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Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 - 21:59 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Innovation Today

While preparing for my lab's movement from its current AS6 location to the aspirationally-named Innovation 4.0 (a.k.a the former IMRE building), it was unavoidable reflecting on the past seven years or so spent there. Then again, perhaps a change of scenery might bring about new perspectives.

[N.B. That said, I'm honestly not sold on the open office trend in general, and most of the relevant research appears to agree on the adverse productivity and morale effects. Common sense would appear to suggest that open offices work best in fast-paced production environments such as trading pits, where any member might have reason to communicate openly with any other member (and everybody's expecting it). The general suspicion's been that open offices are a space (and thus cost) saving measure dressed up as a collaboration-enhancer (alongside hot-desking), but frankly, why hire expensive knowledge workers only to hobble them with the environment? It's like splashing US$200k on a Lambo, then cheaping out on a US$40 set of used tyres. Well, in my particular case, the environment does seem reasonable at least.]

Since we're on innovation, recent news reports had me heartened by the creative capacity of Singaporeans, following the out-of-the-blue immediate ban on personal mobility devices (PMDs) at the beginning of the month. Riders, responding to the proscription on footpaths, instantly took to the grass patches running alongside the paths, and enterprising firms offered to modify existing PMDs into PMAs, by adding a third wheel and speed limiter. The winner, however, was this chap who literally took to the skies, by riding on top of a sheltered walkway. Well, they definitely all adhered to the letter if not the spirit of the new law, only to be smacked down by its long arm. This again goes to show that getting innovative's not the problem - it's getting the higher-ups to accept it.

A Cycling Above All
(Source: sg.news.yahoo.com)

The PMD ban, recall, arose after a spate of highly-publicized accidents, some of them even fatal. The frequency of mishaps and ensuing public outrage (amongst a large enough swathe, at least) towards blatantly-irresponsible riders would eventually force the government's hand, despite promises from the Senior Minister of State for Transport a couple of months back that no ban was forthcoming. Therefore, the abruptness when it came ruined more than a few retailers (not that they're receiving much sympathy) and food delivery fellas, many of whom could really do with the income. Said delivery guys would surround their fair share of ministers and MPs in the rawest outpouring of discontent here for some time; as it is, the sudden policy U-turn was seen as evidence of a shortsighted and high-handed "ban culture" within the administration, by some, as opposed to actually putting in the work to strike a middle ground. Tellingly, emboldened members of the public are not only informing on the many rule-breakers, but even assaulting them. Tempers flare easily from a lack of personal space.

Going off on a slight tangent, Grab's recent cash advance scheme has raised some eyebrows, with more financially-savvy commentators noting that such effectively-loans might not be the best deal for their independent contractors, especially if spent on relative frivolities such as European vacations. Lest it all seem too negative, the government has moved towards quantifying local poverty, to the tune of at least a thousand homeless people, from a first study. Two Catholic churches' gesture in June of opening their doors to them for the night has recently brought matching responses from churches of other denominations, temples and mosques; this is the kind of religious competition I can get behind!

And over in Hong Kong, there may have been some believing of one's own propaganda going on from Beijing, as the pro-democracy camp won a stunning landslide of over three-quarters of the elected seats, demonstrating some very real and very broad grievances; being tone-deaf's a risk with one-party states, I suppose, but more on Hong Kong next time. For now, they could do with thanking GEOTUS for not getting obliterated in fourteen minutes. History shall be kind to his majesty.

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