Saturday, September 27, 2008


Here's a link to an interesting article, 'Are You Resilient?', by Rachele Kanigel, from which you can access ten tips to building your resiliency, adapted from the book, 'The Adversity Quotient @Work' by Paul Stoltz.

I fully concur with the author that resiliency - the ability to adapt to life's changes & crises - is the key to a healthy, productive life.

I reckon the following apt quotation from General George Patton sums up best my sentiment about resiliency:

"I don't measure a man's success by how high he climbs, but how high he bounces when he hits bottom."


With an ostentatious wink toward Albert Einstein, Dr Gene Cohen, Director of the Centre on Aging at George Washington University, has postulated the following fun equation:

c = me2

which represents his concept of life-long creativity.

According to him, it means life-long creativity is the end result of the total mass of one's life experiences x the interaction of inner experiences (which may be manifested privately, with the small "c") & outer experiences (which may be manifested publicly, with the big "C").

His point is that creativity, which he stresses is "not just for geniuses", holds great potential for everyone at every age, from cradle to grave, so to speak.

Writing in his two books namely, 'The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life' & 'The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain', Dr Cohen urges all of us, especially all those who are now gradually moving pass mid-life & entering the senior years, to take stock & advantage of our lifetime inventory of knowledge, "hard knocks" & experiences, plus the emotional mellowing with our advancing years, so as to create ample opportunities for creativity to blossom:

He argues that older brains may process information differently from younger brains, but that doesn't mean that older brains are inferior, performance-wise.

As long as we are prepared to learn new things & are willing to experiment with new ideas, our mature brains are actually better than younger brains at many types of intellectual tasks, he emphasises.

I certainly like his wonderful concept of developmental intelligence.

In fact, he points out that there are four phases of psychological development in our mature life cycle:

- midlife re-evaluation phase, "a time of exploration & transition";

- liberation phase, a desire to experiment; [That's a nice renewed term for retirement.]

- the summing-up phase of "recapitulation, resolution, & review"; &

- "encore" phase, the desire to keep going;

He also highlights the importance of having a positive outlook, maintaining a good sense of well-being, coupled with satisfying relationships, building social networks, seeking intellectual growth, capitalising on our innate creativity & making contributions to the community at large.

In the end analysis, & the way I see it, it is our creative juices & everyday ingenuity that will continue to enrich our lives as we step deep into our twilight years.

That's to say, our creativity has a dynamic relationship to our longevity.

I reckon, the ultimate test for all of us will be our conscientious efforts to identify, develop & then get involved in a broad variety of physical, intellectual, emotional & spiritual activities that will stimulate & enliven the mind, body & spirit from all different directions.


While researching into what actually constitutes "spiritual hardiness" [a term I have picked up from the synopsis of Marsha Sinetar's book, 'Don't Call Me Old, I'm Just Awakening' - she considers it as a critical component of healthy aging;] on the net, my Copernic Agent Pro has brought me to this interesting but belated article, entitled 'Building Psychological Muscle: 7 Steps to Becoming More Resilient'.

According to the article, any person who dedicates himself to the task of tackling a problem or challenge can develop this brand of psychological & spiritual hardiness by utilizing the seven steps.

For your quick overview, I have extracted the gist of the article as follows:

1) Remember the Great Spirit may work in mysterious ways, but He does work!

2. Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future;

3. Think & behave like triumphant survivors;

4. Let friends or partners provide a buffer zone against stress;

5. Feel the fear but move ahead anyway;

6. Repeat this important sentence frequently: "I can travel new roads.";

7. Help someone else, in spite of your own trials & troubles;

Here's the link to the article.

For me, it seems that, to truly understand healthy aging, one must also seriously consider the spirituality of aging & its emotional aspects, on top of physical exercise, nutrition, vitamins & herbs, & stress reduction activities.

In a nut shell, "spiritual hardiness" involves the whole person - physically, emotionally & spiritually.

On the other hand, I think Dr Salvatore Maddi of the Hardiness Institute describes the concept best as follows:

Psychologically (& spiritually) hardy people have better attitudes & empowering beliefs in dealing with the turmoil of change, organisationally & personally.

- They are high in self esteem; they think of themselves & the world as worthwhile partners in the pursuit of relentless growth;

- They believe that they can influence events around them;

- They regard change, even when it is painful, as an opportunity to learn & grow;

Best of all, psychological & spiritual hardiness can be taught & learned at any time in life.


What will make me happy?


Yesterday morning, my gym buddy & I came together again to have one of our usual tea-break indulgences in my neighbourhood coffee-shop.

Our casual conversation somehow centred on man's constant need to seek novel experiences in life.

We then touched on the newspaper report about the over-ninety-year-old guy wanting to divorce his third wife who was already in her early seventies. That guy still looked really good in the photo.

I could not recall the exact details of the reported court case, but we were certainly impressed by the man's zest for life as perceived by us.

What is his compelling driving force?

Moral issues &/or gentleman ethics aside. That old guy must have something meaningful &/or purposeful to look forward to in order to keep himself going.

Correspondingly, I strongly feel that each & every one of us must also have something meaningful &/or purposeful to get up for in the morning everyday in order to keep ourselves going as we age. This is the only way to fight the aging factor.

