Develop self-belief, can-do spirit

Some readers have made excellent suggestions on how a lack of an innovative mindset among Singaporeans may be addressed, but my view differs somewhat from theirs ("Mindset change vital to produce innovators" by Dr V. Subramaniam; last Saturday, and "Sense of curiosity needed for innovation" by Miss Lee Kay Yan; Feb 13).

Having had the privilege of working with a number of young entrepreneurs and prospective entrepreneurs, I find that the majority tend to fall into one of two categories.

The first are the Don Quixote entrepreneurs. They come up with an idea but fail to do proper research on competitors as well as the potential demand once the product or service is actualised.

They pour considerable resources and energy into the project, ignoring what the real world is telling them, then retreat, angry and puzzled, when the dreams of revenue do not materialise.

Their myopia leads them to ignore potential threats rather than recognise and address them.

Unfortunately, a good number of food and beverage entrepreneurs fall into this category.

The second are the Analysis Paralysis entrepreneurs. They are the opposite of the previous group.

After coming up with an idea, they overanalyse the market and competitive landscape to the point where they do not take any action.

They collect data points as if they are Hello Kitty collectibles, and are always on the lookout for more before making a decision on whether to take the plunge.

They lack the self-belief to tackle threats identified and build a strong business in spite of them.

The best entrepreneurs, however, combine the best characteristics of both categories.

They are methodical in analysing the market and clearly understand the challenges, competitors and threats they will face.

At the same time, they have the self-belief to know that they can address the identified threats and start work.

Google and Facebook have been analysed to death over the years, but are good examples of how both were entering markets with existing giants in their respective categories (Yahoo, in the case of Google; Friendster, in the case of Facebook).

But they had self-belief, a can-do attitude and a clear plan as to how to topple the incumbents' advantage and grow their market share rapidly, and have attained the dominant position in the market today.

Focusing on building self-belief and a can-do attitude from a young age is more critical and perhaps easier than promoting an abstract notion like innovation.

Tong Hsien-Hui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2016, with the headline 'Develop self-belief, can-do spirit'. Print Edition | Subscribe