Saturday, September 29, 2007

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Am I willing to put in that extra effort?

Am I willing to prepare to win?

Am I willing to go that extra mile?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"It's not what you know; it's not who you know; it's who knows what you know that creates opportunities."

(Ed Sykes, The Ed Sykes Group)

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR READING XI

[continue from GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR READING X]

Now, let us move to the last R in SQ7R.

R(7) = REVIEW KEY IDEAS;

In the case of academic reading, reviewing is the key to figuring what you have just learnt and what you need to remember. The best times to review are right after reading while the material is still fresh on your mind.

I would suggest that for every 20-30 minutes of reading/learning, you need to spend 5-10 minutes reviewing what you have just read/learnt.

After this immediate review, you need to review your learnt materials periodically and systematically as follows:

- every 7 days;
- every 30 days;
- every 90 days;
- every 180 days;

I call this exercise 'Spaced Repetition', which is a very powerful memory enhancement tool.

Another important point: you need to review your lesson or lecture within 24 hours after class, otherwise 80% is lost;

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR READING X

[continue from GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR READING IX]

Now, let us move to the next R in SQ7R.

R(5) = RECITE KEY IDEAS;

In the case of academic reading, it is a useful exercise to stop regularly to silently recite to yourself what you have just recorded as key ideas, without looking at your textbook or notes.

Be sure to put ideas in your own words, as this will improve your ability to retain the material.

Answer questions aloud and listen to your responses to see if they are complete and correct. If they are not correct, re-read the material and answer the question again.

This form of active rehearsal during the course of reading often increases the likelihood that you will retain the material.

R(6) = REFLECT ON KEY IDEAS;

Research by reading experts indicates that comprehension and retention of information are increased when you elaborate newly learned information.

For a reader, this is to reflect on it, to turn it this way and that, to compare and make categories, to relate one part with another, to connect it with your other knowledge and personal experience, and in general to organise and reorganise it.

These reflective responses may be done in your minds eye, and sometimes on paper.

You can reflect on the text you have just read or learned by asking soem questions:

- What is the significance of these facts or ideas?
- On what principle are they based;
- To what else could they be applied?
- How do they fit in with what I already know?
- What can I see that lies beyond these facts and ideas?

[to be continued in GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR READING XI]

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR READING IX

[continue from GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR READING VIII]

For readers' easy reference, I would like to recap the SQ7R, for academic reading, which comprises the following key steps or stages:

S = SURVEY
Q = QUESTION
R(1) = READ QUICKLY & SELECTIVELY
R(2) = REREAD SLOWLY & CAREFULLY (*)
R(3) = REDUCE INFORMATION TO KEY IDEAS
R(4) = RECORD KEY IDEAS
R(5) = RECITE KEY IDEAS (*)
R(6) = REFLECT ON KEY IDEAS
R(7) = REVIEW KEY IDEAS

In the case of SQ5R, which is more suitable for non-fiction reading, the foregoing steps or stages which are marked with an asterick are not necessary.

Now, let us move to the next R.

R(3) = REDUCE INFORMATION TO KEY IDEAS;

As I have mentioned before, the purpose of reading, irrespective of the text content, is to gather information and "fish out" the key ideas.

Key ideas help you to recognise and remember supporting information. They are the topics of entire paragraphs or lessons.

Key ideas are often found in the first or last sentences /paragraphs, but they can be located anywhere within the text material.

Here are some basic guidelines for identifying key ideas:

- use the headings and/or subheadings in the text;
- ask questions: what is this paragraph all about? What does the author assert or want me to understand about this topic?;
- list details and ask: what do these details have in common?;
- look for general statements: underline the most general statement and ask: which statement best represent the key idea of the paragraph?;
- state the key idea as a complete sentence;


In a separate & subsequent post, I will share with readers, additional strategies to reduce information to key ideas, and more precisely, to gather information.

The posts will be headed by 'SEVEN PERSPECTIVES OF INFORMATION GATHERING AT HIGH SPEEDS'.

[to be continued in GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR READING X]

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR READING VIII

[continue from GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR READING VII]

I would like to recap a few key points with regard to recognising author's text organisational points before continuing from my earlier posts:

- simple listing;
- order/sequence;
- compare/contrast;
- cause/effect;
- problem/solution;
- classification;
- definition;
- mixed;

A reader can readily improve his comprehension skills by determining the type of text organisational pattern being used by the author.

For order/sequence, a reader needs to be aware of chronological order or logical order, as follows:

- steps in a procedure;
- sequence of events or stages;

For compare/contrast, a reader needs to understand that this structure can take different form:

- point by point comparisons of the similarities & differences;
- a whole set of similarities followed by a set of difference or differences followed by similarities;

For cause/effect, a reader must establish what is the effect or result & what are the causes; also needs to determine what are the factors that cause the result & how do they inter-relate;

For problem/solution, a reader must determine the problem, why it is a problem, what the causes/cause of the problem, are & what attempts were made to solve the problem & if if they were successful or not;

For classification, a reader needs to determine how a topic is being sub-divided or classified, & how each of its components is discussed;

For definition, a reader must determine what is being defined, what bigger category it belongs to, what the characteristics are & an example of the definition;

[to be continued in GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR READING IX]

Friday, September 28, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: 'GET OUT OF YOUR THINKING BOX: 365 Ways to Brighten Your Life & Enhance Your Creativity', by Lindsay Collier

I like to put forward a suggestion:

Please read this small little book jointly with the author's other book entitled 'Whack-a-Mole Theory: Creating Breakthroughs & Transformation in Organisations', which I have already reviewed in an earlier post.

