Insider's view of innovation

Interview with Nino Sapina, EMBA' 17


Q: Nino, can you tell us a bit about your background?

Nino: I have produced some very successful video games for a wide audience such “Just Dance” and “Raving Rabbids” (Lapins Cretins) at Ubisoft. I am specialized in the development of interactive software which has brought me to robotics where I have led the development of software for humanoid robots “NAO” and “Pepper”. Most of those projects had a high rate of innovation that caused their success.

Q: What does it mean to be innovative?

Nino: Being innovative is being curious, reconnecting things in a new way, taking a large picture or different angle to explore another solution, taking the risk of trying something else, being able to recognize other ideas and integrate them, or to kill bad ideas and move on… all the ways that enable the emergence of new solutions which could change the future. It doesn’t succeed always… but it’s a kind of work philosophy that pays off at the end with amazing and sometimes unexpected results.

Q: Can anyone be innovative?

Nino: Ideally, yes! But in reality, all people aren’t comfortable with constant change or challenge. Nevertheless, risk-adverse persons are needed and can be integrated into innovative processes by giving them more concrete targets that bring the best solutions in the end.

Q: What conditions are necessary in order to be innovative?

Nino: Projects with an ambition for innovation should be ‘open’ at the start of their development. There is a need to discuss potential ‘ideal’ outcomes before the project is defined and pushed into production. And during the production process there should be room left for an innovation loop because we know that initial ideas, as great and innovative can be, doesn’t always work and some other newer ideas might appear during the process.

Q: How are creativity and innovation related?

Nino: There is a quite close relationship between these two approaches. Creation is more driven by content and individual approaches, like arts, expression… Innovation is more about finding solutions; products, services, that connect creative and non-creative components in a new way and result.

Q: Would you consider yourself innovative? Why?

Nino: I have the pretention to be one. I am always looking for new ways to get things done and have a slight aversion of being repetitive. It’s not always useful, I must admit, and sometimes it puts me in uncomfortable situations. But in the end, that’s my fuel and I feel satisfied with this approach.

Q: When have you been most innovative?

Nino: For me innovation means a lot of team work. I’ve been most innovative when working with multi-disciplinary teams where each member has had something to bring to the table and my role was to stimulate them with my ideas but also to be able to push theirs and finally find the best solution.

Q: What can leaders do to encourage innovation within teams?

Nino: As I said before, leaders should be able to listen and recognize the best ideas from wherever they come and also be able to manage their own creativity and self-esteem. They should be stimulating, know people’s qualities and push them to express and to achieve.

Q: How will an Exec MBA help you to be more innovative?... or, get more out of innovative practices?

Nino: I believe that innovation should be integrated into all parts of organizational processes. The Kedge Global Exec MBA should help me to adapt my innovative approach to all ‘serious’ skills to be able to build a sustainable but innovation-driven business. I am also looking to share my peers’ experiences to improve my skills.