Saturday, November 8, 2008

TEST YOUR BRAIN

My social buddy, a retired accountant, from 'The Wednesday Club' has mailed me this simple test to determine whether one's brain is neurologically in good shape.

He thinks it is a real neurological test. I really don't know.

For the fun of it, just go ahead & do it. Before you proceed, please seat comfortably and feel calm.

1- Find the C below. Do not use any cursor help:

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOCOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

2- If you have already found the C, now find the 6 below:

999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999969999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999

3- Now find the N below. It's a little more difficult:

MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMNMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

If you were able to pass these 3 tests, you can cancel your annual visit to your neurologist. Your brain is apparently in great shape. Congratulations!

UNDERSTANDING A LITTLE BIT OF REAL-WORLD FINANCE

I have stumbled upon the following little gem from the corporate website of Stuart Goldsmith, a motivational speaker & author of the ebook, 'How to Double Your Way to One Million Dollars':

"Understanding the Current Market Turmoil:

Few realise this is built into the very heart of our Fiat money system.

Our currency is backed by virtually nothing. Banks can (and do) create money out of thin air - which they then lend at interest. If BIG loans get defaulted on, they lend more money (all they want is the interest). If those are defaulted, they lend even more, roll the loan over etc.

Anything to keep the interest coming in. When the borrower can no longer pay the ever rising interest debt they move to the 'bail out' end-game which means the cost of the bad loans is passed to the tax payer.


IT'S TIME TO WAKE UP, PEOPLE!"

In another one of his many corporate websites (here's the link), he wrote an interesting piece, although it's intented to be promotional stuff, about the 'REAL Truth About Money', which also piques my attention:

"Some people say money brings happiness – they’re wrong.

Some people say money brings unhappiness – they’re wrong, too.

So what’s the REAL truth about money and happiness?

I believe it’s nothing to do with the money itself – that’s neutral.

It’s what you DO with the money which adds to, or subtracts from your happiness."

[In contrast, I recommend readers to read an interesting post entitled 'Use Creativity to Double Your Way to a Million Dollars', by fellow blogger, Marelisa Fabrega.]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

“While the others talk, the Warrior trains himself in the use of the sword and keeps his eye on the horizon.”

~ Paulo Coehlo, a great storyteller from Brazil & author of 'Warrior of the Light: A Manual';

Friday, November 7, 2008

REJUVENATING OUR BRAINS IS NO BIG DEAL, ACTUALLY! (PART I)

I reckon most of us are already fully aware that our brains are hard-wired in some ways.

We also have been told by scientists that our brain cells continue to die or degenerate starting from our 21st birthday onward.

Luckily, we have hell a lot of brain cells to sustain till old age. Thanks to the redundancy phenomenon.

However, scientists have, in recent years, told us that our brain cells could grow & expand through modifying our learning experiences as well as stimulating our living environment. They call it neuro-plasticity.

That's really good news!

We have also been told that each & every one of us has been born with a broad variety of innate intelligences. So, there are a lot of things we can learn & do to make our brains function better, on top of rejuvenating.

Come to think of it, using more of our brains or losing our brainpower rings true after all.

Better still, rejuvenating our brains is no big deal, actually.

In this post, I will share with readers some of my own thoughts & experiences pertaining to the many activities we can learn & do to rejuvenate our brains - or recharge our batteries, as some prefer to think that way - in the long run.

From a tactical perspective, I suggest just think of these activities as catalysts to your brain rejuvenation.

The following ten of them is PART I, while PART II with the remaining ten of them will follow shortly in a subsequent post.

1) AWARENESS:

I interpret awareness as "full consciousness & absolute feeling of the present moment".

The best way to understand awareness is to consider this most common activity at home:

Your spouse is talking to you, & your mind is totally with her, & not distracted or got stuck by some other ongoing thoughts. Your mind is therefore "in the present moment", so to speak.

Under such circumstances, your mind is most receptive to incoming information. There is some sort of clarity on your part & you are truly listening to your spouse. In other words, you can easily focus as well as concentrate on the ongoing conversation with your spouse.

Have you ever noticed fellow Singaporeans who are on a group overseas holiday & yet their minds are still stuck in the office? That's the direct opposite of awareness.

When you are fully aware of your self & your environment, you are more likely to be observant & cognisant of what's going on.

I reckon you can also call it ''mindfulness'. The opposite is, of course, 'mindlessness'.

2) INTEREST:

Having an interest on something is very important.

In reality, interest permeates all learning. With interest, one can readily pursue a lot of things in life.

Favourite hobbies & fun past times are often developed from having an initial interest on something in the first place.

Over the years, I have noted that some Singaporeans upon their retirement could only stare at the four walls at home, or just read newspapers & stare at the television all day long, because they have nothing else to pursue, besides the work while being employed.

With awareness & interest in place, your brain is placed immediately on active mode, ready at your complete disposal, so to speak!

3) FOCUS:

From my experience, without awareness & interest, it is rather difficult to focus on what you want to do or what you are doing at hand. In other words, paying attention is often an uphill task, especially when there are so much distractions around us.

For our brains to function well, we must first be able to focus on something.

For me, focus is a matter of choice. Our power of choice, more precisely.

It boils down to what we choose to see & where we direct our attention. As such, awareness & interest actually play a pivotal role.

That's why goals setting or establishing a purpose in life is important as far as optimum brain performance is concerned. Our brains always follow the direction of our current dominant thoughts.

4) CURIOSITY:

To me, curiosity or inquisitiveness drives interest. In my case, curiosity always keeps me going after my interests.

