Saturday, September 22, 2007


If every physical creation is first conceived mentally, then what will I be thinking?


"Creativity & productivity are closely linked, both by defintion & in human motivation. When we are most creative & expressive selves, we are also most productive."

(William Miller, author of the classic 'The Creative Edge'; he is an internationally recognized expert on values-driven creativity & innovation; his audio program, 'Neuropsychology of Creativity: The Eight Masters Keys' was the first audio-tape training program ever endorsed by Fortune magazine; more information about the author, his other books & consulting work can be found at his corporate website;)


As I have mentioned in my earlier posts, I am a self-directed learner, & much of my learning today is from reading, among other important sources.

So, how do I go about learning from books? To be more precise, how do I pick my learning books?

I would like to share my personal learning approach.

Whenever I read a new book by a new or unknown author, the first thing I will do is to check out the author. Today, with the internet - especially with the help of Copernic Agent Professional -, this can be achieved very quickly. For me,, as well as & are my additional search resources.

Of course, it is easy to go for new books by any author whose books are already familiar to you.

From the standpoint of learning new things, this may not be the best approach. Edward de bono once said something like this: “Don’t get stuck with a single authority”.

For example, I am already familiar with books written by Tony Buzan on “mind-mapping” since the late seventies. However, I like to find out & read new books on the same subject but by new & different authors e.g. Joyce Wycoff, Nancy Margulies, Jamie Nest, etc. This is to learn what is happening "out there".

In doing so, I have found new mapping methods, .e.g. “clustering” by Gabriele Rico; “idea mapping” by Charles Thompson; “concept mapping” by Joseph Novak, transitive order diagramming, causal loop diagramming, fish-boning, story-boarding, etc.

The next thing I will go for is the level of expertise. This may require a little bit more effort. It is quite easy, if you have read the author’s earlier books. If not, you need to do some snooping on the internet by checking out the author’s or publisher’s website, if any, or better still, browse the new book’s contents on Amazon or Google Reader. A quick browse of the end summary as well as index in the book also helps.

This is followed by looking at the author’s writing style:

- How readable is the book?

I will check out the clarity of the author’s writing through previewing &/or scanning. Also, I will take a quick look at the brevity of his presentation, logical composition of subject, conciseness of layout & appropriate use of terminology. Generally, the table of contents, preface, & introductory pages are the first places to start. Next, the typographical as well as graphical or photographic aids used in the book are generally good indicators.

All of these aspects may seem like I am reviewing the book. Yes, you are correct, but these parameters are critical in facilitating your understanding of the book.

This is followed by the ‘innovation’ aspect:

- Are the ideas new or does the author offer fresh perspectives on existing ideas?

We all know that there is more or less nothing new under the sun, but we also believe there is always a better way. The subject at hand may be old, but sometimes, I feel it is worthwhile to read about the author’s personal experiences & fresh perspectives on an old subject.

This may be subjective.

For me, I also look at the potential for practical application of the author’s ideas & concepts.

Some questions to ask:

- Are there any hands-on stuff?
- Are there any specific tools & methods for immediate use?
- How early can I apply the ideas, concepts, tools & methods in my life, my work or my business?
- How relevant are the ideas, concepts, tools & methods to my life, my work or my business?
- What is the immediate utility of the tools & methods introduced by the author?
- Are there any real world case studies I can relate to?
- Are there any useful check lists for easy implementation?
- Are there any practical questionnaires for further deliberation?

One strategy I often use in my reading for learning is to always to check out the author’s bibliography, footnotes & appendices at the end of his book, especially when the author is an established authority in the subject area. For me, it's often a goldmine of information nuggets.

That’s why I am often annoyed when authors don’t include a bibliography in their books. Edward de bono is one big culprit.

Since I have a scratch pad, I will always record a new book whenever I come cross it.

Sometimes, I will lock it into my shopping cart on (the ‘Save for Later’ & ‘Wish List’ are really great features for readers), while I spend some time checking out the book. In fact, currently, I have a huge list of good books "yet to be published", some of which are already on "pre-order" at

Oftentimes, an author will quote some books from other authors in their writings. It is advisable to pay attention when you read. Of course, some authors love to rub each other’s backs for vested interests. So, you got to learn to be discerning in some way.

Reviews on or in publishers’ websites are good places to visit from time to time.

Alternatively, pay particular attention to books reviews in newspapers, magazines & newsletters, irrespective whether they are hard copy or electronic.

Blogs are also a good source.

Last, but not least, recommendations from business associates & good friends are worth exploring, too.


I have a very simple learning model, which goes like this:


Today, I am a self-directed learner. I like to learn new things. It keeps me intellectually alive.

For me, my learning occurs at two levels: Firstly, what I am learning must be conceptually coherent. Next, it must be personally relevant.

Much of my learning today is from reading, Internet surfing, email exchanges, business discussions, social conversations & environmental scanning.

From time to time, I do attend seminars & workshops, but good ones are really hard to come by nowadays. I enjoy reading very much.

I like Internet surfing, too, especially for its ready accessibility to learning resources. I am also a true practitioner of Ron Gross’ ‘Invisible University’ as well as Zig Ziglar 'Automobile University' curriculum.


My acid test for understanding is also very simple:

First, I must be able to make personal sense or relevancy of what I have learned.

Next, I must be able to articulate what I have learned, in writing e.g. reviewing a book, writing my blog, etc. or orally e.g. in a business presentation or social conversation.

