Saturday, October 20, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: 'IN SEARCH OF SOLUTIONS: 60 WAYS TO GUIDE YOUR PROBLEM SOLVING GROUP', by David Quinlivan-Hall

I had bought this guide book in my latter years as general manager of engineering & production operations during the eighties.

I consider it as a handy companion to 'Managerial Problem Solving' by Charles Margerison, which I had reviewed in an earlier post.

Essentially, this book is quite stimulating to read as it is packed with 60 proven strategies to facilitate group meetings.

The author walks the reader through the entire problem solving process, although I must add that the breadth & depth of which is not as comprehensive as 'Managerial Problem Solving'.

Nevertheless, the 60 tools are simple. They have been quite well-designed to deal with many basic group meeting obstacles: personality clashes, time-watsers & procedural wrangling.

In the course of my work, I had found many of them to be quite practical & effective.

PRESIDENT'S TIP ON AGING: DON'T THINK ABOUT IT!

That's a very good tip from our President S R Nathan, who is 83!

I remember vividly Muhammad Ali once said this:

"Age is mind over matter; if you don't mind, it don't matter."

President Nathan gives an additional tip:

Find your bright spot. Simply find something to do - "it doesn't have to involve work," he emphasises.

For President Nathan, successful aging is finding something to do - it can be work, a hobby, volunteering at your church or temple, or being a role model to the younger generation.

Choices abound. The only issue is, he adds, "you must be having something to do."

[Source: The Straits Times, Insight page, Oct 19 2007]

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCH PAD: 7 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

1) Life gets better when you get better;

2) Where you've been doesn't matter, only where you're going;

3) One must fail to succeed;

4) Freedom comes through development of options;

5) See the good out of every problem or difficulty;

6) You can learn anything you need for success through proper goal setting;

7) The only limits to success are within your mind;

[Source: Unknown]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"To know unconsciously is best; to presume to know about what you don't know is sick. Only by recognising the sickness of sickness is it possible not to be sick."
('The Art of Wealth: Strategies of Success' by Thomas Cleary, translated from the Sanskrit)

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCH PAD: MISTAKES IN THINKING

Although our creative problem-solving capacity is what has made humans the successful species we are, our brains are prone to certain kinds of errors that only careful critical thinking can correct.

Author Thomas Kida identifies "the six-pack of problems" that leads many of us unconsciously to accept false ideas:

1) We prefer stories instead of statistics;

2) W seek to confirm, not to question, our ideas;

3) We rarely appreciate the role o chance & coincidence in shaping events;

4) We sometimes misperceive the world around us;

5) We tend to oversimplify our thinking;

6) Our memories are often inaccurate;

[Source: 'Don't Believe Everything You Think: The Six Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking', by Thomas Kida.]

MEMORABLE QUOTE FROM THE MOVIE


In the movie, 'City Slickers', Curly Washburn (played by Jack Palance, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) told Mitch Robbins (played by Billy Crystal) the secret to life.

Holding up one finger, he said, as if speaking from the wisdom of the ages,:


"Just One Thing."

Friday, October 19, 2007

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)


What is good & new today?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

“DARING ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”

(Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, German poet)

IN SEARCH OF PERSONAL MASTERY IV

[continue from an earlier post]

Following the 'Adventures in Attitude' workshop, I began to take up an interest in fine-tuning my communication & presentation skills.

I had read many interesting books on the subject.

The quest led me to the Toastmasters Club of Singapore. It was the oldest club, founded in 1949. The founder, Mr Ling Lee Hwa, an elderly businessman, was still around. In fact, he popped in once in a while. At that time, the club had held its regular meetings at the now-defunct Phoenix Hotel on Somerset Road.

Without hesitation, I signed up as a club member immediately, & really enjoyed the evening sessions held twice a month.

My favourite was the fast paced fun of table topics. Each participant had only about 2 to 3 minutes to present his personal view on a selected topic of the evening.

The experience gave me an opportunity to

- think & speak on my feet;
- practise impromptu speaking;
- learn how to present my thoughts clearly on very short notice;
- learn to listen constructively & think flexibly;

I was also appointed to serve as grammarian & eh counter during some evenings.

I also recall vividly my first prepared speech, which went off fine to my personal delight.

