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Strathclyde Business School

Innovation: a key to growth

By Mamta Singhal - Posted on 24 October 2018

Strathclyde alumna Mamta Singhal reflects on how innovation has been an important touchstone through her studies at Strathclyde and throughout her business career, and why innovation is key to growth.

Glasgow is known for its inventors, from James Watt to those working in the modern day digital era, so to any Strathclyder I believe innovation should be second nature.

Innovation is a misused term in both industry and academia and having worked in the arena for over 15 years it is clear that we must not label everything that is slightly different as ‘innovative’.

For me innovation is ‘the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay or has a significant ROI or benefit to society.’

Innovation is fundamental to move forward and break free from the competition. When I was a Senior Innovation Executive at Scottish Enterprise I focused on developing their Innovation framework, particularly looking at service based innovation and how we can mass produce personalised goods and products - it was an engaging piece of work that I hope had some benefit to the Scottish economy.

This work was fascinating as customers are becoming more demanding and we must be agile and fast enough to respond to them and theories on design innovation are critical in seeing this change happen. 

From a young age I knew I loved maths and art so decided to study Product Design Engineering and 17 years on from graduating I still love what I do and the concept of launching new products totally fascinates me.  As a result I enjoy learning about the field and get a buzz when I can apply theory to practice but equally I enjoy using practical experience to develop publishable academic pieces of work.  During my Strathclyde MBA I intentionally picked a dissertation topic where I could work with the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship. I knew the staff would inspire and support me to form something unique plus I loved going up to the 14th floor of the Livingstone Tower (its then home) - overlooking the stunning city was such an experience in itself. 

When I was studying for my degree in 2008 I knew entrepreneurship was the key to success. Even though I have worked for large FMCGs such as Mars, Hasbro and Mattel I knew having a strategic and innovative mind-set in my everyday work would keep me ahead of the game and give me a USP in my career. During my MBA I developed the ‘Singhal Creative Productivity Index’ – it was a publishable piece of work where I researched companies globally and highlighted the need for creativity, knowledge and a flexible working structure to be at the forefront of business objectives – in turn I was able to show the correlation between creativity and tangible financial growth.

I have been fortunate due to my time both at DMEM as a MSc Student and as an MBA student that I have merged technical, creative and commercial acumen in my world and my 3.5 years at Strathclyde has truly helped me become a well-rounded business player because of my network and also because of freedom to learn and be inspired by ground breaking business and academic concepts.

One piece of literature that I came across during the Innovation Management course on my MBA was ‘jazz the metaphor’ – it resonated with me; the concept of music or indeed the arts being a metaphor for teamwork in business was brilliant. I refer to this piece of work as a reminder of my university days but also to reinforce the fact that we all need creative, team work and freedom at work to truly flourish.

Business is fluid, ever changing and a tough environment where improvisation is key, thinking on your feet is essential yet planning ahead is critical - this thinking also relates to the work by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the concept of Flow.  The concept of Flow is about falling so deeply in your work that it feels like meditation and some would argue that is only at this point that we will find true innovation.

Over my career I worked in Europe and the US. In the fast-paced business world it is very apparent that staying ahead of the game is essential - working with high calibre people both at Strathclyde and in industry has given me a vision to be different and unique. At the same time, being able to mix with those around me is vital but is not an easy feat. Innovation is not just a label that we can throw around - it's a deeper concept that should be used with care and consideration. Only when we can gain a commercial edge over our competition is it true Innovation. I would say that we need a be a nation that creates and builds new concepts and products; after all, business as usual isn't good enough – the norm should be 'business as unusual'.

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