Saturday, February 2, 2008

OLDER? BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO SLOW DOWN!

I am certainly gratified to learn that researchers have now confirmed that we should be able to maintain our muscles as we age, including the muscle enzymes needed for good athletic performance, & also we should be able to maintain our ability to exercise for long periods near our so-called lactic threshold or maximum effort.

But, we have to know how to train, do the right sort of exercise, & we must keep it up.

Researchers also report that we can start later in life. It is a testament to how adaptable the human body is that we can start serious training at an older age & become highly competitive.

Train hard & train often, according to Dr Hirofumi Tanaka, exercise physiologist at University of Texas.

He means doing things like regular interval training, repeatedly going all out, easing up, then going all out again. These workouts train our body to increase oxygen consumption by allowing us to maintain an intense effort.

According to Dr Tanaka, one of the major determinants of endurance performance is oxygen consumption. Therefore, we have to make training as intense as possible.

When we have to choose between hard & often, choose hard, according to Steven Hawkins, an exercise physiologist at University of Southern California.

After reading their findings as reported, I reckon two things must be present in order for older people to keep training for competitive sports: inspiration & drive.

[Source: New York Times]

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: EXPANDING THOUGHT

Marian J Thier, founder & president of the consulting & training firm known as Expanding Thought Inc., in Boulder, Colorado, USA, offers the following expert advice on expanding your thought:

1) Develop the discipline of daily practice;

2) Increase your power of observation;

3) Heighten your attention to the ordinary;

4) Adopt an open-mined approach to all situations;

5) See relationships between many aspects of life;

6) Appreciate the ready availability of ideas;

7) Inculcate a habit of stretching beyond your perceived boundaries;

8) Recognise patterns, themes, wishes & dreams that surface & evolve over time;

9) Re-enter into playful curiosity;

10) Establish a willingness to be provoked like an oyster creating a pearl;

Marian is also the author of the coaching toolkit, 'COACHING CLUES', the board game for creative problem solving, 'THINKTANK', & the thought stimulus CD-Rom, 'THOUGHT EXPANDERS'.

[More information about Marian & Expanding Thought Inc., is available from her corporate website. If you are a coach, her CLUES coaching model is worth exploring.]

POWER VOCABULARY: 'SLIPPABILITY'

The term, 'slippability', had been originally created by the famed mathematician, Douglas R Hofstadter.

It refers to the ability of our concepts to overlap & move from one to another.

Experts think that the overlap tends to happen accidentally & unconsciously.

Nevertheless, I reckon with ingenuity, it can be engineered to some extent to produce variations on concepts &/or hybrid concepts, which may then offer a totally new way of seeing the world.

FROM MY TOOLBOX: STORYBOARDING

If I recall correctly, I had probably learned the storyboarding technique from Mike Vance, the creativity guru who once worked with the legendary Walt Disney & his animation studios.

Mike Vance wrote the book, 'Think Out of The Box' with Diane Deacon in the nineties. The book had a profile on Walt Disney, among many others. The two authors called the storyboarding process, as applied to creative thinking, 'Displayed Thinking'.

In the movie world, a storyboard is just a visual organisation of the exact movie sequences, usually in the form of rough sketches drawn by artists, & arranged in a logical sequence, before the actual filming.

The storyboard, in this case, allows the movie director to define, show &/or flesh out some important aspects of the movie, together with the actors & actresses &/or action director, who will take care of the action choreography.

I always use an adaptation of the storyboarding process in my training design & development.

As my good friend, Dr Ernest Wong, the brain behind the 'Superteen Holiday Camps', has often said to me, there are only three important elements in any successful training workshop:

1) Substance;
2) Sequence;
3) Showmanship;

I often use the storyboard to fulfill the second element.

To execute, you can use a white board or even a flip chart.

Firstly, jot down what you intend to teach the participants, & jot down each idea in a post-it note.
One idea, one note.

Next, display the completed note on to the board or flip-chart.

Then, repeat this process until all possible ideas are captured on post-it notes.

Upon final completion, i.e. after displaying all the completed notes on the board or flip chart, just stand back to take a close look. A big picture view, so to speak.

When you think of a new idea, just jot it them & paste the note into the arrangement.

Or if you think one of the ideas does not fit in for some reasons, just remove it.

Shift or shuffle the completed notes around to complete your intended sequence.

If necessary, think of idea clusters, especially when the training needs to extend into two or more days.

The post-it notes allow you to do wonders. You can also use different colour post-it notes to denote different idea clusters.

Once you are happy with the final arrangement, i.e. the storyboard, you can proceed to write out the curriculum for your training design.

In a brainstorming session, you can also use the storyboard to work out the sequential steps of implementation.

I often take the opportunity to teach small kids how to use the storyboard to fish out important aspects in the life history of any famous person.

For example, I will give the kids a comic book on Albert Einstein. Then, with the aid of an A2 sized construction paper, some post-it notes of 3 colours, & through the journalists' questions (5W1H), I will get them to chart out the life history, especially his major influences & notable accomplishments, covering three phases of his life as follows:

- as a young boy;
- as a young man;
- as a successful physicist;


Like me, kids are always fascinated by Albert Einstein as well as the power of storyboarding. They are most happy to use the opportunity to display their memory skills as well as drawing/sketching abilities, in addition to learning a useful planning tool

In the next post, I will share with readers my fully adapted version of the industry-strength 'PERT CHART', a visual planning & project management tool, for parents to help their kids & teenagers to chart out their academic as well as life pursuits.

ACRONYMANIA: FOCUS

"Follow One Course Until Successful"

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: 7 TOOLS TO TRANSFROM GENIUS INTO PRACTICAL POWER

According to Dr Adrian Windsor, author of 'Seven Tools to Transform Genius into Practical Power: Create a Manual to Operate Your Life', there are seven ways to take control of our lives & to be free from anxiety, so as to be able to enjoy abundance & tranquility:

1) take sovereignty over your life;

2) let go of outmoded behavior patterns;

3) discard irrelevancies, mistakes, & greet challenges proactively;

4) use leverage to do more with less;

5) create synergy in your families, your relationships, & your work;

6) envision the Big Picture & take command of your navigational path;

7) tap into your True Wealth & accept abundance;

The seven ways or tools are apparently derived from the spiritual concepts & metaphysical teachings of the inventor of the 'Geodesic Dome', R Buckminster Fuller.

Bucky, as he was affectionately known around the world, wrote 'Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth', as wells 'Critical Path', which explore the evolution of our “know how” & the metaphysical application of physical principles by which our Universe operates.

I don't think readers really need further elaboration on the seven tools as outlined by the author.

[For more information about R Buckminster Fuller & his many contributions to Planet Earth, please visit the Buckminster Fuller Institute.]

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER

"I'll be back!"

This is the famous quote by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 'Terminator' sci-fi action movie, which eventually made him almost everybody's cult action hero. Mine, too.

