In order to be globally competitive, we need to start opening ourselves more to the world.

2018 is a World Cup year. This year, 32 teams from all over the world will be competing to be the World Champions, a feat achievable once in every four years.

In our real world – we are facing similar competition on a daily basis. We just don’t treat it like the World Cup, but we should. Every day, the global economy sees competition. The strongest, or the fastest, or the most innovative, or the most adaptable are the ones that win. This competition is not just about economies, but also ideologies, businesses, jobs, talent etc. With a fast-changing world, the competition gets even more frenetic. Adaptability and ability to move fast become increasingly the desired trait. What is relevant for us ordinary people is how we can sustain our living in this fast-changing environment?

There are no easy answers to this question. But perhaps we can distil the ingredients that are essential to becoming competitive as a talent (in business, entertainment, sport, academia etc) in this new world environment.

Naturally, training, practice and developing skills are very important to be competitive. However, taking this a step further – these skills need to be developed and benchmarked to global standards. These should be global skills. Global languages, global outlook and attitudes. These skills will also further need to be honed against that global standard. To do this, we either send our talent to sharpen their skills amongst the best in the world, or we bring some of the best in the world to us. 

But training and developing skills alone to match global standards will not be enough. Talent, like flora and fauna, will need to have the right conditions to grow and bloom. Trying to match the world’s best without the right diet, encouragement, discipline etc will not work. So we need to replicate the best conditions for talent to flourish. In particular, to grow and develop intellectual talent, there need to be conditions that allow the mind to explore limits of knowledge and challenge norms to bring about new ideas, and new skills. A key principle in order to achieve this – create intellectually open and globally diverse minds in order to stimulate new ideas, bring about creative tension and preserve checks and balances.  Like the rich tropical forests in our country, preserving and balancing the diverse eco-system of talent is vital to ensure that the natural advantage of diverse talent brings about the opportunity to enrich each other.

The 21st century promises significant disruptions but with it new opportunities for the disruptors. This is the time to move forward openly into the world instead of retreating out of fear and seeking a false sense of protection. Yes, going forward is going to be uncomfortable – but the cost of not doing so will be far more immeasurable for decades to come. We cannot afford to be left behind. 

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