Saturday, November 29, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: 'WHAT EVERY BODY IS SAYING', by Joe Navarro

If I could recall correctly, my initial introduction to social behavioural patterns of non-verbal communications probably began with Julius Fast's 'Body Language' during the seventies, followed by one of Desmond Morris' well-illustrated books, 'Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behaviours', in the late seventies.

My fascination with the subject grew, particularly from the standpoint of developing a competency in reading people, with the acquisition & reading of Allan Pease's 'Body Language: How to Read Others' Thoughts by Their Gestures', & more specifically, Gerhard Gschwandter's 'Non-Verbal Selling Power' during the eighties.

I reckon, with the wisdom of hindsight, those were roughly the pivotal books in guiding me to understanding the significance of body language in human interactions.

Throughout the ensuing years from the eighties, I didn't pursue any newer books on the subject, until very recently when I have come across Joe Navarro's book.

The author is a former FBI counter-intelligence special agent, which somehow has given the book an iota of authenticity, in contrast to an aura of mystery, about speed-reading people.

In a nut shell, speed-reading people successfully is essentially learning about the world around us, decoding & determining the meaning of non-verbal communications as manifested through facial expressions, gestures, touching, physical movements, posture, body adornment & even the tone, timbre, & volume of a person's voice - to predict human actions.

More specifically, it's collecting non-verbal intelligence to assess a person's thought, feelings & intentions, a competency that can be mastered through constant practice & proper training.

This wonderful book, with clear, concise & succinct writing on the part of the author, has been designed to serve that purpose.

It starts off in the beginning with the ten commandments for observing & decoding nonverbal communications successfully, followed by an insightful exposition of how our evolutionary triune brain structure contributes to our hardwired responses to the world.

For me, just understanding the freeze, flight & fight responses as well as an appreciation of the comfort/discomfort & pacifying routines - in reality, these are parts of our very robust survival mechanisms - has facilitated my renewed journey to becoming a better speed-reader of people. The author has discussed these emotional aspects at great length (Chapter II).

From Chapter III to VII, the author went on to discuss the non-verbals of the feet & legs; the torso, hips, chest & shoulders; the arms; the hands & fingers; & the face, respectively.

I have never seen such extensive as well as illuminating treatment along the foregoing lines by any of the other authors I have encountered earlier.

In spite of all the relevant insights & expert advice which the author has openly shared in his book, he has concluded in the end analysis that there is, however, one type of human behaviour that is difficult to read, & that is deception.

Nevertheless, the author has outlined for readers a dozen of important things to do & valuable points to keep in mind in the course of any interpersonal interactions. Reading them, I come to realise that they all boil down to developing acute observational skills.

In fact, the first commandment from the author, as outlined in the beginning segment of his book rings very true: be a competent observer of our environment.

As a case in point, with the author's assertion in the concluding chapter, paying attention to the synchrony between what is being said verbally & non-verbally, between the circumstances of the moment & what the subject is saying, between events & emotions, & even synchrony of time & space can often provide valuable clues to detecting deception.

Additionally, when we speak, we naturally utilise various part of our body - such as the eyebrows, head, hands, arms, torso, legs & feet to emphasise a point about which we feel deeply or emotionally. Observing such emphasis can also provide valuable tips on detecting deception.

To end this book review, I like to paraphrase a quote from the author's friend, as a result of the friend's personal experience in navigating the car to an unknown destination (in Coral Gables, Florida), mentioned in the epilogue:

"Once I knew what to look for & where to look, the signs were obvious & unmistakable. I had no trouble finding my way."

That reaction also more or less sums up my sentiment about developing mastery in speed-reading people.

MEMORABLE QUOTE FROM THE MOVIES

I probably have watched the Jame Bond movie 'Casino Royale' more than a dozen times on StarHub cable television, not counting having watched it earlier in the movie theatre. The last time was only last night.

My wife thinks that I am crazy, but I always tell her that I am always entranced by the gritty action sequences, the witty dialog as well as the varied characterisations in the intriguing story plot, ranging from 007, his boss M, his love interest Vesper, his counterpart from CIA Felix Leiter, to all the assorted double-agents, terrorists & trouble makers across the globe, including the mysterious Mr White.

I have recently watched 'Quantum of Solace' in the movie theatre, & I feel very strongly that 'Casino Royale' is still the better movie. Maybe I didn't quite like the jerky camerawork, the imitation of some action sequences from the 'Bourne Ultimatum' movie, & also the too-abrupt ending.

Here is one example of a memorable witty dialog from 'Casino Royale', during one of the opening sequences:

Steven Obanno, a guerrilla commander in Uganda, seeking a safe haven for his apparently ill-gotten funds: "Do you believe in God?"

Le Chiffre, a banker to international terrorists' groups, retorted: "No. I believe in a reasonable rate of return . . . with no risk in my portfolio."

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Before you become too entranced with gorgeous gadgets & mesmerizing video displays, let me remind you that information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, & wisdom is not foresight. Each grows out of the other, & we need them all."

