We need a compass for our future

Lim Siong Guan, a co-author of Winning with Honour and The Leader, The Teacher & You, spoke at the Education and Career Guidance Fair last weekend.

One parent, Madam Hua, told the Straits Times: “Some of my perspectives also changed after listening to Mr Lim’s talk…We often think that it is important to strive academically and it is the end if you don’t make it at the Primary School Leaving Examination. But it is okay to make mistakes and take longer routes to success.”


Mr Lim mentioned: “The future that we are talking about requires a compass more than a map.”

And as mentioned on page 35 of “Winning with Honour“: “The ‘compass’ comprises the values we hold to be important for our lives.”

You can read the full Straits Times article here. http://www.straitstimes.com/…/first-moe-career-fair-for-par…

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Honour Your Future

One of today’s headlines of Singapore’s highest selling English newspaper, The Straits Times, read: “Layoffs, jobless rates rise amid sluggish economy”. Another sobering article on page A8 stated that there were “More jobless, and fewer openings are firms”.

Winning with Honour  l  Honour Your Future.png

As mentioned on page 27 of our second book, Winning with Honour: in Relationships, Family, Organisations, Leadership, and Life, according to futurist Gerd Leonhard, unemployment is real and increasing exponentially—about 40 to 60 percent of jobs will be lost to automation and digitalisation, as robotics and artificial intelligence are increasingly used to perform repetitive tasks.There is thus an urgent need to honour our futures by looking into it and preparing for it.

Confucius said: “Success depends upon previous preparation; without such preparation there is sure to be failure.”

While this saying of Confucius rings true, it is also important to note that no matter how much each generation of leaders makes things secure and comfortable for subsequent generations, it will never be adequate or even satisfactory. Each generation is different in terms of expectations, aspirations, and circumstances. Each generation has its own issues, its own challenges, and its own opportunities. Each generation wishes to determine its own destiny.

Hence, it is important that each individual in every society takes responsibility for his/her own future, and not expect his/her parents or the government to prepare for their future and provide for all of their needs.

However, before we can prepare for the future, we need to know:

  • What is the future going to be like
  • Why Honour is critical for a good future



At a KPMG Robotic Innovations event, futurist Gerd Leonhard delivered a keynote titled “The Digital Transformation of Business and Society: Challenges and Opportunities by 2020”.

Leonhard opined that we are at a point in history where humanity will change more in the next twenty years than in the previous 300 years. There is thus an urgent need to look into the future and prepare for it.

With regard to future thinking, Leonhard mentioned that we not only need to think exponentially, but also in combinations. Automation will also become more widespread.

As reflected in the future scenario diagram by consultant Frank Diana below, anything that can be automated will be automated. However, the acceleration of automation has ethical implications… but technology does not have ethics!

Winning with Honour  l Page 24  l  Future Scenarios.png


In most of the futuristic industries, technology can take two paths that Leonard terms as “Hellven”, as meaning a situation where the technology can be “heaven” (where technology is used to increase the well-being of people) or “hell” (where technology brings about bad unintended consequences).

But while technology has progressed explosively, humanity has only progressed linearly.

Collectively, automation, robotics, intelligent assistants, and artificial intelligence will reframe business, commerce, culture, and society. We need a new social contract for the big data world.

Whether this new world is heaven or hell depends on whether humanity is honoured and whether humanity has honour. 


We also mentioned on page 25 of Winning with Honour: in Relationships, Family, Organisations, Leadership, and Life, Leonhard opined that the exponential and intersecting growth of “Digitisation, De-Materialisation, Automation, Virtualisation, Optimisation, Augmentation, and Robotisation” will result in inter-dependency, job displacement, and abundance that comes about due to dramatic cost reduction.

In a world of abundance, there is too much to use. But while there is a physical manifestation of abundance outside, there is a spiritual, emotional, and mental scarcity inside, which sparks individuals to search for what they feel they lack, namely:

  • Trust
  • Experience
  • Purpose

Leonhard believes that in accordance with the economic laws of demand and supply, as digitalisation increases, anything that is not digitalisable will become more valuable. This means that people will seek more intuition, love, trust, understanding, creativity, etc.

There will thus be a growing need to focus on the right side of our brain, which cannot be replicated by an algorithm. Examples of right brain characteristics that will grow in importance are:

  • Intuition
  • Values
  • Imagination
  • Creativity
  • Randomness
  • Synthesis
  • Emotions
  • Humour
  • Empathy
  • Beliefs


In the world of automation and abundance, experience will become extremely valuable, and an industrial and services economy will be transformed into an “experience economy”.

In an experience economy, people will be more willing to pay for bespoke and innovative services. What would thus be demanded are superior customer service and adept skills in innovation. Hence, creativity, innovation, social intelligence, and customer focus will be very important for businesses, and people will need to develop skills in creative problem-solving and constructive interaction if they still want to be employed.

In the world of big data, efficiency and productivity are part of the process, but are not the goal. After total efficiency is achieved through automation, the value of the business will be contingent on the human and non-digitalisable aspects of a purpose-driven company, namely:

  • Purpose
  • Design
  • Brand

What this means is that organisations must not only excel at technology, but also at humanity.

