Business & Innovation

Interesting discussion sparked by Nominated MP Kuik recently. This is a space that I have been thinking about for a long time particularly have been through both British and American education myself. The confluence between innovation and culture was something I looked quite briefly into when I wrote my term paper on intellectual property rights and innovation. In Singapore, where we have been trying to promote productivity and innovation without cracking the mystery of productivity gains, this is something worth the while looking into.

My sense is that we need to spend a lot more time looking into the ‘soft stuff’ and mastering a completely new mindset of measuring or thinking about outcomes. The hard, ‘quantifiable’ measures have been exhausted – to no avail on the outcome. The whole debate on search for KPIs remains inconclusive. That we still spend time looking for these unicorns is an exercise of stubbornness that needlessly exhaust human capital.

Through many other aspects of life: CPF, HDB, the Education, we have created in Singapore a ‘gaming’ culture – it’s always about hitting the right buttons in the right sequence and sometimes with the right pressure. We pretend as if there are genuine ‘roadmaps to success’ that all can follow – no doubt an implicit assumption behind our practice of meritocracy. Naturally, when considering fluffy stuff like productivity and innovation, and then using carrots to try driving that would only produce more ‘gaming of the system’.

This puts the burden of thinking over what specific activities/actions contributes to genuine innovation on the government – something I doubt it is capable of. The creativity that we foster is just targeting the unlocking of incentives; the very same way we study the parts of the syllabus that is the most effective at delivering marks, or time our HDB flat application to maximize grants, etc. Until we truly learn to tap on the markets’ creativity, we are just being naive about the sticks & carrots and mis-applying it to softer stuff.