Saturday, October 13, 2007


I get most of my best ideas while (in random order):

- taking a morning shower after my gym work;

- daydreaming;

- just before sleeping;

- just upon waking up - that's why I always have my scratchpad at my bedside;

- in the middle of the night;

- exercising in the gym;

- driving my car on the expressway;

- walking in my neighbourhood during the evenings with my wife;

- taking the MRT train, especially during off-peak hours;

- flying, especially on vacations;

- brainstorming with others;

- reading;

- browsing magazines at a newstand or in a public library;

- surfing the net;

- taking vacations;

- under time pressure;

- shaving;

- listening to Classical, Baroque &/or New Age music;

- during the weekends;

- working at my work station;

- thinking;

- attending a training workshop;

- attending business meetings;

- drinking tea with my gym buddy;

- watching television & chit chatting with my wife;

- taking to friends;

- meditating;

- enjoying my quiet time alone;

- hanging out in shopping malls & supermarkets with my wife;

- hanging out with my buddies in The Wednesday Club;


Timing is the end result of ASAP, which comprises four distinct capabilities:



In order to HAVE what it is you want, you have to DO certain things, but, before you can DO anything, you have to first BE the person who can HAVE your dreams whatever they are.


Understanding is a continuum, not an end point.

As a person moves forward along this continuum, he is increasingly able to:

- explain the concept in his own words;

- apply his understanding of the concept to novel problems;

- simplify or complicate a concept, consider the implications of the concept at larger & smaller scales of space & time;

- develop an original example, metaphor, or model & describe how it relates;

- critique the concept or an analysis, identify assumptions, limitations, or special cases of the application of the concept;

- inter-connect with ideas previously learned, provide historical or logical context for the concept;

- speculate as to future possible applications or levels of complexity;

- show independence of thought, do all of the above independent of external prompts;



1) Originality - an original adaptation;

2) Usefulness - for its intended purpose;

3) Cost Effectiveness - saving in time, money & space;

4) Elegance - quality, simplicity & ease of use;

5) Social Benefit - benefit to mankind;

6) Importance - in relation to real-world problem;

7) Safety;

8) Comfort;

9) Entertainment;

10) Appeal to Senses;

11) Appeal to Vanity;

12) Convenience;

13) People Friendliness - easy to learn;

14) Improved Productivity;

15) Systems approach;


I have picked up, most probably from somewhere which I can't recall, & have applied the following systematic approach to drawing practical insights from my own life experiences for many years.

1) Life Experiences:

- remember my life experiences, positive as well as negative events (with random notes generally recorded in my scratchpad);

2) Some Preliminary Insights:

- reflect on my life experiences: what had happened?; why it happened?; how I felt about it?; if it changed my life, why? & how?; what were my motives & reactions?;
- also, what had worked & what did not work;
- what did I see in the choices & outcomes I value or treasure about myself?
- any unique lessons?
- any surprises?
- any unusual discoveries?;
- did I solve any problem with funny, unexpected or breakthrough thinking?;
- did I create a new system or process that was adopted?;
- did I combine anything to create a new outcome:

3) Extracting An Idea/Ideas:


- to whom is my idea useful?
- how will the user benefit from my idea?
- is my idea practical?
- is my idea unique or is this common knowledge?
- is it tested?
- does it work?

The beauty of this approach is that, once an idea is identified, it can be evolved, developed, improved to add value to the user or others.


According to William Cohen, author of 'The Art of the Strategist', for every leader, strategy is the key to success.

He has skilfully distilled, from a detailed study of 7,000 years of recorded military history in almost every country on earth & representing a wide variety of operational arenas, the ten essential elements in a successful winning strategy.

1) commitment to a definite objective;

2) seizing & maintaining the initiative;

3) economisation of mass (concentration of resources);

4) strategic positioning;

5) surprise;

6) multiple, simultaneous alternatives;

7) indirect approach to achieving the objective;

8) simplicity;

9) timing & sequencing;

10) exploiting success;

For me, strategy is to do think strategically before undertaking a strategic move. The foregoing elements certainly help to prime your mind.

In business or in life, everything is possible; it's only a question of strategy!


"Seek the larger view - & from that vantage point, recognise the missing element, & fill the gap."

(Albert Einstein)

Friday, October 12, 2007


1) difficulty in isolating the problem - real problem from related problem;

2) difficulty caused by over-narrowing the problem - little or no attention is paid to the environment;

3) inability to define terms;

4) difficulty in seeing remote relationships;

5) failure to use all senses in observing;

6) difficulty in not investigating the obvious;

7) failure to distinguish cause & effect;


In an earlier post, I had deliberated at length on my personal learning model.

Come to think of it, this simple model of mine can evolve into a personal mastery model as follows:


- learning takes place as we make sense of incoming data;
- must be conceptually coherent & personally relevant;
- the personal meaning is felt, as data is shaped into meaningful information;
- can then be broken down into rules, protocols, structured procedures, & instructions for future performance;
- this is the novice level;


- the personal meaning is comparatively deeper as relevancy of learning takes shape in the mind;
- reflects in the ability to articulate learned concepts to self as well as to others;
- also ability to relate learned concepts to past experiences as well as to other prior knowledge;
- further exploration of concept from different resources is likely to create more & better understanding;


- in principle, this is idea generation;
- thinking about the learned concepts starts with forming of elementary insights & idea fragments, which eventually becomes fully workable ideas;
- the workable ideas are then sculpted into decisions;
- decisions, which are executed, are likely to give order to new learning experiences;


- decisions are executed or put to work in the personal or organisational context;
- we are responsible for the outcome of our decisions, not just execution;
- this action creates new experiences as well as valuable feedback;
- action also has consequences;
- these experiences & consequences result in new ways to look at new data to generate information, which explain the fact that ideas give order to experiences;
- this is the competent level;


