Innovation – threat or opportunity?2

Innovation – threat or opportunity?

While everyone is wrapping themselves around the word innovation, it is a good idea to step back and really take a good look at what it means.

But I don’t mean deciphering the meaning of the word. What I wish to tackle is the scenario I see unfolding before me and the issues surrounding the nationwide push to innovate.

To the uninterested, the uninitiated, the ignorant and the complacent, innovation will be a threat that will destroy their lives because when change is upon us they are the ones who will be the least prepared and the most resistant. But for now they are blissfully unaware of the dangers as they carry on with their lives inside the box they have created for themselves.

On the other hand those who are preparing themselves for the changes they foresee in the horizon will surely take advantage of the opportunities and survive or thrive as the changes sweep through.

Each of us should decide right now where we stand — embrace change or resist it!

There is no need to address those who see innovation as opportunity. Like water that finds its level, innovators are usually people who are passionate about new ideas and excited about the possibilities. They will work their way to place their product for the market to accept or reject. They will participate wholeheartedly to push innovation in their areas of interest.

The people we should worry about are those in the first category — the ones who live inside comfort zones thinking life will remain like this for the next 100 years.

Who are these people?  Are they sitting in places of influence and by their very nature resistant to new ideas and are, therefore, obstacles to the nation’s drive to transform itself?

Innovators and conformists locked into collision course

If we have too many of these “people” then we are headed for trouble as those preparing for change collide with those resistant to change.

This becomes a painful process when the innovators have to deal with legalities because there may be no provision made in the law to handle new ideas and the innovator is asked to comply with what is within the law. To comply is to go back to old and outdated methods that don’t work anymore.

I have faced this situation all through my life. It is among the biggest challenges that pioneers face and it takes a lot of energy, patience, a heavy dose of optimism, not to mention the investment to get the idea across to the regulators and for them to make the changes.

By then several years would have passed and the novelty of the idea would have worn off but nevertheless the steps for change have been implanted and a few years down the line we can see the same idea sprout, albeit in different form and format.
Such is life!

Future-proofing the economy to take the nation beyond 2020

The way I see it we have very little time to organize the country to make that transition to the high-income, high-productivity, high-value economy that the Prime Minister has so diligently put together. We are, indeed, fortunate to have a leader who is forward thinking and innovative in his approach. He sees the urgency for Malaysia to transform into innovation-led economic status.

Yet the magic number of 2020 still remains as the target to achieve.

But 2020, to me, is a moving target. It is metamorphosing into different scenarios with every advancement of technology and with every innovation. The discoveries that are being made in key areas such as biotech, nanoscience and neurotechnology are changing the very pace of innovation. The world will be a far different place than we can envisage right now.

Those of us who are aware and see the coming change feel fearful for the present. We fear being left stranded while others surge forward to claim new territories in the future.

We do face a daunting task because every sector of the economy needs to be reviewed and revamped. But review can only begin with admission that we must get out of the box we are in right now.

Education, for example, is a vital area that needs redress. The country’s future is tied to our ability to design and create human capital that is wired to the future. But the education system is still anchored on compliance and conformity. It is not designed to create human capital well-equipped with the talent and skills to manage the innovation that is cascading down from countries speeding ahead with new discoveries.

The Prime Minister cannot do it alone, he needs everyone’s support

The Prime Minister has asked for change and judging by the Government Transformation Programme, the New Economic Model, the Tenth Malaysia Plan and the Economic Transformation Programme he is serious in moving us all forward, whether we like it or not.

But as I have always said it is not enough to have a leadership that is innovative when implementation is in the hands of others down the line.

We need every one on board, including the man on the street.

Re-engineer the bureaucracy to be in sync with 21st century realities

We need to establish new sets of criteria to benchmark excellence that is compatible with future demands and expectations. This is a most essential step in the innovation ecosystem because it sets the pace and tone for stakeholders to aspire to. And those who set the criteria must themselves be piped into changes taking place on the global front.

The question is should we re-engineer a car that is too old to fix? It would take time, talent and a lot of funds to achieve the outcome we desire. So would it be smarter if we design a completely new engine that can take us faster to our destination?

There is no doubt that we have to move from conformity-focused to innovation-led. To do so we have to identify the stumbling blocks to our progress.

I can see quite clearly that both the regulators and the regulated must come together to iron out the issues that are bound to stall the transformation process. It is not an easy task as every government department and every piece of legislation will have to be studied.

A transformation unit in every government department to speed implementation

My recommendation is for every government department to be fitted out with a transformation unit that will be tasked to anticipate as well as address “kinks” that emerge as the regulators and the regulated will surely“collide” in particular areas that require new methods of assimilation and evaluation.

A mechanism has to be created for such uncertainties to be directed to these units.

However to make this work we must have a corps of professional trouble-shooters adept with digital skills and able to deal with details working with programmers to manage the mountain of data.

It will require the expertise of stakeholders from both the bureaucracy as well as the private sector to set up this unit as they bring to the table different points of view that must reach consensus in order to speed up the legislation process.

