Korea creates a culture of innovation

The South Korean economy is characterized by a well-educated workforce, stable and developed infrastructure and diversified markets, resulting in a high capacity for innovation of products, processes and services.

In order for firms to grow rapidly in this ideal business environment, intelligent innovation management software is an important tool. It allows companies to make the best of the favorable economic situation and long-standing and successful Korean business traditions and values and presents an exciting opportunity for all companies that are currently creating a culture of innovation.

Following South Korea’s rapid economic growth, companies are now moving beyond production to emerge as global leaders in innovation and design. The country already occupies a leading position worldwide, in level of expenditure in research and development (relative to GDP) and is an interesting test market for innovative products and services. However, to keep one step ahead of the rapidly growing world economy, improving technology and stronger brand awareness is necessary. Both private and public sectors recognize the need to develop services, software and innovation, so Korea will also be less dependent on commodities, exports and energy imports.

Thanks to one of the UN’s best rated world technology markets, good infrastructure and PISA top-rated students, Korean companies have consistently provided high quality goods. Having conquered world markets, they now have the ideal conditions for further economic growth and prosperity. Through the opening of organizational structures, employees now have a chance to be creative and to contribute to innovation. Thanks to Koreans high affinity to technology, it is easy to facilitate employee creativity with new software tools and put Korea on a direct path towards a true culture of innovation.

Knowledge Sharing

In innovation management it is essential not just to store knowledge and information, but also to share it. The process needs to span from the original conception of an idea, to the decision to implement it, and can result in a better product or an improved process. An effective culture of innovation should allow the organization to simultaneously respond to both internal and external opportunities and introduce new ideas, processes and products across departments.

Innovation should never be the sole domain of the research and development department. It needs to involve the employees of the company as a whole, as well as customers and other stakeholders. Furthermore, the provision of sufficient resources is central to an innovation management process. This creates a dynamic work environment where everyone can contribute to its success.

If a company wishes to create a new culture of innovation, it is important to understand the possible obstacles and barriers. One of the largest problems is when co-workers or departments form so-called ‘knowledge silos’. This is where knowledge is collected, but is not shared with others beyond the silo, for fear to lose a competitive advantage within the organization. This results in a reduction of new ideas and their effective implementation. Another potential obstacle is the fear of making mistakes. It is only through continuous experimentation and risk-taking, however, that innovation can arise. Errors should be understood and communicated as a natural part of the innovation process. Other obstacles to effective innovation management are lack of transparency, lack of resources and unclear goals.

The chaebol (재벌), for example, South Korea’s typical model of family-controlled business groups, is characterized by high decision-making speed and ability to adapt compared to larger, more bureaucratic corporations. The chaebol also holds traditionally good relations with the state and banking sectors. These features, combined with innovation-friendly corporate structures, give Chaebols a distinct competitive advantage in the world economy.

Defining clear goals

Larger organizations typically have many different needs for innovation and the definition of these needs is a critical success factor. Through this, the relevant issues and challenges can be focused on in the innovation management process. This can be supported by idea management software, which sets out clear guidelines and processes. This software especially helps to filter the large amount of creative input by individual company criteria and weightings. Thus can help to highlight the best ideas, which can then be presented to management for further consideration. Because the software automatically provides feedback, employees feel recognized as an important contributor to the company.

Connecting Social Network Services with Internal Knowledge

Another advantage of modern idea management software is the automatic inclusion of social network services (SNS) and the resulting contribution of thousands of creative minds. So far, Korean firms have used SNS’s only as a marketing tool, overlooking the large potential in using Facebook and other networks for idea management. This is partly because a lack of suitable platforms available that gather ideas from different networks. Using an ingenious idea management software, ideas from multiples sources can be compiled and evaluated. This knowledge can then be combined with internal know-how and thus contribute to a successful product placement on the market.

To benefit from SNS in innovation management, companies can perform the following actions:

Astina’s Korean business partner ‘Crowdea’ gathers 50,000 feedback comments from SNS channels for any specific problem. This content can then be automatically processed and evaluated by the innovation management tool ‘Cassiber’. The selected ideas are then passed on to management for further processing.

Currently Coca-Cola Korea gathers data in this way of how to increase the sales of its energy drink “Burn”. The goal is to increase its market share by ten percent. The feedback from thousands of Korean SNS channels like Cyworld, Facebook, Twitter and Nate are collected, assessed and linked to similar ideas. A detailed report will highlight the idea clusters and provide a concrete information base for management decisions.

Roche Korea also relies on innovation from employees, launching an innovation award for the most outstanding ideas. Astina’s software managed employee suggestions in an “innovation-funnel”, sorting the more valuable ideas by both topics and ratings by the staff networks. Every idea could thus receive an “idea rank”, comparable to the Google PageRank, which indexes pages by their relevance and importance.

Laying the Foundations

Before innovation can take place at all, it needs to be laid in the foundations of a corporation’s culture. Therefore several things need to be taken into account. To implement innovation in an effective, transparent and coordinated way, employees must support the proposed ideas. Support for innovation must be embedded in management practices and be compatible with the companies tradition and values. Effective innovation needs to find a balance between creativity and the core values of the business.

Using access to one of the best infrastructures in the world of information technology and clearly defined objectives, it is possible to create a structured innovation process that captures the infinite knowledge of the employees and highlight the most important ideas and themes. Innovation software is a supporting tool, which draws on social networking services to improve information integration and marketing opportunities of the generated ideas.

Crowdea, a crowd-sourcing platform is the product of the Korean company SynC Co. Ltd. Supported by the semantic idea management software “Cassiber” from the Swiss company Astina, the platform connects ideas, comments and reviews of SNS channels with internal knowledge of multinational companies. This partnership defines the phrase “open innovation” in a completely new light for the Korean market.

Illustration 1: Crowdea Frontend

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