I3 UPDATE / Entovation International News

a free monthly briefing on the knowledge agenda

No. 55 November 2001





David J. Skyrme


David Skyrme Associates


Contents - Previous Feature - Next Feature - Knowledge Digest


Singapore: The Innovation Nation: Providing Leadership for the Region

Debra M. Amidon

"Dare to Dream,Dare to Do,
Dare to Make the Difference"
- Productivity Digest (Sept 01)

It was the International Productivity Conference (IPO) - the combined 40th celebration of the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) and the 20th anniversary of the Productivity Standards Board in Singapore. Delegations from 18 member nations (representing 1/3 the world population) - throughout the Middle East and the Pacific - participated in several days of thoughtful dialogue and exploration of how these nations can create a sustainable future.

The 'P' in Productivity shifts to 'Prosperity'

Perhaps the most extraordinary realization of this momentous conference coalescing the aspirations of 400+ participants was: What has provided a leadership focus for a generation of quality management has evolved to one of economic prosperity rather than (only) enterprise productivity. For 4 decades, the quality agenda has maintained a foundation of building competitive advantage. What happened in Singapore in November 2001 does not eliminate competition; it builds on the standard with a spirit of collaboration - across functions, industries and nations.

Keynotes and panelists alike - one after another - referenced the more fundamental and systematic implications of local initiatives to build effective strategies to ensure social, economic and environmental sustainability. In an opening video, productivity was represented as the cornerstone of a prosperous future. Quoting Peter Drucker, "One cannot manage change; one must stay ahead of change".

New initiatives for the organization focus upon knowledge, technology, innovation and value-creation. Strategic business alliances were defined as essential, Human Capital is more relevant and people are the 'DNA' of an organization. Indeed, a nation's standard of living is defined by how people perform 'productively'. The theme song referenced the imperative to "make a better life for everyone…hand-in-hand…leading into the future…not afraid to learn…to be the best that people are".

Key Presentations

Mr. Takashi Tajima, Secretary-General of the APO, opened the session with an outline of the four decades of distinguished service that manifests the productivity movement in the 21st century placed in the hearts and souls of the people - all with the goal of a better quality of life for all people of member countries. The APO assumes 3 major roles: (1) more emphasis on creativity and innovation; (2) a symbiosis between productivity and development; and (3) promoting social fairness to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. The borderless economy requires a 2-tier approach: market mechanism and policies for social justice. Tajima suggested, "There is a growing realization that the productivity movement should 'pool wisdom' of all participants".

Mr. Lim Boon Heng, Minister without Portfolio and Chairman of the PSB, continued the agenda heralding a 'New Era of Progress and Prosperity' Now is the time to encourage people to take action with a new focus of innovation and value-creation. "People, Knowledge and skills will make the difference."

Mr. Lim Hng Kiang, Minister for Health and Second Minister for Finance, outlined the new framework of the 21st century can reduce poverty with plans on the economic front (e.g., raising efficiencies leads to faster economic growth), the political front (e.g., stable political environments can lead to necessary restructuring) and the human front (e.g., tri-partite cooperation for labor management). He outlined 3 Global challenges: Pace of technological change; extent of interdependencies and linkages building a 'networked' economy; and competition - especially for high-tech talent - is expected to increase worldwide.

In announcing (what I believe are unprecedented) plans of the Prime Minister to create Innovation Council both private and public - to position Singapore 'The Innovation Nation', Mr. Lim described the specific plans to stimulate and nurture an enterprising spirit to all Singaporeans. Productivity has become multi-dimensional and the pursuit of productivity is nothing less than a marathon. Leadership for the Singapore initiative has been placed in the PSB with Mr. Freddy Soon and Mr. Lee Suan Hiang with the administrative responsibility under Mr. Steven Tan Beng Chye, Deputy Director of the Innovation Centre.

All plans are consistent with previous stories about Singapore as represented in the article that was featured in the Business Singapore Times - http://www.entovation.com/amidon/innovation.htm - and even more aligned with the objectives of the Global Knowledge Partnership II Conference in Malaysia - http://www.entovation.com/whatsnew/knowledge-societies.htm.

