Retired basketball star Yao Ming urged young people in Hong Kong to think outside the box when looking for opportunities. Yao, who was awarded an honorary doctorate in social science by the University of Hong Kong two years ago, shared his ideas at the APAC Innovation Summit held at the Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday. Yao said young people, as symbols of innovation, should focus more on the opportunities to be found in the rest of Asia or even the world. "[Young people] have the most dynamic minds and bring us energy with the best creativity," said Yao. He said the concept of "Asia's world city" should not merely refer to a place, but a state of mind. A native of Shanghai, the former sports star said he had never imagined that his opportunities would ultimately be in Houston, Texas. "The opportunity might not be here, but there must be one somewhere out there." He compared such opportunities to courtship. "You cannot wait for your other half to find you, you have to go out to find your partner." Talking about innovation, Yao said new ideas did not come all of a sudden. "They must have gone through a long accumulating period of experiences. You must have a sufficient quantity of experiences before knowing how to converge different ideas." The 34-year-old manager of the Shanghai Sharks, a basketball team Yao first played with as a teenager, also noted how big data was making an impact on the sports industry in North America. "In the past it was impossible to use big data with sports games, but now each NBA team has their own office to analyse data to manage the team more efficiently," he said. "To innovate, it is necessary to jump out from your own area and explore other zones," Yao said, after which "a new standard will then be created". "[Young people] have the most dynamic minds and bring us energy with the best creativity. Our future should have more clashes of thought." The father of a four-year-old girl, he said time management was also essential and had allowed him to strike a balance between work and family. "You have to learn how to say no, and be prepared to miss some meetings. There are some things that cannot be retrieved once you have missed them." He hoped his daughter could pursue her own interests in the future, and thing more: "I hope she won't be too tall."