Saturday, January 26, 2008

THE IDEATION PROCESS: A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE

I am just trying to pin down the ideation process into a series of systematic stages or steps, based on my own personal exploration as well as professional experimentation.

I wish to point out that some of the intermittent stages or steps will have to form part of an iterative cycle.

After much deliberation, the following is my overall perspective of the stages or steps in an ideation process:

1) Awareness Stage:

- orienting oneself to the problem;
- having an interest in the problem;

2) Preparation Stage:

- gathering as much information as possible about the problem;
- understanding the various parameters of the problem;

3) Absorption Stage:

- processing the gathered information;
- making analysis;
- incubating;

4) Inspiration Stage:

- generating possibilities from the analyses;
- brainstorming & building preliminary ideas;
- illuminating with insights - provoking insights?;
- forming tentative solutions;

5) Decision Stage:

- evaluating solutions;
- making value judgements;
- concluding on chosen criteria/standards;

6) Testing Stage:

- conduct a small pilot to test workability or feasibility;
- checking progress & verifying the results;
- further experimentation maybe necessary;
- "prototyping" with real-world inputs to verify the final solution;

7) Refinement Stage:

- evaluating feedback;
- making adjustments;
- fine-tuning the final solution to meet agreed criteria & objectives;

8) Acceptance Stage:

- making commitment to put final solution to work;
- selling the final solution to interested parties;
- getting support & resources;

9) Implementation Stage:

- initiating the game plan;
- "commercialisation" - profit? value gain? improvement?;

ORIGIN OF THE SWATCH

I was just reading a brief anecdote about the origin of the Swatch watch.

According to Nicholas G Hayek, "Master of Time", Mr. Swatch, CEO of Breguet, co-founder & chairman of the Swatch Group, & "savior" of the Swiss watch industry, the original idea for the Swatch was inspired by children's LEGO blocks. He then drew the working idea from injection moulding & casting, & finally modeled the marketing concept after the sleekness of disposable plastic lighters.

Best of all, instead of the usual 91 or more parts in a conventional watch, the Swatch has only 51.

The bottomline: Customers buy 10 or entire collection of Swatches.

Today, the Swatch Group, is the largest & most dynamic watch company in the world.

Also, to date, more than 330 million Swatch watches have been produced.

For me, the essence of this interesting anecdote is all about ideas build on ideas!

RAMBLING THOUGHTS: KEY WORD ACCENTUATION

As I was just going through some of my earlier scratchpads, I noted that I have scribbled a key phrase 'Key Word Accentuation' across the bottom half of the page in one particular scratchpad. It stood on its own, without any notes written under it.

On another page, at the top half of the page, but in a separate scratchpad, I have jot down some random notes pertaining to some 'key words' as follows:



1) Cerebral Cortex:

- TALK;
- THINK;
- MOVE;
- CREATE;
- LEARN;


2) Limbic System:

- FEEL;
- REMEMBER;
- INTERACT WITH OTHERS;


3) Reptilian Brain:

- SURVIVE;
- REACT;
- REPEAT;


I was certainly intrigued by my own serendipitous discovery.

Frankly, I could not figure out why I wrote that key phrase in the first place, & also I could not recall the relevancy of those keywords as outlined above.

All I can say is this:

- in reading, it is very important to go & look out for the key words accentuated in the given text as part of the reading comprehension process;

- research has shown that 4 to 11% of a given text, presumably in terms of key words as I could not recall the exact study, holds the entire meaning of the given text;

- the foregoing key words as outlined just beneath the respective brain components, are the primary functions of the brain;

- under Cerebral Cortex:

a) 'TALK' refers to the language processing capability of the uppermost brain, where the speech centre is located;

b) since we are social animals, we also like to 'TALK' with each other;

c) we always 'THINK' from our uppermost brain, which in turn is divided into two hemispheres, with the left already hardwired to 'THINK' logically/analytically, while the right, to 'THINK' imaginatively/intuitively;

d) the parietal lobe of the uppermost brain controls our ability to 'MOVE';

e) also, our physical body is designed to 'MOVE', & not sit;

f) it is also the uppermost part of our brain that is responsible for our propensity to 'CREATE' meaning or to make sense about the world;

g) from another perspective, it is the right hemisphere of our brain that 'CREATE' ideas, while the left helps to put them to work in term of actions to be executed by our physical body;

h) the capacity to 'LEARN' & 'THINK' take place in this uppermost brain;

i) it is important to take note that our ability to anticipate & plan for our future also come under the auspices of this highly evolved brain;

- under Limbic System:

a) our capacity to 'FEEL' for ourselves as well as for others, comes under this mid-brain structure, which we also called the Mammalian brain;

b) it also holds our physical memory core, which is designed to help us 'REMEMBER' all our past experiences, including those pertaining to learning;

c) in reality, it is through the voice of emotions & FEELings rather than thought alone that we are prompted to listen, clarify, value, stand-up,& step forward, LEARN & innovate, consider, REMEMBER, empathise, change & motivate;

d) just like other mammals in the animal kingdom, we love to bond with others, & therefore, we naturally like to 'INTERACT WITH OTHERS';

- under Reptilian Brain:

a) the primary function of this lowermost brain is self-preservation i.e. our capacity to 'SURVIVE' in the environment;

b) as part of our critical fight-flight response, it is already hard-wired to 'REACT' to fear & stress; when that happens, the whole brain downshifts & the capacity to 'LEARN' & 'THINK' in the uppermost brain is impeded;

c) as such it does not like change or novelty;

d) as a matter of fact, it loves very much to 'REPEAT' habitually already-comfortable routines;

These are my rambling thoughts as I strive to make some sense of them. Do they make sense to you?

By the way, do the key words now help you to understand & remember the important functions of each component of the whole brain?

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: IDEA GENERATION

Frankly, idea generation is an easy task.

Normally, once you get the hang of it, sometimes you just don't know when to stop.

First of all, think of many ideas. This is called 'fluency'.

For example, how many possible uses can you come up with a paper clip?

Just have faith in your own personal creativity. Just let ideas flow out of your mind as you focus on the question posed. Go for quantity of responses. This is called 'free-wheeling'.

Your logic sensor will often want to interfere. Just ignore it. Do your best to suspend your judgement. It's not easy, but you got to do it. Act like a child, but of course, don't be childish i.e. throw tantrums!

Oftentimes, just by asking yourself 'what does this reminds me of?' helps in your creative juicing.
In 3 minutes, a young kid will often come up with 25 to 30 wild ideas. This is based on my creativity workshops with young kids. It is always the professional adults that need a little push to get their creative juices running.

Next, think of varied ideas. This is called 'flexibility'.

The key is to shift categories in your mind as you think of further responses.

