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Why we’ll never be as innovative as we’d like

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I have a sneaky feeling “innovation” is nothing more than a buzzword for many Singaporeans.

You see, on one hand, Solidiance ranked Singapore the most innovative APAC city, but then data from Sirota and The Conference Board found local employees are among the least motivated in the region to be innovative on the job.

Here’s what I think is going on – there’s a mismatch in expectations between what employees want and what companies are providing.

In the past, we’ve run reports claiming Singaporeans to be a bunch of apathetic, disengaged folks, which I still completely and wholeheartedly disagree with.

Yes, we may not be the most gracious or friendly bunch (have you heard Singa, the mascot of the Singapore Kindness Movement, stepped down this week?) but that’s not to say there isn’t raw, creative and dynamic talent here in Singapore.

There are so many events tailored to networking, crowd sourcing and creative collaborations happening all over town, every month.

But that’s not to say The Conference Board and Sirota’s findings are wrong.

Singaporeans, particularly our much talked about Gen Ys, are bursting with ideas and opinions. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t go beyond that.

I think the reason we’re not motivated to be innovative work is simply because we don’t feel like it’s within our power to be creative. About eight years ago when I decided I was going to pursue Mass Communications, it wasn’t a decision that was welcomed with open arms by many and I’m not sure a lot has changed since then.

I believe it all comes down to a change in mindset.

Leaders in Singapore need to stop fearing the idea of letting employees take risk and make mistakes. Having the mindset that “failure is not an option” will lead to nothing but plain, boring, by-the-book results.

There is no way your company, or this country, can ever move forward if its people are afraid of taking any leaps of faith.

Solidiance is right to say we’re an innovative bunch, but it’s one thing to think innovatively and another to translate ideas into action.

Find a way to harvest ideas employees may put forward and see if they can, to any degree, be applied in the office. Create a culture where people aren’t afraid to speak up. Failure should be recognised as an opportunity.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Singapore and its people are undoubtedly capable of great things, but it is the responsibility of you and I to get us there.

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