Bright future for those who dream big

The series of lectures by former civil service head Lim Siong Guan is both reflective and innovative.

Being trustworthy and respectful of the law and others may have served us well, but we still need to innovate on both hard and soft skills to stay relevant in a fast-changing world.

As a nation, we should see innovation as part of psychological defence for our collective survival (When family can impede culture of innovation; Nov 15).

Innovating is not rocket science. Let our children play and blossom to the full in their short and creative childhood years.

Let us not force them to master the multiplication tables prematurely and, in the process, condition them to think rote is brilliance.

Good or bad is what we tell them.

We should not be hasty in sticking labels on things, lest we overlook the merits of ideas. We should also not be too quick to shoot down our own ideas.

Academics tend to analyse the past and extrapolate that into the future. Amid rapid change, this may prove less than useful.

We cannot wait for someone to write a textbook before we teach a subject. Content may be outdated before the first class.

Innovators see what they believe while managers believe what they see. Business schools tend to churn out the latter. Throwing in one's all in pursuit of independent dreams contrasts starkly to a typical manager who sells his service to the highest bidder.

Creative types need to be managed differently, if at all. They thrive on spontaneity and play. Putting straitjackets on them so as to "manage and control" traditionally may prove too stifling.

We have been conditioned to be risk averse for fear of losing out. This is natural, as those who remain in corporate headquarters get promoted faster than those who take up hardship postings overseas.

We must encourage venturing overseas as a criterion for promotion.

We should embrace the world with an open mind. We should not expect exact replicas of our home when we venture forth. In fact, it is in places most unlike home that the greatest potential can be reaped.

On a personal level, we should reflect more instead of dwelling on the material and now.

In this Information Age, many playing fields are levelled. The future holds great promise for those who dare dream and dream big.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2017, with the headline 'Bright future for those who dream big'. Print Edition | Subscribe