The lack of entrepreneurs in Singapore
Today, I saw stark evidence for the lack of entrepreneurialism in Singapore. It may not seem much, but the message of what I witnessed is quite clear.
My wife and I had heard about the "flea market" at the Singapore Art Museum on Saturdays. We had mutual memories of Camden Market in London to inspire us with visions of innumerable idiosyncratic little stalls selling the oddest of things - things that would be a good quirky addition to any home. So, with this preconceived idea of what we might see, we went to the Singapore Art Museum.
What we saw, when we entered the central, open space in the Museum where the flea market was being held, quite astonished us. There was nothing there at all - approximately speaking. Not one of the eight stalls I counted amounted to the word stall. They were thoughtless, haphazard and uninteresting in content and presentation. The staff were listless, already bored with the lack of custom. It was both shocking and pathetic. The typical stall consisted of a few pieces of junk thrown onto a table. It was ludicrous.
We felt embarrassed for Singapore - and for ourselves for being there.
It was instantly clear that something was wrong. I have never seen a country so unable to muster such a simple thing as a flea market. Every other country I have visited (about 20), has a thriving subculture of people willing to set up any shop, anywhere. It is from these corner street acts of entrepreneurship, that great entrepreneurial stories begin. Not so, however, in Singapore. A country of 4.6 million people cannot muster more than 8 sad efforts at stalls, when an event calls upon it to do so. That, to me, means that entrepreneurs are rare in Singapore. The attitude of entrepreneurship is not widespread enough even to support a little bit of free market salesmanship at a flea market.
This is sad for what it says of Singapore's future. Every entrepreneur's biography or life history that I have read tells tales of small ventures begun often in childhood - tiny efforts at entrepreneurialism, such as a market stall, from which great empires spring. It is in these small efforts that people learn the skills and mindset of the entrepreneur. Without such experiences and little trials, few have the experience and courage to try anything on a bigger scale. This first step is missing in Singapore. People, generally speaking, just don't even try the first rungs of entrepreneurship, without which they are not mentally equipped for the higher rungs.
The absence of a lively flea market, today, at Singapore Art Museum is thus symptomatic of a serious problem facing Singapore. Without the young entrepreneurs of today, there are no great companies of tomorrow. Today, I witnessed a dearth of just such young entrepreneurs. Tomorrow, this promises a dearth of great new companies.
What is most telling about this is that I have never witnessed such a lack of entrepreneurial spirit anywhere else. I have travelled fairly widely - but never seen such a lack of the basic drive to build a venture, however small. Perhaps Singaporeans think a market stall is not good enough for them. Perhaps they think that only something grander will do for a start. This shows a failing of understanding of what even a market stall can teach a young person. All the basic skills of salesmanship and marketing are involved. All the basic skills of sourcing a product, pricing them, finding a niche. In fact, all the basic skills that make up the backbone of much larger ventures. Starting a market stall could very well be the beginning of a career that ends up with a Mustapha Centre sized outlet.
Perhaps what I saw today was a national pride against starting small. Yet, most great enterprises started that way. Not starting small, usually means never starting at all.
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and five months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and ten months, and Tiarnan, twenty-seven months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind, niño, gênio criança, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)