Saturday, February 21, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: 'LEADERSHIP IN THE ERA OF ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY', by Ram Charan

Having really enjoyed myself with reading & digesting noted business strategist Ram Charan's two earlier books, namely:

- 'Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done' (with Larry Bossidy as principal author);

- 'Know How: The 8 Skills that Separate People Who Perform from Those Who Don't';

I have been naturally inclined to read the author's latest book, 'Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty'.

To be frank, I have in fact finished reading the book within 1-1/2 hours - about the waiting time for my wife to finish attending her weekly evening 1-1/2 hour English class at the language centre in Jurong East.

I have actually brought the book along with my scratchpad to read while waiting.

From my personal perspective, the book has certainly lived up to the secondary title in the book, 'The New Rules for Getting the Right Things Done in Difficult Times'.

With the global financial meltdown, resulting in cash & credit crunches, shrinking budgets, collapsing markets, sinking employee morale, disappearing suppliers, & nervous stakeholders, I must say, the timing of this book, especially when it has been written within a very short time frame, couldn't have been better.

The book reads more like a tactical operational manual.

I couldn't help feeling that the book also reads more like an intellectual amalgamation of the two earlier books I have mentioned. Hence, don't expect any ground-breaking stuff here.

At the end of the day, what the author has articulated so eloquently still boils down to execution, which needs to be in place to manage the three core business processes of people, strategy & operations, only this time, one is navigating today's troubled waters.

The author has taken the trouble even to provide advice to leaders at every level, from the CEO & country managers to department heads in finance, marketing, R & D, sales & manufacturing.

To ride on what Larry Bossidy has written toward the tail end of the Foreword:

I recommend readers to "Read . . . Learn . . . Thrive (instead of Survive) . . . Prosper!" from the experienced-based insight of the author.

The book is definitely a quick & easy read.

Interestingly, after reading it as mentioned in the beginning of this post, I still managed to make use of some spare time to browse the many magazines at the language centre. I have found one, entitled 'Parents World', January-February 2009 issue.

Right inside, I have spotted an interesting article: "How to Cope with Recession"

I have in fact jotted down in my scratchpad the following key advice from the article:

1) ensure that we have sufficient cash at hand;

2) keep a positive attitude & excellent performance at work;

3) strengthen relationships at home with friends;

4) review your financial position & prepare for recovery;

5) upgrade yourself;

6) stay health & fit;

7) care for the poor & needy;

As readers can see, the first one resonates with one of Ram Charan's suggested practical actions for immediate execution:

"protect cash flow vigilantly, even daily, & use cash more efficiently"

What a beautiful coincidence!

My point: Ram Charan's ideas can also apply in a personal application. All you need is some tweaking!

SAGE ADVICE FROM THE GURU

"Learn from the people
Plan with the people

Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves."

~ Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu, 'Tao Te Ching';

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"One who fears the future, who fears failure, limits his actions. Failure is only the opportunity to begin again."
~ Henry Ford, 1863– 1947, founder of the Ford Motor Company & father of modern assembly lines used in mass production; was also a prolific inventor;

KNOWLEDGE SHARED IS POWER SQUARED

In an earlier post, I have written about 'Knowledge is Only Potential Power'.

In continuation, I have written a new post, touching on 'Knowledge Shared is Power Squared' in my newly-established 'Braindancing Smorgasbord' weblog.

Here's the link to the post.

Friday, February 20, 2009

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: PERSPECTIVES ON CREATIVITY

According to Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized expert in creativity & innovation in business & education, & an acclaimed speaker on the creative challenges facing business & education in the new global economies:

1) Creativity is not purely a personal process. Many creative solutions draw on the creative ideas of others;

2) Creativity is a dynamic process involving many areas of expertise. New ideas often come from the interaction between different disciplines;

3) Creativity is often incremental;

4) New ways of thinking do not simply erase the old; they often overlap;

5) Creativity & innovation exist in all areas of life. Our challenge is to promote processes & systemic creativity & innovation rather than isolated specialist achievements;

6) People do their best when they do what they love. Most people who love what they do would continue whether they are paid or not;

7) Competitive advantage does not come from the Internet. It comes from leveraging creativity;


[Source: Idea Connection; Sir Ken Robinson is also the author of 'The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything' & 'Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative'.]

THE HEART OF LOVING COMMUNICATION IS LISTENING TO UNDERSTAND

"If a square peg doesn't fit a round hole, neither the peg nor the hole is to blame. Between two people, the question "whose fault is it?" is the friend of argumentation & the destroyer of growth-oriented communication.