When I read about him becoming the 38th Governor of California in November 2003, I felt really sad, because I would be missing all the new action movies with him in the starring role, but at the same time, I also felt proud for him, because he had finally attained his ultimate dream.

The 'Austrian Oak' as he is often referred to, first struck my personal fancy when I watched 'Conan the Barbarian', followed by 'Conan the Destroyer' & 'Red Sonya', during the early eighties or so.

These were followed by 'Terminator', 'Commando', 'Raw Deal', 'Running Man', 'Predator, 'Red Heat', & 'Total Recall' in the nineties or so.

He then became one of my most favourite action star in the movies.

I went on to watch 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day', 'Last Action Hero', 'True Lies', 'Eraser', 'End of Days', 'The 6th Day', 'Collateral Damage' & finally, 'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines'. In fact, I had even watched several of these movies as well as earlier movies several times on cable television.

I had even watched 'Twins', 'Kindergarten Cop', 'Junior' & 'Jingle all the Way' in which he displayed his funny side, plus 'Batman & Robin' in which he played the really bad guy.

Just imagine a scrawny kid from a small land-locked European country could become a powerful man on the land of opportunity, as most immigrants to America would often referred to.

I often use Arnold Schwarzenegger as a role model, whenever I talk about the power of vision in my workshops with professionals as well as kids.

It all started when I stumbled on two inspiring quotes attributed to him in the book, 'Arnold: Education of a Body Builder':

"For me, life is continuously being hungry.The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer."

"The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100%."

Thus, I began an earnest search to find out more this bodybuilder, who eventually won 'Mr Universe', five times, & 'Mr Europa', seven times.

In fact, it was recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records that he had "the most beautiful body with a perfect score of 300".

These were my findings:

- he was born in the isolated village of Thal in Austria, down by the Italian border;

- he grew up in a house that had no phone, no fridge & no toilet;

- he was subject to intense discipline from a very early age, as his father was a policeman: he had to get up at 6am; do the chores; then perform situps & squats before breakfast; he was allowed out on Sunday evenings, but required to write a 10-page essay on his activities before retiring to bed;

- at age 11, he started weight training after seeing many posters of Steve Reeves (Mr Universe in 1950) & Reg Park (Mr Universe in 1951, 1958 & 1965); [Reg Park eventually became his good friend, mentor & personal trainer during the late sixties.]

-after he had started lifting weights as a teenager, he noticed that his body was becoming disproportionate. His arms, shoulders & chest were developing nicely, but his calves & lower legs weren't coming along as he wanted. To motivate himself to work harder on his calves, he cut off all of his pants (trousers) at the knee. Walking around like that, people would look at (and maybe even laugh at) the big man with 'chicken' legs. It worked;

- in 1966, he competed in the Mr Universe contest when he was just 18 years old;

- went into military service, & on one occasion, went AWOL to attend the Mr Junior Europe contest & to his commander's chagrin, he won the title;

- after leaving Austria for the first time, he came to UK to work, making only 30 Sterling Pounds a week;

- his childhood friends stated that he often loved to announce his life goals as such: 1) to move to America; 2) become an actor; 3) marry a Kennedy; He accomplished all three goals!

- he came to America in 1968 on the invitation of Joe Weilder, enrolled in a correspondence course on marketing, & started a mail order business, selling mostly body building stuff;

- in 1970, he had his screen acting debut in 'Hercules in New York';

- the critically acclaimed documentary movie, 'Pumping Irons', which showcased the glamour of body building, in 1975 catapulted him into the public eye;

- he went into real estate & made his first million from it;


- in 1977, he met his wife, Maria Shriver, related to the Kennedy family;

The rest was history.

His personal obsession with the power of focus was legendary. He once said:

"I knew I was a winner back in the late sixties. I knew I was destined for great things. People will say that kind of thinking is totally immodest. I agree. Modesty is not a word that applies to me in any way - I hope it never will."

"We all have great inner power. The power is self-faith. There's really an attitude to winning. You have to see yourself winning before you win. And you have to be hungry. You have to want to conquer."

I once read an interview by an entertainment reporter, during which her co-leading actress in the first two 'Terminator' movies, Linda Hamilton, talked about her disgust for Arnold Schwarzenenneger, during a road-show to promote the 'Terminator' movies. She claimed that this guy was damned obsessed with himself during the promotion.

Well, I don't blame him, even although I personally don't condone such behaviour!

In one of his recent biographies, he claimed he had a masterplan for his life when he was a skinny teenager:

Go to America; become the world's greatest body builder; get an education; learn English; work in the movies; become a millionaire; invest money in real estste; find a glamorous spouse; & get involved in politics;

I leave to readers to judge him & the truth of what he had said.

For me, looking at his many accomplishments, & also his mastery of self-discipline & competitive psychology, he is a good model for personal vision building.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

“Nothingness is being & being nothingness . . . Our limited mind cannot grasp or fathom this, for it joins infinity.”
(Azrael of Gerona c. 1160-c.1238)

THE POWER OF FOCUS

Irette Patterson, a success coach operating out of Atlanta, Georgia, USA, relates three inspiring real-life stories to drive home the point about the 'Power of Focus':

First story:

Kirk Franklin doesn't sing well. However, he is a songwriter, choir director, consummate performer & record producer. As for the singing, he recruits good singers to do that for him. But whose name is on the CD cover? Kirk Franklin.

Kirk Franklin didnt ignore his shortcomings, he made them work for him. He had a vision for his life & he followed it. No, he doesn't sing a word on his CD. He raps & becomes one of the largest gospel recording acts today.

Second story:

In her book "You can Heal Your Life", Louise Hay gives the readers an example of her typical day. As soon as she gets up in the morning, she sings affirmations. At noon, she again does affirmations. At night before she goes to bed, she writes down whatever affirmation she's working with at the time 10 or 25 times.

The woman is incredibly focused. Shes arranged her life so that everything she sees & everywhere she goes reflects her version of life. She blesses her door so only good comes through it. She blesses her mailbox so only good news enters it.

She totally focuses on the positive. Now she has taken up painting. Do you have any doubt that she'll succeed?

Third story:

Homer Hickam wasn't good in algebra. In fact, he was almost failing. Yet, this teenager wanted to become a rocket scientist.

He grew up in a coal mining town in West Virginia, where the only way to college was through a football scholarship. It didn't make sense that someone with his background & his lack of abilities could become a rocket scientist. Yet. He did.

Despite what others thought of his dreams, he focused on them & was determined to accomplish them.

She ends her three stories with a memorable quote from Peter F Drucker:

"Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission."

Finally, as a conclusion, she gives this great advice:


"If you keep the vision of your life in front of you all the time, you won't pay attention to the judgments of others."

Friday, February 1, 2008

THE LAW OF INCREASING RETURNS

Here is an interesting article about the 'Law of Increasing Returns' by Ronald Bailey, an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute. The latter is a non-profit public policy research foundation headquartered in Washington, DC. The Institute is named after Cato's Letters, a series of libertarian pamphlets that helped lay the philosophical foundation for the American Revolution.

