Saturday, October 3, 2009

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"You don't need to have ideas that are startling in their originality... What you need is the guts to do the things you need to do."

~ marketing strategist Seth Godin;

HOW TO GET THE SPARK OF INSPIRATION

I reckon, for most of us when we want to get the spark of inspiration, we probably choose either to go for a walk, or take a snooze, or do some relaxation sequences, or to indulge in some mundane activities just to defocus the mind.

However, I was intrigued & fascinated to read an anecdote about the Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman, who apparently had his own method for getting the spark of inspiration.

He preferred the relaxed atmosphere of a topless bar, where he would sip a bottle of 7-UP, watch the sizzling entertainment, & if inspiration struck, quickly scribble the newly discovered equation on a cocktail napkin.

The closest thing to a topless bar in the Singapore context today is the bar-top pole-dancing pub, which the licensing authorities have only in recent times allowed to do so.

As a matter of fact, I had read not to long ago, an enterprising pub owner who had that spark of inspiration to emulate what Dr Feynman had enjoyed, was eventually caught & charged in court, together with his topless dancers from the Philippines.

Singapore maybe a funky & fine city, but once you go beyond the outbound markers, there is always a fine to go with it. That's to say, the eureka moment does sometimes unwittingly get you in trouble!

By the way, Lulu & Bibby, both from China, have been raising temperatures nightly with their energetic dance routines at Social House at Liang Court, River Valley Road. The club employs 15 lithe dancers from China.

[Please read today's Life Page of the 'Straits Times', which carries a main feature story, aptly entitled 'Raise the Bar'.]

Friday, October 2, 2009

A PLACE IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD FOR A VERY NICE CUPPA


Yesterday morning, I popped into the foregoing coffeeshop in the Jurong East Central neighbourhood for a very nice cuppa (actually teh-c, a local concoction of milk tea; plus, a small plate of vegetarian rice vermicelli to go), during my walkabout as well as banking errands in the area.

I reckon the Jurong East Central neighbourhood has probably one of the highest concentration of banking & financial institutions (in addition to language centres & tuition agencies) in Singapore. I will write about it in a separate blogpost.

Nonetheless, once you are aware of - that means you are alert to - your immediate surroundings, you can often capture interesting observations, like the foregoing coffeeshop with the catchy name.

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: COOL CHANGE COMING?


An apt question. Today, the only constant is change, but only a wet baby truly appreciates change. For the rest of us, it's pain in the neck, even though we know instinctively that it represents growth. Also, possibilities enfolding.

Shifts happen & change is exponential. That's the dilemma.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"There are three kinds of men, ones that learn by reading, a few who learn by observation, & the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence & find out for themselves."

~ William 'Will' Rogers (1879-1935); American actor of Cherokee-Indian origin; also famed newspaper columnist;

WIKIPEDIA vs ENCYLOPEDIA BRITANNICA

I found this surprising & fascinating snippet of information, while browsing through some old blog posts (as far as 2006) of Jennifer Rice, founder & chief strategist of Fruitful Strategy based in San Francisco:

"Based on 42 articles (on science topics) reviewed by experts, the average scientific entry in Wikipedia contained four errors or omissions, while Britannica had three.

Of eight "serious errors" the reviewers found - including misinterpretations of important concepts - four came from each source, the journal reported.

Unlike Britannica, which charges for its content and pays a staff of experts to research and write its articles, Wikipedia gives away its content for free and allows anyone - amateur or professional, expert or novice - to submit and edit entries."

The foregoing information is originally based on a CNN report, which I am unable to trace.

Come to think of it, Wikipedia is not that bad after all , but I reckon we still got to be cautious in using it as a primary source of information.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

How current are you with fundamental consumer & technology trends?

... with the tenets of the grass-root economy such as co-creation, transparency & customer/employee empowerment?

... with the opportunities among under-served & un-served customers that cry out for disruptive innovation?

None of us should be in any business but the change business. We must not only keep up with the facts of change, but also (& more importantly) release our death grip on the way things are right now. It's completely futile.

Is your business structured for flexibility & change? Are you?

~ Jennifer Rice, founder & chief strategist at Fruitful Strategy based in San Francisco;

Thursday, October 1, 2009

QUESTION, QUESTION, QUESTION

What follows is an extract from the wonderful booklet, 'The Thinker's Guide to Strategic Thinking' (which I had already reviewed in an earlier post of this weblog), from the Foundation of Critical Thinking:

This is the week to ask deep questions:

Question, Question, Question

Be on the lookout for questions.