- over time, as more new learning takes place, we learn to put decisions to work differently &/or in different ways;
- this create new learning experiences/consequences;
- cumulative experiences/consequences thus create knowledge;
- knowledge is power, when it is applied personally, meaningfully, & purposefully;
- this is the proficient level;


- for me, teaching is a good way to share knowledge;
- knowledge shared is power squared;
- there is continuing feedback & feedforward;
- over time, cumulative knowledge becomes expertise;
- rules disappear as action flows automatically from a deeper understanding;
- this is the expert level;


- over time, discerning use of expertise creates wisdom;
- reflects in new ability to know when to use tool or procedures;
- also, in new ability to understand the subtleties, as application/evolution become dominant;
- publishing the knowledge is one way of leveraging;
- this is the highest level of mastery;


1) All learning is based on perception;

2) Needs & interests are bases of meaningful learning experiences;

3) Learning & development are stimulated by security & adventure;

4) Learning involves some confusion & uncertainty - thinking takes place when you do not know what to do next;

5) Learning is meaningful when you are open to new tasks, have desire to learn & have self confidence;

6) Learning is more meaningful if you determine your own objectives;

7) Learning is more meaningful if you have understanding & direction;

8) Learning is increased when you relieve anxiety & competitive pressures;

9) Learning involves behavioural changes, hopefully positive;

10) Skills & knowledge should be learned as aspects of art - art expression & life not as isolated experiences;

11) Learning is most likely to occur when conclusion or art product is reached before motivation is exhausted - art is created to be enjoyed;

[Source: John A Michael]


Roughly, ideas can often be categorised as follows:

1) Ready-to-Use or Ripe Ideas (RI):

- these ideas are detailed enough & robust enough to have outgrow their downsides;
- immediately actionable;
- ready for pilot use;

2) Seedlings or Seed Ideas (SI):

- these ideas are not yet developed but seem worthy;
- generally, very raw ideas;
- require enhancement or developmental work;

3) Broad Concepts:

- these ideas are too broad in scope, although they may give some useful directions (UD);
- require further idea generation;

4) Mulch or Not Ready Ideas (NRI):

- these ideas seem to have too many downsides or insufficient details to make them worthy of use;
- are seemingly not usable;
- may require further idea generation to make them workable;

I reckon a clear understanding of these fine distinctions will enable one to make more productive use of idea generation exercises.

This will result in participants more willing to go for a quantitative pursuit of ideas.

A qualitative assessment of ideas can always come later.

Consequently, all the ideas generated in the exercises can then be gathered, collated & organised for immediate implementation as well as for further developmental work.

In this respect, no ideas will ever go into the trash can. Best of all, this is one good way to build up an idea bank in the long run.

Interestingly, Tom Peters once asserted that it takes 250 raw ideas to get a 1 major money making product.

Who knows, one NRI may turn into a money making RI after some deliberate efforts.


A good problem statement should have the following key elements:

1) an invitational component;

2) an ownership component;

3) a goal component;

4) an action component;

For example:

In how many ways might I increase my personal productivity in the long term?

1) an invitational component: in how many ways;

2) an ownership component: I;

3) a goal component: personal productivity;

4) an action component: increase;

Next Steps:

1) Review your power to act - consider the constraints & limitations;

2) Understand the problem & gather information;

3) Check your assumptions;

4) Review tested ideas - what had worked? what did not work? what have you leanred?

5) Brainstorm possibilities;

6) Play with 'what if' scenarios - with unlimited power, resources, time, money?;

7) Evaluate options;

8) Implement/verify solutions;


What keeps me up at night?

What are the major issues I am facing today?

What will be my major issues in the future?


As a layman (even though I was trained as an engineer), I was quite ambivalent when faced with the ultimate purchase decision for this book, especially after I have read most of the editorial & readers' reviews on the net.

I was really intrigued by the fact that many reviewers took heavy pot shots at both the author & his book. My decision was further compounded by the fact that the book was thick - over 600 pages - & the apparent level of complexity, judging from my random five-finger test.

However my deep personal interest in understanding brain science & the curiosity streak in me finally drove me to buy the book.

The first half was quite an easy ride for me as the author offered a general model to explain how & why the mind works the way it does. This is despite the fact that the writing was dry & monotonous in most areas, witty & crisp in some areas & jam packed with seemingly irrelevant information.

The second half was a tough ride for me as the author touched on the implications of social behaviours.

Frankly, I am not disappointed by the book even though I am still puzzled by some parts of the book.

My own personal assessment of the book is that it is an intellectual smorgasbord of disparate, multi-disciplinary scientific topics/facts (e.g. natural selection, artificial intelligence, neural networks, economics, biology, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, family values, feminism, emotions, etc.) which probably make my reading somewhat difficult, especially towards the second half of the book.

At the end, I have really enjoyed reading this book, particularly in terms of what I am looking for in the first place. I also like the author's extensive notes and large reading lists.

The most productive learning experience for me is a better understanding (may be, I should say another perspective) of visual perception.

In fact, in Chapter 4, the author has dedicated an almost entire chapter (from page 214 to 242) to the perception of random-dot stereograms (or 3D visual illusions). As far as I know, this is the only brain book (after discounting Bela Julesz's book) that I have come across that touches on this wonderful topic, which also happens to be one of my pet subjects.

On the whole, & from my personal perspective, this somewhat wonderful book definitely gives a reasonably good coverage on the intricacies & idiosyncrasies of the human mind, in spite of what the author had admitted in the preface: "First, we don't understand how the mind works..."


"It is well known that "problem avoidance" is an important part of problem solving. Instead of solving the problem you go upstream & alter the system so that the problem does not occur in the first place."

