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Entrepreneurship And the Future State of Affairs

Posted by theonlinecitizen on January 15, 2007

This is part one of a 3-part essay on entrepreneurship by leounheort.

Singapore needs creativity. That much is clear: we as a nation must ride along the wave of globalisation out of necessity, for we are too small, geographically and demographically, to ever specialise in a particular good or labour-intensive skill. In this globalised world, he who can see a potentially successful venture, ride it to its peak, then develop another idea with potential for success, is king.

This means that there’s an ever-increasing need for entrepreneurs: brave, bold, determined, multitalented, creative risk-taking people who are unafraid of failure, and unafraid to go forth into the darkness of uncharted waters, knowing full well that they may not come back, or at least do so intact. If we were to survive, we would need the creation of niche areas, and the expansion of existing fields of expertise. All this, at its heart, needs creativity; the willingness to seek out and embrace risky, yet possibly successful, ventures; the knowledge to successfully perform these actions; and the will to fight for what one believes in.

Obstacles to entrepreneurial spirit

Preventing the combination and exercise of the above, however, is what I would term rigidity in this essay. This comes in many forms: societal disapproval, familial disapproval, peer pressure, pressure from the State, etc. Order is what I would call the status quo with regards to any field, academic or otherwise. It means the current state of known knowledge within that field, at any point in time.

By risk I mean the ratio of success to failure, as well as the reward generated by success. Usually, failure and reward are proportionate: the higher the chances of failure, the higher the reward. Unless, of course, one attempts a highly dangerous course of action with little or no benefit at all, in which case the chances of success are linked directly to the reward generated. Risk is the driving force behind creativity; it is the propellant that magnifies the benefits of creativity, depending on the situation and the course of action taken.

Ideally, one would minimise the chances of failure, maximise the chances of success, and maximise the rewards, but this is not always the case. Like using explosives to fire a projectile, there is always a chance of backfiring, with the efforts initiated by creativity exploded by failure in a risky venture.

All the above has but one ultimate source: man.


From man, too, comes creativity. Creativity is the creation of something, usually so unique as to be one-of-a-kind. Normally, we see this in works of art and music. However, in this essay, I shall use it to signify innovation of any sort: new discoveries and knowledge in any field. So, by this definition, a mathematician who has discovered a new theorem is as creative as an artist who has produced a work of art, all factors being equal.

The measure of creativity, of course, is more complicated than this, but that is not the purpose of this essay. This creative force, through its exercise, would create new knowledge, even if its only knowledge of itself.

In the real world, of course, it has more practical applications: a new physics theory could, for example, lead to groundbreaking applications in the use of lasers in the medical and industrial field by allowing greater control over them. Therefore, it can be said that creativity, in this sense, is the source of new knowledge.

Risk and creativity are inevitably intertwined: the former is the element that amplifies the latter (albeit with differing chances of success). Take the budding writer, who uses an avant-garde writing style and has written a novel unlike that which has ever been published before. This is creativity. He has no idea how his publisher or his audience will accept it. But, he pushes on ahead, anyway, contacting publishers to publish his story. This is risk. The publisher may choose to publish the story, not knowing exactly how the public would react to it.

This is also risk: not enough people and/or bookstores may buy enough books to meet overheads, much less turn a profit. If this happens, then the publisher would be saddled with plenty of surplus books, which nobody wants to buy, and might have to be sold off at a ridiculously low price. Should the writer decide to self-publish, he’s running an even bigger risk: he gets to keep all the profit, but if he fails, he has a dump of books that nobody wants to buy, and has lost money in printing them.

Conservative nature of singaporeans

Where Singapore is concerned, risk is particularly high: the conservative nature of most Singaporeans mean that they would approach anything ‘new’ with a high degree of scepticism, which means that they might not buy enough books to allow the writer and/or publisher to meet publication costs, much less turn a profit. If successful, however, the writer would become recognised and famous, for having set in motion a new literary technique that only he knows the sublime essence of, and probably earn a neat profit just by writing books alone. This is the relationship of risk and creativity in today’s economically focused society.

But this materialist mindset must change. Singaporeans by and large are highly materialistic: for a vast majority of people, their ultimate goal is inevitably the pursuit of money, and anything that flows to and from it. However, as the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer has said, ‘every writer writes badly as soon as he starts writing for gain’, truly creative people do not exercise their creative powers for personal gain.

They do something simply for its sake.

That is the driving force behind creativity, for people who do these things do it because they are interested in it, and tend to devote more of their energies and efforts to seeing their projects through, consciously or not. This passion can be found in experts in any field, be it artistic or scientific.

The working world

Contrast this with the average working person: he knows that he would be paid the same amount of money regardless of the quality of his work, so he might as well produce the lowest possible quality of work to receive the same pay, in order to save both time and energy. This is because he knows, if only in part or mistakenly, what his boss is thinking: in order to minimise costs, he should pay his employees as little as he can get away with. Some would capitalise on hard-working employees, by paying them the same amount even if he clearly outshines his colleagues.

Others are fairer, offering promotions and pay rises to the deserving. Even so, it is hard to find creative force in an environment where things are done for money, instead for its own sake, for the lowest quality work and research possible would most likely be done, and most probably would not break new ground, or even scratch any kind of surface. This materialist mindset is therefore the most apparent internal rigidity that opposes creative force, so large as to form an Order all by itself.

Other aspects, too, increase the amount of opposition. There are other kinds of rigidity: Government intervention, societal disapproval of certain acts, familial disapproval of something, and so on. This is powered by a conservative mindset, another overarching Order, that mutually reinforces the materialistic one, and is backed by other forms of rigidity.