The ones we ask. The ones we fail to ask. Look on the surface. Look beneath the surface. Listen to how people question, when they question, when they fail to question. Look closely at the questions asked.

What questions do you ask, should you ask?

Examine the extent to which you are a questioner, or simply one who accepts the definitions of situations given by others.

Most people are not skilled questioners.

Most accept the world as it is presented to them. And when they do question, their questions are often superficial or “loaded.” Their questions do not help them solve their problems or make better decisions.

Good thinkers routinely ask questions in order to understand and effectively deal with the world around them.

They question the status quo.

They know that things are often different from the way they are presented.

Their questions penetrate images, masks, fronts, and propaganda.

Their questions make real problems explicit and discipline their thinking.

If you become a student of questions, you can learn to ask powerful questions that lead to a deeper and more fulfilling life.

Your questions become more basic, essential, and deep.

Strategies for formulating more powerful questions:

1. Whenever you don’t understand something, ask a question of clarification.

2. Whenever you are dealing with a complex problem, formulate the question you are trying to answer in several different ways (being as precise as you can) until you hit upon the way that best addresses the problem at hand.

3. Whenever you plan to discuss an important issue or problem, write out in advance the most significant questions you think need to be addressed in the discussion.

Be ready to change the main question, but once made clear, help those in the discussion stick to the question, making sure the dialogue builds toward an answer that makes sense.

Questions you can ask to discipline your thinking:

■ What precise question are we trying to answer?

■ Is that the best question to ask in this situation?

■ Is there a more important question we should be addressing?

■ Does this question capture the real issue we are facing?

■ Is there a question we should answer before we attempt to answer this question?

■ What information do we need to answer the question?

■ What conclusions seem justified in light of the facts?

■ What is our point of view? Do we need to consider another?

■ Is there another way to look at the question?

■ What are some related questions we need to consider?

■ What type of question is this: an economic question, a political question, a legal question, etc.?

[The authors of the foregoing booklet, Richard Paul & Linda Elder, are well recognised in the critical thinking community.

They are also the principal authors of the book, 'Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional & Personal Life' (which I had also already reviewed in an earlier post of this weblog.)

Their contextual premise is illuminating, as embodied in all their books & other publications:

"The Quality of Your Life is Determined by the Quality of your Thinking."]

POWER VOCABULARY: FRESHLICIOUS


Do I need to say more about this restaurant at the Marina Square, even though I have yet to patronise it?

Well, this is a another aptly coined word to be added to your power vocabulary.

Please refer to my earlier post on 'Yummilicious'.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

“Virtually every stumble by a major corporation has occurred in the face of rising product demand. While they stumbled, others thrived. What happened is quite simple & profound – they were out-thought. They were victims of only one thing — their own thought patterns.“

~ Prof. Stuart Wells, author of 'Choosing the Future: The Power of Strategic Thinking';

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: CATCHING EYEBALLS


This spectacles boutique at the Raffles City shopping mall certainly know how to catch your eyeballs. The boutique has a valid point in its marketing message.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Ideally, if I had the opportunity, would I like to move permanently to another country or would I prefer to continue living in this country?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: BARE ESSENTIALS


I am intrigued by the implications of this shopfront display as captured in the foregoing digital snapshot.

Do the naked dummy models behind the hanging placards actually tell us a subtle story about the advertiser (a retail boutique at Raffles City shopping mall), who is probably forced by market circumstances to go down to the bare essentials as a result of having to give away further reductions?

On the other hand, it is obvious that the mass retail market, especially fashion clothes, in Singapore is hyper-competitive.

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

How do I rise above all the everyday tasks to touch base with the big picture?

How can I balance the strategic thinking I need to do as a leader in my own field with the seemingly never-ending avalanche of everyday tasks?

READING FOR IMPLICATIONS

One of the most productive returns I got out of the classic, 'de bono's Thinking Course' years ago when I first read it, besides the many approaches to thinking, problem solving & decision making as suggested by the author, is the great idea of reading for implications.

Edward de bono, the author, has called it 'dense reading'.

Actually, it's a form of analytical reading, but I like to associate it as reading with a deep probe in mind.