For example, if I ask you to think of all the possible ways you can view a black dot '.' & you come up with only say, foot ball, tennis ball, golf ball, ping pong ball, & all the other balls, your mind is definitely not flexible.

But if you can share your viewpoints like, a full stop, PCK's mole on the face, a nipple, a black hole, a pencil graphite head, a hole in your tooth, a ladybug at rest, your mind is definitely flexible!

Do you get it?

One quick way to explore variety is to expand your awareness & look at people, events, things, happenings, ideas, movements, processes, applications, all around you.

Next, think of unusual & clever ideas. This is called 'originality'.

Well, as long as it is original to you, especially in your adaptation, or when you have not done it before, it qualifies.

One possible way to explore seemingly original ideas is to draw from other spheres of activity or disciplines not related to your current field.

Sometimes, you may have to make a detour & enter the animal, plant, metal &/or fantasy kingdoms to explore 'out of this world' ideas, with the view of bringing them down to earth.

Lastly, add details to your idea to make it better. This is called 'elaboration' or 'embellishment'.

Oftentimes, extra details aid in 'fleshing' out the raw ideas you have in mind. Sometimes, you just need to embroider upon a simple idea to make it more elegant.

In a group setting, it is important not to criticise other people's ideas, but take the opportunity to go on a joy ride with them & come up with better ones. This is called 'hitch-hiking'.

Of course, you are free to use proven techniques, like Attribute Listing, SCAMPER, etc.

Some personal suggestions to boost idea generation:

Play some New Age music in the background. I find most selections from Kitaro (advisable to stay away from his drum versions), Ravi Shankar, Steven Halpern, Yanni, vangelis, to name a few, are pretty good for this purpose.

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCH PAD: 7 LEVELS OF FEAR

Again, these are some of my captured notes, seemingly random, in my scratchpad.

I believe they came from Rolf Smith from The Virtual Thinking Expedition Company. He is also the author of the '7 Levels of Change'.

My original purpose was to spend some time to reflect on them, with the view of deriving a better understanding &/or explore ways to make use of them.

I probably have forgotten about them after jotting them down on paper, due to the overwhelming amount of captured notes as time went by.

I plan to write something about them. That's why I am now posting them here in my weblog.

I have this wonderful notion that, with the hypertext feature of my blog, I believe it is easier for me to string them together as my preliminary thought forms when I start to write something.

So, please bear with me. Meanwhile, please enjoy reading my captured notes.

1) Paralysis:

- fear of doing wrong things; doing nothing;

2) Inefficiency:

- fear of wasting time; fear of doing right things wrong;

3) Catastrophising:

- fear of things getting worse;

4) Holding On:

- fear of letting go;

5) Self-Doubt:

- fear of not being physically able; fear of being laughed at; fear of criticism;

6) Normalcy:

- fear of being different; fear of the unexpected; fear of getting hurt; fear of exposure;

7) Disbelief:

- fear of the unknown;

Frankly, I have never realised that fear has so many levels to discern. All I have learned to date is that fear is 'false evidence appearing real'. I will certainly ponder on what Rolf Smith had written.

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCH PAD: OPTIONAL RESPONSES

Again, these are some of my captured notes, seemingly random, in my scratchpad. Source unknown.

My original purpose was to spend some time to reflect on them, with the view of deriving a better understanding &/or explore ways to make use of them.

I probably have forgotten about them after jotting them down on paper, due to the overwhelming amount of captured notes as time went by.

I plan to write something about them. That's why I am now posting them here in my weblog.

I have this wonderful notion that, with the hypertext feature of my blog, I believe it is easier for me to string them together as my preliminary thought forms when I start to write something.

So, please bear with me. Meanwhile, please enjoy reading my captured notes.

Traditionally, we are given only an 'either/or' opportunity to respond to a stressful &/or problematic situation, as follows:

Either 1) fight response:

- we reduce the complexities of the situation into a simple question of power;

- we move the attention & energy to the secondary problem of self-defence, self-image & face-saving;

Or 2) flight response:

- we leave the problem in tact;

Now, we can have the opportunity to execute a third option:

New 3) insight response:

- this needs a new & strong vision;

- also, a radical clarification of purpose;

- + openness to new ways of seeing;

- + ability to bring new understanding;

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCH PAD: LATERAL THINKING TOOLS

Again, these are some of my captured notes, seemingly random, in my scratchpad.

They obviously came from Edward de bono, the creativity guru.

My original purpose was to spend some time to reflect on them, with the view of deriving a better understanding &/or explore ways to make use of them. I probably have forgotten about them after jotting them down on paper, due to the overwhelming amount of captured notes as time went by.

I plan to write something about them. That's why I am now posting them here in my weblog.

I have this wonderful notion that, with the hypertext feature of my blog, I believe it is easier for me to string them together as my preliminary thought forms when I start to write something.

So, please bear with me. Meanwhile, please enjoy reading my captured notes.

1) alternatives:

- look beyond?
- multiple options?

2) focus:

- when & how to change?
- 4 directions?

3) challenge:

- break habits?
- think out of box? make box larger? get new box?

4) random entry:

- using unconnected input?

5) provocation & movement:

- challenge assumptions?
- expand perception;

6) harvesting:

- deliberate effort (money value? practicality? considered less developed or underdeveloped ideas?)

7) treatment of ideas:

- developing & shaping ideas for strategic fit?

Don't worry, as I intend explore them in due course & share my exploration with readers.

CHANGING FOR GOOD

As I was surfing the net recently, I came across a book, entitled 'What's Right with You: Debunking Dysfunction & Changing Your Life' by Barry Duncan, co-director of the Institute of the Study of Therapeutic Change in Coral Springs, Florida, USA.

I have yet to acquire &/or read this book, but I am already piqued by the author's expert observations, which have been deliberately highlighted:

- four decades of outcome research have shown that there are four main factors of change, being:

1) Client factors (percentage contribution to positive outcome: 40%);

2) Relationship factors (percentage contribution: 30%);

3) Hope & expectancy (percentage contribution: 15%);

4) Model & technique (percentage contribution: 15%);

- in other words:

i) Thoughts, ideas, actions, initiatives, traits of clients are the most important predictor of therapy success!

ii) Next to what the client brings to therapy, the client's perception of the therapeutic relationship is responsible for most of the gains resulting from the therapy;

iii) Models & techniques are much less important than generally thought;

These findings obviously reinforce the fact that, in order for things around us to change, first we must change. This is essentially taking personal accountability for one's life.

For decades, this battle cry for 'I'm the source of change' has been sung by all the motivational speakers & success coaches out there.

The second finding pertaining to 'relationship factors' is interesting. I take it to mean 'active support from the significant half or any preferred or designated partner' in the personal change equation.

