Challenge assumptions, unlock business potential | Inquirer Business

Challenge assumptions, unlock business potential

/ 02:02 AM December 01, 2023

HONOREES From left: Josiah Go, Chiqui Escareal-Go with six 2023 Mansmith Innovation Awardees: RR Chua of Immuni Global, Aris Alip of CARD MRI, SEC chair Emilio Aquino, Jimmy Thai of Primer Group, Edward Lee of COL Financial and Auke Idzenga of AIDFI; UnionBank CEO Edwin Bautista, Master Innovator winner from first batch —Contributed photo

HONOREES From left: Josiah Go, Chiqui Escareal-Go with six 2023 Mansmith Innovation Awardees: RR Chua of Immuni Global, Aris Alip of CARD MRI, SEC chair Emilio Aquino, Jimmy Thai of Primer Group, Edward Lee of COL Financial and Auke Idzenga of AIDFI; UnionBank CEO Edwin Bautista, Master Innovator winner from first batch —Contributed photo

In business, shaking things up often means being different rather than just making them better. The winners of Mansmith Innovation Awards in the last three years have nailed this concept. Instead of solely being creative, they challenge the usual beliefs in their industry, a key aspect of genuine innovation.

A common notion is that innovation starts with ideation, but that’s not the initial step. It’s not always about pinpointing problems first either. The crucial start is challenging the assumptions in your industry. This comes before seeking out problems to solve. Why? Because it gives you a broader view of what’s happening. It helps you notice important changes or opportunities in the market or industry that you might overlook if you only focus on problems.


Questioning ideas and gaining new insights means having a curious, open-minded and always-learning mindset. It’s about thinking critically, being open to significant changes and understanding that the mind can sometimes play tricks on us.


Now, let’s dive into some examples from some of our past Mansmith Innovation Awardees.

Rethinking microfinance

CARD MRI questioned the idea that lending to the mass market would result in a lot of nonperforming loans. They came up with a way of collecting money and helping the community get involved, leading to an incredible 99 percent success rate in collecting payments. Using this new way, they have helped over 9 million customers, offering lower interest rates than what most people usually get.

Democratizing stock brokerage

COL Financial challenged the notion that stock brokerage firms had to rely only on big institutional clients and high net worth individuals to thrive. Today, they serve over half a million clients with a portfolio exceeding P100 billion.

Expanding beyond core competency

Primer Group challenged the conventional growth strategy that focused on core competency and territorial expansion within a country. They expanded their outlook by entering related categories, transitioned from being importers to brand owners and expanded internationally.

Leading digital transformation

Aboitiz-led UnionBank disrupted the traditional banking model by challenging the assumption that banks needed thousands of physical branches. They created the first digital-first bank in the Philippines, growing their customer base by more than 2.5 times in less than four years.

Redefining chicken retail

Chooks-To-Go transformed chicken retail by challenging the idea that selling chicken had to include mandatory free sauce. Since starting in 2008, they rapidly expanded to over 2,000 stores, securing the top spot as the market leader in rotisserie chicken.


The fiber revolution

ConvergeICT challenged the idea that providing affordable high-speed internet through fiber at scale was impossible. They introdunced the first pure end-to-end fiber service in the Philippines, offering it at affordable rates and fundamentally changing the landscape of the industry.

Pioneering cashless transactions

GCash revolutionized the financial sector by challenging the belief that cash would always be the preferred payment method. Today, they boast of nearly 90 million users engaging in cashless transactions.

Elevating quality over price

Mega Sardines questioned the idea that consumers’ main concern when buying sardines was low prices. They pioneered the first 12-hour catch-to-can sardines, putting quality above price with top-grade sardines.

Pioneering microinsurance

Cebuana Lhuillier, a chain of pawnshops, challenged the idea that life insurance was only for the AB income class. They led the way in microinsurance, selling millions of policies monthly and making life insurance available to a broader segment of the population.

The premium ice cream experience

Carmen’s Best questioned the idea that Filipino ice cream should be low-priced. They introduced the first successful super premium ice cream in the Philippines, captivating the market with a new level of indulgence.

Mentoring food enthusiasts

Mercato Centrale evolved from a food market into a food market incubator, emphasizing more sustainable operations.

Empowering health locally

ImmuniPlus challenged the assumption in the pharmaceutical industry that innovation is primarily the domain of large, established players and that there are significant barriers to entry for newcomers. They introduced Immuni herbal drink, utilizing local ingredients and promoting it from the grassroots.

Public sector digital transformation

The Securities and Exchange Commission questioned the need for manual submissions and embraced a digital transformation journey, turning its operation free from paperwork and intermediary hassles.

NGO self-sustainability

The Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation, Inc questioned the idea that nongovernment organizations (NGO) cannot deliver appropriate technologies professionally and provide high-quality services. They concentrated on achieving self-sustainability to enhance their ability to serve over 600 rural villages.

Toward empowerment

These outstanding organizations have not just challenged industry norms but also transformed their respective sectors. They demonstrated that by questioning assumptions before identifying pain points, they can unlock new possibilities for their organizations. Their journeys highlight the importance of questioning assumptions in the pursuit of innovation.

As Mansmith’s “four steps to innovation” are introduced to organizations seeking to learn innovation systematically, the initiative empowers them to make substantial changes in their businesses and industries, providing a competitive edge and laying the foundation for future success. —CONTRIBUTED

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Josiah Go is chair and chief innovation strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc. He is also cofounder of the Mansmith Innovation Awards. To ask Mansmith Innovation team to help challenge assumptions in your industries, email [email protected].

TAGS: Business

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