August 3, 2020

Mindset matters when sustaining innovation

If you’re open to empathizing and collaborating, you’re off to a good start towards sustaining innovation


The situation we are facing today is pushing us as individuals and our entire organizations to find new ways of working. But, above and beyond that, we are being driven to innovate internally and for our customers.


We may feel the strong negative effects of the recent health pandemic, but so do our customers. They’re facing problems too. How can we sustain our business? It begins with supporting our customers and their current needs. This is where innovation comes in.


According to the design thinking concept developed by the Stanford, innovation is a process. You begin by fully understanding the needs of our customers, ideating possible solutions, and testing them.


Whether your customers are direct consumers or other businesses, their needs have shifted. This is due to the current crisis the world has been facing. We must understand this problem and solve it, and by doing so we can sustain our business.


Innovation, however, isn’t a linear process. It is a cyclical one that might cycle back to any stage of the innovation process. Because of this, innovation projects can fail. And, during tough times, how do we make sure we can keep pushing forward to achieve our goals?


The answer lies in our mindset. While organizational culture matters, it still comes down to the individual mindset of those who make up the organization.


So, how sustaining innovation in the organization require mindset?


Mindset is our foundation

As Thomas Edison once said: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Think of a scenario where you’re working on a project that fails. If you stop there and quit everything, you will never know whether trying one more time would mean success or failure.


The reality of sustaining innovation is that to succeed, we must first and foremost figure out what doesn’t work — and we can only know that when we fail. The right mindset ensures that with every failure we face, we can get back up and try again. After all, we are only human and failure isn’t fun to experience, so we have to move past it.


The right mindset can help us maintain motivation and focus

It is easy to become discouraged when things don’t go our way. With innovation projects, this can happen a lot and in many cases, it may not even go as we planned or intended. 


Often, we find ourselves losing sight of our goals, but with the right mindset we are reminded why we are pushing through in the first place. The strength of our mindset and resilience connects with our ability to focus on our goals and commit to working toward them.


The right mindset encourages understanding and empathy

The first stage of design thinking asks us to first empathize with people. What this means is that we don’t simply collect quantitative or qualitative data; rather, we take a deep dive into understanding their true needs.


The thing about us humans is that we don’t necessarily know what we need and we often have trouble spelling it out for others. This is why sitting down with the customer and having a proper conversation with them allows us to observe important signals including body language and tone of voice in correlation with what they’re saying. A good mindset will help us remember that people’s experiences are different and therefore they may view things differently from us. It allows us to listen with no pre-judgement.


Finally, it encourages collaboration

Working with others is important for two reasons. One, we cannot do everything on our own and so we require support from one another. Two, different types of people in the team mean different perspectives and fresh ideas brought to the table.


How mindset proves its value here is in our ability to open up to people. With a good mindset, we are able to listen to new ideas (even if we do not agree with them completely) and still work together toward shared goals.


This all may sound a bit idealistic situation but it is achievable. Developing our mindset today may be difficult but it is possible and absolutely crucial for success in innovating or in business.


There are many different types of mindset concepts, but whichever ones attract you, remember that developing the right mindset is an everyday struggle dependent on each situation. It is okay if we shift our mindsets often: the key is to aim to become better than you were yesterday.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC – Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at or Explore and experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at