Asia 'best placed to gain from innovation-led global economy'

Economy September 11, 2012 00:00

By Pichaya Changsorn
The Nation

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Fredrik Haren, a well-known speaker on business creativity and innovation, says Asia, despite its tarnished image on fake goods and copyright violation, is in the best position to gain from the current innovation-led global economy.

Citing the Bangkok Dental Hospital, which has created a new form of dental care with a spa-like atmosphere and services, among other examples, Haren said he would put his money on Asia, where he has been living for six years.

“So, who is in the best position? … You are. I put my money on you because I live here,” the Swedish author of “Idea Book” – included in the “Top 100 Business Books of All Time” – told a conference held in Bangkok last week by professional-services firm KPMG. The event was attended by about 100 chief executives and other business leaders from top Thai and international companies.

Haren, who lives in Singapore, said it had never been more important than it is today that all businesses are creative. With more accessible information and knowledge, and more people with jobs where they are paid to think, the world is experiencing an “explosion of creativity”.

As a result, the most valuable skill has turned out to be the ability to demonstrate and imagine what can be done with a new thing or idea, he said, adding: “The guy who invented the laser didn’t know what to do with the laser. Other people figured that out.

“I’m not looking for people with knowledge and information. Everybody now has the information. I’m looking for people with imagination,” Haren said.

Asians have a different definition of ideas as they think there is nothing really new and, rather, that all ideas are a combination of previously known things. “A Chinese lady told me: It’s not about copyright, it’s about copying it right,” he said.

Adam Bates, KPMG’s global head of innovation, told the conference that as the pace of change accelerated throughout the world, companies must innovate to find the path to profitable growth.

“As the chairman of Nestle has said: Just keeping pace with consumers, that’s not innovation, it’s revitalisation. To maintain leadership in the market, you must go beyond what consumers want and what they think they want,” he said.

GE Thailand president Pornlert Lattanan, who attended the conference, told The Nation Haren had made a good point about the different perspectives on the meaning of innovation between Asian and Western companies.

“It depends on the criteria. If I am asked whether we are doing it well [on innovation], I think we’re doing it well and making an advance, but we have celebrated our success too little ... This has been accumulated in our culture. But to foster creativity and imagination, we need to do more to complement one another. This is even more important, as the new-generation workforce is less patient,” he said.