Gaining a New Lens to View Innovation
Business Incubation Project Manager, Schneider Electric
Co-founder, Simi app
Singapore-based Yu Siang Chieng completed the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program in the spring of 2018. Her Capstone Project created as part of the course sought to promote intergenerational bonding to counter loneliness among the elderly in Singapore, a prevalent social issue in the city-state where more than half of its senior citizens report feelings of loneliness. While juggling a fulltime career at a multinational electronics company, Yu Siang decided to implement her project through a mobile application called Simi. According to Yu Siang, the app “serves as a private and inclusive digital space for tight-knit groups to share what truly matters to them” and is now in beta testing in preparation for a planned rollout in 2021.
―Can you tell us a little about the Simi application you are currently working on?
This app was created to help adult children understand the changing needs of their senior parents. It is a private social app that serves as a dedicated digital space for your loved ones – primarily family members but also other close friends.
It includes a mood tracker to monitor the emotions of your loved ones at any time. You can upload photos and create your own family album, enabling your parents to easily view key family photos, saving them from having to scroll through all of your photos on some other social media platforms. There is even a dedicated social wall just for you and them, as well as a chat function.
The app also has a family calendar and organizer, which helps all of the family members keep track of what is coming up and what is happening within the family. This may include doctors’ appointments as well as social gatherings, celebrations and so on.
Even though senior citizens are often portrayed as being scared of technology, we believe they are very curious and can be very independent as well. So long as adult children can spend time with them and provide them with encouragement and an inclusive environment in which to learn, we are confident that they’ll be able to operate the app.
Note: More information about Yu Siang’s Simi app is available here: https://simiapp.co/
―What do you hope to achieve through Simi?
By having more adult children pay more attention to the changing needs of their aging parents through the Simi app, we hope to reduce loneliness among seniors in our society. Naturally, that would help reduce all kinds of other issues that are linked to loneliness among seniors.
Change may not happen overnight, but if we can reduce even one senior from becoming lonely, spiraling into depression, and eventually isolating themselves from their family, I think that it would all be worth it. We may not be affecting every single individual but if we can at least help some families, I think that would be really meaningful.
―What were your major takeaways from the program and how are they helping you now in your day-to-day life?
The program really helped me reexamine the definition of innovation. Innovation is not just about new technologies and new business models; ultimately, it’s about how to bring new or better value to stakeholders, which may include customers and society at large. The basis of true innovation is asking how you can make them happier or improve their lives, or better solve a problem.
That’s very relevant to current my work, especially when I was in charge of the customer experience. At one point, our company was pushing for customers to adopt a certain platform that actually created significant inconvenience for them. I took the initiative in going to the customer side to understand their concerns, then bring those back to share with our developers.
It is very important to provide our developers with insight about how the platform works within a defined context. We need to know what matters to customers and how they regard new initiatives. It is pointless for the company to deploy new initiatives if they do not make our customers happier or bring value to them. That is why I always really try to be the advocate for our customers.
Perhaps the most insightful takeaway from the program is the SECI model. SECI refers to the socialization, externalization, combination and internalization of knowledge management, and I think the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program gave me a new lens to see how things are being run in companies and in society, and how innovation is being created.
In my current capacity I frequently collaborate with startup companies, and I look at the larger ecosystem of a startup. The SECI model really applies here, because different organizations, companies, ecosystem players, and startups are all engaged in their own innovation.
My aim is to combine all of this innovation in order to create even more value. How do we work and partner with startups to come up with new ways to address a very niche market segment for some of our customers? This SECI model lens has really helped me see the answer to that question more clearly.
―How did your stance on being a leader change after completing the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program?
I came to the realization that being a leader is more than just a title – everyone can be a leader, especially in different scenarios and environments. This is known as situational leadership, since everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and there will be different situations where our various strengths come into play.
This is very important to understanding the concept of a team, where team members’ respective strengths and weaknesses complement each other. In different situations, everyone gets to exercise their strength accordingly. For this to happen, empowerment is really important, and you have to give every team member the resources, trust and confidence for them to take charge.
This is very applicable to running my own startup for Simi, as I am working with a team of developers. It is very important that I do not take charge every time, but try to empower others. I have to trust my team members, knowing that as long as we establish and share a common vision together, then we will be able to achieve great things.
―How would you describe the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program in a single word?
Life-changing. I say this because it really changed how I view my life and my surroundings. It also gave me a new perspective on how I want to live my life.
In the past, I would just focus on my career and was satisfied with my daily routine. I would receive my salary and be contented with my achievement at work.
After attending the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program, I realized there are so many more things that I wanted to do. Meeting inspiring people around the world and seeing how passionate some people are about the different causes they are supporting, or how they are attempting to make our society a better place, made me reflect on how I should be living my life. It challenged me to put my skills to better use in areas which I had never thought of impacting before.
―Do you have any message to others interested in applying to the program?
Just do it! It’s a really good opportunity to be immersed in a cultural melting pot. You’ll be able to meet great people around the Asia-Pacific region and co-create something great together as you exchange knowledge and experience. If you’ve been thinking about creating a project to benefit your society or community but haven’t been able to find the impetus to start doing it, then the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program will definitely provide that!
① Summary of what was learned, changes in leadership
Understanding the socialization, externalization, combination and internalization of knowledge management gave me a new perspective on innovation and how it is created. Everyone can be a leader and when working within a team, you have to give every team member the resources, trust and confidence for them to take charge and make of use their respective strengths.
② Scenes or situations to apply what was learned on the program
True innovation is about bringing new or better value to stakeholders, including customers, and this prompted me to go out to the customer side and get their feedback on our company’s initiatives. This was really important to help our developers understand the local context and what mattered to customers.
③ One-sentence summary of the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge
I found the program life-changing because it helped me reflect on how I should be living my life and determine how to better use my skills to impact others.