Saturday, September 19, 2009

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: AUTUMN FEST

In spite of the relatively poor economic forecasts for the country, Singaporeans are still in the festive mood, when it comes to the Autumn Fest.

These digital snapshots of the crowds were taken at the basement 2 atrium of the Ngee Ann City on Orchard Road yesterday afternoon. My wife & I were there too to jostle with fellow Singaporeans while savouring all the wonderful variety of moon cakes & other sweet delicacies on display.

Apparently, all the moon cake makers certainly knew how to entice customers with creative displays, ranging from fancy concoctions to numerous variations in shapes & sizes, to attractively coloured packagings.

Even the high prices - a box of plain yam moon cakes went for S$40/-, plus a 20% discount - did not deter many customers from lightening their wallets or purses to the sellers.

We did not purchase any moon cakes, as I already had my substantial share of eating moon cakes (as well as pomeloes) from Vietnam, which my wife had brought back to Singapore at the end of August.

Instead, we bought some packages of Japanese & Thai delicatessen.

Come to think of it, Singaporeans may have got it right. In a poor economy, we just got to spend a little bit more, just to keep the local economy bouyant, as well as to sustain the high spirits, especially during festive times.



SAVOURING THE CREATIVE PROCESS


Creativity is seemingly an intriguing process. Operationally, there is still somehow the element of mystique about it.

Even though I have spent at least the last three decades reading about - & also experimenting & playing with - it, I still do not fully understand it.

However, I am able, drawing on the pioneering research of others before me, to pin down the creative process to a number of stages, to make some sense of its working mechanism, but I still find that the process stages are often iterative as well as recursive in their natural cycle.

That's to say, creativity is never so straight-forward as one would like to think in linear terms.

I would even dare to say that it is often quite elusive when pursued.

So, where do creative juices actually come from, & how does one keep them flowing? These questions have intrigued me as an explorer for many years.

Sometimes, when I sit with my desktop to write a book review or a blog post, my creative juices seem to flow out like the tap water. Or, flow like Singapore's major river, the Kallang River - everything seems to be a very smooth flow.

There are times, when I can just sit there for hours, & nothing seems to flow out. So, during the intervening time, I have to resort to surfing the net, reading other people's blogs, browsing online magazines... just trying to get that sudden jolt of inspiration &/or to pass my time for the day.

Oftentimes, I just have to go & switch on my StarHub cable television, & with channel surfing on the sofa, I have to entertain myself by watching a good movie, hoping to strike rich - with some raw ideas, of course.

Other times, I will just pick up a couple of books to read or browse. To be frank, reading - or browsing - does help to some extent.

Alternatively, I will run through my series of completed idea scratchpads, which I often use whenever I read a book or surf the net. Each of them also doubles up as my memory jogger.

My good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, has recently told me that he had to spend six hours just writing two paragraphs for his new book.

As a matter of fact, just recently, he tried very hard to come up with a conceptual logo to go with the design idea of a brain club. After several attempts with some fuzzy sketches - unfortunatly not to his liking, & to mine as well - he just gave up. To his chagrin, at other good times, he was really quick on the draw with only one take.

I told him to leave it alone for a while & said that it - the "creative magic" - would eventually come to him.

Is this the 'dark hour of the innovator', as some experts like to call the phenomenon?

I like to share my hands-on understanding of the many stages of the creative process, from the standpoint of writing a solid book review or an extensive blogpost.

First, there is this period of beginning interest of writing something, followed by a burning desire to write it. This involves choosing a topic or a book to be reviewed.

Prior to this, there's of course what I like to call the consumption process: gathering & sorting out of pertinent information, relating to the topic or the principal premise of the book.

During the period, there's this full immersion of my mind, as I generally need to think about the angle of approach or perspective I want to adopt in tackling the topic.

In a way, I find that this combination of interest & desire eventually culminates into the intented endeavour.

In writing a book review, my marginal annotations in the book help me to centre my thoughts on forming the big picture. I often use a brisk idea map to collate my thoughts.

In writing a blog post, all the jottings of captured information from a myriad of sources, including readings, personal observations, conversations, etc., plus all the recordings of personal musings from time to time in my idea scratchpads, help me to fuel the formulation of my keys ideas about the topic.

To most creativity experts, this is also known as the preparatory stage or preparation of the creative process.