Yearning to know more about the world or how things work in general helps to fuel one's curiosity.

I am always curious about the brain, especially how to make use of the latest neuroscience research findings to make my brain work better. In the long term, to develop personal mastery.

Invariably, the combination of curiosity & interest actively complements my reading pursuits.

Albert Einstein once said that the only thing which distinguished himself from all others was only his passionate curiosity about the world.

5) INQUIRY:

I have learned that an inquiring mind - asking questions - helps to direct one's thinking, in search of possible answers or alternatives.

It doesn't need to be confined to face-to-face conversations. Nowadays, you can always do it through the cell phone or electronic mail or instant messaging.

In my early years of exploration during the eighties & nineties, I often used fax mail, with occasional snail mail, to communicate with - & asking a lot of questions from - knowledgeable persons in the United States. Most of them responded generously, although some just ignored me.

Asking questions can also be a self-reflective process, especially when one is reading.

Writing your questions in the margins, or in the scratchpads just like I do, is one way to go about developing an inquiring mind.

With questions in mind or on paper, the brain can start its thinking as well as search process for possible answers or alternatives. That's the beauty of the mind.

Interestingly, I always believe that questions always enhance our memory recall.

Just imagine, the graphic symbol of a question looks exactly like a fish hook when inverted. Using questions is just like a fishing endeavour!

6) NOVELTY & CHALLENGE:

From the functional standpoint, as proven in neuroscience research with rats, optimum brain power boils down to one simple piece of advice from the experts: always seek new experiences & create stimulating environments.

Our brains just love novelty & challenge. They are already hard-wired that way. Otherwise, they will be bored, which is not good in the long run.

Our brains are seemingly asking all the time: what's good & new?

So, find new ways to do things. Also, do old things differently for a change.

For example, take a new route to work. Take the MRT or a bus instead of the car. Jump into a double decker, just to get a different view of where you are going.

You can also change or enhance your environment to make it more conducive for the brain. For learning better & faster.

Use natural lighting as much as possible; if not, install full spectrum lighting for a change, as conventional fluorescent lamps are quite bad.

Use light pastel colours for decor . Put some natural green plants in the room. Remove the distractions, if any.

Read stuff you have not read before.

Interestingly, I read that planet Earth's friendly genius & inventor of the geodesic dome, architect & engineer R Buckminster Fuller, would often grabbed whatever magazine was on the top right hand cover of a display stand.

His winning idea of the geodesic dome came from a blown-up eye diagram of a housefly displayed in a nature magazine.

Involve yourself in new activities once in a while. For me, I am still learning & tinkering with digital photography.

In fact, doing some of things you hate to do poses a challenge to your brain.

Play some jigsaw puzzles or brain teasers. Engage in some lateral thinking games on the net. The boggling effect challenges the mind.

On a different note, from time to time, don't hesitate to challenge your own assumptions or viewpoints. It definitely adds novelty to your thinking!

7) RANDOM STIMULI:

There is a huge & exciting world out there, beyond the confined space of your home. Go out there & explore. Observe the sidewalks. Listen to the sounds of traffic or conversations of strangers. Feel the natural elements. Smell the roses. Expose yourself (of course, I don't mean the crude way!).

It is part of human nature to respond to random stimuli. I reckon this has to do with our evolutionary pressures & survival instincts. Hence, they often create novel sensory experiences.

For example, my wife & I just love to get out of the house, at least once or twice a week: to go to the shopping malls for window-shopping, as well as to hang out in the supermarkets for our weekly groceries. There are horrendous amounts of different things, besides people, to gawk at.

I am always amazed by the torrents of random stimuli. I often get my AHA! moments. Please read the spotlights in my weblog.

Random stimuli can often trigger new insights.

Dr Christopher Chia, former CEO of the National Library Board, noticed the pink stamps on farm eggs. He thought: If, like eggs, library books could be tagged individually, borrowing & returning could be automated fully. His project team eventually came up with the Electronic Library Management System (ELIMS), a patented system that is a world's first.

By now, you probably have heard of "Street University". Hard knocks are considered true learning experiences as far as the brain is concerned. They give us wisdom.

All you need to do is just be prepared.

8) READING:

Read a book. I read everyday. I read before I go to bed. I find reading intellectually very stimulating.

I know I can't dabble in everything on planet Earth or visit all the beautiful places around the world, but at least I can read about them.

Best of all, I can read about other people's bad experiences. So I don't have to reinvent the wheel.

In addition, I also review books for Amazon as well as for my own weblog as part of my reading pursuits.

One good advice: You can also experiment with syntopical reading - reading several books in the same genre simultaneously - which I have mentioned in many earlier posts.

I suggest reading with a pen or pencil as a pacer, although I prefer a fine-tip colour marker. It is guaranteed to hold your personal attention.

As Steve Leveen, CEO of Levenger, says: You can "read with your ears". He means, you can use audio tapes. Zig Ziglar calls such an activity as attending the "Automobile University".

9) CONFERENCES, SEMINARS & WORKSHOPS:

Besides keeping yourself abreast of new developments in the marketspace, I do concur that conferences, seminars & workshops are great opportunities to rub shoulders - thus forming mastermind networks - with fellow explorers.

However, be very selective, since nowadays there are a lot of fly-by-night or smooth operators. Always check their credentials first through the power of the Internet or from knowledgeable persons.

Such events are also great in helping you to spark off new ideas as they often can offer you more perspectives.

Always remember, it's not what you have picked up from them. It's what you are doing with the stuff in your own lives that matters.

