Saturday, March 8, 2008

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

According to Chris Zook, a partner at Bain & Company & co-leader of its Global Strategy Practice, the real focus of businesses should be external — on competitors, shifts in technology, and customer dynamics.

He is the author of a trilogy of business books on developing the strategic focus in your business, 'Profit from the Core', 'Beyond the Core', & 'Unstoppable'.

Yet he has come very quickly to the uneasy conclusion, after spending seven years of studying success and failure among companies searching for profitable growth, that, ironically, many of the most challenging demons are internal.

That is, our most difficult foes are ourselves.

And so, he adds that the following rings true:

- If you do not know yourself, it is difficult to judge what you should become;

- If you do not know where you are, it is difficult to decide where to go and how;

- If you do not know what you are really good at, it is tough to know what to do;

So, it seems that the starting place is actually very personal - from deep down inside ourselves.

Know thyself, so to speak. For me, this resonates very well with what Stephen Covey has often taked about: attain our personal victory first & more importantly, first things first.

I particularly like what Chris Zook emphasises further, as he writes in the Conversation Starters at Harvard Business, although he means it in the business sense, but I realise that it can cut both ways. That is to say, it's applicable also in the personal sense:

". . . focus to understand and build on the hidden assets you already have. If you can do that, you have a better chance of success and differentiation than if you leap into something completely new."

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

1) What pictures am I creating in my head?

2) Why do I want it?

3) Do I really believe I deserve to have it?

4) What do I focus on every day?

5) Am I allowing myself to pull away from what I truly want?

THE POWER OF FOCUS

The following write-up is certainly an interesting perspective about the power of focus, as applied to the writing of articles in the newspapers.

It came from Chip Scanlan writing in the PoynterOnline, under the byline, 'A Best Newspaper Writing Brown Bag'.

I particularly like what he wrote as the same principles can be readily applied to writing other forms of communication.

Here it goes:

"At a time when readers and viewers can get information from a variety of sources, the thinking we do as journalists is the way we transform information into an exceedingly more valuable commodity -- knowledge.

Thinking is the way writers, whatever the genre, medium, or deadline, make sense of the material they collect during the reporting. It's the compass that leads the reporter out of the tangled woods of reporting. It's the focusing ring on a camera lens that is adjusted until the image is clear.

Thinking about stories frightens some reporters who worry it sounds too much like a call to inject opinions into news stories. I'd argue that the best stories help readers understand how and why the news has meaning in, and relevance to, their lives, which is a vital part of the journalist's job in a democracy.

The way to achieve that is by applying intelligence and critical thinking skills –- the power of focus –- to every story.''

He ends the article with this insightful observation from Thomas Boswell, The Washington Post:

"The most important thing in the story is finding the central idea. It’s one thing to be given a topic, but you have to find the idea or the concept within that topic. Once you find that idea or thread, all the other anecdotes, illustrations, and quotes are pearls that you hang on this thread. The thread may seem very humble, the pearls may seem very flashy, but it's still the thread that makes the necklace."

THE POWER OF FOCUS

According to Paul Donihue, a business success development expert, & author of the ebook, '11 Ways to Kill Your Business & the Keys to save it':

The Power of Focus is essentially:

- digging in & going after the goal;
- determination to pay the price for achievement;
- results oriented;
- outcome driven;
- staying consistent & embracing stick-to-itiveness;
- hard work, from the beginning;
- be time-wise: manage your time so that your commitment is clear & nothing gets in the way of the goal;

10 TOP TIPS FOR THE INNOVATIVE LEADER

Here is a link to the above interesting article by Paul Sloane, founder of the 'Destination Innovation' website, as well as author of 'The Innovative Leader' with a focus on lateral thinking.

I have found it this morning on the Innovation weblog, to which I am a subscriber.

In a nut shell:

1. Have a vision for change;
2. Fight the fear of change;
3. Think like a venture capitalist;
4. Have a dynamic suggestions scheme;
5. Break the rules;
6. Give everyone full accountability for delivering value;
7. Collaborate externally;
8. Welcome experimentation & failure;
9. Build prototypes to gauge customer's reaction;
10. Be passionate in all your pursuits;

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Experience does not ever err. It is only your judgment that errs in promising itself results which are not caused by your experiments."