In fact, I like Dr Frank Baer's way of describing this part of the creative process: "foraging" [just imagine our forefathers - hunters/gatherers - doing their "foraging" in the savannah; likewise, the animals in the wild;], the first 'F' in what he calls the 'FRANK' process.

[More information about the 'FRANK' process can be found at this link.]

[To be continued in the Next Post.]

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

How can I make the best things in life even better?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Everything on earth is beautiful, everything, except that what we ourselves think & do when we forget the higher purposes of life & our own human dignity."

~ Anton Chekhov, (1860–1904); Russian short-story writer, playwright & physician; considered to be one of the greatest short-story writers in world literature;

Friday, September 18, 2009

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

1) Forget the future - plan around what you can predict;

2) Stop listening & start looking;

3) Be skeptical of market research - it rarely reveals what your customers really like or want.;

4) Question confidence - if you feel certain, question it!;

5) Avoid perfection - good beats perfect;

6) Beware of relying solely on common sense - breakthroughs require real imagination!;

~ from the 'Lead Zine', e-magazine of March 2009 issue, by Ron Hequet, Actum Consulting;

[Readers can visit his corporate website to download a special report on ‘10 RED FLAGS OF MANAGEMENT PRACTICES’©: Reassess the Trees in Your Forest'.]

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

How far can I see right now?

What is the best way to move forward & what should be the formula for developing my longer term strategy?

WALKING DOWN MEMORY LANE: THREE RIFLES SHIRTS


I am really surprised to note that the local brand of 'Three Rifles' shirts is still around after so long. It has a distinctive logo. I remember wearing the brand, while still a teen during the sixties, as my third elder sister had often purchased the shirts for me.

During that period, I had also worn other local brands, like 'Crocodile' & 'Lifting'. In fact, 'Lifting', often in plain colours, was my personal favourite among my shirts.

As I started working, I moved on to the 'CYC' brand. Today, 'Crocodile' (established in 1947) & 'CYC' (established in 1935) are still around.

As I progressed in my career, I recall upgrading myself to imported shirts, like 'Arrow' & 'Van Heusen', during the seventies.

The foregoing digital snapshot of the 'Three Rifles' boutique was captured at the Suntec City shopping mall.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Sometimes it is more important to discover what one cannot do, than what one can do."

~ Lin Yutang, (1895-1976); Chinese writer, philosopher, translator, & poet; he wrote more than 35 books in English & Chinese, & brought the classics of Chinese literature to western readers;)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

BE DARING, BE DIFFERENT: A PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO COCO CHANEL


My desire to write this blog post has been triggered in some ways by the bus-stop promotional ad for the new movie, 'Coco Before Chanel', as captured in the foregoing digital snapshot. I have yet to go & watch the movie.

The movie, starring the beautiful French actress, Audrey Tautou as Coco [I last saw the actress as the French cryptologist in the thriller movie, 'Da vinci Code', opposite Tom Hanks], revolves around Coco Chanel (1883-1971)'s rise from impoverished beginnings to the heights of the Parisian fashion world.

Frankly speaking, my knowledge of Coco Chanel more or less traces back to one thing: Chanel #5, considered the world's most legendary perfume, which I had probably bought as one of the early gifts for my late first wife, Catherine, during the late sixties.

I have read that, today, a bottle of Chanel #5 is reportedly sold worldwide every 30 seconds.

Interestingly, she had ruled Parisian haute couture for almost six decades, & had established herself as the 20th century's single most important arbiter of fashion.

She not only revolutionalised what women wore, but also the roles they were supposed to play in society.

When Time magazine published its list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, Coco Chanel was the only person in the fashion industry to be named.

By refusing to license out the Chanel name, the company has maintained strict quality control over its products, allowing it too stay on top of the game in all the decades since her death.

Today, Chanel's overlapping double C corporate logo continues to represent an image of chic & elegance around the world.

As a personal tribute to the Grande Mademoiselle, I have gathered quite a good number of wise quotes attributed to her.

From my personal perspective, these beautiful quotes reflected her daring attitude & rebellious character, which were actually extended to her fashion design skills. By the way, most of her designs - simple & comfortable - were in fact inspired by menswear.

She was different all the way from her design style to her chic personality to her innovative marketing; in fact, everything about Chanel is unique.

"In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different."

"I've never done anything by halves."

"I regret nothing in life except what I have not done."

