When it comes to sustainable development and enhancing our competitiveness, Hong Kong appears to be resting on its laurels.
No doubt we have many things to be proud of: an advanced service economy with well-run infrastructure, Hong Kong Airport, MTR, Octopus Card, Hotel ICON (a de facto social enterprise in the education sector thriving on design and business innovation) and even PMQ, a new hip place in town. But we need to stay ahead of the game because Hong Kong’s reputation as the world’s freest economy and one of Asia’s top innovative cities is being eroded amid strong global and regional competition.
Take a look at Korea, whose Gangnam Style conquered the world in the past few years. Its innovation agility, K-style of design sensibility and creativity, and strong digital and technological prowess are obvious key drivers for success. And behind all this is the nation’s strong embrace of design and technology in its innovation culture, as evidenced by Seoul’s appointment of a former vice mayor as its chief design officer almost a decade ago.
Singapore, with a national design policy, also has emphasized the strategic importance of design as a major driver of its economic competitiveness and societal well-being. The same is true in the United Kingdom, where the All-Parliamentary Group on Design and Innovation provides advice and recommendations in charting economic and cultural development across policy areas.
As our neighboring economies are in design-led transformations and hot pursuit of opportunities and sustainable development, I believe Hong Kong’s leaders across all sectors must acquire a creative mindset and cherish the belief that getting the job done is just not good enough.
Hong Kong is blessed with the enterprising creativity and resilience of its citizens along with generations of hard work. The city’s can-do spirit was built in our DNA, and it has enhanced our efficiency and resulted in worldwide recognition of our competence in financial and professional services.
But in view of the growing competition, we need to step away from our comfort zone and avoid getting trapped with institutional thinking. Conservation does not work well in a sea of change, and disruption is a norm to business innovations in this VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) environment.
In this ever-changing world, it is of paramount importance that we strengthen our ability to discover new needs, emphatically connect with customers and co-create solutions. This requires a new mindset, new knowledge and new skills over and beyond our traditional knowledge and proven business competence.
Especially in the digital era, we must embrace the internet of things, e-tailing, multiple and simultaneous platforms of communication. All these developments will redefine ways to connect and interact with people and expedite user-centric innovations and experience-driven solutions. As change cycles are speeding up in a hyper-networked society, business leaders need to be sensitive to design, technology, trends and culture.
Our creative economy thrives on “T” shaped development of skills, creative confidence and co-creation through cross knowledge domains and interactions. Hong Kong, the hotbed of entrepreneurship in Asia, should advance into becoming the hub of innovation of business concepts, branding, and product and service delivery.
For Hong Kong, the way of doing business has changed. It is time to cherish design thinking and foster creative confidence. Failing that, we will be timed out.
Edmund Lee Tak-yue, Executive Director of Hong Kong Design Centre
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