Keep It Going — The Networking Session

WHAT are the fears that drive or deter us from taking vital steps in our journey? How do we build up networks that become relevant to our future goals? How does former Ambassador Tommy Koh remain so diplomatic all the time?

These are some of the topics discussed in The Network discussion at the recent Keep It Going event, Disruptors & Dinosaurs, organised by STORM.SG with Global Cultural Alliance.

The panelists: Aun Koh, Chairman and Chief Curator, Straits Clan; Bryan Tan, Founder, Riglobe; Audrey Perera, Festival Director, True Colours; and Joanne Flinn, speaker and author. Find out more about the panelists at

Overcoming Fear

“Fear is like excitement. When we talk about feeling fear, it’s the same physiological reaction as feeling excitement. When I heard that, I said, that’s cool. I’m going to call it excitement now.” — Joanne Flinn

“You’re probably really good at one or two things. But you’re not going to be able to do everything yourself. You need to surround yourself with people who are better than you or have completely different skill sets to achieve what you want to do.” – Aun Koh

“I realise I must be thick skinned. Every morning I look in the mirror and say ‘You can do it.’ I use that to overcome my fear.

“When I was starting out, I wrote five letters to five billionaires — Peter Lim, Ron Sim, Richard Chandler, Mustaq Ahmad, who operates Mustafa (Mohamed Mustafa and Samsuddin Company), Sheng Siong CEO, Lim Hock Chee. Luckily I got to meet two of them — Lim Hock Chee and Ron Sim.

“They shared a lot with me, about how they overcame fear. And so, my skin got thicker.” — Bryan Tan

“The world has traditionally been designed for the able. In the past 20 odd years, it’s been changing. True Colours is the first Asia Pacific festival for artistes with disabilities. We are used to seeing the disabled in the context of fund raising. The idea is less about showcasing talent and more about bringing a tear to your eye and to open chequebooks.

“We want to showcase artistes with spectacular talent. It’s about changing perceptions and attitudes towards disabilities. It’s about respect for talent. We are not going to be shouting about disability. We are going to be shouting about talent. It’s about seeing ability before disability. The event is  presented by UNESCO and Nippon Foundation.

“Any endeavor requires networks. Anything in life we do requires networks.

“I’ve never had association with disability. I can safely say without the networks we have been building up, this event would not be possible. It’s the network of supporters, people with the right expertise, with the right will and connections to help us do the job.

“It’s a minefield just communicating about disability.” — Audrey Perera

People’s Reaction To Disabilities

“People want to help. They want to do the right thing. People do want to be part of something larger.” – Audrey Perera

Professor Tommy Koh’s Approach

What did Aun Koh learn from his father, the well-respected and highly regarded Ambassador, Professor Tommy Koh?

“Philosophically a lot. In reality, very little. What he does is amazing. It’s innate. It’s incredibly difficult to be that generous or that open all the time. And all of us are fallible. We have temper, or we want to get something done our way.

“We joke among friends that he’s the golden retriever. Happy all the time, smile on his face. On top of that he has a semi-photographic memory, so he remembers everybody’s names. That’s something I wish I could do.” — Aun Koh

Keep It Going 2017

Learn From Everyone

“I learn to network with everybody, even Uber drivers. I ask them how they get their payment, whether Uber pays them or the telco pays them, and so on. Right now there’s no Wi-Fi in Uber, maybe I can plant Uber Wi-Fi or Grab Wi-Fi. Uber may be able to pay via Wi-Fi charging. I get new ideas from talking to people.”  Bryan Tan

Finding Positives In Negatives

“In Thailand, during the financial crisis, we replaced people with computers. One of the banks had seven floors of accountants, and we replaced them with 20 people. Talk about disruption and job loss.

“We could see from the numbers that the market was tanking. But our thinking was that if we let people go now, there’s some chance for them of finding an income. If we hold on to them, our business will collapse and no one will have an income. That’s really brutal.

“It’s not about being nasty and brutal. In DBS in 2001, I was on the IT Exco and we were asked to do a 10% retrenchment. We did a 12% retrenchment. The CIO and I knew that if we could get people in the market at the beginning of the curve, they could get work.

“Later, I met someone who we’d let go, and she said ‘Thank you. I got a job. My friends who were let go six months later didn’t.'” — Joanne Flinn


“I find professional criticism here is taken personally. In the media industry in Hong Kong I’ve been yelled at by my editor in chief, I still go drinking with him in the evening. There are no grudges being held for professional criticism. In Singapore, you’re walking on eggshells. People take the smallest criticism as a personal attack, which I find very strange.” — Aun Koh

Working With Disabled

“I started out being very careful when I was talking to them. Over the months as I met more persons with disabilities, you realise a lot of that is really nonsense. We try so hard to be polite, as to not offend, but we create a barrier in the process.

“Here we are presuming to know how we should be talking to people, and we are getting it wrong.

“At the event, True Colours, presented by Very  Special Arts Singapore, we are going to have a space — Ask Me Anything — where you have people with different disabilities. We will be creating a darkness space and a deafness space, so you get to experience these disabilities. — Audrey Perera

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