On August 9, 1965, Singapore became an independent and sovereign democratic nation. Since it’s founding, Singapore has grown into a standard-bearer of modern development. The city-state is a multi-cultural global hub of commerce, technology, finance and transportation.
As part of a year-long celebration of its 50 year anniversary, the Beyond SG50 Forum explored pathways of innovation in technology and the global supply chain that have positioned the country as a leader since. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Manpower both were in attendance, putting particular focus on the importance of human capital. From that platform, the conference explored what corporations need to do to sustain a peaceful and prosperous Singapore, and an increasingly collaborative global marketplace.
Toffler Associates was invited as a leading voice in this essential conversation
Over the course of two days, we had the opportunity to address a large group of 800 global business leaders followed by time with a more intimate group of 300 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The main focus of those discussions was a blueprint through which global organizations can architect healthy, agile and vibrant organizations.
With 50% of the country’s GDP produced by SMEs, the corporate makeup of Singapore mirrors the global environment. That economic resemblance and the connectedness of Singapore to the rest of the world framed the conversation about what SMEs must do to remain efficient, competitive and innovative.
The government in Singapore, while seen from the outside as highly mechanized, has worked hard to support the independent success of its private sector. By supporting a proficient STEM-educated workforce, prioritizing trade, and taking steps to attract talent from other countries, the government has contributed to an environment in which SMEs can thrive in the near and far term.
Doing that requires these organizations to understand, plan and adapt for a future of accelerated change, hyper-connection and technology disruptions. By considering the anthropology of the country’s economy and then looking forward to examine the future from every vital angle, we shared a framework for value creation and innovation.
Toffler Associates helped participants to consider ways SMEs can liberate their human capital to achieve a greater level of success. For innovative SMEs in general, and for Singaporean SMEs in particular, intelligence and relationships are perhaps the most critical success factors. Creating, nurturing, enabling, and connecting a highly capable, cognitively diverse, knowledge base brings with it a host of implications:
- The leadership structure flattens to allow for more fluid exchange of information and ideas
- The organization is built on a foundation of shared values and trust
- The workforce is characterized by cognitive diversity and connections within those varied individuals
- The culture enables everyone to work together toward higher, shared goals
- Relationships are cultivated to facilitate exchange between employees, other businesses, the Singaporean government and the world
A principle point in the discussion centered on the qualities of current, exemplary disruptors. Many of the most transformative organizations in the world – companies like Uber and AirBnB – are small if measured by financial or human capital count. Despite their relative youth, these organizations have thrived with business models that prioritize innovation, idea flow, and engagement across the hyper-connected world.
The key takeaway is that SMEs can create value anywhere and on any scale. Doing so requires they focus not on a specific objective, but on being fundamentally agile and willing to amend strategy to embrace a changing definition of value, and to pursue it.
Beyond SG50 Forum participants arrived with an expectation that they might become more Future Ready – capable of operating with a specific future in mind. At the end of our time together, everyone was discussing what it means to be Future Proof® – nimble and creative enough to proactively adapt to and lead in any future environment.
Since its founding 50 years ago, Singapore has been seen as visionary. Toffler Associates shares a similar legacy. More than 40 years ago, we began to lead the conversation about the change in civilization. We were entering the Knowledge Age that has produced revolutions like Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, new definitions of infrastructure, and changing workforce demographics. In that time, the understand, plan, and adapt methodology has proven to be a best practice for building agile companies. Today, human capital is at the center of this approach. For SMEs in Singapore and beyond, the imperative now is on equipping people to lead change.
It is time to step into a larger global future.