Recently, the leadership in Singapore has stated its intent to grow the productivity by 3% and it has also identified, rightly so, that if it wants to make this happen it has to encourage the innovation. Very true. Gone are the days when you could through more cheap labour to manufacture some thing or you could push same labour to do more things in given time. This is an era of services industry and knowledge economy and not the 19th century manufacturing practices.
Productivity through innovation is the right way to do. But the question is, can innovation happen if you tell bunch of people to go out and innovate? Does it happen if you just throw money after it? Answer is no. Though it needs money and bright brains, it does not happen in isolation and silos.
Consider the examples where innovation happened to solve the real problems :
TED – open translation project :
When the prestigious platform wanted to make knowledge available (through the talks) to millions of people who do not speak English wanted to translate the work in 40 international languages, what did it do. It turned to its users – gave the tools in the hands of the users to translate the work. And the result? Job done in very short span of time, with such a low cost.
Few years back, a Toranto based gold minning company was struggling with debts, strikes and bad market conditions. Prospects were not looking good for survival. How the CEO turned to mass collaboration and not just saved the company but took it from $100 Million to $ 9 billion company is an interesting case.
When GE plastic wanted to grow it business even when it has 90% of the market share, how it turned to its customer with “toolkit” concept and not only increased its Total Addressable Market, but retained its lead in the market share.
How the world’s largest encyclopaedia was created through user contributions in short span of time with little or no money.
The common theme in these disparate examples has been use of “mass collaboration and user driven innovation”
Now these are famous and well documented case studies. There are many more that have innovated through “mass collaboration”. If you notice there has been so much written about it in recent years and so many case studies are available. What Singapore can embrace from these solutions is processes, methodology and environment creation to address the problems through mass collaboration.
Open source software is one the earliest success stories of how collaboration, sharing and standardisation can help you do more with less and democratize innovation. Talking about standardisation, if you want to turn innovation into mass innovation, you need to create standardisation. In the recent presentation at Plug in conference in July 2008 Andy Grove, former chief of Intel, urged the American Automobile industry to learn from open source towards standardisation in regards to creating “ Green energy automobiles”
Creating a culture of adopting open source software in Singapore would help in many ways :
- Help create understanding of mass collaboration
- Help companies to deploy its capex and opex more efficiently there by improving the productivity
- Contributing to open source software would create necessary mindset toward innovation.
- Standardization, which comes with the use of open source software would lead towards mass innovation
When Thomas Goetz said the following, in 2003, it was prophetic, today is it is the reality.
“Software is just the beginning … open source is doing for mass innovation what the assembly line did for mass production. Get ready for the era when collaboration replaces the corporation. “
Gong Xi Fa Cai (Wish you very prosperous Chinese New Year )