~ Arthur C. Clarke, 1917–2008, British science fiction author & futurist, most famous for the novel, '2001: A Space Odyssey', written in collaboration with director Stanley Kubrick, a collaboration which also produced the film of the same name; & as a host & commentator in the British television series 'Mysterious World';

BOOK REVIEW: 'THE TRUTH ABOUT PROFITING FROM SOCIAL NETWORKING', by Patrice-Anne Rutledge

Social networking on the net & on mobile has generated a lot of buzz in recent years. In fact, I have joined a few of the known outfits just to experiment for myself, e.g. Facebook, Flickr, LibraryThing, Linkedin, & Shelfari.

When I first saw this book on display in a local bookstore recently, I just grabbed it instinctively. On the other hand, I was also curious to find out more about this technology-enabled phenomenon, especially on how to profit from its proper usage for personal & business advancement.

For me, the book is like a compendium, written in a quick-to-read, easy-to-understand perspective, with numerous examples, deep insights, good advice & easy-to-follow guidelines.

The author, apparently a reputable media consultant & eMarketer, with several books to her credit, has revealed 50 "truths" (as well as "myths") about real-world social interaction on the net.

Besides the usual networking basics, I find her treatment of the subject reasonably broad & deep, with ample advice about finding a job, recruiting the best candidates, launching a product or service, & supporting worthwhile social causes, all from the standpoint of networking.

I certainly like her clear insights into future trends, & also her exhortations to think strategically about the best ways we can leverage the new power of online collaboration & relationship building to enhance our career, business & life.

More importantly, she has also highlighted the potential dangers as well as the necessary precautions to undertake with regard to safeguarding our privacy online.

Like it or not, as the author has asserted, social networking on the net will expand exponentially in the next decade.

I reckon the author has summed up her book best through her last "truth": "You don't have to follow the (networking) trends just because they're there", with 3 great suggestions:

1) Follow the (networking) trends as they relate to you - focusing on the big picture & then drilling down to the details that affect your world;

2) Don't be afraid to not to follow the (networking) trends - knowing what works best based on your specific goals, budget & target audience;

3) Start your own trend - instead of chasing (networking) trends - focus on creating your own innovations that meet your own or customers' needs;

In other words, the networking must ultimately serve your purpose.

I also concur with the author that innovation is the first key to networking success; solid execution is the second. Be different. Be bold. Be first, & profit from the endless possibilities & unlimited potential of linking with more than a billion people around the world.

Friday, November 28, 2008

SPOTLIGHT: HELICOPTER ABILITY

These two aerial snapshots of retail kiosks have been taken by me at the spur of the moment quite some time ago in two different shopping malls - the first one at Ang Mo Kio Hub & the other at Vivo City.

I didn't know exactly what I would do with them.

As I ponder over the pictures today, an insight pops into my mind.

They go to show that an aerial view is always totally different from a street-level view for the observer.

Henceforth, when one is looking at a situation or a problem, a detached view from the above certainly adds more scope to the assessment.
MM Lee Kuan Yew calls it the "helicopter ability", which he has once considered it as one of four important behavioural traits in the selection criteria for ministers.

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"Knowledge is holistic. A single specialized academic degree will soon be considered a sign of brain damage that is terminal at the PhD level. Because of it's specialization, a PhD won't provide entry into the Kindergarden of the Future . . .

In the last age you learned the old three "R's". The new 3 R's are Ram, Rom & Run. The next lesson will be the three C's: Conflict, Crisis, Change. Kindergarden has just opened . . ."

~ Canadian futurist & electronic evangelist Frank Ogden, better known as 'Dr Tomorrow'; the foregoing insights have been extracted from his collection of 'Ogden's Laws';

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"In times of rapid change, experience could be your worst enemy."

~ J Paul Getty, 1892 – 1976, American industrialist, who founded The Getty Oil Company; he was ranked the richest American alive during the sixties by Fortune Magazine; he wrote a very successful book entitled 'How to Be Rich' (Note that it was not 'How to Get Rich');

WHAT DO I LOOK FOR IN MY READING?

I just love to read. I also love to review (for Amazon) some of the books I have read.

Reading & reviewing books are two different things for me - reading is more for learning, while reviewing is more for fun.

In this post, I will talk about reading. I will probably cover reviewing in a separate post.

My interest areas are relatively broad.

In a nut shell, they generally cover brain ergonomics, brain fitness, health & longevity, peak performance & success achievement, accelerated learning & information mastery, creativity, innovation & entrepreneurship, strategic thinking, strategic exploration, thinking about the future, knowledge management, opportunity discovery, & global leadership, more specifically from a personal perspective.

Sometimes, just for curiosity sake, I may go off tangent to explore fringe areas like mind expansion & life extension.

Naturally, the first thing I always look for in my reading is whether there are "new ideas" or "new perspectives" to gain. In this respect, I am glad that the published synopses on Amazon (also publishers' or authors' websites) often serve as my guide to the book acquisition process.

I reckon "originality of ideas" or even "freshness of perspectives" are somewhat difficult to pin down. To me, there is always this question of relativity.

My solution to these aspects is simple. In fact, I have learned it from the great American inventor Thomas Edison.

As long as there is something I have not read about before, or I have not encounter or done it before, I can safely say "it's original". That's it.

Sometimes, in the absence of "new ideas" or "new perspectives", I go for "new experiences" as encountered by the book's author, especially when he interweaves his own personal learning experiences to something I am interested in.

