Looking for bright ideas? Check old ideas and failed ones

If you search for fix-its only after nasty surprises arrive, it may be too late. Singapore has leapt into the world of trend-spotting with more centres dedicated to finding ways to reduce its vulnerability to future shocks in today's highly unpredictable world. This is the last of a five-part series on experts in Singapore tackling the future today.

If you cannot create a new idea or solution, copy or borrow but make sure what you produce is better than the original, says Swedish futurist and trendspotter Magnus Lindkvist.

For example, Australian singer and songwriter Natalie Imbruglia had a huge hit with the pop song Torn in 1997, but she neither wrote it nor was the first to sing it.

Not much happened when it was first recorded and released in 1993 by a Danish singer. Three years later, a Norwegian singer lent her vocals to the song and it became only a minor hit.

But when Imbruglia set her charming, goofy style to the same song, her album sold six million copies and was nominated for three Grammy awards.

“Copying is a remarkable mechanism, because copying means we don’t have to take risks, we don’t have to think too hard,’’ says Mr Lindkvist.

But, the problem with too much copying is that all products will start to look alike and lose their uniqueness.

Like Imbruglia and her hit song, he recommends relooking old ideas and even failed inventions to see if they can succeed.

Mr Lindkvist shared his ideas at a conference for accountants in Singapore this year. The event, organised by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, examined how the profession could tackle high-tech trends emerging on the horizon.

These trends, including big data and cloud technology, affect business companies, the main clients of accountants. So it is important for accountants to know of these challenges and prepare to meet them, he adds.

To do well in the future, he said, accountants and businessmen should look for ideas previously thought to be impossible but could become a reality.

Twitter, he notes, started as a failed podcasting company Odeo. The company cooked up a novel idea of starting a short message service for small groups. They launched Twitter in 2006 and it now has 271 million monthly active users.


Read the full interview with Mr Magnus Lindkvist in The Straits Times today.