There were a lot of power tips I had picked up from Toastmasters Club, which had really withstood the test of time, as far as my professional career was concerned. The tips were readily applicable in my business meetings & marketing presentations:

1) Know your audience;

2) Be prepared & know your stuff;

3) Know the room logistics & your props;

4) Relax yourself;

5) Visualise yourself in action;

6) Make your stuff interesting, stimulating, informative & entertaining;

7) Concentrate on your message & your audience;

8) Engage your audience & observe (eyeballs);

9) Anticipate & listen to feedback;

10) Practise your stuff;

In many ways, I must say that the personal learning opportunities at the Toastmasters Club gave me a lot of confidence to move on with my professional life.

In fact, I had also realised that, in subsequent years as a consultant & trainer, the power tips I had gained from the club meetings, actually could resonate with the three important fundamentals in a successful workshop: SUBSTANCE, SEQUENCE & SHOWMANSHIP.

Unfortunately, my eventual participation at the Toastmasters Club - I had only completed one prepared speech - was abruptly cut short as I had, in the meantime, switched careers & was transferred to Bangkok, Thailand, on a regional assignment by my new employer.

In summary, I would consider the Toastmasters Club, despite the short relationship, to be the 4th milestone in my search for personal mastery.

[to be continued in the next post]

[Appended herewith, please find a weblink to a very interesting article I had read many years ago. It's entitled 'A Crash Course in Communication'.]

[Next: In Search of Personal Mastery V]

Thursday, October 18, 2007

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

1) What do I believe that is actually false?

2) What can I fathom that others find unfathomable?

3) What the heck is my brain doing to blindside me now?

(Inspired by Ken Fisher, CEO, Fisher Investments & principal author of 'The Only Three Questions that Count')

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"To see things as they are, the eyes must be open; to see things as other than they are, they must be open even wider; to see things as better than they are, they must be open to the full."

(Antonio Machado, Spanish poet, 1875-1939)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

DISCERNING DATA, INFORMATION & IDEAS II

[continue from an earlier post]

Our brain is a self organising system. Our memory is also selective, dynamic & associative.

At this juncture, it is important to realise that information is always shaped by our choices.

Moreover, information is constantly churning inside our brain to form integrating patterns & sequences.

This is our perception at work.

Technically, the self organisation of these integrating patterns & sequences in our brain is our perception process.

It is our imagination that creates the integrating patterns or sequences from our knowledge & experiences through associations & juxtapositions.

They gradually form our preliminary insights or idea fragments as time goes by.

Don't forget, our brain is constantly bombarded by new data. More data processing ensures.

An idea gradually takes shape. Sometimes, it takes a little bit of provocation. Sometimes, it's just an AHA experience!

This is the beginning step in idea generation.

I can safely say that the formulation of an idea (or ideas) is called thinking.

In reality, our brain thinks with ideas, not with information. This is the expert view of Edward de bono.

He asserts that ideas provide us the broad perspectives through which we look at new data in order to see information.

Interestingly, the root word in 'information' is 'form'. Thus, information has 'form' or 'shape'.

He also argues that data is useless until we look at it through an idea - only then does it become useful information.

Different people looking at the same data will derive different information from it according to the idea which each of them uses to look at the data.

Old data looked through a new idea gives new information.

Therefore, creative thinking is concerned with bringing about new ideas.

Since data is readily available to every one, it is the imagination & ingenuity with which an individual can look at the new data that makes the difference.

[to be continued]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it'll spread over into the rest of your life. It'll spread over into your work, into your mortality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you."

(Bruce Lee)

REGULAR PRODUCTIVE ACTIVITY REDUCES DEMENTIA RISK

Yesterday's Straits Times carried an interesting report on the Home page:

Researchers from the University of Singapore (NUS) had found that those who regularly took part in productive activities such as reading, cooking, shopping or community work were more effective in remaining mentally alert than those who indulged in physical or social forms of recreation.

Physical activities the researchers considered included jogging, walking & taiji. Vising temples or churches, playing cards, going to the cinema & taking part in activities at a senior citizens' club were considered social activities.

Productive work typically requires more thinking & planning & makes more demands, asserted Prof. Kua Ee Heok, one of the researchers. "This mental stimulation causes the brain cells to grow," he added. Cognitive decline, he explained, occurs when brain cells fall into disuse & eventually die.

However, Prof. Kwa underscored the fact that any type of activity was still better than none at all.