There are five very important factors to be considered too as I think about this issue. They come from Dr Paul Nussbaum, an internationally recognised expert on brain health & wellness:

1) Socialisation;
2) Physical Activities;
3) Mental Stimulation;
4) Nutrition;
5) Spirituality;

I have talked about them in earlier posts.

A healthy brain & a strong body, plus a zestful spirit, form a dynamic combination.


1) be a role model, not a victim;

2) know yourself;

3) strive for balance;

4) know how to deal with ambiguity;

5) get out of your comfort zone;

6) understand how to steadily raise the bar;

7) pursue lifelong learning;

8) be a good communicator;

9) practise situational leadership;

10) acknowledge mistakes & correct them quickly;

I have extracted the above "10 personal attributes to strive for" from the wonderful book, 'Profit from Experience: The National Semiconductor Story of Transformation Management', by Dr Gil Amelio. I had read it during the mid-'90s.

Just imagine that, I had read the book more than ten years ago, & yet the stuff is still very relevant today.

I just can't help recalling that memorable line from a recent episode in the JAG series on StarHub cable television, during which an old retired Navy SEAL operative, played by one of my favourite actors from the sixties, Ernest Borgnine ('McHale's Navy', remember?), got entangled with the JAG team in the course of an assassination attempt investigation:

"Old heroes never die; they just become the stuff of legends."

Well, analogy or juxtaposition aside, the foregoing stuff with regard to personal attributes to strive for still applies in the 21st century.

By the way, here's the link to my review of the book on Amazon.


"It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong than to be always right by having no ideas at all."

~ Edward de bono, the progenitor of lateral thinking techniques;


The word is "Discretion".


Only one other word can be made from all the letters in the word "directions." Can you figure out what it is?

If you are still wondering, the answer is given in the Next Post.

[Source: 'The Mensa Think Smart Book', by Dr Abbie Salny.]

Friday, September 26, 2008


Am I ahead of the world or am I falling behind?

How can I profit from today's rapid changes?


The origin of the following poignant story is unknown, & I strongly believe that it has been retold several times as I have found it on the net recently.

The Prologue: The Hospital Room

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service,where they had been on vacation. And every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake.

Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn't hear the band he could see it in his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days and weeks passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window.

The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the world outside.

Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it for himself. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, "Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you."

The Epilogue:

There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.

If you want to be rich & happy, just count all of the things you have that money can't buy.

[I have lifted off this meaningful story from the weblog of visual artist Juan Camilo Ulloa, originally from Bogota, Columbia.]


I have learned from one of the Inventor's Newsletters about the wonderful blue & yellow can of WD-40 sitting in my kitchen cabinet.

Most people will definitely agree with me that there are literally hundreds of household uses for WD-40, including:

- removing crayon marks, adhesive residues, silly putty from your walls, & stains from your carpet;
- cleaning grease splatters off your kitchen stovetop; &
- best of all, getting rid of that noise from squeaky doors;

The exact ingredients in WD-40 are a secret, but WD-40 is a petroleum-based product. It cleans, protects, penetrates, lubricates, displaces moisture from tools & other items.

Interestingly, & that is what catches my immediate attention, WD-40 was developed by three founders of the Rocket Chemical Company of San Diego, California more than 50 years ago.

The chemist among them, Norm Larsen, was attempting to concoct a formula to prevent corrosion in the aerospace industry, a task which is done by displacing water.

It stands for the company's 40th attempt - hence, the name 'Water Displacement' or WD-40 - to finally attain the correct chemical formula for eventual commercialisation.

That's to say, the company has failed through 39 attempts before they hit the jackpot.

[In 1969, the Rocket Chemical Company was renamed after its only product WD-40.]

For me, it is analogous to Thomas Edison's reportedly 9,999 attempts to create his incandescent bulb.

In fact, he was very philosophical about the whole affair, because he had attained subsequently a wide repertoire of 9,999 ways of knowing how things would not work.

Otherwise, all of us would still be burning probably pretty large candles every night in the 21st century.

So, to conclude this post, here are the lessons to take away:

- creative companies (as well as creative people) don't succeed at higher rates - they just try more things;

- prototype a lot, fail a lot & fail fast;

- fail often to succeed sooner;

- according to Thomas Edison, our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time;

By the way, I like to leave behind this favourite quotation of mine from planet Earth's friendly genius, R Buckminster Fuller as food for thought:

"There is no such thing as a failed experiment; only experiments with unexpected outcomes."


"Creativity is a consequence of sheer productivity. If a creator wants to increase the production of hits, he or
she must do so by risking a parallel increase in the production of misses. The most successful creators tend to be those with the most failures."

~ Prof Dean Keith Simonton, American psychologist with substantial contributions - over 300 books & papers - to the study of human intelligence; for me, his book, 'Genius, Creativity & Leadership' is the most impressive;

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Today's Straits Times has captured the recent dialogue at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, during which MM Lee Kuan Lee was hailed as Asia's leading strategic thinker.