In a nut shell, the essence of the article is about how new ideas embedded in technological change can drive economic growth.

FROM MY TOOLBOX: PATTERN INTERRUPTS

Over the years I have learned a lot of good stuff about breaking patterns in our thinking from Edward de bono, the creativity guru who invented 'lateral thinking', through his many brilliant writings.

Let me recap.

Our brain is not inherently creative. This is the expressed stance of Edward de bono. He thinks our brain is good for creating patterns as we go through life. He certainly has a valid point. He advocates pattern breaking in our daily thinking.

Here are some of my notes pertaining to conducting pattern interrupts:

1) Escape from your dominant pattern:

- the dominant pattern always suppresses all other patterns: this is because our brain follows the direction of our dominant current thought;

- we must always deliberately search for alternative ways of looking at problems;

- we must always challenge our own assumptions;

- we must always be aware of concept fixation: the way we see the problem can be the problem, due to our preconceived notions; [beside this one, there are also many other cognitive traps, which I have mentioned earlier. I will expand further about them in subsequent posts.]

- sometimes, we need to enlarge the problem context, so as to shift our attention to other areas;

- we must also check our own arrogance (or intellectual ego);

- we must learn to recognise our own blockage to openness;

2) Change your entry point:

- with a single change of entry point, you can end up at totally different place;

3) Start at the end point instead of the beginning point;

- to me, this is mental flexibility;

4) Provoke insight;

- please refer to my earlier post on this subject;

- this implies a discontinuity or jumping to a new point of entry or end point;

- we must always separate idea generation from judgement or evaluation; [Interestingly, Roger von oech's four creative personality profiles, namely 'Explorer', 'Artist', 'Judge' & 'Warrior', are worth exploring. I will write a post on this shortly.]

- we must always look at an idea to see where it can lead us to or what it can trigger off;

- sometimes, we must make unjustified jump off & catch up with some surprises or unknowns along the way;

- sometimes, it may be necessary for us to be wrong at some stage in order to reach the right solution;

- be ready to welcome chance or serendipity: a move in order to generate a new direction or helicopter view;

5) Restructure information:

- we must put together the available information in a different way; [The Japanese call this recycling information.]

- in the mind, the restructuring switchover mechanism is apparent in the twin processes of humour & insight; [Watching the Jerry Seinfeld sitcom often reminds of this power.]

- the arrangement of available information is only one of several alternatives, so it is always possible to restructure;

- because the current arrangement of information can never make best use of available information, it is necessary to try to restructure in order to bring the arrangement up to date;

- the foregoing is sometimes referred to as de bono's First Law -"An idea can never be the best arrangement of available information";

- to put in another way, there is no new ideas under the sun; but there is always a better alternative!

- one of de bono's very staunch disciplines, Michael Hewitt-Gleeson from Down Under, has his own way of addressing this issue: the current view of the situation (CVS) does not equal the better view of the situation (BVS);

FROM MY TOOLBOX: HOW TO JUDGE IDEAS AFFIRMATIVELY

I have picked up this wonderful evaluation tool during the course of my exploration & experimentation with creative thinking many years.

I regret that I can't recall the origin, although I believe they probably have come from the Creative Problem Solving Institute.

1) PLUSES: what are 3 things you like about the idea?

2) POTENTIALS: what are 3 good things that might result if the idea was implemented?

3) CONCERNS: what are some concerns you have about the idea?

4) OVERCOME CONCERNS: what are some ideas you have for how to fix the concerns you just noted?

THINKING IS ALWAYS ASSOCIATED WITH VISUAL METAPHORS!

Further to my earlier post on 'Thinking about New Ideas & Learning to See', I have just come to realise that our daily conversations often unconsciously or maybe consciously emphasise the primacy of visual metaphors:

Take a look at the following sampling:

- seeing is believing;

- let me see; I see;

- seeing eye to eye;

- it's good to see you;

- love at first sight;

- what does she sees in him?

- in the mind's eye;

- draw your own conclusion;

- see what I mean;

- I believe it when I see it with my own eyes;

- I don't see your point;

- you look great today;

- he or she's a blur king (a colloguial expression for 'he or she has no clarity of thought');

THE POWER OF IDEAS

According to Prof Paul Romer of Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, there is only one thing that is exempted from the 'Law of Diminishing Returns':

IDEAS!

The law states that as you increase something, such as labour or machinery or money, you eventually deliver less output for the amount of additional materials you are putting in.

Two workers create as much output as one worker, but 100 workers will not produce 50 times more output than two workers.

[Here is an 'Interview with Paul Romer' by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of Strategy+Business. It's worth reading.]

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCH PAD: SHARPENING YOUR SENSES

I have mentioned earlier & also several times about the importance of enhancing perceptual sensitivity or sensory awareness as a prerequisite to becoming more creative.

So, how do your sharpen your senses, so to speak?

Here are some practical suggestions which I have recorded in my scratchpad many years ago:

1) VISUAL:

- scan the environment;
- do a broad sweep;
- shift from one object to another;
- check out the sidelines, using your peripheral vision;
- go for details;
- follow motion or movement e.g. number plate of moving vehicles;
- if you work on the computer, take blinking breaks thoughout the day;

2) AUDITORY:

- listen between the lines, e.g. tone, tempo, rhythm, timbre, volume;
- hear the world - all the sounds;
- discern sounds;
- tone down the radio or TV to a sane level (you would be able to carry on a normal conversation);

3) TASTE:

- chew your food slowly so as to discern the taste of food;
- concentrate one at a time;
- vary your diet;

4) SMELL:

- get whiff of your surroundings;
- stop to smell the flowers;
- single out smells;
- paint fragrant picture;

5) TOUCH:

- count the coins in your pocket;
- find the keyhole;
- what's it feel like - let your finger do the walking;
- explore unfamiliar surroundings by touch only;

6) MOVEMENT:

- watch your steps;
- swing your hips as you walk;

[Here is an interesting article about SHARPENING YOUR SENSES BY EATING SMARTER!, as experts think that healthful eating may also play an important role in keeping our senses sharper as we age.]

TECHNOLOGY REVIEW: 'THE NEUROPSYCHOLOGY OF ACHIEVEMENT' from SYBERVISION SYSTEMS

I reckon the most early & impactful influences on my life, in respect of my relentless search for personal mastery since the late sixties, can easily be roughly classified as follows:

1) the work of Napoleon Hill, as expressed in his two pioneering books, 'Think & Grow Rich' & 'Law of Success' - they introduced me to many powerful success principles for the first time during the late sixties or early seventies;

2) the work of Paul J Meyer, as expressed in one of his many self-paced audio-cassette programs, i.e. 'The Dynamics of Personal Motivation', published by his company, Success Motivation Institute, in Waco, Texas, - it gave me a systematic hands-on application of powerful success principles, especially the 'Million Dollar Personal Success Plan' through guided instructions, during the late seventies;

3) almost the whole series of self-paced audio/video-cassette progams published by Sybervision Systems, Inc., USA, starting with the first program entitled 'The Neuropsychology of Achievement' - it fine-tuned my working understanding of personal vision building, with hands-on visual modeling & guided instructions, during the eighties;

I have already covered in detail the earlier two learning adventures in my previous posts.

