Innovation Management in Business Asia: A Book Review of Inspire to Innovate by Arnoud De Meyer and Sam Garg


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.

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