The first thing that shocked me a few weeks after my arrival in Singapore is how bureaucratic the whole system is. But to a certain extent that’s fine when you come from a country like France.
The real problem is the lack of flexibility, or shall I go further and say creativity.
Typical example: Suppose you need to get something from a certain service. BE SURE that they will never adapt or change, not even exceptionally, their standard procedure. Instead they will stupidly follow the rule step by step, as written on the paper and told earlier by their boss, without ever questioning the process or thinking of new more efficient ways to do it. It’s often useless to negociate, even very diplomatically, they will only make them angry as they will perceive it as a lack of respect to what they are telling you over and over again: “No sir, as I told you twee times alweady, dis is di only way we can do it”.
Eventually they will seem like being creative and suggest alternatives, but which are not convenient at all, and once more they would be just following the section B in their standard procedure.
I was a while ago very tired of hearing this sentence in France: “It’s like this because it’s like this, it has always worked like this so there’s no reason why it should change”. But really here it’s worse, it’s more “It’s like this, it does not necessarily always work, but it’s like this and no other way”. Hum…
It seems people are so afraid to lose their jobs because of not having followed the exact (and often not so optimized) STANDARD PROCEDURE.
But when you look at education in Singapore, this is just a consequence of it. The government (often described as a “major corporation” by Venture Capitalists) does not want people to question things too much and be creative. You don’t want troublesome people digging into the corporation‘s economics and practices. So I suspect education to drive you to be a good citizen since very early age, a good money earner but mostly spender (Singapore is the only shopping center that has a chair at the UN) and do many kids that will spend even more…
You see how in France, if people know you, they may not follow bother you anymore with standard procedures based on trust, and will move on to a more human, trusting and efficient way of dealing with you. NOT HERE.
If you need to show your card to get in somewhere, you may be bound to do this for the rest of your life even if there is ONE same security guard…why would he risk to lose HIS job just to make YOUR life a little easier?!
The whole country sells to its citizens the fake impression that they have strong potential and that they are innovative and creative. Some rare cases really are, but this talk becomes major bull when generalised because most Singaporeans ARE tremendously closed-minded followers and rule-obeyers. They know they got this remark in the past, and (surprisingly) reacted through all those initiatives to proof themselves they are creative. Eventually they will convince locals they are creative, but locals don’t have the same definition of creativity as in say Europe, obviously.
The government promotes entrepreneurship in Singapore, they are very brave! They just need to design a way to grow social and political followers, with engineering or business creativity. It’s not very easy: creativity is a lifestyle, not something you turn off and on depending on whether you are considering politics or your own venture. There are some very internationally famous Singaporean based companies: Creative Labs (audio systems) is one of them. But this is really the one in a million kid that stands out the mass.
Although the symptoms tend to vanish with higher levels of education, even the most. educated circles, namely NUS students and staff, suffer from a daily lack off creativity…to the point that there is ironically barely enough to even question it.
If you have experienced any obvious lack of creativity/flexibility please post your anecdots in comments.