Echoing this sentiment was Chairman of the Council for Third Age, Mr Gerard Ee: "Physical, social & intellectual activities are all equally important for those who want to stay active, alert & healthy."

These research findings certainly resonate with the pioneering work of Dr Marian Diamond (UCLA Berkeley) & Dr Ellen Langer (Harvard University) pertaining to the impact of intellectual stimulation on the brain, almost three decades ago.

[Readers interested to explore further about brain fitness as well as the work of Dr Marian Diamond can proceed to SharpBrains: Your Brain Fitness Center.]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

MAKING FINE DISTINCTIONS: IDEA, OPPORTUNITY & VENTURE

1) Idea:

- an initial concept;
- a key step toward solving a problem or creating an opportunity;

2) Opportunity:

- a product or service, which adds value for its user;
- attractive, durable & timely;

3) Venture:

- based on opportunity, not idea;
- thorough understanding of customer needs;
- shaped by individuals with drive to make it happen;

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

1) What are the most important wild cards for me? What would really wipe me out?

2) How can I anticipate these things? What are the likely indicators?

3) What can I do about my wild cards?

[Legend: Wild Cards are low probability/high impact changes]

INITIATIVE: A DEFINITION

"The key to opening up the door of opportunity."

(Unknown Philosopher)

BOOK REVIEW: ‘BIO-LOGIC: DESIGNING WITH NATURE TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT’, by David Wann

My first lessons on the environmental consequences of our individual & community actions came from reading R Buckiminster Fuller's 'Critical Path' & attending one of his related workshops in USA in the early 90s.

Bucky, as he was often known, was acknowledged as Planet Earth's Friendly Genius. I was quite intrigued by his work & creations.

Among the first few books on environmental education, which I had acquired during the mid-nineties, I somehow got hold of Biologic, the contents of which have been most fascinating for me.

Although somewhat technical, I found the writing of the book to be quite light-hearted in some way.

The book is structured in five thematic chapters as follows:

Chapter 1: Biologic;
Chapter 2: Knowing - environmental awareness;
Chapter 3: Choosing - individual action;
Chapter 4: Designing - societal & technical experimentation;
Chapter 5: Implementing;

In a nutshell, this book is about a new way of thinking: preventively, holistically, bio-logically, then designing our products, our agriculture, transportation, architecture, and so on with nature in mind.

To use the author's own words:

"Using biologic, we must rethink everything from energy use to the way we advertise our products. As the paradigm of our culture, we must replace the unwavering arrow of "forward progress' [an illusion] with the continuous loop of recycling (the way nature actually works).

To do this, we must make use of every available tool - from free market mechanisms to government intervention. Only by making an unstinting effort at every level of society can we make the change that will allow us to prosper & not just survive."

The author introduces ten Biologic principles, which I would like to recap as follows:

1. Understanding basic physical concepts like gravity, nutrient cycles, & the flow of sun, wind & water - so decisions can be based on what's really here, rather than what can be done with the "mirrors" of once-only energy;

2. Using resources on a sustainable basis, taking only the "interest" out of our ecological savings account rather than dipping into the principal;

3. Using the right tool for the right job. We need a diverse toolkit of solutions, & in many cases we'll have to use more than a single tool;

4. Carefully monitoring & streamlining what goes in so that junk will not come out along with the intended product;

5. Developing the habit of tracing the origins & future route of each physical interaction so that something enjoyed in the present doesn't leave a hole in the future, & nothing discharged or thrown away here become a compound problem there;

6. Acknowledging the uniqueness of each location & its suitability for certain uses only;

7. Using the simplest process or product to get the job done so the environment benefits as well as the manufacturer;

8. Using software (information) rather than hardware whenever possible to reduce inevitable collisions between imprecise human design & "custom-fit" natural design;

9. Using design solutions that accomplish three or four things at once;

10. Accounting for costs with the full lifetime of the product in mind;

I must admit some ideas in the book are not new, but the author has very intelligently pulls them together into a useful application framework. Although I have found a few ideas to be quite theoretical, many are still pragmatic.

Personally, I may not be able to apply most of the ideas in the book, but as an individual, I am now certainly more aware & conscious of my accountability as a citizen on Planet Earth.

As a whole, this book provides a balanced, well-reasoned approach to environmental education.

MOVIE REVIEW: 'MARKSMAN'

[continued from an earlier post]


The third movie was 'Marksman', starring my favourite action hero, Wesley Snipes.