I know the high energy & warm feelings of these events can sometimes get you carried away by the novelty or even perturbation, to use that fancy term from Ilya Prigogine who won the Nobel Prize for his 'Theory of Dissipative Structures'.

Don't hesitate to ask questions or probe the presenters. Take a lot of good notes, but review & reflect on them for action & implementation.

Also, maximise & leverage on your learning preferences. Understanding them certainly motivates you to learn faster.

10) THINKING:

The easiest way to start thinking is to constantly explore what you have read or observed around yourself.

Just think how you can make use of what you have learned. Always think about personal application possibilities.

During the peak of my strategy consulting & training development, I often think about how to help my clients with the knowledge I have gained from reading.

Playing scenarios inside your head is also a form of thinking. When we were in school, to our dismay, it was - a painful reminder from our teachers - daydreaming, but to Albert Einstein, it was "thought experiments".

With a little bit of imagination, your thinking can soar!

I like to add further about thinking: Think positive! Avoid negativity, as it is counter-productive; worst still, it slows down your brainpower!

[to be continued in PART II]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Read not to contradict & confute, nor to believe & take for granted, nor to find talk & discourse but to weigh & consider."

~ Sir Francis Bacon, 1561-1626, English philosopher, stateman & author; often known as a catalyst of the scientific revolution;

Thursday, November 6, 2008

RUNNING THE MARATHON WITH NO END IN SIGHT

I just wonder whether any readers could recall or had watched the 1987 sc-fi thriller movie, 'The Running Man', starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, with a futuristic story set in a totalitarian society, about ten years from now, in which a group of convicted persons was given a chance to run to freedom, but had to elude a bunch of armed stalkers who would hunt them like wild prey.

It was staged in the form of a weekly reality game show. Apparently, no prisoner came out the winner, until the organisers made their biggest mistake by putting our wrongly convicted hero to the run.

Well, that's Hollywood!

Nevertheless, I enjoy using this small piece of information as a preamble to what I am going to talk about in this post.

Around the early nineties or so, I had come across the following amusing anecdote during a motivational seminar (most probably 'Money & You'):

"Gazelles are the second fastest animal on the planet & are capable of quick changes in direction while running.

When a lion wakes up, it has one goal, to run faster than the slowest & weakest gazelle. Otherwise, it is going to be hungry for a while.

When a gazelle wakes up, it has similarly one goal, to run faster than the fastest lion. Otherwise, it will end as some body's free lunch for the day.

When either animal wakes up, they know only one thing - they are going to be running!"


To my chagrin, I realised that the anecdote was a good spin to set the tone of the seminar to talk about the fact, which is still very relevant today: the competition does not wait for me.

More specifically, in the real-world of today, the competition never sleeps!

That's how I got started in learning how to out-learn, out-think, out-smart & out-manoeuvre the competition, so to speak.

For me, it began with first taking charge of my own life design for the second half.

More importantly, I truly appreciated the significance of enhancing personal creativity, doing things differently & spurring innovative practices. Full steam ahead on all fronts, too.

To recap, that was then the nineties, & I believed PM Lee Hsien Loong captured the criticality very well when he shared his strategic insights with the new graduates at the Nanyang Technological University in February 1995 (as reported in the Straits Times):

"Singaporeans must run even faster, to stay ahead of the competition coming from neighbouring countries & emerging economies. It is a marathon & we have to run fast & run without end."

Today is 2008. The marathon is still on. There seems to be no end in sight.

Business/economic analyst Michael Backman was right, & timely too, when he wrote 'Asia Future Shock: Business Crisis & Opportunity in the Coming Years', in which he outlined the seismic transformation of China, India, & much of the rest of Asia.

In fact, Singaporeans are already feeling the heat from China, especially from the standpoint of labour influx, competitive sports & student performance.

Please read my review of the book in an earlier post.

I must say the facts & numbers he quoted in his book were staggering.

As he wrote: "Never has the region changed so much in such a short time. But change means opportunity & risk - big risk. Do you know what to expect? Is your business prepared? Are you ready?"

To reiterate: Are You Ready?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"When does optimism become delusion? Optimism becomes delusion when day-to-day actions do not consistently support your goals."

~ Sherrin Ross Ingram, author of the 'Wealth Mentality Insights Newsletter: Strategies & Tools to Train Your Mind to Get & Keep the Wealth You Want';

[Interested readers can go to his corporate website to sign up - registration is free & quick - to gain access to many goodies!]

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT, SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT . . .

A wise man once said, "you are not a failure until you look for whom to blame for it."

Have you realised that every time you point an accusing finger at someone, you are pointing three fingers back at yourself, & the fifth one is pointing to God as witness. This implies that every man is the cause of 75% of his problems.

If someone has a share, he can only be responsible for a maximum of 25% of the blame. This implies that a failure would have still failed with or without any one's help!

No wonder Dr Frederick K C Price is quoted as saying, "if you fail, it is your fault; if you succeed, it is your fault."

~ from the book, '12 Fundamental Pillars of Change', by Nigerian-born preacher Joschan Dan;

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

SPOTLIGHT: MAGNUM ICE CREAM

Almost once a week, usually after lunch, my wife & I love to pop by the neighbourhood soy juice & bean curd shop to savour the desserts.

The shop is served by a friendly couple, & we often sit down in their small shop to chit-chat.

Occasionally, we also take the opportunity to savour our favourite ice-cream, Magnum.

To me, just the name 'Magnum' is already irresistible.

It certainly brings back some sweet memories, or are they just some spontaneous juxtapositions of mine?

