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2012 UGUST JULY / A


Cover STORY 08

GETTING TO THE HEART OF HEALTHY HABITS

Breaking the code on health in Singapore

05

FEATURES 05

BRINGing BUZZ TO BRAS BASAH.BUGIS

An NHB precinct development team is making the area the “It” place for culture and the arts

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Letters to a Young Public Officer TAKE TIME TO REFLECT

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BITES THAT PACK A PUNCH

Get into the pink of health with these foods

Koh Lin-Net, of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, says it will help you discover your passion

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DON’T RUBBISH THAT!

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A Cuppa With… “SINGAPORE NEEDS A NEW NARRATIVE…”

National Environment Agency’s Andrew Tan explains why

A new department has been set up to clean up the grey areas in public cleanliness

30

FILL IN THE_____WITH YOUR IDEAS

Get inspired at blinkBL_NK

HIGHLIGHTS 04

NEWS FROM THE SERVICE

VIEWPOINTS 02

Inbox

Your views on the May/June issue of Challenge

03 Your Say Should public officers be subject to a higher standard of personal conduct?

We asked readers for their views

16

Thinking Aloud BEING KIASU DAD… JUST ONCE A WEEK

Neil Humphreys says it’s all for a good reason

28

36

ON THE JOB 32

the big idea SLEEP YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS

Amazing things can happen when you dream

34

LEVEL UP WHY LARGE TEAMS WRITE BAD SONGS

Teamwork isn’t always the best

rest & relax 17

The Challenge PullOut THE MEMORY ISSUE

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Officers with a passion SHE’S A BARBIE GIRL

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8 pages to make you nostalgic

Meet a Corp Comms manager who’s a Barbie fan

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life.style LET’S PLAY DRESS UP

Fashion designers sketch their vision of how public officers can dress

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The Irreverent Last Page THE N00B’S TEN COMMANDMENTS OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE Woe betide those who defy them

2012 July/August

BACK TO THE ROOTS

P. RAMLEE & HIS MOVIES

Popular Singlish words explained

If you’re from Singapore or Malaysia, you’ll definitely know P. Ramlee, the iconic filmmaker whose heyday spanned from the 1940s to the late 1970s. Here are his top three films, as voted on IMDB.com:

17

Anakku Sazali (My Son, Sazali) About the turbulent, yet touching relationship between a father and son. Ali Baba Bujang Lapok (Ali Baba and the Silly Bachelors) A retelling of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves laced with generous twists of Malay humour. Sarjan Hassan (Sergeant Hassan) The story of a Malay soldier set in World War II in Malaya. Ramlee’s only war film.

pages to make you nostalgic

17-24 It’s true, it’s hip to remember. Modern life may be all about progress, but we’re always in search of monochrome memories. Because nostalgia never goes out of style.

Goondu • idiotic, having done something classically stupid: I can’t believe he walked straight into the glass panel, thinking it was the exit. So goondu! Origin: Gundu in Malay for marble or nut Taiko • lucky (sarcastic, because now the chances of contracting leprosy are low): Jenson was so taiko, play the arcade game first time already get high score. Origin: Hokkien for leper Wayang • to pretend, act: Everyone here must wayang in front of their bosses so they won’t give you extra work. Origin: Javanese for shadow puppet theatre performance

THE RETURN OF MAT YOYO Mat Yoyo, and later Aksi Mat Yoyo, was a classic, “live”, Malay-language TV show from the 1980s featuring children dressed up as cats. The lead character, Mat Yoyo, was played by Mat Sentul, who used to be Singapore’s very own James Bond back in the 1960s. He made the movie Mat Bond, an outright parody of James Bond, which was produced by Cathay Keris Films. For those who miss Yoyo, Yaya and the rest of the gang, don’t fret – MediaCorp has recently revived the series in a four-language version.

DID YOU KNOW?

PU

PUPPET MASTER Victor Khoo remains, even today, Singapore’s most famous ventriloquist. However, it is often his star puppet, Charlee, who gets the limelight. After all Victor is merely the “voice” behind Charlee. The puppet was bequeathed to Victor by his father, who chose him out of his 11 children to make something of “this piece of wood”. Victor and Charlee used to host “Happy Talk”, a “live” talk show for kids on radio every Saturday morning, for seven years. It was probably the only regular radio show in the world that featured a puppet! Today, Victor still performs locally and in the region, and even has two other companions for Charlee, Char Cole and Cha Cha. bit.ly/HgxDW3

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Before Universal Studios, Singapore had its own amusement parks, such as the Wonderland Amusement Park, which operated in the 1970s on the site where the Singapore Indoor Stadium now stands.

LLO

UT

Old pictures here: bit.ly/HLtVlM and bit.ly/HhrGdj

We do not remember days, we remember moments. The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten. – Cesare Pavese, This Business of Living


Food for thought Stumbling clumsily into our flat, hubby and I collapsed panting. Inspired after reading the draft of cover story Getting to the Heart of Healthy Habits, which mentions how the Health Promotion Board is encouraging Singaporeans that exercise can be done anytime, anywhere, I had cajoled him into walking up 14 floors, heavy groceries in tow.

It’s a pity, though, as some of life’s best gifts, like good health, often come through acts not immediately enjoyable. I was reminded of this when reading the Baccalaureate address to the University of Pennsylvania’s 2012 graduating class. Drawing on experiences from a walking pilgrimage through India, Nipun Mehta, founder of ServiceSpace.org, exhorted the graduates to walk and not fly (or for that matter take the lift) through our high-speed world. Though arduous, through the journey, he encountered life’s simple but profound gifts such as the beauty of a sunrise or food borrowed to feed him by villagers so poor they couldn’t afford to feed themselves. Fortunately for me, we’ve figured out an exercise routine hubby actually likes. Once a week, we take an hour-long walk. Usually we keep it brisk, sometimes we stroll, but always we talk. Perhaps what we enjoy most about this time is the break from the daily grind of moving, in Mr Mehta’s words, “beyond the speed of thought”, to slow down instead to, “the speed of thoughtfulness”. Do enjoy the rest of the food for thought in this issue! (Nipun Mehta’s address can be read at http:// bit.ly/LM12GP)

Editor

Tan Hui Min

Pants Gap Green pullover and shoes Forever21

I haded my cajol y into hubbing up walk oors 14 f l irs, of stay heav eries groc w. in to

That was our first and last time. We had failed to form what author Charles Duhigg calls a new habit loop. Our brain needs instant gratification and we had neglected the crucial step of associating the climb with something immediately pleasurable, like a piece of chocolate. Hubby must certainly be getting his good night’s sleep (see Sleep Your Way to Success) because what followed was a string of avoidance schemes so creative I could probably give a blinkBL_NK talk about them (see Fill in the _____ with Your Ideas). On several occasions he conveniently remembered our pact to take the stairs only after we were in the lift!


E 2012 MAY / JUN

Publisher

PS21 Office, Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office 100 High Street, #07-01 The Treasury Singapore 179434 Email : psd_challenge@psd.gov.sg Web : www.challenge.gov.sg

For enquiries or feedback on Challenge, please write to the Challenge Editorial Team at psd_challenge@psd.gov.sg. Editorial Advisor

Agnes Kwek Editor

Tan Hui Min

Assistant Editors

Ruth Lim, Christopher Teo & Geraldine Yeoh Editorial Assistant

Eric Loy

Tuber Productions Pte Ltd

298 River Valley Road Level 2 Singapore 238339 Tel : 6836-4030 Fax : 6836-4029 Email : info@tuberproductions.com Web : www.tuberproductions.com

INBOX INBOX I applaud the team behind Challenge magazine for a job well done. It’s obvious that much thought and effort have gone into it and

I’ve always enjoyed the articles in every edition. Tan Shang May MOF

Love the Letters to a Young Officer!

