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WORK: Purpose, Sustainability, Innovation – What we learned at the TALKS powered by DBS

Ready for Part Two? This time, we’re sharing the goods from the “WORK” track at the TALKS powered by DBS, at The Conscious Festival 2018.

In case you missed it, here’s Part One. In this part, we’ll be exploring the idea of purpose and diving headfirst into the world of blockchain.  We’ll also be learning how we can actually activate them both in the context of sustainability. So before we begin tackling finding purpose at work by empowering employees to be the change, and how blockchain can change the sustainability game, (and going green at work!), we’ll begin with a poignant poem from one of the speakers for this track, Mr Toilet (aka Jack Sim):

Throw-away Society
(By Jack Sim)
You don’t need that new black dress
Your cupboard is too full to wear.
You don’t need those brand new shoes
You had too many orphaned pairs.
You don’t need the latest phone
When this one is just working fine.
You don’t need a new laptop
The current one is so divine.
Don’t buy stuff just because you can,
Think of where the trash will be?
Treasure what you already have,
Don’t add to throw-away society.
You don’t need a young new wife
The one at home is yours for life.
You don’t need a Ferrari
It’s better to plant a tree.
Don’t flaunt your wealth at me
It just show your inadequacy.
Don’t try hard to impress me
With your superficiality.
Don’t live in a shallow life
Wasting all your precious time.
Time is all you have to spend
Make a difference before it ends.
Wasn’t that beautiful? That wasn’t the only amazing thing we heard from him or our other speakers. Scroll on to see what else you missed when we discussed Purpose, Sustainability and Innovation in the workplace.

How to Lead a Useful Life

Jack Sim (World Toilet Organisation)

“What you don’t talk about, you can’t improve.” That’s one of Jack Sim’s life philosophies, and with it, he started telling us all about his work talking about shit (literally). In his humorous and yet enlightening talk, he explained how he created a revolution in the world of sanitation and how we could do it, too. He theorized that you can break taboos using customized and aligned incentives such as the following:

  • Using humor & Powerful Storytelling (so people actually listen to you and care)
  • Using the Media (for increasing readership and reach)
  • Making friends with Politicians (they get votes and you get power)
  • Academia (for Publications)
  • Celebrities (Use their publicity for the greater good)
  • Donors (who’ll help you with visibility)
  • NGOs and Social Entrepreneurs (for donations and investments)

Additionally, he succinctly explained the difference between linear and visionary thinking: Linear thinking is needing to have an outline or many dots to connect in order to conjure up an idea or an image (like that of a chicken). Visionary thinking, on the other hand, is being able to conjure an idea or image (like the aforementioned chicken) with only two dots- your imagination fills in the blanks! He believes that visionary thinking is something that the education system needs to incorporate into its current curriculum. And through this better education, we should be taught to be curious, to have courage, compassion, commitment, collaboration and calmness. Lastly, he mentioned that there are no winners or losers when the eco-system is involved; Everyone is an active stakeholder, and nobody should be left behind. He also left us these tidbits of wisdom to living a more successful and productive life:

  • Fundraising is not the only way to achieve your mission
  • Peers are not your competitors
  • You can’t save the world alone
  • You can achieve more if you don’t mind who gets the credit
  • Your time is limited and you’re going to die

With that, he reminded us that Time = Energy and Energy = Fun + Purpose. And he told us,

“Life is a short journey, make it a useful one.”



Cultivate visionary thinking in yourself, and see what ideas are already out there in the world that you can reuse, recycle and scale for maximum impact.

Make friends and let people help you achieve your goals.

Bye Bye Plastic Bags 

Melati Wijsen (Bye Bye Plastic Bags)

At The Conscious Festival 2018, we welcomed people from all ages and all walks of life. But it’s safe to say that this young woman, in particular, left us all awestruck and so, so full of pride. Without a business plan, strategy, or even a budget, five years ago, Melati Wijsen and her sister (then aged 12 and 10) started Bye Bye Plastic Bags, an initiative aimed at eradicating plastic bags in Bali. Now at age 17, she’s running one of the largest youth-driven NGOs in Bali and has spoken to over 20,000 youths all around the world in a bid to save the oceans. And she told us all about it.

Did you know that every second breath we take comes from the ocean? Or that 70% of the oxygen in the world is created by the phytoplankton that live in the sea? It’s no wonder then that the driving force behind Melati’s passion for the environment is simply her love of breathing! Jokes aside, the very first lesson she learned from trying to save the world was this:

“Doesn’t matter if you have the best idea in the world; You cannot do it alone.”

And so, having rallied all her friends together to help her, she also realized quickly that change happens in our classrooms- which is why she’s created educational booklets and spoken directly to youths themselves to educate them on the plastic crisis and what they can do. She found that one of the challenges of running a social enterprise was losing motivation and passion, as well as the involvement of the local people. And so, her team organized Bali’s biggest beach clean up in 2017, where they collected over 40 tonnes of waste across 54 locations. And the next year, they did an even bigger clean up involving 20,000 people over 120 locations, who picked up over 65 tonnes of plastic waste alone.

In 2018, she faced the challenge of dealing with government organizations, but her hard work eventually paid off when it was announced that Bali would be going plastic bag free from 2019. So five years after beginning on her journey, this incredible young lady has done the impossible, and achieved her original goal. From these experiences, she also learned a final lesson: That you’ve gotta walk your talk. She emphasized the importance of collaborating and connecting with each other and for big organizations to do the same; that’s how simple solutions and simple actions that can be taken, are found. It is her long-held belief that “There is no excuse for single use.” Living proof of exactly what is possible when young people lead the way, and of the fact that kids can do things, she left us with a simple yet profound message:

“Kids may only be 25% of the population, but we are 100% of the future.”

