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  • Event Report: Digital Innovation seminar2019-09-17 12:26:59

    On September 16, 2019 (Monday), DOHE Philippines sent two of its employees to participate in a seminar called “Business Model Innovation in the Age of Digital.” Team members Metsy Magdadaro (PI) and Pep Ferreros (AboutKorea) attended at the generous invitation of Mr. Edgar Chiongbian, advisor to DOHE Philippines and a close friend of Dir. Terry Kim. It was held at Seda Hotel here in Cebu City from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m.

    The seminar was organized and conducted by Hungry Workhorse Consulting Philippines, Inc., a business consultancy group based in Manila. The speakers were Rey Lugtu and Kay Calpo Lugtu from Hungry Workhorse, along with Armando Yuri Rangel, VP for Sales of Cypher Learning, a San Francisco-based e-learning company. Much of the audience consisted of CEOs and senior managers of various Cebuano companies, including DOHE Philippines President Jonathan Gesalem.

    The main point the seminar wanted to emphasize was how technological advancements are inevitable and how, for companies, going digital is no longer just an option – it is vital. The speakers coined an acronym – VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) – to describe the world we live in today. With the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution now upon us, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, cloud computing, data analytics, and robotics are becoming the new workplace realities. Companies who refuse to innovate accordingly run the risk of being “fossilized” (as one audience member put it) and eventually losing out to more forward-thinking competitors. One of the earliest examples given was how the rise of Netflix killed the Blockbuster video rental industry. Conversely, in the Philippines, the two telecom giants Globe and PLDT-Smart began heavily investing in digitization only after the threat of a new, third competitor was raised.

    To meet these new realities, the speakers said, companies can innovate in any of its four areas: resource, product/service, customers, and revenue. Examples of resource innovation include data analysis and R&D (research and development). Product/service innovation is the most common type of innovation, and it includes improved performance, design for usability and sustainability, customization, and extra service, to name a few. For customer innovation, some of the main examples highlighted were the following: reaching out to unserved markets (e.g., Nintendo developing games for the elderly), community building (e.g., Harley Davidson developing their brand around dedicated hobbyist communities), and co-creation (e.g., Lego collaborating with customers to build new products). Examples of revenue innovation include varied options for payment (e.g., digital, FinTech, etc.) and offering “freemium” versions (free for basic functions, priced for more features).

    Related to this, the speakers emphasized that any good business model must be flexible enough to pivot if market circumstances require so. For example, Instagram started out as Burbn, a location-sharing app that was later deemed too cluttered and too similar to Foursquare and eventually changed to the photo-sharing social network we know today. PayPal, on the other hand, started out as the security software company Confinity before merging with Elon Musk’s fintech company X.com and focusing on the digital payments business. Pivoting is one of the most powerful ways a company can innovate, especially in a time of VUCA (see above).

    As for employees, the speakers advise companies to let them be more agile; that is, for them to quickly adapt to multiple, varied roles and not stay confined within narrow, individual areas of specialization. And for employees to be more agile, employers can allow them more freedom in how they perform their work: more collaborative and creative-looking office spaces, more open lines of communication, more flexible working hours, and telecommuting, or the option to work from home. Telecommuting employees, whose rights are now guaranteed by Philippine law, are relieved of the stress and pollution of regular commuting and have been reported to be more productive by over 2/3 of managers surveyed.

    Finally, the speakers talked about how change and innovation in any company must always be CEO-driven. This does not mean that employees should not contribute their ideas and opinions, but rather, that when a company decides to innovate, the CEO must lead by example. For instance, UnionBank was one of the first Philippine banks to digitize their services (and grow much faster as a result) because their CEO actually learned how to code. The entire body of an organization becomes much more invested in a new strategic direction when their leaders demonstrate the passion and drive to do so.

    Overall, the seminar was extremely enlightening and productive. Plenty of other insights were gathered during the open forum session, where participants directly asked the speakers some specific questions. A sumptuous lunch buffet was served right after. Mr. Chiongbian and Mr. Gesalem rightly saw this seminar as a fantastic learning opportunity for DOHE team members, and expressed hope that we could attend similar events in the future.