The latter book, which has more depth, will put all the 365 ideas into a much broader & meaningful application perspective.

Although this book contains mostly fun-filled one-liners, stretching over 365 days if you apply one per day, it's filled with excellent & yet practical stuff on paradigm-busting. It's principal premise is very simple: before you can get out of your thinking box, first you must bust your paradigms!

Remember, adding fun, joy and play into your life - & business - will certainly give you more perspectives when looking at the same problem situation.

The 365 ideas in this book will help you explore your paradigms & turbo-charge your life!

BOOK REVIEW: 'WHACK A MOLE THEORY: CREATING BREAKTHROUGH & TRANSFORMATION IN ORGANISATIONS' by Lindsay Collier

This is a self-published book, & I must add that the production quality is not so good, if you are used to glossy hardcover books.

However, it is jam-packed with excellent material & good examples to help - & guide - managers to explore their own - & their company's future.

The author has been a collaborator of Joel Barker, widely recognised as the Paradigm Man who wrote 'Future Edge' (& an earlier book, 'Discovering the Future: the Business of Paradigms').

Just like Wayne Burkan, who wrote 'Wide Angle Vision', the author further expands the paradigm phenomenon with more new business examples, insightful real-world observations & also insightful ideas drawn from his own professional experience.

The author's writing is crisp, succinct & clear. I like his thoughtful treatment of management fads & illusions, creative analogies & metaphors, & humour in dialogue & conversations. He also includes several thoughtful questions at the end of each chapter for reader's reflective responses.

I enjoy reading books that poses questions to readers. They make you think about what you have just read, & also reflect on possible actions you may consider to take in your personal or professional context.

Together with 'Future Edge' and 'Wide Angle Vision', I strongly recommend this book to be included in your personal library if you want to be a paradigm buster - to be precise, to be a strategic explorer.

The author's other book, 'Get Out of Your Thinking Box' - with 365 ways to turbo-charge your life - is also worth exploring.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"To laugh often & much; to win the respect of intelligent people & the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics & endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What is the daily habit that keeps me from coming to a standstill & helps me hit my target faster?

(Inspired by Simpleology)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: 'HOW TO INCREASE YOUR INTELLIGENCE', by Win Wenger

This is the original book that had led me to discover the work of Win Winger & also to many of his other books, most of which had been self-published. He is widely recognised as a pioneer in the fields of creativity & creative method, accelerated learning, brain & mind development. At the last count, he has 48 published books to his credit.

I hate to say this: The author does not write very well, although I enjoy reading about - as well as exploring with - his crazy ideas in the book.

I am well aware that there are some people out there who love to throw spanners at the author's crazy ideas, especially those pertaining to underwater brainstorming & image streaming.

Let's take a look at the real world.

Dr Nakamats (or officially, Yoshiro Nakamatsu), Japan's inventor extraordinaire with more than 3,000 inventions to his credit, is a true practitioner of underwater brainstorming. Numerous articles & live TV interviews have covered his antics. My gym buddy, also a regular swimmer, has attested to its practical benefits in many of his problem solving routines while swimming.

I play with image streams all the time. In the real world, variations of image streams are practised by corporate executives in Synectics brainstorming sessions as well as scenario planning exercises.

Mental rehearsal in the world of competitive sports, e.g. golf, swimming, tennis, is a variation of image streaming.

In fact, The Singapore Sports Council, as reported in the press, has for many years introduced such techniques, coupled with autogenic training, to students as part of their survival strategy to deal with examination anxiety.

This book may be dated in today's context, but the techniques remain intact, as originally envisaged by the author.

Since it is now out of print, I would recommend readers to get hold of & read 'The Einstein Factor: A Proven New Method for Increasing Your Intelligence' which has been co-written by a award-winning journalist, Richard Poe.

My friendly advice: Please approach the author's ideas with an open mind.

Like an umbrella, an open mind functions best when opened!

Please play, explore & experiment with the author's ideas!

For readers who are auditory learners, please take a look at 'Brain Boosters: Boost Your Intelligence to Genius Levels' by Win Wenger. It's available from Nightingale-Conant.

[More information about the author, his other books & his work can be found on his corporate website at Project Renaissance.]

BOOK REVIEW: ‘COLOUR OUTSIDE THE LINES’, by Howard Hendricks

This is essentially a creativity book written from a Christian perspective.

Its principal title is certainly catchy.

The author is Distinguished Professor & Chairman of the Centre for Christian Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary. This book is targeted primarily at pastors, evangelists, missionaries, Sunday school teachers & anyone else whom the Lord has called to serve.

The secondary title, which reads 'A Revolutionary Approach to Leadership' is somewhat misleading. In reality, I had been somewhat “carried away” by this secondary title at the time of purchasing the book from Amazon.com. I did not realise that the book had so much religious undertones.

