisations need to tweak their offering based on the customers' comments and present the improved product to the customers again. The tweaking process will continue till the customers say that the revised product is the exact thing that they are looking for to meet their needs. These customers can be internal customers, such as staff or partners, or external customers.

So, in short, a lot of rapid prototyping is needed, and take your ego out of the innovation process — you don't know best; only the customers know what they want.

What's the one point that you'd like the delegates to take away from your presentation?
The single most important thing about innovation is just go out and do something, even if it fails because unless you're failing, you're not being ambitious enough. But do it in a safe place where it's not going to hurt customers, such as in a sandbox.

In this world of disruption, if you're moving too slowly, you're not going to be around forever. So be ambitious, try something, fail, pick yourself up, try again and succeed. 


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