One is the series of action movies during the seventies featuring the maverick cop, Inspector Harry Callahan of San Francisco Police Department, better known as 'Dirty Harry', who had very little regard for rules (but who always got results). He carried the world's most powerful handgun, the Magnum .45!

I can always remember very vividly two particular scenes from the 'Dirty Harry' movies.

An armed bad guy was cornered in a shoot-out, & Harry gave him a minute to ponder - whether the latter would be lucky enough as our hero had lost count of the shots he had made earlier - with the handgun pointed between the bewildered guy's two eye-balls.

In another scene, a befallen bad guy but still armed after a shoot-out was given an opportunity to consider seriously, as our hero pointed his handgun at close range, & uttering the most memorable line in movie history: "Make My Day!"

The other recollection is the famous television series during the eighties, 'Magnum, P I', about the adventures of a Hawaii-based private investigator, Thomas Magnum, played by Tom Selleck, often assisted by his reluctant Englishman sidekick, played by John Hillerman.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"I'm trying to find myself as a person, sometimes that's not easy to do. Millions of people live their entire lives without finding themselves. But it's something I must do. The best way for me to find myself as a person is to prove to myself that I am an actress."

~ Marilyn Monroe, 1926-1962, famous American actress, with several critically acclaimed movies to her credit, including 'Some Like It Hot';

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: 'READY, SET, DONE', by Jim Carroll

'Change' & 'innovation' are seemingly two most commonly used (or abused?) buzz words in the corporate world, which, from my perspective, readily capture the essence of the challenges faced by all of us today.

The subject of 'change' - agility & flexibility in dealing with a world turned upside down - & 'innovation' - doing things differently to survive & thrive - have continued to fascinate me for many years.

I have read a lot about the subject, & I am also always on the constant lookout for more new perspectives. Hence, to my pleasant delight, I have stumbled upon the work of futurist, trends & innovation expert Jim Carroll on the net.

For reading & assimilation, his corporate website is in fact a goldmine, although one naturally has to contend with his pompous self-promotion.

Through Amazon, I have managed to acquire - & then read in earnest about a couple of months ago - his two books, namely, 'What I learned from Frogs in Texas: Saving Your Skin with Forward-Thinking Innovation' (2004) & 'Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast' (2007).

Since I have already reviewed the first book in an earlier post, I am now reviewing the second book in this post.

Backed by reportedly impeccable credentials from the big boys, e.g. American Express, Disney, IBM, Microsoft, & acknowledged by 'BusinessWeek' as a thought leader, the author writes almost like corporate skunk Tom Peters - "screwing people's mind . . . taking them to the brink & then pulling them back", to paraphrase Tom Peters.

As a matter of fact, I reckon, at least from my perspective, his writings more or less emulate my other favourite authors on 'Change' & 'Innovation', Robert Kriegel, Louis Patler, Price Pritchett, all rolled into one - short, staccato bursts of energetic prescriptions, occasionally outrageous & yet written succinctly, with enchanting anecdotes & provocative examples from real-world events, in contrast to the staid academic texts of the time.

Having said that, let me get down to the specifics of my overall response of the two books.

In a nut shell, I must say that there are a lot of interesting stuff in the two books, but they are not necessarily unfamiliar or essentially new to most well-read businesspeople:

e.g. "65% of pre-school children today will be employed in careers & jobs that don't yet exist"; "most people will find themselves not only in 4 or 5 different jobs in their lifetime, but in 4 or 5 different careers"; "the 1/2 life of an engineer 's knowledge is about 5 years";

although as one reads from page to page, one can easily get that little jolt, & then seriously reflect on what the author is talking about.

In fact, I must also bring reader's immediate attention to the fact that much of what he has to say in the two books is made somewhat more compelling, when his astute observations of the marketspace are viewed critically as called by the author.

What I like about the two books after perusal is that one can readily open up any page, anywhere in the two books, read for a few minutes, & actually gain some new perspectives from the reading experience.

In fact, that's how I have enjoyed reading the two books, one bite at a time, over a few weeks, some time ago, because I always have this ingrained habit of reading several books by different authors in one go.

From the intellectual standpoint, I consider the second book as a follow-up of the first book.

This time the focus of the second book is on building what the author calls 'high-velocity change leadership' in a fast-paced world.

In this book, he author provides unique insights into how to innovate faster, with multi-skill talent or creative ingenuity as well as project agility to serve as key cornerstones.

As he puts it, "Forget about the concept of innovation as simply involving the design of cool new products. In the high-velocity economy, where faster is the new fast, it's your ability to adapt, change, & evolve, through a constant flood of new ideas, that will define your potential for success."

Apparently for reader's convenience, the author has skillfully organised all his relevant stuff under four over-arching tactical segments:

- 'velocity' (with 8 sub-segments);

- 'agility' (with 6 sub-segments);

- 'innovation' (with 11 sub-segments);

- 'activity' (with 8 sub-segments); [Frankly, I would have thought that the more appropriate label here should have been 'execution' or even 'action-mindedness', since he describes "what you should start doing now to elevate the importance of your innovation efforts"];

Rather than dwelling on what's all in the book, I will share with readers about what I have taken away from the book:

- 'Take the 10 Things Test' (pg 29-34) - Essentially sit in a room, whether at work, home or in a factory, retail store or wherever you might be, & take a look around. Compile a list of 10 items that you see, & then sit back & ask yourself, "How might these things change in the next decade?"