The following points are my truncated snippets of the reported dialogue, among other critical issues of global scope, during which MM Lee was also asked about his thinking of the current financial meltdown:

- boom & bust exist in the nature of a free market economy, & the current financial crisis is not the end of the world;

- there is no "clean solution" to the problem;

- don't know how long it will take;

- this mother of all bailouts (the US Government is reportedly writing a cheque of US$700 billion to Wall Street) is unlikely to prevent a crash from happening again . . . from time to time, you are going to get this kind of a problem;

- blame it on the derivative mania (AIG is a case in point); it cannot be tamed, because human nature, creed & fear will always be there;

- what's important in such a meltdown is to restore confidence, but that won't avert a future meltdown;

From the way I read the stuff, I reckon for ordinary folks like you & me, we are obviously caught between the devil & the deep blue sea . . .

In Singapore, judging from newspaper reports & coffee-shop chit-chats, many bank depositors & insurance clients are already facing the deep heat!


I have learned through many hard knocks - plus, sage advice from the gurus - that everyday events, occurrences or happenings in our worldly environment can be a learning opportunity.

All we need to do is to keep our EYES WIDE OPEN!

The rest is what we do with it.

For example, as I was travelling on the MRT this afternoon, my eye balls instinctively went into "scanning the horizon" mode. I spotted an infomercial ad from Aberdeen, just above the train door.

The caption read: "Investment Wisdom for Volatile Times #6: Be humble. The stock market is smarter than you."

A web address was given for interested readers to get hold of a brochure.

A short while upon reaching home, I went into the Aberdeen website to read the remaining good stuff.

Really good & sensible stuff for beginner investors.

Here's the link.

In several earlier posts, I have talked a lot about the 'Invisible University', originally postulated by learning guru Ronald Gross, who wrote the classics, 'The Lifelong Learner' & 'Peak Learning'.

What I am demonstrating to readers is actually a small example of attending the 'Invisible University'.


Do I have enough?

Do I really need more money, power, prestige or stuff?

~ inspired by Stanford Engineering School professor Robert Sutton, writing in his weblog; he is the author of several books on "taking unorthodox actions", among which, 'Weird Ideas That Work: How to Build a Creative Company' is the only one I have read;


All I know is that the 'F1 Singtel Grand Prix 2008' is going to ignite the whole Marina Bay area, comprising the Esplanade & the Padang, from the evening of 26th to 28th September 2008.

[Please refer to the appended map.]

In the first place, I am not a F1 car racing fan, although I know quite a lot of stuff about British ace Sir Stirling Moss & German ace Michael Scumacher.

My only "connection" to F1 is probably my personal ownership of a black Ferrari cap & a red Ferrari vest, with both bearing the famous Ferrari insignia, which I had bought in Italy during my last trip.

As an occasional motorist & now frequent bus commuter, I find the mega event a bit of an annoyance for I need to reroute whenever I happen to be in or around the area recently.

On the other hand as a Singaporean, I am naturally proud that Singapore is now the Asian host & venue to the mega event with a twist: night racing for the first time.

Come to think of it, I recall sweet memories of watching action movies about car racing while I was a teenager.

James Garner in 'Grand Prix' (with Toshiro Mifune from Japan) & Paul Newman in 'Winning' during the sixties, Steve McQueen in 'Le Mans' during the seventies, Burt Reynolds in 'Stroker Ace' during the eighties, & Sylvester Stallone in 'Driven' during the nineties, come quickly to my mind.

In the last movie, I remember watching the heart-pulsating duel between a Porsche & a Ferrari, & that alone was already worth the price of the ticket.

However, in recent weeks, I have watched 'The Fast & The Furious' (with Paul Walker & Vin Diesel), '2 Fast 2 Furious' as well as 'The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift' several times on StarHub cable television. These were part of the underworld subculture of souped-up street racers.

On hindsight, I reckon I just have nothing better to do, & fortunately, the movies were entertaining & thrilling to rewatch.

From the standpoint of learning, creativity to be precise, I just can't help bringing up the following quote, with a brief mention of car racing, from creativity guru Roger von oech:

"I've found that the hallmark of creative people is their mental flexibility. Like race car drivers, who shift in & out of different gears depending on where they are going on the course, creative people are able to shift in & out of different types of thinking, depending on the the needs of the situation."

The other day, as I was researching about Dr Carol Dweck & her work on mindsets, I have stumbled upon the following news:

According to Ross Bentley, a world-renowned car racing coach based in Seattle, there is a correlation between the mindsets of race car drivers & their speed performance on the racing tracks.

As he focuses on teaching mental competitiveness, Bentley said that champion race car drivers own the growth mindset.

Bentley is thrilled to learn that Dweck's research has confirmed his personal approach to coaching.

The last I heard is that they are now working together on a research project to develop the growth mindset in race car drivers.

Back to the Singapore scene:

News Editor Carl Skadian, writing in the Commentaries page of today's Straits Times, bemoaned Singaporeans' apparent "disinterest" in the F1, especially the heartlanders as compared to the city folks.

Unlike the World Cup, I reckon the heartlanders are more realistic with regard to WIIIFM (what's in it for me?).