(Leonardo da Vinci, 1452 - 1519)

Friday, March 7, 2008

PICK UP A BOOK, BULK UP YOUR BRAIN

The following tip comes from the 'RealAge: Live Life to the Youngest' website:

"Don’t deny yourself the luxury of curling up with that murder mystery, tragic tale, or sci-fi thriller this weekend.

Consider it self-defense class for your brain. Being a bookworm doesn’t just make you smart.

It makes you mentally tough. It builds so much cognitive reserve that bookworms’ brains may be bolstered against bad things like pollution and toxins.

On cognitive tests, book lovers outperform people with lower reading levels. No surprise there.

But the big news is that people who read regularly may develop a "cognitive reserve."

What’s that mean?

That they’ve got extra brainpower to keep the mind rolling when brain cells are under attack.

In a study of factory workers, the brains of the big readers functioned just fine on cognitive tasks, despite on-the-job exposure to toxic substances, like lead."

Father John Hardon (1914-2000), Catholic priest, writer & theologian, was absolutely right when he said:

“Everything we read stimulates our mind to think, and what we think determines what we desire, and desires are the seedbed of our actions. Given this iron law of human nature–from reading to thinking, to desiring, to acting–we are shaping our destiny by the ideas we choose to have enter our minds through print.”

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

If I had three days to see, what would I choose to see in those days?

(inspired by Helen Keller)

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: RULES OF THUMB FOR PROBLEM SOLVING

1. If you hit every time, the target's too near -- or too big.

2. Never learn details before deciding on a first approach.

3. Never state a problem to yourself in the same terms as it was
brought to you.

4. The second assault on the same problem should come from a totally
different direction.

5. If you don't understand a problem, then explain it to an audience
and listen to yourself.

6. Don't mind approaches that transform one problem into another,
that's a new chance.

7. If it's surprising, it's useful.

8. Studying the inverse problem always helps.

9. Spend a proportion of your time analyzing your work methods.

10. If you don't ask "Why this?" often enough, someone else will ask,
"Why you?"

[Source: Tom Hirshfield, a research physicist; originally appeared in Roger von oech's book, 'A Kick in the Seat of the Pants' & subsequently posted in his personal weblog;]

MY EARLY INFLUENCES BY JAPANESE CULTURE

My first encounter with Japanese culture was through the black & white movies of the legendary Japanese actor, Toshiro Mifune, who often played the wandering swordsman.

His movie credits included the cult classics like 'The Seven Samurai', 'Rashomon', 'Master Swordsman', 'Yojimbo', plus a few others. I was then a young teenager, with a penchant for watching action movies.

Around the same time, Japanese movies featuring the 'Blind Swordsman' also became one of my favourites. I remember when he came into town to do a live performance, I was one of those crazy fans of his.

There was one more Japanese movie character who HAD also fascinated me.

He was Akira Koyabashi, who often played the mysterious dressed-in-black-trenchcoat action hero, nicknamed 'Black Whirlwind'. He was really good with his fists. At the end of his many movies, he always seemed to disappear gradually into the sunset, with the disappointed heroine watching him, with tears in her eyes.

Then, I moved on to watch the Australian dubbed-in-English TV series, 'Shintaro, The Samurai'.
It was here that I became fascinated with the mystical ninjas & their fighting crafts.

In the series, the hero, Shintaro, was often assisted by his side-kick, Tombei, a dressed-in-white ninja from the Iga clan, who often had to battle jointly against the evil, dressed-in-black, ninjas from the Koga clan.

Around the seventies, I became more or less intoxicated by Sonny Chiba in the 'Street Fighter' movies. I was intrigued by his no-mercy approach in dealing with his opponents. By the way, I last saw Sonny Chiba in the 'The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift'.

Then came Sho Kosugi during the late seventies or early eighties as the new ninja fighter.

Our hero even had a fighting scene with Jean Claude van damme, who played a baddie in one particular action movie. In order not to show who was the better fighter, the latter was killed in the waters by a boat propeller.