That's to say, learning from other people's experiences.

One area I may pay particular attention to is the author's level of expertise, especially when the author is unknown.

For known or established authors, this is not an issue, but sometimes they just run out of steam. Worst still, they even resort to rehashing or recycling old published stuff. Tony Buzan is a good example.

Oftentimes, there are a lot of good learning stuff to pickup -if one looks for it diligently, just by reading the author's personal anecdotes as well as reported observations, if any.

As a trainer, I also look out for interactive exercises or discovery games in the books which I can make use of.

Another good place to scout for good learning stuff is the author's bibliography, webliography, appendices or footnotes. From my personal experience, any of these areas can be a jump off point for further reading/exploration, so to speak.

I have also in recent years found a better way to address this aspect.

I deliberately look out for non-American or even non-British authors in the areas of my interest.

Many thanks to the Internet & also my faithful Copernic Agent Pro, finding these people is not too difficult today.

For example, in the area of creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship & business strategy formulation, I have found some excellent Australian, French, German, Scandinavian & South African authors/consultants. Some of their works have been translated from their native languages.

I have already reviewed some of their works my earlier posts as well as on Amazon, e.g.

- Per Jenster's 'Company Analysis: Determining Strategic Capability';

- Peter Skat-Rordam's 'Changing Strategic Direction: Practical Insights Into Opportunity Driven Business Development';

Sometimes, Asian scholars &/or consultants, do give the same old stuff a new spin.

In the field of creativity & innovation, I have found that there are quite a large group of local authors, who also take the opportunity to ride the bandwagon, by sharing some of their different perspectives.

A few are really good, e.g. Kishore Mahbubani, Ng Aik Kwang.

I reckon that the most important ROI of reading a book for readers is the potential for practical application. That's to say the overall applicability of a book also applies to my personal case of reading.

The question that often comes to my mind, when reading a new book, is often how early or how fast can I apply?

I often enjoy reading books where the authors have taken the trouble to share specific tools methods by putting down real-life case studies, relevant checklists, provoking questions & working guidelines to help the reader to move forward.

Some good examples:

- 'Strategic Thinking: A Step-By-Step Approach to Strategy', by Simon Wootton & Terry Horne;

- 'Breakaway Planning: 8 Big Questions to Guide Organizational Change', by Paul Levesque;

I have already reviewed their books in earlier posts as well as on Amazon.

The reader-friendly hands-on content in their books often makes the personal reading experiences extremely relevant & of immediate utility.

Over the years, most of the learning stuff I have picked up from books are often incorporated into the curriculum design of my training workshops for entrepreneurs, managers & professionals, as well as school students. They are also synthesised into my strategy consulting work.

Interestingly, one or two books in the reading process can often be the spark plug for one to move on to a host of other books. A springboard, so to speak.

I recall vividly during & also throughout the eighties, it was the bibliographies in a handful of books like 'Superlearning' & 'The Aquarian Conspiracy', that had let me to explore a gamut of new learning technologies through other books & related resources.

Again, during the late eighties or early nineties, it was the bibliographies of books by life transition strategists Richard Bolles, Frederic Hudson, Richard Leider, & Marsha Sinetar, that had guided me to explore a whole lot of other great works, with better understanding, especially with regard to designing the second half of my life.

Hence, I often get quite upset whenever I come across a new book, in which the author does not share his or her bibliography. Edward de bono is one classic example.

With a bibliography &/or a webliography in today's context, I can get to understanding the varied influences behind an author's work, which I am also very interested to know about.

For me, reading a new book is only the beginning of a particular journey. There is no end point, only jump off point to new discovery, learning, growth & change.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The learning here is: Lay a strategy, lay a course & stay with it. Not blindly stay with it, but believe in it & mobilise & do two of the most important things: Make resource allocations into physical capital & human capital. And when you do that, it is amazing what happens."

~ Robert Nardelli, former controversial CEO, Home Depot, America's #1 home improvement outfit with over 2,000+ stores;

FIELD GUIDE TO THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE III

This is a continuation of 'Part II: Field Guide to Thinking About The Future II'.

Again, this is a rough mix of old books & new books from my personal library.

As I have mentioned earlier, the old books demonstrated in today's context what had worked & what didn't work, as far as thinking or exploration is concerned.

New books provide new ways & fresh experiences of looking at far beyond the horizon.

Nonetheless, they are all fascinating reads, especially the newer & recent titles, even though some poses some reading challenges. Even up to today, I still go back to many of the books to reread from time to time.

Anyway, I have really enjoyed perusing them.

41. 'What I Have Learned: Thinking About the Future Then & Now', by Michael Marien

My comments: "A unique collection of interesting essays on futures, written by more than a dozen of prominent futurists, during the late eighties, from the Editor of 'Future Survey', a monthly abstract journal of the World Future Society."

42. 'Crucial Questions About the Future', by Allen Tough

My comments: "An excellent intro & guide to exploring the critical questions or issues of life's complexities as one develops a blueprint for a positive future."

43. 'Preparing for the 21st Century', by Paul Kennedy

My comments: "Interesting perspectives on preparing oneself as a sovereign individual in the 21st century."