(Edward de Bono)

Thursday, October 11, 2007


This is actually a workbook from a professional career counsellor. It is also self-published, judging from the wire bound construction.

My impression after reading it is that it is targeted primarily at entry-level junior executives who may be planning a career change.

Nevertheless, this workbook still introduces a comprehensive system for redefining who you are & what you want. It guides you through a series of simple exercises to help you redefine, what is important to you.

When compared to, say 'Personal Strategic Planning' by Samuel Koshy &/or 'Tools for Mapping Your Future' by Harold Howard, both of which I have reviewed earlier, this workbook is regrettably, intellectually disadvantaged.

For professionals working at a higher level of the corporate hierarchy or at managerial level, I would recommend to readers to consider George Morrisey's 'Creating Your Future: Personal Strategic Planning for Professionals.'


I am very intrigued by recent remarks made by our Minister Mentor (MM) Lee Kuan Yew, as reported in the Straits Times.

First, during a local forum with university students, he asserted that despite the booming economy in the country, there were dark clouds looming in the horizon.

In an interview with American columnist, Tom Plate, in end September, with excerpts already published in yesterday's & today's Straits Times, MM talked in particular about the country's survivability in the long run, among many other things.

From his candid remarks, I can more or less resonate with his acute sense of the country's endangerment.

I always find it a true learning experience just having to read his wise thoughts on paper.

My question is: what else is MM thinking, or more specifically, worrying, about Singapore's long term future?


1. No Breakfast:
People who do not take breakfast are going to have a lower blood sugar level. This leads to an insufficient supply of nutrients to the brain causing brain degeneration.

2. Overeating:
It causes hardening of the brain arteries, leading to a decrease in mental power.

3. Smoking:
It causes multiple brain shrinkage and may lead to Alzheimer disease.

4. High Sugar consumption:
Too much sugar will interrupt the absorption of proteins and nutrients causing malnutrition and may interfere with brain development.

5. Air Pollution:
The brain is the largest oxygen consumer in our body. Inhaling polluted air decreases the supply of oxygen to the brain, bringing about a decrease in brain efficiency.

6. Sleep Deprivation:
Sleep allows our brain to rest. Long term deprivation from sleep will accelerate the death of brain cells.

7. Head covered while sleeping:
Sleeping with the head covered, increases the concentration of carbon dioxide and decrease concentration of oxygen that may lead to brain damaging effects.

8. Working your brain during illness:
Working hard or studying with sickness may lead to a decrease in effectiveness of the brain as well as damage the brain.

9. Lacking in stimulating thoughts:
Thinking is the best way to train our brain, lacking in brain stimulation thoughts may cause brain shrinkage.

10. Talking Rarely:
Intellectual conversations will promote the efficiency of the brain.

[The foregoing information, in its entirety, was relayed to me recently by one of my buddies in The Wednesday Club.]


Although the secondary title of this book is 'A Manual for Personal Strategic Planning', I must emphasise that the "how-to" features are rather restricted, in comparative terms.

The major focus of this book is to provoke reader's thinking & to direct readers more or less to outside materials, amply listed in the End Notes of each chapter & the bibliography.

Nevertheless, the chapters of the book still contain enough valuable information to help readers to maintain clarity, personally as well as organisationally, while shaping their own future in a rapidly changing world.

I want to add that, when reading this book, you have to highlight &/or make marginal notations in order to fish out the nuggets, especially from chapters 3, 4, 5 & 6. This is because the author has artfully compressed the contents of this book to less than 100 pages, without sacrificing its intellectual intensity.

For readers' benefit, I append below the various chapters:

Chapter 1: Introduction;
Chapter 2: The Shock Waves & Driving Forces of Change;
Chapter 3: Characteristics of Winners;
Chapter 4: Winners in a World without Walls;
Chapter 5; Self-Directed Learning;
Chapter 6: Your Personal Portfolio;

Within each chapter, paragraphs under each sub-heading are crisp & succinct, with appropriate bullet-points. Hence, reading is a breeze!

Overall, this a good personal strategic planning book. It is thought-provoking too, as you have to think through - & look for your answers from - many of the future scenarios affecting both your life & your career.

To end this review, let me recap the author's opening remark in the Introduction: "How shall we view the future world of work? As victims or as adventurers? It's your decision!"


In the realm of books on personal strategic planning with a parallel to organisational strategic planning, there are only a handful of which I would consider worthwhile for reading pursuit.

George Morrisey's 'Creating Your Future: Personal Strategic Planning for Professionals' comes quickly to mind.

This is another good one, in addition to 'Tools for Mapping Your Future' by Harold Howard.

I reckon for the artistically-inclined, ‘The Personal Compass: A Visual Workbook for Exploring Your Future’ from the Grove Consultants International may be a more viable alternative.

This particular book is designed specifically as a do-it-yourself-guide/work-book, with just under 100 pages. Henceforth, it has more "how-to" features, when compared to Harold Howard's book.

However, from the standpoint of breadth & depth, this book cannot match George Morrisey's book. Also, the latter book is far more intellectually intense.

Nevertheless, this book's contents are more than adequate for its intents & purposes as outlined by the author. In fact, this book is an extension of the author's professional seminars across some forty countries.

What I like about this book is the addition of the DISC model & the graphical illustration of major concepts throughout the book, which therefore help to make reading - & pen or pencil work - a light breeze.

Overall, this is a good personal strategic planning book. It is thought-provoking too, as you have to think through - & look for your answers from - many of the future scenarios affecting both your life & your career.

If you want to discover who you are, where you want to go & how to get there, read this book!


"Water is fluid, soft, & yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid & cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, & yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong."