When I joined the UMW group during the early eighties, I began my first-hand, real-world experiences with Japanese business as well as management culture.

At that time, almost 80% of the UMW group's turnover came from Japanese products e.g. Komatsu heavy & construction equipment, Mitsubishi industrial engines, Toyota forklifts, Isuzu dump trucks.

I also had a chance to visit Japan for the first time - & a few other times - to have first-hand observational experience & close interaction with Japanese sales & service personnel.

Having worked with mostly Swiss & German firms in earlier years, I had found dealing with the Japanese a real cultural shock for me.

A philosophy of 'group consensus' was often the name of the game. The Japanese were highly-organised, extremely observant, & detail-oriented [nothing was trivial to them], particularly when one of their machines had broken down at customer's site. To them, customer's feedback was gospel.

It was at this time that I had started my journey to read & understand more about Japanese business & management culture.

I believe that the the first book which I had read was actually the translated work of Miyamoto Mushashi, 'The Book of Five Rings'. It was rather difficult to read, but it was an excellent strategy guide.

Then came William Ouchi's 'Theory Z' in subsequent years. His book was more enlightening, as it gave me some Japanese insights on organisational productivity.

This was followed later by 'Made in Japan: Akio Morita & Sony' as well as Richard Pascale Tanner's 'The Art of Japanese Management'.

Next came Kenichi Ohmae's 'The Mind of the Strategist.' The latter book gave me my first introduction into strategic thinking.

My first encounter with Yoshiro Nakamatsu or Dr Nakamats was a feature story in the 'Asia Week' news magazine during the late eighties. I was transfixed by this wacky guy with his cerebrex machine.

I remember that I even had a brief phone conversation with him, followed by fax communication, during which he gave me more information about his work.

I even bought two Japanese books on creativity written by him through Kinokuniya Bookstores.

Luckily, the Japanese language shares some common characters with the Chinese Language. Hence, it was not difficult for me to read his two books.

It was around the early nineties that I came across another fascinating book about Japanese creativity entitled, 'Created in Japan', by Sheridan Tatsuno. It was an eye opener for me.

Presumably, most readers are already familiar with the four creative personas as defined by Roger von oech, namely, 'Explorer', 'Artist', 'Judge' & 'Warrior'.

The Japanese has come up with the fifth persona, 'Antique Dealer'. In terms of creativity, the 'Antique Dealer' recycles old ideas, gives them some new twists, & comes up with better ideas, thus making a lot of money at the end.

The story about Edwards Deming is a case in point.

Incidentally, the JIT (just-in-time) system was an original American invention, but it was the Japanese who had perfected it.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Everybody has talent. It is just a matter of moving around until you have discovered what it is."

(George Lucas, the creative brain behind the lucrative & popular Star Wars movie phenomenon)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

THE WACKY WORLD OF DR NAKAMATS

Over the years, Dr Nakamats has been called many funny names: odd-ball inventor, garden-shed boffin, goofy or nutty professor.

These could probably be attributed to many of his inventions, which are often considered wacky.

However, I surely like to salute him for his sheer determination & dogged persistence. He had made four unsuccessful attempts to be the mayor of Tokyo.

I am always intrigued by his wacky world.

While running for the mayor of Tokyo last spring, he announced that, if elected, he would introduce a missile defence shield for Japan against the potential threat from North Korea.

Come to think of it: How come the Japanese government does not prick his brains on this important matter?

I thought this would be an excellent platform for him to showcase his technological prowess, & also to knock out all his detractors for once & for all with one single stroke.

I read that he is often known to sell his inventions to the highest bidder.

This attitude somehow contradicts his open declaration that 'the purpose of science & invention is love, not making money."

In 2005, he had won a Ig Noble Prize for Nutrition. This was in recognition of his painstaking documentation - photographing & analysing - of the effects of what he had eaten over the last thirty years or so on brain activity, health condition & longevity.

He had in fact identified 55 ingredients in the food he had eaten, which he believed could have contributed to his many brainy inspirations.

Till today, none of the information has yet to be released to the public domain.