From the way I look at it, their sentiment is best captured by the Punchlines cartoon on the same page of the Straits Times:

"F1? Is that the key between ESC & F2 on the keyboard?"

from a local guy when interviewed by a TV reporter.


Here's a link to a great visual representation (by Nigel Holmes) of the concept of 'Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset' as originally postulated by psychologist Dr Carol Dweck. I have mentioned earlier about her research findings.

Dr. Dweck distinguishes between the two mindsets:

Fixed Mindset:

We believe our qualities are carved in stone. We feel a need to prove our-self over & over.

Overall, we see intelligence as static which leads to a desire to look smart & a tendency to avoid challenges, we give up easily, we see effort as a waste of time, we ignore negative feedback and we feel threatened by the success of others.

Growth Mindset:

We believe our basic qualities are things that can be cultivated through our efforts. We believe we can change & grow through effort, application & experience.

Overall intelligence is seen as something that we can develop which leads to embracing challenges, persistence in the face of setbacks, effort as the path to mastery, & willingness to learn from criticism & find lessons & inspiration in the success of others.


"Innovation is not simply a matter of thinking differently - it's a matter of managing differently. In fact, the thinking part is easy. It's the change in how we manage that's difficult . . ."

~ Jeffrey Phillips, innovation consultant, writing in his weblog; he is also the author of 'Make Us More Innovative: Critical Factors for Innovation Success';

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


The latest candid comments from action movie star Jet Li (currently in Singapore as a guest of the Global CEO Conference), as reported in today's issue of the Straits Times, certainly wake me up.

He obviously has a refreshing perspective about the Y generation when he said:

"Everyone worries about the rebellious younger generation & how they never listen to their parents. I don't. If youngsters are not allowed to have their own thinking, they will just be followers. It is precisely because of their rebellion that we get new energy, & new ideas, & new developments that will improve the human race."

I reckon it all boils down to context.

Frankly, I find the young people of today or the Y Generation rather fascinating, because they are radically different from my generation.

In spite of their nonchalant attitude & quirky behaviours, I really envy them because there are so much wonderful opportunities going on for them in the world out there.

Just take a quick look at Facebook, YouTube, pod casts, hand phone gizmos, instant messaging, social networking, & all that jazz.


This post is actually a retrospective journey back in time, to the day when I had stepped foot naively into the corporate world, where I had eventually spent twenty-four years of my prime.

In a way, looking retroactively, it was more of a personal journey of learning & growth.

In those ensuing years, & judging from a career standpoint, I reckon I have had a pretty good time. More specifically, I have had great bosses to guide me, as well as some difficult ones to wrestle with in some respects.

I can't say my almost quarter-century career path had been a roller coaster ride, although I certainly have had my fair share of learning experiences.

So, it is with gratitude & fondness to all my bosses of the past that I am embarking on writing this post, with the view of drawing out some valuable lessons to share with readers.

My first boss was Mr Hans Rey, Managing Director of the Singapore Representative Office of Buhler Brothers Engineering Works, from Uzwil, Switzerland. The office was then located at the former Diethelm & Co. aluminium factory on Alexandra Road.

That was the late sixties, roughly between mid-'67 & mid-'69, since I had spent two solid years with them. I was then employed as a mechanical draftsman.

Mr Rey was naturally a Swiss, relatively tall, with a tanned but debonair disposition.

I can always imagine him vividly as the guy with the cheeky grin on his face, almost looking like Paul Anka in the greying years, but not so balding.

I found him to be rather open-minded & pragmatic, since he had recruited me, knowing very well that I did not have any industrial working experience.

All I had was my previous academic/practical track record from the Technical Institute in Kuala Lumpur, plus my first full-year results at the Singapore Polytechnic. Fortunately, I also had a strong recommendation letter from Mr Nagalingam, my Polytechnic lecturer in technical design & drafting.

What impressed me most was that Mr Rey was willing to allow me to take off one day a week with pay to attend my subsequent day-release classes in the Singapore Polytechnic.

My two full years at Buhler Brothers were great, at least from the learning standpoint. As it was my first job, I was naturally very eager to learn new things & take up challenges.

I had three other drafting colleagues. Together, we reported to Chief Draftsman Mr Thomsen, also a Swiss. He in turn has two other Swiss colleagues, Mr Sackman & Mr Haelen, who called themselves Project Managers.

From day one, I was already assigned to serious design & drafting jobs from big clients, Prima Flour Mills & Sin Heng Chan Feedmills.

From the standpoint of design & drafting, I had moved from penciled drawings to inked drawings, which were a different ball game, as the latter required meticulous planning & instrument preparation.

Even the design & drawing boards were far more sophisticated than those I had been exposed to in the technical institute &/or polytechnic.

Working with Swiss nationals was a real eye opener for me, at least from a cultural standpoint.

It was my first professional contact with Europeans, even though I was brought up in an English missionary school in Yong Peng, Johor.

Of course, at that time I already knew Switzerland as a country famed for its elegant time-pieces, beautifully crafted cuckoo clocks & delicious white-milk chocolate.

What I didn't know was that the country was a manufacturer of precision production machines.

Buhler Brothers was then considered the #1 [Miag from West Germany was then #2] in the field of machines for flour & feed mills.