Not only that, I need to be able to make a cross-reference of what I have learned to my own past learning (also to other authoritative sources), as well as coming up with my own illustrations & examples.

Next, I often spend a lot of time to think about or deliberate what I have learned, especially how I can use it, personally & professionally. This is where idea generation comes into play. I realise that the more ideas I can conceive, the more I can learn new things as it is my ideas that give order to new learning experiences. Without ideas, learning is useless.

I believe understanding & thinking are critical to the learning process.


Whenever I come across something new, I often like to use it straightaway in my work & in my life. It can be a new word, a new phrase or a new approach to thinking & doing things. Since I am a strategy consultant, I find that this aspect is a breeze for me.

Application - more precisely, putting it to work in your life - is no doubt an important aspect of learning. As the saying goes, knowledge is power when applied, purposefully & meaningfully.


I often like to explore, play & experiment with new ideas or concepts, in different as well as diverse contexts or environments. There is always the element of trial & error. Part of this comes from my training as an engineer. The other part comes from my yearning to be more creative.

Since I am involved in both professional adult as well as student training, there are ample opportunities for me. For me, the best & most productive learning experiences come from continual evolving practices in this way.


Whenever I have learned something new, I often like to share it. This is easy for me to put it to work since I am already involved in training & development. I do that in social conversations, too. Luckily, I have a gym buddy, also an engineer by training & profession, who shares my interests. As the saying goes, knowledge shared is power squared.

In my training workshops, my participants are often amazed that I would share so much with them. In the process of doing, I realised that I have also learned a lot of stuff from them, through feedback & dialogue.


Teaching & coaching are the best & most productive learning experiences for anybody. I often find that teaching or training for that matter is a great learning opportunity. It is also through teaching & coaching that I find it to be a viable test bed for putting theories or concepts to work in the real world.

Whenever participants come back to tell me how their lives have changed, I always feel music in my ears. I really know then that my ideas have worked effectively.


Many of my participants have encouraged me to write a book about my training stuff or what I know. My good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, an accomplished author, tells me to. I know very well writing is a very tedious, time-consuming & disciplined process, as I had spent two years in 1992-1994 writing, editing & publishing my own newsletter.

Nevertheless, I have found an easy & simpler way: writing my own blog. Here I am.


In the marketplace during the nineties, there were many books on creative & innovative thinking for business people. Likewise, there were also many books on strategic thinking & planning.

However, it was relatively difficult to find a single book that would cover both creative & innovative thinking, strategic thinking & planning for business people. To be more precise, a book that would integrate both subjective & objective techniques of thinking & planning in a business setting.

I have had this wonderful book towards the tail end of my corporate career in the late eighties/early nineties. I was then in general management, & naturally I was attracted to the book in the light of my own prior exposure to traditional strategic planning work. According to the author:

High-performing companies started with three premises:

1 STRATEGY development is a CREATIVE process;
2 PLANNING must result in ACTION;
3 IMAGINATION starts at the top i.e. top management must set the example for all those down the line!

Their successful CEOs owned these platinum characteristics:

- they are industry savants;
- they are imaginative thinkers;
- they are astute decision makers;
- they are superior strategists;
- they are masterful motivators;

Within the above framework, & using vivid illustrations, numerous case histories & apt quotations, the author had very artfully merged the concepts of corporate strategy, strategic thinking, & organisational change management with creativity & imagination.

Best of all, he had also given it a masterful twist of action-orientation. The author's Creative Planning model had only five steps to translating innovative strategies into action.

Comparatively, this was definitely a refreshing perspective (at least for me at the time when I read the book).

In a nutshell, these are the chapters of the book which will give readers an overview of the imaginative & analytical approaches as encapsulated in the above model:

Introduction: The Creative Planning Process

Part I: Imaginative Strategic Thinking
Developing Strategic Insights
Taking Creative Leaps
Making Strategic Connections
Building Strategic Concepts

Part II: Make It Happen
Strategic Decision Making
Formulating Strategy
Enthusiastic Implementation
Leading Creative Teams

Part III: Insightful Strategic Analysis
Profitability Improvement
Market Positioning
Creating the Competitive Difference
Technology Mapping
Reinventing Operations
Leveraging the Organization

Part IV: Corporate Restructuring
Creative Corporate Planning
Acquisition Bargains, Divestiture Coups
From Turnaround to Takeoff

Conclusion: How and When to Start

To sum up my review, I enthusiastically recommend this book for managers who are seeking alternative & innovative approaches to strategic planning.

[To my surprise, I have recently managed to locate a business book that combines both creative & analytical approaches to strategic management. It's titled 'Out of Context: A Creative Approach Management' by Cynthia Weick. I will review it in due course.]


"The critical ingredient is getting off your rear end & doing something. It's as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not
tomorrow. Not next week. But TODAY!"
(Nolan Bushnell, recognised as "Father of the Video Game Industry"; also best known for bringing 'Pong', Atarai Corporation & Chuck Cheese Pizza Time's Theatre - which combines fast food & electronic games - to the masses; holds several patents & has founded more than twenty other start-ups; with his current venture, uWink, Inc., he & his team are changing the face of Internet entertainment by streaming it into public portals & establishing mass multi-player gaming tournaments worldwide;)

Friday, September 21, 2007


What am I afraid would happen if this mindset were not there?

What do I fear I might lose if I did let go of this mindset?

When & why did I create this mindset?

