How Can Diversity Boost Innovation in Conservative South East Asia?

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Home > Articles > How Can Diversity Boost Innovation in Conservative South East Asia?

 How Can Diversity Boost Innovation in Conservative South East Asia?

Shanthi Jeuland | Today's Manager
December 2, 2020

The coming together of various ethnicities with different experiences in cities and communities is a key driver of innovation.

We live in a complex, interconnected world where diversity, moulded by globalisation and technological advancements, forms the fabric of modern society. Not surprisingly, our living environment tend to mirror the sociocultural elements at play in our lives outside work. Having lived abroad for a while, I have discovered that diversity can boost and foster innovation, creativity, and empathy in manners that homogeneous environments seldom do. However, it takes careful nurturing and conscious orchestration to unleash the true potential of this invaluable asset.

The coming together of people from various ethnicities with different experiences in cities and communities is a key driver of innovation. If we look at the most innovative, disruptive and prosperous metropolitan centres in the world—New York, Melbourne, London—they all have one thing in common. They are the after effects of cultural amalgamation, with a high concentration of immigrants. Research shows that there is a direct correlation between high-skilled immigration and an increase in the level of innovation and economic performance in cities and regions.

To talk about something closer to home, Singapore makes a great case in point: Our little red dot nation, within a conservative South East Asia. With a population of just over five million, Singapore today is one of the world’s heavyweight financial centres. It scores highly in international rankings in areas such as diverse education and ease of doing business, and has been acknowledged as the world’s most tech-ready nation. Singapore is also exceptionally multicultural, with a diverse mix of people from Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Western descents, and large populations of different religious groups such as Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus.

When we achieved independence in 1965, our forefathers instituted measures that we would not leave racial harmony to chance. Singapore aggressively promoted racial and ethnic integration. An important measure is the housing policy, which ensured that every public housing development board complex (HDB) followed a national quota of racial percentage. This encouraged the different ethnic groups to learn to live with one another, and broke up all the ethnic ghettos that were prevalent at the time of independence. Another measure, which most of us should be familiar with, Racial Harmony Day. Children dressing up in a plethora of different ethnicities’ costumes, watching cultural performances at the school hall—we are instilling that racial diversity acceptance and camaraderie from a young age to boost the importance of racial diversity for generations to come.

These seemingly autocratic measures have served our little red dot well in producing a well-integrated population that values meritocracy more than race or religion. Singapore’s ethnic and religious diversity has proven to be an asset to the country, and the result is relative racial harmony—something that other countries would do well to learn from.

With a wealth of industry experiences and a fiery passion for engaging others in meaningful conversations, Shanthi Jeuland, Managing Director for COCO Public Relations, takes on the world of Public Relations and Digital Management with refreshing insights in the agency.




Copyright © 2020 Singapore Institute of Management

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Today's Manager Issue 4, 2020

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