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Mar 01, 2012

Innovating the Future

Innovating the Future
Valerio Nannini
Mr Valerio Nannini, Chairman of SMa Innovation and Productivity Function Committee (IPFC), also Managing Director for Nestlé Singapore.
Against the backdrop of global economic uncertainties, many companies are unsure of what lies ahead for them in 2012. However, one thing is for sure – innovation and productivity must take centre stage in any business plan for the year ahead.

Read on as Mr Valerio Nannini, Chairman of SMa Innovation and Productivity Function Committee (IPFC), also Managing Director for Nestlé Singapore – one of the world’s Top 50 Most Innovative Companies – shares with CONNECT why innovation should be part of a business strategy, and how SMEs can do it without burning a hole in their pockets.

As a Board Member of National Research Foundation and Chairman for SMa IPFC, how do you see Singapore and the manufacturing sector evolve to ride the waves of change in 2012?

I hope to see Singapore become the Incubator of Innovation for the region, and evolve into a Global Centre of Excellence for Innovation. At this point, I think manufacturers do not realise that Singapore has a rare and rich eco-system that supports innovation. The new generation should leverage that advantage, and let innovation drive productivity.

Why is innovation important?

To be successful in business, it is not enough to just satisfy consumers, we must delight them. With the digital age and social media, consumer these days are becoming more aware as well as demanding. As such, there is the constant need for continuous improvement and innovation.

Innovation = product development. Do you agree?

Innovation is more than new products – it is a mindset and behavior influenced by our beliefs, value, culture and vision. Innovation in business is about finding new ways to create future value for our consumers. It challenges the status quo to design products and solutions that meet unsatisfied, new or hidden consumer needs.

Does innovation always require huge investment? What can SMEs with limited resources do to innovate?

The Singapore government has many organisations and set-ups, e.g. SPRING, A*STAR and trade associations like SMa, which supports SMEs in terms of funding and help in R&D capabilities and facilities. Besides product innovation, SMEs may also want to explore packaging, services and operations. Be open to opportunities by listening to internal employees and through networking with others.

How can SMEs start innovating?

Start with the Consumer or Customer – make him/her the heart of all that you think, do and act. Embrace the digital and social media - set up a website, learn and understand the trends and behaviours in that space to get insights on consumers’ needs and wants.

Innovation is more than new products – it is a mindset and behavior influenced by beliefs, value, culture and vision.
How do companies internalise the value of innovation?

We are all prisoners of our mental model. In Nestlé, for example, we encourage our staff to evolve their mindset and embrace innovation as part of Nestlé’s DNA – to learn, unlearn and relearn. As part of induction, our staff goes through the Change Management programme where they learn to change their current mindset, unlearn old habits and relearn new ways of doing things so we can constantly improve operations and services.

Also, when you introduce change, it should be visible, and have an impact on the little things first. For example, if you’re in a factory and you’d like to change the workers’ uniform, let the people decide the colour and design. Little action like this sparks their creativity and can have a big impact. These are things that can be introduced by everybody and they work everywhere.

How did you do it in Nestlé?

When I joined Nestlé Singapore, I shifted my office from an enclosed area to somewhere visible and open. It breaks boundaries – people started approaching me on a peer level and I like it because they are more genuine and truthful. My staff is a great source of inspiration, and they help me get a better picture of what really is happening in the organisation. These little actions have translated to big results. In terms of market share, growth and relationship with retailers, we are all in line with the market, if not ahead.

Age : 50+
Family : Married to Susy. They have a 25-year old son working in Investment Banking in London and a 14-year old daughter who is in school in Singapore.
Education : Mr Valerio Nannini holds a Masters in Business Administration, a Masters in General Chemistry and a Diploma from IMD, Programme on Executive Development.
SMa CONNECT - Innovating the FutureExternal link

*Article courtesy of SMa CONNECT. SMa CONNECT is a quarterly magazine by the Singapore Manufacturers’ Federation (SMa).
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