Singapore must work on mindset, culture that embraces innovation in business: Iswaran

SINGAPORE - The "mindset" element will be critical in helping Singapore prepare for the economy of the future, said Mr S. Iswaran, Minister of Trade and Industry (Industry).

Mr Iswaran, who is also co-chair of the Committee on the Future Economy, was speaking on how Singapore can navigate challenges in a period of transition for economies, industries and jobs.

He highlighted that Singapore has certain advantages in dealing with the paradigm shift, such as the country's status as a well-connected and trusted regional hub well positioned to benefit from Southeast Asia's rapid growth, as well as its eco-system supporting research and development.

However, he emphasised that beyond technical capabilities, Singapore will have to grapple with creating a mindset and culture that embraces innovation in businesses and in employees.

"The 'mindset' aspect is going to be very critical going forward, and it's not something that government can just dictate. It has to be something that pervades all levels of our society," he said.

"What is the aspiration of the student? What is the messaging that the teacher gives the classroom? What is the tone set by the boss in an SME as much as a MNC? What is the general tone in society when it comes to undertaking risks venturing into new areas?This is where a lot of the evolution needs to take place in our society."

Mr Iswaran was speaking at the inaugural Business Times Leaders' Forum, which was organised to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Business Times newspaper.

The event also featured business leaders such as Mr Lim Chuan Poh, chairman of A*Star; Mr Nick Nash, group president of internet company Garena; and Ms Judy Hsu, chief executive of Standard Chartered , speaking about issues on growth amid business and technological disruption.

The need for a mindset evolution is evidently also on the minds of business leaders.

According to a survey of more than 100 business leaders carried out by the Business Times and Standard Chartered and presented at the forum, corporate culture was a key concern in making their company "future-ready".

Mr David Mann, chief economist at Standard Chartered, presented the survey findings and said that corporate culture was one of the top areas of focus for business leaders.

"Risk-taking... certainly came up multiple times in the survey. People were saying - is there a culture of encouraging risk-taking? Is there a change needed, and the answer was overwhelmingly yes, there should be."