Staying True to Your Roots Through Innovation

INNOVATION — it’s a buzz word that’s bandied around in many a field, from business and finance to health and education. If you can’t invent the wheel, you should be reinventing it to remain competitively viable. Once you decide to go down the path of innovation, it then comes down to the question of what form that innovation should take, and how much you should innovate. While a successful idea would advance your business and generate more profit, a poor idea would have the opposite effect, and possibly lead to your ruin.

Looking at LEGO today, you would only see a behemoth of a toymaker — its toys seem to be everywhere; it not only has its core offerings of the ubiquitous interlocking plastic brick, and its own expanded brick-based universe, but also tie-ups with major movies and characters, such as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Marvel Super Heroes.

But the road to their global domination in the toy market did not come without its setbacks. There were two periods when the company went into decline — in the 1990s and the early 2000s — it nearly went bankrupt in 2004. David Robertson, author of Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry, attributed these periods of decline, in fact, to too much innovation!

In an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Robertson, who is also a Professor of Practice at Wharton, said the company had tried to innovate in lots of different ways but ultimately, they “lost control of the innovation” and LEGO had “moved away from what it knew how to do”.

The answer out of this predicament was to innovate — but in a way that went back to the Danish toymaker’s roots. This meant divesting itself of its theme parks (which, though successful in later years, were a huge drain on their finances initially), videogames development division, as well as rethinking products that weren’t brick-based and didn’t include construction, as well as using brand-licensing on animations instead of developing animations to expand their brand equity.

When they started developing toys based on their core values and strengths, they returned to their winning ways and became an even greater success, as we see today. What companies should take away from the LEGO experience, according to Robertson, is that it’s not enough just to boost innovation. As you boost the amount of creativity and innovation, you’ve also got to boost the amount of focus and control.

While Dattel did not invent the wheel when it comes to the data industry in Malaysia, we’re certainly shaking up the way it currently functions. In this digital age, Big Data is essential for planning businesses and for sound strategy and policy-making, but only if the data can be trusted. When we were first established, we decided right off the bat that our differentiator would be our integrity — our selling point would be delivering Data with Integrity.

With that in mind, our company has placed integrity at the heart of everything that we do in collecting quality data. Our promise to our clients is that our data will be useful, extensive, and — most importantly — trustworthy. Dattel’s ultimate aim is to be a trusted consumer data partner in an industry inundated with questionable and inaccurate data. In this sense we are innovating but staying true to our mission to empower our clients to make sound decisions, to democratise data so a wider customer base has access to it, because better data means better lives.

How do we do things differently? By having our core values drive the decisions we make. Our core values entail doing the right thing in order to procure the best-quality data, aiming to set standards instead of following them.  These core values have helped to bolster the three pillars of the company — our people, our platform and our process.

Our people are trained to be obsessive about data integrity because Data with Integrity is what matters most to our clients. At Dattel, our Field Data Associates are valued full-time members of the team, who earn well above the national monthly average for non-graduates and who have ingrained in them the core values of the company and the desire to deliver Data with Integrity.

We are setting the trend for 21st century employment for the disenfranchised who may not have the right paper qualification but have the acumen and drive to be part of this revolution.

This is a game changer versus the usual practice of hiring freelancers who make up the bulk of the data collection workforce here. Having no strong ties to the companies they collect data for, and being paid peanuts, mean scant motivation to ensure trustworthy and useful data is provided.

To further cement our promise of delivering Data with Integrity, we developed our own proprietary cloud-based mobile platform that is capable of receiving and processing massive amounts of data 24/7. Having our own platform also allows us to future-proof our technology by constantly improving on its features, efficiency and security. Needless to say, this also gives us better control over the privacy and security of the data collected. This, among other measures, enables us to strictly adhere to the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) 2010. Our company is one of the few businesses which comply very strictly with this Act to protect the privacy and confidentiality of members of the public we interview.

Our third pillar — our process — was developed with through-the-line transparency as a guiding principle. This allows our clients to monitor the veracity of our data through geo-location tagging, listening in on recordings, and viewing real-time data streams for quality control. We are also setting industry benchmarks in terms of value, velocity, coverage and depth through our . With accurate, up-to-date data, our clients would be able to make sound business decisions or policies that would benefit their stakeholders and end users.

We believe that Dattel’s model of Disruptive Innovation with practical application — while staying grounded to core principles — will ensure our longevity and relevance as an organisation whose mission is to deliver positive impact to Big Data industry and society.