Business & Economy Startups Does our culture of Tiger mums stifle innovation and a healthy sense...

Does our culture of Tiger mums stifle innovation and a healthy sense of self among entrepreneurs?




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We need a cultural change and a mindset change, and not simply a case of encouraging innovation


When I ask someone how they are doing, I’m generally interested to know how a friend is doing, if they have any good news to share, any challenges which they may need a helping hand or a brainstorming session. Not sure if it is another manifestation of the Asian Tiger Mum culture — wherein we tend to show concern through criticism and questioning

In an article by Mr. Lim Siong Guan, previously head of the civil service and Group President of GIC, he talked about how he visited the heart of innovation in Singapore’s famed Blk 71 and asking one of the very excited members of one of the startups what the greatest problem the person faced was. He was expecting some technical or business issue they have confronted, but the answer he got from the person was, “my mother.”

He went on to mention the need for a cultural change and a mindset change, and not simply a case of encouraging innovation. I couldn’t agree more.

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Many non-entrepreneur friends, too, have shared with me their version of “When are you getting married? When are you getting a boyfriend? When are you gonna have children?”, etc.

Also read: 5 strategies for successfully scaling company culture

The question by itself could be quite normal for any culture

However, ours often quickly takes a very questioning tone where there’s no polite way to get out of when they just seem to find it hard to accept any answer and would often proceed to question the replies with a “Why not?”

The “interrogation” went on relentlessly, leaving the room cold and the conversation going south despite seeing it coming time and time again like Dr. Strange seeing all 14 million possible outcomes, but only one way to get out of it.

To which my girlfriend has come up with an ingenious way of handling such questions in the future: asking a question back whenever someone begin showing his/her “concerns”.

“I heard you just had a second child! Are you intending to have a third? Why not? ”

I realised that I, too, face such predicament as an entrepreneur. And ironically from fellow entrepreneurs that would dread such conversation ourselves.

Many listen not to understand, but to reply. This certainly doesn’t help when they try to give advice, yet without adequate insight on the topic. Such deeply ingrained this is our culture that we often end up doing what we do not wish others to do unto us.

And if this is happening to fellow entrepreneurs, can you imagine how the other entrepreneurs lead their employees? I would hate to have an assuming boss and would certainly hesitate to bring any problem to him until I could avoid it no more, resulting in an unopen culture.

Life is not a competition, and even if it is, it’s probably more a marathon than a race

There’s certainly no designated age for something to be done. Macdonald’s Ray Kroc only enjoyed success at age 52. Henry Ford, at 40.

Also read: Singaporeans need to learn that ‘failure’ is not a dirty word — before it is too late

“Colonel Sanders” was aged 20, had his wife left him and took their baby daughter. He would spend days peddling his chicken technique, cooking for customers, and often sleeping in the back of his car. Only at the age of 62 did Sanders franchise his “Kentucky Fried Chicken” for the first time. Today, KFC has over 18,800 outlets in 118 different countries and territories.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not have all the answer to success. I still have a lot to learn and more than willing to — but hopefully from someone who has something to share. Any expert apart from perhaps a medium or fortune teller, would still, after all, need time to understand the situation before they can offer any proper advice.

If not there’s always, “Oh, I heard you expanded to a second country! Going for the third? Why not?”


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