In any personal change process, having a good supportive partner will often help to expedite the flow. The partner can come in any form, besides the spouse: mentor, coach, friend, etc.

For example, I am very impressed by the Singapore Government's broad-based & yet longer-term focused approach in dealing with changes faced by an ageing population. They call for a 4-prong attack on the part of all Singaporeans:

- Lao Ben (in Mandarin): savings or financial security;
- Lao Jian (in Mandarin): good health;
- Lao Ban (in Mandarin): spouse; in a broader context, strong family support;
- Lao You (in Mandarin): good friends & a supportive social network;


Holding a positive outlook & an optimistic disposition towards the end-minded perspective are certainly helpful. This reminds me of the great work of Dr Martin Seligman & his new science of positive psychology.

Not surprisingly, model & techniques are perceived to have limited scope in the personal change process, but one should not discount them totally, as they can still serve, if applied appropriately, as supporting tools of change.

Well, this will be another good book to be added to my personal library.

THE POWER OF FOCUS

According to Paul Huff, a former Spanish Language teacher, a former basket-ball player, a former Peace Corps volunteer, a former award-winning banking executive (with 27 years of financial experience), an accomplished musician, & now, a success coach:


"What we focus on & pay attention to in life determines how we feel, the resources available to us, & the results we achieve."

He suggests that we take five minutes of our time to ask ourselves two questions:

1) what have I focused on today?

2) Is that moving me toward or away from what I want to have, do, be & contribute?

[For more information, please visit him at his corporate website.]

FROM MY TOOLBOX: SMARTS

I have created this little sniffty planning tool as a quick template for putting your ideas to work or your game plan, so to speak.

I call it SMARTS.

Using just a simple grid, you can have the following key headings arranged horizontally across at the top edge:

1) SPECIFIC TASKS;

2) MEASURES or (PERFORMANCE) METRICS;

3) ACCOUNTABILITY;

4) RESOURCES NEEDED;

5) TIME-FRAME FOR COMPLETION;

6) STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES TO MEET;

To clarify, Resources can be split up into the 7 Ms: Money, Manpower, Materials, Machines, Methods, Minutes (in this case, Lead Time), &/or Markets (in this case, any thing from the marketplace that may help to facilitate your task execution, e.g. government regulations, entry or exit strategy of competitors, infrastructure, presence of facilitators & suppliers, consumer preferences, etc.,);

From the left edge, you can break them down, if necessary, to:

- Short Term;
- Medium Term;
- Long Term;

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCH PAD: SEEING & LOOKING

I have captured the following random notes, while using the Google Book Reader, just because I was intrigued by what I thought I saw or read briskly could provide me with some distinctions:

1) Seeing is metamorphosis; not mechanism;

2) Seeing alters the thing that is seen & transforms the seer;

3) Everything that the eyes falls on has some momentary interest & possible use;

4) Looking is directed toward something tempting;

5) Just looking = just hunting?;

6) Incessant searching?;

[Source: 'Beyond Vision', by Jon Darius; published by Oxford University Press in 1984; strangely, it's not even listed on amazon website; it's a book on photographs, spanning the history of photographs from its origins 150 years ago; unfortunately, I could not back trek with Google Book Reader to locate more or clarify the above information;]

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: SEIZING OPPORTUNITIES

I have the following news clipping from Straits Times pasted on to one of the pages of my scratchpad. Unfortunately, I have forgotten to jot down the date.

The clipping captured the essence of an acceptance speech by veteran banker Wee Chow Yaw, the brain behind the UOB Group. He was voted 'Businessman of the Year' for the second time. He won the same award in 1990.

In his speech, he recalled how he was able to "seize opportunities". In fact, he said that very trait was what had enabled UOB to acquire five Singapore banks since 1971.

"I would say that they were all made possible because of external factors. In business, many things can ke yu bu ke qiu (in Mandarin, which means 'such circumstances can be encountered, but not requested for'). All I did was to grab the opportunities that external circumstances created."

The veteran banker said in jest that he did not have a choice between being born lucky & being born smart, but was thankful he was born lucky.

Luck or acumen? or both? I am always fascinated.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."

(Albert Einstein)

Friday, January 25, 2008

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

As part of the opportunity discovery process:

- what is the pain here?

- what is the need here?

- what is the gap here?

UNDERSTANDING THE BRAIN: ANTICIPATORY BIAS

Another very interesting perspective I have learned while trying to understand the intricacies & idiosyncrasies of the brain is the appreciation of its 'anticipatory bias'.

Evolutionary development has equipped our whole brain, structurally, physiologically & neurologically, with three smaller brains working in close concert:

- reptilian brain;

- mammalian brain;

- cerebral cortex;


In reality, the three brains are inter-connected, inter-active as well as inter-dependent, while seemingly working as an unified system.

Another way to look at the composite brain is that each level of the brain has its own goals & motivation.

The oldest brain is our reptilian brain, which sits on top of our spinal chord. Sometimes, we call it the brain stem.

It controls or more specifically, regulates all our survival functions & instinctual behaviours. It is always alert to life threatening events, in addition to executing our fight-flight response to stress & fear.

It is pertinent for me to point out, at this juncture, that within the reptilian brain structure lies our reticular activating system (or RAS). It's our sensory switching station. Our watch dog, to be more precise.

All sensory information that enters into our physical body goes through our RAS first, with probably the exception of smell, where the incoming information goes straight to the upper brains.

The RAS goes into immediate action, when we become charged up, e.g. during a fight-flight response to stress & fear, & when we relax.

This is the part of our brain that does not sleep when we go to bed at night.

I will talk more about the RAS later on.

From the standpoint of 'anticipatory bias', the reptilian brain is always 'seeking' to find answers to these 'questions':

- am I safe?

- am I secured?

- is there any threat?

As you can see, this brain has no interest in learning, since its only primary role is self-preservation!

Sitting on top of our reptilian brain, is our mammalian brain. Sometimes, we call it the limbic system.

It controls all our emotions & feelings, & regulates our past experiences in life. More importantly, it moderates our information transfer during the process of learning. As such, it serves as our physical memory core based on emotions & feelings.

From the standpoint of 'anticipatory bias', it is always 'seeking' answers to these 'questions':

- do I feel good?

- is it interesting?

- where is the fun part?

In order to expedite learning, it is important for us to always feel good about ourselves, exercise a genuine interest in whatever we are learning & doing, & of course, maintain a fun learning environment.

To put it bluntly, this brain is purely a seeker of fun & play!

Now, we come to the last & most important brain, so to speak.

The cerebral cortex, often called the thinking brain, sits on top of the two lower brains as described so far. In evolutionary terms, it is our new brain (neocortex).

