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Boards in Singapore can do more to boost creativity: experts

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 19:53

BOARDS in Singapore could do more to boost corporate innovation by setting an example themselves, experts said at a Singapore Institute of Directors (SID) conference on Wednesday.

Business creativity expert Fredrik Haren suggested the board could jumpstart a culture of creativity through simple actions such as holding board meetings in a different way or inviting external parties to contribute at meetings.

"These may look like a gimmick but will infuse new ideas that after some time will become part of the DNA," he said, adding that directors could also encourage their firms to do more international mergers and acquisitions (M&As).

Jean-Philippe Deschamps, an emeritus professor at Swiss business school IMD, also said the boards could do more to beef up their capability to make sense of new business trends, particularly those to do with technology, and try to look for board members beyond the usual mix of "lawyers, accountants and financiers".

SID chairman Willie Cheng said in his conference-opening address that innovation "does not get very much airtime" on board agendas. "At best, it is part of a broader strategy discussion at the board, and more often than not, it ends up being about M&A and geographic expansion".

The guest of honour at the conference was Minister in the Prime Minister's Office S Iswaran, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry. Mr Iswaran said in a speech that the government has committed S$16.1 billion to support research, innovation and enterprise activities between 2011 and 2015, and wants to do more to help companies develop and adopt new technologies.

He also singled out companies such as Singtel and Sembcorp Industries as examples. Singtel's board members have learnt more about new technology relevant to the telco by visiting Silicon Valley, Boston, New York and Israel, he noted, while Sembcorp has set up a technology advisory panel made up of board members and "technology leaders" to oversee the application of new technologies.

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