Working under Swiss professionals also happened to be great learning experience for me.

They were always hard-working, very punctual in coming to work or meeting clients, very serious in their communications & precise in their instructions (i.e. no cock & bull stories!), follow the rules (to the tilt!), & last but not least, very neat & organised in their work ethic.

As a result, my drafting colleagues & I often had to make sure that all our project assignment schedules were completed on time to meet the bosses' expectations.

Also, surprisingly, the Swiss bosses were quite reserved & private, & as such they didn't mix around with the locals.

I have visited Switzerland, a land-locked mountainous country, several times subsequently.

I recall that their train, bus & airline schedules always seemed to run on time, almost like clock-work.

The streets were clean. In fact, every where - train or bus stations, restaurants, pub & shopping malls - was squeaky clean.

I was reminded by my tour guide that I would find Swiss people eating chocolate with wrappers still in their hands, until they could find a dustbin. In Singapore, the wrappers will be thrown everywhere on the floor.

To my chagrin, I noted that, during short stays in the country, the Swiss people were obviously sticklers to rules.

I remember that my tour guide had warned members of the tour group to avoid using the bathrooms or toilets after 10pm at night, because the flushing was likely to create annoyance to the neighbours!

Come to think of it, I reckon the Swiss penchant for rules probably has to do with its long & strong tradition of political & military neutrality, as well as its strict laws & regulations supporting discretion & the respect of privacy.

As a whole, from my personal & professional interactions with my previous bosses, & from my many visits to the beautiful country, I find Swiss people generally hospitable & understanding.

To all my subsequent bosses, office colleagues, business associates & social buddies, I am well known as a stickler to punctuality.

Has my initial work experience with the Swiss rubbed off on to my personality? I really don't know.

At this juncture, I like to relate an interesting anecdote to illustrate a point.

Last year, my wife & I organised a holiday trip from Singapore to Vietnam for members of my Wednesday Club, which I have already covered in quite detail under several earlier posts [under Adventures in Vietnam 2007]. A total of 7 couples, including my wife & myself.

Among the group, there was a nice lady, wife of one of my club buddies, who had the unsavoury reputation for being perpetually late for all kinds of appointments, formal as well as informal.

Throughout the seven days in Vietnam, to my amazement & also to the group, she was really punctual to the dot.

I reckon somebody must have warned her, since I also have the natural propensity to tell people off in their faces, especially when they cross my path from the wrong side.

[to be continued in the Next Post]


Ever since reading 'Winning the Innovation Game' & also listening to the audio compilation, 'Innovative Secrets of Success', at the tail end of the eighties or so, I have always been impressed by the work of innovation strategist Robert Tucker.

In fact, I even had a brief fax correspondence with the author during the early nineties, during which he had generously offered me some additional valuable information.

I had also read his subsequent book, 'Managing the Future: 10 Driving Forces of Change', & its audio version, 'How to Profit from Today's Rapid Changes', as well as many of his other interesting articles in magazines, newsletters or on the web since then.

For me, after a perusal, 'Driving Growth through Innovation' seems more like an intellectual expansion of his earlier work, 'Winning the Innovation Game', with substantial refinement of the stuff he has spent the last twenty years in studying, researching & consulting.

From my personal perspective, 'Winning the Innovation Game' was a broad-brush of his findings from some 50 innovative companies during the early years.

In contrast, 'Driving Growth through Innovation' is a more in-depth analysis of the success factors of what he has designated as the 23 Innovation Vanguard companies. BMW is one of them.

What I like about the book so fondly is his artful blending & skillful machinations on how to master innovation as a "disciplined, systematic & repeatable process" in an organisation.

I certainly like his expressed belief in the Introduction, that "you'll grow as an individual in the process of mastering innovation".
That's to say, what applies in an organisational setting also works well in the personal setting, as far as the pursuit of innovation is concerned.

The author writes very eloquently & succinctly. The book is spiced with provoking questions & relevant strategy checklists.

In fact, I dare to say that very, very few innovation authors have adopted his innovative presentation style.

There are only 10 chapters, but he followed up - & peppered - each chapter of the book with "magical numbers", as follows:

Chapter 1: What It takes to Drive Growth: 5 essential practices that undergird business growth;

Chapter 2: Leading Innovation: 3 types of innovation; assessing your firm's Innovation Adeptness against 10 criteria; 6 most important leadership functions in building an all-enterprise innovation capability;

Chapter 3: Cultivating the Culture: 11 strategies designed to guide you in improving your firm's culture for greater innovation effectiveness;

Chapter 4: Fortifying the Idea Factory: 7 distinct methods of idea management, plus 7 suggestions to guide you in designing & implementing a system; plus 10 guidelines to keep in mind as you consider how best to empower the process;

Chapter 5: Mining the Future: 6 strategies innovation-adept firms are using to analyse trends; 3 critical components to developing your own future scan system;

Chapter 6: Filling the Idea Funnel: 6 strategies to ensure a steady stream of good ideas;

Chapter 7: Producing Powerful Products: 6 strategies to master the art of deriving business value from innovation;

Chapter 8: Generating Growth Strategies: 6 places to jump start your search for imaginative new business models for your firm;

[I like what he wrote: "Strategy innovation is, first & foremost, an act of imagination - the ability to see how something could work better from the customer's standpoint, in a way that in turn profits the sponsoring firm".]