This is something that must be given importance because these are the very areas within the innovation ecosystem that need serious attention.

Certainly it is a lot of hard work. But change has never been an easy process. We have no choice but to get down and get dirty. The ecosystem for transformation to take place demands nothing less than that.

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About Tan Sri Lim

Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Paduka Dr Lim Kok Wing, the Founder and President of Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, does not fit into any ordinary mould that would describe most entrepreneurs.

His journey has been closely linked with the economic and social development of Malaysia.

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Dr Douglas Adjepong
2011 January 11

Professor Emeritus Lim Kok Wing I have read your blog with great excitement and happiness as I noticed that at least someone out there in the calibre of an innovative academic is a pioneer in thinking forward and not redundant.

Here in the UK and some parts of the developing world, regulators continue to stall innovation and in most cases slow down the very advancement and the demanded or required status a country should be. It s sad to think that this scenario you painted is far-fetched for most African leaders and that has sadly resulted in many abortions of our industrial up-keeping.

Innovation is a serious pivotal phase in our growth as countries and economies and until we learn to embrace it, we will always rely on the status quo that never changes.

But thank God, you and many others including myself are in the race to see change flow through innovative pipelines that we need.

Well done sir and continue with the good work.

I hope to remain in communication.

Dr Douglas Adjepong – Founder and President
Leadership & Mentoring Academy
11th January 2011

ng wenfa
2011 March 21

development insight from our recent history.
From a macro perspective, Malaysia’s achievement today. same as anywhere else for that matter. are due to confluence of many factors: political, geographical, historical development, etc. Besides such perspective it is also important to view it from the angle of development potentiality that provides the impetus and condition for progress and development to take place, where the drive to improve livelihood has not merely resulted in a rich tapestry of different cultures, it has also crucially led to formation of a rich, dynamic and supportive environment for social development and economic synergy in the background. If we draw lesson from social evolution of mature developed nations, it suggests a need to look beyond our traditional selves and embrace the heterogeneity of globalisation as a positive and irrevocable move – a certainty that will progressively strengthen over time in order to sustain current progress. A fact that is generally considered obvious; but what is less obvious is that these different cultures as a result of interaction in context have respectively also evolved in their perspective and praxis over time, and thereby also collectively redefining and forming a sui generis culture. In short, all the cultures are no longer the same as that of original past but have further enriched itself with insight of others and form inter-dependent relationship. Depending on harmonious and concordant interaction, these social transformation are intrinsically progressive in the long run. Here lies a key insight that suggests a key factor in achieving sustainable human settlement development in our modern era: Sustainable Collaborative Diversity. It operationalises the evolutionary dynamics of interaction, collaboration and diversity towards sustaining development. Borrowing ideas from biological evolution, from concept of genetic equilibrium, DNA evolution to species social evolution, at a larger timescale our civilisation advancement must and do comply with the natural order. Evidently, History suggests to us, increase in interaction, trade, development, internationalization and globalization naturally led to new perspectives, greater depth of definitions and better reflection of ideas which are essential ingredient to better insights. This potentiality when constructively tapped in development strategy brings forth growth, progress and civility in a society.
Accordingly, this is relevant to all social dimensions of civilisation. For instance, the evolution of modern religions, which in its core intent and purpose serve the noble aim of betterment of humanism. in short, mainstream religions aim to better lives. Overall, these religions focus on promoting a just, ethical, compassionate, harmonious and peaceful society. Moreover, their contextual origin recognises the plurality of different religions and the equality in everyone. To achieve these goals, the notion of equality, integrity and responsibility are common threads in their teaching on social praxis. In Malaysia, certain beliefs and practices are evolving such as animistic beliefs and folk magic which have been widely practice by all ethnic groups in the past. Their popularity, however, are waning and more so among the better educated younger generation. This has occurred naturally through consensus, praxis relevance as well as better understanding of natural phenomena. Borrowing post structuralism perspective, the notion of plurality and diversity are pivotal in evolving culture and are necessary attribute of a higher order cultural paradigm. We can all draw lesson from the past as well as recent historical events on social development across the globe, diversity has not diminished; it is here to stay. The future challenge for sustainable development demands greater social conditions for equality, integrity and responsibility in order to harness social cohesion and collaboration. Competitive politics and strategies are ineffective for evolving a sustainable higher order development as it fragments rather than integrates the system regardless of either economics or social development strategy. Any basic system thinker would states that a good and efficient system depends on the parts collaborating and achieving convergence and congruency in functionality; in addition, to achieve higher order systemic change would demand constructive exogenous intervention. Hence sustainable development does not structurally depends on having socio-cultural homogeneity as change/transformation implies propagation of diversity instead it demands something even more fundamental and universal - respect and equality for everyone in the societal system and it systematically depends on sustaining the diverse parameters that brings about conditions for progressive change. How we wish to embrace this diversity and its complexity will determine our future for better or worse. Our history defines our present, but what we choose to do at present will define our future. Malaysia is unique in being shape by a modern imprint of global cultural dynamics from both East and West. The world is always changing and waits for no one. We should acknowledge that and take it forward.


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