Management Director

Lee Han Shih Project Director

Liew Wei Ping

PLUS

The value of musty archives unveiled p5 Weeding out black sheep p30 The skinny on the best meeting venues p42

The Irreverent Last Page is a tongue-in-cheek reflection of being a public servant.

Hey, we do know how to poke fun at ourselves too! :-)

Azlina Jailani SPF

Keep it up!

Editorial

Contributing Editor

I read many magazines.

Challenge is one of the best I’ve seen in terms of relevance and audience engagement.

Joan Lee

Bridgette See Sub-editor

SLA

Bernice Tang Staff Writer

Chen Jingting Intern

Muhammad Irwan Shah Contributors

Elaine Ee, Koh Joh Ting, CK Koo, Margaret Lim, Ryandall Lim, Marc Nair, Sheralyn Tay & Yip Min-Ting

Creative

Creative Director

Ashik

Art Director

Yip Siew Fei

Graphic Designer

Ng Shi Wei

Cont ributing Photog raphers

Charles Chua (athousandwords.com.sg) John Heng (www.daphotographer.com) Justin Loh (shininghead.com) Challenge is published bimonthly by Tuber Productions Pte Ltd (Registration No: 200703697K) for PS21 Office, Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office. Copyright of the materials contained in this magazine belongs to PS21 Office. Nothing in here shall be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written consent of PS21 Office. Views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of PS21 Office or Tuber Productions Pte Ltd and no liabilities shall be attached there to. All rights reserved. All information correct at time of printing. Printed by KHL Printing Co Pte Ltd (Registration No: 197801823M) 57 Loyang Drive Singapore 508968

Thanks for the mouth-watering selection of restaurants.

I appreciate it when you take risks and truly live up to your name, challenging not just the reader, but assumptions that we take for granted, and provoking thought at all levels. Thank you for the important work you do well.

Unfortunately, we would need something more affordable with a private room if we want to host official visits. May I suggest that you have a follow-up article showcasing restaurants that have a private room and lunches priced within IM limits, with halal options too? :-)

Sarah Mei Ismail MCYS

Editor: Thanks Sarah for your feedback! We will certainly try to hunt out restaurants that fit your bill. You will be pleased to know that StraitsKitchen, which we had featured, is a halal- cer tified restaurant that also offers vegetarian dishes.

Kelly Then HPB

The complimentary bag has a nice, earthy colour. It is very handy and easy to carry around. I can put a lot of documents inside, and it also protects me from the rain! My wife thinks it’s a very good bag also.

Thomas Sim PSD


Your Say03

S hould

public officers uphold a higher standard of personal conduct than others ?

We

The short answer is always “yes”. Public service, without public trust, would be pointless. Public trust demands, and deserves, that public off icers uphold standards of integrity and personal conduct over and above what we expect of the ordinary citizen. Higher than any legal power or protection, is the moral authority of the public servant, and the public’s expectation, and respect, that he will do his duty, impartially, without fear and favour.

asked readers for their views .

Congratulations Martin! Thank you for your thoughtful yet succinct view. We are sending you a $100 Starbucks voucher which you can use to brew more good insights!

Mar t in

Mar ini

MPA

A high standard of personal conduct is not something that should be limited to a certain occupation. If a nation is to be safe and successful, if its integrity is to be preserved, all must hold themselves by the same benchmark of integrity and rectitude. Sadly, the reality is far from this. If we absolutely have to earmark a group that has the responsibility to uphold a higher standard of personal conduct, then yes, public officers would be that group. That’s because we are representatives of the nation, serving the people.

Should integrity be different between a public officer and a non-public officer? The word is integrity and there are no different gauges for all who serve another. It is the same yardstick no matter who the officer is. However, a public officer’s responsibility of upholding integrity is greater as it affects the full Public Service. One let-down shows off badly the thousands who come under the big umbrella of public officers.

Tan Wen Jie

MinLaw

V. Alagesan

MHA

I am of the view that personal conduct should be consistent and not tagged to the work that we do. However, the function of the Public Service is to serve the public and with that comes visibility. Rather than having to uphold a higher standard of personal conduct, I think it is more important for public officers to be cognisant of who we serve and the concomitant visibility which demands a minimum standard of personal conduct.

Marcus Wang CSC

Just as a teacher has the duty to fulfil a higher level of moral standards because of their tremendous influence on the next generation, public officers, too, should uphold a high level of personal conduct given that their work will impact the workings of a nation. It is not just an image that we should be presenting to Singaporeans, but a clarion call to other world governments – that our public officers are a shining example to follow.

Galen Lim URA

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Challenge’s Public Officer meme went viral online! More than 1,000 people shared it with their friends, with many saying that it struck a chord with them. Some said they were surprised that the “gahmen” had such a sense of humour.

What do you think? Do you think we have a funny bone in us and that we can laugh at ourselves? Or do we take ourselves too seriously?

Email us: psd_challenge@psd.gov.sg The best entry will win an attractive prize worth up to

$100! $30

All other published entries will win book vouchers worth

each. Please include your name, agency email address, agency and contact number. All entries should reach us by July 31, 2012.


04 Highlights

NEWS

Coming up...

from the

SERVICE Do it yourself If you love D-I-Y, check out the inaugural Singapore Mini Maker Faire at the Science Centre Singapore from August 4-5. Learn from local and overseas makers and join in the hands-on activities for robot building, electronics, crafting and model building. The event is a highlight of the annual Singapore Science Festival (July 27-August 17). www.makerfairesingapore.com

Singapore Celebrated World Intellectual Property Day Home-grown singer-songwriter JJ Lin Jun Jie was appointed Singapore's IP Ambassador at "The Originals IP Spectacular!", in conjunction with the World Intellectual Property Day celebrations held at Toa Payoh HDB Hub on April 24-25. Chosen for his invaluable contribution to the local and regional music industry and his promotion of original works, Mr Lin said he hoped to inspire Singaporeans to respect and reward creative efforts. Other local music talents Dick Lee, Tay Kewei, Chen Wei Lian and Derrick Hoh also rocked the crowds. Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Law, Sim Ann was Guest of Honour. www.facebook.com/HIPalliance

CSC LEARNING FESTIVAL Held in conjunction with Public Service Week 2012, the Civil Service College (CSC) Learning Festival showcased a variety of learning activities which transformed the CSC into a bustling space with something for everyone. Visitors posed against fun backdrops at the CSC booth, while others found respite at the movies or over books and freshly brewed coffee in the Learning Café. No one left empty-handed – not when they could get nifty takeaways from spinning the lucky wheel, or finding out more about CSC’s revamped website ahead of its launch. More pictures at: www.facebook.com/CivilServiceCollegeSingapore

Solutions for urban cities The World Cities Summit is back from July 1-4. With a focus on integrated urban solutions for liveable and sustainable cities, the biennial global event is expected to share new insights and trends on urbanisation challenges. This will be the first time the event is co-located with the 5th Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) and the inaugural CleanEnviro Summit Singapore. www.worldcities.com.sg

Go green with joy The Singapore Garden Festival returns July 7-15 with more breathtakingly beautiful displays. Soak in the flora and fauna with highlights such as the Landscape and Fantasy G ardens, Floral Windows to the Wo r l d a n d t h e Singapore Orchid Show. Get inspired by the balcony garden displays, or bring a piece of the festival home by shopping at the Marketplace. www.singaporegardenfestival.com


Bugis Street Exterior, by Teoh Yi Chie (Urban Sketchers Singapore).