All the higher cognitive functions e.g. learning, thinking, reasoning, planning, are located within this important brain. More importantly, as part of the learning process, this brain controls the memory indexing of information transfer.

Holding the main bulk of our brain cells, it is also divided into two hemispheres: right & left, each with its own specific functional controls. Briefly, the right is a global picture thinker, while the left is adept at logical & analytical thinking.

In strategic terms, this is the vital brain which can anticipate & plan for our future.

From the standpoint of 'anticipatory bias', it is always 'seeking' answers to these 'questions':

- is it reasonable?

- is it logical?

- does it make sense?

- what's good & new?

At this juncture, I wish to point out that the two lower brains, reptilian & mammalian brains, collectively functions as an important gateway to the upper brain. In more precise terms, they are the gate-keepers to the uppermost brain.

Therefore, as mentioned earlier, it is important to maintain a relaxed, stress-free environment, coupled with good feeling & a genuine interest, in order for learning, thinking & reasoning to take place in the uppermost brain.

A fun environment is certainly an added boost to the learning process.

It is pertinent to add that the cerebral cortex always strives for novelty & contrast.

That's why learning new things or diving into new learning experiences often challenge this particular brain.

Coming back to the RAS, as mentioned earlier, & in terms of personal strategic planning, which includes goal setting, the RAS regulates our power of focus & attention, because of its primary sensory switching as well as watch dog functions.

Let me illustrate with a life example.

When you are invited to a big birthday party of your good friend, who may also invite her other friends probably not yet known to you. Upon arrival at the party, what or who do you look for in the first place?

All the friends you know, of course.

Let me illustrate with a second life example.

You want to get rid of your old junk car & you have in mind a Ford Explorer SUV. Suddenly, everywhere you go, you seem to notice this car popping right in front of your view. In reality, that's not the case. It is because the image of the Ford Explorer SUV has become your dominant current thought.

Likewise, once we have established our goals in life, our RAS will always guide us to focus on activities &/or opportunities which have pertinent relevance to our life plans.

That's is how the RAS works.

In operational terms, as our highly evolved composite brain stands, all the foregoing stuff may not seem significant, but I always feel that a good working understanding of these unique specifications will enable us to maximise our innate brain potential, especially when we are learning new things &/or are diving into new situations in life.

Now, I am sure that, with a much better understanding of how the anticipatory bias of the brain works, you will begin to initiate concrete steps to make your own physical environment more conducive for the pursuit of learning, reading, studying as well as idea generation.

That's also how I got started in the first place many years ago.

TOO MUCH INFORMATION?

I recall reading a recent article in the Straits Times by William Reed, a master trainer in Guerrilla Marketing techniques, who talked about gaining mindshare in the eyes of the customer.

I was intrigued by a few things he mentioned, even though his references were US-based:

- in 1996, the average consumer was exposed to 3,000 messages a day; by 2007, that number had jumped to 30,000, a ten-fold increase in just over a decade;

- the author posed this question: How many of these messages that flood your mind do you remember or act on?

- a market research on 900 products over a five year period revealed that products with an unique selling proposition (USP) had a success rate of 47%, while products without one had a similar rate of only 23%, which is lower than the probability of winning at gambling;

- 75% of new businesses fail within the first two to five years (US Census Data);

In bringing up my recall, I am looking at & thinking about two pertinent issues:

1) From the seller's standpoint, how do I enthrall customers' full attention, secure viable returns from my marketing mix, & continue to stay relevant in business?

2) From the customer's standpoint, how do I deal with the information overload, make effective decisions, & continue to innovate in my business?

Unfortunately, the article did not totally address these two issues, as the author's treatment was more or less perfunctory. I sense that its primary objective is to entice readers to read or find out more about 'Guerrilla Marketing Weapons' & probably lead them to sign up for their advertised workshops.

I am familiar with 'Guerrilla Marketing' & the psychology behind the concept, which has its origins from the work of Jay Conrad Levinson during the late/early nineties.

Besides experimenting with the tools & strategies, I had even distributed the author's first three books at my own retail store throughout the nineties.

A lot of thinking, ingenuity, imagination, feeling of gut, as well as a lot of adaptation & experimentation to suit local cultural nuances were eventually needed in order to make them work effectively.

In fairness to the author of the article, I want to say that the Mandala Method he talked about is a good project management & market planning tool.

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM SIM WONG HOO

I am very confident that all Singaporeans, young or old, will know who Sim Wong Hoo is.

In fact, I won't be surprised that probably every person on planet Earth, who owns a multimedia product at home, has come across his name or the name of his innovative company, Creative Technology, at some point in time.

Anyway, & just in case, Sim Wong Hoo is the brain behind Creative Technology. Currently, he is the CEO & Chairman. Today, the company probably employs more than 5,000 employees worldwide, & generated an estimated global turnover of US$915 million for the year 2007.

Whenever I do presentations in the schools or conduct public workshops with adult professionals on peak performance, I often like to use this successful technopreneur as a role model.

Personally, I had met him once or twice while I was working as a Senior Consultant with the Swedish Business Development Centre in Singapore during the late eighties.

At that time, he wasn't that famous yet, although he had created an unique PC ("five years ahead of its time; it was too costly & too complex", he would often utter ruefully) that could talk : "Don't touch me", as you touch the keyboard.

There are a handful of critical events I often recall in his personal life story, which I have always believed can readily serve as powerful, inspiring platforms for people who aspire to do great things in life.

Let me share with readers my personal assessments of those critical events in his personal life story:

1) He grew up in the kampong (a colloquial term for village). With no money for toys, he played with ants & improvised games to amuse himself - an activity he said help to form his capacity for innovation, & also his tendency to 'colour outside the lines', so to speak.

While still in his early teens, his sister gave him a harmonica as a birthday present. To him, it was a perfect companion for an intrinsically shy boy. That small gift eventually spurred his life-long fascination for music & sounds.

2) As an unremarkable student, he attended Ngee Ann Polytechnic, & earned an electrical & electronics engineering diploma in 1975.

Interestingly, at the polytechnic, he founded & headed the student harmonica troupe, which further stimulated his passion for music.

3) In 1981, after a moment of self-revelation under a starry night sky on an offshore rig, he envisioned building a PC that could talk, sing, play music & do some other crazy things, besides crunching numbers.

He decided he also needed a goal: He wanted to make S$1 million in five years.

4) Together with his school buddy, Ng Kai Wa, he started a small computer repair shop at the Cortina Shopping Centre, the precursor to today's Funan IT Mall, to come up with a challenge to the Apple computer.

[They had developed an add-on memory board for the Apple II computer. Later, they started creating customized PCs adapted for the Chinese language. A part of this design included enhanced audio capabilities, so that the device could produce speech & melodies. The success of this audio interface led to the development of a stand-alone sound card.]