I had watched many of Wesley Snipes' action movies: '7 Seconds', the 'Blade' trilogy, 'Art of War', 'US Marshalls', 'Drop Zone', 'Money Train', 'Demolition Man', 'The Detonator', 'Murder @1600', 'Rising Sun', 'Passenger 57' & 'Unstoppable'.

One of the reasons I like to watch him in action movies is because he is trained as a martial artist in real life.

In 'Marksman', he played an army ranger with the code name: Painter. His job was to mark out targets on the ground in preparation for directed missile strikes.

A group of Chechen rebels had taken over a supposedly decommissioned nuclear plant inside Russia. Together with a team of army rangers, his job was to go in & rescue the scientists. It was meant to be a simple extraction job. However, it turned out that there was a complex agenda behind the rescue & the mission was unexpectedly compromised.

The rescue helicopter was blown up. A few rangers were killed on board. The remaining rangers were captured on the ground by the Chechen rebels, with the exception of Painter & another ranger, who managed to escape.

Painter realised that the original mission would have sparked off an inadvertent thermonuclear war between Russia & the United States.

The remaining segment of the movie showed how Painter, using his instincts, outsmarted & outmanoeuvred the rebels to find out the truth & also to rescue their captured buddies.

The high-octane, explosive action sequences were beautifully choreographed, as Painter made a crafty manoeuvre to elude the well-armed rebels in one particular scene, & together with the other escaped ranger, mounted a daring rescue of their captured buddies near the nuclear plant, in another scene.

The final ending sequence was also good as well as gripping, as Painter rushed, under extreme time pressures, to remark the target for a directed missile strike.

There were some aspects of the story that intrigued me: it was hard to imagine that Russia would allow army rangers from the United States to operate inside their territory, not discounting the fact that US carrier-based aircrafts had also to navigate Russian air space to reach their targets.

Nevertheless, for me, I had really enjoyed watching this action movie. Just watching Wesley Snipes doing his martial antics already made my day!

MOVIE REVIEW: 'AVENGER'

[continued from an earlier post]

The second movie was 'Avenger', starring Sam Elliott as Calvin Dexter. He played a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran, & an ex-tunnel rat with the Special Forces, who had turned himself into a mercenary for hire.

This movie was roughly based on Frederick Forsyth's novel. I had read many of the author's works e.g. 'Day of the Jackal', 'The Odessa File', 'Dogs of War', during my younger days. Many of his works had been made into movies bearing the same names.

Tormented by the death of his only daughter in the hands of a Panamanian drug dealer, whom he subsequently eliminated, he reluctantly embarked on a personal mission to knock off the bad guys for a price, especially when the authorities had refused to bring them to justice.

In the movie, he took on a contract to locate the only son of a rich & powerful businessman. The latter had apparent connections with the CIA top brass. The son had gone missing while undertaking a missionary trip to war-torn Bosnia. In an earlier scene, his son was actually shot to death by a Bosnian army colonel, Zoran Zilic.

Using leads from the CIA, Calvin managed to trace the rogue colonel to South Africa, & unwittingly his current quest interfered with a CIA sting operation involving the bad guy. It turned out that the CIA also wanted to neutralise Calvin too as a precautionary measure.

A deadly cat & mouse game ensued but our hero was able to outsmart & outmanoeuvre the CIA field operatives as well as the bad guy at the end. The rogue colonel was eventually caught & repatriated to the United States for justice to be served.

Throughout the movie, I found it rather intriguing to watch the dirty workings of the CIA top brass as portrayed, with excellent acting by James Cromwell & Timothy Hutton. They had no qualms in eliminating even, in this case, a highly decorated war hero, for the sake of 'national security'.

Frankly, I did not like the ending part of the movie as CIA was publicly credited for the arrest of the rogue colonel. I guess, in a way, this arrangement would probably allow our unsung hero to continue his personal quest. As he rode off in his four wheels, the apt tagline at the back of the vehicle read: 'NO PEACE WITHOUT JUSTICE'.

Sam Elliott, as Calvin Dexter, certainly impressed me very much in this movie. Tall, thin & wiry, he was a classic picture of the true American hero. I had only watched one of his earlier action movies, 'Hulk'.

In the end analysis, & for me, the movie was entertaining, as far as the plot & action sequences were concerned.

