Game Changers

Abundance of rules in Hong Kong limiting Shenzhen-style innovation: expert

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 June, 2015, 2:50pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 June, 2015, 4:05pm

More companies in Hong Kong should collaborate and heed customer feedback to boost creativity in a city where innovation is often constrained by a traditional mix of Chinese Confucianism and British bureaucracy, a pundit from Li & Fung global trading group said Thursday.

The city’s obsession with the rule of law gives it a high international standing. But a culture obsessed with established processes - the city is famous for its lists of do's and don'ts, - can prevent the kind of entrepreneurial flashes of brilliance seen across the border in Shenzhen, said Richard Kelly, chief catalyst at the Fung Academy, which runs under the Hong Kong-based group.

“Nobody told anyone in Shenzhen what the rules are, so they’re zooming off doing crazy stuff,” he said. “Given permission and [a] platform, anybody can innovate.”

Kelly was speaking at the second South China Morning Post Game Changers forum in Hong Kong.

The academy works to develop talent and increase innovation for the group. One of its projects saw it bring a duck made using a 3D printer to retailer Toys “R” Us within a matter of weeks.

Regular employees, not just designers, should be encouraged to think big and build prototypes of their ideas, said Kelly, who previously served as managing director of design firm IDEO Asia Pacific. 

“These are regular business people, who are often stuck in those rooms, but given the right permission, with lego or paper, you can recreate the world completely how you want it to look,” he said.

He said it is important for companies to listen to the experiences and thoughts of untypical customers rather than just doing focus groups.

“I’m interested in extreme people,” he said, “I’m interested in people with three cell phones, and someone with no phone. Because people on the edges can tell you what the future’s going to look like.”