Embrace, not fight, disruptive technology

I attended The Future Of Jobs dialogue organised by Young NTUC recently, which featured four young speakers who were actively pursuing their own careers paths in the creative and innovation sector.

One of the key messages was that, given that disruptive technology is definitely coming, we should prepare ourselves to take advantage of these technological breakthroughs.

This is especially important for established firms which have been in a particular industry for many years.

This is true even if these innovations may hurt the short-term profits of the firm, because embracing change early will help the firm to be in the best possible position for the future. Otherwise, the long-term survivability of the company becomes much more doubtful.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are a key example. They reacted slowly to the rise of e-commerce even when they were previously best-positioned within the retail sector, allowing Amazon to become the leader.

It is also important to go further in cultivating entrepreneurship among younger Singaporeans ("Jobs of the future? Get set to create them for yourselves"; Jan 25).

Even if these innovations hurt the short-term profits of the firm, embracing change early will help the firm to be in the best possible position for the future.

In the past, low rents for hawker stalls encouraged young people without much formal education to take risks, and created a whole generation of entrepreneurs capable of providing for themselves.

Young people starting up new businesses today lament that high rent is one of their top concerns.

The Government can help in this area by opening up more spaces in government-owned buildings and loosening zoning restrictions to increase the supply of retail and office spaces for new entrepreneurs.

With the cost of failure reduced, more young people will be encouraged to form or join start-ups.

Evolution tells us that only the fittest will survive.

Given the sharp rise in global competition, we must make all effort to equip ourselves with the necessary skills and adapt to these new changes.

Lionel Loi Zhi Rui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2017, with the headline 'Embrace, not fight, disruptive technology'. Print Edition | Subscribe