Disclaimer: my views here do NOT represent any official EDB views.

I chatted today with an ex-colleague from EDB, and (as is the case with ex-EDBians) we started talking about our old organization. And this ex-colleague posed me an interesting question:

If you are suddenly appointed MD EDB, what would be one thing you would change or do? What would be the main problem you would focus on?

I thought for a while, and I commented that the main thing I would focus on would be on the strength of relationships & monetary flows in-between the Singapore-based HQs, rather than on specific HQs or companies alone. A related metric I would look at, is to measure and grow the proportion of APAC deals originating from Singapore.

The main bias I’m addressing is the same one that Daniel Coyle mentioned in opening of The Culture Code:

If you had to bet which of the teams would win, it would not be a difficult choice. You would bet on the business school students, because they possess the intelligence, skills, and experience to do a superior job. This is the way we normally think about group performance.  We presume skilled individuals will combine to produce skilled performance in the same way we presume  two plus two will combine to produce four. 

Your bet would be wrong.

In dozens of trials, kindergartners built structures that averaged twenty-six inches tall, while business school students built structures that averaged less than ten inches.

The result is hard to absorb because it feels like an illusion. We see smart, experienced business school students, and we find it difficult to imagine that they would combine to produce a poor performance.  We see unsophisticated, inexperienced kindergartners,  and we find it difficult to imagine that they would combine to produce a successful performance. 

But this illusion, like every illusion, happens because our instincts have led us to focus on the wrong details. We focus on what we can see — individual skills. But individual skills are not what matters. What matters is the interaction.

In the case of Singapore’s competitiveness, what matters is maybe less about individual companies, but about the interactions between them.

EDB is a very focused and performance-driven organization, and like all strengths, this can be a double-edged sword. We (I know, hard to kick this habit of talking as though I’m still there!) tend to focus on understanding the sources of our performance, especially the companies. The flip side of focus, is that you won’t see what’s outside of your focus.

There’s a lot of focus on increasing complexity of HQ functions here, but honestly, I think the causality is inverted: anyone who has worked on finance deals in HK and/or London will realize that volumes drive complexity, not the other way round.

Looking at the fundamental drivers of Singapore’s competitiveness, it ultimately boils down to whether companies can make money through Singapore, especially from the rest of the region.

So that is where I would focus on.

But that’s just me.

Started on 23 May 24 at 1827hrs. Finished on 23 May 24 at 1827hrs.