After reading it, I regret to point out that the intellectual contents of the book do not stand up to this secondary title. I can only say that this book is more appropriate for a first timer, who is interested in creativity.

The nine steps process mentioned in the book is definitely not revolutionary. In fact, they are the standard fare found in most creative thinking books. They refer essentially to:

- brainstorming;
- Plussing - involves continually adding to a thing with a view to making it better & ultimately the best;
- Five sensing;
- Objection countering;
- gaming - there are two broad categories of gaming: competition & simulation;
- mind mapping;
- role playing - using the four roles defined by Roger von Oech;
- thinking hats - based on de Bono's system;
- storyboarding;

Even the Creative Problem Solving process is drawn from the Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI), which has its origins from the work of Alex Osborn & Sidney Parnes in the fifties.

The creativity exercise examples given in the book are also very common & easy to solve in the first instance.

What intrigues me most is the apparent failure of the author to dovetail the entire creative problem solving processes into the leadership process.

I wish to reiterate that, for a first timer, this book is still worthwhile to be pursued.

For others, I would suggest Paul Sloane's 'The Leader's Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills', which is a more viable alternative for readers to pursue.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Until we do the work of excavating, claiming & expressing our uniqueness, we run the risk of putting our life script into someone else's hands."

(Joseph Campbell, who was best known for his work in the fields of comparative mythology & comparative religion; also, author of 'Myths to Live By', among many other titles in this genre;)

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Are you motivated & ready to create a masterpiece?

Do you have a vision of what your business, career, or life masterpiece looks, feels, or sounds like?

Are you willing to sustain the quality effort, attitude, & determination to create your masterpiece?

What are you willing to give up in order to achieve your masterpiece?

(Inspired by Ed Sykes, The Ed Sykes Group)

ULTIMATE SUCCESS FORMULA (USF)

Louis Bonaventura, a professional network marketer, relates the following USF in the form of an acronym from the word 'success' in an article, based on a training session given on success:

S - Solo Focus

U - Unlocked Imagination

C - Crystal Clear Path

C - Commitment to the Heart

E - Extraordinary Energy

S - Skillset

S - Stop at Nothing

[The original article, '7 Secrets to Success', can be found at Article Gold free article directory.]

E = mc2

Vancho Cirovski, VP of Human Resource at Cardinal Health, also an expert soccer player & coach, has very beautifully used Einstein's famous equation to describe the essential ingredients for team or organisational effectiveness, using the analogy of an effective team on the football field:

E = mc2

m = mastery of each individual (human capital);

c = connections that join individuals into a community (social capital);

c = communication that flows through those connections;

E = resulting effectiveness of the team or organisation;

c2 = communication & connections = chemistry which leads to team or organisational effectiveness;

[The original article, 'Managing the Connected Organization' by Valdis E. Krebs, who related the interesting phenomenon, can be found here.]

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What is the next step in my life's path?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Trust in the power of future pull. You can grow at a faster clip if you'll put the future to work for you. Tomorrow is your ally. The key is to let the future know specifically what you want from it. Start by coming up with a clear mental picture of your goal. Keep it alive in your mind. Visit it often in your imagination. The future will start organizing events to help bring about this thing you want. Most people don't appreciate how this technique can accelerate a person's growth & accomplishments...."
(Price Pritchett, author of 'FAST GROWTH: A CAREER ACCELERATION STRATEGY')

LACK OF SLEEP MAY BE DEADLY

Today's Life page in the Straits Times carries an intriguing report of findings from Francesco Cappuccio, the professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Warwick's medical school.

People who do not get enough sleep face more than double the risk of dying of heart disease. Although the reasons are not clear, researchers said lack of sleep appeared to be linked to increased blood pressure, which is known to raise the risk of heart attacks & stroke.

On the other hand, the findings also indicate that people who sleep more than nine hours have a higher mortality rate.

Nevertheless, the findings highlight a danger in busy modern lifestyles: The current pressures in society to cut out sleep, in order to squeeze in more, may not be a good idea - particularly if you go below five hours.

In terms of prevention, the findings indicate that consistently sleeping around seven hours per night is optimal for health.

Luckily for me, I go to bed every night around midnight & get up at around 7am in the morning. Generally, I don't have any problem with sleeping. In fact, my wife says I can sleep like a log.

NAVIGATING LIFE’S CHANGES

In an earlier post, I have reviewed Frederic Hudson’s intellectual masterpiece, ‘The Adult Years: Mastering the Art of Self-Renewal’.

In this post, I just want to highlight some interesting perspectives from the book to share with readers, because they had impacted me during my mid-life transitional times during the early nineties.

The author, using his own rich experience as well as stories of his clients, had shown the power in each of us to make life course changes, to become unstuck, to develop new skills, & to achieve a life of continuous potential.

Firstly, he had posed five basic questions to start me thinking:

1) How has changes affected the way I think & feel about my future? How has it affected my motivation & sense of purpose? As I experience more changes in my daily experience, am I more optimistic about life prospects today than I were ten years ago?

2) Have the forces of change increased or decreased my opportunities for living & working & reaching my goals?

3) Have the forces of change increased or decreased my financial security over the past ten years?

4) Have the forces of change increased or decreased my confidence in the country’s future? In my own future?