~ Lao-Tzu (c.604 - 531 B.C.);

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Have a look at the wrapper on a Coca-Cola 1.5 liter bottle and in the ingredients label you will find 'phosphoric acid' in it.

Minute quantities of ethylene glycol are also used (which is acknowledged in the soft drink world for making it really chill). This is popularly known as anti-freeze which prevents water from freezing at 0 deg C and instead drops it 4-5 degrees with minute quantities. This chemical is a known slow poison in the caliber of arsenic.

Guess what's the pH for soft drinks, e.g. Coke? PH 3.4! This acidity is strong enough to dissolve teeth and bones!

Our human body stops building bones at the age of about 30.

Softdrinks do not have any nutrition value (in terms of vitamins & minerals). It is high in sugar content, carbonic acid, chemicals i.e. colorings etc.

Some like to take cold soft drinks after each meal. Guess what's the impact?

Our body needs an optimum 37 Celsius for enzyme functioning. The food taken will not be digested. In fact it will be fermented! The fermented food produces gases, decays and becomes toxin, gets absorbed, circulates in blood and. Hence toxin is cumulated in other parts of the body, developing into various diseases.

You gulp down carbon dioxide, when nobody in the world would advise you to drink CO2.

Two months back, there was a competition at Delhi University "Who could drink the most Coke?" The winner drank 8 bottles and fainted on the spot-too much CO2 in the blood.

Thereafter, the principal banned all soft drinks from the college !

Someone put a broken tooth in 10 days it DISSOLVED! Can you believe it?

Teeth and bones are the only human parts that stay intact for years after death. Imagine what must be doing to your soft intestines and stomach lining!

[This intriguing information was relayed to me recently by one of my buddies in The Wednesday Club.]


First, we survived with mothers who had no maids. They cooked /cleaned while taking care of us at the same time.

They took aspirin, candy floss, fizzy drinks, shaved ice with syrups, and diabetes were rare. Salt added to Pepsi or Coke was remedy for fever.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets.

As children, we would ride with our parents on bicycles/ motorcycles for 2 or 3, with richer ones in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

Riding in the back of a private taxi was a special treat.

We drank water from the tap and NOT from a bottle.

We would spend hours on the fields under bright sunlight flying our kites, without worrying about the UV ray which never seem to affect us.

We go to nearby bushes to catch spiders without worries of Aedes mosquitoes.

With mere 5 marbles would be an endless game. With a ball, we boys would run like crazy for hours.

We catch guppy in drains / canals and when it rain we swim there.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually worry about being unhygienic.

We ate salty, very sweet & oily food, candies, bread and real butter and drank very sweet soft sweet coffee/ tea, ice kachang, but we weren't overweight because......


We would leave home in the morning and play all day, till streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours repairing our old bicycles and wooden scooters out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Play stations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, multiple channels on cable TV, DVD movies, no surround sound, no hand phones, no personal computers, no Internet. WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and we still continued the stunts.

We never have birthday parties till we are 21.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and just yelled for them!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

Yet this generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 40years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

And YOU are one of them!


[This interesting anecdote came from one of my buddies in The Wednesday Club.]


"Owning an old brain, you see, is rather like owning an old car. Careful driving & maintenance are everything."
(Prof. George Vaillant, author of 'Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life' based on the landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development. In this ground-breaking book, he posits that successful physical & emotional aging is most dependent on a lack of tobacco & alcohol abuse by subjects, an adaptive coping style, maintaining healthy weight with some exercise, & a sustained loving marital relationship. He also stresses the role of play & creative activity, benefits of forming new friendships & new social networks, & the importance of intellectual curiosity & lifelong learning. )


Let's see how well you can imagine.

Do as best as you can, with your eyes closed, to imagine:

1) your favourite book on shelf among other books;
2) yourself running across grass;
3) the taste of a freshly cut lemon;
4) the scent of a rose;
5) the sound of a galloping horse;
6) the feel of tree bark;
7) steam rising from a boiling kettle;
8) yourself lifting a really heavy suitcase;
9) yourself recovering in a hot scented bath after a strenuous exercise;
10) stepping out of your house into the street during a downpour;
11) the taste of chocolate fudge cake with whipped cream;
12) a beautiful sunset;
13) your living room at home;
14) being hit with a feather pillow;
15) sunbathing on a beach;
16) the taste of cold coca cola;
17) riding your bicycle into a strong wind;
18) the smell of coffee percolating;
19) the feel of wet clay between your fingers;
20) an aeroplane flying low overhead;


Depending how confident you feel about each completed task, award yourself from 0-5 points.

75-100: excellent all round visualisation;

40-74: visualise well & will improve with practice;

under 40: train yourself the power of imagination;


Survival & success depend on innovation. So, strategy has to be about:

1) Being alert to change - ANTICIPATION;

2) Seeing opportunities to offer something different & new - INSIGHT;

3) Dreaming up new ways of doing it - IMAGINATION;

4) Doing it consistently & to the highest standards - EXECUTION;

[Source: 'Making Sense of Strategy', by Tony Manning]


Here are some practical suggestions for dealing with elderhood & of course, aging:

1) adopt protirement or proactive approach, instead of waiting for retirement;

2) switch to a new phase of life & refocus;

3) initiate change & cope with it;

4) embrace positive aging;

5) drop your daily concerns about a job schedule;

6) reject any stereotyping of age;

7) take care of your body - it's never too late!

8) shore up your financial plan, then put your economic issues on the back burner;

9) get rid of life's clutter & busyness;

10) turn frenetic energy of mid-life into a more leisurely approach to the world around you;

11) accept death: it's inevitable, so stare it down &...

