An investigation of leadership style, employee innovative work behaviour, opportunity recognition and innovation perception in Singapore innovative small enterprises

  • Kit Tong

    Student thesis: Professional Doctorate


    In the rapidly changing business (Chan, 2013) and economic environment, change now comes faster than planned, more frequently than ever, and ability to adapt to the change becomes vital to succeed in business. Innovation has been widely seen as the key to business success.
    In a survey conducted by Aon, on risk faced by SMEs in Singapore, failure to innovate has been top of the list, as stated in Aon Inpoint’s 2019 SME Insurance Survey (Gabriel, 2019). SMEs play a significant role in the Singapore economy, contributing substantially to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employing almost three quarters of its workforce. High operating costs, small local market size, and intense competition from the region are commonly cited as challenges faced by businesses in Singapore (Ghosh et al, 2001). Despite identical economic climate and challenges within the same industry, there are enterprises that continue to innovate. Literature review reflects that leadership styles, employees’ innovative work behaviour and opportunities recognition, and innovation perceptions play an important role in an enterprise’s ability to innovate. Singapore’s government has been instrumental in shaping the innovation landscape.
    This study investigates the leadership styles, employee innovative work behaviour and opportunity recognition, and innovation perception of Singapore’s innovative SMEs to uncover how these SMEs in Singapore are able to innovate despite being in a challenging environment. How do business leaders in Singapore’s innovative SMEs foster innovation?
    How do employees from Singapore’s innovative SMEs exhibit innovative work behaviour and opportunity recognition? and How do Singapore’s innovative SMEs perceive innovation? A qualitative research design based with exploratory analysis of multiple cases studies was adopted.
    Findings have revealed that innovative enterprises are able and seek every opportunity to innovate from seven sources of innovation (Drucker, 2002), perceiving innovation as day-to-day improvement and business transformation. Alignment to an enterprise big picture with innovation aspiration embedded in the enterprise vision, mission statement, with guiding principles of being innovative in core values, occurs for entire enterprises through continuous communication and engagement (Bararia, 2018). Changes arising from internal or external needs were effectively managed through a Change Management process. Multi-dimensional thinking (Lundegren, 2018) is essential in transformational innovation as it is complex in nature.
    An Enterprise Innovative Ecosystem emerged from the study, as a business model, which builds nimble, resilient, robust enterprises and enables innovation sustainability. Cultivating an enterprise where innovation is a way of life, with a safe, supportive and inclusive business environment, and business leader as a coach leadership style, has emerged in facilitating problem solving, and providing support and guidance to the employees (Ibarra & Scoular, 2019).
    Employees – being seen as the most important asset of the enterprise – are contributing positively in the enterprise innovation landscape. They see opportunity to learn and grow, and motivate to innovate as a way of life. Co-creation of innovation with internal and external stakeholders provide a new dimension of innovation, leverage on collective wisdom, financial and human resources to create a better outcome. Recommendations, established from this research, were innovative practices demonstrated by innovative enterprises and their business leaders and employees, practical to adopt and adapt, and leading to innovation as a way of life.
    Date of Award2023
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSarvjeet Kaur Chatrath (Supervisor) & Raechel Johns (Supervisor)

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