Status quo vs. Samoa’s innovation

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Orlando Huaman*

I think we can all agree that the large majority of countries in the world that have reached a high state of economic and social development have not done so without having developed an advanced industrial sector. 

Yet I think we can equally agree that prosperity is still very far from being achieved throughout the world and that remarkable differences remain—unacceptable differences I would say—between and within regions, countries and societies. 

This is because too many times in the past economic growth has occurred without providing the opportunity of participation and reward to significant segments of the population, and women and youth in particular.

While there may have been some debate in the past, we should remain strongly convinced that the manufacturing sector remains critically important in both the developing and the developed countries. 

In the former, it continuous to provide a pathway from subsistence agriculture to rising income and living standards. In the later, it remains a vital source of innovation and competitiveness, making significant contribution to research and development, export and productivity growth. 

The manufacturing sector continues to be the hub for innovation and technological change. Technology innovation and economic growth are closely related and can be represented as cycles or waves. 

Innovation is no longer an option, it is a must for progress.

In an interview with Mr. Karl Maslo—the guru of innovation - an ex-regional manager of EXSA, a company that produces explosives using ammonium nitrate. His concern became evident when his company in order, to survive the competition, had to find a new technology to produce explosives in a more efficient manner. He led a team that came out with an excellent substitute called Quantex.

The following questions and its respective answers were put to him:

Is it possible to develop a process of innovation in all kinds of companies?

Definitely! The process of innovation is not exclusive to companies of a certain size or sectors. What is more, if a company is not thinking in developing a process of innovation sooner or later will have difficulties.

Innovation is no longer an option if you want to stay in business long and productive. Is innovation the same as digital transformation?

No. It is a part of the innovation. Innovation per-se is much broader.

What are you referring to when you say: Think about innovation?

Innovation  by definition is to do things in a different manner, new, and practical that will generate a good return to the company. If you don’t develop a project with these characteristics, it is not innovation.

If we are going to identify a requirement, that can’t be absent in any organization that is going into innovative ways it is the full commitment at the higher level in any organization. If this requirement does not exist, no innovation is possible.

This requirement is the same for any organization of any type, NGOs or any government. If the lider is not convinced of the need, and in the advantages of implementing a process to innovate it won’t work. He/she might not know anything about innovation, but at least knows that is important and must be done. This is the first step. But sooner or later, and in order for the innovation to work, he/she must comprehend the advantages that the innovation offers and support it to the limit.

In this process all the company must participate or just one area or unity?

Now we are talking about the culture of innovation. The commitment of the higher ups is critical, the other requirement is that everyone must cooperate. It is a matter of culture. It is like asking yourself when you get up in the morning: what can I do different or better to change things around the company? If that is realized, the success is assured.

Does innovation can be spontaneous or require a methodology.?

Some people will agree, while other disagree on the need to give formality to the process. The truth is for this process to be able to be carried out and thus channeled in the best way we need to give it a frame of reference, a methodology a system. It is also true that in a beginning it can be an intuitive process, subjective and based exclusively in the talent of a group of persons, but in order to give it continuity, support and sustainability we need a system.

Can any company work it alone or they need of a special consultant.?

There are not recipes. But there is also true that a company can do it all by itself, and to a certain degree. 

Innovation is a long process, that starts from scratch, where there is a lot of trial and error; until it make sense. But it could be shorter if the company brings in consultants from outside who would help implement the required system. 

And this special consultant, would he/she be a theoretical guru of the process of innovation or a laboratory specialized in innovation at a executive level.?

Both ways are valid. As we said before, it is a trial and error process where you can try many things until you define what is the best way and more convenient.

Is it possible to give continuity to these processes of innovation if the CEO who started the whole thing is no longer with the company.?

Precisely, that is why the system is for, so the process keeps going without the leader.

What is the first step to “think in innovation”?

Innovation does not have any recipe. It has different paths and must adjust to the reality of the company. If one asks is there any “road map”? The answer is; there is no such road map. In the case of EXSA we started to think in innovation because of a necessity in order to look for disruptive solutions to give continuity to the company. It is hard to say, such and scheme is the right one. Each organization  should discover which one is the best recipe that will take him/her to innovate and innovation.

Does an innovation will have obligatorily be borne from a necessity or for any other reasons?

In the case of EXSA it was out of necessity. There are some companies that they realize that they have to implement a process of innovation in order to keep up with the market, others they do it because they see the opportunity of taking advantage of a business, and discover the urgency to change a model to survive and thus look for more return to the shareholders.

If in fact there is no such thing as a recipe, what would be the first step to start the route of an innovation.?

If in fact there is a first step, that would be to sit down and have a deep reflection about the idea at the higher level of the organization. The key is to take the time to do that. Days and days might pass without thinking about the need to innovate. It could be a need, to take advantage of an opportunity in the business, see and monitor where the negative impact might come out. Some others will see that is the way to to keep the business for a long time. Therefore, the causes for which a company initiate a process of innovation is diverse. But always part of a deep reflection.

What is Design Thinking in this context.?

It is a specific form, a method, of how to configure an innovation. It could be specific for any particular company. That is, each company should develop its own way, because, there are not two companies alike. 

For Samoa to get off of the present status-quo, a wave of innovation should sweep MAF, MOH, and MESC and some.

Why? By not doing so, we will be punishing future generations. We should wake up and shake ourselves of our state of laxity and promote a dynamic stay of things. Example better and modern way to use our land, opportunity for the youth and women to participate fully in the country development. Mitigate poverty by proclaiming cooperation more than competition.

Innovation must be our battle cry against poverty and dependency. We have the human sources: women and youth desirous to have a better future.

Innovation can be as huge as a new constitution or as tiny as a medical microchip. Innovation can change the way we work, live, pray and play. Innovation in the U.S.A. have taken place in the following areas so far: food, housing, religion, tech., kids, design, transportation, health care, law, and government.

 

*Orlando Huaman is a freelance writer. Malololelei.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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