An NHB team is making the precinct the “It” place for culture and the arts. Text by Bridgette

See


F o r 12 day s i n F eb r ua ry, shoppers at B ugis Junction were greeted by two massive, gaping “holes” in the ground. If they weren’t careful, they would step right into those “holes” – and land on top of the dome of the Singapore National Museum. Or find themselves in a Bugis ship, holding a conversation with a parakeet. That is, if their imagination were as vivid as Joe Hill’s. He is the internationally renowned street artist responsible for the “holes”, which are colourful, 3-D drawings that look incredibly realistic at certain angles. If the shoppers had acted like giggly kids as they spun on the tip of the dome like ballerinas, or swashbuckled like captains of a ship, they could blame their brief loss of cool on the National Heritage Board (NHB)’s Bras Basah and Bugis (BBB) Precinct Development Unit. The Unit had brought in Hill and his interactive pavement art. Newly formed in January as a result of a reorganisation within NHB, the Unit is staffed by officers in their thirties. They’ve been tasked to make BBB a place where the young and the creative can converge 24/7 to seed new ideas, against the rich cultural and historical backdrop of the precinct.

Making it unique

Precinct development, explains Jason Chan, the Unit’s Assistant Director, is about building a stronger identity for precincts (districts reserved for a purpose) and making them more vibrant with their own “flavours”. O rc h a rd R o a d , f o r i n s t a n c e, i s m a r k e t e d a s t h e n a t i o n’s shopping strip while Chinatown and Little India boast rich ethnic offerings. Left: Street artist Joe Hill (right) and a passer-by on the artist’s 3-D painting of a Bugis ship at Bugis Junction in February 2012. Picture by BBB Precinct Development Unit.

The aim now is to make BBB, already known to some Singaporeans as an arts and culture hub, even more distinctive and appealing to a wider audience. The Joe Hill 3-D street art, for example, certainly added buzz to the precinct’s streetscape as some 70,000 people snapped pictures, with many of them spreading the news through social networks. It was good for art and heritage, and good for the venue owner – a win-win situation the Unit hopes to replicate in the future. “My role is to create synergies between the partners involved,” says Mr Chan, who has been busy reaching out to as many as 50 stakeholders including arts groups, businesses, educational institutions and religious groups.


Feature07

It was good for art and heritage, and good for the venue owner – a win-win situation the Unit hopes to replicate in the future.

From far left: View from Block 231, Bain Street by Teoh Yi Chie; CHIJMES by Paul Wang and Bras Basah Complex by Paul Wang. All sketches can be found at Urban Sketchers Singapore (www.usksgvolumes.com).

aesthetic preferences, so that discussions aren’t lost in translation or frustration. That means bringing various parties to the table to talk and collaborate as a precinct, instead of stakeholders going solo. “If we have 10 partners, instead of having 10 sporadic events, why not have one main event that showcases everyone? It is good marketing,” he explains. Take, for instance, an art gallery opening. “NHB can come in, to find likeminded partners to make it a bigger programme under the whole precinct’s ambit,” he says.

Bridging conversations

A key role for Mr Chan is to act as a bridge between stakeholders who are collaborating for the first time. This involves, for example, finding middle ground between an artist’s ideals and a venue owner’s pragmatic concerns and

This helps to make things happen without “losing too much of the integrity of the intended project,” he explains. Although NHB is helming BBB’s development, Mr Chan says the aim is to instil greater ownership within the BBB community so that more ground-up initiatives take off. “We’re looking to launch an online portal [for BBB] to encourage community engagement,” he says. The idea is to give the BBB community a platform to contribute pictures or short videos, an avenue to market events, or simply an opportunity to catalyse online conversations that could lead to real-life collaboration. Which could only mean one thing: more fun for anyone coming to this part of town.

Some BBB projects • Walk Singapore: Bras Basah.Bugis, an app for smartphones and tablets, gives users the lowdown on the history and significance of Singapore’s national monuments, museums and landmarks in the area. •

NHB collaborated with a team of varsity students to create Singapore Footprints, an interactive and experiential free walking tour to tell the many stories and quirky historical facts of the ’hood.

• The annual Night Festival is an anchor event for the BBB precinct. The festival is an evening outdoor showcase of spectacular light installations and performances created in and around the precinct. From August 24-25 and August 31-September 1, 2012. For updates on the latest in BBB, “Like” the BBB fanpage at www.facebook.com/brasbasahbugis


etting G to the

heart

of Healthy Habits There is a saying that it is better to die than to fall ill. Exaggerated as it sounds, it reflects the costs and suffering from poor health that people would prefer to avoid. Yet most Singaporeans are still not taking steps to ensure they stay healthy. The Challenge team f inds out what’s being done to spur more Singaporeans to develop healthier habits. Text by Koh

Joh Ting & Bridgette See Photos by Justin Loh

Ev e r y day a r o u n d 4 p m , Dr Adrian Wang, a psychiatrist, reaches for a Kit Kat in the office fridge. He knows it means excess calories but he finds it hard to resist snacking. The power of habit is hard to counter, especially when the mind is able to persuade so well. Dr Wang says resignedly: “We tell ourselves: It’s been a long day; we’re stressed. We deserve that Kit Kat.” According to research, what we do is often dictated by habit. This means we rarely act as a result of conscious decisions, but rely mostly on set routines. Reaching for that Kit Kat, sipping on Coke or taking the escalator instead of the stairs are all force of habit we seldom question. New York Times writer Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit explains why we do things in certain ways and how we can change that.

Every habit follows a psychological pattern Mr Duhigg calls a “habit loop” that consists of first, a cue that makes the brain go into “auto” mode. This unleashes the second part of the loop which is the behaviour or the routine. The third part is the reward you receive that makes your brain “like” it and remember the loop in future. What is heartening is that it’s never too late to break a habit. The best way to do that, writes Mr Duhigg, is to understand the “habit loop”. Once you understand it, you will be able to identify the cue and can break the habit, or replace it with a more beneficial one (see side bar “Jump-start An Exercise Habit”).

Investigating Singaporeans’ health habits Understanding habits and how to change them could be the key to getting more Singaporeans to lead healthier lifestyles.

According to a recent National Health Survey, 40% of Singapore residents don’t exercise enough. The obesity prevalence increased from 6.9% (2004) to 10.8% (2010), while the prevalence of diabetes among adults aged 18 to 69 rose from 8.2% (2004) to 11.3% (2010). Currently one in every nine Singaporeans has Type 2 diabetes, which is often linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. To facilitate its work in promoting a healthy lifestyle for the nation, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) conducts studies to assess and understand the determinants of major health issues and pertinent behaviours. Such studies are supplemented by consumer research which provides insight on why people behave the way they do, and the triggers for behavioural change. Together, these studies guide the shaping of policies and programmes, and enable HPB to monitor their effectiveness.


Cover Story09


For instance, HPB found that three out of four seniors were not going for health screening or following up with doctors after they were screened, because they viewed these as inconvenient, inaccessible and sometimes unaffordable. HPB thus introduced “all-in-one” screening sessions in the community that put together all the recommended tests for the elderly, thereby saving travelling time and money for seniors. In the four-hour sessions, seniors are checked for chronic diseases, certain cancers and age-related decline in functions. They are also given on-site follow-up consultations by a team of GPs, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists and counsellors.

Why

10

minutes? Research has shown that doing moderate to intense workouts in 10-minute blocks can boost health. An American exercise physiologist, Glenn Gaesser, found short bursts of 10-minute exercise, done 15 times a week, can be just as beneficial as a solid hour in the gym three days a week.

Volunteers are also on hand to help seniors sign up for the Community Health Assist Scheme that allows them to tap subsidies for medical treatment at their neighbourhood doctors.

Creating exercise habits

Through their surveys, HPB also found out that many Singaporeans lack the time to exercise due to work or family commitments, while others just find going to the gym too difficult to fit into their weekly routine. To get Singaporeans moving, HPB had to trigger the formation of new exercise habits based on the “habit loop”, while bearing in mind the mental barriers.

