Is Innovation in Asia Different?

by Stefan Lindegaard

Is Innovation in Asia Different?Yes, innovation in Asia is different than what we see in the more Western parts of the world where the science of innovation management has been progressing longer.

I recently read a great book, Leading Innovasian – Embedding Innovation Culture in Malaysian Organizations, and I liked the perspectives on Asian innovation given by Azim Pawanchik and Dr. Suraya Sulaiman from Alpha Catalyst Consulting.

I got their permission to share the below insights from the book which I think is a great primer on the issues Asians face when it comes to innovation.

“Potential failure within the start-ups tends to be acceptable within the Western economic community as a cost of doing business. Hence many more corporations are willing to take risks, break tradition and do different things…

…In Malaysia, however, our risk averse and conservative culture, talent pool, limited size of risk capital, technological expertise and market accessibility restrict our ability to simply emulate the Western style of innovation. The reality is that our Asian culture is not going to dramatically change over the course of just a few years, and the mindset of our people certainly won’t transform overnight. We are not going to get the luxury of a sudden upsurge of cash, time, and resources to innovate. Our education system will also take time to produce innovative talents to feed into an innovation economy.

The key to innovating, then, is to take from the best and blend with the rest. In Asia’s risk-averse culture, which demonizes mistakes and failure, new insights and ideas are often too quickly and easily dismissed. As a result, truly innovative ideas rarely take off. Similarly, unless a project is safe, low-risk, and promises immediate returns on investment, it is hardly even given an adequate budget. More often than not, short-term endeavors take priority over promising, but un-conventional ones.

…Also, leaders may find themselves swamped with the traditional aspects of management, leaving them with very little time to lead the innovation process. Companies should not be surprised to find that some of their most talented, capable, and passionate employees are buried in routine tasks and day-to-day firefighting.

So, should Asians abandon the desire to innovate? The first step is that we must accept the realities of the current operating environment – and it’s packaged constraints – then develop an approach to innovation that is native to our culture, values and modus operandi. Asians must move away from focusing on best practices and, instead, work on the next big practice or our own practice. In short, we must innovate the way we innovate!”

If you like insights like this you can buy a copy of the book on this link.

Let me know if you can share other insights on Asian innovation.

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Stefan LindegaardStefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.