"I was the one who changed, it wasn't fashion. I was the one who was in fashion."

"I invented my life by taking for granted that everything I did not like would have an opposite, which I like."

"I invented my life because I didn't like my life."
[Note: She began life as a headstrong orphan & became a cabaret singer. Interestingly, she began sewing the stage clothes of cabaret stars, ultimately leading to her career in fashion.]

"When I can no longer create anything. I'll be done."

"Innovation! One cannot be forever innovating. I want to create classics."

"Success is often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable."

"The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud."

"Don't spend time beating on the wall, hoping to transform it into a door."

"A style does not go out of style as long as it adapts itself to its period. When there is an incompatibility between the style & a certain state of mind, it is never the style that triumphs."

"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening."

"To dress young, you must feel young. That means being free & lazy & unpretentious with your clothes, being able to breathe & move & sit without being conscious of what you have on. Some teenagers are the oldest women I know."

"The best colour in the whole world is the one that looks good on you."

"Nature gives you the face you have at 20; it's up to you to merit the face you have at 50."

"A woman should mix fake & real... I love fakes because I find such jewelry provocative, & I find it disgraceful to walk around with millions around your neck, just because you're rich. The point of jewelry isn't to make a woman look rich, but to adorn her; not the same thing."

"There's time for work, time for love. That leaves no other time."

"Lie, if you must, but never in detail, or to yourself."

"It's amazing how many cares disappear when you decide not to be something, but to be someone."

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

If I were to be stranded in the desert, what would be the first thing that cross my mind?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"When I do my work, I am trying not to think about the physicality of it or the structure & the material. If I think about these things, then it won't succeed. If I focus on this, then I won't achieve the spiritual or the spirit of the work."

~ Li Chen, 46, well-known Taiwanese sculptor, whose major works, especially the Dragon-Riding Bodhisattva, can be found in front of the St Regis Hotel (on Tanglin Road) & Singapore Art Museum (on Bras Basah Road);

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

FAMOUS PEOPLE YOU DIDN'T KNOW WERE ENGINEERS

Quite some time ago, my younger brother, a techno-geek, has emailed me a bunch of goodies which he had found on the net.

One of them was the link to the blog post, entitled 'Ten People You Didn't Know Were Engineers' from the 'The Subversive Guide to Engineering' weblog.

Here's the list of 10 + 1 honourable mention:

1) Herbert Hoover, US president;

2) Scott Adams, cartoonist;

3) Neil Armstrong, astronaut;

4) Jimmy Carter, US president;

5) Alfred Hitchcock, movie director;

6) Rowan Atkinson, comedian;

7) Tom Landry, football coach;

8) Tom Scholz, musician, songwriter, guitarist;

9) Montel Williams, TV talk show host;

10) Ashton Kutcher, actor;

11) Cindy Crawford, super model of the 90's;


Out of curiosity, I have taken the opportunity to read most of the readers' comments on the blog site. I have also therefore done a little bit of "digging" on my own through the web.

I agreed with the readers that last two of them shouldn't there be at all i.e. Ashton Kutcher aka Mr Demi Moore & Cindy Crawford, who did not complete their engineering studies as they had dropped out to pursue modeling &/or acting interests.

Also, Scott Adams' education wasn't in art or engineering. He has earned a Bachelor's degree in Economics as well as an MBA. He has worked in a bank from 1979 to 1985. While working for Pacific Bell from 1986 to 1995, he was involved in some technology & finance areas. Nonetheless, he has once admitted that he wasn't an engineer by training.

So, I agreed with the readers' feedback that he should be out of the list.

Out of the foregoing remaining selection, two fascinating choices i.e. Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980), the maestro of movie suspense, & Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr Bean, 54, certainly stand out.

I read that Alfred Hitchcock, because of his engineering training, was often very meticulous in the planning of his movie productions.

He had directed more than 50 movies in a career spanning six decades, which included spooky classics like 'Charade' (1963), 'North by Northwest' (1959) & 'Rear Window' (1954), to name a few.

Apparently, he had fallen in love with making movies upon seeing his first motion picture, & then took art classes at night, & eventually got a job as a set designer for Paramount Studios, when they opened an office in London.

As for our funny man with that wide range of humourous expressions, he had attended Newcastle University in UK, where he earned a degree in electrical & electronic engineering. He went to Oxford University in 1975 to research for a Masters in Engineering Science.