Also, he has this fascinating 'Rebody Theory'. According to him, as long as one can sustain the balance of five critical elements, one can happily live up to 144 years old.

He has identified the five elements as follows:

- the spirit;
- eating & drinking (he eats only one meal a day, of about 700 calories);
- sleep (he sleeps only 4 hours, from 4am to 8am);
- muscle training;
- sex;


Interestingly, he has claimed to have developed the ultimate sensual pleasure device for men, the Love Jet, in better contrast to the Viagra.

Surprisingly, no Japanese pharmaceutical company has yet to take up the licencing.

I guess he is still waiting for the highest bidder.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"We must always be disturbed by the truth."

(Dogen Zenji, 1200-1253, 13th century Buddhist monk & philosopher, who established the practice of Zazen in Japan)

THE WORLD'S MOST PROLIFIC INVENTORS: WHERE DO THE BIG IDEAS COME FROM?

According to Shunpei Yamazaki, he gets his ideas the moment upon waking up from 'dozing off'.

Most readers know by now that Dr Nakamats gets his ideas during 'underwater swimming'.

THE WORLD'S MOST PROLIFIC INVENTOR, UNOFFICIALLY

It has been widely reported that the world's most prolific inventor is Yoshiro Nakamatsu, or better known as Dr Nakamats, of Japan. He is believed to have more than 3,000 inventions to his name.

In fact, many of his inventions, already prominently reported on the Internet, are of the wacky kind.

Unfortunately, & unlike Shunpei Yamazaki, Dr Nakamats' many inventions cannot be independently verified.

A quick check at the US Patent & Trademark office throws up just a handful of patents in his name.

Presumably, many of his inventions had been registered in Japan.

I am aware that some people out there had even considered him a fraud. Since IBM had confirmed an 'ongoing licensing relationship' with him since the late seventies, he can't be that bad.

Hence, by virtue of his worldwide popularity, Dr Nakamats is probably the world's most prolific inventor, unofficially.

THE WORLD'S MOST PROLIFIC INVENTOR, OFFICIALLY

Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Edison was not the world's most prolific inventor, despite the fact that he had 1,093 inventions to his name.

The honour goes to Shunpei Yamazaki of Japan. He runs the Semi-Conductor Energy Lab.

According to Michael White of 'The Patent Librarian Notebook' weblog of 12th April 2007, the above Japanese inventor has:

- 1,688 issued US patents;
- 1,261 published applications;

based on researched statistics from the US Patent & Trademark Office website. Most of his patents relate to computer display technology.

The same weblog also mentioned that a search in Patents Lens, a non-profit patent database service retrieved:

- 3,226 US, European & International patent documents credited to him.

In addition, the European Patent Office, which contains more than 60 million patent documents from 70+ countries, records:

- 7,285 patents & published applications from him.

The Gadjet Lab of wired.com had reported in October 2007 that he held 1,811 patents. According to Kelvin Maney, a technology writer for USA Today, this Japanese inventor is the top holder with 1,432 patents.

I am perplexed by all the above seemingly non-reconciliatory numbers.

Nonetheless, Shunpei Yamazaki is the world's most prolific inventor officially.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested
person."

(G K Chesterton, 1874-1936, English critic & author of verse, essays, novels, & short stories, known also for his exuberant personality & rotund figure;)

SECRETS OF STRESS MANAGEMENT

When explaining stress management to an audience, the lecturer raised a glass of water and asked:

"How heavy is this glass of water?"

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

The lecturer replied:

"The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it."

"If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance."

In each case, it's the same weight:

The longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.

"And that's the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on."

"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden."

"So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down. Don't carry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow. Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down for a moment if you can."

"Relax; pick them up later after you've rested. Life is short. Enjoy it!”

And then he shared some ways of dealing with the burdens of life...

Stress Management Tips:

1) Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue.

2) Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

3) Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

4) Drive carefully. It's not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker.

5) If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.

6) If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

7) It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

8) Never buy a car you can't push.

9) Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.

10) Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.

11) Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late. The second mouse gets the cheese.

12) When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

13) Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

14) You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.

15) Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.

16) We can learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull, some have weird names, and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.

