Embracing, understanding and reacting positively to disruption

Singapore’s prospect did not look good when it became an independent, separate country in 1965: With no natural resources and a mixed population with little shared history, the country started a journey which has brought it “From third world to First”, the title to one volume of the memoirs of its first prime minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew. The 2nd St. Gallen Symposium Singapore Forum and the 10th St. Gallen Symposium Singapore Reception addressed Singapore’s ability to deal with a changing environment on various levels and discussed the topic of the upcoming St. Gallen Symposium – The dilemma of disruption – from various perspectives.

St. Gallen Symposium Singapore Forum 2017

On Saturday, 7 January 2017, Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance, addressed the 2nd St. Gallen Symposium Singapore Forum, organised by the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) Council of Singapore in partnership with the St. Gallen Symposium. He underlined the fundamental changes Singapore is seeing not only in terms of technology and innovation but also on a social level. Minister Wong addressed former and future leaders of tomorrow with three suggestions on how to adapt to disruptive changes.

First, he urged the next generation of leaders to stay humble. “What is the point of reading when you can ask Google?” he asked the audience, underlining that dependence of technology is dangerous and that efforts to learn are key to individual and social success – not just for the young generation. Second, Minister Wong encouraged the participants to stay hungry, outlining that one should step out of the comfort zone. And third, Minister Wong reminded the forum to stay human, an advice which was emphasised multiple time by the panellists of the following dialogue session. It’s easy to overlook what it means to be human in times of radical technological change.

"Stay humble, stay hungry and stay human" (Minister Lawrence Wong)
Speakers: Dr Tan Chi Chiu, Mr Warren Fernandez, Minister Lawrence Wong (Guest-of-honour), Mr Viswa Sadasivan (Moderator), Mr Martin Tan (f.l.t.r)

10th St. Gallen Symposium Singapore Reception

On the eve of the St. Gallen Symposium Singapore Forum, former participants of the main event in Switzerland were invited to join the 10th St. Gallen Symposium Singapore Reception. The four speakers, all former Leaders of Tomorrow at the St. Gallen Symposium, shared their perspectives on innovation and disruption in Singapore. They agreed that it might not even be necessary to invent new ideas, concepts or products to remain competitive, but to understand the problem – once again putting the human element and the customer in the centre. Also, the panel agreed that disruption does not necessarily need to be “David against Goliath” but that start-ups can very well initiate game-changing innovations together with currently dominant organisations or corporations. The role of the government was not put in the centre of the discussion, however, one panellist mentioned that “the best entrepreneurs come from the countries with the worst government ” – pointing at the dilemma that of course no one is in favour of bad government.

The panel agreed that disruption does not necessarily need to be "David against Goliath"
Speakers: Alexander C. Melchers (Moderator), Grace Sai, Victor Sim, Zi Qian Chang, Oswald Yeo (f.l.t.r)

Disruption – good or bad?

While the panel of experienced leaders on Saturday very much focussed on how to manage disruption and how to adapt to radical change as a society, the panel of young leaders was looking for recipes how to create radical change. It might very well depend on the perspective, while innovation might benefit the individual, we might be careful when looking at society or economies as a whole. Hence, there is no answer to the question whether disruption is good or bad. However, both panels agreed that we have to embrace, understand and react positively to disruption.

There is no answer to the question whether disruption is good or bad

Television report of the 2nd St. Gallen Symposium Singapore Forum

Source: Channel NewsAsia


Asking the question, “Disruption – good or bad?” is akin to asking, “Nuclear reaction – good or bad?” While it might be cliché to answer, “It all depends on how we apply and use it.” It might be wiser to believe that it deserves closer study and attention. Since the days of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Nuclear science has progressed significantly. Disruption too will have to be looked at as a science and studied in every field it affects and touches. Our ability to respond and react better to disruption will come from appreciating it more as a science and understanding it more as a phenomenon. 

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