Wanted: 500,000 Ideas in the Thinkathon

Ideas to keep Singapore going for the next 20 years - that's what 8,000 people will attempt tonight, led by US motivation guru Gerald Haman.


THE CHALLENGE: Come up with half a million ideas in one hour.


THE GOAL: To create an ideas bank which Singapore can dip into to create a better quality of life.


THE METHOD: Put 8,000 people in the Singapore Indoor Stadium for the world's biggest brainstorming session, and make them believe their ideas can change a country. Sound impossible?


Don't even mention this word to American motivationalist and ideas guru Gerald Haman.  Mr Haman, who has helped boost productivity at Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, will run the ambitious Thinkathon tonight to kick start the Productivity and Standards Board's (PSB) innovation campaign.


'For the next 20 years, we want to see Singaporeans dare to dream, dare to do, and dare to make a difference to improve their quality of life,' said Mr Freddy Soon, PSB's deputy chief executive of Planning and Promotion. The board decided to bring the motivationalist here to help keep the creativity ball rolling in the Republic.


Mr Haman, who started his Chicago-based company, SolutionPeople, 12 years ago, is better known as Solutionman in the United States.

Solutionman is the character he assumes when he appears at speeches and seminars. He wears a Superman suit with a light bulb logo on his chest and carries a briefcase filled with socks - because people who wear socks without shoes, he has proven, come up with more ideas.

Tonight, more than 100 local firms, government institutions and schools will take part in Mr Haman's mass-thinking session.


From 7 pm to 8 pm, people as young as 16 will answer 100 questions on 20 subjects, including such topics as reducing student stress levels, how to make the Government more accessible to the public, and how to make people less materialistic.  Their written suggestions will be stored in a national ideas bank.  Mr Haman, supported by some 300 helpers, hopes to inspire people to suggest ideas which are not run-of-the-mill, but which break the mould and have the potential to transform lives.


To break the world record for creating ideas, each participant will have to produce an average of 130 solutions or suggestions in just one hour.

The Thinkathon is part of a celebration to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the productivity movement, founded by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew to raise the nation's productivity levels by asking Singaporeans to work harder and smarter. 'Back then, productivity was a dirty word,' said Mr Soon. 'People complained about having to work harder. Now, we earn more by working faster, and it comes naturally to us.' But to sustain productivity growth in this innovation-driven age, a creative mindset is also needed, he noted.  'The Thinkathon will show that everyone is creative and capable of contributing valuable ideas to society,' said Mr Steven Tan, deputy director of the PSB innovation centre.


By Alicia Yeo, Singapore Press Holdings Limited, 09/05/2001