Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Wednesday May 22nd 2019

Is Lack of Creativity to be Blamed for Our Poor Entrepreneurial Spirit?

Few years ago, I remembered receiving a book  – The World Is Flat written by Thomas L Friedman – from my Chief Executive  when I joined a government agency. The agency was tasked to help the jobless community.

I later found that the book was mass purchased and given to all 300 of the government agency. I read the book in a flash and was ready to contribute to this awesome agency.

I was elated as I have always associated government agencies with top-down bureaucracy and a culture of non risk-taking. The book dealt with anything but conformity and a systematic way of doing things and I was excited that I am about to join a innovative out-of-the-box-agency.

However, I found that at the ground level, his staff still operated the normal traditional civil service mode – do your job  well, don’t ask too many questions and don’t get out of line too much.

There is little room for creativity and ideas were constantly shut out or if they were implemented at all  – most likely your immediate superiors would get the credit for your ideas.  There is thus little incentive for  us to exercise our creativity in such  stifling work culture and sadly things are done the same way for many years without the need to improve unless the top says so.

Many of us simply tried our best to do what we are told well enough to get a B grading for our half-yearly work appraisal review so that we would receive a better performance bonus. If you do not  toe the line or act differently from the rest, you may end up at the bottom of the pile and may even receive an adverse grading. You may also be branded a “smart alec” if you try to do things differently and risk a dissent warning if you always want to do things  your own way.

Of course, one can always argue that things need to be done in a proper organized way in the civil service or else things will go haywired. However, an organization will not improve if the workers do not think creatively and contribute ideas in  a world economy that proves to be challenging and ever-changing.

It is a provened fact that creativity is something that we Singaporeans don’t have a lot  and don’t use often.  Maybe, our educational system of  studying simply to ace exams – which incidentally does not  really tax the creativity juices a lot – has impeded us from exploring our creative right side of the brain.

Our Asian distaste for questioning  authority  also deters many workers from speaking out strongly to their bosses when they see something wrong. Most will even continue to work on though  they know that what they are doing  is something wrong and inefficient.

Are NTU/NUS Graduates Creative Enough?

I have recently posted an article written by Valentine Cawley “Are NUS/NTU graduates creative enough?” on my website and  it has generated  quite a number of  comments.

The article also stipulated that Indonesian workers are the most creative working alongside other Asian graduates in this prestigious American company mentioned.

So what actually is creativity? Scientists have always noted that there are two sides of the brain and the right side is supposes to have more innovative vibes (source

Right Brain Inventory Left Brain Inventory
• Visual, focusing on images, patterns • Verbal, focusing on words, symbols, numbers
• Intuitive, led by feelings • Analytical, led by logic
• Process ideas simultaneously • Process ideas sequentially, step by step
• ‘Mind photos’ used to remember things, writing things down or illustrating them helps you remember • Words used to remember things, remember names rather than faces
• Make lateral connections from information • Make logical deductions from information
• See the whole first, then the details • Work up to the whole step by step, focusing on details, information organized
• Organization ends to be lacking • Highly organized
• Free association • Like making lists and planning
• Like to know why you’re doing something or why rules exist (reasons) • Likely to follow rules without questioning them
• No sense of time • Good at keeping track of time
• May have trouble with spelling and finding words to express yourself • Spelling and mathematical formula easily memorized
• Enjoy touching and feeling actual objects (sensory input) • Enjoy observing
• Trouble prioritizing, so often late, impulsive • Plan ahead
• Unlikely to read instruction manual before trying • Likely read an instruction manual before trying
• Listen to how something is being said • Listen to what is being said
• Talk with your hands • Rarely use gestures when talking
• Likely to think you’re naturally creative, but need to apply yourself to develop your potential • Likely to believe you’re not creative, need to be willing to try and take risks to develop your potential

Its clear that most Singaporeans operate on his left side more – we are very efficient, like to follow protocol, listen to instructions, highly organized, analytical and plan ahead.

Our many years spent studying in  a non-interactive kind of educational system has also rendered many of us tight-lipped when it comes to speaking up on what we feel is right and just – the main ingredient for creativity is the freedom to express our thoughts unobstructively and  this is missing within our society. Tell me when was the last time  you stood up against  your superior and you didn’t got marked for it?