Photos John Heng

So in late 2011, it went out in a big way to “repackage” exercise from something that was time-consuming and gym-

based, to something that can be done anywhere, anytime in 10-minute blocks. This was motivated by recent research that shows that 150 minutes of moderately intense workouts (in 10-minute blocks) a week can be beneficial for health (see side bar “Why 10 Minutes?”). To engage the population, HPB asked them to come up with ways to clock up 150 minutes of physical activity a week. A video contest got people to share innovative ways of integrating

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exercise into daily life. One winner shared how a skipping rope break could relieve the monotony of school or work, and inject fun too. Also, eye-catching, colourful stickers (the cue) at MRT stations exhorted commuters to take a light walk (the behaviour) up the stairs to burn double the calories (the reward), converting the stations into “giant exercise machines” and an exercise opportunity that could be built into daily routine. HDB staircases were also highlighted

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Cover Story 11 as a convenient place for people to burn calories.

hygiene, and even maintaining a positive attitude in life.

If a person sees the cue to take the stairs often enough, and is rewarded (knowing he has burned more calories or is feeling more sprightly over time), there is a good chance of him adopting this new habit loop.

Admittedly, it isn’t easy to break a habit – as can be seen from the number of smokers who struggle to quit. It is cruel, almost, to hold back someone from that bowl of laksa when everyone else is tucking in.

Meanwhile the social element of physical activity was introduced to make it fun and engaging. Shopping malls were roped in to promote walks and community aerobics since Singaporeans are known to love window shopping and hanging out at malls.

So instead of expecting Singaporeans to go at it alone, HPB wants to create a supportive social movement that will make healthy living a social norm. Its Chief Executive, Mr Ang Hak Seng, says this will be the agency’s priority for the coming decade.

Starting young

It intends to make a healthy lifestyle the “default ” lifestyle for Singaporeans by transforming existing infrastructure – parks, shopping malls, hawker centres, coffee shops and Communit y Clubs – into healthpromoting environments.

Aware of the power of habit, HPB is also working with parents and schools to influence children’s health and eating habits from an early age. For instance, it has partnered primary schools and childcare centres to offer children healthier bento-style set meals. Parents are also encouraged to model healthy habits such as eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, practising good

By making use of the various spaces or facilities that impact people’s lives, HPB aims to change the way Singaporeans work, live and play.

If a person sees the cue to take the stairs often enough, and is rewarded (knowing he has burned more calories or is feeling more sprightly over time), there is a good chance of him adopting this new habit loop.

Jump-start an exercise habit Author Charles Duhigg says it is essential to take advantage of the habit loop if you want to start an exercise habit.

First, choose a simple cue: such as running at the same time of the day. Then pick a clear reward: this could be the endorphin rush from the jog or the distance that you clock and share on your social network. But first, the rewards inherent in exercise aren’t enough so you need to train your brain to associate exercise with something you really enjoy – such as a small piece of chocolate – after your workout. This form of reward is counter-intuitive, he admits. But the goal here is to train your brain to associate a certain cue (“It’s 6am”) with a routine (“Five km to Marina Bay Sands”) and a reward (“Kopi O”). Eventually, he says, the brain will begin to savour the inherent reward (endorphin rush) so much that you won’t need the physical reward anymore. “But until your neurology learns to enjoy those endorphins and the other rewards inherent in exercise, you need to jump-start the process,” he says. Over time, the act of going jogging every morning will become automatic.

HPB’s Healthier Hawker Programme 1

Brightly coloured signages at Yuhua Hawker Centre in Jurong East remind patrons that healthier options of their favourite dishes are now available.

2 This Malay food stall at Yuhua now sells healthier dishes using whole grain noodles and brown rice. 3 Healthier mee rebus made with whole grain noodles. 4 Healthier chicken rice that is 30% brown and 70% white rice.

3

4

5

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Besides chicken rice, hawker Alex Poon (right) and his wife also sell chicken noodles made with whole grains. All prices have remained unchanged.


Dishing out healthier options

A good example of co-creating solutions on the ground and influencing the environment is HPB’s Healthier Hawker Programme. The programme began in 2011 at the Yuhua Hawker Centre at Block 347 in Jurong East Avenue 1. HPB surveys have shown that hawker centres play a huge role in national dietary habits, as 60% of Singaporeans eat out at least four times a week at hawker centres.

A local SME was roped in to create a whole grain noodle and HPB sent in its chefs to train the hawkers in cooking the noodle. This approach was repeated at food centres at Haig Road, Eunos Crescent and Geylang Serai in 2012.

“The hawker centre is an ideal location to introduce healthier food options since it is not only a popular place where people eat, but also a ‘community space’ where they meet,” says Mr Ang.

There, the unhealthy ingredients targeted were coconut milk and palm oil – sources of saturated fat – used in the rich lemak and deep-fried dishes beloved by the Malay community.

One way of offering a healthier choice is to get Singaporeans to eat more food made with whole grains. Eating whole grain foods reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as stroke, heart disease and cancer.

HPB worked with a local SME to create a blend of vegetable oil with 20% less saturated fat than palm oil, and sold at a comparable price.

Knowing that the average Singaporean slurps down at least one serving of noodles daily, HPB worked with hawkers at Yuhua to create healthier noodle dishes using whole grain noodles, while keeping prices affordable.

HPB also helped the hawkers to aggregate orders for brown rice, whole grain noodles and healthier oil blends, enabling them to keep costs low. The Healthier Hawker Programme is expected to be introduced to 17 more hawker centres and coffee shops by end-2012.

Says Mr Ang: “We have ‘The Healthier Choice Symbol’ and calorie counts stated on the signboards. They serve as visual cues for customers. When they queue up for the healthier foods, it is in turn a signal to the hawkers about customer preferences for healthier choices. In time, the success of the early adopters of the Healthier Hawker Programme will influence other hawkers to sign up. This can make healthy eating pervasive.”

Fanning out to help others

Ultimately, HPB envisions roping in the whole community to make healthy living pervasive. To do so, it has an ambitious plan of introducing 10,000 Health Ambassadors – they could be ex-smokers, grassroots leaders, or retirees – by 2015 so that “every Singapore household can be impacted by at least one volunteer,” says Mr Ang. There are now 2,500 trained volunteers at HPB’s Health Promotion Academy,


Cover Story 13

In late 2011, HPB put up eye-catching stickers at MRT stations to encourage commuters to take a light walk up the stairs, converting the stations into “giant exercise machines” and an exercise opportunity that could be built into daily routine.

which was set up through a collaboration with the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore. “O ur Health Ambassadors are our change agents who have social ties with the community and can help to achieve that inside-out change to catalyse healthy living,” Mr Ang says. “After all, the most effective way of getting a person to quit smoking is to have an ex-smoker talk to him and walk him through the journey as he is vulnerable to relapse.” What is encouraging is that apart from HPB’s efforts, there are other similar outreach efforts by the public.

Public efforts

Dr Tan Chong Keat, 25, now a medical officer at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, initiated the voluntary, student-led Neighbourhood Health Screening Programme during his second year at medical school. The group of medical students went

door-to-door to one-room rental flat dwellers in Taman Jurong and MacPherson to carry out health screenings aimed at early detection and intervention of chronic diseases. Now into its fifth year, the programme sees new batches of medical students continue to return year after year to monitor those who need screening. When first visited, some residents had not seen a doctor in 10 years. What the medical students realised through their rounds was that the poor simply needed a person to reach out to them and to explain why undetected diseases can be a costly time bomb. Diabetes, for instance, if not managed, can lead progressively to gangrene, stroke and chronic heart and renal disease.

now taking better care of themselves. One single mother was moved by the students to deal with her depression, so that she could take better care of her children.

Different folks, different strokes

Even if the statistics show that obesity is growing annually, they also show that the percentage of people who do exercise regularly has inched upwards – from 17% (2004) to 19% (2010). So yes, there are new converts to a healthier lifestyle every year. But for those who require more prodding and support, the role of the entire community will be vital. As such, HPB intends to aggressively set the pace for healthier living – with the help of Singaporeans.

