The time of the human mind is NOW! How do we harness and maximise human potential? How do we better select people for jobs? According to this entrepreneur, these economic questions are all questions for industrial and organisational psychologists to answer…

What’s your story?
I’ve been a psychologist all my working life.  I started in juvenile justice (inspired by Silence of the Lambs!) but found my passion as an Industrial and Organisational (I/O) Psychologist. After my Honours degree in 1997, I started a small consultancy called OPRA with the aim of having a niche firm helping businesses solve people problems with scientific best-practice. 18 years on we are one of the largest dedicated I/O consultancies in Asia-Pacific. We established a Singapore office in 2013. I also lecture on Psychology at SIM University, and keeping my academic and business career running in tandem is something I’m most proud of.

What excites you most about your industry?
The time of the human mind is now. We have experienced the industrial revolution, the digital revolution and now the focus is moving squarely to the internal world of the human mind. All the big economic questions of our time are questions for I/O Psychologists to solve. How do we harness and maximise human potential? How do we manage stress levels? How do we better select people for jobs? These are scientific questions that are central to business success. I cannot imagine a more exciting and rewarding industry to be involved in.

What’s your connection to Asia?
My wife was born in Malaysia and it was always our goal to make it to South East Asia. I also wanted to live in a country where I could make a difference. After two years in Singapore, there continues to be opportunities to give back and excel.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Every part of Asia offers something unique. However, for an English speaking expat I don’t think you can beat Singapore. If you have something to offer here you will find a market. Singapore goes out of its way to create a conducive business environment that encourages entrepreneurs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Never give up. Never ever give up. I received this from a mountaineering friend who climbed Everest with one arm. Once you give up you give away that opportunity; so think long and hard about ever giving up.  This advice has helped me through the tough times that I think all entrepreneurs experience.

Who inspires you?
I’m inspired most by scientists, like Hawking. People who are just so focussed on their area of expertise and take it to the limit. Currently I’m captivated by the work of Michio Kaku and his thinking around the future of the mind. For different reasons I’m also deeply inspired by Jigoro Kano and Pope Francis. Both embody integrity for me. They live their philosophies and that is inspiring.  

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That the world record for going without sleep without the aid of stimulants is 264 hours and held by some 16 year old kid. That is 11 days! What is more amazing is that he caught up his sleep cycle in 2 days.
Current estimates of our long term memory estimate storage capacity (in computer terms) at 12,000 GB. If only we could speed up the retrieval processor! There is nothing more capable of blowing me away than the human mind and human potential.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more risks. In hindsight, I was too conservative. When you are young is when you should be taking risks. My road to success could be described as somewhat linear and if I did it again I would have been more innovative early on. I’m trying to rectify this now in building solutions for our companies that have a long-term pay off and push the boundaries.

How do you unwind?
For me unwinding must be active. Whether it is gym or judo, the more I’m pushing myself the more my brain is not focused on anything else and that is truly energising. Give me a good bout of randori and I’m a happy camper.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan has something for every mood. They have the great outdoors and beautiful hikes. If you appreciate Asian history and artifacts, Taiwan’s museums and cultural parks are a world class experience. Couple this with buildings like Taipei 101 that celebrate the magnificence of human engineering and architecture. And the food!

Everyone in business should read this book:
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Too many business people and entrepreneurs simply don’t have a philosophy for what they are doing and this, in my opinion, is why they are easily swayed off course. This book describes what a world would be like without the movers and shakers.  This book gives the true meaning by why everyone should aspire to be all they can be. Everyone should know who is John Galt.

Shameless plug for your business:
At OPRA we believe that excellence in business is achieved through excellence in people. Our job is simply to make your business more excellent through bringing out the best in people. Whether it is selecting the right people for roles, training people in the role, helping people deal with the pressures of work, or implementing HR technology that delivers real business outcomes OPRA will deliver. When you are ready to work with a company that guarantees to deliver against its promise to create excellence in people then you are ready for OPRA.

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn is a good place to start.

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnects

Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia.  He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries.  He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence.  A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

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