In this particular post, I wish share with readers my most productive learning experience with 'The Neuropsychology of Achievement'.

For me, the 'magnum opus' is the understanding of the 21 dominant habits of high achievers & the strategies for implementing them in my life through the process of visual modeling.

In a nut shell, these are the 21 characteristics of success, which I would like to term as the critical success factors in peak performance:

Mental Habits:

1) Sensory goal vision;
2) Disciplined mental application;
3) Search for knowledge - continuous learning;
4) creativity - turning problems into opportunities;

Emotional Habits:

5) Confronting & conquering fear;
6) Inner directedness - taking personal responsibility;
7) Capacity to develop warm & lasting relationships;
8) Time competency;
9) Handling constructive criticism;
10) Power - influencing others;

Physical Habits:

11) Stress control;
12) Resistance to illness & disease;
13) Nutrition;
14) Physical exercise;
15) Energy rejuvenation - rest & sleep; energy engineering;

Financial Habits:

16) Dollar & sense - revenue generation;
17) Financial control
18) Career securiy;
19) Law of compensation;

Spiritual Habits:

20) Spiritual focus on mind/body/spirit;
21) Sense of higher self - purpose; self worth & responsibility;

Apparently, Sybervision Systems, in close collaboration with Stanford University's Neuropsychology Research Laboratory, had studied & evaluated some 100 of history's most famous & greatest achievers to come up with the 21 characteristics of success.

Through the process methodology of visual modeling, these 21 characteristics are intended to form the basis of their unique "Image of Achievement" - a vivid picture of the mental, emotional, physical, financial, & spiritual attitudes of the world's most successful individuals. This is also the same powerful technique used by sportsmen.

Additionally, what I like further about this program is the wholistic approach to personal vision building. As you can see from the 21 characteristics, it has a focus on the balanced wheel of life, so to speak.

For more information about this program's contents &/or the technology behind their process methodology, please visit their corporate website.

[Next: 'The Neuropsychology of Self-Discipline]

LIFE IS A JOURNEY IN TIME

Life is not a destination. It is a journey in time.

The journey presents us with many wonderful choices.

We experience these choices as forks on the road.

Our future depends on the informed choices we make as we come to the road junctions in our journey in time.

These choices are not to be taken likely.

THE POWER OF FOCUS

According to Price Headley, a trend analyst & founder of BigTrends.com:


"Your habits will determine your future. In fact, up to 90% of your everyday behaviour is based on habits. Habits are the key to success."

He offers the following strategy:

1) Think about what action will best produce the desired results;

2) Ask the question that must be answered to make an intelligent decision;

3) Decide on the best option from any of the scenarios;

4) ACT on the chosen option;

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Good, Better or Best: Which self do I want to be?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Guilt means we are focused on the past; fear means we are focused on the future; when we are calm & centred, we know we are living in the present."

(Louise Morganti Kaelin, Life Success Coach, Touchpoint Coaching)

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: CREATIVITY FOR ENGINEERS

According to L G Richards, author of the article entitled "Stimulating Creativity: Teaching Engineers to be Innovators" (as published in the Proceedings of 1998 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference), the following series of suggested activities can help to incite creativity when faced with an engineering problem:

- Immerse yourself in a domain or problem;

- Be prolific - generate lots of ideas;

- Use tools for representations & thoughts (e.g., brainstorming, notebooks, sketches, etc.);

- Play with ideas;

- Avoid premature closure;

- Don’t be afraid to be different;

- Be open & receptive to new ideas;

- Do it - practice your craft;

- Maintain a product orientation;

- Relax - indulge your diversions;

- Reflect - review what you have done;

- Have fun!

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"Scientists have accumulated considerable evidence that the image of the future is a powerful motivating force, & determines what we are motivated to learn & achieve . . . a person's image of the future may be a better predictor of future attainment than his past performances."

This observation is attributed to Dr Paul Torrance, an internationally acclaimed researcher in creativity, also professor of educational psychology at the University of Georgia; & author of "Guiding Creative Talent", plus 25 other books dealing with the problems of educating the gifted.

An image of the future that an individual holds determines what attitude he/she holds towards the future & how he/she behaves in the present; these in turn would increase the probability to make the image realized as imagined in the future.

Following years of exploration & experimentation in my own life, I have come to conclude that it plays a powerful role in shaping decisions & formulating actions.

Our image of the future inspires the present. It creates an energising 'pull' factor. The present thus serves to create our imagined future.

Change the image of the future, one begins to change behaviour in the present day. The more compelling the image of the future, the more positive the outcome.

The image of the future, or a compelling vision of the future, as a strategy is supported by the research work of Benjamin Singer (as applied by successful students), Fred Polak (as applied by vibrant societies & nations), James Collins (as applied by visionary companies), Martin Seligman (as a sense of 'learned optimism') & Karl Pribram (as image of achievement in visual modeling by champion sportsmen).

Thursday, January 31, 2008

10 KEYS TO BETTER LISTENING

Michael Michalko, a creativity guru & author of 'Thinkertoys' as well as 'Cracking Creativity', shares his perspectives on better listening, as follows:

1) Find areas of interest:

- ask: what's in it for me?

2) Judge content, not delivery:

- skip over speaker's errors;

3) Hold your fire:

- don't judge till you've heard everything;

4) Listen for ideas:

- try to discern central theme;

5) Be flexible:

- use 4 or 5 different memory systems to help you remember the content;

6) Work at listening:

- work hard, keep you rbody alert;

7) Resist distractions:

- fight or avoid distractions, tolerate bad speaker's habits & know how to concentrate;

8) Exercise your mind:

- use different expository material to keep your brain working;

9) Keep your mind open:

- interpret colour words; do not get hung up on them;

10) Capitalise on the fact that thought is faster than speech:

- challenge, anticipate, mentally summarise, weigh evidence, & listen between the lines to tone of voice;

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

1) What would I consider to be some of my best skills?

2) If I were able to join a mastermind group what would I look for?

3) What would I be able to bring to a team?

SUSTAINING CAREER SUCCESS

Drawing on my own personal as well as professional experience of spending twenty-four years in the corporate world, supplemented by almost two decades of strategy consulting with corporate clients & professional adults, I would like to share my own thinking & exploration of sustaining career success in a rapidly-changing world.

I reckon, first & foremost, one must always make sure that he or she remains professionally relevant, in terms of skill sets, both hard & soft.

I call it career obsoletescence. Please read my earlier post on this subject.