This opinion-free  personality is often reinforced when we guys are enlisted into national service whereby in order to survive you have to follow instructions from your section leader to the “T”. Who can then blame us for being so obedient and compliant in the workforce?

In one of the comments posted on the ”Are NUS/NTU graduates creative enough?”  article, againsomeone remarked what many of us have already known about our local graduates:

“ I actually agree with that American’s opinion. I too found graduates for local NTU/NUS to be unable to think outside of the box. It is actually interesting that the other Singaporeans who did venture abroad to get education either in AU/UK/US have shown much better creative potential, so to me it looks like after school there are still creative sparks left in local school students, however local universities continue with their test & grade obsession and finish off all creative sparks that yet remain.”

The article  drew specific conclusions that  our local workforce trained by our exam-based educational system is generally uncreative even though they  have a distinctive scholarly report card, tend to follow a system unchallenged and prefer to work in familiar structured environment.

 In other words, they fit the norm of “a good proficient worker” but  are strictly non-creative, will never really be of any use if you want them to trouble shoot alot in their jobs and do not really perform well if put in a unfamiliar work environment. They need a SOP to follow so that they do not need to exercise too much of their unused right  brain.

However, the author noted that such adverse judgement of our local graduates was only reserved for those who work in the  creative industry.  Many local graduates will still excel in other sectors such as the finances, human  resources and education – fields that do not really require a lot of innovation skills.

Proponents of the local work force  will attest to the number of years that we have won the most productive  worker award. We are very efficient workers that will carry out work professionally and things get done the proper way.

We are also known internationally  for being productive, technically sound and generally have a solid attitude when it comes to our work. In fact, many companies in China, Dubai, Vietnam and Malaysia have no qualms about employing Singaporeans to be their general manager or operations manager.

They know that the average Singaporean professional with their   educational knowledge,  all-round work experience and  driven personality will be a valuable asset to their companies.

However, is merely carrying out one’s work efficiently  the best that we can do for ourselves?  Will it help us to survive in this competitive world when China and India could do the same work at one-fifth of our labour cost?

Paul D Houston, a well-known educationist from the US,  in his article  Out-of-the Box Leadership remarked that the world will belong to the creators:-

“Richard Florida, in his Rise of the Creative Class,3 makes essentially the same argument. The future belongs to the creative. They will be the leaders, the learners, and the earners of the new age. It is not the programmers in India who will dominate; it is the people who conceive of the work the programmers should do who will “rule.” Already we know that most of the places where the United States has an economic edge are those where our creative workers have gone before.”

We all know how creative and innovative the Americans have been all these years. From developing airplanes to the modern automobiles, they are at the forefront of the creative field and some of them do not even have a college education.

Valentine in his “Are NTU/NUS Graduates Creative Enough?” article also brought out a valid point about the declining value of a good college degree if you are not creative enough:-

“If you are Singaporean, and conditioned to believe in grades as the be all and end all of education, you might be shocked at this. I shall explain for you. The problem was that these NTU and NUS graduates with the great grades were UNABLE TO BE CREATIVE. Their resumes looked wonderful. They had jumped successfully through every academic hoop along the way – but something was missing. They had learnt to pass exams and shine in that situation – but they had never learnt how to think creatively. They were, according to my American acquaintance, unable to do the job, in every single case. They were just not good employees of this creative company.”

It made sense here as passing exams or simply attending lectures do not really need you to use the creative right side of your brain. Studying it seems merely use the logical left side part of your brain and over time, we are trained and conditioned to think mechanically and in-the-box.

Top Entrepreneurs Are Non-graduates

It is no pure concidence that our top two entrepreneurs in the world – Mr Bill Microsoft and Mr Mark Facebook,  are  ex-Harvard undergraduates who thought nothing of quitting from university half way to realize their dreams. Mr Steve Apple is also a non-graduate having quitted midway from his prestigious Stanford university – a degree so coveted by most Singaporeans and went on to focus on building up  his entrepreneurial vision.