If you really took the time to think about the items you examine, you might be very surprised by the depth of the change that is coming;

[This is certainly a very interesting exercise, & I will share my own little experiment in a separate post!]

- '10 Unique Characteristics of 21st Century Skills' (pg 67-71);

- 'Just in Time Knowledge' (pg 79-82);

- 'How Can You Identify Areas/Opportunities for Innovation' (pg 109-112

[As the author's treatment here is a broad-brush, I suggest reading Michel Robert's 'Innovation Formula'. Please refer to my earlier post.]

- '21st Century Capital' (pg 141-144);

- 'Is It Time for an Innovation Audit?' (pg 149-152);

[This one is really cool!]

- 'Focus on Developing your Masters in Business Imagination' (pg 169-173);

[as opposed to the traditional MBA. To be frank, this is a really good & refreshing one!]

Although I have singled out these few sub-segments, I just want to point out this doesn't mean that the other sub-segments are not worth reading about.

I note that the author's closing 10+1 'Great Words' for everyday use in the workplace, as transformational grammar to help you get into the right frame of mind, namely [words in brackets are extracted by me for the author's descriptions]:

- Observe (trends);

- Think (to learn);

- Change (routines);

- Dare (to risk);

- Banish (killer phrases)

- Try [The author should have used 'Experiment'; Try? No try; Do! or Do Not! Remember, the Star Wars movie, 'The Empire Strikes Back'];

- Empower (everybody);

- Question (assumptions);

- Grow (by grabbing opportunities);

- Do (to renew);

- Enjoy (your passion);

is undoubtedly an excellent & timely way to return to his earlier book. He sums up his proposition from the very beginning, during which he argues about mind frame change as a prerequisite to forward-thinking:

"Rapid times require bold change; action is critical. Confront your tin cans (another of his metaphors for "stuck in the rut", e.g. 'aggressive indecision'), & you've got the right leadership frame of mind to take you into the future."

Incidentally, just for the fun of it, I would suggest readers to compare the foregoing 10+1 action verbs with the 26 action verbs from futurist Frank Feather's 'Futuristic Leadership A-Z'. Please refer to my earlier post.

If you love Tom Peters' work just like I do, I am confident that Jim Carroll will not disappoint you for a change. The latter is equally provocative & vibrant in his writing.

[Interested readers can proceed to this link to browse the table of contents or search inside of the book.]

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"90% of everything you'll interact with 10 years from now hasn't been developed yet. Those who succeed in the future are those who learn to walk on quick sand & to dance with electrons."

~ futurist & electronic evangelist Frank Ogden, better known as 'Dr Tomorrow', writing in his book, 'Navigating in Cyberspace: Roadmaps to the New Millennium';

Putting it in another way, your world will probably be 90% different.

Rather than attempting to know everything, the better strategy is to know how to access information efficiently.

Also, rather than specialising in one small area, the successful executive of the future should learn to have a flexible attitude & an open mind.

BOOK REVIEW: 'WHAT I LEARNED FROM FROGS IN TEXAS', by Jim Carroll

'Change' & 'innovation' are seemingly two most commonly used (or abused?) buzz words in the corporate world, which, from my perspective, readily capture the essence of the challenges faced by all of us today.

The subject of 'change' - agility & flexibility in dealing with a world turned upside down - & 'innovation' - doing things differently to survive & thrive - have continued to fascinate me for many years.

I have read a lot about the subject, & I am also always on the constant lookout for more new perspectives. Hence, to my pleasant delight, I have stumbled upon the work of futurist, trends & innovation expert Jim Carroll on the net.

For reading & assimilation, his corporate website is in fact a goldmine, although one naturally has to contend with his pompous self-promotion.

Through Amazon, I have managed to acquire - & then read in earnest about a couple of months ago - his two books, namely, 'What I learned from Frogs in Texas: Saving Your Skin with Forward-Thinking Innovation' (2004) & 'Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast' (2007).

I am reviewing the first book in this post, to be followed by the second book in a subsequent post.

Backed by reportedly impeccable credentials from the big boys, e.g. American Express, Disney, IBM, Microsoft, & acknowledged by 'BusinessWeek' as a thought leader, the author writes almost like corporate skunk Tom Peters - "screwing people's mind . . . taking them to the brink & then pulling them back", to paraphrase Tom Peters.

As a matter of fact, I reckon, at least from my perspective, his writings more or less emulate my other favourite authors on 'Change' & 'Innovation', Robert Kriegel, Louis Patler, Price Pritchett, all rolled into one - short, staccato bursts of energetic prescriptions, occasionally outrageous & yet written succinctly, with enchanting anecdotes & provocative examples from real-world events, in contrast to the staid academic texts of the time.

Having said that, let me get down to the specifics of my overall response of the two books.

In a nut shell, I must say that there are a lot of interesting stuff in the two books, but they are not necessarily unfamiliar or essentially new to most well-read businesspeople:

e.g. "65% of pre-school children today will be employed in careers & jobs that don't yet exist"; "most people will find themselves not only in 4 or 5 different jobs in their lifetime, but in 4 or 5 different careers; "the 1/2 life of an engineer 's knowledge is about 5 years";

although from page to page as one reads, one can easily get that little jolt, & then seriously reflect on what the author is talking about.

In fact, I must also bring reader's immediate attention to the fact that much of what he has to say in the two books is made somewhat more compelling, when his astute observations of the marketspace are viewed critically as called by the author.

What I like about the two books after perusal is that one can readily open up any page, anywhere in the two books, read for a few minutes, & actually gain some new perspectives from the reading experience.

