Singapore has an innovation problem it doesn’t yet fully recognise, and that is the dominance of the engineering mindset here. It’s a theme I’ll explore more fully in a subsequent article, but for now it’s enough to notice that while engineers can be brilliant problem solvers, they can only address innovation in limited ways: as clearly defined problems, stable enough and specifiable enough to be able to plot routes towards a solution. And measurable enough to know whether you got there successfully. The result is an unambitious view of innovation as improvement rather than radical adaptation. A study we conducted early this year found that two thirds of managers here see innovation as a matter for incremental improvements rather than radically new ideas.
The Engineer’s Dilemma: Innovation in Singapore
If you look at how Singapore approaches innovation, it looks very much like an engineering problem. Rule-bound, risk-averse Singapore is the problem, and the output we want is more innovation. So being engineers, we have to figure out what new input to the system will produce that output. Simple, right?
The Knowledge Wizards: Hope in a Time of Darkness
I have been asked to write about libraries and their role in an increasingly knowledge-powered economy. April 24-26, Singapore plays host to the World Library Summit, with the theme: “Global Knowledge Renaissance”. The best and the finest will gather to learn about the future of knowledge, knowledge management and knowledge opportunities in governance, society and business. “We want people, and especially businesses, to understand the critical role that libraries, and this summit, can play in creating knowledge opportunities for Singapore and the region” says National Library Board Assistant Chief Executive R. Ramachandran.
Accounting for Knowledge Management
In the late fourteenth century, a busy Italian merchant named Datini, ordered twenty-nine sacks of wool from Spain. It would be three and a half years before the cloth made from the wool finally reached him.1 Business in the middle ages was complex, with a multitude of different and complicated transactions at different stages of their cycles, and spread all over the known world – including the trading routes of Asia. Each major trading city had its own currencies, sets of weights and measures, and business regulations. The business of the time had many uncertainties associated with it. Information flows were unreliable
and slow, risk of war, theft or loss from other means was high…
The Autism of Knowledge Management
There is a profound and dangerous autism in the way we describe knowledge management and e-learning. At its root is an obsessive fascination with the idea of knowledge as content, as object, and as manipulable artefact. It is accompanied by an almost psychotic blindness to the human experiences of knowing, learning, communicating, formulating, recognising, adapting, miscommunicating, forgetting, noticing, ignoring, choosing, liking, disliking, remembering and misremembering.
Singapore’s Innovation Journey
Innovation, like SPRING, is in the air. Creativity is all the rage. Entrepreneurship is on every agenda. But what does it all mean for how we run our organizations, and how do all these different ideas connect to each other? We don’t actually want too many people running around with too many crazy ideas, nor do we want unfocussed fragmentations of our core businesses by over-enthusiastic entrepreneurs. In this article we’ll look at the core capabilities that generate innovation. The experience of Singapore itself in its radical transformation and remarkable success over the past four decades, and research conducted by Straits Knowledge into perceptions of innovation among Singapore managers will serve to guide us along the way.
Ignorance Management: The Lessons of Small Enterprises for Knowledge Management
Knowledge management as traditionally espoused has two main strands: dealing with the aggregation of knowledge and the transfer of knowledge. However this official discourse and its key concepts grew out of the experience of large, mature, highly structured and dispersed enterprises. Looking at the environment in which small enterprises work suggests a different set of key concepts, looking at the notions of experience and structural capital as key knowledge manipulation tools. These tools are particularly relevant to environments of high uncertainty, volatility and risk – and so also have a significant contribution to make to the direction of knowledge management for larger enterprises, where adaptiveness and ignorance management tools are becoming increasingly important.
Singapore’s Innovation Agenda
Innovation is in the air for this new year of the Horse, recently given a pragmatic, entrepreneurial twist by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The Productivity and Standards Board has been given the charter to promote innovation in Singapore, and on April 1 st will change its name to SPRING Singapore (Standards, Productivity and Innovation for Growth). The much anticipated National Innovation Council, announced by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in November last year, is expected to be formed in the next few months.
Every day, an Ethiopian entrepreneur goes to the only cybercafe in the capital, at the Meridien Hotel, Addis Ababa. There he logs into a website he has set up in America, and he checks the orders he has received from Ethiopian cab drivers in New York, for goats to be sent to their families back home.
Failing to Learn
At a knowledge management workshop recently, I passed around a small plastic box to the participants. “Here,” I said, “put some knowledge in here.” Some participants just stared. One or two wrote something down on a piece of paper and put it in. But of course, the aim was not to collect pieces of paper, but to try to characterise the dilemma that is knowledge management. We moved on into a discussion of what KM is, and how the KM industry represents itself. Is it really about aggregating pieces of what people know – on piece of paper or in digital format? Others felt it was about promoting a culture of knowledge-sharing. If technology was involved, it was about giving people access to each other, and making it easy to collaborate.