17) A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

[Source Unknown]

SUPPOSEDLY GEORGE CARLIN'S VIEWS ON AGING

[One of my drinking buddies from the Wednesday Club, who is in his late sixties, has sent me this absolutely brilliant piece on successful aging, & has asked me to pass it on. The piece has been widely attributed to George Carlin. I have read from the Internet that he had personally denied giving any of the published views. Nevertheless, whoever wrote it, the essay is still worth reading.]

Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about aging that you think in fractions.

'How old are you?'

'I'm four and a half!' You're never thirty-six and a half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key.

You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead.

'How old are you?'

'I'm gonna be 16!' You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16! And then the greatest day of your life ! You become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony. YOU BECOME 21. YES!!!

But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're Just a sour-dumpling. What's wrong? What's changed?

You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are gone.

But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would!

So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.

You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it's a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday!

You get into your 80's and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn't end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards; 'I Was JUST 92.'

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. 'I'm 100 and a half!' May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

HOW TO STAY YOUNG:

1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. Let the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay 'them.'

2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.

3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain idle. 'An idle mind is the devil's workshop.' And the devil's name is Alzheimer's.

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.

6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person, who is with us our entire life, is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love , whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9. Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county; to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

[George Carlin is a Grammy-winning American stand-up comedian, actor & author. He is especially noted for his political & black humor & his observations on language, psychology & religion along with many taboo subjects.]

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Watching is very important . . . Watch & absorb all the details around you, like a camera. And study. Study very hard. Ideas & inventions are two completely different things. You can have ideas without study, & you can do research without ideas. But you need both to make an invention."

(Yoshiro Nakamatsu, Japan's inventor extraordinaire, with more than 3,000 inventions, mostly wacky ones, to his name; he is better known as Dr Nakamats in western press;)

Monday, March 3, 2008

CREATIVITY & INNOVATION

Martin Lee (not related to me) of Sixis Consulting, based in Singapore, has contributed two excellent articles entitled 'Make Innovation Work for You' & 'Do you have a Great Idea?' respectively in the Straits Times' CATS Recruit Pages of February 28th & March 3rd 2008.

I particularly like his pragmatic approach in dealing with creativity & innovation. His Sixis Methodology is worth exploring, especially if you ask the right exploratory questions.

Readers can also access the same & more articles at his corporate website.

[The author can be reached at martin@sixisconsulting.com]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The test of a first rate-intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time & still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise."

(F Scott Fitzgerald, 1896-1940, American short story writer, whose works are evocative of the Jazz Age, a term he coined himself. He is widely regarded as one of the 20th Century's great story writers;)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: LIFELONG LEARNING

1. START WITH YOUR ATTITUDE:

Lifelong learning begins with a heart that desires change, wisdom, and application.

2. ASK QUESTIONS:

Learners ask good questions. They possess an insatiable curiosity --- a longing to know, discover, inquire. Ask questions that get below the surface.

3. JOIN OTHERS:

Collaborative learning --- in classes, small groups, with friends and colleagues --- allows us to benefit from diverse perspectives and approaches. People are a gold mine of learning that is tapped through conversation.

4. CHECK OUT THE OTHER SIDE:

Take time to examine and understand another point of view, even if it radically contradicts yours. You may see things in a new light or you may have your old convictions strengthened. Personal convictions that have never been tested remain flabby.

5. READ BROADLY:

Include a diversity of books, authors, and topics. Resist the temptation to read only those books that reinforce what you already believe.

6. KEEP A JOURNAL:

Recording what we learn captures our growth in wisdom.

7. EXPERIMENT:

Try new approaches and ideas. Age does not affect your ability to learn. An eighty-year-old can learn to surf the net like an eighteen-year-old.

8. APPLY WHAT YOU KNOW:

Our depth of understanding is often directly related to our ability to apply what we’ve learned. Application takes knowledge from head to heart.

[Source: Bill Mowry, 'Discipleship Journal']

MAKING THE FUTURE VISIBLE

I stumbled on to the following article by Hardin Tibbs, a futures thinker & scenario consultant, by accident while surfing the net.