Here is my broad brush covering the critical skills & attributes for effective managers in the 21st Century:

- inter-personal communication (people skills);
- ability to act with integrity;
- ability to manage change & adapt quickly;
- ability to motivate & counsel people;
- being a strategic thinker/visionary leader;
- analytical problem solving skills;
- having a global mindset;
- ability to make informed decisions & take quick actions;
- being able to recognise industry trends & market conditions;
- ability to manage & resolve conflicts;
- knowledge of information technology;
- knowledge of financial performance;
- knowledge of strategic planning;
- influencing & negotiation skills;
- knowledge of multiple languages;
- knowledge of geopolitical & cultural diversity;
- business development & presentation skills;
- having a self development mindset;
- ability to facilitate & manage teams;
- staff recruitment, training, appraisal & mentoring skills;
- ability to manage stress;
- resiliency (able to balance job, family & external demands);
- project management skills;

Next, to follow shortly, are the following important considerations:

1) Personal Inventory;

2) Continual Improvement or Upgrading;

3) Personal Marketing;

4) Inter-personal Communication:

5) Success Inventory;

6) Long Term Employability;

7) Balanced Work-Life;

[to be continued]

IT'S GOOD TO BE HAPPY . . . BUT NOT TOO HAPPY!

I am intrigued by the revelation that moderately happy people are wealthier & maybe healthier than extremely happy individuals, according to findings by Dr Diener of The University of Illiniois at Urban-Champaign, as reported in the journal, 'Perspectives on Psychological Science'.

Dr Diener has also noted that the happiest people may not live as long as those who are moderately happy.

I reckon that once you are too happy, you tend to get complacent. You may tend to take a lot of things for granted. Too much exposure in the comfort zone may put you in the rut eventually.

As Dr Diener has suggested, extremely happy people may be less likely to follow up on health concerns. They may also be more satisfied with their lot in life, not attempting to improve or change for the better.

Whereas, if you are moderately happy, you are probably striving for more opportunities to be happier. You tend to keep working at it till you get it. There's challenge at the end, which makes the pursuit more interesting.

For me, I readily accept life as a 'do-it-yourself' project, & as such, with the support of my wife, I am constantly working at making ourselves happy together.

In other words, for both of us, happiness is definitely a journey, not a destination.

I reckon both wife & I would consider ourselves as moderately happy, as we are always exploring better ways to pursue a balanced lifestyle.

For both of us, that's a good starting point for the rest of our chosen journey through life.

If there is a scale, we would probably rate our life satisfaction at about 7.5 out of 10.

THINKING ABOUT NEW IDEAS & LEARNING TO SEE POSSIBILITIES

I really enjoy going to the gym every morning, from Monday to Friday.

Besides having a good physical workout, I also get the opportunity to think about new ideas, while working on the tread-mill or elliptical machine or stationary cycle.

The panoramic view of the light-bulb shaped swimming pool down below, & the lush green scenery across the outer perimeter of the Jurong East Sports Centre, give an extra boost to my idea generation.

Come to think of it, I am actually killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Exercising & thinking about new ideas.

For example, today alone, after working in the gym for two hours, I have gathered almost a dozen of new ideas for me to explore writing in my personal weblogs.

I always carry a pocket notebook & a Rotring pen in my gym bag, besides a towel & a water bottle.

During break times, I will often pause to jot down my new ideas.

Frankly, I have come to the conclusion that thinking about new ideas is essentially "seeing" possibilities around us.

These possibilities often come from our daily interactions with observations, readings (newspapers, signboards, posters, etc.), casual conversations, things around us, passing events &/or happenings, traffic movements, other people's ideas, ambient noise, etc.

About 60% of the English words we come across in our lives has its origins from Latin & Greek.

Very interstingly, I learned that the word 'idea' has its origins in Greek which means "to see".

So, actually when thinking about new ideas, we should say 'can you see it?', rather than 'can you get it'?

Let me share with you what I have learned further in this exploration of thinking about new ideas.

Take a look at the following sampling of English words & check out the common denominator:

- bright;
- brilliance;
- clarity;
- englightenment;
- farsightedness;
- foresight;
- hindsight;
- illumination;
- imagination;
- insight;
- inspection;

- introspection;
- observation;
- perspective;

- spectacle;
- overview;
- point of view;
- reflection;
- view;

- viewpoint;
- vision;
- visonary;

For me, I notice that the common denominator is 'light' or 'something to do with seeing'.

The word 'seer', referring to one who can see the future, has the word 'see' inside it. Interesting, isn't it?

All these seemingly random explorations of mine bring home one very important point:

Thinking about new ideas has to do with enhancing our perceptual sensitivity or developing our sensory awareness to our surrounding environment.

Come to think of it, our two eye balls are very important organs. Neurologically, they are part of our brain structure.

The next important thing is to keep asking questions. Penetrating questions, if possible.

Ask:

- what does this remind me of?

- what does this lead me to?

- what's next?

- what's good & new here?

- where's the gap?

- where's the need?

- how else can I made use of this?

- how do I apply it in my life, my work, my business?

However, all these questions will make more sense when we become more observant about the world.

The world is definitely full of possibilities. The question is: Do you see it?

No wonder, Leonardo da vinci once said: To have a complete mind, among other things, you must use all your senses, especially your sense of sight.

I have also learned that the word 'intuition' has its origins from the Latin word 'intueri', which also means 'to see'.

I like to put here a memorable quote from Albert Einstein as food for thought (originally reported by Michael Gelb in his book, 'Thinking for a Change'), as you think about what I have written so far:

"The words of the language as they are written or spoken do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought, which relies on more or less clear images of a visual & some of a muscular type."

PREVENTING CAREER OBSOLETESCENCE

I recall this really wonderful advice from a magazine article which I had read when I first became General Manager during my last few years in the corporate rat race.

Unfortunately, I could not trace this magazine article in my files. Nevertheless, I can recall the key learning points:

1) Divide all your skill sets, both hard & soft, including your knowledge & work experiences gained so far into 3 categories, as follows:

first category: those skill sets that you are already very good at, i.e. to say, you can even do them with your eyes closed;

second category: those skill sets that you can manage to do to some extent, but not very well, e.g. creative problem solving, decision analysis, etc.; however, you reckon with additional training &/or further exposure, you can do them much better;

third category: those new skill sets of managers or leaders of the 21st century, which you have read about in the newspapers, magazines or books & which you have not yet acquired, e.g. developing strategic foresight, scenario planning, etc.; you reckon these new skills will be very useful in your career progression;

2) Now, study what you have done so far;

If you have recorded more than 50% of the skill sets in the first category, you are in big trouble, especially in today's rapidly-changing landscape of work & business.

However, if you have not recorded anything in the other two categories, well, I can only say, GOOD LUCK to you!

Something for you to ponder: The past does not equal the future.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"It is good to have money & the things that money can buy, but it's good too, to check up once in a while & make sure you haven't lost the things money can't buy."

(George Lorimer, 1867 - 1937, US editor of the 'Saturday Evening Post')

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: RECOGNISING OPPORTUNITIES

Here are some further notes I have jotted down in my scratchpad with the view of making further distinctions about recognising opportunities.

Good ideas are not necessarily good opportunities!

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.