Truly, she’s a visionary. And we cannot wait to see how much more she’s going to absolutely shake up and change the world.



Join your local beach cleanups and say NO to plastic bags!

Educate your children and the ones around you about the harmful impact of single-use plastic and about alternatives they can use instead.


Intrapreneurship: Finding Purpose in Big Ponds

Sebastian Schwietzer (Google), Petr Stastny (Adidas), Andrea Edwards (The Digital Conversationalist), David Nosibor (Rainmaking), Cheryl Liew (Lifeworkz), Alvin Chong (Lembas)

Finding purpose in your work can be an incredibly difficult thing to do. We’ll often find ourselves drained, burned out and just not satisfied with our lives, if we feel like we’re not doing what we’re meant to. So how do we find purpose, and be happy, productive workers?

For our panelists, this started with taking good, long and honest looks at themselves and what made them happy. It began with the question, “What is my passion?”, and ended with decisions being made on how they could align their passions with their work in order to achieve balance. But that wasn’t the only solution they gave; because sometimes, finding something you’re passionate about isn’t as easy as just thinking about it.

For some of our panelists, finding their passion was about finding a question or a problem they wanted to solve, and then creating a solution for it. And for others still, it was just about trial and error- trying as many different jobs and fields as they comfortably could, before stumbling upon or realizing exactly what gave them the most satisfaction in doing. Sometimes, what you’re passionate about could be an opportunity that does not yet exist- so it’s up to you to create those opportunities for yourself.



Find out what you believe in, then align your values to your work.

Don’t be afraid to find a niche and stick with it.

And if you want to see change or for certain practices to be adopted in your workplace- BE THE CHANGE!

If you’re a small fish in a big pond, learn as much as you can and embrace every opportunity for growth.


Tech for Good: Start with Consciousness

Sylvan Mahe (PALO IT)

The last two decades have undoubtedly seen the world of technology (and the world in general) undergo massive digital disruptions and changes. For example, the world’s largest taxi company (Uber) currently owns no taxis; the world’s largest accommodation provider (Airbnb) owns no real estate and the world’s fastest growing bank (SocietyOne) owns no actual money. And these exceptional business models hold incredible potential for making plenty of money, but that’s not the only thing the technology we have now has potential for. There is also massive potential for the automation of jobs in nearly every industry (especially the food service industry).

Additionally, not only are the lifespans of companies decreasing significantly, but a new workforce is also emerging. The jobseekers of today are rating good work/life balances and opportunities for leadership as the most important factors to consider when choosing a job. And as our priorities change, so will industries. Companies need to take a reality check and make sure to change their ways ahead of the game. And Sylvan highlighted these five things they should do to stay relevant:

  • Faster marketing times
  • Maintain Quality
  • Ability to accommodate change
  • Ability to delight customers
  • Engage their employees

The last point is particularly pertinent to Sylvan, who noted that only 13% of people in an average workplace were engaged employees, while a whopping 63% and 24% respectively are not engaged and actively disengaged altogether. He noted that High-Performance companies are those that:

  • Continuously improve
  • Focus on Human and Intellectual Capital
  • Dare to FAIL (First Attempt in Learning)
  • Have High Alignment (which equals High Autonomy)
  • Have Leaders who model desired behaviours

This is in comparison to Low-Performance companies have a lack of trust, use a command and control approach, and are too busy to improve. For these companies, Sylvan noted,

“The operating system is broken; it’s time to install a new one.”

Lastly, he touched on consciously building a better company culture. He noted that Culture = Consciousness + Structure and that leaders should set the limits of what they accept. Quoting Gruenert and Whitaker: “The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior that the leaders are willing to tolerate.”



To become a better, more conscious leader: Take an honest look at yourself, sharpen your questioning and listening skills, connect with others, create trust and cultivate appreciation.


How Blockchain Can Change the Sustainability Game

Simon Schillebeeckx (SMU), Natalie Doran (TimeTech), Kay Vasey (Mesh Minds), Alex Chan (The Mills), Teymoor Nabili (The Signal Asia)

Technology is getting crazier and crazier than ever. It’s permeating into every aspect of our lives, and slowly replacing our business models, the foundations of our economy, and even our money! Our panelists got into a fascinating discussion of how Blockchain can be used to save the world. But what actually is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly. It serves as a bookkeeping platform or ledger that is incorruptible, enforces transparency, and bypasses censorship. It also happens to currently be one of the fastest growing new technologies available on the market. And our panelists believe that this revolutionary piece of technology has the potential to change the world.

How? Well, just as one example, Blockchain technology could prove instrumental for improving a company’s ability to track a product’s entire lifecycle, verifying sources more explicitly and easily than is possible through most of the manual methods currently being used. This means that providing cradle-to-grave services would be far more easily trackable and companies would be able to more accurately implement them. Additionally, the options that this sort of tracking provides means that companies would then be able to plan for and operate on a model of circular economy, thus revolutionizing the way waste is managed at a corporate level. It could even be used to tackle labour rights issues, improve food safety and promote sustainable agriculture! The possibilities, according to our panelists, are truly quite endless. And this doesn’t mean that technology will be taking over human jobs; far from it. This technology NEEDS us humans to run- and that’s why you’ve got to keep on your toes, and learn everything you can about it.



Embrace change and technology, learn all about it and learn how you can use it for the better good. Never stop learning.


Ahhh. And that’s our daily dose of inspiration, sorted. In case you’re looking for more of what you missed, why not check out what you missed at The Conscious Festival 2018?