In a nutshell, in order for us to be future-ready:

  • We must honour our humanity.
  • We must dare to think differently and innovate to create new value that cannot be easily automated.
  • We need stronger values, ethics, standards, principles, and social contracts in an automated world.
  • We need Honour to honour these stronger values, ethics, standards, principles, and social contracts to avoid hellish outcomes.

Interested to learn more about how you can prepare yourself for the future economy?

Read “Part III: Honour For The Future: Honouring Our Chances For Success” in “Winning with Honour: in Relationships, Family, Organisations, Leadership, and Life”. Hardcover, softcover, and e-versions of “Winning with Honour” can be found in all major bookstores in Singapore, on Amazon, Kindle, Ebooks.com, Kobo, and World Scientific.

More information can also be found at. www.WinningWithHonour.sg


ST20160902  l  President's Award for Teachers

Yesterday, many schools in Singapore celebrated Teachers’ Day. Six teachers were also awarded the President’s Award for Teachers from Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana yesterday. To all teachers in Singapore and beyond, Happy Teachers’ Day.

While most of us would agree that honouring our teachers is important, have we asked ourselves why teachers special and why is it important to celebrate and honour our teachers?


As mentioned on Page 249 of our first book, “The Leader, The Teacher & You”, there is something very special about teaching, which makes the profession distinctly different from any other.

The most critical difference between teaching and working virtually anywhere else is this: The more the student surpasses his or her teacher, the greater the success of the teacher, whereas in the office, the higher the position a person gets to in the organisation, the more successful he or she is deemed to be — so we need not be surprised with bosses who work hard at keeping their people down.

The idea of success itself is totally different for a teacher. It is a definition that is focussed on the success of others, not the success of one’s self. We applaud everyone who has dedicated his or her life to be a teacher, for whom teaching is not a job or an occupation, but an honourable vocation and a high calling.

Teaching is an enormous privilege, a great responsibility, and an unparalleled opportunity to do good for the lives of others. We are always inspired when the teacher does not say “I teach science or mathematics or literature”, but simply says, “I teach children.” “Moulding the future of our nation” is not an empty slogan of the Ministry of Education — it truly reflects the power in the hands of the teacher to make or break lives.

If a leader (in the family, community, and/or organization) sees her/his role as not just to lead well for today but to build well for the future, her/his best contribution then is as a teacher: identifying potential, recognising effort, encouraging ideas, and pursuing excellence with a continuous drive for the organisation to be the best it can be and the people to be the best they can be. A leader’s best role is therefore to be a teacher par excellence, whose concern is first and foremost the success of his or her people.


We wrote on page 155 of our second book, “Winning with Honour”, that values, morals, and ethics are basically “caught” from family and school rather than “taught” in formal lessons and tests. Much research has shown that if parents are involved in their child’s education, the child will learn more. And while parents can delegate the role of teaching to the school, they must support what the school does—otherwise the school would be operating without legitimate authority over their children.

We learnt at a meeting with leaders from the Singapore Teachers’ Union and the Union of ITE Training Staff (UITS) that there are two particular challenges teachers in Singapore are facing in recent times:

  • Challenge Number One: Unlike parents of previous generations, parents of children today tend to take the side of their children when any disputes occur rather than first listen to the teacher’s version of events. Instead of leading their children, many parents today are being led by their children!                                       

Perhaps this is due to the guilt that working parents feel for not spending time with their children because they are busy working, or because parents today are more educated so they are less likely to defer to teachers.

Parents however have to realise that by not co-operating with teachers in school and granting them legitimate authority over their children, their children are learning to dishonour authority and elders, including their own parents! 

  • Challenge Number Two: Parents are “outsourcing” the role of parenting to domestic helpers. Teachers have commented that instead of “Meet the Parents” session, it is now more aptly described as “Meet the Maids” session!

Unlike the older generations who had outsourced their parenting to family members and/or domestic helpers who came from the same country, culture, or community, the domestic helpers of today are largely from different countries and cultures, and thus espouse diverse and often dissimilar values. In addition, due to the dynamics of the relationship, helpers are not able to discipline children the way children need to be guided. As the saying goes: “spare the rod and spoil the child”—children raised by helpers are likely to be “softer” and less self-reliant than those who had been raised by their parents. The well-known incident of the army recruit in Singapore who got his helper to carry his backpack to the army camp is an apt illustration of this problem.

It is important for parents to honour the authority of teachers over their children. By sowing seeds of dishonour in challenging teachers in front of their children, parents run the risk of reaping a harvest of dishonour upon themselves.

While it may be true that many parents today are more highly educated than the teachers, it is a narrow view to think that teachers are there just for knowledge transmission. Teachers have the task of developing the whole child, which means not just academically but also socially, emotionally, and morally. When parents challenge the authority of teachers, they undermine the ability of teachers to complement what the child has learnt or to make up for what the parents had failed to do right. Of course teachers are not perfect, but when parents interact with teachers in the presence of their children, they need to do so with due Honour and respect for the teachers.

Values, morals, and ethics are basically “caught” from family and school rather than “taught” in formal lessons and tests. Parents should thus be mindful and aware of the values that they are teaching their children who are constantly subconsciously learning through modelling.

Remember, we all reap what we sow, so let us honour our teachers not only on Teachers’ Day, but every day.

Photo: Straits Times

Websites: www.TheLeaderTheTeacher.com  l  www.WinningWithHonour.sg