5) Have change freed me from the artificial constraints of the past, allowing me to find many new ways to find fulfilment? Or am I swamped by change – unable to maintain constancy & the quality of life I desire?

He then recommended ten basic skills for self-renewal as well as self-empowerment:

1) Create your dream, & a plan of action for it;

2) Launch your dream, & put your plan of action to work. Be committed;

3) Stay on top of your realised dream & keep enriching your dream for as long as it makes sense to do so;

4) Conduct a thorough inventory of your life, asking only one question of each assumption, possession, relationship, activity & structure: “Does this add meaning to my life?” If it does, you keep it; if it doesn’t, you make corrections;

5) Sort things out, results in a personal plan: what to keep, what to eliminate or change, what to add, & how to proceed into a revitalised life structure;

6) Ending a life structure with dignity & care require an ability to say “farewell” with gratitude & clarity, leaving you free to consider your next options. There are two possibilities at this point, restructuring or a life transition;

7) Restructuring is like minor surgery, with a strategic plan to make the life structure work better – a partner. The same basic values & goals prevail, but the action steps, setting &/or players in the drama are altered;

8) Cocooning is the first activity of a life transition – turning inward to take stock, to find your own basic values, & to disengage emotionally & mentally from the life structure; in cocooning, you take an emotional “time out” to heal, reflect, and discover new directions for your life, eventually leading to renewal and revitalization;

9) Self-renewal follows a successful cocooning: it is a time when you feel the surge of life return as a pure gift. Some call it rebirth, a miracle, an act of God. In truth, it doesn’t matter what you call it: acceptance is all that matters. When you accept with gratitude the new life that you feel, you are able to “hope” again; the future is a new possibility;

10) Experimenting – engage in creating, learning, training, risk taking & networking. Creativity is the playful exploration of new ideas & possibilities. Experimentation is testing possible paths ahead & doing projects without making them permanent. It is risking discovery& risking failure. Networking links you to new resources: exploring friendships, finding new ways to do things, gathering information & pursuing new learning;

BOOK REVIEW: ‘BREAKPOINT & BEYOND: MASTERING THE FUTURE TODAY’, by George Land & Beth Jarman

In anticipating the future, three things generally fascinate & intrigue me, & they are: Change, Complexity & Competition. Hence, I am always seeking better understanding - & appreciation – of these critical areas of concern.

In the search of books & resources, I have come across many excellent authors or masters. I have already featured a few in my earlier posts.

In this post, I would like to review one original, thought provoking book, written with warm, passion & clarity as well as mastery of content.

Actually, I had read Breakpoint & Beyond’ during the mid-nineties, when it was first published. At that time, I had just embarked on a journey to play a better game in the second half of my life.

Oftentimes, I have returned to the book to read certain earmarked pages.

In a nut shell, it weaved a compelling story about change by focusing a new & penetrating lens on the master teacher of change, Mother Nature herself. The authors asserted that understanding the invisible forces of natural change would uncover the hidden patterns that could unlock our potential as individuals & organisations.

The authors also showed that natural growth was characterised by long periods of stability, punctuated by “breakpoints” – bursts of explosive change & showed how we could take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that would arise during these exciting periods.

Amidst the somewhat lofty rhetoric – the book was rather heavy to read – I would like to single out one principle from the book – the Principle of Future Pull.

According to the authors, every single cell in a tree, in a caterpillar, or in a human being would grow & develop not based on its history but by being pulled toward in its internal picture of the possible future. That future was inscribed in the DNA, the genes that reside in the nucleus of every cell. That way, every part of the system could pull together toward the common future.

In human terms, this would translate into living with a powerful vision of the future. A compelling vision could pull individuals & organisations to their desired future.

Let me share some of the authors’ ideas of doing it.

Know your purpose & vision:

Purpose can be defined as how an individual & organisation makes the world a better place. A vision is a compelling image or picture o the purpose having been achieved.

The book gave this example: Landing a man on the moon in a decade was the vision that President John Kennedy held out as an inspiring magnet pulling an entire nation to develop the technological capability for manned space flights.

Purpose & vision are as important for individuals as they are for organisations.

A compelling purpose energises life. Without a compelling purpose, we live life as a fairly haphazard experience, being easily swayed by the latest fad, temporary pressures, or the most recent advice on what others think we ought to be doing with our lives.

Commit to achieve your vision & purpose:

When an organisation lacks a compelling purpose, its people cannot helped but be uninspired. The book gave an example of the late Anita Roddick & the Body Shop, whose concerns for the environment & the people still infuse the enterprise.

Abundance is Mother Nature’s state:

Abundance comes to those who have the courage to follow their dreams. This brings not only material abundance but connection with the opportunities that are vital to the full expression of one’s talents.

Today thousands of people are doing what they love to do in the most unlikely occupations & making an excellent living.

No one with a compelling purpose & a great vision knows exactly how it will be achieved. You have to be willing to follow an unknown path, allowing the road to take you where it will. Surprise, serendipity, uncertainty, & the unexpected are guaranteed on the way to the future.

Make the world a better place by living according to shared values:

Values are often thought of as soft stuff of an organisation, something that goes on a bronze plaque in the lobby. Somehow the values get separated from how the business really runs. Inevitable, employee & customer s know it.

