Arnoud de Meyer and Sam Garg’s publication “Inspire to Innovate – Management and Innovation in Asia” is one of the best innovation management handbooks on the market, as it is based on formal research in Asia, not guesswork or wishful thinking.

Credentials of Arnoud de Meyer and Sam Garg

At the time of publication, De Meyer was Professor of Technology Management at the prestigious international business school, Institute Européen d’Administration des Affaires (INSEAD). He is an Akzo Nobel Fellow in Strategic Management. He is no crusty on-the-shelf academic: he has management experience as director of several high tech companies.

Sam Garg was Research Associate at INSEAD. His 10 year residence in Singapore, where he founded a technology company, and his principal work with INSEAD in the strategy and management of companies in Asia, has equipped him to write confidently about the Asian situation.

Principal Thesis of “Inspire to Innovate”

After research based on interviews with privileged observers and 30 case files of companies throughout Asia, de Meyer and Garg came up with a core thesis: The standard practices of innovation management current throughout the world apply equally well to Asia, but there are specific hurdles to implementation unique to (non-Japan) Asia. The book addresses those hurdles.

Research Findings About Innovation Management in the Asian Context

The authors arrived at five categories of hurdles:

  • The resources needed for innovation are still scarce.
  • Markets that stimulate innovation are geographically and/or culturally far away.
  • Existing industrial policies are aimed at catching up with the industrialized world, rather than seeking value creation through innovation.
  • Many organizations have innovation-averse cultures.
  • There is a lack of appreciation for intangibles (such as brand building) in Asia.

Confirming Hypotheses Through a Survey

The findings were translated into a questionnaire of 32 statements about key success factors for innovation management for evaluation by senior managers throughout Asia. The survey was emailed to 3160 senior managers, of whom 336 completed the assignment.

The collective wisdom of these managers suggested that:

  • The most negative factors perceived to be a hurdle were quick imitation of innovative products by competitors, inadequate protection of IPR, insufficient project management capabilities, inability to reconfigure existing capabilities into new products, unsophisticated existing customer base and lack of reliable marketing data.
  • The most cited (when asked to select the top three challenges) were disengaged employees, strong cost reduction attitude, insufficient project management capabilities, inability to reconfigure existing capabilities, inadequate IPR protection and inadequate risk capital.

Advice for Creative Management

The book directly addresses managers engaged in the management of innovation and offers advice in several areas. Examples are drawn from the top innovative companies in business Asia. Chapter headings will give an indication of the scope of the discussion:

  • Creating new organizations in Asia for the new challenges
  • Markets and marketing
  • Mobilizing resources
  • Profit management
  • Overcoming the underdog mentality
  • What to do next?

As the authors say in their introduction, by the time the reader picks up the book, the information is already outdated. Four years down the track from publication, what has changed in business Asia? What remains the same? “Inspire to Innovate” is an easy and fascinating read. Despite its Asian context, it provides an excellent introduction to innovation and management in companies all over the world.


The person organizing the get-together has a responsibility to the other participants to hold an effective meeting. Participants also need to stay on track and complete tasks to maximize use of time.

The responsibilities start even before the meeting begins.

Attendees, Location and Timing

The organizer makes the key decisions prior to the meeting. The organizer may or may not be the person who will chair the meeting, but they should work closely together prior to the meeting.