This has always been the expressed stance of Prof Jeffry Timmons, often considered as North America's foremost educator in entrepreneurship.

For an opportunity to have these qualities, the window of opportunity is opening & remain open long enough for its exploitation.

Further more,

- the entry into 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 i.e. achieve leverage;

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

The challenge of entrepreneurship is to turn a good idea into a feasible venture.

Having generated good ideas in the first place, we need to assess whether they might lead to a feasible business opportunity.

A feasibility assessment might suggest that the idea is

- worth pursuing;

- is unlikely to succeed;

- could be successful if adapted to suit circumstances;

An identified opportunity is one for which we can answer 6 questions:

1) User - who will be the end user?

2) Application - what business application or requirements that this opportunity will satisfy?

3) Product - what product will be required to meet the customer's business requirements?

4) Revenue - what is the revenue associated with this opportunity?

5) When - when is the revenue projected to occur?

6) Contingency - what are the barriers to winning this opportunity?

[Source: 'New Business Opportunities' & 'New Venture Creation', by Jeffry Timmons]

THE POWER OF FOCUS

According to Remez Sasson, a success coach & prolific author of self-improvement articles:

"Every act needs attention for its successful performance. People are not born with the power of attention. It has to be developed. Its development & training start from a very young age . . . For this ability to be useful, it should be under the control of your will. You have to be able to decide where & when to focus your mind."

[For more information, please visit the author's corporate website.]

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: RAMBO IV

"Live for nothing or die for something. The choice is yours."

This was the most memorable quote & yet pointed challenge from John Rambo, as he held his bow & arrow at the forehead of the leader of a small ragtag band of mercenaries, while the latter's comrades-in-arms were stunned by the sudden decision whether they should quit or follow Rambo to finish what they had started in the first place.

The setting was the killing zone - where hundreds of innocent & poor villagers, suspected of supporting the ethnic Karen rebels were slaughtered to death on their paddy fields - inside Burma, under a very cruel military regime.

The mission of the mercenaries was to rescue a small group of American missionaries captured earlier by the Burmese military forces.

Against this backdrop, & with a simple story plot, Rambo IV turned out to be a very exciting action movie for me & my gym buddy last night at the Jurong Entertainment Centre. Looks like Tuesday night is going to be our movie night every week.

Sylvester Stallone reprised his role as John Rambo for the 4th time in this movie, which ran for slightly more than an hour. He was also the movie director.

I believe many scenes were probably cut by the censor board, as I read that the original movie was supposed to run for slightly more than ninety minutes. Those cut scenes obviously portrayed the graphic violence & blatant atrocities of the Burmese military forces against supporters of the ethnic Karen rebels. Presumably, there were also plenty of rape scenes.

Judging from the close-up shots of the face, & for once, we did not get a chance to see his bare chest, Sylvester Stallone had definitely put on a lot of weight.

However, I reckon he fared pretty well in terms of several action sequences:

- when he single-handedly blasted the few Burmese river pirates with solid lead, especially when one of them started to have fancy ideas about taking a foreign woman hostage, during an early encounter;
- he neutralised those few merciless soldiers out on a joy ride with Russian Roulette, Burmese style, with his personal brand of instant juctice - an arrow through the head or the heart;
- the covert rescue attempt of the missionaries, while all the bad guys were partying;
- while on the run from the pursuing enemies, he set off a massive claymore mine detonation in conjunction with, of all things, a WWII bomb relic, thus sending reverberating shockwaves through the jungle - I thought this sequence was the best ever filmed;
- & finally, when he snatched control of an enemy machine gun turret & mowed down all those bad guys, in the trucks, in the fields, in the gunboat, who stood in his gun-sight;

The systematically & graphically choreographed atrocities against the poor villagers in the paddy fields by the bad guys, & the final scene, when he more or less massacred the entire Burmese army contingent with the blazing machine gun turret, with blood squirting all over the place, were somewhat overdone &/or overwhelmingly sensationalised.

On the whole, the cinematography, especially of the terraced paddy fields (even though the movie was presumably set in Thailand), was also great.

I like the poignant ending scene, when he returned to his home town in the United States, probably to touch base with his long-lost father, mentioned in this movie. He seemed to have worn the same outfit, & carried the same haversack, from the first movie, Rambo I: First Blood, first released during the early eighties.

In the first movie, we saw him drifting into the town of Hope, in search of a lost buddy from the Vietnam War. From the very moment that the pesky town sheriff began to harass him, we saw how Rambo was turned gradually into a killing machine by the war, which actually made no sense to him.

The rampant killing continued throughout all the remaining three Rambo movies, including this particular one, each deliberately designed with a different setting for pure entertainment.

For me, it seemed that Rambo had come full circle, when he had finally chosen to return home.

Sylvester Stallone is one of those few action stars that seems to have sustainable staying power - more than three decades - in the movie kingdom. I have enjoyed watching many of his action movies. Surprisingly, he considers Leonardo da vinci as his personal hero.

On the Chinese side, we now have only Jet Li, while Jackie Chan is slowly getting a bit too old. On the Japanese side, my favourite action stars like Sonny Chiba & Sho Kosugi have more or less disappeared. On the Hollywood side, it seems that Jean Claude van Damme is still going quite strong. Steven Seagall is regrettably getting a bit fat, too. Wesley Snipes is still not bad.

My end analysis: In terms of pulsating action sequences, Rambo IV has been a very exciting action movie to watch.

THE POWER OF FOCUS

Roger Seip, a success coach who runs a memory training outfit, offers the following advice:

1) You must be very careful about where you direct your focus;

2) You have to be mindful of what you read, what you watch & who you invest your time with;

3) Whatever you focus on most intently & most often, you get!

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Mystery is more important than knowledge."

(J J Abrams, the brain behind the successful TV series, 'Alias' & 'Lost', as well as the high-tech action-packed movies, 'Mission Impossible III' & 'Cloverfield')

ROADBLOCKS ON THE HIGHWAY OF LIFE: ANGER

Is 'anger' a roadblock on the highway of life? Yes, if it puts us in 'stress mode' all the time.

I need to qualify: I am talking more about 'distress mode', to be more precise.

'Stress mode' is OK as it offers you an opportunity to face up to a challenge. It pumps up your adrenalin.

When we are pushed into 'distress mode', our reptilian brain downshifts because it recognises & treats 'stress' as a threat. Worst still, our emotional brain gets charged up, & our uppermost brain loses its ability to think rationally.

To me, anger is generally a loss of emotional control on our part, especially in response to some sense of frustration, hurting remark or feeling of disappointment.

In reality, anger is also our most natural human response.
In the early years of my marriage to Catherine, my first wife, while I was still working in the corporate world, I often get angry very easily.

Surprisingly, Catherine had this marvellous intuitive sense of knowing when I would be going to blow my top. She would often say: 'Hang on, Say Keng. Count to ten!'