[to be continued in the next post]

MOVIE REVIEW: 'TARGET'

During recent weekends, I had spent some leisure time to watch three action movies on cable television.

The three movies shared a common thread: the principal character was more or less a lone wolf operative, with military background; trained in covert operations & skilled in weaponry.

Although they did not have the plot intensity or complexity when compared with any of the recent 'Bourne' or even 'Bond' movies, they were generally entertaining.

For me, entertainment comes first when I watch a movie.

The first one was 'Target' starring Stephen Baldwin as Charlie Snow, an army sniper, previously working for the Agency.

In an earlier scene, Charlie had killed the brother of a Serbian arms dealer, Yevon, during a covert operation in a remote region of Turkey. Upon returning to the United States, he found that Yevon had set out to hunt him down for revenge. The latter had also kidnapped his wife & a deadly cat & mouse game ensued between the hunter & the hunted.

With the courageous help of a computer operator at the Agency & the close collaboration of another operative, Donovan (played by James Russo), Charlie managed, through a series of tactical manoeuvres & almost risky misadventures, to trace & locate the whereabouts of his wife. He finally neutralised the terrorists at an abandoned jail block in Los Angeles.

In between, there were some rather amusing moments when he got entangled with a beautiful busker with a guitar (played by Tammy Krull). In fact, she was the one who provided the final & vital lead to possible whereabouts of Charlie's kidnapped wife.

I had also found it quite intriguing to watch the tapping of the vast resources of the Agency: remote sensing of cell phones & thermal imaging of building locations to pinpoint &/or isolate human targets.

On the other hand, I noted that the movie had inadvertently put the two bungling LAPD cops in rather bad light. I reckon this was quite typical of Hollywood, especially when the role of cops did not fit the primary focus of the movie.

To my disappointment, Stephen Baldwin as Charlie appeared rather 'bored' as an army sniper. When he talked, he was almost like he was reading a script.

I had watched this actor in some earlier action movies, like the 'Beast of War', which I had already reviewed in an earlier post, 'New Eden' as well as 'Biodome'. Somehow, he did not impress me, but that impression did not deter me from watching his other movies.

Nevertheless, I would say 'Target' was still entertaining for me as an action movie.

[to be continued in the next post.]

DISCERNING DATA, INFORMATION & IDEAS

As part of my own learning pursuits, it has taken me quite a long while to understand & to make distinctions between data, information & ideas.

To me, data is a series of observations, facts, & measurements organised for analysis.

It can come in the form of images, text, numbers & sounds.

It can come first hand, acquired through personal observation of the real world, or second hand, acquired from published sources through reading.

Experts say that as much as 90% of the data input from the world around us come via visual cues, since vision is our dominant sense.

In reality, data is the raw stuff. It has no inherent value. More precisely, it has no meaning.

In other words, data is also neutral to everybody. Indifferent to people.

It is important to note that our brain works on selective recognition as well as selective patterning.

Only when the selected data input is conceptually coherent to us, we can then begin to make some sense of it. There is some sort of felt meaning as far as we are concerned. As it becomes more personally relevant to us, the felt meaning becomes deeper.

As I understand it, & for clarity, meaning generally occurs at two levels:

- surface meaning, where the data input is conceptually coherent;
- deep meaning, where the data input becomes more personally relevant;

In this respect, the data input then becomes information.

Putting them into an equation:

data + meaning = information

It is our prior knowledge as well as our past experiences which help to shape the meaning of the data input for us. In other words, our past history plays a vital role in our data processing.

Our past history also encompasses our prejudices, expectations, biases, hopes & fears. All these stuff are stored in our brain as some sort of patterns.

Therefore, we must realise that data is not information.

[to be continued in the next post]

HOW DO YOU KEEP UP WITH THE WORLD?

According to Ronald Gross, widely recognised as the leading champion of life-long learning, there's no way to keep up - you have to be out ahead.

The only way is to set yourself out ahead of the curve & then use the stuff as it emerges that fits into your trajectory.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
(R Buckminster Fuller, Planet Earth's friendly genius & inventor of the geodesic dome)

Monday, October 15, 2007

BLOG ACTION DAY: PROTECTING & CONSERVING THE ENVIRONMENT

Ever since I had shut down & relocated my office from the city (more precisely, North Bridge Centre) back to my residence in the west (Jurong West) in mid-2005, I have less use of my car.

