INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Contributed Content, Singapore
Leon O\'Reilly

Harnessing human, machine and digital intelligence to keep innovation centres on the cutting edge


In the age of Industry 4.0, innovation hubs have grown beyond borders almost as a pre-requisite for companies looking to jumpstart their digital transformation journey. Such investments are growing fast across Asia, especially in Singapore. In 2017, the nation has attracted the highest number of innovation centres in the world, adding 13 within the year to bring its total to 27. This number surpassed Silicon Valley and overtook London’s No.2 global spot in the ranking of newly opened hubs.

Whilst organisations invest millions into the setting up of innovation hubs, the innovation journey does not end there. Research body Capgemini indicated that on the international front, firms are investing heavily in such centres, but they failed to become more innovative. Despite the fact that 87% of companies surveyed owned a lab or space dedicated to innovation, only 17% indicated that innovation was carried out across the organisation. Therefore, it is essential to consider these three important points when an organisation is looking to establish an effective innovation centre:

1. Developing the ‘right’ Human Intelligence
For innovations to remain as assets, Chief Innovation Officers (CIOs) must look at syncing up their organisations’ research and development approaches with their enterprise efforts. Whilst these new initiatives are driven to develop breakthrough concepts, organisations should continue to look at the larger ecosystem to ensure that the culture of innovation does not only lie within the parameters of the hub. The workforce and business units must also be engaged and provide the necessary platforms to upscale their knowledge. This, in turn, allows for effective collaboration to optimise the performance of such centres and research efforts.

Beyond an enterprise’s efforts, executives should also focus on synchronising their research efforts to meet local needs through practices that will help to ensure they have offerings that are correct for the market. By having a deeper understanding of the target market, CIOs can better achieve high commercialisation opportunities which differentiate effective innovation centre from being another great idea.

Many organisations tend to overlook Human Intelligence because CIOs often face the need to fast-track the commercialisation processes of their innovation in our increasingly fast-paced world. However, the offerings must be evaluated based on the organisation goals or industry segments to ensure that they achieve a balance between being a great concept, having the minimum viable requirements and satisfying the unmet needs of the target market.

Therefore, innovation centres are truly connected and effective when organisations achieve a correct mix of creative culture with talented people who have technological foresight and market understanding. Take Johnson & Johnson’s innovation centres for example. They were created to fulfil an identified need within the organisation: To connect the company’s business units with external innovations in the startup and academic world that meet specific criteria. J&J even rotates key business unit and functional leaders into their innovation centers, which enable them to bring their expertise to the table. Not only does that encourage information sharing and get leaders closer to the action, it ensures that investments have built-in support within the business units.

2. Honing the capabilities of Machine Intelligence
Machine learning requires massive amounts of data from which patterns can be recognised and predictions made. The classic machine learning example lies with teaching a computer to differentiate between cats and dogs, or different breeds of cats and dogs. In today’s context, such capabilities are now also being used to identify objects and individuals in criminal investigations.

Meanwhile, businesses are using the predictive aspects of Machine Intelligence to improve customer service, security and business efficiencies. For example, Fuji Xerox’s Remote Device Health Check program uses data taken from hundreds of device sensing points and from dozens of different components. Through this, Fuji Xerox is able to anticipate the probability of faults and take corrective action before any downtime occurs.

3. Bringing it all together via Digital Intelligence
In an age where technology augments everyday life and fundamentally changes the way people live and work, it is essential to strike a balance not only between human capital and machine resources but also on what needs to be automated, enhanced and created. When this balance is achieved, the organisation will hold the key for operating efficiently and creating a digitally intelligent, forward-looking enterprise. Humans are expensive and emotional, but these traits also come with the unique ability to change and adapt to situations. Whilst Machine Intelligence provides reliable, repetitive and predictable findings, the workplace is no longer one where humans and machines can operate as independent entities. Instead, a harmonised intelligent ecosystem or Digital Intelligence is required to help organisations keep up with Industry 4.0.

Nevertheless, companies should not introduce technologies just for the sake of digitalising. It is more about matching the right intelligence for the job required. Companies would also benefit from not putting their employees to tasks which machines can do better, and equally important, not outsource creativity and significant decision-making to machines. The rush and focus on artificial intelligence will indeed change the world, but not just yet. So, even as a machine revolution is anticipated in the days ahead, the focus should be on innovating and inventing new opportunities for people, and delivering outstanding services, products and experiences for customers.

Closing Thoughts
In the recent Budget 2019 shared by Singapore’s Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, a key focus is to build Singapore as a city that is smart, sustainable, and globally connected. By approaching resources as a collective, this ecosystem of Human, Machine and Digital intelligence can increase efficiency and give rise to new opportunities at a strategic level, allowing companies in Singapore to stay ahead of the curve. When capitalised, these opportunities can make an organisation a leader in its respective field, create market recognition as the ideal place to work and ultimately, empower its business to become a highly digital and intelligent one.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Leon O'Reilly

Leon O\'Reilly

Leon O’Reilly is the general manager for Marketing at the Regional Solution Centre, Fuji Xerox Asia Pacific who led the keynote presentation at the Innovation Re:Mix Forum organized by Fuji Xerox Singapore.

He is responsible for driving solutions growth across 14 countries, ensuring relevant market insights are mapped onto the region’s solution roadmap and development, ensuring customers’ requirements are met, and Sales, Consulting and delivery skill sets are aligned. Additionally, Leon heads the region’s
Design Thinking Practice. He is an expert at strategically delivering, designing, managing and implementing services for software sales organisations.

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