The purpose & values are the heart of the vision that will pull organisations into their future. These ingredients provide the essential elements of successful self-creation: the picture of that future whole. It is the internal guidance system, the DNA that allows everything to work together. The purpose, vision & values furnish the internal reference point for making choices & connections in a complex & rapidly changing world. They endow the individual & organisation with direction to be pulled into the future.

With a little bit of hindsight, I am very glad I had made full use of many of the authors’ ideas in my own life.

If you are concerned about your own personal change & renewal, you must read this book. It will help you to think about your life -& to stay vital all your life.

[More information about the two authors & their consulting work can be found at their corporate website, under the Farsight Group.]

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

“Inventing the future requires giving up control. No one with a compelling purpose & a great vision knows how it will be achieved. One has to be willing to follow an unknown path, allowing the road to take you where it will. Surprise, serendipity, uncertainty & the unexpected are guaranteed on the way to the future.”

[George Land, author, consultant & scientist; in 1965 he founded a research and consulting institute to study the enhancement of creative performance; this research ultimately led to the formulation of 'Transformation Theory' - a theory of natural processes that integrates principles of creativity, growth, & change; from these principles, he developed unique strategic thinking & innovation processes for organizations; he also invented the first computer-interactive approaches to group innovation, decision-making & strategic thinking; his exceptional processes are now licensed by over 400 major corporations worldwide; his seminal work was 'Grow or Die: The Unifying Principle of Transformation' (published in 1973); he co-authored 'Breakpoint & Beyond: Mastering the Future Today' (published in 1993) with Beth Jarman;]

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

How do I change my limiting beliefs?

How do I become aware of my limiting beliefs?

ENCOURAGING INNOVATION

Yesterday's Straits Times Money Page carried an article on Ms Deb Henretta, the first woman to head the Pocter & Gamble outfit in Asia. She has also joined the Board of Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB).

On the EDB, her focus is on "how we can create an environment that facilitates innovation - great innovation."

I particularly liked what she said about the importance of developing talent:

"In the end, innovation begins with people. It's people who come up with great ideas, great ideas fuel innovation, innovation fuels growth."

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"One who knows much about others may be learned, but one who understands himself is more intelligent. One who controls others may be powerful, but one who has mastered himself is mightier still."

(Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching)

THE ART & DISCIPLINE OF OPPORTUNITY DISCOVERY

The following list of selected books will complement the 'Opportunity Pathfinder Bookshelf' mentioned in my earlier post.

I have already reviewed some of the books in my earlier posts.

For the remaining titles, which I have acquired only in recent months, I plan to review them one by one in due course.

1) 'Winning the Innovation Game', by Denis Waitley & Robert Tucker;

2) 'Innovative Secrets of Success' (audio), by Denis Waitley & Robert Tucker;

3) 'How to Profit from Rapid Changes' (audio), by Robert Tucker;

4) 'Opportunities: A Handbook of Business Opportunity Search', by Edward de bono;

5) 'The Innovation Formula', by Michel Robert;

6) 'Product Innovation Strategy', by Michel Robert;

7) 'Strategic Product Innovation', by Michel Robert;

8) 'Innovation & Entrepreneurship', by Peter Drucker;

9) 'Opportunity Spotting: Creativity for Corporate Growth', by Nigel McLennan;

10) 'Creative Problem Solving & Opportunity Finding', by Daniel Couger;

11) 'Harnessing the Unicorn: How to Create Opportunity & Manage Risk', by Pat O'Reilly;

12) 'Invent Business Opportunities', by Art Turock;

13) 'Opportunity: Optimising Life's Choices', by Donald Morris;

14) 'How to Find Opportunity & Cash in On Them', by Jack Olson;

15) 'The Opportunity in Every Problem', by Scott Taylor;

16) 'Make Your Own Fortune: How to Seize Life's Opportunity', by Douglas Miller;

17) 'The Entrepreneurial Problem Solver', by Aspatore Books;

18) 'When Opportunity Knocks: How to Explot the Unexpected in Business', by Mel Mandell;

19) 'The Power of Strategy Innovation', by Douglas Bate;

20) 'The Business Analyser & Planner', by Michael Zambruski;

21) 'Take Your Best Shot: Turning Solutions into Opportunities', by Ken Futch;

22) 'Changing Strategic Direction: Practical Insights into Opportunity Driven Business Development', by Peter Skat Rordam;

23) 'Entrepreneurial Opportunity Recognition through Social Networks', by Robert Singh;

24) 'System Search for Entrepreneurial Discoveries', by James Flet;

Monday, September 24, 2007

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

1) If I could accomplish only one thing during the rest of the year, but that one thing would bring me joy & a sense of completion, what would that be?

2) If I could say only one thing to another person, but that one thing would heal an old wound, what would that be?

3) If I could speak out against only one injustice, regardless of the effect of my speech, what would I say?

4) If I knew I would die before the end of the year, what would be the three most important things today?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

" ... it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator as for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."

(Niccolo Machiavelli, "The Prince," 1515)

BOOK REVIEW: NAVIGATING MID-LIFE TRANSITION II

[continued from Part I]
As for the second book, 'The Adult Years', I would consider it to be one of the most compelling books ever written on personal transition & transformation.