“By seeing the residents in their actual living conditions, I got to understand why great health schemes can be futile if enjoyed by none because of a lack of awareness. It is important that we reach out and go door-to-door to understand the residents,” says Dr Tan.

“There is a strong desire for Singaporeans now to take ownership. Some think Singaporeans becoming vocal is a nightmare but I see it as an opportunity,” says Mr Ang. “People are savvy about the lifestyle changes they have to make and we need to help them – it’s up to you and me to help them make the change and create the environment to sustain it.”

He is heartened to see that the effort has helped many residents change their attitude toward check-ups, and they are

Making a nation healthy is a marathon – it is time to break out the running shoes and get started now.


White-Fleshed Food

Ever wonder why “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? A 10-year Dutch study shows that adults who eat plenty of white-fleshed fruits and vegetables like apples or cucumbers have a 52% lower chance of suffering a stroke.

that pack a punch These simple but effective foods will have you in the pink of health in no time. HONEY

The next time nausea and a crippling headache hit you after a night of heavy drinking, a.k.a. a hangover, reach for the honey pot. The natural sugars in honey, often called the food of the gods, speed up the oxidation of alcohol. Take two to six teaspoons every 30 minutes after waking up. Repeat until you’re relieved.

WOLFBERRIES

Want to have strong peepers? Try some wolfberries. Their beta-carotene content is among the highest in edible plants. Every 100mg of wolfberries has 7mg of beta-carotene, about 33% more than the same amount of carrots. Snack on dried wolfberries, or throw a handful into a cup of hot water to make sweet-tasting tea.


Feature 15 BROCCOLI

You need not believe the rumour going around that the broccoli can feel pain, but what you can believe in are the amazing qualities of this superfood* – from boosting immunity to fighting depression (thanks to its plentiful B-vitamin folate). Also, if you’re lactoseintolerant, you can always munch on broccoli. Every serving (about a 250ml cup) packs about 1/3 of the calcium in an equivalent glass of milk. *Superfood: Food rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and antioxidants. Packed with nutrients and minimal calories.

CHILLI

To put an end to that stuffy nose, try taking some chilli. The chemical capsaicin, responsible for chilli’s signature spiciness, releases endorphins that help to unclog the nasal passage, as well as relieve headaches.

OYSTERS

The most famous of all aphrodisiacs, the oyster is also the richest food source of zinc. Did you know the lack of zinc can lead to poor appetite, stunted growth and slower wound healing? So for your daily dose of zinc, just slurp down a normal-sized oyster. Lemon and tabasco sauce optional.

CHIA SEEDS

These are the latest superfood in the market that are jam-packed with great stuff like omega-3 (a fatty acid for healthy hearts, among other things), protein, fibre, calcium, B-vitamins and antioxidants. Best of all, they are cholesterol-free. Note that they deliver about six times more omega-3 than salmon – so good news for those who hate fish! Sprinkle atop rice or cereal.


16 Thinking Aloud

Neil Humphreys says it’s all for a good reason

Being Kiasu Dad... just once a week Singaporean pa r e n t s touch my arm sympathetically and nod their condolences. They can’t begin to imagine what I must be going through. For them, it must be worse than a family bereavement. I left Australia to return to Singapore. My loss must be ever so painful. When I explain that I came back, partly, for my daughter’s education, sympathy quickly turns to contempt. “You sold out,” a Singaporean auntie and long-time friend said. “You used to tekan all the kiasu Singaporeans in your books. You said our students studied too hard, you said it was counterproductive and now you’ve become another typical, kiasu parent. Shame on you, ang moh.” She didn’t say the “shame on you” part, but her tone and demeanour did. Intriguingly, I’ve been accused of “selling out” on more than one occasion, apparently rejecting the carefree, bohemian ideals of my earlier Singaporean books to become just another kiasu clone. It seems that I’m a “sell out” unless I pull my daughter out of school in K1 so she can hang out with Hells Angels, marry a bearded biker called Bub and carry out drug runs to Colombia. Rest assured there hasn’t been a sudden metamorphosis into Kiasu Dad; just a continuous evolution, I hope, of sensible, practical dad. Mandarin Chinese will be a pivotal language by the time my daughter reac hes 21. ( If nothing else, she might need conversational Chinese for those international drug runs with Bub the biker.)

Few other countries underscore value of multilingualism – and cultural and economic barriers up by being monolingual – quite Singapore.

the the put like

enrichment (very popular tuition word, that one), I watch other children scurry through the glassy facades of their centres, duck behind a partition and disappear for the next hour or so.

Growing up in a distinctly ordinary secondary school in London, most English students struggled with English. Asking them to learn a second language was like asking them not to set fire to the science benches with their Bunsen burners. It was never going to happen.

I’ve no idea what goes on behind those partitions. In my mind’s eye, children are strapped to electric chairs and given a quick zap whenever they get their seven times table wrong (well, this one’s particularly tough.)

When I first arrived here in 1996, I had a friend from Yorkshire in tow. For three months, I was the interpreter, translating his English – into English.

When the children finally emerge, they waddle out carrying a dozen textbooks, looking like the hunchbacked King Richard III.

It seems that I’m a “sell out” unless I pull my daughter out of school in K1 so she can hang out with Hells Angels. But I can’t speak Mandarin beyond its rudest words (I’m fluent in Hokkien on this score). Nor can my wife and most of Australia. So we moved back from Australia and joined the tuition centre traffic at weekends. On Saturday mornings, the creaking lifts of Marine Parade Central pack in so many parents, children, rucksacks and folders that we should start bleating while we wait for the sheep shearers. When we all spill out onto our respective floors in search of academic

They can’t even attend “runof-the-mill” tuition centres anymore. They must attend elite tuition centres staffed by Super Tutors; you know, the Stop-A-SpeedingBullet-and-still-Get-an-AFor-Maths Tutors.

So I think one Mandarin class a week is more than enough extra academic enrichment for my little one. I didn’t “sell out” to kiasuism or succumb to tuition centre addiction. I just provided a vital language opportunity for my daughter that didn’t exist in Australia. A regular, sensible education will take care of everything else. And she can always come to me for the Hokkien. Neil Humphreys’ new Singapore book, Return to a Sexy Island, is available at major bookstores.


Letters to aYoung Public Officer 25

Take Time to Reflect by Koh Lin-Net Deputy Secretary (Trade), Ministry of Trade and Industry

DEAR YOUNG OFFICER, I am of ten asked what my advice would be for young officers, and the first thought that always comes to mind is, be patient. I’m fortunate to have worked with many exceptional young individuals who had impressed me with their drive, resourcefulness and quickness of mind. But on occasion, I’m also saddened that some of them, who hold so much promise, are simply too impatient to be noticed. They worry about whether their efforts are appreciated or whether they are getting promoted faster than others. They worry so much, it backfires on them. If you approach the job thinking, “If I do it this way, I will get noticed”, it will likely result in a sub-optimal job. Focus on doing a good job and recognition will follow. If it doesn’t, ask yourself if it could have been done better. It probably could have been. I’ve sat through the patience lesson myself. In my first job at a statutory board, I was tasked to research the local logistics sector. It being my first assignment, I was very excited. I called up all sorts of statistics, met with lots of companies, and spent many weekends and public holidays in the office. Finally I submitted the paper, and waited anxiously for feedback and the implementation of my recommendations. Although my boss was kind enough to spend some time discussing the paper with me, it didn’t get anywhere beyond him. It turned out that the conclusion of the study wasn’t substantial enough, which made me reflect on what I could have done better. Lesson learnt: I had

relied mostly on analysing statistics and desktop research to churn out what was probably a good academic piece, but if I wanted to make any difference to the sector, I would have needed patience, to develop a much deeper understanding of it. Ten years later, I worked on another policy – a new issue few people understood, but which my team really believed would make a difference. We knocked on countless doors, explained

I’ve found that, quite often, drafting the policy is the easy part. Persuading people to believe in it, to the extent that they would change their behaviour, is the difficult part. Understand why you’ve got that roadblock in front of you, and find creative ways to manoeuvre around it. I also believe in constantly trying to do the job better. But first, you need to be interested in the subject matter. If you approach a job merely as an intellectual exercise but don’t really feel for it, then there’s a limit to how far you can go. Hence, I also believe in taking the time to reflect, get to know yourself better, and discover what you’re really passionate about. The lucky ones might find their passion early in life. For the rest of us, myself included, it may take a bit more time.

