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Content provided by :  Hong Kong Trade Development Council

Saluting SME Innovation

Dean Stallard

Big businesses are being challenged by entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as innovation leaders. That’s according to Dean Stallard, Regional Director of Hays in Hong Kong, who says that placing greater focus on recruiting innovative staff will enable big business to improve their status as industry innovators and leaders.

Why do big corporations lag behind SMEs when it comes to innovation?
Corporate innovation can sometimes be obstructed by a lack of understanding, commitment, direction or integration. Programmes intended to drive innovation may sometimes be de-prioritised given pressing business commitments that without board level support, the vision gets lost and put to one side.

Why do you think smaller operators are the true champions of innovation?
Entrepreneurs tend to possess a can-do mindset and perceive challenges as opportunities, which enable them to invent new ideas, products and services. The nimble nature of smaller organisations also allows for change to happen at a faster pace compared to larger, established firms.

What can big business learn from SMEs and entrepreneurs?
Real change takes time to develop and that means big businesses must show perseverance in driving change. This is a key attribute that many entrepreneurs possess as they are able to bounce back from failures, learn from them and try again in a different way.

“Some of the most effective innovations are small tweaks or new developments that layer on top of existing systems and processes rather than replacing them entirely.”

How can big business foster innovation in the workplace?
The first step in achieving innovation in the workplace is to allow your employees to cultivate ideas, which enables individuals to unlock their entrepreneurial spirit. Additionally, organisations can set expectations by making it clear that innovation does not mean the invention of groundbreaking products or to disrupt the current business model in place. Some of the most effective innovations are small tweaks or new developments that layer on top of existing systems and processes rather than replacing them entirely.

How long is the average return on investment from innovation?
Innovation is not an immediate asset to add to your company tool kit or balance sheet, which means it can be difficult to predict its return on investment.

How are job prospects in Hong Kong looking for 2017?
The fast-changing business landscape in 2017 will usher in a rising number of new positions in areas of digital marketing and cybersecurity. This will lead to fierce competition for candidates who will feel confident asking for increased pay and benefit packages due to the lack of available talent in the market. Organisations are not only looking for employees with technical skills, but those who are also creative and have an entrepreneurial mindset so that they can apply disruptive technologies to attract clients and enhance customer loyalty.

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