12) think five years ahead to stay future-oriented;

13) list all the things you have always wanted to do, & mark those that spark a passion;

14) friends will die; grieve them & replace them with new ones, including younger people for whom you can be mentor;

15) turn up the spirit as your body fades;

16) if religion is your highway, fine but inner spirit is the key!

[Source: 'The Joy of Old: A Guide to Successful Elderhood', by John Murphy & Frederic Hudson]


"This we know... the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to earth. All things are connected, like blood which connects one family. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life - he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

(Chief Seattle, 1854)


This is an excellent companion to Frederic Hudson's 'The Adult Years: Mastering the Art of Self Renewal' & 'Life Launch: A Passionate Guide to the Rest of Your Life'.

Frederic Hudson also happened to be the co-author of this interesting book.

I particularly liked the two authors' warm approach to sharing insightful observations & important lessons about elderhood.

Instead of the traditional approach to dealing with retirement, & of course, aging, they urged readers to think proactively. They coined the term: protirement.

Their meaningful & practical suggestions are phrased along this way.

For example (also my personal favourites):

- turn frenetic energy of mid life into a more leisurely approach to the world around you;

- accept death: it's inevitable, so stare it down & think five years ahead to stay future-oriented;

- friends will die; grieve them & replace them with new ones, including younger ones for whom you can be mentor;

Bravo to John & Frederic! Great Work!


In a nut shell, this is definitely a snappy guide to strategy formulation.

I reckon the 20 Strategy Questions are truly worth the entire price of this wonderful book.

The author's principal premise is that organisations are essentially managed strategic conversations. "Nourishing conversations is a vital key to organisational &/or business success", the author asserts.

With the 20 well-crafted Strategy Questions, you are ready to make quick, informed choices (also, to win votes & build capabilities) through strategic conversations encompassing all the critical issues affecting the running of a successful business.

The author comes with an impeccable record as an independent consultant in strategic change management. His writing style is clear & succinct.

His book has just 95 pages, but it packs all the punch you need for strategising in turbulent times.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


This is a reasonably good book to read by all engineers who hold (or are venturing into) management responsibilities.

I wish I have had this guide book when I was a mechanical engineer-manager throughout the 70's.

The author, a civil engineer by training, draws very clear distinctions between managing, leading & producing output. He even uses the three-legged stool as a metaphor to illustrate these distinctions.

My favourite chapter or lesson from the book is Lesson #52: Can you spare a paradigm? in which the author elaborates on the significance of paradigm pliancy in leadership growth.

Although the author provides a lot of follow-up checklists & reading resources for the reader/engineer to go through & explore further, I believe the book would have been much more valuable if he has taken the trouble to enumerate a few important things from those checklists/resources in each chapter.

Nevertheless, I have enjoyed perusing this book at a library even though I have more or less lost touch with my heydays of engineering.


Books on invention & technology always fascinate me. This is irrespective of whether they are written for adults or young people.

My personal library has quite a large of collection of both types.

I have picked up this particular one, after reading its Foreword, which somehow grasps my immediate attention:

"...The pages that follow offer brief life stories of twenty-seven persons whose inventions or discoveries have altered the environment to a marked degree...

Although, according to an ancient saying, necessity is the mother of invention, most of the stories in this book seem to support the often-expressed contention that the opposite is true - that invention is the mother of necessity...

A case in point is what happened in the wake of Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone in 1876. Today most of us find it hard to imagine life without Bell's ingenious gadget, but at least twenty years went by after its first appearance before very many people realise that they needed it...What moved bell to create the speaking telegraph, as the telephone was first called, was his desire as a teacher of the deaf to help his students...

New information first, then invention: thus has much of what we call progress come about...

If this book, dealing as it does with an array of highly different individuals, can be said to have a central theme, it is this: that discovery is the true begetter of most new products & new processes. It is as our knowledge of the universe grows that inventions multiply."

Well, I hardly see it that way & that piques my curiosity & I bought the book & added it to my personal library.

On the whole, & for me, the invention stories are spellbinding as the author's clear, lively narratives capture the wonder & excitement of invention & discovery.

Well-known inventors in the stories include Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edision, Robert Fulton, Eli Whitney, & the Wright Brothers.

Inventors who have influenced contemporary life are also included, like Carl Benz, builder of the first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine; Enrico Fermi, builder of the first atomic reactors; Robert Goddard, developer of the liquid-fuel rocket; & Jack St Claire Kilby & Robert Norton Noyce, inventors of the microchip.

To supplement the biographical sketches of inventors, the author has also provided a list of important dates in the history of invention & technology. With this list, I could locate the names of the other inventors in these fields.

If you share my personal interest in invention & discovery, this is a good book to read.


“Everything we read stimulates our mind to think, & what we think determines what we desire, & desires are the seedbed of our actions. Given this iron law of human nature – from reading to thinking, to desiring, to acting – we are shaping our destiny by the ideas we choose to have enter our minds through print.”

(Father John A Hardon, author of 'A Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan')


Here are some practical tips to keep your gray matter functioning well:

1) care personally about what you learn & apply it clearly in a new challenging lifestyle;

2) never retire your mind;

3) go back to school;

4) learn a game that you haven't mastered yet;

5) change your career at 50;

6) create a web site;

7) learn to speak a new language;

8) take up a musical instrument you have always wanted to play;

9) create those poems or paint those paintings;

10) travel;

11) compose;

12) invent;

13) teach others;

We should be seeking out & embracing new things or "driving into new seas of neural natation." Active, deliberate learning appears to challenge our neural system & brain if it is exciting enough, & enjoyable enough, to regularly & continually keep us motivated & engaged.

[Source: 'Saving Your Brain: The Revolutionary Plan to Boost Brain Power', by Jeff Victoroff.]


Here are some critical questions to ask yourself if you really want to turn your exciting technical innovations into compelling business propositions:

1) What's your idea?