The end result for reading this way is to pause, to ponder & to tease out the implications.

Although he has advised the reader to set out the mind to find fascinating or interesting things from whatever he or she may be reading, his principal point as I have intepreted it is this:

We should not only read just the lines, but also in-between the lines & off & beyond the lines, too, so that we can grasp fully all the implications of what we are reading.

Some questions that come to mind in helping us in making the deep probe, from my personal experience, are:

- what does this passage mean? what does it imply? what else is the author talking about?

- is there anything missing or intentionally left out? is there a hidden agenda?

- what does my gut feel tells me about this material?

- what does this passage lead up to?

- what does this passage illustrate?

- what sort of ideas or possibilities is going on here?

- is this what I am expecting? am I satisfied?

- is there anything else I need to find out more about?

- can I associate the stuff from this book with other books? what are the similarities? what are the contrasts? what about contradictions, if any?

- what are my immediate takeaways or learning points? what are the application possibilities?

It also helps if you can have a pencil or marker in your hand to make deliberate or spontaneous marginal annotations in the book as you probe.

Small transparent stickers are great too, especially when you want to mark off pages for that "second" probe at a later time.

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: THE POWER OF LOVE






It is interesting to note that I didn't set out to take these digital snapshots with an agenda in mind.

The five different shots were taken at five disparate locations on five inconsecutive days. I have only captured them as they caught my personal fancy inconsequentially at the particular point in time.

Yet they could be arranged & put together subsequently to express a common theme. This is what creativity is all about.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"There are no accidents so unfortunate from which skillful men will not draw some advantage, nor so fortunate that foolish men will not turn them to their hurt."

~ Francois de la Rochefoucauld, (1613-1680), noted French author of maxims & memoirs;

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"So the question is, would you like to become a functional, self-motivated leader, or a flexible, adaptable businessperson with great technical skills.

People who can independently think on their feet, work cross-functionally, learn new skills quickly, & work to make great business decisions that are customer focused (for both internal & external customers) will be indespensible to their companies & in high market demand.

By the way, executives not only said they expect to need these skills shortly, they also expect these skills to be very difficult to come by (good demand news for you in the supply & demand of labor economics — if you live by the rules)."

~ from the book, 'businessThink: Rules for Getting It Right--Now, & No Matter What!', by Dave Marcum, Steve Smith & Mahan Khalsa;

[According to the authors:

When Accenture interviewed 500 executives around the world & asked “what workforce skills are in most demand & will be the most needed over the next two to five years?” this is how they answered:

Business Skills: 68 percent
• Technical Skills: 42 percent
Flexibility & adaptability: 33 percent
• Self-motivation: 18 percent
• Leadership: 6 percent
• Functional: 3 percent.]

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"What you do with your chargeable hours determines your profit; what you do with your non-chargeable hours determines your future."

~ David Maister, 62, a former Harvard Business School professor, now writer & expert on business management practices & the management of professional service firms; best-known for his two classics, 'Managing the Professional Service Firm', & 'The Trusted Advisor' (with Charles Green & Robert Galford);

[More information about the author is available from his corporate website.]

THE MILKY WAY


My younger brother, a techno-geek, has sent me this link with access to some awesome panoraminc views of the Milky Way.

Mother Nature is indeed stunningly beautiful.

Monday, September 28, 2009

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What shall I do if I want to surf the tsunami of change?

SAVOURING THE CREATIVE PROCESS III

[continued from the Last Post.]


For me, illumination always happens in a flash, like a flash of lightning.

Some people may like to call it the Aha! experience. Or the eureka moment. Or the jolt of inspiration.

Metaphorically, it is the light bulb flashing in the head. Consequently, it is quite right to call this stage the insight or inspiration stage as well.

However, the flash is always accompanied by a feeling of exhilaration, as well as certainty of a possible solution to a problem or a great idea is born.

Interestingly, if we look at the word origin of 'illumination', light comes immediately to mind.

Come to think of it, 'illumination' can be defined as throwing light or brightening with light on a subject in order for us to see it better.

So, it elicits a visual response.

Let us take a look at other related words: 'insight', 'foresight', 'hindsight', 'farsightedness', 'vision', 'perspective'.

Amusingly, how about the word 'seer'?

All these words have visual references or connotations.

No wonder, the outcome of the creative process is often associated with:

- "seeing the world with new eyes..."