Assigning blame involves listening to critique & responding to defend, speaking to lower the other person rather than speaking to build each other.

Relational progress is impossible as long as blame is the focus because blame & progress are enemies.

In our litigation-hungry society we must take care that focusing as fault - which is proper for the courtroom - doesn't carry over into inter-personal relationships.

The heart of loving communication is listening to understand."

~ Jeffrey Byrant (1965);

[Now, we know where Stephen Covey got his rough idea from, with regard to one of his 'Seven Habits for Highly Effective People' (1993), i.e. "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

Anyway, it's no big deal, after all he had mentioned upfront that he had spent time & effort to study 200 years' of the success literature in the country prior to writing his classic.]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are."

~ Zen Proverb;

Thursday, February 19, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: 'THE FLOW OF TIME & MONEY', by Lloyd Watts

At first glance & based on an initial cursory read, the author of this book seems to take the opportunity to ride on some of 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad' author Robert Kiyosaki's cash flow ideas.

However, following a deeper level of reading, I find that the author has given readers a new spin, drawing on his 32 years' of self- study & personal experiments, by introducing a refreshing visual approach, with simple but well-illustrated flow diagrams to capture his many wonderful thoughts about the systems perspectives of life, money & time.

Although the stuff in the book is not exactly revolutionary, I certainly like his intertwining concept of the flow of time & the flow of money, & in particular, the investments in life assets (education, relationships, health & organisation) to sustain material assets.

His concept of 'triggered expenses' (the image of a leaky bucket really jolts the mind) that most people don't realise is really a wake-up call. I honestly didn't think of that.

Undoubtedly, how we spend our time & our money determine our destiny. The counter-point to this harsh reality is that the principles of time & money are still not taught in schools, & sad to say, most of us, including yours truly, have entered adulthood without a clear understanding of how to live to our full potential.

As a matter of fact, my own understanding on how to take control of my income, expenses, & wealth came about only when I was in my early forties.

I was fortunate in a way that I had bumped into a book by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin, entitled 'Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence'.

In my personal view, the author of 'The Flow of Time & Money' has very beautifully brought to life, through his lucid explanation of why we struggle financially, why we fall for hidden debt traps, & how we can lay out the pathway to financial independence, planet Earth's friendly genius R Buckminster Fuller's original concept of wealth building in terms of time, not in terms of money - how many days into the future you can live on what you have. The author calls it aptly, survival time.

My personal favourite chapters happen to be the last few, at the end of the book: 'Realising Your Dreams' ("taking the long term perspective, with sustained yet intermittent effort, building empowering habits, staying focused") & 'Contributing to the World' ("how do you want to be remembered?").

I reckon, in a nut shell, these are the vital aspects that truly make our mastery of time & money more spiritually engaging & personally meaningful.

In the end analysis, all I can say about this book is that it's definitely an ideal book for those seeking lasting commitments to achieving wealth & personal fulfillment.

Best of all, with 100-odd pages, it's breezy to read because of the many easy-to-understand graphic illustrations.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way."

~ Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970, British philosopher & author; also Nobel laureate (1950, Literature, "in recognition of his varied & significant writings in which he championed humanitarian ideals & freedom of thought.");

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

“Whenever the world around you changes & the rules for success change, then you’re going to have to have a new way of doing things . . . A new strategy, a new way of working. We have to look at new ways of delighting customers who have less time, less money; we have to be more competitive if we’re going to survive. We’re going to have to do a lot more with a lot less . . . We’re going to have to get people to do things differently . . . They don’t see what’s in it for them because they fear change, so you’re going to need a whole different set of skills from managing in a routine environment . . . The first element of the strategy would be choosing the right team, & making sure everyone understands the role they need to play, to support one another, & to reinforce one another . . . Because change is about planning properly; that’s the head. Then it’s understanding how people feel about the change, & getting them to want to do what they have to do to change; that’s the heart. Then there’s the soul stuff which is about inspiring them, pretty much like Obama & Mandela do.”

~ Ruth Tearle, a veteran change management consultant based in Cape Town, South Africa;

[Source: The Times, Cape Town, South Africa]

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Do I have the strategies to lead change in this tough economic condition?

Am I able to anticipate the issues arising from change?

Am I ready to initiate change & have the skills to take action?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

HOW A ROCK MUSICIAN PERCEIVES THE WORLD


Together with my social buddies, I love to listen to live music, especially all the oldies, but goodies. I am of course talking about mostly music of the 50s, the 60s & some of the 70s. To be frank, when it comes to music, I don't have any particular genre in mind, although I am more inclined towards rock n roll.

Interestingly, I always reckon musicians are very talented people, very much in their own way. They always seem to have a different way of perceiving the world.