During the heydays, my car has been a 2,000cc work-horse. I still have not decided what I want to do with it, since I am still paying the monthly dues.

Nowadays, whenever I go down to the city with my wife, both of us prefer to use the MRT. In fact, my wife loves the MRT. Given a choice, she always prefers the MRT. The nearest MRT station i.e. at Lakeside, is about 15 minutes walk from our residence.

When we go window shopping during the weekends, for example, to Vivocity or Ngee Ann City, or even Jurong Point, we often use the MRT.

For Jurong Point, especially if the sun is hot, we will take one direct bus #187 & also will return likewise.

The only time we will use the car is when we go to:

- the Mandai Columbarium to pay respects to my late first wife (twice monthly, one for her & one for my mother in law);
- the IMM (Giant) at Jurong East, to do our grocery trips, twice or thrice a month;
- meet up my buddies in the Wednesday Club at NUS Guild House, Kent Ridge, once a week;
- the Changi Airport to pick up visiting friends or relatives;


For the grocery trips to IMM, we always carry along our portable trolley cart. Hence, we just pack most of the purchased stuff directly into the cart, thus saving the need of assorted plastic shopping bags from the supermarket.

As I have mentioned before, my wife & I also prefer to walk to the gym located at the Jurong East Sports Centre & return likewise, from Mondays to Fridays. It's about twenty five minutes' walk, either way.

I reckon this is our way of contributing, in a small way, to the protection & conservation of the environment.

RECOGNISING AN OPPORTUNITY

A good idea is not necessarily a good opportunity.

According to Prof. Jeffry Timmons, one of North America's foremost entrepreneurship educators, & author of 'New Venture Creation', an opportunity has the quality of being attractive, durable & timely, & is anchored in a product or service which creates or adds value for its buyer or end user.

For an opportunity to have these qualities, the window of opportunity is opening & remains open long enough.

This is my breakdown analysis:

- attractive: only if there is market demand;

- durable: market demand should persist;

- timely: time frame or window opens at the widest; demand is growing;

- value: for the buyer or enduser, distinctive benefits that induce the buyer or enduser into buying from you;

Further considerations:

- entry into the marketplace with the right characteristics is feasible;

- the management team is able to achieve it;

- the venture has or is able to achieve a competitive advantage;

- the economics of the venture are rewarding & allow significant profit & growth potential;

HOW TO DESIGN AN ORGANISATIONAL CLIMATE FOR CREATIVITY

According to Goran Ekvall, a Swedish researcher, there is always a direct link between organisational climate & company performance. He has come to this conclusion almost three decades ago.

In fact, he asserts that the recurring patterns of day to day activities, as interpreted by employees themselves, change work attitudes & performance levels can now be measured through a tool he has developed called the Situational Outlook Questionnaire (SOQ).

The SOQ measures "situational outlook for creativity" in the following areas:

CHALLENGE & INVOLVEMENT:
- the degree to which employees are involved in, motivated by & committed to the long term goals & success of the organisation;

FREEDOM:
- how independently employees are able to define their work, exercise discretion & take the initiative in their day to day activities;

TRUST & OPENNESS:
- employees who are supportive & respectful of each other;

IDEA TIME:
- the amount of time individuals can use to elaborate on new ideas before having to take action;

PLAYFULNESS & HUMOUR:
- the spontaneity & ease displayed within the workplace;

CONFLICT RESOLUTION:
- individuals make decisions & resolve issues based on the good of the organisation vs personal interest;

IDEA SUPPORT:
- suggestions are received in an attentive & professional manner;

DEBATES:
- many voices are heard & people are expected to put forward their ideas for consideration & review;

RISK TAKING:
- there is not only tolerance by management of uncertainty & ambiguity, but employees are rewarded for taking calculated risks as well;

Steve Jobs, maverick entrepreneur & founder of Apple Computers, once said something to this effect: You can't mandate productivity; all you can do is to create an environment where people can excel in themselves!

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"It is in crisis that people find opportunity, but one must have the strength to grab them...Don't take things for granted. Whatever you enjoy today can be wiped out in seconds. Singapore is no exception."

(Andrew Tjioe, maverick restauranteur & CEO, Tung Lok Group)

WHAT IS THE VALUE OF A BUSINESS PLAN?

According to Prof. James March, Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, the value of a business plan is the decisions it influences, & ultimately how much money is in the bank as a result.

