Innovate to Stay Ahead (Business Conference)


“The enterprise that does not innovate ages and declines. And in a period of rapid change such as the present, the decline will be fast.” Peter Drucker 

Close to 600 people attended the SME Conference in Singapore on 20 March 2014 with a line-up of thought leaders such as Scott Anthony (Innosight), Sheldon Fernandez (, Peter Lim (SooKee Group), Vikram Rupani (RedMart), and Chia Kim Huat (Rajah & Tan LLP).

The invitation warned that companies will “be forced to challenge conventional business management mindsets and business models in order to keep pace with the competition.” The solutions we used yesterday may not make sense for the realities of today. Bill Gates has remarked that “Microsoft is always two years away from failure.”

If you are just a small business owner, can you also be innovative? Absolutely. Scott Anthony (who writes for the Harvard Business Review) defined innovation as “something different that creates value”, pointing out that it did not have to be a new product, but it could be a process that was simpler, faster, and cheaper. He hailed QB House as one of his favourite examples of innovation because of the clever ways they had revamped the traditional business model. (If you are not familiar with QB House, they provide quality haircuts within 10 minutes for $10!)

Business owners can ask themselves 4 questions to nudge innovative change:

  1. What customer group are we not reaching because our current solution is inconvenient, too expensive, or too hard to use?
  2. How does our current offering overshoot our customers by providing features or functions they don’t want or need?
  3. What problems related to our solution does our customer struggle to solve? How might we develop services to address those problems?
  4. What would it look like if we let the customer do it themselves?

Steve Jobs: “It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.”

Above all, to be innovative, we have to try things out. He asked: how do you learn to ride a bike? Do you read a book about it? No. Do you watch a video? No. Do you look for instructions? No. You get on your bike and do it.

Mike Tyson: “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.”

Scott Anthony closed his speech with a message to pay attention and make friends with the weird people around us, the ones who are different, and to embrace new ideas and possibilities. After all, he said: “Magic happens at intersections.”

The next post will continue with more insights from business leaders at the conference. Come back soon or follow this blog to stay in the loop.


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