- "seeing something that doesn't exist yet..."

- "seeing things in a different light..."

- "seeing what others do not see..."

- "seeing old things in new ways..."

- "seeing the ordinary as extraordinary..."

Isn't that interesting?

So, how & what we see can actually affect our personal creativity.

As a matter of fact, & taking a deeper probe, the word 'idea' actually derives from Greek word origins, which also denote a visual reference.

One quick but crucial question comes to mind, especially during the creative process, can you see it?

From the way I have experienced in several creative endeavours, e.g. turning my personal hobbies into small entrepreneurial ventures duringthe early nineties, what this implies is that we need to be sensitive to what's happening in our physical environment.

To put it explicitly, what we are often mulling about - that's incubating - can often be triggered further by what we are seeing around us.

That's to say, something out there, especially when we least expect it, can often ignite the bubbling of the creative idea from the 'unconscious processing' to the 'conscious awareness' of our mind... crossing the threshold of the invisible, the unknowable, into the visible, the knowable, so to speak.

American philosopher & educator Susanne Langer (1895-1985) once described the phenomenon as follows:

"Most new discoveries are suddenly-seen things that were already there. A new idea is a light that illuminates presences which simply had no form before the light fell on them."

For example, when I am mulling over the best approach to tackle a particular book review after I have already gathered all the pertinent information, often in the form of an idea map [I always accorded thoughtfulness in all my book reviews], I find that inspiration often comes from a visual trigger, which somehow appears from my other reading & net surfing activities, generally not related to the book under review.

Sometimes, it comes when I am engaged in some other mundane tasks, like commuting in a MRT train or a public bus. Or running on the treadmill or riding the stationary bicycle in the gym. Or from a walkabout out in the open. That's why I always have a pocket notebook with me at all times.

Sometimes, I may just write a rough draft in the weblog & continue to chew over it.

Sometimes, when I feellike it, I may even rewrite the whole draft, & even sit on it for a while. This 'ding-dong' endeavour can go on for some time. For me, time is not of the essence, because I am under no personal obligation to anybody.

I would consider it to be the most exciting stage of the creative process.

In a way, it is that part of the creative process that seemingly makes all the efforts in preparing & incubating worthwhile.

In the business context, it is the moment an entrepreneur recognises an opportunity. That's how I started Optimum Performance Technologies.

Although this moment of recognition & realisation can be just a signal to push the creative process forward, but sometimes, it may prompt us to return to the preparatory or even the incubation stage.

[to be continued in the Next Post.]

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: CHAMPION MINDSET


Is there such a thing as a 'dress code for champions' & is it just a marketing gimmick?

In the same vein, does dressing smart makes one a champion?

Frankly, I don't think so. At best, dressing smart, formally or casually, does make the person feels good about himself or herself. Even that, the feeling is only temporary. That's about it.

As far as I know, the only distinction between a champion & the average person lies not in how he or she is dressed. It is his or her mindset.

More precisely, the 'champion mindset', as defined by Prof Allan Snyder of the Center for the Mind at the University of Sydney, Australia.

Prof Snyder has conducted ground-breaking research studies on this subject, culminating in the Penguin book, 'What Makes A Champion?', which has distilled the universal ingredients of extraordinary success.

Please refer to my earlier post, entitled 'The Genius Machine'.

Going back to the foregoing digital snapshot showing Tiger Woods, he is of course arguably the greatest golf champion of all time.

In a nut shell, he embodies the champion mindset. He works endlessly to improve his golf game.

He has been quoted as saying that even more important than being a champion is being the “best me.”

In Tiger Woods’ world, there is endless room for improvement.

In fact, he once said in an interview that his biggest asset to his golf game was “my mind.”

WORLD'S FUNNIEST JOKES

I found these jokes on Wikipedia, under the 'World's Funniest Jokes':

1) Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed.

The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?".

The operator says "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard.

Back on the phone, the guy says "OK, now what?"

2) Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were going camping. They pitched their tent under the stars and went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes woke Watson up and said:

"Watson, look up at the stars and tell me, what do you see?"

Watson replied: "I see millions and millions of stars."

Holmes said: "And what do you deduce from that?"

Watson replied: "Well, if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it's quite likely there are some planets like earth out there. And if there are a few planets like earth out there, there might also be life."