What does this mindset help me get?


"Make it a practice to keep on the lookout for novel & interesting ideas that others have used successfully. Your idea has to be original only in its adaptation to the problems you are working."

(Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph, the incandescent light bulb & many other devices that make our lives fuller & simpler; he is considered one of the most outstanding geniuses in the history of technology)


"Each one of us has been given a great gift: The Cup of Life.
It is half full & it is half empty.
We choose which half to focus on, at every moment."

('The Millionaire Course: A Visionary Plan for Creating the Life of Your Dreams', By Mark Allen)


If you have ever subscribed &/or read the series of Bottom Line/Personal newsletter, then you will not be disappointed by this book.

The author of this book also happens to be the editor of the newsletter.

Throughout the 80's as well as 90's, I pursued & applied many of the strategies outlined in the newsletter. Some of the strategies have been artfully captured in this wonderful book.

To a lot of people, writings about luck may seem to be hyperbolic stuff. There are always new agey connotations.

From my personal experience, and I am sure most readers will concur with me, luck is, in reality, OPPORTUNITY + PREPARATION.

Always remember this, opportunity only knocks once at every man's door. So if it comes knocking at your door, & if you are not prepared to receive (in this case, hear) it, it's gone!

In a nut shell, this book shows you how to be prepared for luck. Are you ready?

I would like to say this, the seven strategies outlined in this book, when applied, will build & enhance your personal anticipatory management skills.

Anticipation is a very important skill.

Another good book to read in conjunction with the foregoing book is 'Make Your Own Luck: Success Tactics You'll Never Learn in B-School' by Peter Kash. The latter book is written more or less from a business perspective, in contrast to the earlier book under review. Also, the latter book offers a list of twenty keys to personal success, as well as a description & analysis of a business deal from the moment the opportunity presents itself to its successful closing.


1) Believe "I create my life!";

2) Expect to win;

3) Expect to be rich;

4) Think BIG;

5) Focus on their opportunities;

6) Choose to get paid on results;

7) Act in spite of fear;

8) Constantly learning new things;

9) Almost always build their own empire;

10) Not afraid to take charge, lead & to start something new;

[Source: Garret LoPorto, author of 'The DaVinci Method: Break Out & Express Your Fire']


[QUICK NOTES are just my personal responses of key issues raised or expert advice given in articles written by industry experts in the local newspapers or magazines.]

1) Begin fast:
Start with an attention-getting statement such as, "Your job won't exist five years from now," or "In the next five minutes, I want to convince you the best action you can take is..."

2) Use a strongly visual story:
Illustrate your points - how it is now, how it will or could be - with a story so vivid that the audience can "see" it;

3) Divide your five minutes into three parts:
Present a problem, a payoff, & your point of view - "The #1 piece of advice I can give you today is..."
Your story illustrates your idea, & your walk-away line could be what will happen if they do what you suggest.

[The industry expert is Patricia Fripp, author of 'Get What You Want! & Make It, So You Don't Have to Fake It'. More information about her & her work can be found at her corporate website.]


Whenever I read a book, I love to interact with the author by writing notes in the margins, in addition to highlighting key phrases in selected passages.

Marginal notations, or annotations, as reading experts love to call them, allow me to probe the text in order to fish out essential information. They also help me to remember important information better.

Best of all, they are useful as review tools, especially when I want to write a review of the book.

Over the years, I have synthesised &/or developed a lot of graphic symbols or notation marks to help in my marginalia routines.

To facilitate my exploration, I often use a colourful marker pen (my favourite colour is orange)designed with two capped end tips, one with a 'fat tip' & the other with a 'fine tip'.

Here are some easy-to-use examples of mine:

DefN: to denote a "new term or terminology";

V: with a circle around it: to denote a "new word or phrase";

R: with a circle around it: to "remind me to go back & review an important point" at a later time;

RR: with a circle around it: to "remind me to double check or verify" a point or passage with other authoritative sources;

?: to denote a "confusing passage";

XR: with a circle around it: to denote a "cross reference to", with a crisp description;

Q: with a circle around it: to denote a "memorable or wise quotation";

QT: with a circle around it: to denote a practical "questionnaire", suitable for reproduction:

CL: with a circle around it: to denote a useful "checklist", suitable for reproduction;

Ex.: with a circle around it: to denote a good "example";

ST: with a circle around it: to denote a good "story" I would use in my consulting or training;

vs.: with a circle around it: to denote a "contrasting point", with a crisp description;

two vertical lines, in parallel: to denote an "important passage";

[...]: to denote (open & close) a "vital statement" or "a principal premise of the author"; (sometimes, I may use an "underline");

a huge circle (enclosing a passage): to denote a really "exciting passage";

smiley: to denote an "interesting or amusing anecdote";

oo, with a circle around it: to "investigate" or "probe further" (in contrast with RR, I will use this one when I know the task ahead is seemingly more burdensome &/or complex);

-->: to denote "a lead to" e.g. another passage, follow by page number, if it is on another page or a crisp description; it can also be "a lead to" a another book or source;

<-->: to denote an "intertwined relationship" between two points;

A2T: to denote "a single action (task) to take" e.g. check the Internet for further info, follow by a crisp description;

T2D: to denote "a series of consecutive &/or concurrent actions (tasks) to take", with crisp & enumberated description;

P2P or Q2P: to denote "point to ponder" or "question to ponder";

N2R: to denote "note to remember", usually for a specific purpose e.g. preparing for exam;

SI: with a circle around it: to denote a "strategic insight from the experts";

#: with circle around it: to denote "enumerated points" in a passage;

=: with a circle around it: to denote "a point which resonates with another author's point", with name, etc.;

Usually at the end pages of the book, e.g. bibliography or appendix, I will use these symbols or notations:

tick: to denote the books I already owned;

asterisk (*): to denote books I intend to check out &/or acquire for my personal library;

These are my regular footprints in the books I have read.

