Singapore is hot in August. But since it’s close to the equator, it is hot there all the time.
Weather aside, however, I found Singapore a wonderful place. We loved the people we met, we loved the food, and found the city/nation clean, efficient, and impressive in many ways. I went to Singapore prepared to experience stifling rigidity. The locals joked about this, referring to Singapore as a “fine city” because there is a fine for everything — including taking your Starbucks latte on a subway. The person at the ticket booth saved me from this fate! On the other hand, children were safe on the streets, even at night, and the city just seemed to work.
The use of technology in Singapore was fascinating. It seemed everyone had a cell phone and used it a good deal of the time, including during a public lecture. The small meters mounted on the dash of the cars were intriguing as well. The city controls traffic during peak hours by charging a toll in certain areas. This is accomplished by debiting a cash card in the meter, as the car passes the reader, in the controlled area of the city.
While technologically this is not difficult, the infrastructure and societal implications are more challenging. Clearly this enables “the system” to track the location of your car. I talked with several people about this, wondering about their privacy concerns. None of them seemed to care. Privacy is not a simple issue and I discuss this in my column (see page 4).
I traveled to Singapore with my wife and John Terrill, the director of graduate and professional ministries with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Our purpose for being there was to work with Eagles Communications, doing surveys of CEOs on the application of their values to the workplace.
John also participated with me in our IBTE conversation with Mr. Fu Hua Hsieh, CEO of the Singapore Exchange (see page 6). In some advance reading about Mr. Hsieh, I learned that he enjoyed the ceremony of making tea. When we arrived in his office, he offered to make tea for us. We told him it wasn’t necessary, but he said it was something he needed to do for his own relaxation, particularly at 5 p.m. on a Friday at the end of a tough week. Watching him make and serve the tea (multiple small pots, very small cups) made the whole experience different from any previous IBTE conversation.
Elsewhere in this issue, David Gill talks about roles in a company (whistle blower, ombudsman, values leader) that aid its ethical health (page 15). There is an interesting parallel to creating a climate where anyone is free to “blow the whistle” on an ethical issue, and the lean manufacturing environment in Japan where any worker is free to stop the line when a quality problem is spotted. As in Japan, where this seldom happens in practice, David suggests the freedom to “blow the whistle” would create a climate where it would seldom need to be done.
Seamus Phan, our correspondent from Singapore, provides an interesting perspective on software (from adoption of open source to piracy) in Asia. It was great to meet Seamus for the first time when we were in Singapore.