Embracing failure part of Silicon Valley's success

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's visit to Silicon Valley and his hopes of replicating something similar in Singapore is both encouraging and exhilarating ("PM touches base with the chiefs of US tech giants"; Sunday).

Although Singapore may have no problems producing the "hardware", it is the "software" - which allows the sparks of ingenuity to flourish - that is difficult to replicate here.

Software includes the culture and climate that allow ideas to germinate and grow. By Silicon Valley's standards, that means viewing failures as part and parcel of the process.

Silicon Valley's reported chief mantra, "Fail fast, fail often", is often recited at technology conferences, pinned to company walls and bandied about in conversations.

Failure is not only invoked but celebrated. Entrepreneurs give speeches detailing their misfires. Academics laud the virtue of making mistakes.

There is even an annual conference in San Francisco about "embracing failure".

While the rest of the world recoils at failure, Silicon Valley enshrines it as a rite of passage to success.

Hence, to replicate such a culture here, we need nothing less than a paradigm shift in our Asian mindset, where failure is viewed as humiliation, a black mark and defeat.

While the rest of the world recoils at failure, Silicon Valley enshrines it as a rite of passage to success.

Hence, to replicate such a culture here, we need nothing less than a paradigm shift in our Asian mindset, where failure is viewed as humiliation, a black mark and defeat.

Our society needs to embrace failure and mistake as normal and paving the way to success.

It is a sacred cow that we have to slaughter if we wish to see any glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel.

Seah Yam Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2016, with the headline 'Embracing failure part of Silicon Valley's success'. Print Edition | Subscribe