Occasionally, I may use small & colourful Post-It Notes to tag important sections of the book for quick reference, especially when I am preparing for a business presentaion or doing a research project.

With the aid of all the foregoing notations, I find reading & reviewing books as well as mindmapping with MindManager Pro, a real breeze!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


"Human beings have dreams - even dogs have dreams, but not you, you are just a machine. An imitation of life. Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?"

(Detective Del Spooner, a techno-phobic cop in the year 2035, played by Will Smith in the sci-fi action movie, 'I, Robot')


What are the good questions that I am not even considering?


"Knowledge is Power."

This original statement is attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, an English philosopher & stateman during the 16th century. He could not have imagined the significance of his assertion more than 400 years later.

Most of us understand by now that knowledge is power only when it is applied. I would even add that the application has to be purposeful & meaningful.

In fact, knowledge is not measured by what is in side our head, but our productivity - what we do & what we don't.

Let's take a simple example.

When we read a book, the book is full of "data". Only when we are able to make sense of the "data", i.e. to say, we understand what we are reading. To be more precise, we find the "data" meaningful & relevant. Then, only the "data" becomes "information."

We start to explore or play with the "information."

We explore how we can make use of the "information" in our work or in our business or in our life. Naturally, we interact the learned "information" with our prior experiences or with other learned information from elsewhere e.g. other books, social conversations, Internet surfing, etc.

Preliminary "insights" gradually emerge as we think further.

"Insights" which are deemed actionable become workable "ideas".

Interestingly, as we think about these "ideas" in our head, we are then in a better position to fish out more "information" from new "data". Hence, "idea generation" is a very important routine.

It is pertinent to say this: Data is neutral & indifferent. It is always "idea generation" in our head that gives us the power to find "information" from "data".

As we refine the "ideas" according to our own preferred criteria, we finally decide to pick one or two "ideas" for testing & verification. Trial & error generally ensue.

The one good "idea" is then put to work. Implementation then takes place. Sometimes, we may go straight into implementation without testing & verification.

Sometimes, the chosen "idea" does not work properly. Further testing & verification may ensue.

Modification &/or adjustment may also be necessary to make it work better. Another implementation phase may takes place.

As a result, we gain some form of "experience" in the process.

We may even experiment with the renewed "idea" under different context of application.

Over time, cumulative "experiences" become "knowledge".

I believe it was Albert Einstein who said this: "Knowledge is experience; everything else is just information."


"Success can be achieved only through repeated failures & introspection. In fact, success represents 1% of your work which results only from 99% that is called failure...My success secrets are imagination, fresh ideas, sound theories, & economy of time...Life is based on seeing, listening & experimenting. But experimenting is the most important."

(Soichiro Honda, the founder of HONDA)


Writing a creative problem solving book is pretty easy, but putting the ideas down & bringing them alive - in the form of workable tools - against a backdrop of real world problems, call for a versatile author with myriad pre-occupations.

In this case, Richard Fobes fits the billing perfectly as he has worked as a writer, interactive multimedia software designer, systems analyst, computer programmer, inventor, electronics technician, hardware store clerk, & dance instructor. He has spent five years researching & writing this book.

Many of the author's early ideas have been published during the four years he wrote the 'Creative Problem Solving Tips' column of the Focus newsletter from the American Creativity Association.

[Readers can access the tips via the author's corporate website.]

That's how I got to know about Richard Fobes & his inspiring book.

A few things intrigued me when I first encountered the book during the early nineties:

1. A catchy subtitle, 'A Complete Course in the Art of Creating Solutions to Problems of Any Kind';

2. A radial outline of the book at the end of the book (I wish all authors can follow this great example!);

3. A portrait of a lady next to Einstein on the front cover. I didn't know her until I read about her: She was Hypatia, who invented a hydrometer which measures fluid density. She lived in Alexandria, Egypt, from 370 AD to 415 AD. The author has deliberately put up her portrait as a reminder that women also innovate! Bravo!

4. There are sixty five ingenious tools for solving problems in the book;

Upon reading it, I found it to be a very user-friendly book. There are a lot of examples & exercises in a variety of real world problem settings.

Personally, I have applied many of the tools in the book. At the time I had acquired it, I had just started my own strategy consulting business as well as my learning resource store. Being a novice entrepreneur, the book served in many ways as my problem solving advisor. In fact, the book was also part of my store inventory during the early years.

For the benefit of readers, I append below the table of contents:

1. Opening the Toolbox;
2. Welcome Your New Ideas;
3. Reconsidering Your Goals;
4. Exploring Your Many Alternatives;
5. Refining Your Ideas;
6. Thinking in Alternate Ways;
7. Thinking Dimensionally;
8. Understanding Clarity;
9. Considering Your Goals Some More;
10. Taking Action;
11. Using the Toolbox;
12. Closing the Toolbox;

In particular, I like the author's observations & arguments in the book:

- goals influence thinking in surprising & subtle ways & they expand possibilities;
- besides weight & money, other dimensions that defy being measured such as love, risk, assertiveness are a part of virtually every real problem;
- a failure to reach a clear understanding lies at the root of most unsolved problems;
- thinking visually, thinking in concepts & using intuition enhance the problem solving process;

My end anaylsis of this book is this: An excellent primer if you want to revv up & sharpen your problem solving skills. It's really a toolbox! You can't go to the office without it!

