The Most Innovative Nation In The World Needs An American To Run Temasek???

March 11, 2009


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You know what; I don’t trust survey’s – and one reason why I always regard them with askance is simply because; they’re suffer from a failing common to bikini syndrome – its never how much is revealed; but how well they manage to cover up the bits we all like to see…..but cannot.


Take for instance the latest survey conducted by the Washington-based National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Boston Consulting Group which was reported recently in the ST, entitled Singapore tops in innovation–  at first glance seems innocuous enough; nothing really suspicious sticks out; all the bits are even tucked in.


But lets just peel the veneer and look what’s really underneath; for example: how was the results of the survey served up; lets see, Singapore was rated as the most innovative nation in the world, out of an overall list of 110 countries – I mean it reads plain and simple enough like I said; only do you get that familiar sinking feeling something is amiss? I mean; if we are really that innovative country on this planet then how come the ST is languishing somewhere in the 147th just behind the Timbuktu morning post? Why was it so difficult for Temasek to find a local to fill the post of CEO? Coming to think of it why did Temasek and GIC lose so much money? Get my drift? What’s rolled out just doesn’t seem to gel very well with reality; my brain is hurting again.


And let me tell you what lies behind the massive cognitive dissonance – firstly what our beloved rag ST deliberately failed to tell us all is – this is an industry survey, that’s to say it narrows the definition of innovation to roughly the diameter of a pin head – Question: was this narrow ambit of the term “innovation” ever mentioned in the article?


Next what it attempts to do is elide the cogent and instead promote the superficial; and how was this statistical sleight of hand accomplished? Well if you bothered to do further research and read up on the terms of reference of the survey (that incidentally was not even discussed in this article)  what you will find is the definition of innovation is specifically limited to appraise only two general metrics output: new products or knowledge; and secondly business innovation that result in higher quality and productivity (incidentally this includes activities like immigration as well) – now where the problem comes in is that’s a bit like saying, you have the fastest car in the world, but forgetting to mention it doesn’t have any brakes – the whole idea of us being the most innovative country in this planet would only make sense; if you didn’t know what’s actually being appraised isn’t even innovation in the strict dictionary sense as it remains innovation in the context of business re-engineering that incidentally has absolutely nothing to do with our normative understanding of the word – innovation.




As what this study really measures isn’t the REAL rubber-meets- the-road Innovation that we all associate with launching a weather satellite into orbit – or being able to design computer controlled toys that vibrate to keep lonely spinsters in the delirium of the floating world – and why is this so dangerous? Because when something is misrepresented then it runs the danger of being referenced and even used incorrectly. That’s the long and short of it.And why does this rile me no end; because it’s a bit like walking into Mcdonalds and ordering a big Mac only to discover the bread is soggy; the beef is wafer thin and it bears absolutely no resemblance to the Technicolor photo of what a big Mac should rightly be – in short it leaves an unmistakable metallic taste in the mouth of the customer that just says – “Can I have my money back please?”


If anything the write up by ST is a pithy summary of how we – the readers are often given side A only to be left wondering what happened to the side B?


What I find really disturbing about this write up is how it brazenly elides wholesale the cogent and promotes the superficial at the expense of accuracy – that surveys should be simplified right down to its nuts and bolts so that Ah Kow, Muthu or Ahmad can gobble it down with their morning kaya bread certainly goes with the whole territory that makes up journalism – But where it degenerates into churnalism is when good old fashion propaganda is passed off as the news of the day – served up a la Pravda al dente; where simplification comes at the price of confusing understanding by making generalizations about the real world.


At best, this hackneyed attempt to account for how we suddenly found ourselves to be the most innovative country in this world doesn’t edify or even nourish our understanding as it generates maybe a slew of questions how this could have even come to past – had ST went on further to volunteer this information – the missing blanks in the narrative could have been filled.


But as far as bracketed reportage goes; at best all it does is inflict pain to thinking folk – marooning them in their skulls as they try to make sense of the incomprehensible – at worst, it lulls those who are already terminally supine within the system into a false sense of hope and security – we cant be that bad after all, we are after all No.1– and that in a nutshell brings us all full circle to account for why we cannot possibly be the most innovative nation on this planet; not even if there is a survey that suggest otherwise simply because if there was ever such a thing as innovation; it never once emerged from an oligarchy that was so fearful of change – that all they seem to do is promote the idea should they even tamper with the status quo ante, then whole edifice will simply come crashing down – and that incidentally is the truth and nothing but the truth.


Next time ST, just give us the news and spare us all the mind bending falsehoods, distortion and propaganda, keep to journalism and spare us all the churnalism. And you can keep the sauce as well (wink!)


Got to go cycling now.


Darkness 2009


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