I particularly like the author's superb treatment of the future as a strategic psychological landscape, as well as his artful metaphors of actor, chessboard, mountain & star. The latter serves as cognitive & emotional psychological elements, which then appear as navigational features in the landscape.

Readers can download the article as a .pdf document.

The author is the CEO of Synthesys Strategic Consulting, a Canberra-based management consulting firm. He specializes in futures analysis, strategy development, & scenario planning. Before moving to Australia, he was a senior consultant with Global Business Network (GBN) & he continues to work with GBN in Australia & the Asia-Pacific Region.

FACT OR FICTION: IS CHINA'S GREAT WALL VISIBLE FROM SPACE?

I have always thought that the Great Wall of China is the only human artifact on planet Earth that could be visible from the moon.

After reading this enlightening article from Scientific American, I am beginning to change my mind.

That's why it is very important for us to broaden our mental horizons by reading widely.

New information brings new changes in our understanding about the world around us.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Nothing is precious except that part of you which is in other people & that part of others which is in you."

(Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 1881-1955, French paleontologist, Jesuit priest & philosopher, known for his theory that man is evolving, mentally & socially, toward a final spiritual unity;)

UNDERSTANDING THE BRAIN: NEURONS

I have just been reading this recent article entitled, 'How brain cells make good connections', on the Harvard University Gazette Online.

There are an estimated 100 billion neurons in the average 3-pound human brain.

Connecting them are as many as 10 trillion synapses, the circuit-like chemical pathways that link neurons to one another.

According to neuroscientist Dr Venkatesh Murthy at Harvard University, “The power of higher brain areas is in numbers.”

The numbers give neurons & the brain immense computational power, he said.

In turn, the brain’s neuroplasticity or functional flexibility comes in part from synapses that can be big, small, weak, strong — a range of variations in the trillions.

Dr Murthy's current research work involves finding out how synapses grow, fire, modify, & break. The synaptic impulses that link neurons are vital; they transform brain activity into motion by delivering messages from the brain & spinal cord to muscles & organs.

Yet the actual mechanisms of synaptic connectivity, at the cellular level, are “largely mysterious,” said Dr Murthy.

Only in the past decade, said Dr Murthy, have scientists “begun to draw a reasonable cartoon” of how synapses work — how they grow, load up with the right chemicals, pass on information, communicate with one another, & get recycled.

Better understanding of how synapses work could one day have profound implications for the treatment of diseases affected by neural impulses.

The most fascinating confirmation I get out of the foregoing article is that synapses between the neurons are altered by changing experiences in our physical environment.

As far as I am concerned, I do understand that our brainpower is a function of the connectivity of our neurons & the richness of those connections inside our heads.

Therefore, in order to sustain as well as enhance our brainpower, we must constantly search for new & novel experiences in our life.

Learning new things & getting involved with them is one.

HOW THINKING GOES WRONG

Here is a link to an interesting article, which outlined the 'Twenty-five Fallacies That Lead Us to Believe Weird Things' by Dr Michael Shermer.

It is based on the author's book 'Why People Believe Weird Things', which I had read during the nineties, when I was a subscriber to CSICOP.

The author is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine (www.skeptic.com), the Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the Skeptics Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, & Adjunct Professor of Economics at Claremont Graduate University.

More information about him & his work can be found at this link.

UNDERSTANDING THE BRAIN: MIT OPEN COURSEWARE

I fully concur with the MIT Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences that the human brain is the most complex, sophisticated, & powerful information-processing device known.

As part of the MIT Open Courseware, the department has assembled numerous cutting-edge materials, originally targetted at their graduate students, that allow lay persons around the globe to access an ongoing intellectual understanding of the experimental technologies of neurobiology, neuroscience, & psychology, combined with the fields of computational neuroscience & cognitive science.

For me, this is a vast gold-mine of information nuggets, in terms of breadth, depth as well as scope of coverage.

Here is the link to those wonderful materials.

Just in case, here are the MIT Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences links:

Visit the MIT Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences home page at:http://web.mit.edu/bcs/

Review the MIT Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences curriculum at:http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/resources/curriculum/index.htm#9