Iterate, experiment, fail, learn, pivot, repeat

I often get asked how large banks like DBS can foster breakthrough innovation within the organisation. My answer:

You may get lucky with an unbelievable invention from left field, but the more likely course is iterate, experiment, fail, learn, pivot, repeat.

The same experimental journey was taken by many successful social media companies we see today. LinkedIn started as a dating network; Facebook as a site to rate the attractiveness of individuals. Both experimented and morphed over time.

Companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix are widely acknowledged as leaders in innovation. What sets them apart is their ability to constantly experiment, scale and rapidly bring new features to market.

Rewriting the core of business

When DBS started on a digital innovation journey, we resisted the urge to feel like a kid in a fancy store with new toys to play with. We knew that innovation is not about acquiring the latest gadgets.

It is about embracing an innovation mindset. I am deeply passionate about empowering people to embrace the culture and habits of digital native organisations.

Such a paradigm breaks away from what bankers are used to: namely, the need to have all the answers upfront, or the need to have certainty of outcomes.

Instead, uncomfortable though it is, we have been shifting to an environment where it is perfectly okay to not know if something will work.

What this translates to is the need to foster a culture of experimentation. The thinking is that if we are able to increase the surface area of ideas springing up within the organisation, there is a higher probability that some of them will be the great success stories of tomorrow.