There are four major considerations:

1) Is the plan SIMPLE?

- is it easy to understand & to act on?
- does it communicate its contents easily & practically?

2) Is the plan SPECIFIC?

- are its objectives concrete & measurable?
- does it include specifications & activities; each with specific date of completion; specific person responsible & specific budgets?

3) Is the plan REALISTIC?

- are the sales goals, expense budgets, milestone dates realistic?

4) Is the plan COMPLETE?

- does it include all the necessary elements?

Prof. March asserts that planning is a process, not just a plan!

MAKING DISTINCTIONS: IDEA vs OPPORTUNITY

An idea is not the same as an opportunity.

Having generated an idea in the first place, you need to assess whether it might lead to a feasible business opportunity.

A feasibility study might suggest than the idea is:

- worth pursuing;

- is unlikely to succeed;

- could be successful if adapted to suit certain circumstances;

An identified opportunity is one for which we can answer six questions:

User:
- who will be the end user?

Application:
- what business application or requirements that the opportunity will satisfy?

Product:
- what product will be required to meet the end user's business requirements?

Revenue:
- what is the revenue associated with this opportunity?

Timing:
- When is the revenue programmed to occur?

Contingency:
- What are the barriers to winning the objective?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

HOW TO MAKE POWER NOTES DURING PRESENTATIONS OR WORKSHOPS

I always carry my scratch pad along whenever I attend any presentations or workshops.

I have generally synthesised & adopted a simple approach to taking - & making - power notes during such sessions.

It goes like this:

1) Write down the principal theme;

2) Paraphrase the speaker's or trainer's key statements or observations made during the session; these also include key conclusions drawn from participating group discussions (e.g. N2R);

3) Jot down my own personal perspectives on the theme as well against the statements made by the speaker or trainer or participants during the session - what do I already know? what do I want &/or need to know?; I also jot down my own personal impressions based on de bono's PMI method;

4) Put down some questions (e.g. Q2A, Q2P) that come to mind during the session;

5) Ponder over foregoing observations & impressions to derive some useful lessons learned during the session - what have I learned? what is the significance? what does this lead to? what's missing from here?

6) Make some recommendations for applications (e.g. A2T, T2D) of lessons learned during the sessions - what can I use &/or apply immediately in my work or in my life?; to what else could I apply? what are the next steps, if any?

7) Review the principal ideas & summarise the notes into MindManager Pro - what else is there to explore? what can I see that lies beyond?;

This power note taking - & making - approach has served me very well over the years as a strategic explorer.

[Legend to Power Notes: N2R=Notes to Remember; A2D=Action to Take (general, more broad-based); T2D=Things to Do (specific tasks); Q2A=Question to Ask; Q2P=Question to Ponder;]

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCH PAD: EDISON'S METHOD OF INNOVATION

Thomas Edison, one of history's greatest inventors, created the infrastructure of electrical power & electrical machinery.

He also created the movie & recording industry, revolutionized the railroad industry, the telephone, mining, batteries, automobiles, cement construction, typewriters, even military artillery, radio, helicopters, & vacuum preservation, not to mention rubber & telegraph systems.

And each of these revolutions came from ideas.

The inventor's method for innovation was:

1) define the need for innovation;

2) set a clear goal & stick to it;

3) analyse the major stages the invention must go through before it is ready to sell;

4) follow these steps;

5) keep progress data available at all times;

6) make sure that each member of the team has a clearly defined area of responsibility;

7) record everything;

8) perform a solid market analysis;

9) advertise heavily;

10) promote the product & your own brilliance;

For Thomas Edison, it took him many years of experiments & in fact, many failures to reach his goal - the light bulb.

It is certainly interesting to see what was his individual idea management concept as conceived by Richard Weddle, who had studied 31 books, involving some 16,000 pages, about Thomas Edison.

The author has apparently synthesised the following information about the working style & thinking processes of the great inventor:

1) Set goals for his number and type of ideas;
2) Came up with a minor idea every 10 days;
3) A major idea every 6 months;
4) He won 1,029 patents;
5) He took naps;
6) He pushed all he wanted to do through his two skill areas - electricity & chemistry;
7) Much of basic science evaded him;
8) He didn't care;
9) He didn't share credit for accomplishments;
10) He often suffered from crushing headaches;
11) He was very rough on his team;

Today, Edison's business ventures are worth well over US$700 billion.