44. 'Future in Sight: 100 Trends, Implications & Predictions That Will Most Impact Businesses & the World Economy into the 21st Century', by Barry Howard Minkin

My comments: "Interesting & wild predictions with regard to probable futures, made during the nineties, from more than 200 businesspeople & industry trendspotters."

45. 'Learning from the Future: Competitive Foresight Scenarios', by Liam Fahey

My comments: "An excellent combo of strategy formulation with scenario techniques. Definitely a required reading for any management team embarking on thinking about the future."

46. 'Out of the Blue: How to Anticipate Big Future Surprises', by John Petersen

My comments: "Interesting perspectives about "jokers" or "wild cards". I particularly like the the author's methodology for calculating the impact from nine factors: rate of change, reach, vulnerability, outcome, timing, opposition, power factor, foresight factor, & quality."

47. 'Harnessing the Power of Intelligence, Counterintelligence & Surprise Events', by Alain Paul Martin

My comments: "This book is more about mining strategic intelligence to predict surprise events, which is an important prelude to thinking & exploring the future."

48. 'Lessons from the Future: Making Sense of a Blurred World from the World's Leading Futurist', by Stan Davis

My comments: "This, as well as many of his other books, e.g 'The Monster Under the Bed', '2020 Vision', 'Future Perfect', often helped me with grounded insights & inspiring anecdotes to make sense of the turbulent & chaotic futures."

49. 'Scenario Planning: The Link Between Future & Strategy', by Mats Lindgren

My comments: "An useful toolbox on scenario & strategy development from two European consultants."

50. 'Scenario Planning Handbook: Developing Strategies in Uncertain Times', by Ian Wilson

My comments: "Written almost like an academic textbook, but still offers adequately good stuff about decision making practices in strategy formulation in today's uncertain times."

51. 'Developing a 21st Century Mind', by Marsha Sinetar

My comments: "A good intro to "positive structuring" techniques, in contrast to conventional problem solving techniques, which are useful to thinking about the future. I also enjoy reading her many other books. In fact, one of her earlier books, 'Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow: Discovering Your Right Livelihood' was pivotal in helping me to decide my planned departure from the corporate world for good during the early nineties."

52. 'The New Science of Marketing: State-of-the-Art Tools for Anticipating and Tracking the Market Forces That Will Shape Your Company's Future', by Vithala R. Rao

My comments: "Puts marketing decision-making process on a strategic level of planning for the future. Excellent perspectives on tactical planning as well."

53. 'Future Focus: How 21 Companies are Capturing 21st Century Success', by Theodore Kinni

My comments: "Not a futures book, but the insightful & compelling stories of how 21 companies captured their 21st century success demonstrated the power of the historical approach in predicting the future."

54. 'The Extreme Future: The Top Trends That Will Reshape the World in the Next 20 Years', by James Canton

My comments: "Just some possible roadmaps to the future, with lively scenarios."

55. 'Building the Future: A Workbook to Accompany Futuring', by Jill Loukides & Lawrie Gardner

My comments: "An excellent workbook on futures planning, with self-study questions, to go with Edward Cornish's 'Futuring' book mentioned in the first field guide."

56. 'The Personal Compass: A Visual Workbook for Exploring Your Future', by The Grove Consultants International

My comments: "A powerful personal planning tool for the future, using a visual framework - probably the best I have ever come across, as it gives practical templates to review the past, take stock of the present, then imagine & plan for a fulfilling future."

57. 'Revolutionary Wealth: How it will be created & how it will change our lives', by Alvin Toffler

My comments: "Despite its confusing labels & cutesy stuff, the authors offer many interesting perspectives about the changing prospects of the world we live in. Their much earlier works, e.g. 'Future Shock', 'The Third Wave', 'Powershift', had also been instrumental in sparking my interests during the early years of my exploration."

58. 'Five Minds for the Future', by Howard Gardner

My comments: "Not a futures book, but good for understanding the 5 mental abilities ("minds") that will be critical to success in a 21st century landscape of accelerating change & information overload: disciplined, synthesizing, creating, respectful & ethical."

59. 'Anticipating Surprise: Analysis for Strategic Warning', by Cynthia Grabo

My comments: "Not a futures book, but an excellent guide to understanding strategic preparedness."

60. 'Future Files: The 5 Trends That Will Shape the Next 50 Years', by Richard Watson

My comments: "It's an excellent companion to James Canton's 'Extreme Future'. It's quite fun book to read. There are actually 5 key trends (ageing; power shift to the East; global connectivity; the "GRIN" technologies of Genetics, Robotics, Internet, & Nanotechnology; & environmental concerns), plus 50 general trends."

FIELD GUIDE TO THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE II

[This is a continuation of Part I: 'Field Guide to Thinking About The Future I'.]

21. 'Coolhunting: Chasing Down the Next Big Thing', by Peter Gloor

My comments: "An entertaining book to read about what makes the world a cool & fun place, at least for me."

22. 'Creating Futures: Scenario Planning As a Strategic Management Tool', by Michel Godet

My comments: "A great book on futures planning from an European futurist. His other books are worth exploring too."

