Out of the box: Wherefore the MSC?

I came across a BBC article on the MSC, and felt the need to say my two sen worth.

Ten years ago, the Malaysian government launched one of the unfairly labelled mega projects called the Multimedia Super Corridor (“MSC”).

The project was met with either awe or criticism. It was awe inspiring in the sense that it was so visionary for a country which was still pretty much trying to compete with its neighbours for manufacturing investment on the basis of cheap labour. It generated awe because the vision was simple and held a lot of truth: if Malaysia wanted to be competitive, it needed to focus on knowledge-based resources as opposed to low cost of doing business. Today, countries like China and India are attracting most of the investment by offerring precisely the low cost environment for businesses.

The criticism came from the fact that the project involved far too much money, when certain fundamental issues in the country remained to be sorted out.

In truth, it is a bit of both. Our inability to execute the vision of the government of the day – coupled with the late 90s economic & political crisis and dotcom bust of the early 21st century – has resulted in an underperforming MSC. Today we wonder “if only” we had done something then… we would be far more competitive today from a knowledge and technology standpoint.

Still, one of the fundamental issues we need to address is our education system. Having the promises of the MSC alone is insufficient if we cannot produce a steady flow (river) of creative, innovative and technically capabale graduates.

The emphasis is on being creative and innovative.

Thinking outside the box is a must in the internet age. New technologies, new solutions often appear on our blindside. By the time we realise it, somebody would have already commercialised the solution.

All is not lost though. We still have the ability to catch up with our neighbours. The key is for corporations (government-linked or otherwise) to encourage creativity within the working environment. I am currently in such environment. I know for sure that we are in an environment where we tend to ask for answers as opposed to looking for them. This is the typical past year exam syndrome that is commonplace in our education system.

To overcome this, I believe the following needs to be done:

  • remove the corporate shackles that restrain the intellect of our workforce
  • encourage diversity within the organisation – allow it to flourish and become the norm instead of the exception
  • encourage creativity & innovation through experimentation, taking calculated risks and learning from failures

These are very operational and people issues that needs to be worked out. I don’t think that there are any textbook solutions or manuals that can be written to transform these organisations. It has to be done through strong change agents, and getting the hands dirty.

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