5) In August 1988, he left Singapore for the United States with the sound card in his suit pocket, after failing to made headway in the Singapore market.

6) He told everyone that he would not come back, unless he made his first S$1 million by selling 20,000 of his sound cards.

Frankly, it was actually an uphill task all the way for him, as he rented a garage in Silicon Valley, knocked relentlessly & furiously on doors, & visited no less than twenty prospects a day.

7) At the 1989 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, if I recall correctly, he had his debut exhibition stall, showcasing his PC Sound Blaster to the world. It was a comparatively small display outlet, but it was the noisiest of them of all.

Do you know who made a surprise visit to the outlet?

He was the legendary Michael Jackson, who spent almost half an hour at his outlet, & the rest was history.

Sim Wong Hoo has gone through several subsequent high-profile setbacks in connection with Creative Technology, but he has always bounced back.

This is the true life story of passion, focus, determination, persistence, perseverance, & more importantly, the guts to chase your dream!

I am always very inspired whenever I tell this story to readers & listeners, young & old.

[Sim Wong Hoo has self-published a book of inspirational gems — 'Chaotic Thoughts from the Old Millennium' — which includes paper-&-hand tricks to amuse kids. For adults, it's worth reading. I am quite amused that his 'NUTS' is synonymous with Jack Neo's theme in the locally produced movie, 'Follow the Law'!]

THE POWER OF CHOICE

Each & every one of us have one choice in life that can't be taken away from us.

That is, the choice to think about all day long.

More specifically, the choice to focus on the things we want most.

We can focus on the obvious problem or on the hidden solution.

It’s always our choice.

We can choose to whine, lay blame or maybe, even justify.

Or we can “move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer”, to paraphrase Arnold Schwarzenegger.

That's what I mean by our choice.

When unhappy events or unlucky situations arise, we can continue to act like a crying baby, by reacting instead of responding - by viewing each situation as a fresh opportunity to learn something worthwhile.

Let’s hypothesise a common situation. The scheduled Tiger Airways plane is delayed.

Two choices are immediately available to us:

We can curse & swear, or throw tantrums.

Or we can say, "Wonderful! This gives me an extra half an hour to jot down my ideas, before all that bouncing & jouncing ride rocks my brain." [Dr Nakamats, the Japanese inventor-extraordinaire, has often said that 'jogging is bad for the brain'.]

The famous Chinese ideogram for "crisis" is composed of two ideographic symbols, joined together.

When we view them separately, we'll find that they translate into English as, "danger" & "opportunity".

I read that Denis Waitley, peak performance expert & the guru of the psychology of success, once translated the two symbols to read "opportunity riding the dangerous wind." That’s a great way to look at it.

Each & every event in our life can be dealt with from outside in or inside out. Positive, or negative.

Remember, in an earlier post, I had written about the fact that each & every one of us could be a hero in our own life, just by applying the equation:


(H) E + R = O

(E= event; R=response, O=outcome)

Every response in life is always a choice, whether good, bad, or indifferent.

Just because we can't control the wind does not necessarily mean that we can't adjust the sails, to paraphrase Jim Rohn, mentor to many other peak performance experts, including Anthony Robbins.

In every event or situation, it is imperative to understand that the outcome is invariably determined by how we gather the information, how we interpret the event, & how we choose to respond to that event.

I love the way Anthony Dallman-Jones, the brain behind the Primary Domino Thinking, puts it:

“Misery is also an option.”

In the end analysis, life is all about making choices.

So, choose intelligently & live happily ever after. The choice is ours. Undoubtedly.

THE POWER OF FOCUS

According to the 'Psychology of Winning Shortcuts of Masters & Millionaires', we can only move in one specific direction.

That is, the direction of our most dominant current thought.

Next, use the resources you already have at your disposal to get more results out of those resources.

More importantly, take more control of your life by aiming your mental flashlight intentionally at your desired outcome.

Focus on what you want, rather than why you can't.

The same exact energy you now use to cite the reasons why you're not at your personal high point - the same exact energy of thought - is instantly transformed & transmogrified into resolution focus, when you list possible ways to get it done.

Go ahead & prove that you understand this power of focus.

You are assured of an exciting, adventurous life as soon as you simply wake up & get going.

[This body of knowledge comes from the House of MisterShortcut of Masters & Millionaires, Achievers & Role Models. It claims to be the largest self-empowerment website on earth with more than 1,000,000 web pages. I suggest you go in & find out yourself.]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The common conception is that motivation leads to action, but the reverse is true - action precedes motivation. You have to 'prime the pump' & get the juice flowing, which motivates you to work on your goals. Getting momentum going is the most difficult part of the job, & often taking the first step is enough to prompt you to make the best of your day."

(Robert J. McKain, author of 'Realise Your Potential' & 'How to Get to the Top & Stay There')

Thursday, January 24, 2008

THE POWER OF FOCUS

According to Lisa Jimenez, a success coach who runs rich-life retreats, there's so much power in focused attention & concentrated energy!

She urges: Use your imagination & spend some time alone thinking about what you really want & how you can manifest it.

She shares her fascinating theory about 'manifestation':

In the very first book of Scripture, it says "In the beginning God created . . ."

In all succeeding books of Scripture, it doesn't repeat this again.

In following scriptures, it says 'manifest'.

Could it be that all things are already created?

Everything already exists?

If all things exist right now in this moment, how do they come into existence on this physical plane?

How do they become evident, clear & visible?

Manifest: Its very definition is to be evident, clear & visible.

The first part of the word is 'man' or mankind.

The other part is 'fest', which comes from 'festival' - that means celebration.

When you manifest, you are a vessel, bringing what's already created into the physical plane.

You are building ideas, people, material things & love.

It's an interesting theory . . . makes sense, too!

COP OUT

A couple of days ago, a Straits Times reader wrote in the Forum Page to register her bad experience with customer service, where the person handling her calls refused to give his or her full name.

I have had similar bad experiences in this respect.

For me, I always think that the problem lies more with the person receiving the call.

Firstly, I feel that the so-called person in customer service does not even believe in what he or she is doing.

Basically, he or she has absolutely no confidence in himself or herself. So, how do you expect him or her to believe or have confidence in his or her employer?

Secondly, he or she obviously does not want to take personal responsibility for his or her action. He or she just want to do the job, nothing else. This is cop out, to put it bluntly.

This phenomenon reminds me of the 'monkey mechanics' mentioned in Robert Pirsig's 'Zen & The Art of Motor-cycle Maintenance'.

Thirdly, that person has no core values at all. In other words, he or she totally lacks guiding principles in life.

As core values &/or guiding principles drive the character ethic, the bottom line is this: without character, that person is just a statistic! As long as he or she does not change his bad attitude, he or she will always remain a statistic!

