Yeo Xi-Wei is a trainer and concept designer, using gaming as a tool to enhance learning with his company, Living Theories.

What’s your story?
My name is Xi-Wei, and I run a company called Living Theories, with a team that designs gamified learning experiences for institutions and organizations. I’ve had a varied occupational background; I used to work in the food and beverage industry for a while, before transitioning to Singapore Airlines for a couple of years, prior to starting Living Theories.

I started Living Theories to engage our participants in a modern and innovative way, by customising experiential programmes to them. Taking our inspiration from modern games and shows, our programmes typically include cinematics, storylines, and game decks to enhance the learning experience of our participants.

What excites you most about your industry?
Learning is inherently organic, and there are infinite possibilities to how people learn, how they grow, and what they take away from different experiences. A person’s mindset and learning experience is unique, and very often a composition of personal life journeys, philosophies and beliefs. At Living Theories, we build upon this rather than restrict it, to allow freedom of choice and learning.

Gamification is the perfect tool for this; games offer infinite ways of manifesting outcomes and experiences for the individual, and being gamers ourselves, it makes it a lot more interesting to curate and design a brand new concept with different clients. Gamification is still relatively new in Singapore, and there’s a lot to learn and grow within the industry itself.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Born and bred. Don’t think I’d ever stop being fascinated by the myriad of cultures and perspectives that each region contains; it’s just like a saying we have in Singapore, “Same same, but different.”

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I’ve always loved Singapore for what it is, a safe haven for you to build something from scratch with good business regulations and government support. Singapore has its fair share of trials; high manpower and rental costs, and a local audience that is slightly more conservative in incubating new ideas. Together with this though, comes a thoroughly modern city that allows technological advancement in many industries, great business connections and networking, and a highly supportive community of fellow start-ups that keep each other going.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right!” This is a quote that my father used to drill into my brothers and I, from Henry Ford. It speaks truly and surely to the core of my beliefs, that at the end of the day, you’re the only one that can drive yourself forward. I’ve heard many say that they have good ideas they wished they implemented, or that they thought of a trending product before someone else did, but didn’t have the self-confidence at that time to follow through. There’s a tough lesson in there. Having the self-belief and confidence to take a leap of faith and ultimately, fail in order to succeed, is critical to our journeys.

Who inspires you?
I wish I could say it was a famous person who inspires me, but it’s really the people around me. My parents worked their socks off through different economic crises, while raising 3 boys with different personalities and ambitions. My brothers are other examples of people pursuing their own paths. Whys? My older brother gave up a solid career to pursue his true calling in church, while my younger brother is now an award-winning sommelier, having started from scratch. They are all inspirations to me (even though I don’t admit it to them very often), and are prime examples of pursuing radically different paths, but succeeding because they knew they could.

Lastly, my team at Living Theories inspires me the most. They gave up a lot, in different careers, to start this new venture with the same belief and mindset that we can be change-makers in an industry that we feel strongly about. They’re the ones who keep me going, creating new concepts, and fighting hard to establish a foothold.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That over the last 5 years, 5,000 teachers in Singapore have resigned. To me, teachers are a unique breed. They didn’t take up teaching as a ‘stepping stone’ in an industry, and most genuinely are there to help nurture and grow a new generation. To see huge numbers leaving is something that must be addressed, both by the Ministry, and by the local communities – schools, parents and even students. We all have a role to play here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I wish I could say I’d have worked harder in school, but I’m not so sure. I would have taken the time to see more of the world, to experience more cultures, speak to more people, and start new projects.Too often are we comfortable in the bubble we live in, without actually understanding the world that lies just beyond this bubble.

I wish I had started projects or companies earlier. It gives me the cushion to fail more. I’m 29 now, and I wish I’d started at 25, to try and fail and try and fail and try and fail again before I get up and keep going.

How do you unwind?
A relaxing dinner and movie night with my girlfriend. We typically stuff our faces at a hawker centre, get excited over what desserts to bring home, mix up gin and tonics and watch movies or documentaries. I also play tennis and a tonne of games. More often than not, I suck at them (my friends will testify to this), but I keep experimenting with new methods, new ways of exploring new play-styles within the same characters or roles.

Aside from this, I’ve a little unwinding secret. As a prelude, food is my unwavering passion in life. So when I’m upset, depressed and just need a break, I have a $30 rule. I set myself a $30 budget to buy whatever I want in a nearby hawker centre, which can pretty much get you anything. It’s immensely liberating and uplifting, and I’m always at peace with the world after.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I’d go with Bali or Taiwan. The common denominator between the two is that the local populace are insanely friendly and easy-going, and the language barriers are not as pronounced. Bali is perfect for self-pampering and escaping the world for a bit, and Taipei is amazing for great food, bars and endless things to explore. I’ve barely scratched the surface of Taiwan’s culture, and I can’t wait to get started!

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, by Simon Sinek. That book has been my go-to since I heard his Ted-talk in 2009, and I rely on it to ensure that I know my path. The great thing about the book is that it doesn’t give you “quick tips to success”; there already are many books for that, but this book is really about you, your why, and how you build your business while keeping your personal why in mind. It’s a fundamental read, especially for decision-makers and startup founders.

Shameless plug for your business:
Living Theories was built by us, for you. We’re here to inspire, educate and reinvent the way you think. We design games, create exciting programmes, and work hand in hand with you to discover more about the world we live in. We assist teams to find their WHY, and through uniquely crafted games, allow you to understand each other, and yourself a lot better.

Despite being hardcore gamers, we take our work seriously: To create your customised experience, our team of academic researchers and designers will conduct landscape reviews, work with the client on their needs analysis, solution provision and post-programme data analysis.

Check out our Facebook page or our website, or email me and we’ll have a coffee together!

How can people connect with you?
Interested parties can look for us on LinkedIn and Facebook, or on our website at www.livingtheories.com.sg.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what we do, you could also just email me directly at [email protected], and the next coffee’s on me!

Social Media handle?
You can connect with me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/xiwei.yeo

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

CallumConnectsCallum 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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