Chapter 9: Selling New Ideas: 7 strategies for selling new ideas;

[Another good point from the author: "Innovation has always been about selling ideas".]

Chapter 10: Taking Action in Your Firm: 7 areas to look at prior to preparing an Innovation Initiative;

How do you like that? For me, that really makes perusal - & digestion - a breeze as you can zero into the brass tacks very quickly.

The author has focused primarily on what actually works, not fancy theories. Just pure insights from the battlefield trenches of 21st century innovators!

In spite of his two-decades' experience working with companies to improve innovation, the author has rightly admitted that he "rode on the shoulders of giants" in writing the book.

In this respect, I reckon that the author has fashioned his thinking as well as rethinking about strategy innovation from the work of Peter Drucker, who was the first among all the gurus out there to assert that "innovation is a disciplined, systematic & repeatable process".

To end this post, I would recommend reading Peter Drucker's 'Innovation & Entrepreneurship' as well as Michel Robert's 'Innovation Formula' as thought companions. They will certainly be worth your while.

BOOK REVIEW: 'BOSS OF ME', by Pearlin Siow

Out of curiosity, I have picked up the locally published book, entitled 'Boss of Me', by former journalist Pearlin Siow the other day at Kinokuniya Bookstore in Ngee Ann City.

Another reason is that I normally like to support local authors. I have quite a large collection in my personal library.

Nonetheless, the book also has an intriguing sub-title, 'The Pocketbook of BIG Thinking', which piqued my interest immediately.

As shown on the front cover, the book contains "20 power secrets to remember as shared by Singapore's movers & shakers". They included fashion photographer Geoff Ang, Zouk's founder Lincoln Cheng, glamourous aesthetician Dr Georgia Lee & bad boy filmaker Royston Tan.

Frankly speaking, the book is more of a ragtag collection of "spruced up" articles, which have previously appeared in the Straits Times & Business Times. A number of the entrepreneurs have also in fact appeared on special features of Channel News Asia.

As the author has rightly admitted, the book took her only 3 months to put together. So, it was a rush job.

I have actually expected a more in-depth analysis of the psyche of all the entrepreneurs as far as the pursuits of their fondest dreams are concerned. I didn't get that feeling at all, sad to say.

If only she has put in more rigorous efforts like what Gene Landrum had done in his 'Entrepreneurial Genius: The Power of Passion' (or his other books in the same genre), which chronicled the psychological motivations & traits of 12 American entrepreneurs, her book would probably have stood up as great work.

For someone like me, who has always been tracking entrepreneurial success stories in the local landscape for so long, I am somewhat disappointed by the book's vain attempt.

Nevertheless, in fairness to the author, especially for readers who are new to the entrepreneurial game, I reckon that this book is still worthwhile to be read as an entertaining & inspiring guide.

In that respect, I would say, the author has done quite a neat job in putting her book together, especially when she has artfully flushed out the crisp lesson from each entrepreneur to serve as a preamble to each chapter.


“All the time. It is miraculous. I even have a superstition that has grown on me as a result of invisible hands coming all the time - namely, that if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, & the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, & they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss & don't be afraid, & doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.”

~ Joseph Campbell, 1904-1987, American professor, writer & orator, whose works focus mainly on spiritual harmony, e.g. 'The Power of Myth';


What should I be?

What should I know?

What should I feel?

What should I have?

What should I do?

What should I think?

~ inspired by Gerald 'Solutionman' Haman's 'Innovator Investigator Questions';

In fact, I like to add 2 more to the foregoing questions:

What should I change?

What should I improve?

[More information about Gerald Haman & his work as well as his innovation products e.g. 'KnowBrainer', 'Thinkubator', etc., can be found at this link.]


I have taken out the above, ". . . it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary.", from photographer David Bailey's apt quotation in an earlier post.

Yesterday afternoon, while visiting the Marina Square with my wife, I took the following snapshots of some shopfront ads which just happened to strike my fancy. I have used my handy Nokia N93 hand phone camera in all instances.

In reality, they were ordinary shopfront ads, but somehow the apt quotations on them piqued my interest.

The first one (from Northface):

"You're not carrying the weight of the world. Just the weight of your world.

Step by step, the burden of what you left behind is replaced by what you've neatly packed for an excursion into a new reality."

I like it.

It reminds me of the inspiring book, 'Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Rest of Your Life', by life coach Richard Leider. I had read it many years ago.

In a nut shell, it's about taking time-out of one's busy daily schedule to re-examine one's vision of a good, meaningful life.

Interestingly, the book also brings back memories of the fun movie, 'City Slickers', starring Billy Crystal as well as Jack Palance, about a disillusioned big-city boy, together with his long-time buddies, embarking on a much-needed vacation into the wild, wild west.

At the end of their adventurous journey, they had rediscovered themselves.

The second one with the caption:

"You'll notice you wanted to keep going."