In fact, that's how I have enjoyed reading the two books, one bite at a time, over a few weeks, some time ago, because I always have this ingrained habit of reading several books by different authors in one go.

The title of the first book is an apt metaphor from all the little green frogs, during one of the author's personal encounters on one hot, humid, sticky day at a conference in Houston, Texas, where "they were out on the road (from the culvert) cavorting in the puddles of water (from the hotel's sprinklers) & dodging the gulls, they didn't notice the sudden increase in (vehicular) traffic coming from either direction." Squish, what an ugly scene!

Interestingly, the frog story exemplifies people's reality. So, transposed to the real-world, we may be extremely focused, but we are looking at the wrong threat, in the wrong direction, at the wrong time.

The author's point: we need to change our frame of mind with respect to changes occurring in the world around us, & the trends that will present challenge & opportunity.

Coupling with this mind frame change, one must also learn to deal with what the author calls 'aggressive indecision' or better described as "stuck in the rut, spinning the wheels, losing sense of direction & momentum, & doing nothing" - all ill-equipped to deal with the rapid changes.

According to the author, that's the critical capability we must have, & it's the focus of the first book.

Rather than dwelling on what's all in the book, I will share with readers about what I have taken away from the book:

For me, my favourite chapters are:

- Chapter 6: 'Leading the Future' - the author shares his strategies of how to become a forward-oriented leader;

- Chapter 9: 'Changing to a Certainty Culture: Dealing with Aggressive Indecision' - the author highlights the warning signs to think about, & a number of things we can do about them;

- Chapter 10: 'An Action Plan for Change' - the author pinpoints the vital elements in a strategy for change;

- Chapter 11: 'Smart Frogs Go Forward' - author shares his insights about the criticality & acquisition of the requisite skills, especially soft skills, for the future;

I also like the author's simple ideas about innovation, which I choose to interpret from my personal perspective:

- run yourself faster;
- grow yourself quicker;
- transform yourself smarter;


His quirky prognosis of 8 big trends to think about, as outlined in the book, is worth considering since they are still applicable in today's context.

If you love Tom Peters' work just like I do, I am confident that Jim Carroll will not disappoint you for a change. The latter is equally provocative & vibrant in his writing.

[Interested readers can proceed to this link to browse the table of contents or search inside of the book.]

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What has changed my life for the better during the past ten years?

What has diminished my life style & life prospect during the past ten years?

Whom do I know who seems to thrive on the changes taking place in life today?


What are the specific qualities that make this so?

Are these qualities I want to pursue in myself?

What specific tools & skills might I cultivate to help me traverse these volatile times?

~ inspired by the pioneering work of The Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara, whose founder, Frederic Hudson, has written a number of superb life-skills books, including 'The Adult Years: Mastering the Art Of Self Renewal' & 'Life Launch: A Passionate Guide to the Rest of Your Life', which had been pivotal in the life design of my second half, together with books from Richard Leider, especially 'The Power of Purpose' from the early nineties;

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"You are, at this moment, standing, right in the middle of your own acres of diamonds . . .

. . . You can let circumstances rule you, or you can take charge & rule your lives from within."

~ Earl Nightingale, 1921-1989, American motivational guru & co-founder of the Nightingale-Conant publishing group; also, author of 'The Strangest Secret' & 'Lead the Field' audio programs, which had spawned the personal development industry during the sixties;

A PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO MARILYN FERGUSON

As I sat on my toilet bowl early this morning to read my daily papers, 'The Straits Times', I received a slight jolt when I read a tiny column on the Life page:

Marilyn Ferguson, whose best-selling book, 'The Aquarian Conspiracy', helped establish the New Age movement by tying together its disparate threads, has died . . .

Looking back, I remember vividly that it was her book that had originally sparked off my initial interest & relentless pursuit of 'optimum performance technologies' from the early eighties.

I know a lot of people still have negative connotations about the New Age movement.

As a matter of fact, when I had first started my small retail outlet, aptly called 'The Brain Resource' in the Central Business Distinct (& also published/edited my subscription newsletter, 'Left-Brain/Right-Brain Newsletter') during the early nineties, I not only received a lot of good customers, but I also attracted a lot of irritating detractors.

The latter, seemingly fueled by their dogmatic fundamentalist religious beliefs, often came to my 'watering hole' just to throw spanners, so to speak, at whatever stuff that were connected to the New Age movement, e.g. books about creative visualisation &/or mental rehearsal, music compacts embedded with Hemi-Sync signals, etc.

For me, in retrospect, the New Age movement actually came to signal the necessity for every one of us to take charge of our own lives to deal with a rapidly changing world. That's it!

Following her book, I went on to subscribe to the now-defunct 'Brain/Mind Bulletin', which eventually led me to a lot of other wonderful resources throughout the eighties.

To name a few: Thinking Allowed Productions (Jeffrey Mishlove), New Dimensions Network (Michael Toms).

One of the learned institutions that I had joned then, as a result of pursuing her thoughtwares, was the Institute for Noetic Sciences (IONS), which was founded by one of the early Apollo astronauts, Edgar Mitchell. The IONS Resource Guide was a real gem in those days.

The author's other subsequent publications included 'PragMagic: Ten Years of Scientific Breakthroughs, Exciting Ideas, & Personal Experiments That Can Profoundly Change Your Life' & 'Aquarius Now: Radical Common Sense & Reclaiming Our Personal Sovereignty'.

I just want to say that, doing what I love & loving what I do today, have been greatly inspired & invariably influenced by the work of Marilyn Ferguson from the start.

