When Less is More: The one thing Singaporeans can learn from Finns

Commentary, Finnish Culture
when less is more

When Less is More. Raymond shared this today:

To summarise, Raymond was talking about the one scene in “The Crown” that preaches “do nothing”. HAHAHA. The logic is that if your system is functioning well, logically you should not be working very hard.

In fact, the best entrepreneurs will design a system that allows them to eventually do nothing. So, initially they will work really, really hard for a few years, so that they can do nothing for a long, long time at a later stage.

That’s super high ROI! And isn’t working hard for a while to build this sort of system rather commonsensical? Why didn’t I see it earlier?

On the other hand, I’ve had this huge privilege of getting to learn a bit more about Finnish Design, from the super awesome team at Design Finland 100. I love learning from the founder Professor Kirsti Lindberg-Repo–she’s very inspiring, warm, witty and big-hearted.

And after having the privilege of drinking coffee with her, it hit me really hard that Professor Kirsti has this talent of representing verbose words into really cute, memorable and simple diagrams.

For example, I cannot even remember what I said during our conversation. I talked a lot and elaborately in a typical Singaporean fast manner. Yet, I can vividly remember the diagrams Professor Kirsti drew, of my words. :O In fact, I will remember them for life– They are etched in my memory with certain emotions.

So what do these two groups of people have in common?

Answer: Both groups of people like to make things simple. Even/ Especially (?) in business contexts.

So you see, I’m very disturbed recently, because why are Singaporeans working so hard at work or in business? Is it because of our national propaganda? I remembered working really hard in Singapore because of the perception that foreigners are constantly competing with us. In fact, we also compete amongst ourselves.

I know I compete more than I collaborate in Singapore. In Finland, I collaborate more than compete.

So, dear Singaporeans, is it ever possible that working hard is a sign of a system-error?

Have you ever considered how it is possible for the Nordic folks to work so little hours and accomplish so much? People like to say “Actually, it’s because Norway has oil to sell and Sweden is just f-cking rich.”

Well Finland doesn’t have oil–it instead has tons of trees. 😀 Trees probably aren’t worth as much as oil finanically. So maybe more Finns actually take the time–maybe even their own sweet time– to design better systems before starting a business, or work? 🙂

And perhaps, great design in the business context is why Finns enjoy work-life balance? When Less is More!

Because Finns do work hard as well, yet they are not as stressed as Singaporeans are.

Could it be that in the process of being “kiasu“–popularly conceptualized as “the fear of losing out”–we Singaporeans start to hoard and pile stuffs we don’t really want or need? Then, we start to place winning as first priority, and lose track of what we are in business for?

Test it out: Ask yourself “why” five times. 

“Why am I working so hard?” –> Because I want to earn more money.

Why do I want to earn more money? –> Because I want to provide for my family.

Why do I want to provide for my family?–> Because I love them.

Why do I love my family? –> Because they are close to heart.

Why do I value people close to heart? –> Because that is what life is about.

If life is indeed valuing people and things close to heart, then shouldn’t the sustainable method be to really design a system to allow you to eventually spend most of your time comfortably with your loved ones?

Perhaps, just perhaps, the opposite of design is fear.

Just like the opposite of less is more.

Take a moment to think about it, won’t you? 🙂 

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