5 lessons to learn from SY Lau on the paths to global citizenship

With over 20 years of rich experience in both the media and marketing industries, SY Lau is recognized as a global entrepreneur, media master and technology evangelist.

With over 20 years of rich experience in both the media and marketing industries, SY Lau is recognised as a global entrepreneur, media master and technology evangelist.

According to a recent study conducted by Oxford University, 47% of jobs in the US are at risk of being automated within the next two decades. Another study estimates that 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately work in new job roles and functions that do not yet exist.

As a pioneer who has been involved in the digital epoch back when it was still in its infancy, SY Lau knows first-hand the challenges the youths of today would face when the time comes for them to join the workforce.

In a speech titled ‘The Opportunities of Globalisation and Digital Connectivity’, the
Senior Executive Vice President of Tencent and President of Online Media Group, urged the young people to have an open mindset, stay curious, uphold integrity, collaborate rather than compete with others, and live their dreams.

The alumni of INTI International University suggested that the best way for young people to take full advantage of today’s globalised world is to become a global citizen – one who does not define himself as member of any country or tribe, but as a human being whose mission is to make the world a better place to live.

To assist the young talents of today, Lau looked back on his own experiences and recommended five pathways to global citizenship.

Pathway 1: Global citizens reject extremism.

In a world that is highly interconnected and where data flows freely, more and more people are contributing to the formation of new knowledge via online socialisation.

However, the ability to access and add to information in the online public sphere also carries the risk of inheriting the biases and prejudices of others. Such biases may not even be immediately obvious, as they have become so ingrained in our personalities.

How can we get rid of things that we don’t even know that we have?

The answer is to experience the world with an open mind. To be a productive global citizen in a multicultural and multi-faceted world, one must be able to see things the way that they are perceived in different parts of the world by different cultures and though different points of view. Open-mindedness requires critical analysis of the message and sometimes, even of ourselves.

This often requires us to leave our comfort zones to experience the unconventional and the unorthodox.

By having an open mind, we can defend ourselves against the evils of extremism. Extremists, regardless of their ideology, present only a selective, skewed view of the world.

Their messages are seductively simple, easy to absorb, and require little thought, hence why they are so popular among those who fail to see through their lies.

Having an open mind allows us to see extremist messages for what they are – hollow words that have no substance. A truly global citizen is able to respect others for their points of view, learn from other cultures and communities to broaden his or her knowledge.

Pathway 2: Global citizens are the masters of technology, not the opposite.

The influence of technology will not diminish with time, but penetrate deeper into our lives as we benefit from the convenience of continuous technological advancement.

Technology can be imagined as an impending tidal wave. Either we embrace it, or we will be swept away.

However, simply making use of technology is not enough. While we eagerly await the latest gadgets to add to our collection, we remain oblivious to the science that goes on behind their creation. In this era of digital globalisation, such ignorance will only turn us into slaves, eagerly obeying the machines that we crave.

Each one of us has felt the frustration of witnessing an unresponsive computer. We punch in commands hoping the issue will be magically resolved. We scour the Internet for a solution to the problem. When all else fails, we call in a technician to take care of our expensive but currently unusable device.

How is it possible that we have become a slave to the machine and not the other way round?
In order to be the masters of technology and not the servants, we have to speak their language. This can be as direct as learning how to do computer coding. Knowledge of coding allows us to understand machines on their level.

However not everyone has the time or opportunity to learn how to code. Since that is not the case, the next best option would be to examine the world in the same way that scientists examine everything in order to cultivate a deeper understanding. Having a scientific mindset is a twofold endeavour.

Firstly, one must be perpetually curious. Always dig deeper; always ask why. Strive to understand the big picture.

The second characteristic of the mindset is to use empirical methods. Theories and especially hearsay are not to be trusted without adequate evidence. Question everything and accept nothing at face value.

Pathway 3: Global citizens lead with integrity

Being in a leadership position carries tremendous responsibility. Leadership is all about trust. We trust our leaders to act appropriately and to honour that trust, we accord to them a position of power on the condition that they use that power for the good of their followers. This is especially true in the field of information technology.

Digital globalisation has allowed us to access the Internet literally at our fingertips. But the price for that is the constant flow of data, especially personal data, either willingly or unknowingly across the World Wide Web.

Those who aspire to be leaders must begin early in life to develop a moral compass that will guide them along the right course. That compass, is leading a life of integrity.

Integrity in a leader is a two-sided coin. On the one hand, it is about not doing something wrong. For leaders, this is particularly important because they are constantly being observed and emulated by their followers.

The other side of the coin is to actively seek to do good. Following the example of information technology, leaders with access to ‘big data’ must never misuse it, and at the same time, must make proper use of it for the benefit of society.

Acting with integrity is about doing the right thing with the authority and responsibility you are given. Global citizens lead with integrity not because they are worried that they will get caught misbehaving, but because they have a responsibility to live up to.

Pathway 4: Global citizens collaborate rather than compete.

In a world of increasing globalisation, especially on a digital scale, old ideas of how the economy functions have become obsolete.

Corporations should no longer view each other as enemies to be defeated, but as partners working towards the same goal.

Today, industries are increasingly segmented and no company can stand on its own. The shared economy, as it has been called, favours collaboration over competition.

We must put aside the conservative leadership model that focuses on the individual and focus on the shared economy that advocates a win-win solution for all. Nowhere is this mindset more crucial than in the realm of technology.

Advancements in technology should be seen as expanding the pie of prosperity for all the players involved so that progress can be made by the industry as a whole. For example, if it were not for the development of Cloud storage technology, companies such as Uber and Airbnb may have never gotten off the ground.

In short, it is no longer relevant to think of rivals as competition to be crushed. Everyone has their own strengths and if different individuals and groups work together, they can accomplish so much more than what they could have achieved on their own.

Pathway 5: Global citizens embrace authenticity.

As a global citizen, we can only excel at doing the things that we are passionate about. Thus, we must learn to live out our own dreams and not the dreams of our parents.

Staying true to our passions and exploring the possibilities within our imagination is the key to establishing authenticity.

Instead of trying to be the next Steve Jobs, we can strive to make our own mark in the world. That is more meaningful than blindly emulating someone else. In the real world as in the art world, no one wants a copy; the value is in the original.

Furthermore, we must not be afraid to make mistakes. As college students or even senior executives, mistakes are the only way in which we learn. Through our mistakes, we learn who we are, we solidify our ideas and our dreams, we find out what works and what doesn’t, and we grow as individuals.

If we have the courage to try something new, there is the possibility of failure. But persevering from that failure is what helps us find out our true potential and develop the authenticity we need as global citizens.

Watch SY Lau’s keynote address below:

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