While studying in Oxford, he began appearing with the Oxford Revue, which eventually started his ball rolling in the theatre circuit. The rest was history.

Besides the Mr Bean television series (plus two Mr Bean movies), Rowan Atkinson was also the bumbling British Embassy employee in the spy thriller, 'Never Say, Never Again' (1983), opposite Sean Connery, who was reprising his role as the world's most dangerous super-spy, James Bond 007.

Interestingly, Mr Bean was also casted in a starring role as a crackpot super-spy in the movie, 'Johnny English' (2003).

Not bad, come to think of it, especially for these two wonderful people, who had started off their early tranquil lives as engineers.

[to be continued in the Next Post]

A PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO PATRICK SWAYZE


First, I was a bit upset that the new TV crime thriller, 'The Beast', on StarHub cable television, has been cancelled, just after the first season, by the producer.

The series centered around Charlie Barker, an enigmatic, street-smart undercover cop, played by Patrick Swayze, under secret investigation by the FBI, with the help of a rookie cop as his new partner, whose loyalty was apparently stretched at both ends.

Patrick Swayze has certainly impressed me with his rugged portrayal of the tough character living at the edge, as I watched intently every episode.

So, the recent news about his death at the age of 57 really saddened me somewhat, especially after I have gained such good impressions of him following my watching of 'The Beast'.

In fact, I have been most touched by his reportedly exemplary work ethic in making the television series, & his unyielding toughmindedness, despite having to face a painful terminal illness along the way.

For some odd reasons, I did not - & have not - watch 'Dirty Dancing', but have seen him in several other action movies, like 'Point Break', 'Red Dawn', 'Roadhouse', 'Uncommon Valour', plus 'Ghost'. I thought 'Ghost' demonstrated the softer as well as the comical side of his acting ability.

Rest in peace, my hero.

ASPIRING MANAGERS: LEARN TO BEHAVE LIKE ADULTS

Here's the link to a great article - it's short & crisp, but packed with potent advice - for all the manager wannabes out there.

It has been written by Steve Tobak of BNET's Corner Office weblog.

BECOMING MORE OF AN INNOVATOR IN YOUR DAILY LIFE

As far as I know, the whole idea of what I like to call "role-playing learning personas" has apparently been first broached by creativity guru Roger von Oech, when he outlined four specific roles as follows [in his book, 'A Kick in the Seat of the Pants', published in the mid-eighties;], which one can assume in the process of expanding one's mental horizons, &/or generating multiple viewpoints, while looking at a problem situation, or business issue:

- explorer;
- artist;
- judge;
- warrior;

I have already talked about this in an earlier post.

To recap, from Roger von Oech's book:

- When it's time to seek out new information, adopt the mindset of an Explorer. Get off the beaten path, poke around in outside areas, & pay attention to unusual patterns.

- When you need to create a new idea, let the Artist in you come out. Ask 'what-if' questions & look for hidden analogies. Break the rules & look at things backwards. Add something & take something away. Ultimately, you'll come up with an original idea.

- When it's time to decide if your idea is worth implementing, see yourself as a Judge. Ask what's wrong & if the timing's right. Question your assumptions & make a decision.

- When you carry your idea into action, be a Warrior. Put a fire in your belly, eliminate your excuses, & do what's necessary to reach your objective.

Then, more or less around the same time, came creativity guru Michael Hewitt Gleeson from Down Under, with his 'Six Thinking Caps', followed by creativity guru Edward de bono with his 'Six Thinking Hats', culminating specifically as follows:

- white (rational, logical, objective);
- red (emotional);
- black (negative);
- yellow (positive, hopeful, optimistic);
- green (creative & innovative);
- blue (ordered, controlled, structured);

[Readers can read more about them in their respective corporate websites.]

Last, but not least, came the world-known IDEO design people with their book, written by Tom Kelley, entitled 'The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO's Strategies for Defeating the Devil's Advocate & Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization'.

Here's their battle-tested methodology of the 'role-playing learning personas', from their book:

1. The Anthropologist:

He observes human behavior & developes a deep understanding of how people interact physically & emotionally with products, services, & spaces;

2. The Experimenter:

He prototypes new ideas continuously, learning by a process of enlightened trial & error; also, takes calculated risks to achieve success through a state of "experimentation as implementation."

