Innovating during crisis and an interview with Joey Gurango

July 29, 2008 at 6:51 am 1 comment

At the Asia Pacific Conference on Business Incubation and Entrepreneurship held in Kuala Lumpur last month, Malaysian Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Honorable Mr. Fadillah Haji Yusof, in his keynote address, “urged the delegates to adopt proactive measures by capitalizing on business incubation strategies and innovation of technologies to cushion the global economic impact caused by surging oil prices and unprecedented worldwide food crisis.”

The case for innovation to address social development issues, especially for those at the base of the pyramid, is a solid one. There are showcase examples in product, process, and service innovations that have created potent and widespread impact.

Innovation, however, does not enjoy such unalloyed reputation during times of crisis, such as the one we are in now. Failure is a sister act of innovation, and its cost implications can discourage even the most lionhearted. And for a country like the Philippines, with its limited resources, why innovate with all its attendant risks?

 This is a question that interests us, and one that we keep asking our tech innovators, such as Joey Gurango, CEO and CTO of Gurango Software. According to Joey, “In an environment of limited resources, I actually believe that there is LESS at risk, since there is LESS to lose.”

Check out the rest of Joey’s answer and the AyalaTBI’s interview on the topic of innovation.

AyalaTBI: Key to integrating innovation in the culture of an organization is having a clear and shared definition of it. What is the definition of innovation in your organization?

JOEY GURANGO: Since we are a software products company focused on the Microsoft technology platform, we define innovation in two parts.  First, innovation is finding ways to make our software products more useful to our customers, in terms of what our products can do for them.  Secondly, innovation is finding ways to apply the latest Microsoft technologies to improve our products’ performance, reliability and ease-of-use, in terms of how our products operate.

AyalaTBI: How does your organization encourage innovation?

JG: I think the only way to encourage technology innovation is to create an open and honest engineering environment, wherein the best minds with the best ideas can come together and challenge each other.  This is what I try very hard to do.  Innovation cannot flourish in an environment that is totally top-down in structure, and where junior engineers are not expected to come up with the next bright idea. 

AyalaTBI: What characterizes the Filipinos’ attitude towards innovation? Please answer in terms of what we should continue to practice and what we ought to revise.

JG: Filipinos are really good at improvisation—making do with what is available—to get the job done. They are also inherently dedicated, hard-working, and loyal to the organization.  These are general attitudes that we should continue to encourage.  What ought to be revised is the general attitude of making one’s work just “good enough”—the “puwede na iyan” or “bahala na” mentality.  I don’t think that most of our college graduates really understand what “sweating out the details” and “good enough is not good enough” really mean.

AyalaTBI: In a country of such limited resources as the Philippines, why does innovation become important when there are more risks that attend it?

JG: In an environment of limited resources, I actually believe that there is LESS at risk, since there is LESS to lose.  So, the process of innovation should be more widespread.  What prevents that from happening is purely one’s attitude.  To answer the question: innovation becomes more important when resources are limited, because we need to find ways to do more with less, and that is one important role that innovation plays in any economy.  And since there is less to begin with, then there is less at risk.

AyalaTBI: Please name a personal interest or endeavor that is not related to technology but feeds your aptitude for innovation.

JG: My wife and I have operated a foundation since 2002 that is affiliated with Smile Train.  We perform free cleft surgeries for indigent infants in the Philippines.  To date, our organization has permanently changed the lives of 250 children for the better at a cost of just US$250 per surgery (compared to over US$1,000 per surgery when performed the “usual” way).  This is already a true, modern-day medical miracle; however, we are looking for more innovative ways to help even more infants at an even lower cost.

AyalaTBI: What excites you, apart from technology?

JG: Seeing others do well, and knowing that I’ve made some contribution to their success.

iInnovate briefly discusses innovation straight from the mouth of our top technology innovators. We believe that one can cultivate a mindset and an attitude that embrace innovation—with its attendant risks of failure and a healthy respect for accident and intuition—through example rather than a manual. More iInnovate interviews are in store. 

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Innovation Forum features Luis Sarmenta IF lecture on Human Dynamics and the Next Billion Network at ACCM, Makati

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Rhia Ramirez  |  August 1, 2008 at 4:47 am

    Leadership too plays an important role in cultivating an environment where minds are challenged and from where the best ideas can ensue. The ability to spot trends, communicate and execute quickly are everyday challenges for a leader particularly for fast-paced industries.

    Reply

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