[I am very glad & also feel proud for the author, as his book has been translated into Chinese, Russian, Indonesian, Japanese & Korean. Watch out the Chinese! More information about the author & his 'Technical Innovations on Demand' can be found at Fovationz, Inc.]

BOOK REVIEW: 'THE ULTIMATE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE: Secrets of Continuosly Developing a More Profitable Business Model', By Donald Mitchell

I was attracted to this book firstly because of the authors' earlier book, 'The 2000 per cent Solution', in which they shared some very interesting insights about creative problem solving.

Secondly, it has a primary focus on business model innovation, to be more precise.

Thirdly, while doing a quick browsing, I noted that at the onset, the authors have deliberately outlined the success sequence of the model in the introduction. From my personal experience, the latter often makes the reading assimilation like a breeze! Unfortunately, I noted that very few authors do this.

Again, I must say this book did not disappoint me after my perusal.

This book has really lived up to the authors' purpose of writing their book: re-direct your PERCEPTION of what must be done to help shift your FOCUS into more productive directions....

I would have thought that a more appropriate secondary title for this book should have been 'Secrets of Continually Developing a Disciplined Business Opportunity Sensitivity Model'. It is exactly from this standpoint that I have enjoyed reading this book and have ranked it as an excellent guide.

In fact, on page 255, under Chapter 8, the authors have even quoted Edward de Bono:

"Everyone is surrounded by opportunities. But they only exist once they have been seen. And they will only be seen if they are looked for."

There is a very broad spectrum of business examples, and most of them are very well-illustrated. There are also numerous self-probing questions at the end of some chapters to help the reader to think through some critical issues. The questions are very discerning and disciplined: well-structured and yet open-ended. All these have been beautifully crafted to help the reader to develop direct observation skills - they resonates fully with de Bono's contention as illustrated above.

From my personal perspective, I would have expected the authors to give a more detailed and in-depth treatment of the closing chapters, particularly Chapters 7 and 8. This would have been an added punch to the book.

For example, I fancy the 'Look at the Orchard as well as the Tree' section was somewhat perfunctorily treated. This would have given the reader a more systems-perspective of the business model innovation. This is my only adverse comment about this book.

On the whole, in terms of learning points and application orientation from the opportunity sensitivity standpoint, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Among the numerous examples, I particularly enjoyed reading the anecdotes about Peter Drucker and Frank Wright.

If you need help in identifying opportunity-sensitive areas in your business, I strongly recommend readers to get hold of this book - and if you desire to enhance your opportunity sensitivity capability further, I would strongly suggest you 'syntopicalise' your reading with the following books:

Edward de Bono's 'Opportunities';
Peter Drucker's 'Innovation & Entrepreneurship';
Michel Robert's 'Innovation Formula';
Peter Skat-Rordam's 'Changing Strategic Direction';
Art Turock's 'Invent Business Opportunities';

Enjoy your assimilation!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


About six months ago, I really felt I was obese when I could not tie my shoe laces. My wife had to help me to do it. At that time, I had topped the scales at about 96 kg. My height is 1.78m.

Then, I started to take my physical exercises at the gym very seriously. From the diet angle, I had also cut down a lot of carbo in my food intake.

Today, my weight is hovering between 89 & 90 kg. My target is about 85 kg.

Every morning, from Mondays to Fridays, I walk with my wife, plus my gym buddy, to the gym located at the Jurong East Sports Centre. The walk takes about twenty minutes, which is good as it serves as warming up.

We will spend two hours in the gym. My exercise routine is roughly like this:

- Brisk walking on the tread mill, 40 minutes;
- On the cycling machine, 20 minutes;
- On the cross trainer, 45 minutes;

On an average, I will burn between 800 to 1,000 calories, depending on how hard I push myself.

My gym buddy has encouraged me to take up some form of weight training, but I am hesitant because I had a slipped disc operation some twenty years ago. In fact, I had two relapses (as a result of carrying heavy stuff, against the expert advice from my orthopedic surgeon) during the mid-nineties & I had refused to go for a second operation. As a result, the longitudinal motor nerve on my right leg is partially damaged. This explains why I don't jog on the treadmill.

However, I am very happy to say that the physical exercise at the gym has gradually helped me to gain better control of my right leg.

After the exercise, we will walk back. Another twenty minutes. My wife & I will have a quick lunch at the nearby food court before hitting home.

Now, my wife & I really enjoy our physical exercises at the gym. So does my gym buddy, who like to call the sessions: "taking the daily endorphin jab".


What's going on in my future?

Based on where I am now, what does my future look like?

What am I doing about it?

What will I do about it?

How would I like things to be different?

How can I make things different?

What is my map to the new world?

(Inspired by Frank Feather, global business futurist & author of 'Futuristic Leadership A-Z')


Ever since I had read the book, entitled 'G-Forces: 35 Forces Restructuring Our Future', by Frank Feather, during the early nineties, I had been impressed by the work of this author.

What I had liked about this book was the author's ingenuity in using the alphabet system to illustrate twenty six action steps to help one prepare for the future. 'Prepare for the Future' means to "see" & "map" the future.

