Game Changers

Hong Kong firms should learn from Uber, Google and foster innovation within: Game Changers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 June, 2015, 5:56pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 August, 2015, 10:16am

Hong Kong enterprises are in need of a more open and entrepreneur-friendly management style to cultivate innovation within their ranks, industry experts said on Thursday at the second South China Morning Post Game Changers forum.

The prime examples cited during the event's panel discussion on innovation agility were internet giant Google and ride-hailing app Uber, whose representatives said their corporate culture fostered the sharing of ideas.

"To become more agile, organisations must push the principles of leadership, accountability, passion and drive for the business throughout the organisation -- literally," said Wu Po Chi, an adjunct professor in the school of engineering at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Wu pointed out that many companies still followed a "hierarchical" leadership, in which information is held captive at the highest levels of management.

"So what all the people there can do is follow instructions. That is what makes a very rigid organisation, incapable of adapting to change and meeting challenges," he said.

In the highly competitive industries in which Google and Uber operate, the decisions on what product to offer or strategy to pursue are based on carefully vetted ideas from the their organisations.

Dominic Allon, the managing director at Google Hong Kong, said the company's innovation policy was simply to be transparent by "empowering people to share their ideas, then give them the space, opportunity and encouragement to execute".

In Hong Kong, Google has been active at empowering start-ups and entrepreneurs through various programmes with the likes of global professional services firm KPMG, local business incubator Nest, Cyberport, and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp.

"At Uber, one of our corporate philosophies is the best idea wins. It doesn't matter who it came from," said Sam Gellman, the general manager at Uber Hong Kong. "There is nothing that will drive Travis [Kalanick], our CEO, more crazy than someone saying, 'I didn't tell you because I didn't want to step on anyone's toes'".

Wu described that open management style as inspiring confidence within the organisation. "Having more confidence and trust is essential to letting the creative energy flow among the people in an organisation, which helps them collaborate and focus on productive ideas," he said.

A report published in April by Google and the Centre for Entrepreneurship at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, urged the local business community to establish more collaborative projects with start-ups to increase innovation across industries.

It estimated that by helping around 2,800 new businesses – representing 2 per cent of the five-year average number of new business registrations in Hong Kong – over the next four years, Hong Kong can potentially create: 333,800 new jobs. It could also lead to 11,480 new start-ups, 7,800 new intellectual property applications, and an additional 0.24 per cent to the city's gross domestic product – the total value of goods and services produced by a market within a specific time.