Perspectives on Innovation

Photo courtesy of Philip Stier

I asked myself the question “What do I think of when I hear the word ‘Innovation’?” To put it in the simplest form, innovation to me is anything that is ‘new’, ground breaking, state-of-theart and that requires thinking outside the box. Innovation does not have to be a big-bang approach, it can also be small and incremental creations that are novelties. In Brunei Darussalam there has been a great deal of research and development activities that are associated with innovation. What comes to mind is the current Bio-Innovation Corridor (under Energy & Industry Department, PMO).

I was curious to hear what my colleagues in the industry thought about the concept of “innovation”. So I started by asking Alan Goh of HengYi about his view on this topic. He explained that to him innovation is about thinking outside the box, coming up with something that works better and adds value to an organisation. He also added that whilst it may not be “new” to the world – it may be new to the current organisation. Furthermore, he added that it is important to look at innovation with critical eyes, especially in the current situation – and identify the crucial elements that require change or improvement. He also believes that in order for innovation to thrive in any culture or organisation, there has to be an element of trust: Trust that the people with the ideas have the best of intentions for the organisation; trust that the people asked to innovate, will be able to do the job well; trust that it is a team effort to see innovation succeed and trust that there will be failures along the way – and that it is ok to fail.

When asked about his thoughts on “innovation” Hj Kula bin Hj Metasan from Petroleum Brunei believes that we need to be competitive; move forward with speed and forget about the status quo. He also stated that in order to be competitive, we have to be innovative and we need to challenge ourselves to go beyond the norm. Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is insane (we always hear this). He believes that there is a need to encourage our society to become more innovative however, he cautions us that good ideas or creative ideas will not be useful if we don’t implement or execute them. Lastly, he emphasised the need for parents to encourage their children to explore new areas – they need to guide their children and help them to find what they can do best with their skills and capabilities.

Daud Jais from Brunei Methanol Company stated that innovation is the process of turning an idea into a reality. This should then lead to improvements in terms of efficiency and cost saving. He believes that in order to foster an innovative culture in Brunei, we should be encouraging creativity and providing infrastructure or structured programs for our people from as early as their childhood years. However, this should not only be restricted to new creations but should also be applied to improving or amending something old. He also said that “We are slowly seeing examples of this in the market today, for example, the “kueh sapit” now comes in different colours and flavours”.

And finally, I would love to see a phenomenal increase in the submissions to CIPTA – a platform which has been provided for showcasing innovative creations from students and mature participants. We need to ask ourselves the question of whether or not we have done enough in this area. If not what more can we do? How do we encourage innovation to prosper in every nook and cranny of organisations in Brunei Darussalam? Could the hiccup be due to the small amount of recognition associated with this? Would recognition bring about a cultural change in Brunei with regards to an innovation mindset? The design and technology subject offered in relevant schools should by right be the launching pads for our youth to try to innovate. Why is there no continuity? How do we ensure continuity into society? There are so many questions in my mind and I am hoping that slowly but surely we will be moving the dot as we move forward in the arena of innovation and creativity.

This article was published in the Apr-Jun 2016 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!

Hjh. Zainab Omar

Hjh Zainab is a HR Professional & Mentor. She was active in the Oil & Gas Industry for the past 30+ years. She has significant business experiences gained in a multi cultural environment in Brunei (BSP, Brunei LNG), Oman, Qatar, and Europe in the areas of HR & Learning and Development. She is passionate about people development and upholds the mantra ‘don’t let others tell you what you can’t do, and show them what you can do.