I may not have agreed with the selection: for example, I would have preferred the verbs, 'Juxtapose' & 'Understand' instead of the verbs, 'Justify' & 'Uplift'.

Nevertheless, I have found the author's illustrations of the twenty six steps to be highly illuminating & personally meaningful.

I reckon the best way for readers to get a glimpse of the intellectual relevancy is for me to take the liberty of reproducing the author's preface of the book here:

"Futuristic leaders ACHIEVE results because they truly BELIEVE a different future is possible. They CHANGE their own and their organiza­tion’s behaviour, habits, and culture, in order to obtain their collective DREAM.

Futuristic leaders fully EXPECT to reach their goal — and also fully “expect the unexpected” along the way — because they unswervingly FOCUS on that goal.

Aware that reaching the future requires that they and their organizations GROW — both mentally and spiritually — futuristic leaders HEAR things: they listen intently for clues and pieces of vital information that will guide them in that growth.

Futuristic leaders vividly IMAGINE what the future will be like, what needs to change to get there, and how the charted course might need to vary along the route.

They JUSTIFY their mission, not only based on profitable returns, but in the proper ethics and values that will bring it to fruition.

Futuristic leaders KNOW both what they know and what they don’t know, and what more they and their teams will still need to know in the future. They const­antly LEARN, day by day, decision by decision, as they move forward.

Futuristic leaders MOTIVATE themselves, and inspire those around them to do the same, to adventurously NAVIGATE previously uncharted territory. They ORGANIZE and optimize every available capacity and resource to help them PERSEVERE until every part of the mission is accomplished.

Futuristic leaders always QUESTION their advisors, their information, and themselves. Then they can best RESPOND to challenges and opport­unities in ways that STRATEGIZE the most responsible and best possible future outcomes.

Futuristic leaders TEACH everything they know to the highest-qualified teams of individuals. They UPLIFT them to VISUALIZE and drive towards their collective future.

As well, in today’s “webolutionary” Internet Age, futuristic leaders encourage their teams to literally WEBIFY their organizations into value-creating networks, or “biznets.”

Futuristic leaders also XEROGRAPH themselves: they “clone” or duplicate their own abilities and processes in others, to ensure ongoing growth and continuity through yet another generation of futuristic leaders.

Finally, futuristic leaders repeatedly YIELD consistent and spectacular results, and ZOOM their organizations speedily to ever-succeeding peaks of success."

I am always fascinated by the subject of futuristic leadership, especially at the personal level.

To explore, anticipate & prepare for the future, this book is really a good field guide. There are only twenty six action steps, but you must put them to work.

[More information about the author, his other books & his consulting work can be found on his corporate website.]


This morning, I have received an email from TrainersHub, inviting me to join one of their forthcoming seminars.

The one-day seminar is 'WORK! A Highway to Purpose or a Path to Prison'. It's scheduled for October 5th 2007 at Spring Singapore. Steve Murphy is the trainer.

What intrigues me is the acronym 'CONTROL', which the seminar introduces as a basic strategy for establishing an equilibrium among the elements that would impact your life:

- Clarity of Purpose;
- Outcome of Desire;
- Nurturing or Being Nurtured;
- Time Allocations;
- Reducing Stress;
- Ownership of Issues;
- Loving Relationships;

More information about the seminar can be found here.


"It is the future where our greatest leverage is. We can't change the past, although, if we are smart, we learn from it. Things happen in only one place - the present, & usually we react to those events. The space of time in the present is too slim to allow for much more. It is in the yet-to-be, the future, & only there, where we have the time to prepare for the present."

(Joel Arthur Barker, independent scholar & futurist; because he was the first person to popularize the concept of paradigm shifts in the corporate world, he is known around the world as the 'Paradigm Man'; he is also the author of 'Future Edge' & a series of excellent training videos - available from Star Thrower & ATS Media - based on his consulting work;)


"What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are."

(Anthony Robbins)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


"An idea can never be the best arrangement of available information."
(Edward de bono, regarded by many as the leading authority in the field of creative thinking, innovation & the direct teaching of thinking as a skill, & progenitor of 'lateral thinking'; this observation is often referred to as 'de bono's First Law'; he argues that:

1) one cannot regard any idea as absolute as there is a need to try to restructure an idea in order to get a better one;

2) the arrangement of information is only one of several alternatives;

3) because the current arrangement of information can never make the best use of available information, it is necessary to try to restructure to bring the arrangement up to date;)


Sometimes it's the smallest things that are easily overlooked. As we all know, often the devil is in the details.

A man is crossing the border on his bicycle. He has two big bags on his shoulders.

The guard asks, "What's in the bags?"

He replies, "Sand."

The guard says, "Get them off -- we'll examine them."

The man takes the two bags off and empties them out. The guard looks through them, finding nothing but sand. The man puts the sand back in the bags, puts the bags back on his shoulders, and proceeds to cross the border on his bicycle.

Two weeks later, same thing. "What have you got there?"


"Get them off, we'll examine them."

Every two weeks for six months this went on with the same result.

Finally one week the man didn't show up and the guard ran into him downtown.

He said, "Buddy, you got us crazy. We knew you were smuggling something. But we just couldn't figure out what. I absolutely promise not to say anything, but what were you smuggling anyway?"

Smiling, the smuggler answered, "Bicycles."

