Singapore – Thursday, Innovation in Government, Aviation and Healthcare

By: Phil Gibbs, Principal, The Disruption Lab

Thursday shifted to innovation in large organizations across three very diverse industry sectors–government, aviation and healthcare.

Singapore GovTech

While in most countries government is the last place to learn about innovation, the lessons offered by Quek Sin Kwok, Senior Director of the National Digital Identity Program within GovTech, would rival any of the world’s leading technology companies–in fact, Quek pointed out that they are becoming like a tech company. The National Digital Identity Program is part of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative started in 2014. The goal is “a nation where people lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, enabled seamlessly by technology, offering exciting opportunities for all.” He noted that the vision is invisible government.

It is notable that Smart Nation has the highest level of support from the Singapore government, with the Prime Minister even being a mystery shopper and providing feedback. Quek pointed out that the small and simple things are the hardest to do–not a lot of innovation but requiring attention and use of data to improve. Smart Nation provides the policies and GovTech is the execution arm.

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Quek noted that there is a tremendous emphasis in Singapore on transformation. As a small nation, they have been a global trading hub for the last 50 years based on a strong vision from the founding Prime Minister. The emphasis has been on world-class facilities, educated people and a strong financial system. As a trading hub, the emphasis was on moving physical goods, while today the focus has shifted to moving data and continuing to be relevant to the region and the rest of the world. A low birth rate and aging population are challenges–they are still relying on people and not innovating enough.

Singapore has to rely on automation in the future and plan for 80% of systems to go to the cloud in the next 5 years. This is being facilitated by GovTech–65 of 100 government agencies are now run by GovTech. And they have a common process for funding new initiatives, with $50K provided for testing, $200K for piloting, and then scaling.

In the past, new systems were vendor managed, but they realized it was not a good system–once the vendor took over a project, they stayed stagnant for the five year term of the project. When they outsourced they lost capabilities–they had project managers but lost engineers. They started a new organization and hired a lot of engineers and young people, totally rebuilding the culture from scratch and experimenting with new ways of running projects. While this created two cultures, they are now bringing the cultures together.

Throughout the week we heard about the Singapore government achieving amazing results and the results were visible everywhere as we explored the country. Quek pointed out that they are the only nation that buses people to see the airport which is not just a transportation hub, but a destination. In fact, it has been named the world’s best airport seven years in a row. Watch this video and you will see why! Can you imagine busing people to see the airport in major US cities? Oh, and by the way, the National Digital Identity program is beginning to cross the Singapore border into other countries–maybe a growth strategy like e-Residency in Estonia?

Airbus Skyways

The next stop Thursday was Airbus Skyways where we saw the future of urban mobility, specifically as related to parcel delivery. We heard from Leo JEOH, Head of Design – Airbus Helicopters Southeast Asia and Program Lead, Skyways.

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The focus of the Skyways project has been the parcel delivery use case with an emphasis on operating safely in an urban environment. You can see more about Airbus’s urban mobility at this link, particularly viewing the video.

Ng Teng Fong Centre for Healthcare Innovation

The final stop of the day was our much anticipated visit at the Ng Teng Fong Center for Healthcare Innovation (CHI), where it was our honor to be hosted by A/Prof Wong Hon Tym, Medical Director, National Healthcare Group Eye Institute, and Clinical Director, Centre for Healthcare Innovation, and Eiseli Loh, Director, Centre for Healthcare Innovation.

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CHI is focused on innovation and co-learning in healthcare in a recently opened nine-story facility. They are addressing trends, as in the US, of care moving from the hospital to the community, from outcomes to value, and from episodic to population models of care. As you will note in this CHI link, their Innovation Cycle involves three steps: Care and Process Design; Automation, IT, Robotic Innovation; and Job Redesign, all built on the foundation of the Plan, Do, Study, Act cycle introduced by Deming.

We are excited about the potential of developing a working relationship between CHI and LAB|2025, our healthcare initiative focused on co-learning and co-innovation in healthcare, that are addressing similar issues in two different cultures.

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Phil is the founding Principal of The Disruption Lab, where he focuses on disruptive innovation and corporate growth. For over a decade, he led Executive Learning, one of the country’s leading firms supporting continual improvement (sustaining and efficiency innovation), particularly in healthcare, and including work with industry leader HCA and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI).

His entrepreneurial experience includes co-founding multiple companies, including E|SPACES and LifeFilez. In addition to his startup experience, Phil has served as a principal in an early-stage investment firm and worked in/consulted with multiple large organizations, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory early in his career. His interest in innovation began with his doctoral research at The Ohio State University focused on understanding how organizations achieve both high productivity and high innovation.

You can connect with or ask Phil a question through The Disruption Lab community at


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