“Nothing is better practice, than good theory!”

Professor Irene Ng, is undoubtedly one of the most interesting business people in the academic world, today. She was a very successful businesswoman in Malaysia in the mid-nineties, before deciding on a renewed academic career instead.
– The main motivation for going into academia was to really reflect, on some of the things I’ve done, she says.

Copperberg’s 10th anniversary Aftermarket Business Platform in Wiesbaden, Germany in October, is the right occasion to invite an exceptional keynote speaker.

And Irene Ng is just that. The professor of marketing and service systems at WMG, Warwick University in the UK, sold a successful Malaysia-based cruise line business, before she entered the academic world in 1997.

Professor Ng explains that one of the reasons for ”going back to school” (or ”going forwards”, according to her), was to really understand why she was doing the things she did, as a businesswoman.

– The way we organize knowledge in business, is very sectorally driven. In academia, it is not like that. Why I really wanted to get more theoretical foundations, was to advance the learning a step further. When we are in practice, we are not reflective enough to understand, why we do what we do. And I wanted to spend more time understanding why, and by understanding why, being able in practice to do better. Nothing is better practice, than good theory!

Having been the CEO of SA Tours and Travel group of companies (Singapore, Malaysia, China and the UK) in the nineties, Irene Ng founded Empress Cruise Lines, a company with an annual turnover of 250 million US dollars when she sold it in 1996.

She is now an industrial economist, through her doctoral training.

At the upcoming 10th anniversary Aftermarket Business Platform in Wiesbaden on October 19-21, Professor Ng will be talking about co-creation, one of her favourite topics. The principles of co-creation are becoming more and more important, in the business world of today:

– More fundamentally, it has to do with freedom. If you think about how our products used to exist… they didn’t give us very much freedom. With the telephone, for example, you had to be at a certain place, to use it. But it’s different now. That’s because the product has evolved, to allow greater degrees of freedom…

Professor Ng continues:

– How do we know what the customer is doing, and when? As the company or firm, you don’t. But as the customer, you do. So… ”Why don’t I step back in the way I design the product” should be the right approach… You have no other choice, than to embrace the customers’ own capability to consume, and that is why you have to move into co-creation.

About the risk of getting disrupted, for companies and firms who are not agile enough, Irene explains further:

– You have to think about what your customer is trying to achieve. Where potential disruption is coming from, is how consumers are achieving the same outcome, without the product itself.

She gives the example of the alarm clock by the bedside table. Today’s typical consumer does not really need one, as a mobile phone – for example – would do the job as well…

– So, you have no choice, but to embrace the customers’ own ability to consume.

Something else that Professor Ng likes to talk about, is ”value”.

– I’ve spent 15 to 18 years with ”value.” The problem with value, is that it’s a different thing for an organisation, and a different thing for a person. Many people think there is this notion of a transcendental value. There isn’t. Value is a vector… the value of something, for someone, somewhere , some time. If you say a company sells a product, and they are charging money for it, that company is getting value. They can talk about ”added value”. But for the customer, the value comes from experience, consumption, and use.

People use the same word – ”value” – for the two entities in the exchange, the firm and the person. They think the value is the same. But they are completely different! Even though both find the transaction to be useful.

Professor Ng, whose fourth book, ”The Future of Things” is coming out early next year, explains the bottom line:

– All consumers want outcomes. If you cannot understand what those outcomes are, if you can only think about what the transaction is, then you are aligning yourself to be disrupted…

Robert Okpu, Editor, Copperberg

Professor Ng will be speaking at the upcoming Aftermarket Business Platform 2016. Find out more about the 10th annual Aftermarket Business Platform here