I am often fascinated by the many perspectives of American rock musician/singer-songwriter/classical composer Billy Joel.

Here is a quick sampling.

"Artist - musicians, painters, writers, poets, always seem to have had the most accurate perception of what is really going on around them, not the official version or the popular perception of contemporary life."

"As human beings, we need to know that we are not alone, that we are not crazy or completely out of our minds, that there are other people out there who feel as we do, live as we do, love as we do, who are like us."

"Don't make music for some vast, unseen audience or market or ratings share or even for something as tangible as money. Though it's crucial to make a living, that shouldn't be your inspiration. Do it for yourself."

"Historically, musicians know what it is like to be outside the norm - walking the high wire without a safety net. Our experience is not so different from those who march to the beat of different drummers."

"I am no longer afraid of becoming lost, because the journey back always reveals something new, and that is ultimately good for the artist."

"I am, as I've said, merely competent. But in an age of incompetence, that makes me extraordinary."

"I don't care what consequence it brings, I have been a fool for lesser things."

"I have a theory that the only original things we ever do are mistakes."

"I have been both praised and criticized. The criticism stung, but the praise sometimes bothered me even more. To have received such praise and honors has always been puzzling to me."

"I really wish I was less of a thinking man and more of a fool not afraid of rejection."

"I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints - the sinners are much more fun."

"If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time."

"If you tell kids they can't have something, that's what they want."

"In a way, we are magicians. We are alchemists, sorcerers and wizards. We are a very strange bunch. But there is great fun in being a wizard."

"Those who have expressed doubts and misgivings about their ability to live this kind of life shouldn't try, because being a musician is not something you chose to be, it is something you are."

"You're not the only one who's made mistakes, but they're the only things that you can truly call your own."


"Say goodbye to the oldies, but goodies, because the good old days weren't always good and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems."

[More information about Billy Joel is available at this link.

BREATHING SPACE

According to change & communication expert William Jensen, author of 'Simplicity: The New Competitive Advantage in a World of More, Better, Faster' (2000) & more or less the sequel, 'The Simplicity Survival Handbook: 32 Ways To Do Less & Accomplish More' (2003):

about 80 percent of business communication - meetings, e-mails, presentations, whatever - has a major problem:

the information doesn't require action, or it requires action, but there are no consequences of doing nothing;

[based on a survey of more than 2,500 people working in 460 varied organisations.]

It puzzles me as to why most professionals & managers are still extremely obsessed with constantly accessing their Blackberries on a 24/7 basis even when they are not at work, &/or they are on vacation in faraway places.

Also, I often notice that a lot of seemingly young professionals still meddling with their handphones whenever they exercise in the gym. Don't tell me they can't even entertain an hour or so of uninterrupted peace of mind from technology in the gym!

No wonder I am told by many people that our Institute of Mental Health & the Woodbridge Hospital (with its 2,400-bed acute tertiary psychiatric facility, plus, among others, three specialised clinics for specific disorders, Anxiety & Mood Clinic, Sleep Disorder Clinic, & Sexual Dysfunction Clinic) is somewhat over-crowded with stressed-out young professionals in their patient wards.

It's high time our young professionals learn how to cultivate breathing space, & start to enjoy life by living & working at a comfortable pace in a sped-up society.

Life is short is certainly an understatement.

Interestingly, work/life balance expert Jeff Davidson saw the advent of the highly pressurised phenomenon as far back as the early nineties. I strongly recommend reading his classic book, aptly entitled 'Breathing Space', which I had already reviewed in an earlier post.

COMPETENCIES CRITICAL FOR PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS

I have stumbled upon an interesting recruitment ad on the net for an Executive Director to work for a professional service organisation.

Among other qualifications needed for the job, the ad has also specified the following preferred competencies, which I find somewhat intriguing:

- business acumen;
- functional/technical skills;
- creative;
- strategic agility;
- problem solving;
- presentation skills;
- written communication;
- comfort around higher management;
- developing direct reports;
- organisational ability;
- standing alone;
- intellectual horsepower;
- dealing with ambiguity;
- peer relationship;
- drive for results;
- motivating others;
- managing vision & purpose;
- perspective;
- decision ability;
- command skills;
- perseverance;

This is the first time I have seen a recruitment ad that singles out 'comfort around higher management', 'standing alone', 'strategic agility', 'dealing with ambiguity', 'intellectual horsepower', 'perspective' & 'decision quality' as prerequisites for a job.

Definitely useful for all the job hunters & career seekers out there to think about as you move up the ladder.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"80 to 90% of most people's thinking is not only repetitive & useless, but because of its often negative nature, much of it is also harmful."