Of course, I want to keep going.

So does MM Lee Kuan Yew, although he regards each day beyond his 85th birthday as a bonus.

The last one (from Creative Technology):

"Change Your Tune. Don't Blend In. Trust Your Style."

I read it as my own personal response: 'Be who you are, & better still, be who you want to be, but don't follow the crowd.

In fact, I like MM Lee Kuan Yew's assertion with regard to a prescription model on democracy, as an appropriate analogy in this case:

". . . focus on what works",

as reported in today's Straits Times.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


"It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary."

~ David Bailey, professional photographer & photojournalist;


I have spotted these wonderful posters with the apt quotations outside the Times Bookshop at Marina Square this afternoon.


While exercising on the stationary bicycle today in the gym, my casual conversation with my buddy strayed into his latest reading pursuit.

My gym buddy is currently reading the latest book by marriage & family life counsellor Gary Chapman, entitled 'The Five Love languages'.

According to my buddy, based on what he has read, married people feel love in one of five ways, & one or two of these may be the primary love language:

1) Expressing Words of Affirmation;

2) Spending Quality Time;

3) Receiving Gifts;

4) Doing Acts of Service (e.g. household chores);

5) Physical Touch;

We reckon all the above languages make good sense in maintaining & sustaining a good marriage tune up, & given a choice, many people probably want all five languages in order to fill up the "love tank", so to speak.

My gym buddy is contemplating of taking up lessons in massage therapy so that he can give his wife a good rub.

Incidentally, I also shared with my buddy about what I have learned from the famed family therapist Virginia Satir, whose work has inspired the NLP movement.

According to her, a good hug on a daily basis is very good for sustaining a marriage, as well as family life, especially for kids.

She said, in order for kids to grow up as comfortable individuals, they need at least 8 hugs a day.

I can relate easily to the hugging, as I always like to give my wife a bear hug. She always says that my hugging makes her feels really good. In fact, she sleeps like a contended baby at night after a good bear hug from me.

As for the invitation from my gym buddy to attend massage therapy lessons, I have to turn him down immediately.

Frankly, I rather prefer my wife to give me a good rub.

Monday, September 22, 2008


"Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop.
Die knowing something.
You are not here long."

~ Walker Evans, 1903-1975, American photographer, best known for documenting the effects of the Great Depression; many of his works are in the permanent collections of museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art;


What will I do with my brilliant idea when I am back to the office on Monday morning?


I have always been amused by the following apt quotation attributed to Doug Hall, the former marketing whiz-kid with Procter & Gamble, who wrote the bestseller, 'Jump Start Your Brain', during the nineties:

"Stress kills brain cells . . . so stress is not a good idea!"

In today's complex, turbulent, fast-changing world, stress comes in all their physical manifestations with the territory.

Are you feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or fatigued?

Having trouble making decisions, falling & staying asleep & fire fighting?

A bit low on energy, just all-around burnt?

The good news is . . . there’s a short list of simple practices that, done regularly & consistently , can pretty quickly de-stress your brain . . . & your body!

1) Mindfulness-based stress reduction;

2) Get lost in great music;

3) Get active for 30 minutes a day;

4) Take a breath break;

5) Biofeedback;

6) Psycho-acoustics;

7) Game out;

8) Re-pattern your sleep;

9) Mid-day power nap;

10) Write things down;

You can proceed to this link to read the original article, although belated but still relevant, by fitness entrepreneur Jonathan Fields, explaining the foregoing practices in more details.


Andrew Grove, the legendary co-founder of Intel, once told an interviewer from Fortune Magazine:

“When everybody knows that something is so, it means that nobody knows nothing.”

What he meant by that remark is this: It becomes nearly impossible to look beyond what you know & think outside the box which you have built around yourself.

This is the so-called curse of knowledge, a phrase used in a 1989 paper in 'The Journal of Political Economy'.

Put it in another way, once you have become an expert in a particular field or subject, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what you do.

Your conversations with others in the field are likely to be peppered with catch phrases & gobbledygook to the uninitiated.

Also, when it’s time to accomplish a task, those in the know get it done the way it has always been done, stifling innovation as they speed down the well-beaten path.


According to innovation strategist Gerald 'Solutionman' Haman, writing in the latest issue of his 'Innovator's Digest:

"CREATIVITY is developing new, interesting, or different IDEAS";

"INNOVATION is the process of transforming creative ideas into valuable or profitable SOLUTIONS";

He adds further:

Creative Ideas Provide Energy for Innovative Solutions!

Creativity may be perceived by many as just fun and games. However, creativity is necessary for innovation to occur.

Creative thinking yields the ideas that fill the pipeline of innovation.

Innovation cannot happen without the energy generated by creativity.

He sums up best as follows:

"Innovation is how people make money or value from creativity!"

[Gerald Haman is the brain behind the handy 'Pocket Innovator' tool-kit during the nineties, now replaced by the 'KnowBrainer' tool-kit, among other brilliant innovation products for accelerated productivity.

I currently own & have used both tool-kits in the course of my consulting work. At one point in time, the 'Pocket Innovator' was sold at my small retail store.