In fact, it often reminds me of the training video I had watched during the last few days of the 16-day boot-camp in Hawaii during the early nineties: "Do you want to play a better game in the second half of your life?"

It has been beautifully crafted with warmth, passion, clarity & mastery of content.

It provides a refreshingly optimistic perspective on mid-life transition & self-renewal.

Best of all, it is solidly backed by several decades of research & consulting work at the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara, California.

I remember vividly when I first encountered this book, it was actually the back page of the book which attracted my attention: "Designing a rich adult life for a world in transition..." followed by a quotation: "'The Adult Years' will help you to think about your life - & to stay vital all your life."

At that point in time, I was pondering about what I wanted to do with the second half of my life. I was 43 years old & a corporate rat then. I was working in quiet desperation.

Frankly, I was looking damned good...but actually going nowhere! So, I started a frantic search for all kinds of seminars, workshops, books, magazines & resources to fuel my mind. I was very glad to bump into this book by chance.

I particularly liked what the author has said in the book:

"...adulthood is a cyclical experience that can be a ripening of our strengths rather than dull repetition or a dazzling merry-go-round....it is possible in a culture that glamourises youth more than it values maturity, to design a coherent, mature life that is resilient enough not only to survive but to be visionary & regenerating...by unleashing our own personal forces of self renewal, we can bring forth ideas & leadership for social renewal."

The author has masterfully portrayed the cycles of self-renewal through the various chapters of the book, as follows:

Part I: The Emerging Adult
1 The Adult Dilemma
2 Finding Possibilities in Cyclical Lives

Part II: The Cycle of Change - Life Structures & Transitions
3 The Patterns of Change
4 From Dreaming to Restructuring
5 from Disengaging to Cocooning
6 From Self renewal to New Beginnings

Part III: The Life Cycle
7 Meaning & Mission Across the Life Cycle
8 The Twenties & Thirties
9 The Forties & Fifties
10 The Sixties & seventies
11 Getting from Here to There: Six Principles of Life Cycle Change

Part IV: Adults & Global Change
12 Valuing the Global Context
13 The Self Renewing Adult, the Self Renewing Society

To end my review, I wish to summarise the book by paraphrasing the author:

"A personal transition is a time to hold on what is working in your life, let go of what is not working, take on new learning & exploration of options, & move on to new commitments."

Over the many years since my first encounter with these two books, 'The Inventurers' & 'The Adult Years', I have often gone back to read some of the passages to seek further insights about empowerment throughout my adult years.

Every busy professional would benefit from these two marvellous books when coming of age.

They are intelligently crafted & extremely helpful in providing a sensible framework for understanding - & appreciating - adult transitions & personal change.

In concluding this review, I enthusiastically recommend the foregoing books to all who are interested in the quality of life & peak performance in life's remaining years!

[For more information about the author & his work, please visit his corporate website.]

BOOK REVIEW: NAVIGATING MID-LIFE TRANSITION I

There were quite a handful of insightful guides which had helped me to understand & then navigate my mid-life transition during the early nineties.

They included Richard Bolles‘What Colour is Your Parachute?’; also his ‘Three Boxes of Life & How to Get Out of Them’; Richard Leider’s ‘The Power of Purpose: Creating Meaning in Your Life & Work’ (which I had reviewed in an earlier post); also his ‘Life Skills’ book, which I had read at a later date.

In this post, I would to review two other books, which were also pivotal:

‘THE INVENTURERS: EXCURSIONS IN LIFE & CAREER RENEWAL’, by Janet Hagberg & Richard Leider;

‘THE ADULT YEAR: MASTERING THE ART OF SELF RENEWAL’, by Frederic Hudson;

The first book, 'The Inventurers', introduced me to the Inventurer process model - an excursion into self discovery, during which it helped me to clarify my inner values, through a series of structured exercises, checklists & reflective questions. Many of the questions were soul searching for me.

Trained as a mechanical engineer, I naturally found some minor parts of the book somewhat esoteric, but on hindsight I think they are relevant if one is seeking deeper understanding of oneself.

Here are the relevant chapters of the book:

Section 1: The Life Inventure
1 The Inventurers
2 The Postponed Life
3 The Inventurous Life

Section 2: Life Extensions
4 Adult Life Stages
5 Life Cycle Review
6 Alone Together

Section 3: lifestyles
7 The Balancing Act
8 Body
9 Mind
10 Spirit
11 Dreams & Goals

Section 4 Work Styles
12 Making a Living Work
13 The Scorecard
14 Skills, the Root of All
15 Survival Skills
16 What Species...?
17 You only Go Round Once
18 Step 1 Your Excursion Map
19 Step 2 Conclusions
20 Step 3 Getting Feedback & Ideas
21 Step 4 Reality Testing

For the uninitiated, an inventurer is just one who is willing to take a fresh, hard look at oneself & consider new options, venture inward & explore. An inventurer sees life as a series of changes, changes as growth experiences, & growth as positive.

At the onset, what struck me most about this book are the important assumptions which the book is based upon & the Inventurer process reflects these assumptions. Let me share them with readers as follows by paraphrasing the authors:

1 Coping with change:
We all have different styles of coping...you need to learn what your style is & how to use it effectively;

2 Untapped abilities:
...you possess much untapped potential that could change your life considerably;


3 Self-direction:
The basic ingredient in life & career renewal is choice - the choice of taking responsibility for yourself. In any situation, you have basically two options: change the situation or change the mindset that is perceiving the situation. The choice is yours alone...