~ Eckhart Tolle, author of 'The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment';

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

INVEST IN INNOVATIVE CAPACITY & STRATEGIC ABILITY

Here's a link to a great post by business & innovation strategist Idris Mootee in his 'Innovation Playground' weblog.

It's an apt call to "Use The Next Six Months To Invest In Innovative Capacity & Strategic Agility".

I like his Spitfire analogy - it reminds me of the great war movie 'Battle of Britain' in the sixties - for speed & agility.

READY FOR CHANGE?

Here's a link to a great article about change readiness from the London Business School.

This is the preamble:

"One of the things that goes wrong with change programmes – repeatedly - is that organisations & leaders fail to reconcile or even understand their internal capabilities & the complexity of their external worlds."

CREATING VALUE IN A BRUTAL ECONOMY

Here's a link to an interesting whitepaper from The Korn/Ferry Institute. It explores the opportunities for companies that have the courage & strategic agility to act quickly in a brutal economy.

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: HOW TO ENHANCE YOUR 'RISK IQ'

According to David Apgar, Managing Director of the Corporate Executive Board (the premier membership organisation for senior executives of leading institutions worldwide to discover innovative strategies for addressing their most pressing challenges) & author of 'Risk Intelligence: Learning to Manage What We Don't Know', here are four simple rules to help you raise the quality of your risk analysis — thus enhancing your "risk IQ":

1) Recognize which risks are learnable — & reduce their uncertainty by discovering more about them;

2) Identify risks you can learn about the fastest. The higher your learning speed, the more a project is worth pursuing;

3) Take on risky projects one at a time — learning about the risks underlying each before moving to the next;

4) Build networks of business partners, suppliers, & customers who can collectively manage new ventures’ risks by playing distinct roles;

Additionally, he offers the following probing questions to help you think through your risk analysis:

i) Do you have enough relevant experience in the area of your specific challenge or decision?

ii) Are the information & insights you possess sufficiently insightful to gain needed perspective?

iii) Are your sources of information & your experiences sufficiently diverse & objective?

iv) Have you broadened your information inputs through external partners & networks?

v) Have you methodically captured & assessed what you know (& don’t know)?

vi) Have you audited & prioritized your risks to your complete satisfaction?

vii) Can you build in shock absorbers & contingencies to minimize damage?

viii) Can you minimize or distribute the risks (to others or through resource sharing)?

ix) Are the risks known by significant stakeholders, shareholders or parties of direct interest?

MAKING DISTINCTIONS: ACCURACY vs PRECISION

This digital snapshot was captured at the Jurong Point shopping mall yesterday afternoon.

It wasn't the content of the ad poster that caught my personal attention.

I knew then that the ad was promoting NIKE's football boots, Total 90 Laser II, fitted with their latest Shotshield technology, which enables the player in his passing pinpoint & shooting deadly.

[It goes without saying that a player's boots are his weapons of choice. They must be perfectly calibrated for pinpoint passing & deadly shooting.]

I was more attracted or rather intrigued by the key word 'accuracy' in the caption 'Ignite Your Accuracy'.

What is 'accuracy'? What is 'precision', then?

From what I know, scientists often like to be both accurate & precise when conducting their lab or field experiments.

But what does that mean?

As far as I know, accuracy & precision are almost two different things, even though they are closely related.

So I did some quick homework on the net.

We can be accurate every time we do a simple experiment, even though there might be multiple errors in the way the experiment was conducted. Thus, for the application of a seemingly inaccurate method, our result is still accurate, but it is not precise.

On the other hand, when scientists perform an experiment multiple times, with no errors in its method, & they receive similar results, they are precise.

In other words, although they didn't hit the bull's eye, so to speak, they were somewhat close to the actual result, & thus precise.

Does this make sense?

Let me try another approach.

If the actual value is 7.321 & we say that it is 7.30, then we are precise to the first decimal place, but inaccurate by .021.

If a value is represented as a bulls eye on a target, a group of measurements represented by closely grouped points have a high degree of precision.

If that group is near the center, it is highly accurate as well.

On a bulls eye, as in an archery exercise, think of accuracy as how close to the center our arrow hits, & our measurement of precision as how closely we can group all our shots.

Does this make more sense?

READING BUSINESS BOOKS AS A WAY OF LIFE

I love to read, especially business books.

Whenever I step into a book store, I can't leave without a handful of business books with me.

Likewise, when I surf my favourite online book stores, like Amazon &/or Kinokuniya Bookweb, my fingers sometime get carried away with the apparent collusion of my pet mouse.

