MALAYSIAN companies have to be more innovative if they want to succeed in the global marketplace.
And this means management needs to inculcate in their organisations a climate of creativity, said management consultant Dr Meriam Ismail.
“To innovate, you need creativity. This can be inculcated in the organisation by altering the structure, and by having more lines of communication open and less conflict,” she told StarBiz in an interview.
Replying to a question, she said small organisations also innovate, though the larger ones (with more than 2,000 employees) innovate better. Local organisations, however, tend to be less creative than their foreign counterparts.
“Because creativity is an essential element for innovation, local organisations should improve the creative climate within the corporation,” she added.
Innovation does not always mean new ideas or practices, she emphasised. It can also mean improving on current practices or processes to bring about better performance, and thus benefit the company, whether monetarily or non-monetarily.
To help Malaysian companies determine their level of innovativeness, Meriam has put together a 16-page handbook, InoQ, which assesses innovation in two aspects – technological and organisational.
InoQ, which contains 36 items on a rating scale continuum of 1 to 6, is available online at www.mowalis.com.my.
“InoQ can help companies gauge or assess their level of innovation, and know their strengths and weaknesses. From there they can draw up further strategies improve themselves,'' Meriam said.
One strategy to draw out creativity in the people in an organisation is through learning. “The organisation has to make learning part and parcel of its activities at the various levels: individual, group, organisational, and global,” she stressed.
“The individual must have the motivation to go and seek knowledge, seek new experiences, and have the right attitude to learn, to better himself, in order to perform the tasks the organisation expects of him.”
Group level learning can be done through teamwork, with the organisation encouraging their employees to interact in a team.
“You have a project development team and others to perform certain tasks to achieve your organisational goals,” she said.
“The more often the employees interact as a team, the better they communicate and the better they can get the ideas flowing, especially if they are not confined within their own specialities.”
At the organisational level, employees must be empowered to decide on certain things and to make adjustments accordingly. This also entails documenting all the ideas and information and skills and knowledge, so these can be shared among all employees.
And, it need not be success stories only, as certain failed projects can also be a learning experience, Meriam said.
This organisational level learning can be shared via an intranet or a bulletin board, or documented in learning modules and kept in a library for reference among employees, and even others outside the organisation.
Top management has to exercise strategic leadership, bringing in useful experiences from what happens outside the organisation so that it will be in line with what is happening globally.