If you have watched the movie The Social Network, you would be impressed with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s passion for innovation and entrepreneurship. He was only 20 years old then. Now, Facebook has a market value of US$50 billion and Mark has just  crossd his 26th birthday – and he is a non-graduate.

Moreover, it is not always about making money – I believe none of the three entrepreneurs knew that they would be making billions from their ideas  when they initially set out on their dreams. They merely want to realise their ideals and perhaps have the  lofty change-the-world attitude that most great creators have. The money part came much later when their ideas began to take shape and attracted lots of investors.

Three of the world’s top entrepreneurs  must have also see the invalidity of finishing up their varsity studies in pursuit of their goals. They saw that they have a brilliant idea and a varsity education is not something that will help them realize  their dream. With enough zeal, ambition and lots of creativity, they went on to build their own empires – without a graduate education.

One wonders what will happen if they have to face our Singaporean parents who may threaten severing relationship with their wards if they ever mention quitting half way from their university education to focus on building up a silly idea.

 Paul D Houston, in his Out-Of-The-Box Leadership article, further  commented on this aspect:-

“ Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International, talked with the minister of education in Singapore, a city-state whose education system is often compared to that of the United States. Singapore is the top-ranked performer on science and math global rankings for schoolchildren. Zakaria asked the minister to explain why it is that even though the Singaporean students do so well on these tests, when you look at the same students 10 to 20 years later, few are world-beaters. U.S. students, by contrast, test much worse but seem to do better in life and in the real world—particularly as inventors and entrepreneurs.

The minister explained that both countries have meritocracies— America’s, based on talent; Singapore’s, on test scores. Since there is much to the intellect that we cannot test effectively—such as creativity, curiosity, ambition, or a sense of adventure—the tests don’t account for America’s edge.

 The minister went on to explain that America’s culture of learning challenges conventional wisdom, even to the point of challenging authority. He also suggested that these are the areas in which Singapore must learn from America. He finished by explaining that the problem in America is that poor children are not brought along and the very bright are allowed to coast.”

Is  Lack of Creativity To Be Blamed For Our Poor Entrepreneurial Spirit?

So is our educational system to be blamed for the dearth of creativity in our workforce – a key element for entrepreneurs?

As Singapore  has nothing to offer but its people, retraining the workforce to be more productive seems the only way to move forward in this tough economic condition or should we try to change the mindset of our workforce by inculculating a spirit of innovation and risk taking among us?

Already, many of our aged well-educated PMETs face immense difficulty rejoining the workforce after been retrenched during the recent global financial crisis. They have  solid professional degrees, tons of relevant work experience and willing to take a drastic pay cut  but yet no employer is willing to hire them. Why is this so?

Are these high-powered PMETs providing too much a  threat to the hiring departmental managers – as alluded by many unemployed  PMETS when they went for many failed interviews or do employers feel that they could not contribute  effectively even though they are willing to work at jobs a few rungs lower than their previous position?

Many employers and human resource specialists have commented that there is a huge over supply of professional manpower nowadays given the fact that globalization has opened up  Singapore a lot  these few years. Many  foreigners have  arrive at our shore peddling their services at half the cost of our local PMETs.

That is also the reason why wages will continue to fall over the next few years as supply has outstrip demand drastically here and there is no minimum wage legislation to arrest that decline. There is now also no guarantee that good degrees and masters will be able to fetch you a well-paying job that lasts you till retirement – a luxury that was enjoyed by many babyboomers. There is just not enough good jobs to go round and many will fall by the way side.

Many of our well-educated PMETs have  face prolonged unemployment when they  reach their forties and their earning capacity will decline rapidly after that if they do not shift their mindset on simply looking for paid work. Many PMETs have in fact taken to driving cabs in order to survive. Under employment will be a huge problem in Singapore if this is allowed to carry on.

This adverse hiring trend has forced many of our PMETs to flee their own country in search of work elsewhere resulting in the current  minor brain drain. Employers hiring Singaporeans to work overseas are able to pay handsomely on top of housing and other allowances. This has resulted in many local PMETs lamenting at how their own  country is treating its’  people.

So is a lack of creativity to be blamed also  for the way our jobless PMETs approach their unemployment state?