The shopping basket is often an entrapment, even though I have the ultimate personal choice!

However, I always read business books with a purpose in mind. I like to call it reading with an utility response.

Besides picking up new concepts or novel ideas, I like to read about the authors' personal experiences in looking at the world, & more specifically, in dealing with multi-variant issues, problems, challenges & threats.

I know reading is a very personal thing, but the important thing is that one should always derive learning points - or pragmatic insights - from the reading, & in doing so, also share with the world at large. They are waht I call the "take-aways".

Not too long ago, marketing guru Seth Godin has shared with the world his fresh approach to reading business books:

1) decide before you start reading the book that you're going to change 3 things about what you do all day at work;

2) make your reading productive by creating marching orders or executable tasks;

3) share what you read & learned by getting others around you in sync to take action;

That approach was really great, as I fully concur!

My choice for business books has to do with the nature of my personal as well as professional interests.

I am into brain ergonomics; learning; thinking; creativity & innovation; change management; peak performance; opportunity discovery, knowledge acquisition & management, strategic exploration, entrepreneurship as well as successful aging, longevity, fitness & wellness on a holistic basis.

Of course, I do read other non-business &/or fictional stuff, but only on a very selective basis.

I find reading business books a really good way to save time & money in pursuing multi-disciplinary knowledge.

Imagine one can read ten different books from ten different consultants on the same subject, without losing your pants, so to speak.

In a nut shell, this is really a low-cost, self-paced, self-organising mentorship program.

More importantly, if one were a fast reader, one could achieve the "mentoring" endeavour over one weekend, from an intellectual standpoint.

'Living Deliberately' guru Harry Palmer calls it a "word experience".

In contrast, the "world experience" comes when you put the stuff to work in your own life. The "hard knocks", so to speak.

For me, as a strategy consultant, much of the stuff I read about are often synthesised & integrated into my consulting work.

Generally, business books are well researched as well as efficiently crafted, considering the wealth of experiences & expertise on the part of the authors that back up the books.

That's to say, you get can free & often extensive research for just a song.

In a way, "A penny for your thoughts" rings very true, too.

I often find the foot notes, appendices, & bibliography in business books as useful springboards for further explorations about the subject.

Sometimes, the authors themselves deliberately leave intriguing clues in their books for readers to probe further.

We now live in exciting times, which we call the Knowledge Economy, or Learning Economy, as my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, likes to call it.

Business books often share useful short cuts & help readers to cut short the learning curve.

From these "take-aways", one can start to move to the next level: 'what's next?', by distilling the new insights, developing actionable ideas, & executing measurable actions to produce the anticipated results in one's life &/or business.

Oftentimes, business books help the readers to create what Frans Johanssen calls the "inter-sectional moments".

Dilip Mukerjea likes to call them "junction dynamics".

To me, they are just "jump points" where they can lead you to something else from your own perspectives &/or to serve your personal agenda.

The intellectual intercourse that goes on while or after reading business books always fuels a return on investment for an exciting interaction, especially when one has already learned how to probe or question the author.

For me, reviewing the books on Amazon as well as in my weblog further enhances, on a more serious note, the intellectual discourse.

I find that the personal application of visual tools, e.g. mind-mapping the key ideas or insights, especially with MindManager Pro, is one good way to enhance the intellectual experience.

I always find that reading & exploring business books can serve as a good way to keep my mind sharp & nimble.

It's generally impossible to just read a business book & not to think about what you have read, especially when the author readily shares fresh insights &/or provides contrarian views about the subject.

Management guru Margaret Wheatley once said it beautifully:

"Thinking is always dangerous to the status quo. The moment you start thinking, you'll want to change."

Better still, when the authors unwittingly jostle or cajole you to take action!

Authors of business books who write theirs like workbooks or action lists do a great service to readers. They prompt readers to work on the ideas, to put the ideas to work in personal or business's applications, & hopefully as a result, change the world in some ways.

I like authors of business books who pose provoking questions at the end of each chapter of their books.

Naturally, I also like authors who summarise the key points of every chapter of their books, say in the form of checklists or action points.

These features make reading of their books a breeze & fun too on the part of the reader.

Frankly speaking, reading business books offers another great benefit to readers: new relationship building. It's always free . . . no strings attached . . . best of all, you always have the final choice, too!

Over the years, I have developed mutually beneficial relationships, business or otherwise, with many brilliant authors, to whom I am always keen to associate further with.

As a case in point:

I have always been impressed with business strategist/futuristic thinker Dudley Lynch, whose debut business book with audacious ideas, 'Your High Performance Business Brain', during the late seventies, actually started the ball rolling in my relentless pursuit of personal mastery as well as change mastery.

