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Create to innovate

Global Innovation Index: Creative Outputs

British author and educationalist, Ken Robinson, has said: “Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value”. Certainly that’s true when it comes to innovation. Here creativity is essential – to produce new ideas which innovators can then adapt and develop, allowing them to be implemented in the everyday world as goods and services. In fact, it many ways it’s creativity that propels innovation.

Britain’s Victorian era was a golden age of invention and innovation – from the first mass transit rail system (the London Underground; steam-driven originally), electric street lights, tarmac roads and flushing toilets to typewriters, postage stamps, Christmas cards and chocolate Easter eggs; the Victorians were obsessed with discovering new things, new processes, new mechanisms, new designs, new gadgets, new ways of doing things. And all that started with creative thought. They were strong believers of social progress through technological innovation.

They didn’t always come up with winners, admittedly. Horse spectacles never went into mass production; the magnet-powered, baldness-beating ‘electric hairbrush’, moustache-protectors and spring-loaded Bibles didn’t stay on the market too long either. Items like those aside though, Victorian creativity and innovation made not just Britain but the world richer for it. And there’s no question, it did advance social progress.

The first ‘World Expo’ – the “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations” – was set up to showcase the ingenuity of innovation, at The Crystal Palace (photo), in London’s Hyde Park in 1851. It was in its own way a creative solution to expanding the marketplace for those innovative goods and services. Today, such expos are commonplace.

Measuring the value of creativity as an integral component of innovation is relatively easy on a single product or service basis; though measuring their value as a component of a country’s innovation output requires a whole system of diverse metrics. When combined, however, they can give a fairly clear view of the part played by creativity.

This is what the 2017 Global Innovation Index (GII) set out to do in the last of its pillars – ‘Creative outputs’. It measured those by means of three main criteria – ‘Creative goods and services’, ‘Online creativity’, and ‘Intangible assets’.

The GII ranks 127 countries world wide. We’ve organised those rankings to show where the Philippines comes on the index in the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) states. Asean members Laos and Myanmar were not part of this survey.

First then, where the Asean states’ stand globally in terms of its ‘Creative outputs’. Singapore, 32nd; Malaysia, 45th; Vietnam, 52nd; Thailand, 53rd; Indonesia, 77th; Cambodia, 92nd; Philippines, 94th; Brunei, 105th.

Now the world rankings for ‘Creative goods and services’. Malaysia, 13th; Singapore, 16th; Thailand, 20th; Vietnam, 36th; Indonesia, 52nd; Cambodia, 74th; Brunei, 110th; Philippines, 115th.

Next the Asean global placings for ‘Online creativity’. Singapore, 30th; Vietnam, 64th; Thailand, 67th; Malaysia, 69th; Brunei, 78th; Indonesia, 79th; Cambodia, 89th; Philippines, 92nd.

And finally how Asean countries did globally with ‘Intangible assets’. Singapore, 42nd; Vietnam, 52nd; Malaysia, 53rd; Thailand, 62nd; Philippines, 86th; Indonesia, 88th; Cambodia, 89th; Brunei, 108th.

So, the Philippines chalks up one next-to-last, two lasts and one not-very-impressive 5th. On any school report that would be an “F”. And it’s sad, because Filipinos are a naturally creative people; they’re also naturally innovative, and they can – and regularly do – combine those two attributes.

Singapore leads the pack overall as well as in two of the three criteria while coming second in the third. Singaporeans too are creative people – let’s face it they built one of the world’s most successful economies on a plot of turf measuring 719.1 square kilometres; that’s 0.6% of the size of Luzon, the Philippines’ northern island.

The big advantage Singapore’s innovators have over the Philippines’ innovators is that the city state injects regular investment into innovation, and in that process those creatively involved are rewarded as ideas take off. So investment is certainly a factor.

But it’s not the only one. Singapore, it’s fair to say, is more disciplined than the Philippines – not always a good thing admittedly where creativity is concerned. But we’re talking here about creativity in a marriage with innovation – not off doing its own thing. In other words, the two areas have to work together as a partnership; as collaborators in those new ideas.

We’re also talking about innovative and creative ideas that can add to the economic growth of these countries. This isn’t about artists and inventors pursuing their own wacky whims. For example, the Philippines has a vibrant film industry – far bigger than that of Singapore – and yet, per capita, there are more people in Singapore watching Singaporean films than Filipinos watching Filipino films in the Philippines. The global results for that particular GII sub-group was Singapore, 38th; Philippines, 98th. This is for audiences in both places in an age range of 15 to 69.

What that means then is that the Singaporean film industry – assisted by the Info-communications Media Development Authority, an agency of the government’s Communications and Information Ministry – has produced a formula to maximise audience size for Singaporean films. That’s not happened in the Philippines.

So when the Singaporean film industry started brainstorming on how it could boost its audiences, at some point someone would have said “What if we…” And that would have been the creative spark which the innovators would have then set out to implement. Singapore’s superior telecoms range and infrastructure will have played a big role in this too.

From that small example, what’s apparent is that there are three easily identifiable areas where creativity for innovation can derive major advantages – investment funds, cohesion of purpose and strong government support. Singapore is strong in all three while the Philippines is at the other end of the scale. In short, it has the raw talent but lacks a holistic plan.

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