On Orchids, Math and the Little Red DotBY ELIJAH LIM
Dots are everywhere. They are known as periods in some cases. At times, they make little “I”s
more visible. In cyberspace, they are known as pixels. And those pixels sometimes appear on such
obscure things as uniforms. Yes, indeed, dots are tiny little big parts of everyday life.
In some parts of the world, this piece of granite we live on is known as the Little Red Dot. Many
people don’t even know where it is. To them, this Little Red Dot is in China. Some call it the Little Red
Dot out of what might be termed fearful contempt.
A few know what the Little Red Dot stands for and appreciate her wisdom and leadership in certain spheres. Her leaders have been recognized internationally for their wisdom and thought leadership.
GDP has been projected by some to remain at a high of USD 137,000 in 2050, with the manufacturing sector leading the way in contributing to this high GDP.
Yet recently, this Little Red Dot may be seeing fissures in its once-unassailable granite base. I’m not going to discuss MRT breakdowns, cleaning up after ourselves at hawker centres and citizens disgruntled with having caregiver services for the elderly at their doorstep here, but I would like to talk a little about orchids and math.
Singapore still ranks as one of the world’s largest exporters of orchids. Although exports have actually halved since the year 2000, from about 20 million stalks to the current 10 million, the sector remains strong.
A main pillar of strength for the industry is the existence of good support infrastructure. An infrastructure that is able to deliver freshly-cut orchids in mint condition anywhere in the world within
After all, the point is having your flowers delivered before your big symposium, not arriving post-event. I wonder if we truly understand and appreciate what that means. Are we exporters of nice, exotic, decorative flowers only, or are we deliverers of great value?
Anyone in the tropics and subtropical regions of the world can grow orchids. Once the rudiments of so doing have been absorbed, assimilated and integrated, the process is simple and can obviously be duplicated.
What is not so easily duplicated is a whole system. What is even more difficult to copy is a whole culture. When farmers tenaciously fight high rents and high labour costs in Singapore, even planting orchids overseas where it is less expensive to do so, and bringing their orchids to Singapore just before shipment, it is an indication of the qualities of resourcefulness, determination and initiative.
It is these qualities that have formed part of the bedrock supporting the idea of high-quality orchids from Singapore that prevails around the world even today.
Are these values being supported by our system, or are they being eroded by neglect, to be broken down by the merciless elements as even exposed granite will be? Are we merely hawking our orchids on the world market or do we deliver great value as expressed in those lovely, perishable orchids?
Then there is Math. One of the three “R”s of “Reading, wRiting and ‘Rithmetic”.
Singapore Math is held in high regard in the US, as most Singaporeans know. It is an indicator of the high level of intellectual firepower available to us.
Are we expanding our armoury? How long will Singapore Math in its current form serve us? Once others are able to duplicate the basic structures, it will not be long before they no longer need to depend on Singapore Math.
Are we ourselves growing our intellectual firepower? I do not say that we keep on changing basic concepts just to remain attractive on the market. I do say that we need to expand our repertoire.
Just as Newtonian mechanics is subsumed under Einstein’s General and Special Relativity, and which are further subsumed under newer emerging theories concerning the expansion of the fabric of space itself, so do we need to grow and add to our existing arsenal of intellectual ordnance.
This is only sustainable if we continue to nurture a culture where an appetite for such growth is actively encouraged. I’m afraid that runs counter to the prevailing mood of just “getting by” with doing the least work for the most results.
The Law of Entropy operates against such notions. Excellence is always accompanied by hard work. Hard work results in smart work. Systems need to be maintained, updated and upgraded. Only then will we be able to sustain our intellectual capital.
So, there you have it. For our Little Red Dot to remain viable, we need to be value-driven, not just focus on profits. We need to continuously grow, seek out and develop new theories and concepts
based on new observed data. And we need to keep polishing our granite so it remains intact and
continues to support us.
Elijah Lim, Principal Consultant & Chief Optioneer, Shining Arrow Consulting Pte Ltd