If you approach a job merely as an intellectual exercise but don’t really feel for it, then there’s a limit to how far you can go. why things had to change, listened to feedback, and adjusted our recommendations along the way. Because it was a new issue, it was not apparent who the decision-maker would be. We had to engage many departments and committees before we found a policy sponsor. It was a lot of hard work, but the achievement came because we were patient and persevered. And what fed that enduring spirit was our conviction and passion in our work.

Patience also applies to how you handle others. If you’re impatient with people because they do things differently from you, you fail to respect them as individuals and lose the chance to learn something from them. Recently, someone had this to share: “If you want to move fast, you move alone. If you want to move far, you bring people with you.”


“Singapore needs a new narrative...” Catching up with the Chief Executive Off icer of the National Environmental Agency (NEA), Andrew Tan, Elaine Ee learns about his desire to build meaningful connections, his impressions of former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, and his thoughts on an elusive workin-progress – the new Singapore story. Photos by

John Heng

Andrew Tan believes good communication is vital. And that applies to the Government ’s relationship with its people. “I am personally in favour of a more open atmosphere for policy discussion and dialogue,” says the 44-year-old, who heads the National Environment Agency (NEA). “It is timely we do so,” he adds, citing Singaporeans’ increased expectations of the Government amidst calls for greater discussion on key national issues. “Singapore needs a new narrative going forward. The question is – how can we involve the public in this and work with them to develop this new narrative?” But first, the way the conversation is held between the Government and people has to change. Currently, Mr Tan observes, members of the public often turn up at dialogue sessions armed with complaints, which leads to public officers defending their policies. “It would be ideal if we have a dialogue amongst equals,” he says.

“ We’re not here to better one another but to solve the problem together… so we need to find more congenial settings for these dialogues. The process is just as important as the outcome.”

Keeping the trust

The Public Service, he says, has played a critical role in the development of Singapore. This has been made possible “because of the tremendous trust between the people and the Government… This has given the Public Service the room to adopt long-term measures to transform Singapore.” But does the Government still enjoy the same level of trust from its people? “ The trust is still there. It is very precious and should be preserved,” he replies. “ We shouldn’t take for granted that this level of trust will remain. I think of late it has come

under some pressure from recent events like flooding, train disruptions and rising costs of living.” This is a time when exceptional leadership will be required to cope with a more vocal and demanding public, a time complicated by increased pressures on a small, densely populated city, he says. Not only must leaders listen more to the people, they must also have the gumption to make tough decisions, and not bow to populist demands, he adds. At the same time, the Public Service needs to be nimbler in adjusting its policies to fast-changing conditions.

Inspiring staff

Mr Tan, who became CEO of NEA in 2009, believes that each of his 3,500-strong staff plays a crucial role in the evolving Singapore narrative where the environment is concerned. “ Whether it is lifting up


A Cuppa With...27

The trust is still there. It is very precious and should be preserved. to Singapore Press Holdings to help the former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on his memoirs in 1994.

drain covers to look for mosquitoes, or telling people they shouldn’t litter, there is a larger purpose to all this – we are all part of the narrative to keep Singapore clean and green”. To help staff see the big picture, he finds time to speak directly with them as much as possible. “ We’re a very large organisation… you have to reach out to these people in different ways. You’ve to walk the ground, show that you understand their needs, and win their confidence.” The CEO motivates his staff by encouraging them to champion their own projects that can benefit the organisation. This means giving them room to propose new initiatives or explore innovative partnerships. The only criterion – they have to be passionate about the project. When he was at the Ministry of Defence, Mr Tan himself was seconded

“I had the benefit of taking on projects like former MM Lee’s memoirs and doing a start-up like the Centre for Liveable Cities. These have given me good opportunities to develop my skills and a chance to work across several agencies from information and the arts, defence, foreign affairs to the environment.” Altogether, Mr Tan spent six years working closely with the former MM, including three years as his Principal Private Secretary. This tops the memorable highlights of his 20 years in public service. “I was struck by how simple a life Mr Lee leads and how profound his thinking was,” he recalls. “There is a huge contrast between his personal life and the amount of effort he puts into thinking about the future of the nation. He probably spends about 99.9% of his time thinking about Singapore’s future and maybe 0.1% on his daily routine, which he probably finds a chore!”

Carving out time

Mr Tan’s own time for himself isn’t in great supply either, since he devotes most of his time to work. His children, two boys and a girl, all aged under 10, attend NEA activities with him from time to time.

He has some personal time for himself every Sunday morning when he goes for a run. Even then, work is still on his mind. “During my jog, I do three things,” he reveals. “First, I keep myself fit. Second, I catch up on my reading through audio books – for instance I listen to The New Yorker – and third, I do a cleanliness audit to see if our contractors have been doing their job and whether my chaps have been checking on the contractors. If something is amiss, I will send out an email thereafter.” The emails dispatched, the rest of Mr Tan’s Sunday is strictly reserved for his family.

What’s usually in your cup? Chinese tea. Your favourite flavour or brand? Doesn’t really matter. I call it the NEA-brew. Where do you usually have your cuppa? At meetings, it is usually the lesser of the evils, i.e. coffee.


Feature29

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Bernie Quah, an active participant of the blinkBL_NK sessions, recorded down Eugene Tay’s talk on the Green Corridor in a visual way. All photos contributed by Marcus Ng.

blinkBL_NK hosts Kay Chew Lin and Isaac Souweine.

Fill in the An informal monthly gathering is jazzing up Singapore by getting a diverse crowd to bring their ideas – any ideas – to the table. T h ey say t h e best i deas come from joining the right dots and making the right connections. But it is tough when you are always mingling in the same social or professional circles.

ics, geeks, hackers, writers, adventure travellers, entrepreneurs – converge to share their insights, tales, projects and philosophies on the top floor of BluJaz Cafe at Bali Lane. In the laid-back space, three speakers, each given 20 minutes, take turns to intrigue, entertain and surprise the audience. They then take questions from the floor.

If you are a design thinker seeking “transdisciplinary” perspectives, an officer needing fresh ideas, or simply wanting a change of scene, you might want to check out blinkBL_NK (pronounced as blank).

In between the talks are the free-forall “brain food” buffets – where people mingle, pick one another’s brains, and make new connections. The ideas flow, alongside music curated by Syaheed, a music producer and founding collaborator of the event.

Every first Wednesday of the month, a veritable mix of people – artists, academ-

If you are a networking newbie, this could be the least intimidating place

to start. It ’s dark and there’s music and beer. Some civil ser vants have been spotted here too, giving talks or listening in. Now into its 21st session, the event has presented 64 talks that have ranged from the geekishly offbeat (“How to build a starship in 100 years”) to the more academic (“Why math education doesn’t work and how to fix it”), as well as the esoteric (“Tabla and the genius of Indian rhythm”). At a recent talk, Adr ianna Tan’s sharing of her solo “hardcore” travelling got the crowd abuzz. People wanted to know how the 26-year-old funded her globetrotting adventures at such a young age, and how she found her way around in countries like Syria and Yemen.