3. The Cross-Pollinator:

He explores other industries & cultures, & then translates those findings & revelations - via mixing & matching ideas, people & technology - to fit the unique needs of the customer;

4. The Hurdler:

He knows that the path to innovation is strewn with obstacles & develops a knack for overcoming or outsmarting those limits, challenges & roadblocks;

5. The Collaborator:

He helps bring eclectic groups together, & often leads from the middle of the pack to create new combinations & multi-disciplinary solutions; more importantly, to get things done;

6. The Director:

He not only gathers together a talented cast & crew but also helps to spark their creative talents, by marshalling all available resources;

7. The Experience Architect:

He designs compelling experiences that go beyond mere functionality to connect at a deeper level with customers' latent or expressed needs;

8. The Set Designer:

He creates a stage on which innovation team members can do their best work, transforming physical environments into powerful tools to influence behavior & attitude;

9. The Caregiver:

He builds on the metaphor of a health-care professional to deliver customer care in a manner that goes beyond mere service;

10. The Storyteller or Tale Blazer [to borrow the term from my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea], :

He builds both internal morale & external awareness through compelling narratives that communicate a fundamental human value or reinforce a specific cultural trait;

According to IDEO, people who adopt the "role-playing learning roles" are humble enough to question their own worldview, & in doing so, they remain open to new insights every day.

In a nut shell, the personas are about "being innovation", rather than merely "doing innovation."

Take on one or more of these roles, as outlined in the foregoing, & you'll be taking a conscious step toward becoming more of an innovator in your daily life.

Come to think of it, one can also adopt the 'Problem Walkabout' approach, apparently drawing parallels from the four-quadrant brain profile of Ned Herrmann, as conceived by John Kruithof [in his book, 'Thinking Quality, Quality Thinking'], as follows:

- look at it analytically & rationally, taking a bottom-line view;
- look at it conservatively, taking a detailed procedural view;
- look at it emotionally, taking a people-oriented view;
- look at it intuitively & conceptually, taking a big picture view;

I have already talked about this approach in an earlier post.

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: BE HAPPY


This digital snapshot of the shopfront display of a wear apparel boutique, taken at the Bugis Junction shopping mall yesterday afternoon, reminds me of the great song, 'Don't Worry, Be Happy', by musician Bobby McFerrin, during the late eighties or so.

Here are the original lyrics, extracted from Bobby McFerrin's website:

"Here's a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't Worry — Be Happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it Double
Don't Worry — Be Happy
Ain't got no place to lay your head,
somebody came and took your bed
Don't Worry, Be Happy
The landlord say your rent is late,
he may have to litigate
Don't Worry — Be Happy
Ain't got not cash, ain't got no style,
ain't got no gal to make you smile
Don't Worry — Be Happy
Cause when you worry your face will frown
and that will bring everybody down
Don't Worry — Be Happy"


[Readers can go to this link to listen to the song, & also sing along with Bobby McFerrin.]

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

How do I go about thinking strategically?

What stops me from thinking strategically?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"For whereas the mind works in possibilities, the intuition works in actualities, & what you intuitively desire, that is possible for you. Whereas what you mentally or "consciously" desire is nine times out of ten impossible; hitch your wagon to a star, or you will just stay where you are."

~ D H Lawrence, (1885-1930), English author, poet, playwright, essayist & literary critic; perhaps best known for his novels, 'Women in Love' & 'Lady Chatterley's Lover';

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: A WORD FROM CONFUCIUS

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"My will shall shape the future. Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man's doing but my own. I am the force; I can clear any obstacle before me or I can be lost in the maze. My choice; my responsibility; win or lose, only I hold the key to my destiny."

~ Elaine Maxwell, American writer;

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

If change is exponential, what will that mean for my personal future?

How do I stay on top of all of the sheer volume of information & data online?

What do I pay attention to & to whom?

DIVERSITY ACCELERATES INNOVATION TO EVERYONE'S ADVANTAGE

The foregoing blogpost title more or less sums up the gist of the book.

In fact, it has been extracted from the 'Foreword' by futurist/strategist Joel Arthur Barker to the book, 'Putting Our Differences to Work: The Fastest Way to Innovation, Leadership & High Performance', by Debbe Kennedy.

[Both consultants/authors have been relatively long-time collaborators.]