Somehow, & for some strange reasons, her spontaneous remark would jolt me to my rational senses. I would soon acknowledge my own heightened emotional state, & started to count mentally. Soon my anger would gradually subside, my physical body would gently return to equilibrium, & I would secretly smiled to myself at the end of the endeavour.

I must admit it worked most of the time, but not all the time, depending on the degree my anger, as well as context of what I was angry about in the first place.

Scientists say that, if the rising emotional tension - generally accompanied by an increase in heart rate & blood pressure, too - arising from an angry mode does not subside, & worst still, if we continue to be angry indefinitely, that would ultimately put us in a continuously damaging stress mode.

Do you know what will happen?

Cortisol hormones, often referred to as the 'stress hormones', will start to build up excess levels in our physical body. Cortisol kills brain cells!

What can help then?

Here are some practical suggestions, drawn from my own experience, with the moderating advice of experts, of course:

- breath deeply & count to ten;

- slow down, & take some time to reflect;

- take a quick break & go for a slow walk;

- do some simple relaxation routines;

- go to the gym, as physical exercises help to reduce your body tension;

- write some notes in your personal journal;

- visualise some happy scenes in your mind's eye;

- play some Baroque or New Age Music;

MAKING DISTINCTIONS: WILL POWER

Will power is the outgrowth of definiteness of purpose expressed through persistent action based on personal initiative.

[Source: ABCSales.com]

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"The best education doesn't teach you how to work. No matter how well you know your field, you won't be your most effective until you exercise good work habits - until you are able to get things done, on time, & with the most efficient use of your resources."

(Kerry Gleeson, author of 'Personal Efficiency Program: How to Get Organized to Do More Work in Less Time'; He is also the founder & CEO of the Institute for Business Technology International, & has advised more than a million executives on workload management procedures at such leading companies as General Motors, Texaco, Westinghouse, Shell, Exxon, Nissan, Lever Brothers, Hewlett-Packard, & many more. )

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCH PAD: IDEA SPOTTING

The following interesting notes came from Sam Harrison's 'Idea Spotting: How to Find Your Next Great Idea':

1) Observe & listen;

2) Step outside your daily routine;

3) Explore the world through travelling;

4) Find ideas in nature;

5) Break out of the rut;

6) Learn from your mistakes;

7) Get pass the surface;

8) Connect existing ideas;

PARENTS AS LEARNING FACILITATORS

I always hold the view that parents are the children's first teachers.

In other words, parents should explore early opportunities to act as learning facilitators to their own children at home, as teachers in the school can only do so much.

Don't forget, each teacher has to handle some forty kids in a class.

With the Internet, the ready availability of learning resources through online resources, & social networking, it is relatively easy for parents today to play the role of learning facilitators at home.
Here are some simple suggestions for parents:

1) Adopt a positive frame of mind;

2) Develop a personal interest in self-directed learning;

3) Respect the power of learning & the world of ideas;

4) Provide constant encouragement to your children;

5) Sincerely believe you can make a real difference;

6) Redesign your home as a brain-friendly learning centre;

7) Spend time in acquiring new skills & tools in learning mastery;

First of all, please spend some time to browse my other personal weblog, 'Study Smart Smorgasbord.' I have written a number of interesting posts.

A really good book to start reading is Ronald Gross' 'Peak Learning', followed by Colin Rose's 'Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century'. These two books will definitely give interested parents a comprehensive broad-based understanding about learning mastery.

To help your children with specific study skills, Eric Jensen's 'Student Success Secrets' is highly recommended for a quick start.

PROVOKE INSIGHT: 'PLAYING AROUND'

Kids love 'playing around'. When they encounter something - it can be a thing or an activity - that strike their fancy, they will often plunge in to play with gusto.

Sometimes, they may even create their own things or activities to amuse themselves, as part of 'playing around'.

To them, 'playing around' is paramount in their learning pursuits.

Once, one of my nieces from Vietnam, a 3-year old 'pocket rambo', dropped in with her mother to spend two weeks in Singapore, with me & my wife.

Because of her hyperactive disposition & highly inquisitive mind, she loved 'playing around' at my peaceful home, as I have a lot of left-over toys, games & construction kits, like Googolplex, K'nex, Zometools, from my early days of running a retail store.

On one occasion, she also found one of my portables, a Dell Inspiron, lying on the table. Out of sheer curiosity, she managed to switch it on - she probably had seen me doing it - & 'played around' with it - opened the cover, pressed the power switch, messed with the keyboard - until the Caps Lock key was quite badly damaged.

Of course, she got a rough spanking from me.

When I started to analyse her behaviour, I realised that two things had happened during her natural foray into 'playing around':

- she had displayed a sense of wonder - wondering about the new thing in her hands, trying to understand in some way, what it was; probably, also figuring out what would happen if she poke a finger here or there; in other words, exploring the unknown; since she didn't know what it was in the first place, she probably had no preconceived notion at all;

- she had displayed a sense of discovery - discovering what & where the 'playing around' will lead her to &/or probably, what else she could do with it;

After the spanking, she knew the hard way that a portable computer was not for 'playing around'. I told her that the portable was meant for my work, & that she could have one for learning & studying with she grew up.

Later on, I learned from my wife that she had actually cajoled her father to buy her a portable computer. Her father obliged her with a kiddy version, fitted with a voice synthesiser, that she could use for learning ABC & 123.

Kids are very good in 'playing around'. They are very creative, too. What about adults? Sad to say, most adults are the opposites.

Whenever I run creativity workshops, I often put an assortment of small toys, games & puzzles on the participants' table.

For kids, no problems at all, as they would just grab whatever fancy them, & play till I ask them to stop.

For adults, most would just sit quietly at the table, & probably just stare at the assortment. The adventurous few would just go forward & play around with the stuff. Interestingly, I have often found the latter to be the more creative lot among the adult participants.

I reckon most adults always have the fear of looking childish & also foolish in front of their peers.

All of us have been kids before. How is it that this sense of 'playing around' in all of us is now missing?

In reality, it's not missing. It's our logic sensor inside our head as adults that's holding us back. This sensor has been conditioned by our environment - home, school, company or organisation, community, society in general;

That's why I always say, in order to be more creative, we must first act like a child. Go & play around with things, activities, people, events, happenings, & ideas all around us. The world is full of possibilities.

Just allow our innate sense of wonder as well as inborn sense of discovery to lead us to the next level. This is the essence of playing around.

As John Gleese, the British actor famous for his protrayal in the Monty Python series, once said:

"The essence of creativity is not the possession of some special talent, . . . it is much more the ability to play!"

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

PREDICTING THE FUTURE

In an effort to predict the future for Singapore, the EDB has boldly, through their so-called 'rain-making' process, identified new growth engines for the country:

- clean energy;
- environment & water;
- natural resources;
- lifestyle & sports;
- non-profit outfits;

EDB's Asst MD, Kenneth Tan revealed the following 'rain-making tools', which had apparently helped EDB's whiz kids to facilitate their crystal-ball gazing:

- the Matrix, a digital database, which records all reports written by EDB officers - these officers roam the globe - for the last four decades, including interviews with companies, research reports, market surveys, as well as a host of literature relating to virtually every industry;

- the 3P strategy, with which they ask themselves, in the process of evaluating new ideas: Got Potential? Got Plan? Go Proof? If there's potential, they have 90 days to think up a plan;

Based on current developments, the identified new industries look like safe bets.

