Asking the Asian audience here about their views on innovation proved interesting.
For example, defining innovation as complete renewal and transformation, rather than incremental improvement, led me to the assertion that to be innovative you must have the mandate of the business owner, CEO ore equivalent.
So, we posed that question to the audience and they were split 50/50 on whether this was true or not.
That was a shock, but then again no as it may be more of a reflection of the Asian way and view of life. Asian markets view change and implementation as a consensual program, run by committees where all individuals act as a cohesive whole
American and European markets operate on an individualised basis, where each member of the team is trying to be the star. There may have to be consensus, but the most senior member of the consensus wins.
This is a key learning point for any organisation in dealing with the challenge of Asian markets, as the individualistic and ego-driven approaches fail here.
Hence, a CEO mandate is not a requirement for innovation, although a management mandate to do something counts for something.
Even so, it left me wondering as far too often I join a change program and talk about how to create innovation, which requires eradicating any barriers to change.
These barriers may be imagined or real, but they must all be known at the start in terms of what can and cannot change.
If there are any sacred cows, so to speak, then these must be clearly identified up front or the change program will fail.,
After all, if your innovation is to go out and get the bank into manufacturing, that may be a leap too far. Equally, creating a bank strategy that involves going head-to-head against Apple may be a touch too far.
So the clear mandate to change and references for change must be in play, whether you are in Asian or America or Europe.
The real difference I think the Asian audience vote makes is that American or European change teams will come up with great ideas, but will then shoot them down saying things like: “oh, Mr SVP of X won’t allow that to happen” or “the EVP for Y will block this”.
And they give up and don’t take things forward. The result is that many ideas are shot down in flames before they get started.
The Asian groups would never do that.
However, they would do something different.
They would come up with the great ideas and float them through the management, regardless of how challenging and different.
Then the committee will wear things down to the lowest common denominator of change, and the program will be equally challenged.
In other words, what you need is the committee and the individual.
The individual who can over-ride the committee if something is obviously worthwhile to do, and the committee to override the individual when there is something worthy but challenging.
And by combining both approaches, maybe you get the best of both worlds and maybe, just maybe, that’s the biggest opportunity for those banks that claim to be truly globalised.