Thank you very much, Marilyn, & may you rest in peace!

Monday, November 3, 2008

WALKING OFF FAT - FAST!

Here's a link to the 'Real Age: Live Life to the Youngest' website, which has a great & yet relevant article on how the simple act of walking can get your waist down to where you want it - & quickly.

My wife & I love to walk to the gym every morning from Monday to Friday. After the gym practice, we love to walk back. Naturally, she has to carry her umbrella because of the noon sun, while I just love to have some sunshine.

Each walking trip takes about 20-25 minutes.

In the gym, I often spend 30 minutes walking on the treadmill, in addition to using the elliptical machine & stationary bicycle.

Both of us also walk a lot in the neighbourhood after dinner & for our groceries during the weekend, as well as in the shopping malls on weekdays.

When we go down to Orchard Road by MRT, we often walk to the nearest Lakeside MRT station. It takes about 15 minutes. Upon our return, we also walk back to our home from the station.

For me, weight reduction is not a primary concern. A disciplined daily routine of physical exercise is my prime focus.

Nevertheless, I have also received one added benefit from walking - stronger leg muscles - to compensate for the slight damage from my slipped discs, which had affected my right leg since the early nineties.

ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THE UNKNOWN?

"Something is coming - probably within a few days - that's going to change your world. You don't see it yet. You don't know what it's about. But it's there, rolling inexorably forward, destined to throw you a curve that you do not expect. It could show up sooner or later - but it will show up. Trust me."

. . . Are you ready? Is that unexpected event or input going to add insult to injury by making you feel more out of control? Or are you going to see it as the next creative opportunity that takes you to a new level of expression and contribution? How are you preparing for the surprises that the new experience will invariably throw your way?"
~ from the wonderful book, entitled 'Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work & Life', by productivity srtrategist David Allen;

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, & to what, & why."

~ James Thurber, 1894-1961, American humorist & cartoonist, best known for his contributions (both cartoons & short stories) to The New Yorker magazine;

Sunday, November 2, 2008

NOSTALGIA: GRAFFITI IN THE GENT'S TOILET

When a lady says NO, she means MAYBE;

When she sayS MAYBE, she means YES;

When she says YES, she is NO lady.

[Source: Graffiti in a gent's toilet at a cocktail lounge in Bangkok during the nineties, when I was stationed in the country from 1982-1987. This is part of my sweet memories of the beautiful country.]

A COMPLETE MIND LIKES LEONARDO DA VINCI'S


SPOTLIGHT: ADVENT OF GOOD TIMES OR BAD?

All these selected snapshots have been taken at the IMM Jurong East Shopping Mall this morning.

Whether they are indicative signs of the advent of good times or bad, I really can't tell, even though my wife & I are fully aware that unpredictability & uncertainty are already looming on the economic horizon.

Nevertheless, to her great delight, my wife has had a great shopping spree at the Samuel & Kelvin retail outlet this morning, as she could buy a lot of pants & jeans for her sisters, nieces & nephews back home in Ho Chi Minh city at ridiculously low prices.

Imagine prices of their denim & corduroy pants & jeans have been slashed down to S$7 to $5 from original S$59.50 to $39.50 respectively!




SPOTLIGHT: WHAT A GREAT LOGO FOR A COFFEE JOINT!

I have spotted this great corporate logo at a coffee joint on the ground floor at the IMM Jurong East Shopping Mall this morning.

THE WORLD'S MOST POWERFUL THINKING FORMULA

What I am going to highlight in this post is something I have learned many years ago from creativity guru Michael Hewitt-Gleeson from Down Under.

It's sort of a rapid recap of my earlier post.

He is a former collaborator with Edward de bono as far as the 'School of Thinking' is concerned.

Sad to say, it seems to me that there is bad blood going on between the two gurus.

By the way, Michael Hewitt-Gleeson is also the author of the trilogy of books under the 'Software for the Brain'.

In a nut shell, according to the author:

Each & everyone of us have a current view of a situation at any given time.

Putting it in another way, we all have a definite point of view on any given situation.

In reality, however, there is always a better view of any situation.

In order to move our thinking from a current view of the situation to a better view of the situation, we need to do two things:

- escaping or jumping off from your current view of the situation, &

- searching for &/or exploring a much better view of the situation;

According to the author & putting them into formulaic terms:

ESCAPE + SEARCH = THINK

Summing up, again in formulaic terms:

The Current View of the Situation (CVS) can never be equal to the Better View of the Situation (BVS).

(CVSBVS)

One must always escape or jump off from one's CVS & continually search for a BVS!

(CVS2BVS)

One can always search for &/or explore a BVS that is ten times better than one's CVS.

(CVS x 10 = BVS)

In some ways, at least from my personal perspective, the foregoing illumination is an interesting elaboration of de bono's First Law, which I have already described in an earlier post.

Nevertheless, interested readers can proceed to read more about the foregoing as well as about Michael Hewitt-Gleeson at this link, under the 'School of Thinking'.

Interestingly, here's also a link to a relatively good article, which expands further on what I have just illustrated.

BOOK REVIEW: 'FUTURE SAVVY', by Adam Gordon

While reviewing this book, my curious mind somehow retrogresses to the early eighties, which had given me my first exciting encounter with strategic management, more specifically, the domain of planning & forecasting.

I was then involved in corporate planning & research of a Malaysian conglomerate based in Singapore.

I recall my first introductory book, among a few others (including George Steiner's 'Strategic Planning'), to help me understand & appreciate the basics of horizontal scanning, was actually Francis Aguilar's 'Scanning the Business Environment'. It was in fact my excellent field guide for many years.