I must say, his intellectual stuff was often well & far ahead of its times . . . hence very relevant in weird & unstable times, like what we are now all going through!

Since then, & in the ensuring years, I have read & digested all his business books, the last being 'The Mother of All Minds' (2003), [to be frank, it's "the mother of all personal breakthroughs"] in addition to acquiring his proprietary profile instruments. The whole works!

Both of us have kept - first with snail-mail & fax-mail, now email - communication with each other over the years. As a matter of fact, I almost brought him to Singapore during the early nineties, but my plans did not work out.

[Dudley Lynch is the President & CEO of Brain Technologies, an established source of unique, highly effective personality tests & "how to" literature & services, fully dedicated to improving how people think.

His books & other resources are all available at his corporate website.

A word of caution is appropriate:

They are not intended for the faint-hearted, unless you are prepared to Think Audaciously, Live Strategically & Act Wise-heartedly! ]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Thinking is always dangerous to the status quo. The moment you start thinking, you'll want to change."

~ management consultant/thinker Margaret Wheatley, who describes her work as opposing "highly controlled mechanistic systems that only create robotic behaviors"; presently, president of The Berkana Institute, a global leadership foundation; her books include 'Leadership & the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World' (1999);

Monday, February 16, 2009

THE KEY TO TRACKING TRENDS

I have picked the following great tips from the trends strategist Gerald Celente, whose rather bleak forecasts about the US economy last year certainly woke up a lot of people:

1) Read two or more newspapers every day with a specific purpose in mind;

2) Look for stories with social-demographic/economic/political significance;

3) Skip the stories that are purely human interest or about something that hasn't happen yet;

4) When crisis does occur, tune in to the extra in-depth analysis that you'll find in accompanying background pieces;

5) Read them as though you're a political atheist, not for what you want or hope, but for what is really going on, not only in your own profession or industry, but for trends that may directly shape the future;

As a trends watcher, he certainly has a valid point.

For me, whenever I open up the Straits Times in the morning, the first thing I do - in conjunction with entertaining nature's call - is to go through quickly the headlines of practically every page.

Then, I zero into the editorial page (which often sums up the major issue of the day, to my pleasant delight), economic analyses & political commentaries on the adjoining pages.

After that, I will then take my time to browse the Life page &/or accompanying supplements, or may just read them at a later time.

As for watching news broadcasts, local or otherwise, my mind always jumps into a questioning mode, as outlined in my earlier post.

KNOWLEDGE IS ONLY POTENTIAL POWER


"Knowledge is Power."

This wise quotation is often attributed to the great English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626).

In reality, we all know that "knowledge is only potential power".

Knowledge is only true power when it is applied in the real world. I reckon I should qualify it further: To apply it purposefully, meaningfully & productively. In other words, it must produce expected results.

To me, it's somewhat akin to the horsepower in a car.

When one goes to buy a car, the salesman often likes to brag, among other things, about the horsepower of the car.

For the uninitiated, he is actually referring to the indicated horsepower (ihp) i.e. the horsepower developed by the car's engine. It's not its true power, but it's always the higher number rating.

The car's true horsepower comes from the brake horsepower (bhp), which is always the lower number rating. To the customer eventually, this seems like a a lesser quantum, which explains why most salesmen, probably in collusion with the manufacturer, don't talk about it, unless you question them.

Nonetheless, it's the car's true horsepower, as it reflects the power of the car's engine delivered to the wheels, where the rubber meets the road.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"They should try themselves as a manager, as a motivator, as a leader, learn about stress & about people, & be prepared to anticipate all these things before going out on their own."

~ Michael Ma, a Laotian-born Australian businessman who first went to Down Under as a refugee boy; now owner of a lifestyle empire, spanning six countries (including Singapore) & comprising more than 25 restaurants, bistros, bars, clubs & even a beach resort in Phuket, Thailand; he was responding to 'The Monday Interview' of today's issue of the Straits Times in connection with young people whom he thought should complete their education & attain some real-world experience as employees before striking on their own; even his attitude towards business is refreshingly pragmatic:

"People say 'inside the box, 'outside the box' - I say, excuse me, how do you spell 'the box' again? That's not in my vocabulary."

I am certainly impressed by his parting shot in the interview:

"Whatever I have done, it had been done over the course of time & has been informed by my experiences in life."

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

How can I become more effective?

How can I improve how I feel throughout the day?