Frankly speaking, it's Joel Arthur Barker's particular contribution of 'Chapter 10: Innovation at the Verge of Differences' & 'Chapter 11: Collaborating at the Verge of Differences' that has initially attracted me to read the book.

On the other hand, I am also familiar with the author (Debbe Kennedy)'s previous work, namely, 'Breakthrough! The Problem Solving Advantage' (1998) & 'Action Dialogues: Meaningful Conversations to Accelerate Change, (2000), as well as her complete 'Strategic Action Series' (2000) of short & snappy booklets, total six of them, comprising:

- 'Assessment: Defining Current Realities';
- 'Acceptance: Developing Support for Change';
- 'Action: Moving Forward';
- 'Accountability: Establishing Shared Ownership';
- 'Achievement: measuring Progress/Celebrating Success';
- 'Diversity Breakthrough with More Action: Keeping Momentum Alive';

As a matter of fact, while running my own small retail outlet, aptly called 'The Brain Resource', in the Central Business District during the nineties, the nifty toolkit - 'Breakthrough!', in the form of a book/card deck/CD-ROM package - was included in my store repertoire.

I would add that the practicality & the utility of her earlier thoughtwares in the workplace actually earned her the reputation as a master problem solver.

For me, reading 'Putting Our Differences to Work' is like doing a partial refresher, because the book is almost an intellectual amalgam of all her previous works, particularly the entire section of Part 2, which replicates the 6-step iterative framework for putting diversity to work in fostering organisational change.

Before I move on further, I like to recap the preamble on the inside front flap of the book, which I thought has captured the essence of the book beautifully:

"Putting our differences to work means creating an environment where people, naturally unique & different - diverse by nature & experience - can work more effectively in ways that drive new levels of creativity, innovation, problem solving, leadership, & performance in the marketplaces, workplaces, & communities of the world."

In addition to the six-step model, with each step elaborated in a given chapter, combined with best practice stories, the rest of the book identifies the five distinctive qualities of leadership, that leaders must add to their skills portfolio - & the 16 dimensions of differences that leaders must understand - in order to make diversity an engine of success.

The book closes with a presentation on virtual gathering, involving web 2.0 technologies & other social media, which open up ever-expanding possibilities for putting diversity to work. These are included in Part 3 of the book, which also includes Joel Arthur Barker's contribution (Chapter 10 & 11), as mentioned earlier.

If readers are already familiar with the intersection of ideas, concepts & cultures, as embodied in the 'Medici Effect', proposed & authored by Frans Johansson, then readers will readily notice a relatively similar, but still interesting spin, given by Joel Arthur Barker in the two chapters.

Both authors have brilliantly asserted, with numerous illuminating examples, that by exploring the 'intersections' or 'verges', we may discover the next breakthrough ideas.

As Joel Arthur Barker puts it, to dovetail with Debbe Kennedy's principal premise of the book:

"...Without diversity, there can be no verges. Celebrate the differences. Enlarge the differences. It creates more options for innovation."

Overall, I must say that the book is a great road-map on harnessing people's rich & diverse experiences, cultures, & perspectives to attract growth & sustain innovation.

Best of all, the author is a superb tale blazer, & her writing is clear, succinct & concise, with a key-point summary at the end of each chapter, which makes reading & recap a breeze.

Highly recommended.

[Readers can access more information about the author & her work at http://www.puttingourdifferencestowork.com/, http://www.globaldialoguecenter.com/, & http://www.lscompanies.com/;]

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"You want [a better organisation,] a better world. What you need to help make [your organisation better] or to make the world better is not more education of your intellect. What you need is something spiritual & ethical added to your knowledge. You need educated emotions & a dedicated heart. Shakespeare once said that we can always tell a wise man by the fact everything he says or does smacks of something greater than himself... Great leaders start from within & move out."

~ John Homer Miller, author of 'Take a Second Look at Yourself', as mentioned in the 'A Final Word' of the book, 'Putting Our Differences to Work: The Fastest Way to Innovation, Leadership, & High Performance', by Debbe Kennedy;

WISDOM DEFINED

"Wisdom is knowledge with a long shelf life."

~ Dr Bruce Lloyd, Professor of Strategic Management at South Bank University in London;

Monday, September 14, 2009

SUCCEED AT THE SPEED OF LIFE via STRATEGIC ACCELERATION

Having the title of 'Strategic Acceleration' in a book certainly catches one's eyeballs, especially in today's era of information anxiety.