Of course, one can also argue that the employer should also absorb part of the blame, for not coaching the 'poor' employee in the first place. I have no quarrel with the thinking, as the employer probably does not realise that each & every employee is a window to the organisation.

My personal philosophy is very simple: There's no future in any job; the future lies in the person holding the job.

Fortunately, such black sheep in customer service can be counted.

There are many excellent employees in customer service. When they receive calls from customers, they happily announce:

"Good Morning, Sir (or Madam)! I am Jeff Tan here. What can I do for you today?"

I strongly urge all those recalcitrant persons in customer service to sit back & reflect on their core values.

TECHNOLOGY REVIEW: THE SCIENCE BEHIND SYBERVISION SYSTEMS

Dr. Kari Pribram, the founder of the Neuropsychology Research Laboratory at Stanford University's School of Medicine & former Director of Research for SyberVision Systems, has been making innovative strides in the behavioural sciences ever since he started practicing as a neurosurgeon.

In a nut shell, Dr. Pribram made two key discoveries through his extensive studies of the brain:

First, he found that all of our behavior is governed by "images of achievement," & that without those vivid images, we cannot succeed in our physical endeavors.

Then, he discovered how the human brain forms & acts upon visual & sensory images, using the same principles to generate & store images as the 3-D hologram.

The foregoing scientific discoveries enabled Sybervision Systems, working in close collaboration, to develop all the self-paced audio learning programs with guided instructions as follows:

1. Using the language of sensory imaging i.e. by creating sensory-rich, detailed images of success in your mind, you begin to pave the way for achieving your desired outcomes.

2. Vividly detailed images of success are created using sight, sound, touch, taste & smell, which in turn allow you to translate your goals & dreams into the language of your brain & nervous system.

3. The images are converted into a sensory blueprint — an image of achievement that becomes etched permanently into your mind & body. This blueprint not only serves serves as as a constant field guide in your journey toward reaching your desired outcome, but it impacts upon the physical world to magnetically attract to you the opportunities for its fulfillment.

4. Through a series of simple exercises, the image of achievement takes root in your nervous system, producing the energy, motivation & drive necessary to sustain the effort of achieving your desired outcome.

5. With the image of achievement grooved deep into your mind & body, you develop the behaviors & create the opportunities necessary to achieve your lifelong goals & dreams.

[Readers interested to learn more about the 'Holographic Brain Model' as postulated by Dr Karl Pribram, can click here, which will lead you to an interview by Jeffrey Mishlove of Thinking Allowed Productions.]

[Next: The Neuropsychology of Achievement]

TECHNOLOGY REVIEW: SYBERVISION SYSTEMS

This is my most treasured collection of personal development programs from Sybervision Systems, USA:

PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT SERIES:

1) The Neuropsychology of Achievement (revealing the 21 critical traits common to high achievers, drawn from their study of 100 of history's great men & women);

2) The Neuropsychology of Self-Discipline (with accompanying video, 'The Fire Within', revealing the 10 self-disciplined habits of 100 of history's great men & women);

3) The Neuropsychology of Creativity (based on the consulting work of Dr William Miller, author of 'The Creative Edge');

4) The Neuropsychology of Leadership (based on the landmark study of leadership by Warren Bennis & Burt Nanus, who had identified the 10 characteristics all great leaders have in common);

5) The Neuropsychology of Memory Power;

6) Stanfield Career Advancement System;

PERSONAL HEALTH SERIES:

7) The Neuropsychology of Staying Young (based on the breakthrough biological research of Dr. Kenneth Pelletier);

PERSONAL RELATIONS SERIES:

8) The Neuropsychology of Successful Marriage (based on one of the world's most respected researchers in relationships & marriage, Dr Brent Barlow, who had studied thousands of happily married couples);

9) The Neuropsychology of Successful Parenting (based on the breakthrough research of Dr. Katherine Kersey);

These self-paced audio learning programs, considered state-of-the-art in those days, were originally produced in the early 80's by the founder, Steven deVore, with the collaboration of the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Neuropsychology Research Laboratory, under the auspices of Dr Karl Pribram.

I had first read about them in the Success Magazine during the mid-eighties, & my first acquisition commenced with Achievement, Self-Discipline & Creativity. The rest of the programs was procured subsequently.

It was the personal life story of Steven deVore which attracted me to Sybervision Systems in the first place.

As a child, he had polio. With the encouragement of his mother, he was able to overcome its debilitating effects through a physical therapy program based on visual modeling — watching others walk & then mentally replaying the images of walking in is imagination.

At age nineteen, he utilized this visual modeling method to master the Finnish language, the most difficult language for English speakers to learn.

Later, while in college, he experienced the power of visual modeling in athletics.

After watching professional bowling on television, he went to a local bowling alley, recalled the vivid images & bodily sensations he saw & experienced from watching television, & proceeded to bowl nine strikes in a row.

He shared his bowling experience with a psychology professor. The professor explained that all human skills & behavior are learned through observation learning or modeling.

In fact, the professor continued, observational learning is the foundation of the science of social psychology.

The professor further explained that while observation is the key to learning, scientists did not understand the neurological components of the process — how visual images are converted by the brain into actionable behavior.

He then began his search to discover how observational learning works. His research took him to Dr. Karl Pribram, the founder of the science of neuropsychology.

Dr Pribram had the ultimate answer DeVore was looking for. The brain uses a mathematical process called the 'Fourier Transform' to convert visual images to actionable behavior.

He eventually teamed up with Dr Pribram to apply the principle to behavior & skill acquisition — learning from visual role models.

I will share with readers in the next & subsequent posts about what I had actually learned & how their Achievement, Self-Discipline & Creativity programs had contributed to my search for personal mastery.

[Next: The Science behind Sybervision Systems]

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

1) What if change cannot be anticipated in any degree of certainty?

2) What if change is so complex that its effects & implications can never be fully understood, much less anticipated?

3) What if any thing can I do to become more strategically prepared for unexpected change?

[Source: 'Everyday Strategic Preparedness' by Matt Statler]

POWER VOCABULARY: 'HABITUAL OSSIFICATION'

In medical terms, 'ossification' refers to the natural formation of bone structures in the body, in which connective tissues are turned into bones or bone-like tissues.

In the case of 'habitual ossification', it refers to the dynamic process of becoming set or conditioned in a rigidly conventional way of behaviours, habits or beliefs.

The following expression drives home the point:

"If we always think what we have always thought, we will always do what we have always done . . . at the end of it, i.e the bottom-line, we will always get what we have always gotten."

Therefore, it's time to change.

That is to say, in order to expect a different result, we must do things differently.