More information about the author & his work or products can be found at this link.]

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Google Alert is a godsend, at least for me as a knowledge adventurer & technology explorer.

It keeps me informed of new developments on the web, with regard to all the stuff that I am keen to find out more about, e.g. developing mindfulness, among many others.

I have been fascinated by the subject of mindfulness ever since I have read Dr Ellen Langer's 'Mindfulness' as well as 'The Power of Mindful Learning'.

I understand she has written a third book, entitled 'On Becoming an Artist', which I have yet to acquire & read.

Recently Google Alert has led me to some interesting blog posts, ezine articles as well as newer books on the subject, e.g. 'The Mindful Brain' by Dr Daniel Siegel.

The most recent article, which piqued my great interest, is one which Dr Ellen Langer, together with Dr Shelley Carlson, contributed to the 'Handbook of Primary Care Psychology', edited by Dr Leonard Haas.

The article is intended primarily for clinicians & other mental health pros, but I reckon it has relevance to all of us, at least in terms of methods of increasing mindfulness.

First, a short preamble about mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a clear, resourceful state of mind that results from drawing novel distinctions about one's situation or environment.

When we are mindful or living mindfully, we are actively engaged in the present moment, & sensitive to both context & perspective.

Also, we may notice new aspects of our experiences on many levels simultaneously.

Dr Langer likes to call it "engaged awareness".

For me, a mindful environment allows full engagement in new, creative endeavours. We value mistakes &/or failures as part of the process of learning or trying out new things.

We embrace ambiguity & uncertainty. That's to say, there are no absolutes, only gray areas.

We bravely seek reinvention by creative action, & in so doing it, we find more of it!

Most importantly, we reject any social comparisons, especially when crafting out a niche for ourselves in society.

One quick way to appreciate mindfulness is this simple illustration drawn from my own personal experience:

When your significant half happens to be talking to you while you are still engaged in a task or activity, & if you can pause for a while to maintain eye contact with her while she talks, that my friend, is your mindfulness at work!

In contrast, mindlessness is a state of cold rigidity, in which we are stuck to a single perspective & act like robots.

When we are mindless, we are entrenched in inflexible mindsets, & are oblivious to context or perspective.

Invariably, we pigeon-hole all our experiences of the world into rather stiff categories.

In a mindless environment, I reckon the fear of judgement, unnecessary self-comparisons with others, & preconceived notions about talent impede our ability for artistic expression.

[to be continued in the Next Post]


In his reasonably great book, 'Five Future Strategies You Need Right Now', business strategist George Salk of the Boston Consulting Group reveals that he & his colleagues have the habit of keeping "open files" - a repository of relevant information on some intriguing strategic topics or issues that they would often added to as new material become available.

According to the author, the topic or issue usually comes to their attention as a "faint signal", but gradually becomes crystal clear as the files fill up.

He has 3 categories of "open files":

1) Faint Signals : issues that would probably become strategies, but have shown only a few, very slight, sign so far. A lot of development is needed;

2) Watch List: Potential strategies where the sources of competitive advantage are not entirely clear;

3) Hallucinations: Provocative issues that are so out then they may never materialise or at least not within this lifetime;

The foregoing idea certainly reminds me of a method for maximising our idea generation, which I have written in an earlier post, comprising:

1) Ready-to-use or Ripe Ideas (RI);

2) Seedlings or Seed Ideas (SI);

3) Broad Concepts (BC);

4) Mulch or Not-ready Ideas (NRI)

I just thought that a simple adaptation of George Salk's idea, plus an amalgamation of the above mentioned, would probably make a good future scan system, personally as well as professionally.

Incidentally, innovation strategist Robert Tucker of The Innovation Resource, & author of 'Winning the Innovation Game' as well as 'Driving Growth through Innovation', has developed a pretty good future scan system for innovators.

The system is well illustrated in both of his books, & comprises 3 components:

1) Make Time for Reading (in other words, make your reading count);

2) Connect with People (networking);

3) Observe Yourself (basically, he is talking about making intuitive judgements);

I fully concur with Robert Tucker that reading widely, interacting actively with people, & taking the time to develop your own perspective on events & trends, are superb ways to add value to yourself as an innovator, & also better contribute to the organisation you work.

On a broader scale, I reckon, if you are really keen to explore more ideas about a future scan system, the following books, worth reading would be very helpful:

- 'The Art of the Long View', by Peter Schwartz;

- 'The Popcorn Report', by Faith Popcorn; [Please read my earlier post on one of her methods.]

- 'Future Edge', by Joel Arthur Barker;

- 'Peripheral Vision', by George Day & Paul Schoemaker;


Am I playing to play or playing to win?

~ inspired by 'Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win', by George Salk of the Boston Consulting Group;


"One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar."

~ Helen Keller, 1880-1968, American author, lecturer & activist; for a time, she was the most famous handicapped person in the world;


I have spotted this ad on the Amazon.


I have found this article, entitled 'Getting A Millionaire's Mindset', by equity analyst Glenn Curtis, in the Investopedia, very fascinating, especially for its simple & yet sensible advisory.

I particularly like the last tip: Don't Sell Yourself Short!

Here's the link.