Feature 31

Music producer Syaheed is in charge of sound and music at blinkBL_NK sessions.

Isaac Souweine introducing Urban Sketcher Cheryl Chung’s talk.

The blinkBL_NK crowd is a mix of expatriates and locals, many of whom are former speakers.

with your ideas Text by Bridgette

The wide range of topics is deliberate. “BL_NK is for fill in the blank,” explains Isaac Souweine, a founding collaborator, who works in the tech industry. “The space is open-ended and can be filled up with anything that the speakers [and the crowd] bring to the table.” Mr Souweine, who was inspired by Nerdnite (nerdnite.com) in the United States and TedX events in Singapore (tedxsingapore.sg), wanted to create “a space for people to interact in a casual but intellectual environment”. So he roped in Syaheed and Vikas Enti (a robotics researcher who has since left Singapore) to found blinkBL_NK. They branded it as an open event to welcome speakers and crowds of all types, not just the geeks and hackers.

“The environment is self-selecting. If you really have the guts and drive to get up there and speak for 20 minutes, then you will probably do OK,” says Mr Souweine. Public officer Kay Chew Lin was one of the earliest speakers. She was roped into the blinkBL_NK team after she proved to be prolific at referring speakers. Now she co-hosts the event with Mr Souweine, and is in charge of speaker recruitment. The Health Promotion Board officer says the richest reward comes from participating actively. “What I enjoy about blinkBL_NK is how people share their ideas,” says Ms Kay. “Those who speak have their ideas clarified a little when people ask questions. People who don’t speak learn a little when they

See

listen to something new, or when they talk to their neighbour.” The crowd is a mix of expatriates and locals, many of whom are former speakers. Business Times reporter Teh Hooi Ling has been to a few sessions, each time bringing friends along. “It opens up the mind,” she said, impressed by the mix of topics. She was inspired by a previous speaker who had quit her job to travel. While not all the dots might join at one blinkBL_NK session, it certainly paves the way for new connections to be made. And if nothing else, it is “enjoyable frivolity ”, in the words of a repeat attendee. Keen to speak at blinkBL_NK? Just email info@blinkbl-nk.com.


SLEEP YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS

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The average 21st century adult is a busy, busy person – constantly on the go and juggling many demands, be it work, family or even socialising with friends. With such a punishing schedule, few have a good night’s sleep. Yet, getting enough sleep is vital. Just like a rechargeable battery, we work best when we’re fully juiced up. Sleeping well not only improves health, it also boosts creativity. Studies have shown that the act of dreaming (also known as Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, sleep) allows our brain to process what we have learnt and store it in our memory. REM is the fourth stage of a sleep cycle that normally lasts 90 minutes. For every sleep cycle a person has, the REM stage lengthens, which means the opportunity to improve memory and gain new ideas increases. Paul McCartney, for instance, dreamt up the tune for “Yesterday”, the evergreen hit song by The Beatles. So how much sleep do you need? Many researchers say at least eight hours. If you want more Eureka! moments, you’d need to start making sleep a mission. Wind down by 10pm and snuggle up for some mind-blowing insights in bed. Who knows, you might just sleep your way to success!

dream.


The Big Idea 33


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l i k e t h e i d e a o f te

a m w o r k . B u t d o e s a te a m g e t t h e j o b d Text Geraldine

Imagine if all of the top songwriters of our time, including Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and Bruce Springsteen, got together to write a song. With such musical legends on board, one would think that the song produced would be epic. But chances are it won’t. The truth is, large teams write bad songs. They are often equally bad at coming up with other creative work, like poems or novels. Such tasks, says team effectiveness thought leader Richard Hackman, involve an emotional journey of sharing experiences unique to an individual. In a large group, members may compromise individual creativity to reach consensus. And statistics reflect this reality of teams and lacklustre songwriting. A 2010 article published in the Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis reported that 78% of the top Billboard songs were written by individuals or pairs. So then, given that teams are often found in the Public Service, what are they good for? First, you need to decide whether a team should be formed or not. Not all situations and tasks call for one. As a guideline, teams should not be formed if all members are supposed to do the same type of work, or if one’s organisation has a high turnover rate. That said, however, there are some tasks that only a team can do, such as performing in a string quartet or carrying out a multi-party negotiation,

Ling

one?

says Hackman. A team should only be formed if a co-ordinated effort requiring different individual skills is needed to achieve a desired outcome. So a team should not compose a song together, but joint effort is certainly needed to produce a music album to be released and sold in the stores! If, after everything has been considered, you have decided that it is in your department’s best interests to form a team, here are some tips: • Keep teams small Although workload may be reduced with more members on the team, the complexity of co-ordination and

lished among the various mini teams to ensure effective co-ordination. • Set team norms To reduce conflict, it is important to first lay down a foundation of behavioural norms. This could be observing punctuality or withholding criticism during a brainstorming session. Team norms should ideally be set by the group itself. To facilitate the process, ask members to come up with and agree on a set of five to seven behaviours.

If you are currently in a large team and think that its size hinders productivity, consider re-structuring the team into a smaller one. communication required increases exponentially with size. The average size of work teams should ideally be four to five, says Harvard psychology professor Ruth Wageman. If you are currently in a large team and think that its size hinders productivity, consider re-structuring the team into a smaller one. If that is not possible, another idea would be to revamp the group into multiple, smaller teams – each performing different sub-tasks. Remember to ensure strong communication links are estab-

Subsequently, guide the team to agree on how they will enforce the behavioural norms. If the norms are not enforced when they are “broken”, they become obsolete af ter a while, or may even be a cause for tension.

So before you form a team to take on your next task, stop and ask yourself: do you really need a team to perform the task? Or would you rather end up with a bad song? Fa c i l i t at i n g te a m e f fe c t i ve n e s s i s a n Organisation Development (OD) practice that can contribute to achieving successful organisational outcomes. Promoting the effective practice of such OD practices is the key focus of Centre for Organisation Development (Centre for OD), Civil Service College. For more information, email cscollege_COD@cscollege.gov.sg.


Officers With A Passion 35

She’s a Barbie Girl

A senior Corp Comms Manager from Health Sciences Authority lives life vicariously through Barbie’s world.

Text Sheralyn Tay Photography Charles Chua

I f collect i ng d oll s strikes you as merely child’s play, think again. A German Barbie fan has the world’s record collection of 6,000 Barbie dolls, worth over S$200,000. Or ask Pearly Cheong, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, at the Health Sciences Authority. Pearly, 37, has amassed 500 of them, after buying her first collectible Barbie during her junior college days. “It was Maria from The Sound of Music,” recalls Pearly of her first Barbie. “She wore the ‘curtain dress’, a straw hat and had a guitar. And during my first job, with CNB (Central Narcotics Bureau), I bought Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.” On the heels of those early Barbie dolls came a succession of hiao (vain) dollies in much more elaborate designs

– Barbies decked out in designer gear and Vera Wang bridal gowns, Barbies sparkling in Swarovski crystals, and Barbies draped in authentic kimonos. Pearly’s precious dolls are displayed in a specially designed cabinet in a room done up in bright pink and black. “I don’t buy branded bags, shoes or clothes, and I don’t like to travel as I get really air sick. Instead, I collect Barbie dolls,” says the effervescent Pearly. “Looking at my dolls, rearranging them and taking them out to admire or clean is very therapeutic.” Per using her col lection is also a way of living vicariously for Pearly. “Barbie belongs to a different world! She’s been a movie star, an a s t ron a u t , a n a t h l e t e a n d e ve n a presidential candidate!

“And she always has such wonderfully creative clothes; I always feel so inspired when I look at my dolls,” says Pearly. “When I was at URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority), having collectible Barbies with clothes inspired by great artists like Van Gogh helped me to hone my eye for design which comes in useful for my work.” “I also appreciate the well-crafted writing that accompanies each doll on the collectibles websites. It triggers my own creativity when I write… although it’s not that suitable when I am writing scientific stuff now!” she admits, with a laugh.


