Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sharing Nugget #63

#63: Wee Kim Wee Lunchtime Talk Reflection 1

This is a critique submission for a Arts Module that requires us to reflect on the presentations of various speakers who will share insights throughout the weeks.

On 16 January 2008, Mr Chandran Dharmarajan, a marketing consultant with Kraft Asia, spoke on “Innovation: What it is, how do we do it right?” during the 2nd Wee Kim Wee Lunchtime Talk of the new term.

Mr Chandran structured his presentation in a clear and concise flow. His style was engaging. Content-wise, he led the audience through an intellectual exercise: Why do companies innovate? What then is innovation? How do companies innovate? Through insights, anecdotes and empirical examples, he kept us engaged throughout. Furthermore, his questions to the audience drew good participation from professors and students. What are the key insights he shared?

On “Why do companies innovate”, he introduced a mantra: Innovate or Evaporate! The insight encapsulates this part of the presentation perfectly. He began by telling us how companies have evolved their approaches to gain brand differentiation. He emphasized that innovation is what drives brand relevance in our dynamic contemporary world. His introduction of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution showed the theory-grounded qualitative aspect of his discussion. As a social science student, I am impressed. His story of how Gillette constantly innovates to stay relevant, helped us internalize the key idea of the need to innovate or evaporate.

Next, on “What is innovation”, he explains that it is “doing things better than they were being done before”. While the validity of the notion of “better” was being questioned by members of the audience, Mr chandran was able to convince us that while the term is subjective, it is really about bettering “a set of attributes for a certain set of answers”. Again, he used the examples of the I-Pod versus other mp3 players and of sound quality versus surface feel to reinforce the need to better cater to consumer preferences. Meanwhile, he shattered long-held myths of innovation with anecdotes. For example, actually, everyone can innovate! We do that all the time when trying to find a shorter way to get around.

Finally, on “How do companies innovate”, he used the story of how the companies of gaming consoles used insights and innovation to win the market. Insights, he tells us, are some truths that explain the way people behave, and are the bedrock behind innovations. The quality of insight determines success. As such, he concluded with a golden nugget: That only with process, people and insight - driven by a desire for perfection - can companies truly ride the wave of innovation and sail out to the rich waters of abundant profits. This is what innovation is, and this is how to do it right.


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