4 Organised planning:
Effectively assessing life & career renewal options requires more than new insights...Your reflections must be organised & focused into an action plan...& self discipline is a virtue...


5 Risk taking:
Choices involve risks. Risk is the element in career or life... This is one particular book you have to read it carefully & work with it systematically, if you really want to evaluate your life & make it better.


Over the many years since my first encounter with this book, I have often gone back to read some of the passages to seek further insights about empowerment throughout my adult years.

Every busy professional would benefit from this book when coming of age. It is intelligently crafted & extremely helpful in providing a sensible framework for understanding - & appreciating - adult transitions & personal change.

In concluding this review, I enthusiastically recommend this book to all who are interested in the quality of life & peak performance in life's remaining years!

[to be continued in Part II]

Sunday, September 23, 2007

ULTIMATE SUCCESS FORMULA (USF)

I have found this USF on the website of Executive Excellence Publishing, a newsletter publisher with an impeccable track record of publishing more than 3,200 articles over the last two decades, covering:

- Leadership Excellence;
- Personal Excellence;
- Sales & Service Excellence;
- Health Fitness & Performance (coming soon!)

Their USF is embedded in the 'Personal Excellence Plan', which is the centerpiece of their Personal Excellence Performance System—a family of tools to help readers grow & progress in life, thus finding more joy & fulfillment.

According to the publisher, the 'Personal Excellence Plan' is an achievement & performance program designed to help you find a wiser, better way to live your life, pursue your career, & lead your family, team, or organization.

It recognizes the interrelationship that naturally exists among seemingly separate parts of your life. By making significant improvements in one key area of your life, you enhance other areas.

As you define your vision, for example, you may wish to make changes in certain areas of your life that are out of alignment with that vision.

The aim of the plan is to enhance every dimension of your life & to leverage your time and talents.

The 'Personal Excellence Plan' comes in the form of a .pdf document. You can download, & then print it out for immediate utility.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What will I do today what others don't so that I'll have tomorrow what others don't?

LEADERSHIP EXCELLENCE 100

Further to my earlier post, 'Learning from Reading', I thought the 'Leadership Excellence 100' compiled by the 'Leadership Excellence Newsletter' is worth exploring.

It's a leading monthly digest of the world’s best value-centered, principle-based ideas & strategies for organizational & executive development.

For 22 years, the newsletter publisher, Executive Excellence Publishing, has worked with the best minds in the business, the gurus of leadership, if you will, publishing timely and timeless articles on 'The Seven Dimensions of Excellence':

- Leadership, Management, People, Competence, Performance, Change and Ethics.

According to the newsletter, the leadership consultants who make the top 100 possess a rare combination of both substance and presentation style, inspiring action and real world performance, while working tirelessly towards implementing change.

They excel in the areas of: credibility, relevance, originality, practicality, ideas, presentation style, and their guru score (the influence of their work).

I may not agree with the compilation, but I reckon it serves as a useful guide to authors, whose books you may want to read, in the area of organisational as well as personal leadership.

For a quick glance, here are the top 20:

1) Gary Hamel
2) Dave Ulrich
3) Peter F. Drucker
4) Warren Bennis
5) Tom Peters
6) Peter Senge
7) James Kouzes
8) John P. Kotter
9) Marcus Buckingham
10) Rosabeth Kanter
11) Ken Blanchard
12) Harvey MacKay
13) Richard Chang
14) Stephen R. Covey
15) Ram Charan
16) James Collins
17) Regis McKenna
18) Michael Porter
19) Gifford Pinchot
20) Meg Wheatley

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"The formulation of a problem is far more essential than its solution, which may be a matter of mathematical or experimental skill...To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination."

(Albert Einstein, my favourite role model & icon for creativity)

PROBLEM WALKABOUT

I am always intrigued by new ways to solve problems, from both analytical & creative standpoint.

I would like to introduce readers to one wholistic methodology developed by Johan Kruithof, who wrote the classic, 'Thinking Quality - Quality Thinking'. The author is a quality management expert from Down Under.

His problem solving methodology is known as a 'Problem Walkabout'. It goes like this, when you are confronted by a problem situation - you walk through the problem with a questioning mind:

1) Look at it analytically & rationally. Take a bottom-line approach:

- what are the facts?
- what measurements do we have or can be taken?
- what are the technical & financial implications?


2) Look at it conservatively. Take a detailed procedural view:

- what flaws have we overlooked?
- what are the practical, administrative & organisational issues?
- how do we keep control of the situation?

3) Look at it emotionally. Take a people-oriented view:

- what are the interpersonal implications?
- is there a need to educate?
- what are people's values we need to consider?
- what is the scope for persuasion, conciliation?


4) Look at it intuitively, conceptually. Take a big picture view:

- what are the hidden possibilities?
- how can we challenge existing policies?
- where will it lead us in ten years time?
- what is exciting here?

Because of my training as an engineer, I like the foregoing wholesome methodology very much. It has in fact served me very well in many problem situations.