How do I remove stress of the situations that I am facing?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

PERSONAL DISASTER SURVIVAL KIT: 5 STRATEGIES TO RECOVER

I have stumbled upon this great article by Dave Denis, a trainer/coach. Here is the link.

MEMORABLE QUOTE FROM THE MOVIES

"For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again."

~ Benjamin Button (voice over) in a letter to his daughter, in the captivating movie, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button', starring Brad Pitt & Cate Blanchett; the movie has been adapted from a 1921s story by F Scott Fitzgerald about a man who was born in his eighties & aged backwards, with bizarre consequences: a man, like any of us, who was unable to stop time.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"All knowledge is connected to all other knowledge. The fun is in making the connections."

~ Dr Arthur Aufderheide, world renowned paleopathologist; also one of the world's first experts in the field;

THE NEUROSPYCHOLOGY OF SELF-DISCIPLINE REVISITED

Among the many self-paced, self-study personal development programs I have acquired from Sybervision Systems during the mid-eighties, & since then, I always reckon 'The Neuropsychology of Self-discipline' has been one of my most treasured favourites.

[I have acquired their audio-cassette programs principally because I was very impressed by the personal story of the author/principal developer, Steve DeVore. He was renowned for his work in visual modeling - how we learn & assimilate (neurologically, psychologically, & cognitively) skills & behaviors from the observation of others.

In reality, & with the unwavering help of his beloved mother, he had overcome his own polio handicap during his early childhood by applying the same modeling methods.]

The above-mentioned program consists of ten comprehensive audio sessions & a study guide.

Overall, it is based on extensive research conducted with the close collaboration of famed neuro-scientist Dr. Karl Pribram at the Stanford University's Neuro-psychological Research Laboratories. [He postulated the 'Holographic Brain Theory', which helps to explain the potency of the 'image of achievement' in sensory vision building.]

Dr Pribram had studied over 100 of history's greatest achievers & identified the characteristics they had in common. From the collated characteristics, he had distilled a powerful formula for self-motivation - the secret of lasting success.

The program therefore shows the formula in the form of a seven-step process to build the power of self discipline & motivation into your own life.

In a nutshell, the seven steps are listed below:

- DEFINED PURPOSE: "I know what I want to achieve!"

- MODELS OF POSSIBILITY: "If they can do it, then, it's possible for me too!"

- SENSORY VISION: "I see & feel myself doing it. Now I know I can do it!"

- THE FIRE WITHIN (DESIRE, OBSESSION, PASSION, EMOTIONAL ENERGY)

[This is also the title of an 40-minute training video, which comes with the program.]

- PLANNING: "I know what I have to do to achieve it!"

- LEARNING: "I can learn the skills & knowledge I need to achieve it!"

- PERSISTENCE: "No matter how long it takes or how hard it is, I can do it!"

In the first three steps, you are taught to identify your goal, to realize that it is attainable & to believe that you can achieve it. These steps build an emotional fire within you that drives you forward with passion.

With the three final steps, you then create a plan for achieving your goal, you identify what you specifically need to do to achieve it, & you develop the patience, persistence, & perseverance necessary to succeed - no matter how long it takes or how difficult it becomes.

The closer you get to your goal, the more your passion to achieve builds. Finally, self-discipline becomes a self-perpetuating process.

It is pertinent for me to point out that 'self-discipline' is defined as the ability to delay immediate gratification in exchange for long term goal achievement.

According to the program, these are the ten characteristics of a self-disciplined achiever:

1) has strong sense of purpose;

2) seeks out positive mentors;

3) has sensory rich vision;

4) has positive sensory orientation;

5) has strong belief in self;

6) has the ability to plan & organise;

The program introduces a powerful visual network planning process, called PERT (Program Evaluation & Review Technique), derived from the US Navy's development of the Polaris missiles during the sixties.

In a nut shell, that's how PERT works:

i) write down your objectives;

ii) break your objectives down into major tasks to be accomplished;

iii) organise all the specified tasks in their logical order;

iv) design a visual network showing the inter-relationships of all the specified tasks in place;

v) estimate how long each specified task will take to complete;

vi) determine the critical path or float;

vii) assigned a timed schedule for all the specified tasks;]

7) acquires learning skills;

8) knows the virtue of patience;

9) knows the virtue of persistence & perseverance;

10) has a great sense of pleasure & play in relation to work;

Interestingly, former US President Theodore Roosevelt once said:

"The only quality which sets one man apart from another - the key which lifts one to every aspiration while others are caught up in the mire of mediocrity - is not talent, formal education, more intellectual brightness - it is SELF DISCIPLINE. With SELF DISCIPLINE, all things are possible. Without it, even the simplest goal can seem like the impossible dream."

