Yeoh Siew Hoon watches Sting perform "Songs from the Labyrinth" and believes lessons can be learned from the reinvention of a pop star.
I was watching Sting the other night at the Esplanade - a very different Sting from the one that played earlier this year at the Indoor Stadium at the Police reunion concert.
This Sting sported a beard, a somber but beautifully-cut black long coat that made him look like an Englishman in Singapore and he played a lute, instead of an electric guitar.
And instead of rock songs, he sang classical pieces from "Songs from the Labyrinth", inspired by the life and works of John Dowland, an English composer and lutenist from the 16th century.
It was Sting, stripped down yet made larger by the purity of his vocals and the simplicity of his new music. But to make sure his fans recognised him, he said, "Behind this beard, I am Sting."
You could tell that some in the audience couldn't wait for Sting to revert to type and sing the familiar, so when at the end of the concert, he sang his own Fields Of Gold and the Police's Message In a Bottle, they broke out in rapturous applause.
As I watched him in the one-hour set, I couldn't help but admire him for daring to step out of his comfort zone and, at the same time, succeeding in bringing his fans with him on this new journey.
It takes a lot of courage to try something new when you've always been associated with one thing. It's much like Robert Plant of Led Zepellin who, last year, collaborated with blue grass songbird, Alison Krauss, to produce what I believe is his definitive work, "Raising Sand".
The biggest obstacles to such reinventions are often the fans. Fans want the stars they know and love to stay the same.
In the same way, in business, our customers are often our biggest obstacles to change. Because they've always known us a certain way, they expect us to stay that way. The known and familiar are comforting, the new and strange are, well, strange.
Yet in the new year that is dawning upon us, all of us will have no choice but to change and find some way to reinvent ourselves and our businesses.
I don't believe it can be business as usual. What we are about to face will not be like SARS - which was sharp, short and mercifully sweet. Nor will it be like 911 - which was terrifying but fairly isolated.
This is the first time we are all in this together. Planet Earth United. Economic woes, terrorism fears, environmental challenges.
In talking to colleagues in the travel industry, it is clear there is trepidation and anxiety about what lies ahead. Yet I also detect a steely determination to remain upbeat and face whatever lies ahead.
Most I have spoken to are determined not to cut costs unthinkingly but to become smarter about managing costs, driving new revenue streams and maximising yields.
In the new year, more than ever, the spotlight will be on technology and how it can drive costs out of the equation and maximise yields from a reduced volume of business.
This will call for a mindset change on the part of some businesses and a reinvention of some business models.
As we enter the last weeks of 2008, one quote that was uttered at WIT 2008 comes to mind - "Do not be held hostage by your business model."
Just like Sting who chose not to be held hostage by his past works and is constantly trying new forms of music. Yet, he knows, he should not totally let go of his past.
For it was in the last three pop tunes that he played at the concert that he truly came into his own and, in the process, convinced his fans that this new Sting is actually still the old Sting, just different.
To read "Behind this beard, I am Sting" Part 2 Click Here