Significant Conference Messages

Dr. Don Beck, Founding Partner of The National Values Center, Inc., described 11 September as a 'wake-up call' for large systems change something with which he is intimately familiar through his 61 trips to South Africa to change the society from the Apartheid system. He illustrated the paradox between innovation and preservation with a description of the 8 Levels of the thinking process and related critical success factors. By describing the cycles of change with both the individual and collective foci, he defined the view of a composite value system of organizing principles, complex adaptive intelligence and core 'memes' that emerge in response to specific life conditions. Visit the Website for more details - http://www.spiraldynamics.com.

Professor Shoji Shiba, visiting professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, illustrated the differences between stages of innovation (i.e., idea, technical feasibility and market feasibility leading to commitment of resources and ultimate realization of a 'breakthrough'), cycles of activity and infrastructure (e.g., outside variables, milestones, resisting factors, leadership etc). In essence, he argues the value of breakthrough innovation as opposed to continuous process improvement generally considered the hallmark of most quality/productivity programs. He concluded: "We need a new social system to create, utilize, accept and respect breakthrough leaders".

Mr. William Shireman, CEO of Global Futures, described the revolutions of values and lifestyles using a 'rainforest' analogy (see more below) having experienced them firsthand. He queried: "How in a world where six billion people are seeking the material prosperity of the richest 600 million - where ten times as many people will be chasing the same resources - how can we gain improvements in productivity necessary to provide all with a high quality of life, without completely devastating the ecological foundation of that wealth? In essence, "What are the new values that will support the change, and foster a prosperous and sustainable global economy?"

Mr. Rory Chase, Managing Director of Teleos The KNOW Network, and architect of the MAKE Awards reported in previous issues of I3 Update/ENTOVATION News (e.g. see 4th MAKE Award) - provided his latest update and insights on the selections and the process. Using the IMD data, he outlined the world's most competitive economies, citing Singapore as No. 2 only after the United States. Using IDC data, he made the case for market capitalization based upon intangible value. Using the winners, he illustrated the 8 award criteria including the ability to manage knowledge to generate shareholder value.

Mr. Sim Kay Wee, Senior Vice President of Cabin Crew for Singapore Airlines, outlined a successful case study example of how an airline service situated on a tiny island in the Pacific has become one of the largest and reportedly the 'best-in-class' airline now with 95 aircraft servicing 90 cities around the world. The critical success factor?….Humanware! He outlined lessons from the past illustrating the common goal between the workforce and the leadership. Charting the future, he outlined the role for culture, values and globalization including the Star Alliance (i.e., collaboration). The People Factor is now evidenced in a new campaign: "We know that now - more than ever - we can. We will."

There were others too many to mention here from 3M, Dentsu Institute for Human Studies, Department of Trade and Industry (Phillipines),J-Wave, Korea Institute of Science and Technology, WIPRO Technologies, Lingnan University (Hong Kong), National Rural Support Program (Pakistan), Grameen Bank (Bangladesh), Bogor University (Indonesia), United Microelectronics (Taiwan), Tokyo University (Japan) and the National University of Singapore.

The Rainforest Analogy

Mr. Shireman (above) also directs the Future 500 - an organization that manages and resolves conflicts between major corporations and environmental activist groups. To be successful, we can't simply compromise between one and the other. The only way is to find integrative solutions - solutions that meet the needs of one, without sacrificing the needs of the other. It is worth a visit to the Website - http://www.globalfutures.org/.

The Rainforest provides a model: The rainforest is very short on natural resources. Its soil is thin; it contains few nutrients to feed the plants that grow there. Yet the rainforest is extraordinarily productive. It is home to two-thirds of the world's plant and animal species. Individually, the species of the rainforest must constantly adapt to limits. Each time they adapt, they change their design, literally, to fit more perfectly into the niche that defines their place. Over time, the rainforest grows rich in this diversity. Species adapt into a vast array of forms, each tailor-made for a particular niche in the forest. As they do, they move out of each other's way. They compete with each other less. And because each niche is dependent on other niches, they become more cooperative, more interdependent.

We must learn to do more with less - to substitute consumption and competition, with innovation and interdependence. That is precisely the challenge business faces today. And it helps us understand the changes we are beginning to make in the ways we approach productivity. As we do, we draw forth - from within ourselves and our communities - an ever richer array of capacities, each one making us a little more whole. Only together can we make the world whole.

Productivity without Borders

What better foundation for the Innovation SuperHighway - http://www.entovation.com/whatsnew/superhighway.htm - that was the focus of the keynote address than the vision of borders minimized?! Indeed, the intent of the conference was a search for world synergy not inappropriate given the events of 11 September.

