THE values of old and new must come together in forging Singapore's push for innovation, even amid signs of less hunger and patience among the younger generation, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Friday.
Speaking at the Teochew Entrepreneur Award dinner, he urged young people to persevere so that they master skills and innovate, that is, show some of the "old-fashioned" spirit from the early days of entrepreneurship.
Meanwhile, new-economy industries are driven by creative people who are "deeply absorbed" in their business pursuits, he noted.
Businesses should try to retain this culture by developing their staff and encouraging them to break the mould, rather than focus on technology to innovate.
Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, asked why employee motivation has emerged from surveys as being relatively low in Singapore:
"Many employers give us feedback that something is changing in our new generation, those who are starting work or are early in their careers. People do not stay long on the job, and are impatient to move on."
Fewer younger people believe in learning the ropes, developing skills on the job and working their way up, a trend he said was, in some ways, a result of the tight labour market Singapore has had for several years now. "There is less hunger compared to 20 years ago, and of course compared to 40 or 50 years ago. It is not something we have hard data on - data on the shift in attitudes - but the qualitative feedback is common and widespread."
Calling on businesses to adapt to the new generation that is growing up in an environment different from that of the past, he said: "Whichever the industry, and whether we are a small or big firm, we have to break with convention and innovate, in order to survive and grow.
"But we will not become a truly innovative society - a place where people master skills in every job - if we lose a culture and belief in the value of perseverance, striving for our goals and learning and improving continuously on the job."