  • Number of attendees: The people in attendance should correspond to the tasks that need to be completed. Any group larger than four needs some planning to be successful. Having more than 10 members is generally unwieldy, and very little is likely to get accomplished
  • The right attendees: The group should include a mix of decision makers and those supplying the information for the decision maker. Include those with different viewpoints on the action, but it is not necessary to include every one is effected by the decision. Representatives should be present that can carry to the message back to other stakeholders. It is better to reconvene to modify a decision than to never make a choice because the meeting is too large to accomplish anything.
  • Obtain the right sized location: It may seem obvious, but the place should be big enough for the participants and material, but not so big that it is difficult for participants to interact.
  • Setting the length: It is important to provide enough time so that all viewpoints can be expressed. If too much time is allocated, the chairperson can adjourn early. An alternate strategy is to schedule a very short time, in an effort to force the group to come to a decision quickly.
  • Setting the meeting time: One strategy is to have early morning meetings, in order to bring in everyone before the demands of the day interfere with attendance. Others prefer a bit later, so that persons can address overnight emails or late phone calls before attending. Similar issues are present in gatherings scheduled after lunch.
  • Luncheon meetings vary in popularity, between those that prefer a free lunch if one is provided, and those that reserve their time for things outside work. Knowing the team and the budget is helpful in deciding on scheduling at mealtime.
  • Offsite meetings should include a provision for travel time in everyone’s schedules.

Setting the Meeting Agenda

For the gathering to be successful, the organizer should prepare an agenda, with the important topics to discuss and the topics on which decisions should be made.

The agenda should be sent out ahead of the meeting, preferable more than a day in advance, giving participants an opportunity to review and suggest appropriate topics and others to invite, although it is still the organizer’s decision on who can attend in order to maintain focus and effectiveness.

If there are multiple agenda items, the organizer can allocate a specific time allotted for each item, which the meeting chair can enforce.

With proper preparation, meetings will be much more likely to accomplish appropriate goals, and improve productivity for the members and the organization.


It is information and decisions that determine the success of businesses. Decisions on product lines determine whether the business will operate in an intensely competitive market, for example. Decisions on the shop floor affect product quality and whether customers find it acceptable or otherwise. Decisions on the employee front can determine whether there is a committed or aggrieved group to support business operations.

Decision Process and Information Systems

In this article, the focus is on the decision making process.

Even supposedly rational business decisions are usually affected by the decision maker’s personal traits, affecting its quality. Many decision makers might also not be aware of the ways decisions are made, and how these can be improved. It is these issues that form the focus of this article.

The Decision Making Process

The process of making decisions has several dimensions.

  • There is a psychological dimension of being affected by the needs, preferences and values of the individual who makes decisions
  • Many people are able to make decisions in a logical manner by considering all relevant issues and arriving at a rational decision
  • Then there are the day-to-day routine decision-making as when you decide to cross the road when the Walk signal turns green

Many kinds of biases typically affect decisions. The persons making them might not even be clearly aware of these biases. Wishful thinking, selective search for supporting evidence and inertia that prevents new ways of thinking are just a few examples of the kinds of biases that can lead to deciding poorly.

There are also different styles of decision making.

  • Some people consider the pros and cons of alternative decisions
  • Others might select the first one that seems likely to work
  • Yet others might look for some kind of supernatural guidance
  • A few might even decide by tossing a coin

There are also those who prefer to leave decision making to others and just carry out the given decisions.

Business Decisions

A great deal of literature is available on business decision making. Because of their impact on business success, business decision-making has become an important issue of business management.

Business decisions are complicated by many uncertainties. Economic conditions can change, competitors can retaliate in different ways and technology developments can turn sound decisions into poor ones. Decisions might also have to be made on the basis of ambiguous or incomplete information.

In such a context, experienced managers might turn to the age-old practice of deciding by intuition. Intuitive decisions can often turn out to be good decisions because past experiences might influence them in less obvious ways.

On the other hand, tools have been developed to make the decision-making process transparent and to handle uncertainty, and even to cope with competitor responses.

  • Graphic tools like decision trees and influence diagrams can clarify the issues involved
  • Probability distributions can provide some idea of the risk posed by uncertainties
  • Using game theory, decisions that consider likely competitor responses can be developed

Using the tools requires training and conscious effort as they do not usually represent the way people think. The tools do bring the issues involved in decision-making up front (instead of being tacit assumptions never clearly expressed), and generally lead to better decisions.

The quality of business decision making can significantly affect a business’s success. Decisions based on relevant information, made in a structured manner, have much better chances of leading to successful outcomes. Modern management information systems can provide timely information to business managers. A careful look at the decision-making practices of managers can help further improve the process.