So everyone is capable and hardworking at the off ice. How do you stand out then? Challenge taps the brains of some young designers for fun ways public off icers could dress to impress. Text by Yip Min-Ting It’s a common sight: public officers clothed in unadventurous garb, too often in the predictable blue shirt or the safe black skirt. But we dare say the tide is changing. There is a small but growing population of officers who are stepping forward in more eye-catching outfits. If you crave new ideas and stylish designs, check out the 18 new local labels at PARCO Marina Bay at Millenia Walk. The labels are by the third cohort of young designers nurtured by the fashion design incubator project PARCO next NEXT, a joint initiative by PARCO Singapore and the Textile & Fashion Federation Singapore, with the support of SPRING Singapore. Challenge approached four design labels to sketch up something special just for public officers. So gather some courage and start cultivating your own sartorial style. Remember that Mark Twain once advised: “Clothes make the man”.

Spring/ Summer 2012

LION EARL If you’re a public officer faced with the dilemma of having to look chic and yet not overdressed, then you may have your answer in Lion Earl. Lionel Low and Hariz Lim, the design duo behind the label, hail from a background of fashion and architecture, respectively. The result? A collection with clean lines, form and elegance. It balances a strong silhouette with fluid details, incorporating designs that reflect influences from other art forms such as music, painting and photography. For Challenge, they came up with two looks, with elaborate touches that show up prettily in ruches, drapes and pleats, outlining the feminine form. “These dresses would be versatile for public officers to attend networking events and functions after work, while during work, they can be toned down with a simple jacket,” says Mr Low. www.lionearl.com PARCO next NEXT, Level 2, 9 Raffles Boulevard, Millenia Walk Also available at Threadbare & Squirrel, 660 North Bridge Road (Haji/Bali Lane), Tel: 6396 6738


Life.Style37

FOREWORD

l, versatile and Evelyn Ng and Pearly Wee’s emphasis for their designs is on practica long-sleeved silk shirts demure classic, visualise they officers, public comfortable clothes. For and sharp blazers for men. and dresses, and loose skirts for women; crisp shirts, tailored pants and empowered individual. “Dressing professionally is critical as a public officer is a capable them to send out We want public officers to create a positive first impression that allows Challenge but using their powerful messages,” Ms Wee says. The designs, specially created for a loose silhouette, targeted current collection’s colour palette, are based on light fabrics and at the desk or is constantly to enhance comfort for the busy executive who spends long hours necklace constructed on the go. Outfits are paired with quirky accessories such as a braided touch to an otherwise from ropes and hardware, or a feathered collar chain, to add a playful mixed and matched, solemn outfit. The duo also believes in creating clothes that are easily wardrobe. and can be easily cared for – fitting well into their idea of a fuss-free

Spring/Summer 2012

www.forewordlabels.com PARCO next NEXT, Level 2, 9 Raffles Boulevard, Millenia Walk


20: TWOTHREE Cousins Genevieve and Jamie Goh have a penchant for working with less-than-cheery colours – their inaugural collection for Parco next NEXT is based in black. So for Challenge, they relied on shades of pale grey and black, with lots of details for contrast. Distinctive pleats on the dress bodice and pant legs, mandarin collars, asymmetrical skirts, and double waistband on pants all come together to create something a little unusual from the typical executive “uniform”. “Being a good worker enables one to stand out; dressing well also lets you engage fellow colleagues’ attention,” Ms Genevieve Goh says. For the gentlemen, she recommends: “Straight-cut pants can look too baggy on some men, so we have designed the pants to taper slightly towards the bottom.” Meanwhile the black pleats and double waistband offer something different – even a little groovy – from the basics. www.20twothree.com PARCO next NEXT, Level 2, 9 Raffles Boulevard, Millenia Walk

Spring/Summer 2012


Life.Style39

Spring/Summer 2012

KAE HANA

Kae Hana has picked from her current collection ensembles she thinks will free public officers of the square shouldered, sombre look that they might have been associated with. “They (public officers) would need to look good while interacting with the public,” Kae Hana says. There are the everyday urban basics – tailored skinny pants, an executive long-sleeved shirt and a tulip skirt flavoured with Kae Hana’s flirtation with colours and print. The ensembles run to a fluorescent colour palette of orange, pink, blue and green – which work prettily with earth-toned togs and cheery accessories. Her love for prints shows up in the striking graphic juxtaposition of flowers and skulls – a prominent feature in many pieces of her collection. Clearly her aesthetic is anything but dull, and those looking to perk up their wardrobes will wear Kae Hana gladly. www.kae-hana.com PARCO next NEXT, Level 2, 9 Raffles Boulevard, Millenia Walk


40 The Irreverent Last Page

VI

I

And when thou failet h to avoid the PS, thou sh alt avoid foot-in-mouth disea se by keeping mum until spoken to.

s important Thou shalt addres nks, never by people by their ra use “Dear DD…”, their names. So ”. ood morning, PS “Dear PS…” or “G loo. Yes, even in the

VII

II

Thou shalt arrive early at meetings to get the best seat... in the back row.

hen litically correct w Thou shalt be po in carbon copy g writing emails by . ding order of rank people in descen

VIII

III

Thou shalt master th e art of sleeping with eyes wide open at me etings. Unless thou art the designated minu te-taker.

and emails in concise Thou shalt draft ing uage. Avoid shar non-emotive lang y sad self. sob stories of th

IX

IV V

g awkward the ar t of evadin Thou shalt learn lift. “Oops, especially in the , PS e th ith w s one-on-one an important loo!” or “I forgot I need to use the imes work. document” somet

Need We Say More?

X

Thou shalt master th e art of networking. When thou art stump ed, there will always be someone who can help. Disclaimer : The Ch all eng e n0 0b Ind uct ion Tea m ho lds no res po nsi bil ity for any los s of inc om e or dro p in CE as a res ult of n0 0b P s fol low ing the se com ma nd me nts . *n0 0b: Sla ng for a new com er, or som eon e ine xpe rie nce d

Here’s where we let the humour loose, and learn to laugh at ourselves a little more. Have ideas or jokes about the Public Service? Email us: psd_challenge@psd.gov.sg

Illustration by Mindflyer

preciate and to understand, ap pt m te at t al sh Thou ely made up of – a language larg k ea sp vgo e ac embr ronyms. mind-boggling ac

Thou shalt never attem pt to understand why finan ce procedures are so complicated.


1

There are in total

public hospitals in Singapore.

a. 5 b. 7 c. 9 d. 11

2

The first was organised by the then Ministry of Community Development in 1979 to encourage the elderly to remain physically, mentally and socially active. a. Senior Citizens’ Week b. Senior’s Week c. Seniors Appreciation Week d. Active Seniors Week

3

According to the Report of the Committee on Aging Issues, 2006, the number of people aged 65 and above in Singapore by 2030. will reach a. 600,000 b. 700,000 c. 800,000 d. 900,000

4

The Ministry of Health started publishing hospital bill sizes in to encourage hospitals to “do more with less”. a. 2002 b. 2003 c. 2004 d. 2005

5

The human makes up only 2% of our total body weight, yet it demands 20% of the body’s oxygen and calories. a. heart b. spleen c. brain d. liver

Pairs of Movie Vouchers to be won Submit your answers by AUGUST 3, 2012 at: Challenge Online www.challenge.gov.sg Please include your name, email address, agency and contact number. All winners will be notified by email.

CONGRATULATIONS to the winners of the May/June 2012 Trivia Quiz Goh Kheng Beng URA

Teo Geok Cheng ICA

Heather Ong MCYS

Faith Chu CAAS

Pearlyn Tan PSD


Challenge July - August 2012