2) What's the problem?

3) Where does your idea fit?

4) Who's your customer?

5) What's your path to market?

6) What's your business model?

7) What's your competitive edge?

8) Who's on your team?

9) What's your story?

10) Now what?

[Source: 'So What? Who Cares? Why You? The Inventor's Commercialisation Toolkit', by Wendy Kennedy. According to a 1997 study by Greg Stevens & James Burley, Industrial Research Institute, for every 3,000 raw technical & scientific ideas, only one will become a commercial success.]


1) What would make my business a greater success than I could possibly imagined?

2) What would destroy my venture?

3) What could possibly take place to change my business fundamentally?

Monday, October 8, 2007


What is a paradigm?

It's a perspective on the world or within a specific discipline;

It tells us what is important & how the world works;

It determines our beliefs & values;

It colours our perceptions of what is happening & how we respond to reality;

It determines what problems we choose to address & how to address them;

The fact: Everyone is encapsulated by a prevailing paradigm!

A paradigm is a framework or model that helps to interpret 7 deal with reality;

It serves as a perceptual map or mental model;

A paradigm is really a belief system to explain how things work;

It provides a schema to interpret the past & present as well as what occurs in the future;

It's so strong that it influences our choices;

A paradigm can:

- lead to rigidity in thought;
- screen out innovative ideas;
- filter facts;
- restrict people's perceptions & response to reality;

In the book, 'Discovering the Business of Paradigms', futurist Joel Arthur Barker defines a paradigm:

as a set of rules & regulations (written o unwritten) that does two things:

1) it establishes or defines boundaries;

2) it tells you how to behave inside the boundaries in order to be successful;

He explains how paradigms help us make order out of the world as we screen & filter information; & also how they limit our perspectives;

He suggests that it is important for organisational members to become aware of their paradigms as a first step in being more open to new perspectives;

Overcoming Paradigm Paralysis:

1) recognise that paradigms are common;

2) realise that paradigms can be useful in helping to locate important problems & can provide you with a set of rules to begin solving them;

3) realise that paradigms can be detrimental by blocking you from new ideas or solutions;

4) Recognise present paradigms & be willing to go beyond them;

5) value & allow for differences as well as risk taking;

6) if you are attempting to introduce new paradigms, be committed & courageous;

7) realise that you can choose to change your own set of rules & regulations by altering your paradigms; be optimistic about the future & embrace new opportunities;

"We will never change people until we change what they know." - Joel Arthur Barker


Lucky people...

1) have a positive outlook on life, a can-do attitude;

2) position themselves to be exposed to luck;

3) have a different kind of perception of reality; an open mind but are also in touch with themselves;

4) are also proactive; they change before they have to; they know that they can change the future, but not the past;

5) practise (*);

6) practise (*);

7) practise (*);

(*) changing behaviours require that you rewire your brain for success & fortune; the only way in which you can assure change is by rehearsing;


Flexibility or adaptability refers to the ability to alter a course of action when new information becomes available.

Here are some practical suggestions to using mental flexibility as a powerful tool to fight senility:

1) exercise more spontaneity & avoid being entrenched in habitual routines;

2) anticipate problems or challenges & be ready to change course;

3) open to new ways of doing things;

4) devise alternative options or solutions;

5) interact constructively with people; seek help from others & ready to help others;

6) meet new people; make new friends; pursue an active social life;

7) initiate change; start small & continue to make progress;

In the end analysis, mental flexibility keeps our brain psychologically tuned up, just as physical exercises or flexibility keep our muscular-skeletal system physically tuned up, ready & able to perform whatever tasks come along.

Last. but not least, creativity is flexibility in essence!



"A belief is what you hold onto once you've stopped thinking & reached a conclusion."

"Faith is something you grasp onto when you have little or no evidence to support a belief."

[Source: Timothy Leary, 'Politics of Psycho-Pharmacology']


Leigh Branham, a widely recognized authority on employee engagement & best practices of organizations that continually boast exceptional retention, has identified the following push factors in employee resignations in his book, 'The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs & Act Before It's Too Late':

1) the job or workplace was not as expected;

2) the mismatch between job & person;

3) too little coaching & feedback;

4) too few growth & advancement opportunities;

5) feeling devalued & unrecognised;

6) stress from over-work & work/life imbalance;

7) loss of trust & confidence in senior management;


According to Mark Borup, the author of the ' 7 Habits of Highly Miserable People', these are the typical characteristics if you choose misery as an option in life:

1) make yourself the centre of the known universe;

2) concentrate on things you cannot control;

3) accumulate & covet nice stuff;

4) focus on fear;

5) discover the inner victim in you;

6) resent the unfairness;

7) avoid the present moment;

Interestingly, he uses Carl Jung's writings to define 'misery' as follows:

" tangible mood or depression at all, but just a general, dull discontent, a feeling of resistance to everything, a sort of boredom or vague disgust, an indefinable but excruciating emptiness."


I have been doing a different form of journaling for almost two decades. It suits my specific purpose as a self-directed learner.

However, instead of a daily journal, I use a scratchpad, which I had already described in an earlier post.

Recently, I have come across an interesting journaling process, called Directed Journaling, from Tania Baildon, a Life & Business Coach & Speaker. Her coaching specialties are life changes/growth & small business creation/promotion.

I am beginning to incorporate many of her ideas & approaches in my scratchpad routines.

According to her, the Directed Journaling she has created involves the following exercises:

Minimum 5

Goals and Dreams

Challenges and obstacles

Steps towards Goals

Accomplishments and Achievements
Minimum 5

One thing learned and one good idea
Minimum 1 ea.

