‘Singapore needs a little chaos’


The Singapore online opinion and discussion platform Storm asked Dick van Motman to weigh in on a discussion about Singapore’s future. The editors approached several thought leaders and asked them what Singapore can do to find it’s sense of purpose and direction again now that the concept of the perfect hand shaped society is showing some cracks. The full article can be read here: http://www.storm.sg/society-tricky-onward-journey/, including Dick van Motman’s contribution as printed below:

When I first moved to Singapore in 2001, I was taught that life in this country revolves around the five “C”s — Condo, Car, Club, Credit Card and Cash. I soon learned that a sixth “C” was equally important: Complaining.

There’s not a people in the world that are so vocal when confronted with disruption in their daily life flow, but I realised quickly that this is actually a good thing that signals a deep connectedness of the population with their country.

The Singaporean national identity is intertwined with the uptime of its major services, like broadband and public transport. If they break down, Singapore — and in a sense its citizens — break down, too.

Social media has only amplified their already loud voice.

I have lived around the globe and that level of buy-in with the infrastructure is unique. When something similar happens in Jakarta or Shanghai people are annoyed but move on. Not Singaporeans. They’ll sink their teeth in like a pit-bull and won’t let go until the problem is solved.

Even though the local populace keeps the authorities and service providers on their toes, there is an argument to be made that Singapore went from being a startup that dictated and moulded the future to its vision, to a reactive nation state. Everyone studying the concept of disruption knows that entities that are reactive, as opposed to proactive, eventually get their lunch eaten.

The volatility of today’s geopolitical landscape in the region — mass demonstrations in Jakarta, a drug war in Manila and the occasional coup in Thailand — still makes Singapore the safe haven in Southeast Asia. But the reality of today’s world is that rules are made overnight and by anyone. A single bet on security and stability can prove to be risky.

If Singapore decides that it is about long term innovation and not just compliance I would argue that it should add another C to it’s repertoire: Chaos. If that is too strong a word “Creativity” would suffice, too. The fluidity that comes with creativity is the ingredient that leads to true innovation.

Law and order makes for good business these days. There is a reason that the last big entity to move its regional offices to Singapore was Interpol. But did the city really need another law and order flagship store?

Wouldn’t a buzzing creative HQ cause more sparks in the red dot? A tiny hint of organic unpredictability and a slight move away from the comfort zone allows a society to become truly innovative. And as long as the very vocal and beautiful complainers of Singapore are able to voice out and keep everyone responsible on their toes, who knows, this mighty mouse might roar again.



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