23. 'Future Savvy: Identifying Trends to Make Better Decisions, Manage Uncertainty, & Profit from Change', by Adam Gordon

My comments: "Among the best of the lot I have found so far, especially in terms of applying critical thinking perspectives to futures planning."

24. 'Thinking about the Future, Guidelines for Strategic Foresight', by Peter Bishop & Andy Hines

My comments: "Among the best of the lot I have found so far, especially in terms of understanding various guidelines to coming up with a realistic foresight analysis."

25. 'Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present', by Bob Johansen

My comments: "A great book on using foresight to stimulate insight for managers. I like his "dilemma sense-making"."

26. 'Strategic Foresight: The Power of Standing in the Future', by Nick Marsh

My comments: "Among the best of the lot I have found so far on futures planning. Standing in the future is a refreshing approach."

27. 'Mind Set!: Reset Your Thinking & See the Future', by John Naisbitt

My comments: "Interesting & entertaining read from the man who started 'MegaTrends' during the eighties."

28. 'Navigating the Badlands: Thriving in the Decade of Radical Transformation', by Mary O'Hara-Devereaux

My comments: "A great read about global developments for managers. Thought
provoking."


29. 'Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation', by Kees van der Heijden

My comments: "Serious stuff for the scenario planner. His other book, 'Sixth Sense' is worth exploring too."

30. 'The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World', by Peter Schwartz

My comments: "My first intro book to developing strategic scenarios in a consistent systematic manner. I like his idea of reperceiving."

31. 'FutureThink: How to Think Clearly in a Time of Change', by Edie Weiner

My comments: "Really good stuff about thinking clearly, which is important in futures planning."

32. 'Managing the Future: Foresight in the Knowledge Economy', by Haridimos Tsoukas

My comments: "Interesting read. Somewhat heavy stuff to digest."

33. 'Scenario Planning: Managing for the Future', by Gill Ringland

My comments: "Good ideas for the scenario planner."

34. 'The Imagination Challenge: Strategic Foresight & Innovation in the Global Economy', by Alexander Manu

My comments: "Great stuff about future opportunity finding, especially from the standpoint of stretching imagination & provoking insight."

35. 'Strategic Thinking and the New Science: Planning in the Midst of Chaos Complexity & Change', by T. Irene Sanders

My comments: "One of my favourite strategic thinking books. A reasonably good guide to dealing with complexity & choas in futures planning."

36. 'Foresight: The Art & Science of Anticipating the Future', by Denis Loveridge

My comments: "A scholarly & thoughtful exposition on futures methods, especially from the systems thinking perspective."

37. 'Futuring: The Exploration of the Future', by Edward Cornish

My comments: "Interesting read, as well as a practical resource, from the World Future Society, which on its own has also other wonderful resources on futures research."

38. 'Turning the Future Into Revenue: What Business & Individuals Need to Know to Shape Their Futures', by Glen Hiemstra

My comments: "Interesting read, especially on how to turn emerging changes into profitable ventures, & more importantly, how to shape your career for future success."

39. 'Profiting from Uncertainty: Strategies for Succeeding No Matter What the Future Brings', by Paul Schoemaker

My comments: "Great stuff on understanding & exploiting uncertainty & ambiguity in futures planning."

40. 'Creating Better Futures: Scenario Planning As a Tool for A Better Tomorrow', by James Ogilvy

My comments: "Interesting read from a scenario planning pioneer, about how the world is changing for the better. I also like his earlier book, 'Living without a Goal', which has some interesting perspectives about futures planning from a personal standpoint."

[to be continued in Part III]

FIELD GUIDE TO THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE I

I am always fascinated by thinking about & exploring the future.

To share with readers, I have originally compiled a list of my favourite books in conjunction with Amazon's Listmania. All the listed book have guided me, or at least given me some rough ideas, over the years, in my understanding & exploration of the future.

Along the way, I have also picked up quite a lot of useful process tools & strategies.

It's a rough mix of old & new books in my personal library.

For me, in today's context, the old books demonstrate what had worked & what didn't work as far as thinking or exploration is concerned.

New books provide new ways & fresh experiences of looking at far beyond the horizon.

Nonetheless, they are all fascinating reads, especially the newer & recent titles, even though some poses some reading challenges.

Even up to today, I still go back to many of the books to reread from time to time. Anyway, I have really enjoyed perusing them.

I reproducing my Listmania on Amazon here, in three parts, with Part I in this post, to be followed by Part II & Part III in subsequent posts consecutively.

1. 'An Incomplete Guide to the Future', by Willis W. Harman;

My comments: "Among my first few books on futures. The Harman Fan is definitely a nifty tool."

2. 'Rapids of Change: Social Entrepreneurship in Turbulent Times', by Robert Theobald

My comments: "Among my first few books on futures. The author was a community futurist & preparedness activist. He had written other good books, including 'Turning the Century'."

3. 'The Future Is Ours: Foreseeing, Managing & Creating the Future', by Graham May

My comments: "Among my first few books on futures, which inspired me to join the World Future Society during those early years of exploration. Over the years, WFS has given me ready access to fantastic futuristic stuff."

4. 'Are You a Transhuman?: Monitoring & Stimulating Your Personal Rate of Growth in a Rapidly Changing World', by FM-2030

My comments: "One of the first few books on futures that really sparked my initial interest about thinking & exploring the future."