Many simply apply jobs depending primarily  on  newspaper advertisement and online resources. Some have resorted to networking but its still depending on asking people to hire us. We have very few avenues or resources to create an income for ourselves.

Few has taken up the challenge to embark on  any business opportunities – however tempting it may be. The fear of failure is so massive among us  that it overrides whatever imaginable rewards that a business venture may bring.

Transitioning.og has received emails from a few hundred jobless PMETs  to date but so far, only two have  ventured into trying to create an income for themselves. They rest is always on the look out for jobs. They just could not shake off the dependency mentality. Though the government may be  right to deny any unemployment welfare to the populace so that the work force does not develop a dependency mentality, it has however not address the risk-adverse uncreative overall environment that we have created for the past few decades.

I was however  happy to receive a mail recently from an engineer, who was retrenched two years ago – he   has decided to  embark on his own engineering business and I will be updating readers on his progress soon. Nevertheless, the extremely small number of retrenched executives taking up the business route is both worrying and shocking.

Jobs will continue to shrink as many companies will continue to  flock to cheaper neighbouring countries. For the same salary that companies pay for one Singaporean worker, the employer now can hire five more in China or India. I am afraid that Singaporeans will continue to see more companies relocating to these cheaper countries resulting in unreported on-going retrenchment.

Even if jobs are created in Singapore, human resource specialists will continue to seriously consider hiring only foreigners due to the cost and skills factor. Whatever jobs that Singaporeans could lay their hands on will definitely not be  those from the high end type that pays 5-figures. These jobs will largely go to  expatriates whom the host companies will want to bring in for control and command purposes.

In fact, more than half of all jobs created in Singapore last year are service-related jobs due to the opening of the two casinos. These jobs do not really pay well and mostly go to foreigners as they  cost lesser, are more service-orientated in nature and generally easier to train.

More Foreigners Than Locals Doing Business In Singapore

Unfortunately,  I see more foreigners after working for a few years venturing into setting up their own small businesses in Singapore. They have a good appetite for risk-taking and always on the look out to create their own opportunity rather  than relying on others to provide them a job and income. They realize that they could not make it big if they have to always depend on others to provide them a job and how long can you work on without being retrenched eventually?

Singapore is consistently voted the number one city for doing business and ironically, few Singaporeans have taken up this huge fringe benefit. If you try to do business in Indonesia, China or Malaysia, you would have given up due to the systemic inefficiency of the systems there. Perhaps, having thrive and succeed in a harsh business environment in their own countries, many foreigners have flock to business-friendly Singapore to continue their making-money venture. If you can find water in the desert, surely you can find more in the river!

Thus, many locals have now begin to work for foreigners and the trend may not reverse if we continue to stick with a risk-adverse mentality inherent in many Singaporeans.

Many locals have complained that there is hardly any  savings left over  to start a business due to our miserable pay packages. The escalating business cost has also deterred many from trying their hand and there is always the fear of losing everything that they have earnestly save up over the years if the business fails.

Some of the reasons given are valid as a family guy will not want to risk everything especially if they have a few dependents to provide for. Their high debt exposure to mortgages and other credit facilities also deter them from striking it out adventurously.

That is why it is good to support our young ones who are willing to be business-minded and adventurous. They have nothing to lose and have no dependents to worry for. Though there are already a few entrepreneurial funds available for these young hot shots to utilize, more can be done to incalculate a sense of risk-taking and adventure among our undergraduates.

Many recent graduates should also  testify by now that good grades and solid testimonies are no longer  guarantee of a well-paying job – we need more than that to survive in the future.

Singaporean Vs Asian Businessmen

I remembered two years ago while working in China, we used to have a club whereby Asian expatriates would gather every Friday evening for a drink or two. I was merely a teacher to learners of English as a second  language for a small province’s university but I thoroughly enjoyed such gathering as it gave me a snapshot of the different cultural mindset of our Asian businessmen. We used a mixture  of Mandarin, English and Cantonese to communicate and the conversation was mainly cordial maybe because most of us are  Chinese.