The vision of an Innovative Society was provided by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong (recently reelected to office): "To many people, the word 'innovate' conjures up images of science labs, high-tech computers, and people with a string of degrees working in a faraway place called Silicon Valley. But that is incorrect. Innovation is nothing more than coming up with good ideas and implementing them to realize their value. It is about value creation." He continues: "Throughout the history of mankind and civilizations, countries and corporations, which were able to anticipate, respond and adapt to changes quickly, have triumphed over others. Those that failed to act and react quickly fell by the wayside."

He suggests that to realize their vision of an innovative society, Singapore needs a concerted, deliberate effort to transform the mindsets and processes that choke and kill innovation. A national focus on innovation is required; and he has put resources behind the words to actualize the vision. The Singapore Productivity and Standards Board (PSB), Economic Development Board (EDB) and other agencies are working closely together to cultivate the innovation culture among students, the workforce, businessmen, the Civil Service and leaders in society.

Ultimately, it is people who will make the difference in transforming Singapore into an innovative society, admits the Prime Minister. The Government provides the infrastructure and creates the environment for more people to take business risks; but it is each individual that must act. With a call for action, he inspires: "Each of you can and must innovate. Together, we can transform Singapore and ride the crest of change in the world."

Indeed, by the leadership taken at this recent IPC conference, Singapore - with the help of the APO - will lead not only the nation, but they could set the standards for creating the innovation region of the world!

Beyond the Hype

With the new Millennium has come a renewed urgency for Singapore to make innovation a way of life. In both promotional materials and programs, leaders of the country have sought to create 'an innovation mindset' to sustain the next phase of the productivity (and now innovation) movement. Their 20th anniversary rally included a variety of presentations, events, and awards ceremonies.

A Thinkathon (® trademark of SolutionPeople) was facilitated by Gerald Haman with 8,000 participating guests at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Using a mass audience technique, more than 400K ideas were generated in one hour for the improvement of a wide range of issues like health care, the transportation system and education. The exercise carried the message that everyone is creative; and everyone has something to contribute. An accompanying effort reaches into the homes and offices nationwide through a website. Now, managers are reviewing, prioritizing and implementing those best suggestions that were placed in the National Ideas Bank -putting the knowledge into practice.

At the conference, there was the launch of a commemorative hybrid orchid - 'robinara productivity psb' - and a coin with a dynamic upward spiral graphic designating the progress of the productivity movement with four major outcomes: a world-class workforce; a world-class industry; a world-class infrastructure; and a world-class people & lifestyle. Now, there are plans for an Innovation Studio, a bevy of the finest creativity and innovation courses and more highly leveraged projects to build upon the quality foundation laid.

The productivity pledge - The Kallang Declaration - has taken on new meaning for the movement that has established higher standard of living:

"We pledge to give our best
For the future of Singapore
Steered by Innovation and Value Creation
We shall strive for excellence.
To raise productivity and competitiveness
For a better quality of life for all.
We dare to dream we dare to do.
We can and must make a difference."

Our ENTOVATION vision is that Singapore will also produce an Innovation Capital Report - http://www.entovation.com/services/innovation-capital.htm - that will not only lead their nation into increased prosperity (beyond productivity) but will provide the standard of leadership for the region and all member countries of the APO.

Note: For a PowerPoint Timeline of the evolution of Knowledge Societies (scoping 1987 to-date) that was delivered at the US State Department briefing on Russia, send a request to me.

Email: Debra M. Amidon

© Copyright, 2001. David Skyrme Associates Limited and Authors - All rights reserved.

I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News is a joint publication of David Skyrme Associates Limited and ENTOVATION International Limited - providers of trends analysis, strategic advice and workshops on knowledge management and knowledge innovation®

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Singapore: The Knowledge Island

Global Perspectives (list of articles on other countries / regions)


Global Knowledge Partnership II Conference

Global Futures

Innovation Capital Report


Customers: a new twist on knowledge management

Dot com winners and losers

Virtual teaming and virtual organizations: 25 principles of proven practice

Measurement myopia; those who measure and those who act

Portal power: gateways or trapdoors?

Creativity is not innovation

Virtual trust

China: accepting the knowledge challenge

Innovation action for Europe