Source for inspiration for the day
Minimum 1 for 10-15 minimum

The detailed description of each exercise is shown below:

Minimum 5

Gratitudes are all of the things we are grateful for on our lives. Often we get so involved in all of the things we don’t have that we don’t remember to look around us to see the great things already within our reach. In writing down at least five things I am grateful for every day, I remind myself what a wonderful life this really is. These are the things that help me get through my day, the reasons I work hard, the things and people that I love. Writing down my gratitudes gives me a sense of well-being and purpose. It has changed my life for the better.

Goals and Dreams

Goals and Dreams are the places we want to be and the changes we want to make in our lives. I will have a more complete goal setting exercise in another issue. For now think of 5 things you want to change or bring into your life. They can be small things or great changes. Anything from performing at an open mike at the local pub to achieving financial freedom. Make them something you really want to do or be, and something you are willing to work for. Now choose one or more of these to do something about this week and use it or them for the next part.

Challenges and obstacles

Challenges and obstacles are anything that stands between you and your goals. Sometimes the greatest part of a challenge is actually defining what the challenge really is. Often we worry about things that have little or no chance of occurring. Sometimes the challenge is simply acknowledging our feelings and moving through them anyway. Other times the first challenge is just figuring out where to start. If you have a goal of learning a new skill, a challenge might be not knowing where to learn it.

Steps Towards Goals

Now find three to five steps to move you towards one or more of our goals to do today. That’s right, today! (Or tomorrow if you choose to do your journaling at night.) These could be as small as finding out where and when the open mikes happen in your area to getting your resume up to date if you have decided to change jobs. If your goal was to learn a new skill then maybe you could go online or stop by your local community college or university and find out if they have classes that relate to what you would like to learn. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Large or small, start taking those steps in your own journey towards the things you really want to be doing in your life.

Accomplishments and Achievements
Minimum 5

One of the things we often forget is to acknowledge the things we have done. So many times we work hard for something, then set our sites on a new goal without really spending the time to appreciate the goal we have just achieved. This can make us depressed and make motivating ourselves difficult. After all, what good is working hard to reach a goal if all it means is more work towards another goal further out? So celebrate your accomplishments, large and small. Did you make that call yesterday to find out about those classes you wanted to take? Good for you! Give yourself a pat on the back. Got that promotion you have been working so hard for? That requires a real celebration! So take the time to reflect every day on your progress. Sometimes we have no idea how far we have come until we look back at the path we have walked, one step at a time.

If you are just starting these exercises or can’t think of five things you did yesterday (or today), think about some of your accomplishments of the past. Relive a time when you felt great about yourself or reached a goal you really had to work for. These can help motivate you towards the goals you set today.

One Thing Learned
Minimum 1

Write down one thing you learned today, from a book, at work, from listening to tapes in your car, from a loved one at home. Everyone should learn at least one thing worth writing down every day. I think most of us do, but then we forget them again. Take one thing from your day that you don’t want to lose and write it down. If you can’t think of something from today or yesterday, write down one thing you remember being a bib “Ah ha!” when you did learn it.

One Good Idea
Minimum 1

This can be something you got from someone else or a great idea of your own. If the idea is someone else’s, write why it is important and what it means to you. If it is your own idea, spend a little time to play with it. Can you think of a way to use this idea today? Is it something that could make your work a little easier or your home life a little better? Is it something you can do right now, or is it an idea that changes how you see things? Is there someone you think might also benefit from this idea?

Source for inspiration for the day
Minimum 1 for 10-15 minimum

Write down one book you will read or tape you will listen to that you feel will be a source of inspiration for your day, something to lift you above the daily grind for a few minutes and take you to a place where you feel you can be anything you wish to be. Try to carry that feeling all day long. 10-15 minutes of inspiration each morning can change your life. Try it.

Thanks, Tania, for your great work!

[The original article, entitled 'A Journal is the Chronicle of the Paths Your Thoughts Take', by Tania Baildon, can be found here.]

Oldie but Goldie Songs

My buddy from The Wednesday Club has recently sent me a fantastic website, where I can access all the Oldie but Goldie Songs. It's called the Playa Cofi Jukebox.

Interestingly, & of all places, it operates out of a beautiful beach & tropical glen on the small Caribbean Island of Vieques. It's located between the US Virgin Islands & the "Big Island" of Puerto Rico

The Playa Cofi Jukebox features the best of the top 100 hits from the golden years of popular music from 1950 to 1984.

Just select & click on a year, the play list will appear. You can then close the url & go back to work or sleep. It will play in the background. Fantastic!


1. Having a burning desire;

2. Believing in yourself;

3. Writing down your goals on paper;


5. Asking yourself: Why do I want this goal?

6. Analysing your current position;

7. Setting a deadline for attainment of your goals;

8. Identifying the knowledge you need;

9. Creating a personal resource list;

10. Identifying all the potential obstacles & problems, as well as their resolutions;

11. Making a written plan of action;

12. Affirming & visualising your success;

13. Hanging there!


I had bought - & perused - this book about five or six years ago. I have found it on my bookshelf recently while sorting out my personal library.

Despite its new agey connotations, I find this book to be interesting as well as practical for its intents & purposes.

The author tells how to engage your intuition or inner knowing to guide you in conceiving & achieving your dreams.

'Conceiving' takes artful imagination & intuitive processing on your part, while 'achieving' requires systematic planning & disciplined execution on your part.

Without both working synergistically, you will often find that goal setting becomes an inner battle against imposing demands all the time.

This book has less than 100 pages, with twelve short chapters. Within each chapter, the paragraphs under each sub-heading are generally crisp & succinct. Hence, reading the book is a breeze!

I would have expected the author to include some form of goal setting sheets in the book. These would help the reader to integrate his/her intuitive wisdom with a pragmatic approach to goal setting. This would have made the book particularly more palatable to those readers who are more logically oriented.