More importantly, I enjoyed their optimism and adventurous spirit – elements that most Singaporeans do not possess. Their minds wander freely and sometimes wild  ideas were threw about for discussion – surprisingly not many of them would try to restrict you however ridiculous the ideas might be. Try talking to a typical Singaporean your business idea and you will receive a mirage of negative feedback and cautious counseling – enough for you to step back from your gung-ho enthusiasm and retreat to your safe 9-to-5 day job mentality.

The businessmen all  hailed from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Malaysia, Thailand, India and Indonesia –  I was the only lone Singaporean there in this land of gold and I was just an employee! I always wondered why there are so few Singaporeans out in this wonderful place where business opportunities abound like the rain.

Mind you, this group of business people is highly educated and some  are lawyers, engineers and IT specialists. However, they know that they can only make it big if they strike it out on their own and not  to enrich others through their paid work. Many become instant millionaires when they venture into China whereby there are a lot of opportunities and the business cost is still very low.

When you talk business with a Hong Konger, he will often comment: “Looks good to me!” He would focus on the positives of any venture first before delving into the details later (remember right brain). His appetite for risk taking is very high and knows that in any business venture there is the chance to make or lose money. They are also not afraid to speak their mind and some have even  been branded as loud-mouthed but they are never negative.

When you talk business with a Taiwanese, you will often hear them say: “How much do you think I can make within the next few years?”  The Taiwanese wants to hear the positive side of any venture and it takes a typical Singaporean to challenge him into considering that the venture may lose money! They are also not very detailed and that is why they prefer to hire Singaporean operations manager to do all  the donkey work for them – after they have sink money into the business (think right brain).

When you do business with a Singaporean, it could be a torture and a lesson in not taking risk (think left brain). First, he will tell you that he will have to do a thorough business risk profile which may take weeks to complete. With all his chart and statistics, he will persuade you not to venture into that business as it carries too much risk.  He may later reveal that the business could make money but it is often diluted by the mirage of negative feedback he already has in store. After all the analysis, he will only start to do business when he is assured that his venture has at least 70% of making profit – within the same year! That is probably why I have never met  any Singaporean businessman in the Chinese club during our weekly get-together drink.

One main difference I detected  between Singaporeans and other Asians  is that there is always this burning ambition to succeed and do something different – our other Asian friends seldom let others hinder them from realizing their dream and they don’t like to depend on others to succeed. Too many Singaporeans  give up easily and once we fail at a small venture, we switch back to working for people as we take failure too harshly. Maybe, we are being too critically  judged  by our family members and friends when we have failed in our enterprise.

Another huge difference I found is the self belief that these other Asian businessmen possessed. Not only do they fiercely believe in their ventures but more significantly, they believed in themselves and their self confidence is unwaveringly strong.  They spoke loudly, unhesitatingly and sometimes almost arrogantly. Maybe in Singapore, we are always told that we are not up to the mark by our school teachers, our bosses, our government and mostly by our own loved ones – that our self belief is always kept in check. If we speak of our little successes too much, we are accused of being proud and branded a show-off by many. It is no wonder  Singaporeans are branded as too humble and often lacking in self confidence by many foreign observers.

Singaporeans Take Business Failures Too Harshly

Many successful business owners will tell you that the first or even second venture will always fail but we will always learn valuable lessons during that failures  and we do ourselves no favour if we do not apply that lessons learned on our other ventures. Many ventures also do not make money in the few first years and it takes a lot of dogged perseverance to press on undeterred. Most entrepreneurs are idealistic and they let their dreams fueled the enthusiasm they needed to push on despite the initial odds (alot of right brain thinking here).

Microsoft’s Bill Gates continued his programming efforts for a few years to  realize his PC dream of allowing every person to own a computer before he made it big. The same thing happened to Facebook and Apple whereby the founders were driven by their passions and determination to pursue after their dreams. Their youthful never-say-die adventurous spirit also help alot here.

Perhaps our need for consensus and even approval from our family members  and friends is so strong that we could not take off  if there is a small element of perceived failure in that venture (think left brain).

Moreover, they will always remind us that we have fail once before and do we need another failure to learn our lessons all over again? It will take a very strong and determined person to go against the cultural grain and ignore all the negativism of his peers and press on towards his goal despite the odds.