5. 'G-Forces-the 35 Global Forces Restructuring Our Future', by Frank Feather

My comments: "Offers valuable lessons about driving forces. Some of his stuff resonates with FM-2030's."

6. 'New Thinking for a New Millennium', edited by Richard Slaughter

My comments: "Interesting perspectives from the big boys in futures thinking. The author is a reputable scholar in futures studies from Down Under."

7. 'Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism', by Patricia Aburdene

My comments: "Together with John Naisbitt, they have written great books on futures since the eighties, starting with 'MegaTrends'."

8. 'The Dictionary of the Future: The Words, Terms & Trends That Define the Way We'll Live, Work & Talk', by Faith Popcorn

My comments: "A broad brush about some fancy futuristic terms. Fun to read, as the author is certainly a maverick!"

9. 'Management Challenges in the 21st Century', by Peter Drucker

My comments: "A great read for managers. Don't forget to explore his many other books, e.g. 'Innovation & Entrepreneurship'."

10. 'Encyclopedia of the Future', edited by George Thomas Kurian

My comments: "A smorgasbord of interesting as well as scholarly articles on futures."

11. 'The Fortune Sellers: The Big Business of Buying & Selling Predictions', by William Sherden

My comments: "Interesting to understand man's fascination for predictions."

12. 'Anticipatory Management: 10 Power Tools for Achieving Excellence into the 21st Century', by William Ashley

My comments: "A great read for managers."

13. 'Thinking in the Future Tense', by Jennifer James

My comments: "A different perspective to think strategically. Her other books are worth exploring too."

14. 'Staying Sane in a Changing World: A Handbook for Work, Leadership & Life in the 21st Century', by Margot Cairnes

My comments: "A different perspective about the world in transition. Her other books are worth exploring too."

15. 'The Mind of a Fox', by Chantell Ilbury

My comments: "A great book on scenario planning from South Africa."

16. 'Looking Down the Road : A Systems Approach to Futures Studies', by Douglas Raybeck

My comments: "An interesting read."

17. 'Futuristic Leadership A-Z', by Frank Feather

My comments: "Just understanding the 26 futuristic action verbs is worth your effort & time to read this book."

18. 'Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future', by Joel Arthur Barker

My comments: "Always my perennial favourite. You can't explore the future if you are still stuck with old paradigms. Paradigm pliancy is the name of the game, the author asserts."

19. '20/20 Foresight: Crafting Strategy in an Uncertain World', by Hugh Courtney

My comments: "A great read on strategy formulation under uncertain conditions for managers."

20. 'Peripheral Vision: Detecting the Weak Signals That Will Make or Break Your Company', by George Day & Paul Schoemaker

My comments: "Not a futures book, but a good book about setting up early warning systems for detecting & assessing weak signals from the future."

[to be continued in Part II]

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"True innovation & strategic value are going to be found more & more in the synthesisers - the people who draw together (disparate) stuff from multiple fields & use that to create an understanding of what the company should do."

~ Chris Anderson, Chairman, Technology, Entertainment & Design (TED) Conference;

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

If I could have one superpower, what would that be?

SPOTLIGHT: REINVENTION

This is a snapshot of an ad poster outside the California Pizza Kitchen restaurant at Forum The Shopping Mall.

It's obvious from several hot reviews that 'reinvention' has worked very successfully at CPK, especially with their popular American style menu - over 26 selections of hearth-baked thick crust gourmet pizza, with unusual toppings like bean sprouts, peanuts & Peking duck, together with 10 pastas & a great selection of appetizers, soups, salad, sandwiches & desserts.

I reckon we should be able to apply 'reinvention' in our own lives as well, by cultivating a varied strategy repertoire to deal with today's turbulent & chaotic world.

All it takes is some ingenuity & imagination on our part.

[Personally, I would like to recommend their original BBQ Chicken Pizza, branded as a hot favourite among local customers, including me, if readers ever get the chance to pop into Forum during lunch or dinner time.]

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

If I can't trust someone else telling me what to do, what do I do?

I reckon, one possible answer is to learn to do it better for myself, & also, to learn to rely on solutions that I have created specifically for my particular situation.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Moderation? It's mediocrity, fear & confusion in disguise. It's the devil's dilemma. It's neither doing nor not doing. It's the wobbling compromise that makes no one happy. Moderation is for the bland, the apologetic, for the fence-sitters of the world afraid to take a stand. It's for those afraid to laugh or cry, for those afraid to live or die. Moderation . . . is lukewarm tea, the devil's own brew."