I would like to add that the author is a mainstream psychologist/counsellor with obviously a new age slant.

However, she has written many good books & I own many of them, including 'The Way of the Ronin', 'Maverick as Master in the Workplace' (my first book/audio from the author), 'Overcoming Job Burnout', 'Preventing Job Burnout', 'Beating Job Burnout', 'Finding a Path with A Heart', 'From Conflict to Cooperation', 'Turning Around' & 'Brain Boosters'.

On the whole, this book is definitely worth exploring. My final advice to readers: please read it with an open mind!


‘Since changes are going on anyway, the great thing is to learn enough about them so that we will be able to lay hold of them & turn them in the direction of our desires. Conditions & events are neither to be fled from nor passively acquiesced in; they are to be utilized & directed.’

(John Dewey)

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Today's Sunday Times has a feature article about a surprising study, by the Chicago's Rush University Medical Centre, on elderly people.

It suggests that those who see themselves as self disciplined, organised achievers have a lower risk for developing Alzheimer's. (A previous study by the Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health has found a similar connection between conscientiousness & better health.)

Unfortunately, the study is based on a sampling of Catholic priests, nuns & brothers.

Nevertheless, I still concur that having self discipline & energy, & doing the healthy things, should be an active part of a senior citizen's daily habits.


I have extracted the following useful notes from a blog written by Doug Groothuis of 'The Constructive Curmudgeon'. He is a philosopher, professor, preacher & writer.

For me, I reckon the following twelve principles from Doug readily serve to make reading the way of a good life.

1. Read often, giving adequate time for the nature of the work.

2. Stop watching TV (if you do). It tends to rot the mind.

3. Mark up your books, underlining key ideas & jotting ideas in the margins. If the book is especially profound, take detailed notes on it.

4. Try to use the ideas from good books in letters, essays, teachings, & conversations. Form a book club. Keep the ideas alive.

5. Reread important books. This is a mark of the literary person.

6. Never get rid of a book you have read.

7. Read & reread old books. Don't be taken captive by fashion. Savor the classics.

8. Ask smart people what their favorite books are & why. Then read them.

9. Read in silence. Carve out a private place if need be.

10. Always look up & learn unfamiliar words you find in your reading.

11. Spend time in books stores, new & old. Get a sense & feel for what is out there.

12. When in doubt, buy a book.

Thanks, Doug!


Who am I when no one else is around?


"It is only when you can honour & love yourself first, that a relationship can be a truly loving one & not based on need, dependency, fear or insecurities. You can’t love another unless you love yourself first. It you truly put yourself first in love, nurture yourself, honour what you want, & make your happiness the number one priority, you are better equipped to love others to the degree we love ourselves."
(Jennifer Hautman, Option Method Network)


This is essentially New Age Music, but with a difference: the music is very relaxing & at the same time, very energising!

[I am aware that a lot of people have negative connotations about New Age music. In reality, New Age music is simply electronically synthesised music. Because of its amplitude, the music has much more subtle variations, thus making it much more relaxing &/or energising to listen to.]

It's actually part of a collection of 3, known as the HeartMath Collection (the other two are 'Quiet Joy' & 'Speed of Balance'), produced by HeartMath, a research outfit that is at the cutting edge of peak performance technologies.

Their clinical research work is often cited in journals such as the Harvard Business Review, Journal of Innovative Management, The American Journal of Cardiology, Stress Medicine, and Journal of Advancement in Medicine. They have apparently earned global recognition for their unique research-based techniques & proprietary technology to transform the stress of change & uncertainty, & bring coherence & renewed energy to the workplace, & at home.

To really appreciate the music in the HeartMath Collection, I would suggest readers to read their publications first (& also personally experience the suggested stress-reduction exercises first hand!):

- 'Freeze Frame: One Minute Stress Management', by Doc Lew Childre;
- 'The HeartMath Solution: The Revolutionary Program for Engaging the Power of the Heart's Intelligence', by Doc Lew Chidre;

I have used the HeartMath Collection regularly in the office, in the car & at home, ever since I bought it in the mid-90's.

There are only four types of music CDs in my personal collection. They are:

- 'Relax with the Classics', the whole collection from the Lind Institute;
- The HeartMath Collection;
- The Hemi-Sync Music Collection, from the Monroe Institute;
- Steven Halpern's 'Inner Peace Music', also the whole collection;


I am quite disappointed with this book. First of all, I think the title ‘Biz Dev’ is a misnomer. I reckon, to the author, 'Biz Dev' is an eye catcher, and his book caught my eye while browsing it in a book store.

The book is more a ragtag collection of the author’s generalised statements about building strategic relationships in our networked economy. He has artfully put his generalised statements into a 9-step process, each of which is appropriately packed with bullet points, for easy reading, across the many pages of the book.

Unfortunately, the author did not give specific and detailed information about ‘how to go about it’ of building the relationships.

He talks a lot about ‘continual dealing with the future’, ‘embracing chaos’, ‘speed’ and ‘pro-active partner - and customer – orientations’ but he skips the prescriptive guidelines. If he has put in more personal time and efforts in building his case and then writing it here, I think the book would be a better read.

He outlines a lot of business cases to substantiate some of his generalised statements, and at the end each chapter, he also packs with a lot of website resources. In a way, he expects readers to do a lot of home work, in order to read his book.

In fairness to the author, his book may be worth exploring for readers who are just beginners.

For serious readers into business development, I believe Peter Skat-Rordam’s 'Changing Strategic Direction: Practical Insights into Opportunity Drive Business Development' would be an excellent choice.

In my personal view, one of the excellent books to explore about building strategic relationships is 'Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships - The Future of Professional Services' by Ross Dawson.

Both books are my personal favourites.