Worker Mentality Among Singaporeans

Our worker mentality – groomed from young by our parents and society that only a university education will provide you with a good job means that the  majority of our populace will be accustomed to earning an income via our learned skills. It is also scaringly safe and sadly may lead us down the route to poverty as the new economy may not reward those freshly-minted degrees and masters anymore.

Starting salaries of our new graduates have continue to drop and can be as low as $1500 for a general degree. Experienced well-educated PMETs in their forties have known to work for as low as $2000 nowadays – if you don’t take up the job offer, you will remain indefinitely unemployed. Moreover, any work that you take on now is contractual and that means you will be jobless again in less than two years and the job search starts all over again.

We have seen too many examples of how our highly-educated PMETs joining the prolonged unemployment group these days to remind us that we need more than education and skills to see us through the turbulent future. Cost-cutting will continue worldwide, jobs will be scarce and  the ones that survive will be those who can think out of the box and create their own income.

The graduate is sadly never trained  to be creative,  take risks and create jobs both for himself and others. He is  always dependent on others  to hire him and he will feel very handicapped if no one employs him – which is the case now for many of our well-educated jobless PMETs.  He also feels scared, confused and mostly hopeless. He faces the future with gloom and doom as the job market is the only source that he will rely on for his survival.

He will have to compete with other fishermen  to ekk out a living in a increasingly congested fish pond. He will not consider creating his own fish pond as that will mean the risk of failure and loss of whatever savings  he has left. He is only taught to learn how to fish with others and not to create a new fishing pond by himself so that he can fish all he wants without much competition.

His continual use of his analytical  left brain will  prevent him from being adventurous and take some calculated risk in order to survive. If he is unemployed, he will probably sit at home, look for jobs on a daily basis and in his desperation take on any low-paying job just to pay the bills.

In future, the ones who can survive and make it in Singapore will be those who can think out of the box, seize whatever opportunity he has, take some calculated risks and doggedly pursue after his ambition.

Those who  prefer to work for others to pay his bills and mortgages will likely struggle and fall out on the way side – even though he is well educated. He may not even have enough to retire on and will remain a huge liability to the government.

How many of us can safely  say that we have save enough for retirement when we could not even earn enough to pay for all our bills?

Even if he does enter into any business ventures, it will be for those cut and tested industries – never one that is innovative and untried. 

That is probably why, many years ago,  we saw many Singaporeans venturing into setting up the popular milk tea chain business as there were many reports of $10,000-a-month earned profit.

Many who plunged in towards the tail end of the milk tea business all lost money as the initial craze among the school kids soon lost momentum and with so many milk tea stalls selling the same stuff, they have no choice but to slash their price to attract more customers.

Small-time business owners later have no choice but to close down their stalls and only those with huge financial holding power managed to stay on.

The milk tea business story only reiterated the belief that Singaporeans will only venture into known profit-making ventures.  They will back away from any ventures that carry certain amount of risk even though there is an opportunity to make good money.


Our exam-focused educational system, top-down efficient working style and cultural fear of failure have resulted in a population that  relies heavily on working for others to make a living. It is safe, stable and reliable – so far.

Though these elements have being  successful in transforming us from a third world sea port to the current modern first world city state, it may not be enough to bring us through the turbulent future. Already, there are signs that re-employment among our aged PMETs is strained and our salaries have being dropping for the past few years.

Many of our neighbouring countries have caught up with us now  and they have emulated our success far more efficiently than we can imagine. More importantly, they cost less for business owners and many companies  will not hesitate to pull out of Singapore and set up shop elsewhere.

We need to encourage a culture of risk taking and entrepreneurship within our populace and this has to start from the top. Our government has to be seen as adventurous in trying out new things and not always stick to the old cut-and-tried formula. Mavericks and even dissidents have to be encouraged to come forward and our individual voice must be heard and not always press down.

We also need to bring in educators who dare to be different and not be penalized if they have failed in their endeavours at challenging the status quo of our archaic system. These educators have to breed a new-found sense of creativity and right brain thinking among our youth. They are not there to teach our students how to ace exams and study brainlessly.