The foregoing analyses certainly provide much food for thought with regard to the pursuit of innovation!

[Source: Richard Weddle]

WHY DO WE NEED TO GO FOR LARGE QUANTITY OF IDEAS WHILE BRAINSTORMING? IV

In my earlier three posts, I have talked about the need to go for large quantity of ideas while brainstorming.

This is another reason.

According to the US Patent & Trademark office, only one in 500 invention ideas are successfully marketed.

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"Forget about money as a motivating force. Concentrate on ideas that will benefit mankind. If you do, money will automatically follow."

(Yoshiro Nakamatsu, better known as Dr Nakamats, also Japanese inventor extraordinaire with more than 3,000 inventions to his credit)

CHANGE READINESS

Personally, I have learned through many hard knocks that change readiness requires an attitude that is:

- open-minded & fully receptive to new ideas, including weird ones;

- excited, rather than anxious, about change;

- challenged, not threatened, by transitions & misadventures;

- fully committed to change as a continuous improvement process;

It also requires taking action to:

- observe the world with fresh eye perspectives;

- anticipate & initial change in all areas of life dimensions;

- challenge personal beliefs & assumptions;

- challenge the status quo;

- create instead of react to change;

Most importantly, I have also realised, through many personal learning experiences, the fact that:

- for things, events & people around me to change, first I must change;

- I have the power to change;

- I can change my perceptions about the world;

- I am responsible for my change;

- I am the source of my change;

WONDERFUL NEWS FOR SELF-DIRECTED LEARNERS!

I am very pleased to advise readers that 'The Independent Scholar's Handbook', by Ronald Gross, is available as a free download from the Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars.

The handbook was one of my first acquired books, together with 'The Lifelong Learner', about self-directed learning from Ronald Gross. The two books eventually led me to the author's 'Peak Learning', which I had already reviewed in an earlier post.

In the handbook, the author shares his vision of the need, benefits, & values of independent scholarship; how to find resources & support for such work; opportunities for cooperation, collaboration, & mutual support; innovative audiences & marketing; & intellectual craftsmanship.

First published in 1982, the handbook established the author as, "the father of the independent scholarship movement," attracting acclamations from such exemplary practitioners as Alvin Toffler, Buckminster Fuller, & Isaac Asimov. Today, he is widely-recognized as the leading champion of lifelong learning

[More information about Ronald Gross can be found at his corporate website.]

MENTAL FLEXIBILITY

What comes to your mind when you see the word 'CAT'?

Are you able to think about:

- a furry animal that purrs;
- the sound of "meow";
- cat & mouse game;

- cat & dog fighting;
- when the cat is away, the mice will play;

- raining cats & dogs;
- living a cat & dog life;
- Sylvester the Cat being outwitted by Tweety the Bird;
- Cat Woman (movie);
- catfish;
- a caterpillar;
- a black cat under the ladder;
- cat eyes;
- Cat's Eyes (road markers);
- Cat on the Hot Thin Roof (movie);

- Felix the Cat;
- what's new Pussycat?
- fat cat;
- Garfield;
- catapult;
- a cat has nine lives;
- laser catheter;
- Siamese cats;
- Hello Kitty;
- copycat;
- catastrophe;
- Sam the Cat in Sabrina tv play;
- Kitty Kitty Bang Bang (burlesque show);
- an Egyptian sculpture;
- tomcat;
- Tomcat F-14;
- Tom & Jerry;
- Bobcat;

- Caterpillar Inc. (CAT:NYSE);
- Schrodinger's Cat;
- Cat Stevens;
- catalyst;
- see which way the cat jumps;
- take a catnap;
- Cat People (movie)
- cat burglar;
- catwalk;
- alley cat;
- hell cat;
- cat house (brothel);
- catcall;
- pussy foot;
- let the cat out of the bag;
- The Mouse Loves Tommy (a Chinese song);

This is just a simple test of your mental flexibility.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Never become so focused that you expect your challenge to come from a specific direction. Surprise turns into crisis not because business managers don't look to the future, but because they look to a single future or tightly define the battle. Change usually hits where we least expect it."
(Robert Duboff & Jim Spaeth, authors of 'Market Research Matters')

STUPIDITY: A DEFINITION

"the inability of the brain or any other part of nature to accept useful information, learn from it, & act intelligently on it."