What's next for corporate Innovation?

WeStart Corporate Innovation Day
Westart Corporation Day

What's next for corporate innovation?

Inspired by the success of GAFAM (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft), many companies are trying to copy their work model by having more open and stylish work spaces, providing more leisure facilities like gaming console or ping pong table, flexible work hours, among others. The goal of doing all these is to generate a culture of innovation by providing a pleasant work environment.

But is the success formula that simple?

Last week Tencent WeStart, a co-working space provider by Tencent, one of the largest internet services companies in China, organized a roundtable discussion on “What’s next for corporate innovation?”

Corporate leaders, startup entrepreneurs, program mentors and innovation catalysts from different sectors joined the panel discussion to share their experiences on igniting employees' creativity, persuading senior management to adopt new technologies and brainstorming about ways to promote innovation within the corporation.

Senior management plays a crucial role

"It takes time to convince traditional corporation to adopt new technologies provided by startup companies," said Bianca Ho, co-founder of Clara.ai, a startup company providing Artificial Intelligence (AI) customer service solutions. She shared her experience pitching to senior management of big corporations. “They are not convinced that new technology can go hand in hand with the corporation’s existing products or improve them to a better version. Also, a startup company with only a few employees is not so convincing to them.” She has experienced failure but she can see the situation is changing.

Bosco Leung, senior corporate strategy manager from Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTR), said that “in large corporations, the mindsets of the employees are usually conservative and stability is important to them." He shared Ho’s view and gave tips to foster a culture of innovation in an organization: “From within a company, you need to involve senior management more so that they can gradually change their mindsets. For example, when you organize an event like hackathon, you should invite them to have a short kick-off speech and allow them to interact with participants.”

Best practice of Zurich Insurance

In the case of Zurich Insurance, Joao Andre Neiv, head of innovation in Asia-Pacific, shared his experience in promoting innovation. The company launched global insurtech competition called “Zurich Innovation World Championship” in september 2018 that attracted more than 490 ideas from 49 countries.

“This competition gives an opportunity for our staff to engage in an innovation culture by learning from the startups,” said Neiv. “We hope to use make use of the competition to foster an innovative culture from within the corporation. So we are going to have this competition every year.”

Innovation in government

Armin Reinartz, director of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Global Innovation Hub (FNF GIHub), pointed out that the experience with government is different. "Government is at the low end of the innovation trend,” he said. “The mindset of the public servant is even more conservative than employees in a big corporation.”

As a liberal foundation fully funded by the German government, the FNF culture is quite similar: “Colleagues are so fixated to the work routine and bureaucracy. We would like to look for ways to change. That’s why one of the major reasons we are setting up a global innovation hub in Hong Kong is to bring in new ideas for FNF.” The FNF GIHub is going to be opened in the middle of 2019.

“If we can learn from startup companies,” Reinartz said, “we may be able to bring in new ideas to our government for better governing and to ultimately improve citizens' livelihood.”

Westart Corporation Day