Nestle Indochina’s Chief Grooms the Entrepreneurial Mindset (redux)

To become more agile, companies need leaders and teams with an entrepreneurial mindset, who value ideas more that processes and protocol.

For many business leaders in Thailand, the future promises to be either exciting or heart breaking, depending on whether they can change their organizations to be more agile.

To create agility, leaders need to adopt a more “entrepreneurial mindset.” The challenge is to create a work culture that encourages people to behave in ways that enhance organization agility. For example, leaders need to persuade their teams to think and act beyond boundaries and silos that stand in the way of innovative ideas.

No one knows this better than Victor Seah, chief executive of Nestle Indochina, who has ramped up profits and growth for his business since he arrived here in Thailand five years ago.

“Many of the best innovative ideas are beyond existing products and above existing categories,” said Victor Seah, chief executive of Nestle Indochina. “I encourage our people to think outside the box about what consumers really want, not just what we normally provide.”

Moreover, leaders need to create opportunities for people to experiment and initiate ideas. Over the past few months, Seah has established an “incubator business” designed to come up with innovative ideas that cut across product categories to serve selected consumer segments. This idea was conceived in an offsite workshop we conducted with his leadership team last year in Hua Hin.

Seah has also supported a flurry of innovations, including the successful development of virtual reality campaigns using digital tools to enhance a shopper’s in-store experience with Nescafe products.

“Entrepreneurship involves risk taking, being willing to fail, and a desire to change the status quo,” said Seah. “We want people to be motivated by ideas and content, not processes.”

To bring ideas to fruition, an entrepreneurial mindset also involves the willingness of people in different areas of the organization to work together. Leaders like Seah know collaboration and respecting different viewpoints are critical in translating a good idea into a successful business, not to mention accelerating the whole innovation process.

“With strong cooperation from everyone around the same goals, we have reduced the time it takes to bring a new idea to market from 18-24 months to six months.”

At times, a leader must have the courage and instinct to go against the grain and do what is necessary to ensure new ideas receive the resources necessary to germinate. Yet at the same time, there is recognition of the importance of balancing agility and stability to commercialize ideas, achieve scale and profitable growth.

“As important as it is to promote one vision and to create space for people to experiment with innovative ideas, when the time is right, focus and discipline are equally important to run the business,” said Seah.

Over the past several years, the majority of Nestle Indochina’s growth has come from incremental sales from innovations. Explained Seah: “It’s not just me who needs to act like an entrepreneur. My entire leadership team and all employees need to think this way. My role is simply to ensure teams are moving in the same direction, give them the support and resources necessary to succeed, and then I just let them go.”


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