Since then, I had become very fascinated by the subject of planning & forecasting, venturing into new ancillary fields like futurology or future studies, trend tracking, even after I had left the corporate world in the early nineties.

I had even joined the World Future Society & other learned institutions to gain more access to available resources.

From that subsequent period onward, all the way right up to even today, as part of my own strategy consulting as well as personal development, I began to develop a deep interest in state-of-the-art stuff like anticipatory management & developing strategic foresight.

Over the ensuing years, I have amassed, read & digested a whole gamut of good books as well as interesting articles, including watching webcasts & listening to podcasts.

It has never dawn on me that all the books on exploring the future & intelligence gathering, which I have now acquired in my personal library, could be placed on a continuum, just for the purpose of seeing where all the books stand syntopically, until recently:

- at one end, I have acquired the books that pertain to the broader methodologies of "exploring the future & scanning the horizon", e.g. 'The Art of the Long View' (Peter Schwartz), 'Strategic Foresight: Standing in the Future' (Nick Marsh), 'Futuring: The Exploration of the Future' (Edward Cornish), 'Thinking about the Future' (Peter Bishop), & including the works of Alvin Toffler, John Naisbitt, James Canton, Kees van der Heijden, Edie Weiner & Arnold Brown, Richard Slaughter, Peter Drucker, Joel Arthur Barker, Jennifer James, Margot Cairnes, Chantell Ilbury & Clem Sunter, just to name a few;

- at the other end, I have acquired the books that pertain to the tools of "sculpting information into informed decisions, & in turn, shaping the latter into incisive actions, with the effective use of technology", e.g. 'Information Management for the Intelligent Organisation' (Chun Wei Choo), 'InfoThink' (Mary Park), 'Info-Sense' (Keith Devlin), 'The Warning Solution' (Kristan Wheaton), 'Inside Information' (DVL Smith), 'Hearing the Voice of the Market' (Vincent Barabba), & including the works of Benjamin Gilad, George Day, Paul Schoemaker, Bob Johansen, Alain Martin, Frederick Timmerman, Thomas Buckholtz, just to name a few;

Standing back, with 'Future Savvy' right in front of me, I somehow feel very strongly that the author, Adam Gordon, has done a great job of more or less plugging the imaginary gap between the two perceived extremes, & thus pulling & tugging the twain together, resulting in an offering with the best of both worlds, so to speak.

More signifcantly, the author has provided us with a deliberate & disciplined critical thinking routine for coping with a rapidly-changing world.

I have really enjoyed perusing 'Future Savvy', especially for its battery of critical tests to evaluate the validity - also, exercise quality control & ensure 'future-fit' (between our strategic initiatives & the world out there) - of information from the torrential myriad of sources, like newspapers, economic insights from TV stations, conference presentations, industry papers, etc.

For me, I have found my favourite chapters to be those towards the second half of the book, from chapter 7 to 11.

As a matter of fact, I reckon that the last chapter, Chapter 11, offering the well-thought 'forecast filtering' checklist, together with the preceding chapter, Chapter 10, covering many case examples of application, is actually worth the price of the entire book.

I also appreciate the author's many fine distinctions, e.g. future-aligning vs future-influencing forecasting, point forecasts vs multiple scenarios, the dynamics of system variables in a forecast, maintaining a wise balance between uncertainty/complexity & quantitative modeling, etc.

In a nut shell, the author has shown in great detail how to come up with realistic predictive statements, so as to dovetail or resonate in some way with our particular circumstances, fortuitous timing & even good fortune, which often play into eventual outcomes.

The book is almost written like a scholarly exposition, but the author, fortunately, doesn't bother the reader with historical facts & theoretical perspectives often found in forecasting books.

With succinctness & clarity, he goes straight into the jugular to help readers to identify the factors that most often derail the potentially good predictive process.

His principal premise is very clear from the start: "Forecasts are a crucial decision-making success resource . . . but these forecasts are often badly done or done with a purpose to influence the future (i.e. not to neutrally predict it.) . . ."

He argues that, as decision-makers, we "need to be able to judge how good a forecast is – so as to know how to or whether to factor it into our world view".

Also, again as decision makers, we "need to be able to critically judge which predictive statements are worth planning for & investing in".

To end this review, I must qualify that this book does not supercede or diminish the importance of all the other book resources I have highlighted earlier. Those mentioned books are worth pursuing on their own, especially if you are like me, always wanting to have a clearer view of the future.

To take a creative cue from creativity guru Michael Hewitt-Gleeson from Down Under, a BVS (better view of the situation) > (greater than; which is measured as a ten times by this author;) CVS (current view of the situation).

From my perspective, both as a consumer & a practitioner, Adam Gordon's 'Future Savvy' is definitely a highly useful & much-needed addition to the strategy repertoire of a 21st century manager.

[Incidentally, more information about Adam Gordon & his work can be found at his weblog.

Also, very interestingly, he has acknowledged in his book that Peter Bishop, author of 'Thinking about the Future: Guidelines for Strategic Foresight', another wonderful book from my perspective, especially for its 115 superb guidelines, as his teacher & mentor for many years.

More information about the latter book can be found at this link.]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"If anything the essence of intelligence would seem to be in knowing when to think & act quickly & knowing when to think & act slowly."

~ Robert Sternberg, American psychologist; also,the creator of the investment theory of creativity, which states that creative people buy low & sell high in the world of ideas, & a propulsion theory of creative contributions, which states that creativity is a form of leadership;