THE Y GENERATION (or GEN Y)

Probably about a week ago, I was reading a rather amusing article, at least for me, about 'working with the Y generation' in the Straits Times.

According to the article, the Y generation represents those born between 1982 & 2000, immediately after the X generation, 1965 to 1981.

They are apparently the largest generation since the baby boomers, 1946 to 1964. Wow! I did not realise that I am a baby boomer!

The article outlines some fascinating characteristics of the Y generation:

- they are young, smart, able to grasp new concepts quickly & are used to adapting to different situations;

- they are somewhat impatient, & highly mobile in the job market;

- they have different priorities, & value things other than an office with a harbour view, fancy job titles & high salaries;

- they have high expectations of themselves & their bosses; they aim to work faster & better than others & they want fair & direct bosses who are highly engaged in their professional development;

- they seek creative challenges & view colleagues as vast & useful resources from whom to gain advantage;

- they like freedom, place importance on diverse experiences & are socially driven;

- they have been labelled as demanding & poor communicators; they are more difficult to deal with & have less respect for seniority; to them, the boss is not always right!

- they are comfortable with constant feedback & recognition from others, & feel lost if communication from their bosses is irregular;

- they prefer online &/or email over face-2-face communications;

- under training, they have short attention spans; & generally prefer different interactive platforms & smaller groupings; the training modules should also be downloadable to their laptops or PDAs;

- they definitely do not respond to command & control management style, but are receptive to mentorship programs;

- they value great relationships; so team-building events appeal to them;

I find the Y generation fascinating, because they are radically different from my generation.

In spite of their quirkiness, I really envy them because there are so much opportunities going on for them in the world out there.

Just take a quick look at Facebook, YouTube, pod casts, hand phone gizmos, social networking, & all that jazz.

[The article in the Straits Times was originally written by Guy Day, MD of Ambition, a specialist recuitment & contracting group. For more information, please visit their corporate website.]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The rest of your life begins where you are now."

(Author Unknown)

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCH PAD: UNCERTAINTY & AMBIGUITY

These are some of my notes I have captured while reading:

1) Uncertainty is the inherent state of Mother Nature;

2) Uncertainty generally refers to chaos, vagueness, provisionism, complexity, randomness, ambiguity;

3) Ambiguity implies that alternatives are known;

4) Uncertainty implies that alternatives are potentially unknown & even unknowable;

5) People have different tolerance levels for uncertainty that are associated with number of factors;

6) People with high tolerance for uncertainty tend to:

- be less dogmatic;
- be less ethnocentric;
- be less generally conservative;
- perceive ambiguous stimuli as desirable & challenging;
- rely less on authorities for opinions;
- be more self-actualised;
- be more flexible;
- prefer objective information;

7) People are usually, though not always, motivated to reduced uncertainty;

8) People reduce uncertainty through heuristics or rules of thumb that are often useful but sometimes detrimental;

9) Organisations typically try to reduce the amount of environmental uncertainty;

10) The degree of uncertainty is just a continuum - the degree to which one embraces uncertainty; it describes his tolerance level;

[Source: 'Key Issues in Organisational Communication', by Dennis Tourish & Owen Hargie]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

UNDERSTANDING THE BRAIN: STIMULATING ENVIRONMENT MAKES A DIFFERENCE!

I would like to expand further on what I had written about neuro-plasticity & redundancy in an earlier post.

According to Dr Marian Diamond, Professor of Anatomy at the University of California in Berkeley:

"The environment in which the brain operates determines to a large extent the functioning ability of that brain."

What she meant is that a stimulating environment will always make a difference.

We should always be seeking out & embracing new things to do or diving into new learning experiences.

Active, deliberate learning appears to challenge our brains, especially if it is exciting enough, & enjoyable enough, to regularly & continually keep us motivated & engaged.

In the laboratory experimentation with rats, she noticed a greater number of neuron-nourishing glial cells in the brains of rats with an enriched novel environment, e.g. running through mazes, etc., when compared to the brains of deprived rats.

I had read many years ago a research study probably undertaken by Dr Ellen Langer of Harvard University. She had studied the lives of inmates in old folks' homes.

She found that inmates in old folks' homes, where each & every one of them had an active role in carrying out domestic chores, generally live longer than those who had no direct physical involvement in the domestic chores of their homes.

I found her research very interesting, as the findings confirmed Dr Diamond's contention about creating stimulating environments.

Incidentally, Dr Diamond was also the famed neuro-anatomist given the task of studying a chunk of Einstein's brain after he had died.

She found an increased number of glial cell deposits in Einstein's left parietal lobe, a kind of neurological switching station that she had described as an 'association area for other association areas in the brain'.

To be more precise, based on what I had read, Einstein had an enlarged grouping of cells in what is called 'Area 39'. 'Area 39' is the most highly evolved part of the brain, a region rich in the glial cells that support the work of thinking neurons as well as what is considered fluid thinking intelligence - a measure of how efficiently the brain works.

To me, her research to some extent explains Einstein's brilliance, at least from a neuro-anatomical perspective.

Ever since he was a young boy, spurred by his initial curiosity about a compass, Einstein had always enjoyed a stimulating environment around him.

He loved to read books as well as write articles. He always spent his time thinking about new ideas. He always had a note book with him, to jot down ideas. He was always surrounded by good friends. He enjoyed lisening to music & playing the violin. He loved to visit museums & art galleries. He also loved sailing. His early years in the Swiss Patent Office certainly fueled his interests further. He never stopped asking questions till he died.

My point is this:

An enriched environment provides stimulation to our senses, novelty, new experiences, & most important of all, information.

Change is the essence of information. New information leads to curiosity about the environment, which, in turn, produces learning.

I strongly believe both intellectual & physical exercises can increase & enhance neural connections! They can therefore modify our brain structure, just as physical exercises alone can change our body proportions.

New research in the United States suggests that folks from 8 to 80 can shape up their brains even with aerobic exercises!

So, the bottom-line: Just do it - exercise, physically as well as intellectually. Brain specialists say that's still the best answer if you want to stay physically & mentally fit as you age.

I often see our MM Lee as a classic role model in this respect.

5 SUCCESSFUL WAYS TO MANAGE A PARADOX

According to James Lucas, author of 'Broaden the Vision & Narrow the Focus: Managing in a World of Paradox', there are five successful ways to manage a paradox:

1) EMBRACE:

- determine to fully accept & live with both sides of the paradox;

2) ELIMINATE:

- rid ourselves of bad ideas & actions on each side of the paradox;

3) ENHANCE:

- develop the good ideas & actions on each side of the paradox;

4) ENGAGE:

- merge the two sides into a cohesive whole, consciously & systematically;

5) EXPLORE:

- work to discover what grows out of the merger of the two sides;

As far as I can understand, 'embracing paradox' is just an acquired ability to hold two more more contradictory or conflicting ideas inside the head, & yet can still function intelligently.