[Johan Kruithof has a corporate website under Quality Insights. It's a goldmine of information nuggets on quality thinking. By the way, the author is also an accomplished musician.]

UNDERSTANDING COGNITIVE TRAPS

In the wonderful book, ‘More Ways to Use Your Head’, Dr Stuart Litvak, a psychologist, had outlined a series of conceptual traps & perceptual fogs that often stifle our innate brain potential.

Using his original framework of cognitive traps, I have synthesised &/or developed a series of practical exercises to help you understand, & then break through those mental barriers:

1) Tendency to Use Logic:

In how many different ways can you look at this question:

Divide 13 by 2?

2) Begin with certain assumptions:

Look at the following numbers & convert the nine into a six with only one stroke of your pen or pencil;

VII
VIII
IX

3) Stake beliefs, affairs & worldview in a personally specialised universe:

The following number is the only one of its kind. Can you figure out what is so special about it:

8,549,176,320?

4) Perceive things in piece-meal fashion:

Which of the following numbers is most different from the others:

1) One;
2) Thirteen;
3) Thirty-One;

5) Apply concept fixation:

An architect has a swimming pool in his backyard. He wants to double the size of the pool, despite the fact that there are large & valuable trees at the four corners, which he did not wish to cut down. He did indeed end up with a square pool, double the size of his original pool, & all four trees remained in their places. How did he do it?

6) Get stuck with labels & words:

The police break into a locked bungalow. They find Fred & Wilma dead on the floor. Both are naked & lying in a pool of water. There is broken glass on the floor & a window is open. What has happened?

7) Adopt panacea thinking:

“You may not belief that there are six errers in this short paragraph. Studi the paragraph carefully. You can reed it as many times as necessary. Don’t give up too easily. See if you can find all of then.”

I will stop here for the time being. I will provide all the appropriate answers &/or approaches to the problems as outlined in this post in a subsequent post.

Naturally, I will also endeavour to explain what is happening.

[to be continued]

BOOK REVIEW: 'MORE WAYS TO USE YOUR HEAD', by Dr Stuart Litvak

I have owned this book for more than two decades.

Despite the fact this book contains just above 100 pages, I am very impressed by the work of the author, Dr Stuart Litvak.

My most productive learning experience out of this book is the understanding & appreciation of the critical success factors in peak brain performance:

1) Cognitive Traps (in Chapter 2);
2) Subtle Influences (in Chapter 3); &
3) Blindside (in Chapter 5);

According to the author, we are capable of tapping at least 80% more of our brain power & creativity than we currently do. But, how can we develop the unused portion of our brains?

The foregoing three chapters provide some ready answers.

It is the series of conceptual traps & perceptual fogs as illustrated in the foregoing three chapters, which often stifle our innate mental abilities.

Unlike most brain-based books, which merely offer rote strategies & how-to-do-it advice, the author of this book helps readers to go through some new, unfamiliar experiences that will directly provoke the dormant areas of the brain.

They then include new, challenging exercises & techniques to expand your mind.

If you are ready to turbo-charge your brain performance, please get hold of this book & put the strategies to work quickly!

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"I've found that the hallmark of creative people is their mental flexibility. Like race car drivers, who shift in & out of different gears depending on where they are going on the course, creative people are able to shift in & out of different types of thinking, depending on the the needs of the situation."
(Roger von Oech, author of 'A Kick in the Seat of the Pants')

BOOK REVIEW: ‘COMPANY ANALYSIS – DETERMINING STRATEGIC CAPABILITY’, by Per V Jenster & David Hussey

Most businessmen & professionals are familiar with the concept of internal or position audit, better known as SWOT or SPOT Analysis in management/marketing books.

To recap, the purpose of an internal audit is to appraise the strengths, weaknesses, capabilities, resources & vulnerabilities in an organisation.

Personally as well as professionally, I prefer SPOT Analysis as the “Problems” in SPOT are psychologically easier to solve than the “Weaknesses” in SWOT. The latter is seemingly more inherent in the system.

In this wonderful book, the author puts internal audit into the spotlight with a comprehensive book-length treatment.

Probably due to space, there is only a relatively broad brush on industry analysis.

What I like about the book is the broader context in which the author has put internal audit – synconvergently (thanks to Michael Gelb) with creative strategic thinking, strategic decision making & implementation.

The author has dedicated one full chapter each to illustrate the key results areas to be considered in an internal audit, with a checklist of critical questions:

- Finance;
- Marketing;
- Production;
- Technology & Production;
- Human Resource Management;
- Management Effectiveness;
- Culture & Structure;
- Information Systems;

The writing is crisp & clear. Examples are well illustrated. The track record of both authors, particularly David Hussey, certainly helps in making the book useful in even a due diligence study of acquisitions, mergers, strategic alliances & divestments.

Overall, this book is illuminating.

I would recommend this book to be read in conjunction with any of the following books, to make your appraisal of core competencies, core capabilities, critical success factors & value chains a more complete exercise:

1) 'Scanning the Business Environment', by Francis Aquilar (my personal favourite!);
2) 'Strategic Issues Management: A Comprehensive Guide to Environmental Scanning', by John Stoffels;
3) 'Information Management for the Intelligent Organisation: The Art of Scanning the Environment', by Chun Wei Joo;