Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Innovation Crisis or Mid-life Crisis for PAP?

[There is nothing wrong about adaptive creativity.  However, to create more values or high values, Singapore needs to have more innovative creativity.]  
Rather than talking about mid-life crisis, why don’t we consider innovation crisis for the People’s Action Party? Or in a wider definition, we, Singaporeans, are facing innovation crisis from education, political elections, employment, housing, health care to CPF and Temasek.

Two MIT Professors #1 think the US economy is facing innovation crisis that leads to slow or no growth. Hence, only real innovation can help to bring back the high growth#2 that will sustain the competitiveness of the USA in the world.

However, for the Singapore case, for easy understanding, I suggest we use another two terms: adaptive creativity (convergent thinking) and innovative creativity (divergent thinking).  We can then extend the term, creativity, to a broader definition which includes creativity, innovation and change. The following familiar examples from Singapore Inc. will help us understand why our mid-life crisis is, in fact, an innovation crisis.

Education vs. tuition

Adaptive creativity:
Our world class education system is in fact an adaptive creativity.  From streaming, PSLE, SAP schools, second language requirements to through train (IP program) and finally polytechnic and university education, all involve adaptive process. This process has helped our education system becomes more productive, efficient, and the final aim is to make every school a (standard) good school. 

Innovative creativity:
There is hardly any innovative creativity. The introduction of IB programs, liberal arts education, and even SUTD can hardly be considered real innovation. These are just copies and adaptive methods. The only innovation we may consider is tuition. This is an unofficial practice outside the official and formal education system.

Our education system is based on a tuition free system.  However, the tuition industry continues to grow, bigger and bigger days by days. The fact is even tuition cannot run away from the mainstream education system. It just adds values to PSLE, O and A Level examinations.

In a very strict definition, tuition is not an innovation.  It is just a by-product of our education system. 

Presidential and General Election

Adaptive creativity:
Our parliament system is not a new democracy process. However, the PAP has cleverly adapted the system to suit its own needs. GRC, non-constituency and nominated MPs, boundary redrawing, etc. are all adaptive creativity to keep the PAP in powers. 

The PAP has almost used up all adaptive creativity in GE to its advantages. However, it has failed to come out with good innovative creativity. SG Conversation, PM live on TV, use of Facebook, and Instagram.... etc. are not innovative ways to approach voters.   

Innovative creativity:
Presidential election can only be considered a half innovation. Every citizen has the right to vote in PE is better than many walkovers in the GE. However, an elected President with limited power is an uncompleted innovation. Perhaps, the PAP has anticipated the PE outcome will be less favourable for its proxy (e.g. PE2011) and so the innovated PE can only stop half way just to please Singaporeans that there is a second key to protect our reserve.  

Central Provident Fund

Adaptive creativity:
Again, CPF is not a new thing. However, the PAP has adapted it very well. So, now we have Ordinary, Special (retirement), and Medisave accounts. You can use these monies under many well-structured (control) schemes for housing, medical, and retirement planning. It is so efficient and productive and yet complicated until not everyone knows the true operations and its meaning.

Innovative creativity:
The only innovation may be is how the PAP moves the CPF monies away from its original purpose and meaning. From 55 to 62 withdrawal age, from its original aim of retirement to fund for housing (investment), MSM, these are all methods to keep the monies in government’s hands.

These are arguable innovations and can be considered as another type of adaptive creativity.  This is a clever way to keep people’s monies (for Temasek and GIC investment) but not an innovative way to help people to maximum returns.


We can continue to expand the examples to housing, health care, transport, etc. In all these examples, there are no real innovations. Almost all of them are adaptive creativity and not innovative creativity.  This is why Singapore is efficient, productive and fine under adaptive creativity. But to go to a higher level (and to help the lower income and disadvantaged), innovative creativity is needed.

Hence, we are now facing the challenge of innovation crisis even though age is catching up with us to the mid-life.

#1
Inside Real Innovation: How the Right Approach Can Move Ideas from R&D to Market - And Get the Economy Moving, written by our instructors Eugene Fitzgerald and Andreas Wankerl, along with Carl Schramm. World Scientific Publishing.

#2
If innovation only leads to high growth and without considering environment, moral, cultural and other factors, will the outcome really brings benefits to human beings?  


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