This week at Haas I had the opportunity to listen a presentation by Benjamin Joffe, the knowledgeable and accessible Managing Director at Plus Eight Star Ltd (+8* is a reference to the country codes of China, South Korea and Japan; the countries on which the company focuses). The company provides consulting services in strategy and innovation for the mobile and online industries, with cross-market research towards Asian economies and practices. It is this cross-market research what he calls Innovation Arbitrage; in short, learning from proven best practices in foreign markets to accelerate innovation in your own market.
Be careful when understanding what he is proposing. He isn’t claiming you should just copy Asian practices. He does claim they can be translated, and it should be done in a faster pace than the one shown during history: for instance, the printing press had an ancestor in Asia, almost 4 centuries before its game-changing introduction in Europe. However, the important issue lies in the translation. Not in the sense of language barriers, such as updating the instructions manual, but in figuring out how such innovations can be molded and mixed, in order for them to face the local competition and constraints. By arbitraging, you raise awareness of what is being successfully done elsewhere, so that you can analyze it and then localize it, finding successful formulas of your own.
If you are interested, I recommend visiting the company site, which I linked to at the beginning of this post. Many interesting things are happening in Asia’s mobile and Internet markets, and certainly they are worth following. Plus Eight Star might be a good place to start.