In my case, I was really intrigued as I could co-relate it immediately to Newton's Laws, which brought me back to my secondary school days when I had to grappled with my Physics lessons.

Today, Newton's Laws with their virtually unlimited applications are an essential part of our daily lives, physically as well as emotionally.

As a matter of fact, Newton was right: "Objects at rest tend to remain at rest".

In short , we must always get started, in order to make our lives better. Once we do, then the other part of Newton's Laws - "Objects in motion tend to remain in motion" - begin to work for us.

In a nut shell, as I see, Newton's Laws boil down to understanding inertia, momentum or acceleration, & forces of change.

Once we break down the bonds of negative thought patterns, & habitual routines along with destructive self-limiting beliefs, we can move forward, gaining forward momentum, so to speak.

Forward momentum is the creation of congruency & synergy between our personal & professional lives, in the pursuit of our fondest dreams.

So, the great news for all of us is that life coach & strategist Tony Jeary, the brilliant author [he has been described as a "gifted encourager" who facilitates positive outcomes for others in his role as a strategic collaborator] of 'Strategic Acceleration' has distilled his more than twenty years of studying distinctions that characterise top-performing high-achievers into a proven methodology to help us achieve what we want, when we want it.

More importantly, to help us create personal breakthroughs.

In driving our forward momentum, the author's methodology is systematically anchored on three critical personal change initiatives, as a tripod, which in totality captures the essence of 'Strategic Acceleration':

1) Clarity: you must be clear about your vision & what you really want;

2) Focus: you must pay attention to high leverage activities that you move you forward;

3) Execution: you must execute by elevating your ability to persuade & influence others;

The entire book describes the three change initiatives in elaborate detail, via eight superbly written chapters:

Chapter 1: The Speed of Life & What You Believe;

Chapter 2: The Pulling Power of clarity - Vision;

Chapter 3: Understanding the Why Produces Clarity;

Chapter 4: Focus is the Opposite of Distraction;

Chapter 5: Finding Focus & Producing Real Results;

Chapter 6: Persuasion Matters;

Chapter 7: Production Before Perfection;

Chapter 8: The Persuasive Influence of Strategic Response;

What really stands out when compared with other personal development books are the carefully crafted hands-on exercises, over 60 pages, to help you create your clarity, focus & execution blueprints. These are worth the price of the book alone.

Also, I love the four questions that must be asked:

- what do I need to do more of?

- what do I need to do less of?

- what do I need to start doing?

- what do I need to stop doing?

More critically, the execution part of the methodology - standing on the tripod of 'Persuasion', 'Production' & 'Presence' - is extensively illustrated in the book, especially with regard to the concepts of exceeding expectations & completing tasks &/or projects in reduced time frames.

This is often a feature not found in most personal development books.

To paraphrase the author:

"The expectations we exceed today become the seed for new opportunities in the future."

"You can think your way into bad action, but you can act your way into right thinking".

For me, these two statements frame the author's point of contention beautifully.

Reading the book is a breeze, because at the end of each chapter, there is a crisp chapter summary, coupled with 'Very Important Points' to take away.

This is not just a book to be read, but an action-packed field guide, to create superior results in your life!

If you want a preliminary or initial feel of the content tapestry of 'Strategic Acceleration', or to know your 'Strategic IQ', take the free assessment at this link.

To conclude my review, I like to say this:

At equilibrium, acceleration is zero. Acceleration is directly linked to your forward momentum, which is sustainable by your clarity, focus & execution.

This book, which I have enjoyed very much, will surpass your expectations!

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: HYPER-COMPETITION 2



Further to my earlier post, here's another example of hyper-competition in the mass market between two giants in the arena of sports shoes & related wear apparel for sportsmen.

The boutiques, or rather concept stores as they are called, as captured in the foregoing snapshots, are located diagonally opposite each other at the Suntec City shopping mall.

Frankly speaking, I can't see any real differentiation in their product offerings, as both are of the highest quality as well as real value for money. I own a lot of surf shirts, which I had bought only at sales-offered prices, from both giants.

All I can say is that their large concept stores are, at least for me & my wife, nice places to hang out once in a while to have the wonderful opportunity of gawking at a vast range of new stuff on display.

Their teenaged store staff are generally courteous & helpful, even though you are just window-shopping.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

When there are two paths to follow, which one do I choose?

