Rage against the dying of the light: Galven Lee on Innovation and Intrapreneurship

Rage against the dying of the light: Galven Lee on Innovation and Intrapreneurship

150 150 Ellyne Phneah

Former start-up owner, published author, growth hacker, product manager—Galven Lee has held plenty of titles over the last 6 years. But it is his latest role at Bridge Alliance that has him looking forward to the future. 

Galven joined Bridge Alliance at the start of 2020 as Innovation Manager, excited by the challenge to own a global product and forge partnerships that can be backed by the telco industry.

We sat down with Galven to talk about all things innovation, and the power of entrepreneurship in the corporate world.

On entrepreneurship in a corporate setting
At Bridge Alliance, we value Entrepreneurship—to be bold and not afraid to take calculated risks, and to always explore new collaboration opportunities for our members. We also constantly challenge each other to innovate, and leverage methods such as design thinking to ensure we deliver the best products to market.

According to Galven, innovation is rife in start-ups, but this mentality is less commonly associated with corporations.

That said, this does not mean companies are not capable of cultivating an entrepreneurial ethos—in the words of poet Dylan Thomas, they need to “rage against the dying of the light” to deliver meaningful work, disrupt, and win customers. This means being mission-minded, pursuing excellence without compromise, and repeating these two obsessively to keep the spark of entrepreneurship alive. There is a need to shift the traditional way of looking at things, instead of thinking within the existing framework of traditional corporate goals and perspectives.

“The challenge is to turn this on its head: To think with words like stewardship, mission and commitment,” says Galven. “I remind myself every day that I’m here because of the mission I signed up for. I often ask myself: If this were my business, would I be running it in this manner? Would I spend money the same way?”

Balancing innovation with legacy
While start-ups are born from new ideas, many established corporations have well-worn legacies that are tough to shake. These can be products, processes, or systems that limit the development of new products, and can be frustrating for intrapreneurs driving change.

“As we all know, in corporate environments, it is not uncommon to be highly productive in doing work that does not matter… Being mission-minded throws up questions such as these: Am I truly doing meaningful work that adds value?” he said.

Recognising this, Galven reminds us that innovation is not about completely starting from scratch. Instead, it’s about improving, challenging and looking at things differently.

This again, is aligned with another of our core value—Curiosity–embracing a culture of continuous learning and being inquisitive and not satisfied with the status quo. Read about how two members of #teambridge hopped on a mini work place experiment and developed TemperatureBot, given the sheer amount of work we’ve been doing in the IoT space.

“Innovation is not about throwing away the old. It’s about rigorously ensuring customer problems are being solved in the most effective, well-designed way. The bias should always be towards solving problems,” adds Galven.

For example, one of the things he worked on most recently was a social innovation project which saw Bridge Alliance collaborating with our partner LivePerson and NGO HealthServe, on an interactive helpline powered by conversational AI to support migrant workers amid the sharp rise in cases. This provided daily COVID-19 updates in local languages, including important medical, practical and mental wellness information to help them cope during this difficult period. 

Exciting possibilities on the horizon for telcos
When it comes to innovation, Galven believes the most exciting, creative opportunities lie at the intersection of multiple industries, with connectivity as the enabler.

“Traditionally, telco has provided ‘hard’ infrastructure, but we should evolve beyond that. Telcos are uniquely placed to offer ‘soft’ infrastructure, playing a gatekeeping or curatorial role—for example, harnessing data to curate subscriber content and to complement their daily behaviours whilst safeguarding their privacy,” says Galven.

This is consistent with Bridge Alliance’s goals in the picture—to solidify its strengths as a collective of tier 1 and 2 operators in order to harness more opportunities for growth. This will see us acting as a regional product house for members to offer harmonized solutions with local support, home in on market and partnership development, while serving as a regional product lead to our members, as our CEO Geok Chwee has shared at Telecom World Asia in 2019. 

Galven also stresses that intrapreneurship is vital to make it happen—especially in the highly established telco industry.

“To realize this vision is certainly not easy. It’s exactly why we need corporate innovators who are missional, pursue excellence without compromise, and who keep going at it.”

 Bridging Stories is a sharing series by Bridge Alliance. As advocates for shared learning in discovering new ideas, we are always on the look out to learn from others, especially stories of experimentation.