The moral of this anecdote: If what you see is what you get, be sure you are looking at it very carefully!


During the early nineties, there were only a handful of books that had touched on the subject of perceptual sensitivity & what to do to fine-tune it, especially in the context of business.

At that time, I had embarked on a relentless search for better understanding of peak performance in both personal & professional arenas.

This was one of the books I had found. I must admit that its rather apt & catchy title had caught my eye in the first place. It was essentially a book about exploring & understanding what could impede your perceptual sensitivity i.e. the impact of mindsets.

In this wonderful book, the author, a British consultant, shared a gamut of practical strategies on how to work with mindsets & best of all, how to reset them.

According to him, like cancer, mindsets, especially the dogmatic ones, if not removed &/or reset, could kill you - to be more precise, your personal as well as professional productivity!

It was very well written, in crisp & concise language - quite a brilliant piece of work, - & packed with interesting ideas. In fact, the author's ‘Ideas into Action’ & ‘The Leading Edge’ chapters, as well as the author's proprietary AGISA Model, are superb stuff.

What I liked most about the book was that the author did not bombard the reader with fancy theories. He was very straight-forward.

He also made a pertinent observation:

“Much market, financial & social trend information is of a soft nature. That is, if you want to be a market leader, you have to be able to read what’s going to happen some considerable time before it does...This enables you to respond proactively & not reactively to change. To detect such change you have to use your mental peripheral vision to detect those soft clues that are suggestive of emergent trends. Otherwise you start to miss out on new opportunities.”

In a nut shell, the author was talking about the significance of having “soft eyes”. Today, many newer books in recent years had written on this phenomenon.

There were also many fun exercises (especially those perplexing optical illusions) to do, too. In fact, they really jog you can reset your mindset!


"The possibility of stepping into a higher plane is quite real for everyone. It requires no force or effort or sacrifice. It involves little more than changing our ideas about what is normal."

(Deepak Chopra)


What do I prefer?

What do I do best?

How passionate am I in doing it?

How resourceful am I in getting it done?

What motivates me to do it?

Do I have the requisite skill sets & experiences?

Do I have what it takes to pursue my dreams?

Monday, September 17, 2007


I had owned this wonderful book since the mid-70's, while I was still a young struggling engineer.

It is essentially a large-format work-book, wire-bound for quick & easy reading/reference, with a lot of instructive forms to fill up. I had in fact used it systematically to plot my career path.

Prior to this work-book, I had explored a lot of other books in the same genre. What I had liked about it was its comprehensive framework as well as its breadth & depth of coverage, supported by an incisive question/checklist repertoire.

More importantly, unlike most job-hunting & career planning books, it was targeted primarily at matured professionals (above twenty-five years old).

For readers' benefit, I append below the six major sections of the book:

- Introduction;
- Section I: Defining the Person You Are;
- Section II: Defining Your Career Objectives;
- Section III: Planning to Achieve;
- Section IV: Working Your Plan;
- Section V: Keeping Track

In retrospect, I reckon it had provided me with a complete career & life planning up to the late 80's.

I would consider it, despite its currently torn & tattered pages, to be the best career advancement guide I had ever owned.

In my attempt to preserve this wonderful book, & the sweet memories of my many career transitions, I had already converted all its contents plus my original inputs into a huge mind-map on computer, with the aid of Mind-Manger Pro, of course


Surprisingly, this job hunting guide, now in its third edition, is still available. I had owned the first or original edition (1979).

I remember vividly my intention to explore new opportunities to stretch my professional potential, especially towards the late 70's, after having stayed in the same engineering job for more than thirteen years. I was eagerly contemplating a new engineering job that had a prominent slant towards sales & marketing.

I came across this job hunting book by chance. I found it to be an excellent fact-packed field guide. Prior to this book, I had read & digested all that had been published on the subject in the public library during the period. I therefore found this book to be the best I had seen on hunting for a new job.

It was also well written & easy to read. More importantly, the author had excellent credentials in personal marketing & outplacement services.

In retrospect, no detail in a job hunt was overlooked. Among other basic tips, the author helped me to isolate my key experiences that would sell ‘Me, Inc.,’ & to put them across in a resume & interviews.

Practically, every conceivable aspect of job hunting was covered, from writing the first letter to securing the final offer with maximum returns.

My personal favourite chapters were 'Chapter 8: Good Answers for Good Questions' & 'Chapter 9: Tough Interview Situations & How to Take Them in Stride'.

Throughout my twenty four years of working in the corporate world, I had made three major career transitions.

Together with the 'Career Advancement Guide' by Edward Adams, these two wonderful books were my only field guides in career planning.


"The human body has two ends on it: one to create & one to sit on. Sometimes, people get their ends reversed. When this happens, they need a kick in the seat of their pants."
(Roger von Oech, consultant/trainer of CreativeThink, also author of 'A Kick in the Seat of the Pants', 'A Whack on the Side of the Head', 'Creative Whackpack, 'Innovative Whackpack', 'Expect the Unexpected'; he earned his PhD from Stanford University in the "History of Ideas." His newest creativity tool is the 'Ball of Whacks', available from his Creative Whack Company.)


"Scientists have accumulated considerable evidence that our image of the future is a powerful motivating factor & determines what we are motivated to learn & achieve...A person's image of the future may be a better predictor of future attainment than his past performances."
(Paul Torrance, author of 'The Importance of Falling in Love with Something' article in 'Gifted Child Quarterly', 1983)


In two earlier blog posts, I mentioned some survey statistics on tests of creativity among children & adults.

