From Paul Graham's "Why Startups Condense in America":
Singapore would face a similar problem. Singapore seems very aware of the importance of encouraging startups. But while energetic government intervention may be able to make a port run efficiently, it can't coax startups into existence. A state that bans chewing gum has a long way to go before it could create a San Francisco.
Well, of course, the statement in bold did look unfair if the context is not understood. What its saying, IMHO, is that Singapore's system of social disincentives has a indirect, subconscious impact on its citizen's mindsets and act as a strong downward pressure on people's willingness to take risks, to embrace uncertainties.
Translate these two traits to the context of innovation first, and secondly to think about startups as social enterprises that have direct impact on society after founding, we thus arrive at a hypothesis that Singapore's legalized social disincentives creates unadventurous social thinking which impacts innovation and hence decreases innovation capabilities. Paul Graham also mentions:
Imagination means having odd ideas, and it's hard to have odd ideas about technology without also having odd ideas about politics. And in any case, many technical ideas do have political implications. So if you squash dissent, the back pressure will propagate into technical fields.
Dangerous territory here to link technology to politics, especially in Singapore which explicitly has an unlevel political playing field. But its true, the lack of contrarian opinions in SIngapore starts from the political and extends to the media. This has created a society that dares not question. And the government wonders why? We are making progress in the educational policies today, I hope the govt does not clamp down on the burgeonings of free speech in classrooms, because such free speech reflects free, liberal thinking and it is important for the young today to take such free thinking out of the classroom to greater society when they grow up, to realms of not just economic, but social and naturally political too. Oddballs in Singapore has to be tolerated, we do not have such a tolerant culture now and this lack of diversity in opinions is stifling for creative dissonance.
Here's a tip for governments that want to encourage startups: read the stories of existing startups, and then try to simulate what would have happened in your country. When you hit something that would have killed Apple, prune it off.
Great tip here, hopefully those influencing entrepreneurial policies in Singapore are using the Apple founding case study as a yardstick in their feasibility studies.
Compared to other industrialized countires the US is disorganized about routing people into careers. For example, in America people often don't decide to go to medical school till they've finished college. In Europe they generally decide in high school.
I was speaking to an Israeli MBA student yesterday who has been in Singapore for the past 6 months and all he had experienced was great. Highly efficient government, very receptive and embracing attitude towards technology in all levels of govt and society. But when I enlightened him on the less unsavory parts of Singapore, one of it was educational. Our streaming-based educational system from primary through pre-tertiary levels may appear structurally sound but have functionally created a class-based system that perpetuated social discrimination based on academic abilities. My new Israeli friend was shocked to learn that streaming started at Primary 4 during my time and that he considered himself very stupid at the age of 10 although he's an MBA now. This makes me wonder how many of our Singaporean local talent had suffered tremendous blows to their egos when they were streamed in the old Primary 7 and 8 systems, gone to EM3 and suffered social disgrace in front of their relatives and fatal blows to their egos and self-esteem. Our educational policies seem to lack something and the through-train programmes of today again, perpetuate another new class of elites. Yes, we might have gotten rid of the ranking system but separating the ACS, Raffles, Hwa Chong families from the rest makes the rest of the society perceive themselves as second-grade.
Are we both structurally and functionally unsound this time?? Is the educational policy today still too unforgiving towards late bloomers?
Educational authorities can argue themselves silly on the media but they should understand the best feedback comes from the ground, the actual rank-and-file students in the neighborhood school. Poll them and find out their ambition levels. If all they are aspiring for over the next 10-20 years is to find a job and settle down and harbor no ambitions of becoming the next self-made millionaire, my "wayward" comments above do hold some weight.
To end off, I found this segment apt. Note I am not advocating we turn Singapore schools to crappy American models but that we should modify our system to one that is more forgiving towards late bloomers.
Those worried about America's "competitiveness" often suggest spending more on public schools. But perhaps America's lousy public schools have a hidden advantage. Because they're so bad, the kids adopt an attitude of waiting for college. I did; I knew I was learning so little that I wasn't even learning what the choices were, let alone which to choose. This is demoralizing, but it does at least make you keep an open mind.
Certainly if I had to choose between bad high schools and good universities, like the US, and good high schools and bad universities, like most other industrialized countries, I'd take the US system. Better to make everyone feel like a late bloomer than a failed child prodigy.