Organisations are facing increasingly complex and frequent innovation challenges. Yann Hamon founded why innovation! to help tackle these challenges.
What’s your story?
My career started in the 1990s when I completed my PhD in Computer Sciences. My paper on was “AI application to software engineering” – one could say it was about Agile practices even before Agile became a movement.
Since then, I have managed complex and innovative projects for large software engineering initiatives across Europe, Australia and Asia. My most fond memory was during my time as the Innovation Manager of Thales ATM, where I led the rejuvenation of the Air Traffic Management product line – our team ended up winning the iAward in Australia and New Zealand in 2008.
After moving to Asia and shifting to consulting, I realised there was a gap in the market for a more human-centred, more incremental approach to creating cultures of innovation in large organisations. So in 2014, I decided to create why innovation! to do exactly that.
What excites you most about your industry?
I am most excited by the challenge of changing traditional management practices into those which reflect more agile leadership principles. This means working with leaders to middle managers to operations staff, looking at everything from strategy to process to team structure and communication style.
The most important thing is to develop the ‘DNA’ for change – as, without this, any new framework or guideline introduced to the organisation will not stay around for long.
I often quote Charles Darwin’s theories as a reason for organisations also need to evolve – not just to survive, but to also develop new capabilities. I’m so proud of my team who share in this vision but are also down to earth, hands-on consultants.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I’ve been living here for almost ten years and never stop being amazed by the energy and pace of change across the mega cities here. I met my wife in Shanghai and we have since moved to Singapore with our daughter. We’ve been working together for quite long and she has been supporting me everyday of this journey with why innovation! She helps me a lot in better understanding the Asian culture from personal and business perspectives. So in other words, my soulmate is Chinese! Isn’t that a strong connection to Asia?
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore. People here in the red dot are very friendly and eager to embrace innovation – which is most evident when you see the government selecting design thinking as one of its key national development strategies.
This spirit matches well with the culture at why innovation! – in 2015, we created an event named “Red Dot Innovation”. Every quarter, we invite industrial thought-leaders and transformation experts to share real-life innovation applications and case studies with the local community. We have already hosted about 2000 people across 12 sessions, covering topics from Data Science, UX, Blockchain – all the innovation keywords!
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I must thank a younger colleague of mine, who gave me a book called “Who Moved My Cheese?”. The best piece of advice I got from the book is not to be afraid, and “If you do not change, you can become extinct!”
Who inspires you?
My father. He is a self-made, fearless man who has done lots of amazing things in his life despite having a ‘normal’ existence, working on a farm. He’s a hardworking and ambitious man, who still has time for his family.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
An article I read about bacteria, and it helped me link back to the work we do with clients – I now often use the metaphor that organisations are like microorganisms. If you don’t adapt to changes in time, there is high possibility that you will be swallowed by the others and eventually disappear from the market. Kodak and Nokia are good examples. At why innovation! we always say, “Be agile or die”. In order to survive, organisations must make innovation a habit in face of the growing speed of transformation.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would start why innovation! even earlier to help spread the message and guide others around how to transform organisations to embrace Agile ways of working.
How do you unwind?
I enjoy spending my free time with my family, and of course drinking a glass of good red wine – sometimes I combine the two!
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Shanghai. I like walking along the old streets in Puxi, especially the French Concession. I am always impressed by how the historical atmosphere blends perfectly with the modern realities of the city.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“The Life of Deng Xiaoping”. As a former leader of the People’s Republic of China, Deng Xiaoping conducted the Chinese economic reform that will transform the nation into the modern China we know today. This transformation is a perfect example of implementing a fact-driven “build, test and learn” loop for change management. It is indeed the Agile method that Deng has deployed. And I believe everybody would agree that the pace of change is remarkable.
Shameless plug for your business:
I want to grow why innovation! into a leading adviser in agile transformation and digital innovation consulting.
why innovation! started in Singapore but has since expanded to Hong Kong and Shanghai, and we specialise in Agile Transformation, Product Innovation and Digital Adoption. Our clients span across industries such as banking, insurance and retail. We have created strong partnerships with them to improve their business agility and help their employees develop the ability to embrace change.
We call ourselves whyers – we’ve all had experience in professional environments, whether that means enhancing the development of new digital products, coaching teams in how to design more human-focused services, or being the change agents to influence new ways of working within organisations. We deliver sustainable and practical outcomes through consulting, coaching and training teams, organisations and leaders so develop their own innovation capability.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.