Creative Thinking in the 21st Century Economy

National Museum of Singapore, Tuesday 5 April 2016, 17:30 - 20:00 SGT

Singapore skyline at night

What does it take to succeed in a vibrant and dynamic economy today?

In a special event in Singapore chaired by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, Professor Sir Adrian Smith, three senior professionals from banking, law and education began an important conversation about the impact of creative thinking in today’s global marketplace.

The role of creativity in business is something that is often underestimated. But what if we looked outside the accepted paradigm of how things are done? In a candid discussion, panellists Dr Lee Kwok Cheong, CEO of SIM Global Education; Nomita Nair, Partner at global law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner; and Raymond Gwee, Managing Director of UBS AG, explored how a diverse cultural and educational landscape can inspire new ways of thinking and working.

Praising its cosmopolitan, multicultural society, Nomita Nair highlighted that Singapore’s diversity is a major strength for innovation. The mix of eastern and western cultures has provided Singapore with a unique perspective to do things differently, while its adoption of novel approaches to social and economic challenges, for instance by providing public housing for 80% of the population, has brought widespread benefits to its society.

Sharing his experience of a career in international finance, Raymond Gwee emphasised that creativity is essential in all businesses, including banking, which may not immediately spring to mind as the most creative of careers. His advice to innovators is to understand the rules of business inside and out before breaking them, and went on to explain that, increasingly, a simple ‘rule-based’ approach was not good enough, suggesting that universities could contribute more to a creative strategy by developing curricula alongside employers.

Dr Lee stressed that there is room for different paradigms in education, and reiterated the need for greater creativity in education globally. Following a discussion about Confucian and Socratic methods of education, he noted that different educational options should be available to young people and that failure isn’t something to be afraid of.

Sir Adrian agreed, noting that institutions like the University of London have been encouraged to ‘put the Socratic icing on the Confucian cake’, and the question arose about how we can measure  universities’ impact in creating an environment of adaptability and creativity, beyond graduate employability, which is often used by institutions as a means of competition.

Concluding the discussion, the panel agreed that more should be done to harness the desire and potential of young people to do things differently. By encouraging creativity as part of a diverse culture and society, we can change the way that we live and work, and share the benefits of innovation with everyone.


Dr Lee Kwok Cheong, CEO, SIM Global Education

Dr Lee is the Chief Executive Officer of SIM Global Education. Previously, he was Founding Group Chief Executive Officer of NCS Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of the SingTel Group. Dr Lee now sits on the Steering Committee of the Infocomm Media Masterplan (IMM) under MCI and chairs one of its Working Committees - Manpower & Talent Development.

Nomita Nair, Partner, Projects, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP)

Nomita Nair is a Partner with global law firm, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and specialises in international project finance transactions, especially within the energy and infrastructure sectors.

Raymond Gwee, Managing Director, UBS AG

Raymond Gwee is the Managing Director for Investment Products & Services, Wealth Planning at UBS AG, and the Chief Executive Officer of UBS Trustees (Singapore) Ltd.

The event was introduced and chaired by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, Professor Sir Adrian Smith.

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