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"When you walk to the edge of all the light you have & take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen: There will be something solid for you to stand upon, or, you will be taught how to fly."

~ Patrick Overton, teacher, scholar, poet, playwright, lyricist, visual artist, speaker & author, 'The Leaning Tree' (1975) & 'Rebuilding the Front Porch of America' (1997);

Sunday, September 13, 2009

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: HYPER-COMPETITION



I often wonder how these four big boys in the hyper-competitive casual & sport apparel market, as shown in the accompanying snapshots, can continue to slug it out, in this case, in the same shopping mall, i.e. Jurong Point, & within walking distance from each other.

As a matter of fact, the same mass-market competition scenario is more or less replicated in other major shopping malls.

Worst still, I also noted that there are numerous other players jostling for market share in the same pie.

From my personal observations, I can't really see any differentiation in their product offerings, as they are all targetted at the same consumer market segment.



THE ART OF ACQUIRING WISDOM

According to Solomon ibn Gabirol (1021-1058), an Andalucian Hebrew poet & Jewish philosopher:

The first step in the acquisition of wisdom is Silence, the second Listening, the third Memory, the fourth Practice, the fifth Teaching Others.

For me, I always like to interpret 'wisdom' as the "discerning use of one's expertise".

On an amusing note, I like to share a quick & short story:

"A factory owner had a machine broken down in the plant, & he couldn't get his mechanics to fix it. He called in a few outside contractors, but none could rectify the problem.

He then found a recommended expert, who came in to take a close look. Upon inspection, the expert just picked up a spanner from a nearby toolbox to knock the machine cover.

The machine started to run smoothly & immediately. He then presented a bill to the owner.

Shocked to find that he was billed for S$1,000/-, he questioned the expert, & said that he himself would have knocked the machine with a spanner.

The expert rebutted: Do you know where to knock?"

In strategic as well as tactical terms, 'expertise' comes from our cumulative knowledge i.e. knowledge gained over a time continuum.

Also, 'expertise' becomes reinforced through teaching of others, & via other leveraging processes, like publishing, licensing, delivering conference papers, etc.

In a nut shell, 'knowledge' is essentially the total or cumulative experience we have gained in putting our chosen ideas to work, purposefully, productively & meaningfully, in our own personal lives or for the organisations we are working for.

In a way, this is the essence of deliberate practice.

Every time we put an idea to work, we are learning, as well as improving. Whether it works or doesn't work, we have thus gained a learning opportunity. That's to say, we have gained an experience.

Albert Einstein once aptly said: "Knowledge is Experience; Everything else is just information."

In reality, 'ideas' have their origins in the myriad of information from the environment - through observations, readings, conversations, meetings, surfing the net - which we have decided to use, but it is important to understand that, not necessarily they will eventually lead to ideas.

That's where our personal creativity comes into play.

It's our innate ingenuity to look at information & convert them into useful ideas.

As creativity guru Edward de bono has taught us, "Ideas must come first. No ideas, No information!"

With more ideas churning inside our heads, we can then look for as well as at the information to decide whether they are of any use to us, or whether we need to embellish them, or whether they can really help us to strategise further in our continuing deliberations.

It is pertinent for me to point out that the information we may eventually pick & use in our decision making comes from all the 'raw data' out there.

Sometimes, what's out there may trigger what's inside us already. Or what's inside us may also surface on its own as we survey the world world out there. This is the realm of intuitive sensing, which I will write in a separate post.

Only when we make good sense of what the 'data' means to us, then it becomes 'information'.

To put it more succinctly, we must understand the information as information is shaped by us.

It is suffice to say that, with more experience gained as we travel along the journey on the highway of life, we become more adept & fluid at 'data processing', so to speak.

So, in a way, I like to say that 'wisdom' has a lot to do with the way we look at the world. More importantly, our personal creativity.

Coming back to Solomon's words of wisdom, I reckon the requisite 'Silence' & 'Listening' refer more to the resourceful states of mind, which help in facilitating the creative process, e.g. being mindful of what's happening around, & listening with all our heart.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state & remains in it. This is a kind of death."

~ Anais Nin, (1903–1977), author of Cuban-Spanish-French origins who became famous for her published journals; also famous for her erotica;

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What is life all about, & what do I need to know exactly in order to navigate it successfully?