In future, our  straight As scholars will not be able to help bring the country out of poverty as they are merely followers of  top-down directives and not creators of new ideas and wealth.

We need people who dare to be different, not afraid to speak out zealously and more importantly have fresh ideas for the country to ponder on.

The drastic lack of creativity among us will be a huge setback for the country as there will be few that have the  capacity to dream new ideas and dare to  strike it out on their own. More significantly, these entrepreneurs  will be able to create new industries and employment  for the population. We should not always depend on foreign MNCs to set up shop here as they will come and go without any consideration for the welfare of our country.

How many Singaporean global conglomerates can you remember right now? Yes, you have the world class Creative Technology and that was set up like 15 years ago.

The whole Silicon Valley is a huge risk taking melting pot whereby you can find all kinds of inventors and entrepreuneurs trying out their ideas there  People set up all kinds of businesses with many capitalists keen to finance any worthy business ideas you have. If the ventures  fail, they simply pack their bags and retry again with another venture. There is no shame in trying and if you make it – the rewards can be very satisfying.

We face stiff competition from cheaper neighbouring countries and as they progress further, Singapore will be in for a tough time if the populace does not wake up from its slumberland and change its dependence on always working for  others to make a living.

Looking at the ways things are now, it may take a whole generation before we can unlearn ourselves and be more creative, entrepreneurial and risk-taking but its worth it as our future may depend on such drastic changes.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

Number of View: 9027

Reader Feedback

14 Responses to “Is Lack of Creativity to be Blamed for Our Poor Entrepreneurial Spirit?”

  1. cy says:

    entrepreneurship is not for everyone, afterall if everyone is a boss,where’s the worker coming from?

    as for risk-taking,first-class businessman will tell you he/she takes a calculated risk. those who just charge w/o looking over their shoulders are not businessman but gamblers. unless they have tons of money to burn, we should not encourage reckless ventures.

    • admin says:

      Hi CY,

      Thats what I reckoned will come from a left brain thinking Singaporean – sorry for the pun but no offence intended.

      Anyway, I respect your views here. Take care.


    • Abdullah Sattar says:

      This is not just a problem in Singapore, but in all developed countries, and increasingly developing ones as well. Both off-shoring jobs and increasing automation of existing ones [particularly white-collar jobs that were once the sole provenance of educated professionals] are squeezing out the middle and upper-middle class workers. This means they increasingly have to find alternate modes of income away from the traditional employment model.

      Degrees in the US aren’t really worth the paper they are printed on for the most part, and those few degrees that DO matter require a prolonged period of debt to sustain them. That debt pile is now becoming increasingly unaffordable for the average worker, so upwards mobility is being destroyed. I think this will be an even bigger issue in cramped Singapore than in relatively sparse USA.

      It’s not necessarily about becoming an entrepreneur outright, but about developing entrepreneurial instincts. Singapore will not be able to compete with countries like China, Vietnam and Bangladesh for labor price. Increasingly, these countries can afford to take out the “educational sector” from richer countries — after all, as a businessman why do you want to hire expensive Singaporeans when inexpensive other Asians will do the job just fine?

      Much more needs to be spoken about this.

  2. YS says:

    Great post.

    I’m a Singaporean and I can understand the usual mentality of Singaporeans about starting a business:
    Risky as hell, no certainty in the outcome, and needing tonnes of cash.

    And of course, as CY so eloquently puts it, where will all the workers come from if all of us are entrepreneurs?

    I’m starting out on my own in 2011, and I have no doubts I will find many quality workers right here in SG.

    Just like good ole CY.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gilbert C. W. Fung, w a y p o i n t. w a y p o i n t said: Is Lack of Creativity to be Blamed for our Poor Entrepreneurial Spirit?: Number of View: 12Few years ago, I reme… [...]

  4. Good insightful post. I never thought that it was this easy after all. I had spent a good deal of my time surfing the web for some great mind to explain this subject clearly to me and just did that. Kudos to you! Keep it up.