And Holmes said: "Watson, you idiot, it means that somebody stole our tent."

3) A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: "That's the ugliest baby that I've ever seen. Ugh!"

The woman goes to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: "The driver just insulted me!"

The man says: "You go right up there and tell him off – go ahead, I'll hold your monkey for you."

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, & stop watching ourselves live."

~ Nicolas Chamfort, (1741-1794), French writer, best known for his witty epigrams & aphorisms;

Sunday, September 27, 2009

IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER, by Erma Bombeck

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have talked less & listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room & worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased & sprayed.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television - & more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment & realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner."

There would have been more "I love you's.". More "I'm sorry's."

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute ... look at it and really see it... live it... & never give it back.

Don't forget to stop & smell the roses today! Take time to tell a loved one how much you love them, do something nice for yourself, & stop to give God thanks for all of it.

[Erma Bombeck (1927–1996), was an American humorist who achieved great popularity for her newspaper column that described suburban home life humorously from the mid-1960s until the late 1990s. She also published 15 books, most of which became best-sellers.

From 1965 to 1996, she wrote over 4,000 newspaper columns chronicling the ordinary life of a midwestern suburban housewife with broad, & sometimes eloquent, humor.

By the 1970s, her witty columns were read, twice weekly, by thirty million readers of 900 newspapers of the United States & Canada.]

NOTES FROM MY SCRATCHPAD: 21 CRITICAL ELEMENTS TO LEARNING

According to the husband-&-wife educational psychologist team, Rita & Kenneth Dunn, who created 'The Dunns' Learning-Style Model', our learning can be affected by 21 elements, i.e elements that each of us must consider in order to optimize our learning:

i) Environmental:

- the elements are: lighting, sound, temperature, and seating arrangement;

- some of us need to study in a cool and quiet room, and others cannot focus unless they have music playing and it is warm (sound and temperature elements);


ii) Emotional:

- the element are: motivation, persistence, responsibility, & structure;

- some of us prefer to complete a project before they start a new one, & others work best on multiple tasks at the same time (persistence element);

iii) Sociological:

- the elements (generally relating to how we learn in association with other people) are: (a) alone or with peers, (b) an authoritative adult or with a collegial colleague, & (c) learning in a variety of ways or in routine patterns;

- some of us prefer to work alone when tackling a new & difficult subject, while others learn best when working with colleagues (learning alone or with peers;

iv) Physiological:

- the elements are: perceptual (auditory, visual, tactile, & kinesthetic), time-of-day energy levels, intake (eating or not while studying) & mobility (sitting still or moving around);

- some of us like to refer to themselves as night owls or early birds because they function best at night or in the morning (time-of-day element);

v) Psychological:

- the elements are: hemispheric, impulsive or reflective, & global versus analytic, which refer to left/right brain processing modes;

- the impulsive vs reflective style describes how some of us leap before thinking while others scrutinize the situation before moving an inch;

- the global & analytic elements are unique in comparison to other elements because these two elements are made up of distinct clusters of elements found in the other four categories;


- the elements that determine global & analytic processing styles are: sound, light, seating arrangement, persistence, sociological preference, & intake;

PRAGMATIC INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS

"Life is short. If there is more life behind you than ahead, make the most of it. Build a vibrant plan for the road ahead."

~ Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara;

The Hudson Institute is an adult training center, combining personal, professional, and organizational renewal. It was founded in 1986 by Frederic Hudson, who wrote two great classics, namely 'The Adult Years: Mastering the Art of Self Renewal', & 'LifeLaunch™: A Passionate Guide to the Rest of Your Life', which I had already reviewed in this weblog.

During the early nineties, at the time of my mid-life transition, the two books were my field & companion guides (in addition to Richard Leider's & Richard Bolles'), while negotiating the journey of exploring & designing the second half of my life.

Readers can visit their website to find out where you are on the 'Cycle of Renewal', or take their 'Transition Quiz' to assess the level of transition in your life, or download two interesting articles, entitled:

- 'Ten Qualities of Self-Renewing Adults';

- 'Thirteen New Rules for Living';

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it... The attempt to combine wisdom with power has only rarely been successful & then for a short while... How I wish that somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise & of good will: In such a place even I would be an ardent patriot."

~ Albert Einstein;

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

Who am I? Who am I not?

Is what I am doing right now consistent with building a brand, my personal brand?