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Where Ideas Flourish

Innovation has long been in ST Engineering’s lifeblood.

However, to build on innovative competence, there is a need to continue nurturing a spirit of ‘divine discontent’. Never resting on our laurels, we must constantly look for ways to improve - pushing boundaries, expanding our imaginations and exploring what others may deem impossible. Building such an innovative culture will require us to progressively put in place leadership practices, processes, structures, and incentives to support organic innovation.

In my three decades of Design and Innovation experience in both the private and public sectors, I hope to share what I’ve distilled about having an ‘Innovation Mindset’. As human beings, we are biased creatures, shaped by our life experiences, work environment, and cultural context, among many other things. Oftentimes, our biases prevent us from stepping out of our self-limiting perceived boundaries.

To overcome these biases, we can apply four key mindsets:

1. Empathetic Mindset

It’s essential to understand the end-user’s context, so that we can uncover their real needs. Even though we are a B2B business, and don’t deal with end-users or consumers, this is still relevant, and necessary. Without these insights, it would be hard for us to be of service and value for the people we are attempting to help.

2. Collaborative Mindset

Work with as diverse a team as possible, so that we can regularly challenge one another’s biases. This also gives us access to a variety of experiences and expertise which can lead us to create better, more innovative solutions.

3. Experimental Mindset

Innovation, by definition, is about doing things that have not been done before. Given this context, supervisors or senior colleagues can’t be expected to possess more knowledge to a problem than those working directly on it. Following hierarchy and getting directions from seniors will not validate your ideas. The most viable way is to experiment; testing diverse approaches, examining failures and iterating will enable you to validate your ideas and improve on them.

4. Expansive Mindset

A successful experiment that validates our idea is just the beginning. We must learn to look beyond at how our idea fits within different levels of the ecosystem. We may be able to explore different business models, different partners, or even different markets if we look beyond our current problem space.

Thus, fostering an innovative culture within ST Engineering is continuous; we have an integrated Innovation Framework and have been intentional about jumpstarting our innovation engine, providing failure-tolerant spaces to innovate, and a roadmap for building an even more innovative culture. At the same time, we are investing time into inculcating the above-mentioned Innovation Mindsets with our employees, so they can apply it in their innovation projects and maximise overall innovation proficiency, and that innovation will spark organically from anywhere within the Group.

The journey to building an Innovation Culture for any organisation will certainly be laden with obstacles and challenges, many of which would be unforeseeable. The key is to be resilient and to keep honing the innovation muscle so that it becomes second nature.

As such, it is crucial to put in place policies, processes, structures, and incentives to bolster innovative behaviour. Most importantly, leaders across all levels must excel at driving KPI – that is, Keeping People Inspired!

By Alexander Lau
Vice President, Venture Building & Ventures OpenLab
ST Engineering