  5. Colin Kee says:

    HI Gilbert, Its nice to read your site. Been here a couple of times.
    Let me share my side of the story.
    I am just a polytechnic diploma holder with a starting salary of SGD 900. After 6 years (2008) I landed in my 4th job with 1.9K (an NPO which is my dream). I work for less than 2 years only to be disillusioned by job security. I tried doing my own business in 2010 with a help of a friend who is also a free lance counselor. Finding a business partner is tough. You know the mindset of some people. We tried many things, from IT preventive maintenance contract, youth camps to dating events with MCYS and agencies. We are the 1st to come up with lego bricks dating. I also push eSATAp in Singapore and am proud of my google ranking (2nd/3rd). Ist being Wiki which is created by myself. 4th being my youtube parody. Check out my Yam Ah Mee, Home and Hitler Parody, my nick is wingbliss. I also make USB drive at hoping to push this idea to SCORE and other NPO hoping that the inmates and less fortunate can get a job. I tried to push telephone detangler to MNC hoping to donate 80% back to charity if they support. Sadly, they are not interested because they prefer to support government organizations. I survive on just $300/month for 2 years. In the end, I have no choice but to give up despite being single. Why? 1stly, I don’t have the economy of scale (Gebiz government tender and Sim lim parallel import is lower than my distributor’s cost price). 2ndly credibility (no one knows who I am); no network contacts (of MNC officials/government contact) nor the capacity to advertise or stock. I tried BNI, etc. The HWZ mass order is only enough to pay for my transport.
    Recently I got my 5th job (2.3K) in a small company, currently pursuing my degree hoping that I can get more skills. I don’t blame anyone nor myself. and has proven to me that if I want to realize a dream I CAN yet the dream to create job is still far away. At least when I look back, I can tell my peers, alone I put Singapore on the world map for eSATAp and I have done project with ministry (a big deal for a small guy like myself). It is still my dream is to CREATE jobs, help other break free from poverty and I really hope the “least” government, ministries and Singaporeans can do is to support/buy/use local products/services and minimize competition with them. Its unhealthy that when big companies (MNC) like Nokia start to get complacent. Read up Walmart vs Costco the high cost of low wages. 5 million people who can afford (consume) vs 5% who can afford (consume). The rich (minority who owns majority wealth) can only consume so much. They only have 1 mouth. I have nothing against the rich. I just feel when you have enough (millions), give others a chance to hunt too. I am not asking for spoon feeding, let other fish or grow. When they can consume, you (as a business owner) can benefit too. Cheers.

    • Gilbert Goh says:

      Thanks Colin for your sharing. It is encouraging to read of Singaporeans trying to fulfill their dream against all odds.

      Is it possible for me to email you and check if you are keen on a more formal article regarding your experiences?

      Take care and dont give up trying.


  6. Bong says:

    I like how admin respond to CY.

    this goes to show how singaporeans will never realised they are still very much stucked in the box.

    it’s subconcious!

    my own philosphy is if one can realised their shortcomings, and stop coming up with excuses for themselves will they be able to rise to the top.

  7. jj@39 says:

    For some ppl, there is no or not much intersection paths for them to choose. They can only go one direction n that’s it.

    For some ppl, we are always at intersection paths situation. Which direction to go? Which path to take? We are always at a loss. Luck is important.

  8. Ray says:

    Unfortunately, I think a generation to change all that is not enough. It will be more like a few generations. First of all, the educators will themselves need to be born first, educated in a right environment, then tested and proven (probably 2 decades of work experience), then mentality transferred into schools. That’s a good 50 years.

  9. sal says:

    Spore education produce good worker but not a good leader. How many entrepeuner or inventor the systems produce?

  10. Albert says:

    Thanks for the interesting post. I am an entrepreneur that has a company in Singapore. Entrepreneurship can be a solution to solve unemploymen . By having more new companies, new jobs can be created. The hardest part about entrepreneurship is to find customers, we tried to solve this problem by coming up with innovative product that help anyone to promote their new businesses via social media for free and get customers faster. Do check us out at

    We hope that this product can help people to be able to start and survive the hard life of startup and create more jobs to save the global economy

  11. sal says:

    Spore market is small 5.3 million. If you can expand your product to South East Asian region or China, it will be a good venture.

Leave a Reply to Albert