To be continued in part 2



9 Responses to “Entrepreneurship And the Future State of Affairs”

  1. oskar said

    From John Berger, ‘The White Bird’, The Sense of Sight, (Vintage, 1985), p. 9:

    The aesthetic emotion we feel before a man-made object – such as the white bird with which I started – is a derivative of the emotion we feel before nature. The white bird is an attempt to translate a message received from a real bird. All the languages of art have been developed as an attempt to transform the instantaneous into the permanent. Art supposes that beauty is not an exception – is not in despite of – but is the basis for an order.


    The notion that art is the mirror of nature is one that only appeals in periods of scepticism. Art does not imitate nature, it imitates a creation, sometimes to propose an alternative world , sometimes simply to amplify, to confirm, to make social the brief hope offered by nature. Art is an organized response to what nature allows us to glimpse occasionally. Art sets out to transform the potential recognition into an unceasing one. It proclaims man in the hope of receiving a surer reply … the transcendental face of art is always a form of prayer.

  2. Leounheort said

    Your point being…?

  3. oskar said

    Take that portion into consideration and then read this book.

    Singaporeans may not be a happy lot.

    But they are contented enough to let others (like the govt) plan things out for them as well as tell them what to do (or not to do).

    So they deserve their unhappiness because they refuse to do anything about it.

  4. oskar said

    You think about it:

    How many papers have the academic written about these entrepreneurship stuff?

    How many ‘get rich and successful’ books would Singaporeans have read?

    At the same time, how many big-name entrepreneurs (besides Sim Wong Hoo) do we have?

    There’s a lot of reading one can do on any certain topic. And you could always keep reading and reading and reading.

    From another perspective, it’s just you preferring that others tell you what to do: ‘Give me step-by-step instructions! Like if I get 4As then I can apply for a gahmen scholarship!’

    As for why mention Art:

    Do ask yourself what is to value of Art to me?

    Unlike entrepreneurial activities, Art doesn’t seem to have any value, correct?

    So have you asked yourself: ‘What does it take to be an artist?’

    And have you wondered really: ‘Doesn’t being entrepreneurial involve being like an artist?’

    Especially when there are so many more failures for any one success.

    Art is thematically ‘useless’. But if you won’t try the useless, presently-unworthy-and-silly stuff, how do you know if it’s not going to… in the near future, be useful?

    You wrote, ‘They do something simply for its sake.’

    Now go and read the Departmental Doctrine for Cranbrook Academy of Art’s Department of 2D Design.

    I don’t understand why people talk so much for.

  5. oskar said

    Cranbrook Academy of Art, btw, was the institution that led the revolution in graphic design against the so-called ‘International Style’ or ‘Swiss style’ of design.

    The latter styles were based on objectivity in graphic design as were many Modernist projects.

    Modernism was no doubt idealistic in its intentions as well, but it had become the ‘status quo’ so to speak, and was choking out other alternative views of design.

    To go back to your queries on entrepreneurship, have you asked yourself what was it that made entrepreneurs successful in Singapore or elsewhere?

    Isn’t it because they were disruptive?

    How else could they gain market-share?

    Tell me how many Singaporeans would readily admit to the government that they are disruptive.

    I should know. I was rejected by MINDEF for the position of Innovation Activist for being ‘disruptive’.

    But I was trained in Art, under the Art Elective Programme from high school to JC.

    So I don’t care.

  6. Leounheort said

    You have put words in my mouth, Oskar. Allow me to clarify:

    I use ‘entrepreneurship’ very loosely in this article. I wasn’t referring to businessmen; I’m referring to trend-setters, to leaders, to multitalented, flexible (to a degree) people. Coincidentally, most businessmen have these traits. But so do philosophers, artists, etc. I’m referring to everyone who fit my definition of ‘entrepreneurship[‘, not the conventionally accepted form of it.

    Did I say anything about happiness? No. So what were you trying to address in your second block?

    Was I giving instructions? No. The idea of this article is to show what is an entrepreneur, what defines one, how he creates knowledge, how he markets this knowledge, how he contributes to the economy, and so on. So what’s your point on instructions?

    Art? I spoke of it? I only touched very briefly on it, so much so that this part could do without the reference to art. So what’s your point? What does that artistic reference have to do with this essay?

  7. Leounheort said

    Further, that bit on disruption has already been covered in this essay. It’s the rigidity the entrepreneur faces. So, yes, I’ve accounted for this. I’ve asked myself why they were successful. Answer: they had knowledge, they were creative, and they took risks. I’ve already explained it in my essay. Your argument on “isn’t it because they were disruptive” holds no water. What, exactly, do you mean? What were you even referring to? What’s the relevance?

    The point is, Oskar, what’s your point? You’ve been consistently inconsistent with the contents of this essay. Every one of your points had nothing to do with the essay at all; even your quote from my article was used in an irrelevant fashion. So, truly, what are you trying to address in this monologue?

  8. oskar said

    Never mind.

    They are all relevant.

    And I’ve been very consistent actually.

    It’s not uncommon though, your complaint. It’s just that I can only think in pictures; not words, that’s all.

  9. Leounheort said

    You’ve been very consistent in being irrelevant on the surface level, and not proving your current logics: namely, the relevance of your points to mine. That’s the only consistency I can see. If you do want to raise an issue, then do make it relevant, in a way that is clear to people, lest the portrait of your voice be forgotten forevermore.

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