Look at societies like Singapore where bad behaviour is not tolerated and can get you extreme punishments: Where are the creative people? Where are the great artists, where are the great musicians, where are the great writers?
All the creative elements seem to disappear. Though, of course, everybody is educated and has a good job and nice pay and a car.
Thinking for yourself is creativity and that's goes right down to what we were talking about dress, the clothing that you wear - you wear what you want to wear.
If you read Steve Jobs biography there was a time he had long hair and was some sort of later day hippie. In Singapore he would have been stopped at the airport in the 70s and disallowed from entering Singapore. The founders of Apple had a earlier business that created boxes that allowed people to make illegal long distance phone calls. They were in every sense rule breakers.
Over the years, there were calls for Singaporeans to be more innovative. Be more creative. Be more entrepreneurial. Some Singapore companies conduct "innovation drive" or "suggestion drive" to get workers thinking. But after a while it usually loses momentun because it is hard to build up the culture among Singaporeans and overcome the social factors outside the company that constrain Singaporeans to a pattern of behavior - the education system, the strict laws, various socio-economic factors.
The basic idea is this:
Wozniak is right to say that strict rules and heavy punishment for breaking rules is what stifles creativity in Singapore. I believe it starts with the political space. In the past, what happened to people with a different point of view had a chilling effect on the rest of society. Over time people became fearful of expressing their views and challenging authority. This behavior cannot be compartmentalised and over resulted in an obedience to all authority - students don't question their teachers, workers don't challenge their bosses, and people believe everything they read in the Straits Times. The govt exerted control through harsh laws and punishment ...everything is orderly and we have obedient citizens who learn all the rules and are afraid to break them. This is great if we make our living working at assembly lines, doing routine work and the world never changes. Unfortunately, that is not the reality we are in and we either innovate and out smart our competitors or we go on Lim Swee Say's strategy of doing the same things faster, cheaper and better than them which is getting very difficult with China playing the same game..
The PAP's "cheaper and faster" growth model is a race to the bottom for workers. How do our lives and living standards improve by making Singaporean workers cheaper? The PAP's idea of building an economy dependent on cheap foreign labor has so many deleterious effects but the main problem is it is not sustainable. We already have a population density higher than that of Hong Kong, housing and cost of living as a whole has escalated and Singapore is becoming increasing more expensive. To compensate for the rise in the cost of doing business, Singapore looks for cheap labor - we used to have mainly Malaysians but now we have to go all the way to get workers from China, India, Burma and Vietnam. As wages among ordinary Singaporeans become depressed, inequality rose.
If you look at how companies survive and thrive over time, the ones that succeed are able to transform themselves over time to deliver innovative products. The Appes, the Googles and the Facebooks...the ability to evolve companies like these is one key to sustaiinable economic growth without the "cheaper, better, faster" strategy. Much need to be changed for us to get there including our education system that puts so much emphaisis on exam scores that it forces students to focus on doing well for exams above everything else. Students are sorted according to PSLE scores into secondary schools that now lack diversity in the student population - each school taking in student from a narrow slice of PSLE scores.
We should all take a page from Apple's comeback strategy when Steve Jobs rejoined the company - Think Different about the way we do things, forget the rules, the punishment, the pressure to conform and suspend our fear of authority. Be open to alternative ideas, question everyting around you, remove the constraints on your thinking ....
Unfortunately we live in a country that has a dominant govt that is uneasy with alternative ideas. Ideas are censored and books are banned not for obscenity but because they give us another perspective of Singapore.. How are we to innovate when some one decides which idea we should have and which we shouldn't...and what information we should know and what we shouldn't. know. Unless we free up this great resource, the creative minds our people, we will stagnate and decline going the way of others who also try to preserve the status quo in a fast changing world.