The Matrix, as it stands as claimed, & if it is real, is certainly exciting.

Presumably, the digital database has been designed to capture the strategic conversations from all over the world as well as exploratory scans of dynamic events & growth developments from the mainstream, & more importantly, from the fringes as well.

Failing to encompass sketchy developments from the far-flung edges, where most of the newly emerging technologies are likely to surface first, the Matrix will just be another library thing.

Having the Matrix as an intelligent digital database is one thing, but it is the human ingenuity of the end-users to consistently make use of the stored data for project evaluation, &/or scenario analysis, & then come up with strategic foresights & long-range forecasts, that ultimately make it useful & valuable for its intended purpose.

On the other hand, I am very intrigued by the third P, for Proof, in the 3P strategy. It seems that our kiasu (Singaporean's brand of 'afraid to lose') factor is real.

Why do you need proof i.e. to prove that the new idea(s) can work?

PROVOKE INSIGHT vs SUDDEN INSIGHT

I believe Edward de bono has coined the seemingly powerful term: 'provoke insight'.

He uses the term to denote that we should always make a deliberate, concerted effort to generate a new idea, rather than just to wait for a new idea to 'come out of the blue', i.e. sudden insight'.

Most probably, he didn't like Archimedes & his 'eureka' moment.

Actually, Edward de bono has a valid point. He doesn't believe that our brains are inherently creative. He thinks that our brains are great in terms of pattern making, which inhibits creative thinking.

To be creative, he argues that we should learn to break patterns in our brains. Do a pattern interrupt, so to speak.

He believes that 'provoke insight' is the best way to go about pattern breaking, resulting in creative thinking.

In fact, operationally, 'provoke insight' underscores his proprietary methodology of lateral thinking - 'thinking with different boxes' as opposed to 'thinking out of a box'.

From a tactical standpoint, I tend to agree with him.

To view this in broader perspective, let's take a horizontal continuum. You can have 'Sudden Insight' on the left end point; with 'Provoke Insight' on the right end point.

The optimum strategy is to gradually move toward the right end point. With a little bit of experimentation & practice, we can continue to stay at this point.

Over the years, Edward de bono had offered a number of practical suggestions to help us to 'provoke insight' in our daily lives.

In this & subsequent posts, I will share with readers my own hands-on experiences in applying the following:

1) Playing around;

2) Mindstorming;

3) Exposure to irrelevant objects as stimuli;

4) Inter-twinning of thoughts;

5) Random selection;

6) Breaking connections;

[to be continued]

YOUR WHOLE LIFE HAS TO BE A LEARNING EXPERIENCE!

Wow, what a great lesson to share with all Singaporeans!

Grandma Amy Lam has always gone out on a limb in living her life. She left Singapore at 15 for a boarding school in Ireland. She studied music & taught there for 20 years before moving to Norway.

After her divorce in 1985, she left for United States & joined an events & travel firm & also learned the ropes from scratch.

Once back in Singapore, she took an advertising job & the one with the netball association - again, with no background in either.

She topped all these past endeavours with the completion of the world's longest foot trail, known as the Appalachian Trail, stretching 3,500km from Georgia's Springer Mountain to Mount Katahdin in Maine in 2005.

She was then 55 years old. Surprisingly, she had no physical training. After 127 days, 5 million steps, one fall, 2 worn-out pairs of shoes & two blisters, she emerged victorious as the first Singaporean to complete the trip. Over 9,000 people have hiked the entire trail to date.

I truly salute her for her guts to follow her dream & her resilience to keep moving forward!

This is the power of vision at work!

CORPORATE CREATIVITY: ILLUSION OR REALITY?

"Goldman, Credit Suisse to cut 2,000 jobs worldwide"

This was the headline I read in the Money Page of yesterday's Straits Times.

According to the story, "Goldman plans to cut its global workforce by 5%, targeting the worst-performing employees". That works out to 1,500 employees.

Likewise, Credit Suisse said it will cut about 500 jobs, mostly in investment banking operations.

I always thought that companies already understood what Peter Drucker had been urging companies for decades, that business is only two things: marketing & innovation.

I would have expected them to constantly find better use of technology to streamline processes; look for better ways to do business with clients; initiate better ways to increase business volumes &/or number of clients.

Chopping people like as if they are running abattoirs is definitely not innovation.

Ironically, I have read, to my amusement, the following Business Principle #2 & #5 in Goldman Sachs' Group Mission Statement:

"Our assets are our people, capital & reputation. If any of these is ever diminished, the last is the most difficult to restore . . ."

"We stress creativity & imagination in everything we do . . ."

Likewise, I have found this contrary statement in one of Credit Suisse's Company Snapshots:

"Credit Suisse prides itself on having a unique culture of innovation & entrepreneurship while giving back to communities & making Credit Suisse a great place to work. There really are no barriers to achievement here. We value leadership at all levels & believe you can make a difference from any seat in the firm. Taken together, we believe our approach is fundamental to the creativity that has made Credit Suisse such a global success."

Gee, where is all that corporate creativity & innovation these big boys are talking about?

By the way, do these big boys sincerely believe in what they say when they go round recruiting people from all over the world?

COOL FEAT!

Yesterday's Straits Times had a People Spotlight on Wim Hof.

With the aid of the tantric art of tumo, a Tibetan Buddhist technique of keeping warm through meditation, this nature guide from the Netherlands stood on a Manhattan Street in a clear container filled with ice for 72 minutes on last Saturday. What an extraordinary cool feat!

As a matter of fact, he holds six recognised world records for a variety of extreme feats, including the fastest bare-foot half-marathon in history (2 hr 16 min) & the longest swim (57.5 min) while holding one's breath under ice.

Next on his agenda is to run the full marathon in short at the North Pole.

For me, I have learned a simple meditative technique from Alpha Dynamics since the mid-eighties, & have practised it, no so much as a ritualistic process, but more as a relaxation sequence.

The most productive experience I often get out of a simple meditative sequence, say in twenty minutes or so, is a quiet, focused mind, all ready to take on any challenges.

Throughout the nineties, I had even experimented with high-tech meditation, using a variety of brain synthesisers, like MindGear.

Today, occasionally I just switch on my uMoments from OSIM, which comes with 7 superbly engineered sounds (based on the neuro-acoustic research work of Jeffrey Thompson) & 5 nature sounds for that soothing ambience in my immediate surroundings.

However, nothing beats the real thing.

I already know - & have personally experienced - how meditation can do a lot of wonders to the metaphysical mind as well as the physical body.

Wim Hof has certainly perfected it to the highest order. I have read that Wim Hof is apparently the only non-Tibetan in the world to have mastered the art of tumo.