~ Dan Millman, author, 'The Way of the Peaceful Warrior';

RAPID RECAP: PERSONAL LEADERSHIP

Drawing on the work of Danny Cox, a former supersonic test pilot & author of 'Leadership When The Heat is On', I have synthesised the following critical attributes for personal as well as organisational leadership:

1. UNCOMPROMISING INTEGRITY: a high standard of personal ethics;

2. ABSENCE OF PETTINESS: a primary focus towards the big picture of getting work done;

3. WORKS ON PRIORITY: a timely propensity to set & work with priorities & deadlines;

4. COURAGEOUS: courage & willingness to take charge, to deal with fear & risks, & to accept responsibility for whatever outcome;

5. COMMITTED TO WORK: dedicated to working hard as well as working smart;

6. GOAL-ORIENTED: a bias for concerted action to put strategy to work & produce results;

7. UNORTHODOX: a goal orientation towards innovation;

8. INSPIRED ENTHUSIASM: always positive & enthusiastic in outlook;

9. LEVEL-HEADED: especially in times of crises, with a high level of proactivity towards problem solving;

10. DESIRE TO HELP OTHERS GROW: a burning desire to help others succeed;

Monday, November 24, 2008

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)


"Today is not yesterday: we ourselves change; how can our works and thoughts, if they are always to be the fittest, continue always the same? Change, indeed is painful; yet ever needful; and if memory have its force and worth, so also has hope."
~ Thomas Carlyle, 1795-1881, Scottish Philosopher & Author;

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

If I could ask three questions about my future, what would these questions be?

BECOMING INDISPENSABLE

In an earlier post, I have written about 'Company Loyalty vs Personal Employability'.

In this post, I thought of wanting to throw in some ideas & suggestions about how to become indispensable in today's volatile labour market, drawing on my own experiences in the corporate world.

1) Be organised in your work;

2) Display a strong work ethic, especially with regard to punctuality & integrity;

3) Be results-oriented, as you are measured by your productivity;

4) Be opportunity-sensitive - constantly be on the look out for opportunities to add value to the organisation as well as to your clients, which in turn will add value to yourself;

5) Be a problem solver, & don't hesitate to share you expertise with others;

6) Maintain a positive mental attitude, especially in the face of problems, challenges & even setbacks, if any;

7) Have good rapport building skills, with people at & across all levels, inside as well as outside the organisation, including your clients & facilitators;

8) Be a team collaborator;

9) Sell yourself & your ideas, & more importantly, make them work;

10) Be an active & fast self-directed learner, because continual learning helps you stay employable; as a matter of fact, in today's fast-paced rapid-changing world, it's advisable to spend at least 25% of your own time learning & acquiring new skills;

11) Be ready to take on new assignments, including regional &/or global relocation, as they come;

12) Last, but not least, keep yourself well-informed & up-to-date on everything inside as well as outside your industry through reading widely & networking actively; always remember, "everything is connected to everything else";

During the early eighties, while under employment, & with the blessings of my Catherine, I took on the challenge to work in Thailand, which eventually lasted five years, & later on, another challenge to work in Indonesia for another two years. Both exposures, in addition to acquiring project management experiences at senior management level, had equipped me with better cross-cultural understanding of the region.

So, when I left the corporate world in the early nineties, it was relatively smooth sailing as far as my strategy consulting business was concerned. In the ensuing process, task management, no matter how complex or delicate, was really a piece of cake for me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The fundamental qualities for good execution of a plan is first intelligence; then discernment & judgment, which enable one to recognise the best method as to attain it; the singleness of purpose; & lastly, what is most essential of all, will - stubborn will."

~ Ferdinald Foch, 1851-1929, French soldier, military theorist, & writer, credited with possessing "the most original & subtle mind in the French Army" in the early 20th century; he served as general in the French army during World War I, & was later chosen as supreme commander of the Allied armies against the Germans;

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"Start out slowly & don't expect too much . . . Take time to look at things - look at the way a tree is formed. Take time to be by yourself . . .

. . . It is all about the process . . . Don't get panicky. On days when it's not flowing, accept it. Give yourself permission to fail. Experiment. Copy others' work that you admire. Read about others in your field - biographies. Something will resonate . . ."

~ Candace Bellringer, artist & art teacher, talking about the creative process;

[I have extracted & patched the quote from a magazine article, 'Learning Creativity' by Susan James.]

MAKING DISTINCTIONS: INSIGHT, HINDSIGHT & FORESIGHT

I am often fascinated by "insight", "hindsight" & foresight", just like I am often enchanted by "data", "information" & "ideas", which I have already written or rambled about in several earlier posts.

For my purpose, I generally consider "insight", "hindsight" & "foresight" as pieces of vital "information".

First, let me recap a couple of things.

"Information" is what I generally make meaningful as well as purposeful sense of from all the swirling "data" around me in the environment.

"Data" can come from the newspapers or magazines or books which I read. Also from other things as well as people, events, happenings, surroundings, etc., through my observations, conversations & interactions.

"Data" is neutral to everybody, including me.

"Information" is what makes it different, because it is me who, using all my senses, choose to shape the selected "data" into meaningful "information".

In doing so, I am naturally influenced by my own prejudices, biases, goals, expectations, fears, hopes, frustrations, & all the works.

That's the nature of human perception as I understand it.

In a nutshell, as I have mentioned before, "information" is the result of "what I have chosen to see, & where I have directed my attention".

Now, let's go back to "insight", "hindsight" & foresight".

For me, there is a common denominator among the three: "sight".

"Sight" as the name implies is vision related. So it's an instance of seeing, the act of perceiving with the eyes.

It has to do with my field & range of vision. In other words, my power of observation.

Let's go deeper.

For me, "insight" often comes from that enlightening experience when I am thinking so intensely (incubation?) about something, a problem or situation. You can call it the AhA moment.