Dr Lucas's 5 E's seem workable.

Personally, I feel the phenomenon of 'embracing paradox' helps to agitate or perturbate, to use a term from Dr Ilya Prigogine, the brain. The brain goes into a chaotic or maybe an even confused mode.

As the brain struggles to make sense of the chaos &/or confusion, more agitation or perturbation takes place, as one strives to seek more information from the environment &/or as one endeavours to figure out from the bombardment of both the internal as well as the external stimuli. Welcome to the real world!

As a last resort, the brain is forced to come to a bifurcation point, which is another term from Dr Prigogine. The end point is like a two-prong fork.

It then faces two choices: move up into a high order of complexity, where real learning takes place, or fall down into entropy.

Life in the real world is all about making choices. That's how I see it.

MY FAVOURITE STORIES: THE PIG & THE SOW

Once, there was a man who had a mountain retreat. At every opportunity, he would drive there in his Porsche. He was very successful in business, thinking up new ideas, developing new projects & making money.

The retreat was high up in the mountains & the man had to drive along a very dangerous road full of blind curves, unguarded drops & difficult turns.

The man was not bothered. He knew the road well, knew what the problems were & knew how to deal with them. He was also a good driver. He was confident that he had a good car with excellent road-holding capability.

One day, as he was driving up to the retreat, he approached a blind curve. He slowed down, braked lightly & changed gears in readiness for the bend.

All of a sudden, another car came around the curve, almost out of control. The other car nearly went off the edge of the mountain, but at the last moment managed to get back onto the road, swerving from one side to the other.

The businessman thought that he was going to be hit, so he slowed down almost to a stop. The other came roaring on towards him, swerving back & forth. At the very last moment, it swerved back onto its own side of the road.

As the cars passed each other, a young woman stuck her head out of the car window & yelled as loud as she could 'PIG!'

What? he thought, how dare she call me that! He was incensed by her aggressiveness, by her calling him names. It was her fault after all.

'SOW!' he yelled after her, as she continued down the road.

I was in my own lane, he thought. How dare she call me that. As he regained control of his rage, he felt more gratified. At least she hadn't got away with calling him names. He had given her what she deserved & exacted his revenge, he thought to himself.

With that, he put his foot down & drove around the bend, straight into a squealing pig.

My Learning Points:

1) This is essentially a story about the need to be open to change;

2) The businessman has paradigm paralysis. He thought that she had called him a pig so he kept to the 'rules' & returned the compliment. He thought that would be the end of it.

3) If he had been more open, i.e. if had paradigm pliancy, he would have asked, "What's happening? or what's going on?" In that case, he would have driven more slowly, would have seen the pig & dealt with it accordingly. At least, he wouldn't have hit it!

4) Putting it in another way, if you have paradigm paralysis, you will only get negative stress. You will be frozen & not know what to do;

5) On the other hand, if you are more open, you may see change as an opportunity & a challenge, a positive stressor.

6) Many people will be coming around blind curves yelling at you. They will be too busy to stop & explain, so it will be up to you to figure out.

MY FAVOURITE STORIES: THE STAR THROWER

A man was walking along the beach when he noticed a young boy apparently picking up something off the ground & throwing it out into the sea.

As the man got closer to the boy, he saw that the objects were starfish. The boy was surrounded by them. For miles & miles all along the beach there seemed to be millions of them.

"Why are you throwing star fish into the water?", he asked the boy as he approached.

"If these starfish are on the beach by tomorrow morning when the tide goes out, they will die," replied the boy, continuing with his routine.

"But that's ridiculous," cried the man. "Look around you. There are thousands of miles of beach & millions of starfish. How can you believe that what you're doing could possibly make a difference?"

The young boy picked up another starfish, paused thoughtfully, & remarked as he tossed it out into the waves.

"It makes a difference to that one!"

My Learning Points:

1) This is a story about the willingness to act;

2) To change the world, we must choose not to be an observer, but an actor; not a watcher, but a doer; not a spectator, but a player;

3) What is never attempted will never be accomplished; even the smallest of efforts defeats apathy;

4) In the whole scheme of things, our small efforts may not seem significant, but they will make a difference for the world;

5) History is replete with courageous men & women who changed the world because they dared to get involved & do something they strongly believed in. World changers are people of action; they make things happen;

[I had subsequently learned that this beautiful story came originally from a collection of favourite writings by Loren Eiseley, Professor of Anthropology. To him, the Star Thrower symbolises faith, life, humanity, & similar qualities that we most value in ourselves & others. It shows how we can become jaded to the world as we struggle through our busy lives, & forget how simple it is to help another, to act in the faith that even generous-hearted action matters to someone & is thus very much worthwhile.]

[Next: The Pig & The Sow]

MY FAVOURITE STORIES

I love to read as well as listen to stories.

It all started with comics e.g. Beano, Dandy, etc., & then the black & white first, followed by technicolour, movies, when I was a young teenager.

During those years of growing pains, I was often glued to the radio, when Rediffusion regularly broad-casted stories about the wonderful exploits of sword-swinging heroes in China. I remember Lee Dai Soh relating his interesting stories, in Cantonese, at 2 pm every weekday afternoon, & then again at around 6 pm in the evenings.

As I grew up, I started to read western novels, about the wild wild west. Then I progressed to read spy thriller novels e.g. James Bond. More related movies followed.

As I started to work professionally, I started to read stories in the form of fascinating biographies of great men. Henry Ford was one of them.

I also started to read non-fictions, about personal development, sales & marketing, management & strategy.

As I moved up the career ladder, & gradually entered general management, I began to realise that story telling was an important skill set for senior managers to explain strategic visions to people down the organisational chart.

Likewise, I also realised that a lot of important management philosophies could be embedded in well crafted stories.

Good stories always touch the minds & hearts of the listeners.

Soon, I had picked up a good number of interesting stories that carried valuable learning points.

In this respect, I want to share with readers two of my favourite stories. They are:

1) The Star Thrower;

2) The Pig & The Sow;

I have picked up these two wonderful stories from Joel Arthur Barker & his book, 'Discovering the Future: The Business of Paradigms'.

[Next: The Star Thrower]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

“Problem definition is a common but difficult task because true problems are often disguised in a variety of ways. It takes a skilful individual to analyse a situation & extract the real problem from a sea of information. Ill-defined or poorly posed problems can lead novice (& not so novice) engineers down the wrong path to a series of impossible or spurious solutions. Defining the ‘real problem’ is critical to finding a workable solution.”

(H. Scott Fogler & Steven E. LeBlanc, authors of 'Strategies for Creative Problem Solving')