Sunday, January 24, 2016

Prof Shih is right about entrepreneurship but...

As I look back, I feel that in business nothing is harder and more risky than entrepreneurship. I have also taken away one lesson which is peculiar to Singapore. To have world beating success we must choose the options which everyone think is going to fail. That was how we get here and also how we continue to be a shiny gem. In other words we always have to stay special by reinventing ourselves. To do that we cannot be too obsessed with commercial success, much less a quick pay off. Even Mark Zuckerberg from big USA is very patient and strategic. What more us?

Perhaps the first flagship entrepreneur was Dr Goh Keng Swee? It was either a successful industrial Jurong or Goh's folly. If Goh had failed we would have starved. It was as brutal as that.

We cannot compete with others on hard and even soft resources as we are simply too small. So we have to compete on insight, foresight and the courage to go it alone. It is frightening and nobody likes to live in fear. Today we talk about having fun all the time but Vivian Balakrishnan was right to share with Wired UK that for us it is about survival.

"We are not supposed to be here," Vivian Balakrishnan -- who was minister for environment and water resources until October 2015, as well as the head of the Smart Nation Initiative -- told the audience at an innovation event that WIRED attended in April 2015. "What you see in Singapore is an exercise of desperate imagination. It's not about innovation because it's sexy, but because it's survival."

A lion city must be led by lions and I hope the late lion had turned many sheep into lions. Time is the ultimate test of this experiment.

Update: 8:20am

Nevertheless the intrepid must also not be a confused bunch who are actually fools in disguise. I shared this from SR Nathan regarding Dr Goh refusal to buy untested combat aircraft in a September 2011 post which unsurprisingly Google helped me find.

Remember what SR Nathan said about Goh Keng Swee rejecting the offer for some fighter aircraft because they weren't battle tested? The wise man know the limits of cognition and theory. Now the stakes for committing to nuclear energy on the little soil we have is infinitely more severe. Singapore could practically cease to exist.

So how to strike the right balance which this government is fond of asking? That is actually the wrong question. There is nothing to balance here. Just don't be stupid. Have some holy fear and never think too highly of ourselves but also be supremely confident as well. The tension is good.

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