Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Decisions Making By Young Professionals - Kum Tatt's views

Every one of us has to constantly make choices and decisions throughout our lives. The choices available, and the motivating factors in decision making, change with time. Sometimes we like to have freedom of choice. Sometimes we want freedom from choice. What is choice? Choices are opportunities and options open to us. Not many know of all the options available to them. We have to make decisions when we face uncertainties. What is the relationship between choice and decisions? To me choices are the options available. The more knowledgeable we are the more choices we will have. Decisions are the priorities we place on these options. The wiser we are the better decisions we will make. But wisdom takes time and experience to acquire.

Decisions come with responsibilities, something which many like to avoid. We make choices for the better or for the worse. There are no guarantees that we will always make the right choice. How do we ensure that the choice and decisions we make are the right ones? As for me I go by my conscience. Consciously or subconsciously we think about the problems. We make our mind and brains work overtime to show us the choices opened to us. Some people like to duck making the choices, especially when their decisions can result in great consequences affecting not only their lives but also others.

There are many types of choices we have to make in our lives. Some are more important than others. Choosing what to eat or where to go for a short holiday is of less importance to me. Choosing a spouse, a profession and career is very important. The choices we made or did not make affect us in many ways because of our decisions. What are the usual choices we have to make? How are decisions taken with these choices? What if we have only Hobson’s choice, what can be done to minimize the damage or help us to turn disadvantages into advantages? This article is not meant to be an exhaustive one. A better understanding of the choices and the decisions we have to make from time to time will give us a better understanding of what to expect and what to do.

Innovativeness , Creativity and Entrepreneurship

People who are not decisive often complain that they have no choice. This is not true. If only we use our mind and think hard enough we can always see many options. Whether we choose any of these options is another matter. Much depends on our own capability to handle the situations. Whenever I find myself in this situation of uncertainty and passionate enough to want something done I tell myself “I will find a way or I will make one”. This approach often works for me. Most people would not want to stand in my way when I am in that mood. I got myself out of many difficult situations and predicaments using this approach by creating new options or opportunities for myself and others. The question is how does one generate ideas or options? The process of finding new ways of doing things involves creativity and risk sometimes called entrepreneurship. Because of the risks of failure, which can be very costly, most people shy away from being creative or entrepreneurial. This is a pity. Few knew that they can be innovative by modifying and improving what are already in existence. The risks are smaller. I started my life and research career through innovation, making things better, be more productive or more safe for myself professionally. After that I progress from there.

Creativity and entrepreneurship are two different things. One can be creative without having to take much risk especially when you can find someone wealthy, powerful and famous to back you. Only a few lucky ones can do this. To be able to take personal risks involving reputation or image, career and finance which can affect not only your own life but that of your family and others requires more of us. Until the common question on whether entrepreneurship is born or made is settled there will always be controversy on how to be a successful entrepreneur. The best way is to ask those whom we consider as successful risk takers to tell their tales which may inspire us to take more risks. Our media is doing quite a bit on this now. In the meanwhile I am still trying to understand how successful entrepreneurs are made. I have to make many decisions in my life. Whether this qualifies me to be an entrepreneur is for others to decide. I have done some successful ventures and some not so successful ones. Perhaps if I am to narrate some of my personally feelings during these various stages of my life on these various projects I did, some lessons can be learned from them.

Never be impulsive in decision making.

Impulsive decision-making is not a strength especially when you do not have sufficient information or knowledge to handle what you have on hand. It is true one cannot expect to have all the knowledge one needs before he starts to decide. Most people will have the knowledge and skill to do the routine. When you have something out of the ordinary what would you do? When I was a young professional officer (a Chemist), I had to muster everything I had to trouble shoot and provide the solutions. We were judged by our ability to solve these problems. This differentiates the men from the boys. I have done much trouble shooting when I was young. I did not have much guidance in the colonial days. Examples of some of the cases I had to handle will follow. This included the Barley Poisoning Outbreak in Singapore in Sept 1959 where 8 children died and many were hospitalized and Singapore panicked for a few days. I have reported this incident in my blog on 9th July 2007. Having to make decisions of this nature can be quite nerve wrecking.

When I became head of department and chairmen of some statutory boards the decisions I had to make were very different form those I had to make as a young officer in the laboratories. I will say more about this subject on how to differentiate between policy and professionalism in my later articles. This issue, if not properly clarified, can cause a lot of confusion between a professional staff and his non professional manager. Where do we draw the line between professionalism and policies in decision making to avoid unnecessary frustration between all concerned and hinder the development of multi-disciplinary institutions which we are building.

Lee Kum Tatt

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