How can organisations innovate rapidly to stay ahead of their competition? In a world of relentless digital change, firms embrace rapid innovation for a competitive edge.
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Start-up innovation in your organisation

How can organisations innovate rapidly to stay ahead of their competition? In this digital world, firms embrace rapid innovation for a competitive edge.

In a world where the pace of change in digital organizations is relentless, the adoption of rapid innovation practices has become imperative. Rapid innovation is often seen as a reactive response to external uncertainties and shocks. Still, forward-thinking firms understand that they can gain a competitive edge by generating internal disruptions and innovating swiftly. A qualitative case study on MoMo, Vietnam’s leading E-Wallet, provides a prime example of an organization successfully achieving rapid innovation through intrapreneurship.

Credit. Vietnamplus

Companies that can rapidly develop new products and processes faster than their rivals can significantly increase their customer base, gain an early advantage in the market, and maintain a lead over their competition. Embracing new technology is a key factor in achieving such rapid innovation. By integrating new capabilities and processes, companies find new touchpoints to connect with their customers. They also redefine and create new products and improve their overall production process. Whether it’s the adoption of mobile phones or the recent surge in technologies like IoT, cloud infrastructure, and artificial intelligence, firms that quickly adapt and incorporate these innovations into their operations gain a significant competitive advantage.

Rapid innovation in the information systems (IS) literature has traditionally focused on responding to external uncertainties and disruptions. These external factors, such as shifting market forces from customers and suppliers, often trigger reactive innovation efforts. However, intrapreneurship offers an alternative approach by fostering internal ideation and the creation of new products and services. Companies like Google, with their 20% time allocation for employee ventures, have demonstrated how intrapreneurship can lead to groundbreaking innovations like Gmail, shifting Google from just a search-dominant revenue stream to a multitude of other possibilities.

The case of MoMo E-Wallet

Our research focuses on MoMo, a digital venture valued at $2 billion USD, known for its innovative financial solutions through its E-wallet mobile application. MoMo’s unique architecture, consisting of a primary application layer and numerous mini-apps, reflects its highly innovative culture. The organization’s flat hierarchy and direct communication channels between employees and leadership foster empowerment and facilitate idea generation. So, exactly how does MoMo continue with its rapid scale of innovation?

To achieve rapid innovation, MoMo demonstrates a journey from entrepreneurship to intrapreneurship. The transition is encapsulated in Figure 1. The journey is defined by evolution across the three pillars of autonomy, risk-taking, and creativity.

Figure 1. Entrepreneurship to intrapreneurship, evolving into a diversified, layered architecture
Credit. Author

How do we achieve autonomy through team settings?

The manner in which MoMo has structured its organization into smaller decomposable teams that react rapidly to any changes to the external environment facilitates the ability for the teams to self-organise and react rapidly. The self-organization of teams empowers the team to acquire the appropriate resources to achieve the objectives and tasks set by management.

For firm’s to achieve rapid innovation, senior management must adopt an intrapreneurial approach that centres on increasing employee autonomy, supporting risk-taking through policies as well as system design and promoting creativity through technological investments.

Wilson Hua

Can the organization localise risks?

Cultivating a culture of courage and risk-taking is deeply embedded in MoMo’s corporate culture, epitomizing an underdog mentality in a competitive market. The leadership recognizes the necessity of taking calculated risks to stay competitive and relevant. Employees across all levels are encouraged to propose and pursue innovative ideas, even if they seem unconventional or daring. This risk-taking culture fosters trust and support between senior leadership and employees, where even “crazy” ideas are welcomed and considered. As the company grows, it has developed more sophisticated risk management approaches, such as isolating risks within modular mini-apps. These measures ensure that innovation can occur without cumbersome bureaucratic procedures, reinforcing the autonomy mentioned earlier.

How can company’s invest in creativity DNA?

Creativity: The Driving Force of Innovation Creativity is not just a buzzword at MoMo; it’s a fundamental element of their DNA. The organization places a premium on nurturing creativity and innovation at every level. Employees are encouraged to generate new ideas constantly, and innovation is a core value. MoMo invests in its employees’ knowledge and provides funding for exploring new technologies, creating a framework that guides and supports creative thinking.

This emphasis on creativity extends to advanced technologies like AI, where MoMo has witnessed exponential growth, expanding its AI department from 40 to over 160 employees in just over a year. This investment has led to groundbreaking products, such as AI-powered credit scoring, which reflects the company’s transition to an AI-first approach.

Three steps to achieve rapid innovation through intrapreneurship

It is clear that rapid innovation in incumbent firms has become a matter of survival. Both growing start-ups and legacy firms need to consider the following intrapreneurial steps in re-inventing products and processes:

  1. Providing employees autonomy to explore and develop different ideas. This can be in the form of additional time out of their assigned duties or, in MoMo’s case, the design of cell teams.
  2. Taking risks to pursue innovation must be a culture propagated and supported at the top levels of management. This can be developed through policies as well as overall system design to localise risk and failures.
  3. Equally important is creativity, where support must be substantiated with investment in new and emerging technology that can help disrupt the company with new ideas, as demonstrated by the rapid adoption of AI.

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Reference

Hua, W., Leong, C., and Tan, B. (2023). Rapid Intrapreneurship with a Human Touch. PACIS 2023 Proceedings, 96. https://aisel.aisnet.org/pacis2023/96

Wilson Hua is a PhD Candidate at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Business School. His research interest includes social media studies, digital entrepreneurship and virtual reality.

Carmen Leong is an Associate Professor at the UNSW Business School in Sydney. She earned her PhD degree from The National University of Singapore. Carmen is enthusiastic about discovering how technologies can bring about changes in the lives of individuals and organizations. She has conducted more than 45 case studies in Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, and Germany to understand the use of digital technologies: 1) in organizing for social purposes such as entrepreneurship, rural poverty, disaster response, and mass mobilization, and 2) in the process of transforming an organization and pre-existing management practices.

Before entering academia, she worked in the private and public sectors in Singapore and Malaysia. Carmen has published in MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, the Journal of the Association for Information Systems, and the European Journal of Information Systems. Currently, she is serving on the editorial review board of Information Systems Research. Additionally, she was the recipient of the 2021 AIS Impact Award.

Barney is the Head of School and a Professor at the School of Information Systems and Technology Management (SISTM) at UNSW Business School. He graduated with a PhD in Information Systems from the National University of Singapore and was formerly a Professor of Strategic Information Systems and Deputy Head of the Discipline of Business Information Systems at The University of Sydney.

His research interests include strategic information systems, digital platforms and ecosystems, IT and sustainable development, IT management in the Asia-Pacific, and qualitative research.

Barney's research has been published in MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, the Journal of the Association of Information Systems, and the Information Systems Journal. He is currently a Senior Editor at Information Systems Journal and Information Technology and People, as well as an Associate Editor at Information and Management and Internet Research.

Barney is an award-winning educator and research supervisor during his time at The University of Sydney, receiving a total of 22 awards in 11 years. These include the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA) Teacher of the Year award for 2019 and 2020, the SUPRA Supervisor of the Year award for 2019, 2020, and 2021, as well as the inaugural The University of Sydney Business School Dean's Award for Teaching in 2019.