DPM Tharman: Singapore needs a cultural change

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, touched on a wide range of issues, from macro-economic trends to shifting social policies in Singapore and across the world, at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum on 20 November 2015 (Friday).

He said that Singapore requires a cultural change, from the classroom to the boardroom, if it is to grab growth opportunities. Mr Tharman shared that Singapore has to move progressively not only towards an economy driven by innovation, but also towards an innovative society.

“An innovative society can be developed through SkillsFuture and working with companies so that innovations and productivity gains are shared across the supply chain”.

“For starters, Singaporeans have to take pride in the mastery of skills. Innovation... requires, firstly, deep specialisation. Whether you look at the German firms that are at the frontier or the Japanese or Swedish or anyone else, when you visit them, when you look at why they are world leaders, you will find people working in the enterprise who have deep mastery of skills," he noted.

He shared that though they were not highly educated when they were young, but they are developed through life and they become masters of what they are doing. “This is not just a matter of training schemes and government incentives but a matter of culture - taking pride in mastery, he said.

Furthermore, Singaporeans should take pride in entrepreneurs who are creating and developing their own brands, he said, naming home- grown fashion labels In Good Company and Aijek as good example.

DPM Tharman also acknowledged that Singapore also needs to change the culture in education - to move away from an obsession with children's grades and focus more on giving them diverse experiences. "Diverse experiences and interaction with people from diverse backgrounds, that helps," he said. "And that means everything you do on the sports field, in the dance hall, in debate and even when you're just daydreaming."

He commented that the cleaners can perform better at their jobs if they are given the right equipment. For example, the driver besides commuting from one location to another also plans and manages logistics efficiently. Hence, any job can be transformed, and this can be achieved by maximising the innovative potential of everyone in the team, whatever job they are doing.

“Such a culture would not only make jobs better, but also allow incomes to keep growing and allow Singaporeans to thrive even in a world of greater uncertainty and softer economic growth”, he said.

How do we develop into a more innovative society? Share your thoughts with us!

Source: “ST Global Outlook Forum: Singapore needs a cultural change, says DPM Tharman” (The Straits Times,  23 November 2019)

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