In this blog, I want to share with readers an interesting anecdote from Anthony Robbins to drive home my point.

An adult is walking down the street and is confronted with a small puddle.

What does he do?

He walks around it. Not only that, he curses & swears at the puddle at the same time, feeling really pissed off that the puddle got into his path.

What does a child do?

He jumps right in it. Not with one foot, but both.

And he jumps as high up as he can and lands with as big a splash as possible.

And the child laughs and cheers the whole time.

Think like a child. More than that, act like one. It’s not hard if you tap into what makes children so spontaneous and funny.

And contrary to popular beliefs, all of us do have enough time in the day to be likewise.


Donald Trump often likes to relate this story about Rudyard Kipling who wrote something like this:

"I keep six honest serving men, they taught me all I knew - their names are What? and Why? and When? and How? and Where? and Who?"

He often uses this story to drive home a point: Use knowledge to your advantage.

According to him, finding the answers to the above questions will ensure that your information is comprehensive and correct. He stresses that there's really no such thing as knowing too much about what you're doing.

I reckon, in any problem solving situation, we can use the same six questions to analyse:

1) What has happened?

2) Why did it happen?

3) When did it happen?

4) How did it happen?

5) Where did it happen?

6) Who was involved?

By giving the same questions a little twist or a new spin, we are able to get more information:

1) What has not yet happened? What will happen if I do not solve it?

2) Why did it happen here, & not there?

3) When was the last time it happened? When should I solve it?

4) How did it happened the last time? How was it solved?

5) Where else did it happen?

6) Who is not involved? Who had started it? Who had solved it the last time? Who will benefit most if I solve the problem? Who will lose or suffer most if I solve the problem?

We can even add one more question to generate more information: Which?

7) Which part of the problem should be solved first or last? Why? Which solution path has the least resistance? Which aspect of the problem (e.g. people, financial, technological, etc.) require further exploration or deliberation?


Am I happy?

How happy am I?

(Inspired by a BBC's six-part series on The Happiness Formula)

Sunday, September 16, 2007


"Life is like a movie. Write your own ending."

(Kermit the Frog, voiced by Jim Henson in 'The Muppet Movie')


This book is essentially a simplified version of the author's earlier scholarly work, ‘The Art of the Question’, written under her own maiden name, with a primary focus from a psycho-therapeutic perspective. The latter book expounds all the core concepts found in the new book.

In this respect, there isn't anything new or exciting to offer. If you have already read the author's earlier book, then you don't have to waste money in getting this book.

However, if you are looking for a much broader perspective & also deeper & systematic treatment on the art & discipline of questioning, I reckon the following books will give readers more value for money:

for the business professional:

- ‘Smart Questions’, by Gerald Nadler;
- ‘Asking Just Right Business Questions’ (especially, if you are planning to start your own business);
- ‘Key Management Questions’, by Tom Lambert (if you want to improve your managerial analysis);
- ‘78 Important Questions Every Leader Should Ask & Answer’, by Chris Clarke
-Epstein (if you want to sharpen your managerial skills);
- ‘Leading with Questions’, by Michael Marquardt (if you want to refine your strategic leadership skills);

for the layman as well as business professional:

- ‘Questions that Work’, Andrew Finlayson;
- Dorothy Leeds' ‘Smart Questions’ is also worth exploring;

for those working in the academic arena,

please get hold of Jamie McKenzie's books on the ‘Questioning Technology’ (as the author calls it); a series of educational instruction books by Nancy Johnson (e.g. ‘Questioning Makes the Difference’) is worth exploring too!

In fairness to the author, & if you are basically a beginner, the current book still gives quite an excellent & yet simple introduction to the subject.

However, readers will have to contend with her storytelling approach, which I find somewhat taxing & boring.

On the other hand, I reckon the author's unique model, 'QuestionThinking', encompassing seven simple exploration tools, & her 'Top Twelve Questions for Change,' are still worth exploring.

On the whole, it is relatively good work by the author, but there are other much better books as I have illustrated above.


"What you have today is a direct result of what you did yesterday. What you will have tomorrow will be a direct result of what you do (or don't do) today."

(J F Straw, Business Lyceum)


I have found this interesting mathematical equation on 'Knowledge Is Power' while surfing the net.

The original author is unknown.

1) Knowledge is Power;
2) Time is Money and as every engineer knows;
3) Power is Work over Time;

So, substituting algebraic equations for these time worn bits of wisdom, we get:

(1) K = P
(2) T = M
(3) P = W/T

Now, do a few simple substitutions:

Put W/T in for P in equation (1), which yields:
(4) K = W/T

Put M in for T into equation (4), which yields:

(5) K = W/M

Now we've got something. Expanding back into English, we get:

Knowledge equals Work over Money

What this means is that:

The More You Know, the More Work You Do, and
The More You Know, the Less Money You Make

Solving for Money, we get:

(6) M = W/K
Money equals Work Over Knowledge

From equation (6) we see that Money approaches infinity as Knowledge approaches 0, regardless of the Work done

What this means is:

The More you Make, the Less you Know

Solving for Work, we get

(7) W = M K
Work equals Money times Knowledge

From equation (7) we see that Work approaches 0 as Knowledge approaches 0

What this means is:

The stupid rich do little or no work

Working out the socioeconomic implications of this breakthrough is left as an exercise for the reader.