Why is self-discipline so important?

1) It takes self-discipline to do the things you know you should do when you don't feel like doing them;

2) It takes self-discipline to be able to follow your vision despite indifferent or negative opinions of friends & family;

3) It takes self-discipline to work on your dreams when you could be relaxing with friends or watching television;

4) It takes self-discipline to search for & read the books, listen to tapes, learn the skills or get the training that can greatly enhance your personal progress towards your dream goals;

With the skill of self-discipline, you'll be able to persevere in your efforts to achieve your fondest dreams.

I have come to the conclusion, after going through the university of hard knocks, that in life, everything is possible; it's just a question of strategy & self-discipline!

As an explorer into optimum performance technologies, I highly recommend 'The Neuropsychology of Self Discipline' audio program to readers.

For me, this is an excellent companion program to 'The Neuropsychology of Achievement', which I have already reviewed in an earlier post.

LEADING YOURSELF IN REALLY WEIRD OR UNSTABLE TIMES, from Tom Peters

I have gotten all the following goodies - all pragmatic ideas - from Tom Peters:

First Lot:

1) Be conscious in the Zen sense. Think about what you are doing more than usual. Think about how you project;

2) Meet daily, first thing, with your leadership team—to discuss whatever, check assumptions. Perhaps meet again late afternoon. Meetings max 30 minutes;

3) If you are a "big boss," use a private sounding board—check in daily;

4) Concoct scenarios by the bushel, test 'em, play with 'em, short-term, long-term, sane, insane;

5) MBWA. Wander. Sample attitudes. Visible but not frenzied;

6) Work the phones, chat up experts, customers, vendors. Seek enormous diversity of opinion;

7) "Over"communicate!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

8) Exercise—encourage your leadership team to double up on their exercise;

9) Underscore "excellence in every transaction."

Second Lot:

1) Learn to thrive in unstable times—our lot (and our opportunity) for the foreseeable future;

2) Only putting people first wins in the long haul, good times and especially tough times. (No "cultural differences" on that one! Colombia = Germany = the USA.)

3) MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around. Stay in touch!

4) Call a customer today!

5) Train! Train! Train! (Growing people outperform stagnant people in terms of attitude and output—by a wide margin.)

6) "Putting people first" means making everyone successful at work (and at home);

7) Make "we care" a/the company motto—a moneymaker as well as a source of pride;

8) All around the world, women are an undervalued asset;

9) Diversity is a winning strategy, and not for reasons of social justice: The more different perspectives around the table, the better the thinking;

10) Take a person in another function to lunch; friendships, lots of, are the best antidote to bad cross-functional task accomplishments. (Lousy cross-functional communication stops companies and armies alike;

11) Transparency in all we do;

12) Create an "Innovation Machine" (even in tough times). (Hint: Trying more stuff than the other guy is Tactic #1.);

13.) We always underestimate the Innovation Advantage when 100% of people see themselves as "innovators." (Hint: They are if only you'd bother to ask "What can we do better?");

14) Get the darned Basics right—always Competitive Advantage #1. (Be relentless!);

15) Great Execution beats great strategy—99% of the time. (Make that 100% of the time.);

16) A "bias for action" is a "bias for success." (Great hockey player Wayne Gretzky: "You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.");

17) No mistakes, no progress! (A lot of fast mistakes, a lot of fast progress.) (Australian businessman Phil Daniels: "Reward excellent failures. Punish mediocre successes.");

18) Sometimes "little stuff" is more powerful than "big stuff" when it comes to change;

19) Keep it simple! (Making "it" "simple" is hard work! And pays off!);

20) Remember the "eternal truths" of leadership—constants over the centuries. (They say Nelson Mandela's greatest asset was a great smile—you couldn't say no to him, even his jailors couldn't.);

21) Walk the talk. ("You must be the change you wish to see in the world."—Gandhi);

22. When it comes to leadership, character and people skills beat technical skills. (Emotional Intelligence beats, or at least ties, school intelligence.);

23. It's always "the little things" when it comes to "people stuff." (Learn to say "thank you" with great regularity. Learn to apologize when you're wrong. Learn the Big Four words: "What do you think?" Learn to listen—it can be learned with lots and lots of practice.);

24) The "obvious" may be obvious, but "getting the obvious done" is harder said than done;

25) Time micro-management is the only real "control" variable we have. (You = Your calendar. Calendars never lie.);

26) All managers have a professional obligation to their communities and their country as well as to the company and profit and themselves. (Forgetting this got the Americans into deep trouble.)

27. EXCELLENCE. ALWAYS. (What else?);