Today, hot on the heels of courses such as Digital Marketing, Lean & Agile, and Blockchain, SmartUp officially launches Innovation Management. Created in partnership with Scott Bales, Managing Director of Innovation Labs Asia, this course will teach you how to start your organisation on the path to digital innovation.
Described as a “Digital Warrior”, Scott Bales is thought-leaderwith more than 10 years of international experience in digital transformation strategy. He thrives on the intersection between cultural and behavioural changes in the face of technology innovations and has run workshops all over the world.

What is Innovation Labs Asia and why did you start the company?

Innovation Labs Asia is a boutique Innovation Consulting Agency. We work with large and small organisations helping them navigate their digital transformation, providing thought-leadership content and marketing services as well as innovation workshops and consulting.
I have also written a best selling book “Mobile Ready” and my latest book “Innovation Wars” will be released in 2019.

What were some jobs you’ve held and how did they steer you to this business of helping corporates innovate?

My career has been in banking and finance and the biggest thing I have learnt is that we need to start with the customer rather than the technology. If we want to innovate we can’t just decide to “do Blockchain”, we need to talk to our customers, find out what their needs are and then innovate to meet their needs.

Why is it so important for corporates to get on the innovation bandwagon?

It is very important that corporates don’t just get on the “buzzword bandwagon” as I like to call it.
Often businesses engage in ‘Innovation Theatre’ where it is all being seen to be innovative to their investors, customers and entire industries. But real innovation is about changing your operating model and enabling a business to consistently and repeatedly move with the times.
The model we talk about is about having empathy with our customers and using this to create opportunities. Creating a natural curiosity in your organisation about the evolving needs of your client. Whether that be an individual consumer, a corporate, or even a government. Companies need to understand habits, behaviours, goals and pain points to see how they can change over time so that their business is in the best position to evolve.

For a rank-and-file employee, how can he/she get onboard with his/her company’s ambition to be more innovative?

The reality is that there are a lot of individuals inside firms who are seeking to reinvent themselves.
What we need to figure out is how employees can get better at getting involved at the grassroots level of innovation. This is typically about your culture, mindset and operating model for understanding the market. More junior staff in the organization are ideally placed as they are often frontline staff in terms of sales or customer service that speak to the customer day in, day out.
If these junior staffs were armed with the right series of frameworks and investigation techniques, they can be vitally important to contributing to customer understanding. Particularly as to what pains customers have with your services. These employees need to be empowered to be more innovative in how the company responds to their customers’ needs.

What can learners expect from the Innovation Management Snapshot?

The Innovation Management Snapshot has been designed to create a digestible experience for people who are curious to develop their skills and understanding as it relates to innovation. Your organization may or may not have its own innovation function or program internally, but you may have a personal desire to explore things for yourself.
If you look at the most innovative companies, they naturally encourage curiosity and investigation within their workforce. So the Innovation Snapshot is meant to enable you to be a self-empowered, self-driven individual. The Innovation Snapshot is meant to give you the understanding of skills, mindsets, frameworks, data and case studies to guide you on your journey.
We have structured it in a way that you can consume it piece by piece in small chunks of content that flow sequentially into a journey. Completing this journey will allow you to the confidence to tackle a current opportunity for showing innovative behaviour inside your organisation.

What – in your opinion – is the biggest hurdle lying in the innovation journey … for companies? And for the individual?

I am often asked this question. Both in relation to a business trying to reinvent itself for the digital world and the new consumer or for the individual who may want to be more entrepreneurial and branch out from their day job and try to start up a new small business.  There are two or three key common challenges that most face.
The first is around biases. Experience creates an inherent bias within the psychology of you as an individual. You know too much! The first rule of innovation is assuming nothing.
The second is around natural curiosity – if we can go back to the natural curiosity of a child – we are open to learning everything. If you have been in the industry for 20 – 25 years and have a wealth of experience on how things operate in the past, that doesn’t necessarily equip you with the right mindset or the right outlook in terms of the future of the industry. This is called the innovator’s dilemma. You know too much about how you succeeded in the past and that could make you blind to how you could potentially succeed in the future.
The next big thing is around your whole mindset and that’s what we call fixed versus growth mindset or optimism versus pessimism. Innovation typically brings about the introduction of change and, change can be scary. It forces individuals and companies to question their relevance.
To summarise the key challenges are typically around mindsets – pessimism versus of optimism, bias or essentially your historical experience and then politics and bureaucracy.
I hope that through this innovation journey with SmartUp, you get a chance to find ways to overcome these.
The SmartUp x Innovation Labs Asia course on Innovation Management is available to SmartUp’s corporate clients and training partners. For more information, please contact us at