It's that penetrating understanding of a problem or situation, especially when I have the seemingly intuitive ability to grasp clearly or deeply the nature of it.

"Illumination", with the light-bulb iconographic, is another word to describe the experience.

"Epiphany" is another word, though somewhat high-powered.

I have come to believe that "insight" comes from the combinatory play of "ideas" inside my head, which is the ultimate repository of all the incoming disparate "information" from my environment.

As Nobel laureate Arno Penzias once asserts: we think with "ideas"; not "information"; it's always having "ideas" that can make full or ready use of "information".

He asserts further: "ideas" always come first, although it also seems, at least to me, that "ideas" follow "information" in a linear manner, so to speak. That part is somewhat of an oxymoron.

Nonetheless, I like to interpret "ideas" as that part part of the vast amounts of "information" inside my head, which I reckon is workable or of utilitarian purposes.

As a sidetrack, when "ideas" become "attractive, durable, & contain economic value &/or likely to add value to user or others", they can evolve into an "opportunity", if I were to understand the assertion of entrepreneurship educator Jeffry Timmons.

Interestingly, if you look at the words I have used so far, e.g. "enlightening", "illumination", they also imply "seeing".

In fact, the etymological roots of the words, "ideas" as well as "intuition" are also related to "seeing".

So, suffice to say, "insight" implies the power of acute observation.

For my personal experiences, "insight" often appears suddenly from the apparent interplay of something I sense in the environment, which somehow triggers something already incubating inside my head, often when I least expect it.

Especially during those quiet moments, like taking a shower or commuting on the MRT or just doing nothing at all.

Oftentimes, moments of "insight" are fleeting, so one has also to be quite alert & sensitive to what's happening. They can also come about or reveal themselves following one's deep dive into introspection.

On the other hand, "insight" can also be provoked deliberately, by using creativity guru Edward de bono's lateral thinking approaches, which I have mentioned in several earlier posts.

Next, for me, "hindsight" refers to one's ability to understand, after something has happened - especially what should have been done or what caused the event or happening.

So, I can safely say that it's the wisdom I got, drawing upon the lessons learned, after something, usually bad, has happened.

So, in a way, "hindsight" comes from past experience, what worked & what didn't work, all the good & bad, & maybe more bad than good.

So, in a way, the more experience or knowledge we have about something, we are likely to have more hindsights.

That's to say, those who have gone through the "university of hard knocks" tend to have better hindsights. Their hindsights are 20/20, so to speak.

"Retrospective foresights", as some experts like to call them.

Actually, developing "hindsight" is a form of reality check on oneself.

But, sometimes more experience or knowledge can be a stumbling block. The 'Intelligence' or 'Expert' trap, as we call it.

With the wisdom of hindsight, developing "hindsight" seems to be the easy part, since we can take a look at "history".

Last, "foresight", which I reckon is a little bit more difficult.

For me, "foresight" is the ability to see ahead, to see beyond, to know in advance, to anticipate, to perceive the significance & nature of events before they have occurred.

To develop "forward views", as one futurist puts it.

Unlike "insight" & "hindsight", "foresight" requires considerable analysis, systematic deliberation, & more importantly, astute discernment, often with the aid of strategy tools to help paint & sort out the scenarios. Naturally, it's dependent on one's vast inventory of prior knowledge & past experiences.

In an organisational or business setting, it's called "strategic foresight" or "strategic anticipation", where the "foresight" work is done collectively & collaboratively.

I reckon it's the most vital part of "strategic thinking", which again is the significant part - the precursor, to be precise - before "strategic planning". The planning then evolves into the game plan for the organisation.

This is the one fascinating aspect that I am most interested to learn more about.

Why is this? It's very simple: Every decision making process, whether in life or in business, involves "foresight" - some anticipation about future consequences & probable eventualities.

Interestingly, at least from my perspective, "insight" boils down to understanding the present; "hindsight" is learning about the past, & "foresight" is anticipating the future.

The way I see it, "insight" plus "hindsight" actually offer some form of building blocks to "foresight".

Realistically, the past & the future can only exist in the present. The now, so to speak. That's how I understand.

So, we can actually make do of who we are & what we have in the present - today.

First of all, I know there are a number of prerequisites for us to bear in mind while developing "insight", "hindsight" & "foresight".

Here they are:

1) Have an open mind, & don't be prejudicial about all the things that come to you;

2) Be observant & mindful, as the world is a huge learning laboratory;

3) Be willing to explore, play & experiment with novel & seemingly radical ideas;

4) Stretch your imagination, like a child but don't be childish, as children have uncanny ways of looking at the world;

5) Be inquisitive, & don't be afraid to ask some dumb questions;

6) Read widely, both mainstream as well as fringe stuff, & be willing to probe the author, as nothing is sacred in writing;

7) Challenge your own assumptions & beliefs;

8) Embrace chaos, & learn to see the hidden order out of disorder - it's not easy, but it's worth doing;

9) Tolerate uncertainty & ambiguity - as the world is not totally black & white, there also many shades of grey;

10) Adopt critical thinking, but don't get be stuck in only one view, as the fluidity of multiple viewpoints allow you to explore many entry as well as jump-off points;

[to be continued in the Next Post.]