All brains: Royal Selangor head Yong Poh Kon on starting the Malaysian Mensa Society and its future

Yong is the founding president of the Malaysian Mensa Society, which is now presided over by Tan Kee Aun. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Yong is the founding president of the Malaysian Mensa Society, which is now presided over by Tan Kee Aun. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

PETALING JAYA, Oct 2 — Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon first discovered that he had a high IQ on a whim.

While traveling on a plane back in the 1970s, the Royal Selangor International Sdn Bhd (the country’s pewter manufacturer and retailer) chairman decided to take an intelligence quiz in a Reader’s Digest magazine just to pass the time, a casual activity that ended in him getting 22 out of the 25 questions right.

His results hinted that his IQ was within the top two per cent of the population and encouraged him to sit for a supervised test by Mensa International, a hallowed institution for brainiacs around the world.

The rest was history and Yong went on to establish the Malaysian Mensa Society in 1984 to provide a platform for local Mensa members to connect with one another.

As the society approaches its 35th anniversary, the 74-year-old hopes that members can harness their talents together to turn the group into a rich resource that will spearhead growth in the country.

“Hopefully, we can find some ways where Mensa membership can be tapped to conduct projects in which they can interact positively with their local communities.

“It’s good for the members to recognise that they have something in common and from there, they can operate themselves in various groups.

“If a particular issue arises, they can call upon a few of their friends to tackle and address it,” he told Malay Mail.

Thanks to their bright minds, many Mensa members have gone on to have illustrious careers and Yong is no exception.

Aside from helming the family business at Royal Selangor International Sdn Bhd, Yong has co-chaired the Special Task Force to Facilitate Business (PEMUDAH) and currently serves as the Education Ministry’s National Education Advisory Council (MPPK) deputy chairman.

Three decades after founding the Malaysian Mensa Society, Yong is immensely proud of its achievements which includes having the honour of hosting the upcoming Mensa International Board of Directors (IBD) meeting in Kuala Lumpur, an event that will see some of the world’s most gifted individuals gathering in the capital city.

He added that it was a vote of confidence for the Malaysian Mensa community.

“The fact that they have flourished over the years and that they can band together to organise such a big event like this proves that the group has strong longevity.

“There are many Mensa societies across the UK, the US, and other European countries, but in the early days, there were virtually none in Asia.

“I wanted to figure out how many Malaysian members there were and start a society because I believe human intelligence must be equally spread around the world.”

The septuagenarian is best known for being chairman of luxury pewter group Royal Selangor. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
The septuagenarian is best known for being chairman of luxury pewter group Royal Selangor. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

While most of the original members that formed the Malaysian Mensa Society in 1984 were in their 30s and 40s, more young people have started training their eyes on joining the high IQ society in recent years.

Yong hopes that this signals a chance at spotlighting homegrown geniuses on the global stage.

“I would like to see more Malaysian Mensa members applying for leadership roles in the international board.

“We’re disadvantaged in that regard as we are still a relatively small society compared to the US which has tens of thousands of members.

“Hopefully in the future, we’ll be in a place where more Malaysians know about Mensa and are keen to join, that way we can have a pool of bright young people who are ready to solve problems and steer our country in the right direction.”

The IBD meeting will be held from October 10 to 13 in Kuala Lumpur, where members will gather to discuss global growth efforts, trademark protection and presentations on Mensa projects worldwide.

Apart from the IBD, the Malaysian Mensa Society will also host several other events that weekend including the Inaugural Mensa International Youth Festival, Julia Robinson Mathematics Festival, Mensa International Treasure Hunt 2019 and Mensa International Volunteers Network.

If you think you have the chops to join Mensa, head over to www.mensa.my/test-info for more details on the admission test.

For more information on the IBD, surf over to https://ibd2019.mensa.my.

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