Saturday, October 11, 2008


I have spotted this S$2.65 pocket notebook with the intriguing caption at the basement stationery store of Takashimaya in Ngee Ann City.


"Remember that a negative multiplied by a negative can be a positive . . . Today, I realise that life is a wave pattern - there are ups & downs, good times & bad.

Life doesn't stop at any one point on the wave. Success & failure are just two words we use to describe different points on the wave. Wherever you may find yourself on the wave, know that this is temporary."

~ Peter Kash, biomedical venture capitalist & author of 'Make Your Own Luck: Success Tactics You Won't Learn in Business School';


Looking back into more or less the last forty years of my life, my learning journey through what I like to call 'Creativityland' - the marketspace where I have had the opportunity to learn about, dabble with, interact with others on - & also, make some money from teaching - creative thinking processes, has been most rewarding, personally & professionally.

My initial foray probably started with learning & understanding the work of the following creativity gurus:

- Alex Osborn & Sidney Parnes, & their Creative Education Foundation;

- Edward de bono, of Lateral Thinking fame;

- William Gordon & George Prince, of Synectics fame;

This post, together with the ensuing posts, will serve as some sort of my own chronicles.

Advertising guy Alex Osborn must be credited for being the first creativity guru, when he concocted "brainstorming" (appropriate named as such because "brainstorm" means using the brain to storm a problem) during the 1950s.

His "rules" for "brainstorming" were stunningly simple, as follows:

- select any problem or challenge;

- write, draw & yell out every idea you can dream of to solve it;

- crazy, naughty, silly ideas are welcome;

- don't call any idea good or bad;

- keep it loose & spontaneous;

- organise your results later;

[I read that Osborn did not take complete credit for inventing the method. He said that the idea of getting people together in a conference had been known to be used by Hindu religious teachers in India for more the 400 years. The Indian name for that method was 'Prai-Barshana' (Prai means “outside yourself” & Barshana meant “question").]

He then wrote the classic 'Applied Imagination', & subsequently founded the Creative Education Foundation (CEF) with Prof Sidney Parnes in 1954.

[CEF has a sister outfit known as the Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI).]

[I was a CEF member during the late seventies & throughout the eighties & nineties. During those years, I had really enjoyed reading their 'Creativity in Action' newsletter as well as 'Journal of Creative Behaviour'. They became my early springboards for pursuing more creativity stuff.]

With further & also extensive research, they then formalised the original ideas into the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving (CPS) process, which till today is one of the most field-tested process in the field.

Two marvellous compendiums were published by the CEF to chronicle that part of history, as well as to share with readers the research papers & magazine articles, namely:

- 'A Sourcebook for Creative Thinking' (1962);

- 'Sourcebook for Creative Problem Solving: a 50 Year Digest of Proven Innovative Processes' (1992);

[Prof Sidney Parnes had also written a few nice books, including 'Visionizing: State-of-the-Art Processes for Encouraging Innovation'.]

[They are now out-of-print, & maybe hard to find. You can try]

In a nut shell, the CPS process has six steps broken down to 3 stages:

I) Explore the challenge:

1) OF – Objective Finding
2) FF – Fact Finding
3) PF – Problem Finding

II) Generate Ideas:

4) IF - Idea Finding

III) Prepare for Action:

5) SF – Solution Finding:

6) AF – Acceptance Finding;

For me, the beauty about the CPS process is that it's structured, & yet it's also flexible. That's to say, you can move from step to step, & jump back & forth between steps.

Once you understand how it works, you can adapt this process to every situation you encounter, thereby realizing its power.

I have found that many authors have taken the CPS process for a different spin, but the basic approach has always remained intact.

Here are some of my personal favourites, just to name a few:

- 'Creative Problem Solving: An Introduction', Donald Treffinger;

- 'Toolbox for Creative Problem Solving: Basic Tools & Resources', by Scott Isaksen;

- 'Simplex: A Flight to Creativity', by Min Basadur;

- 'Think Better: An Innovator's Guide to Productive Thinking', by Tim Hurson;

[If you want to get a rough idea about the CPS process, you can go to this link.]

[to be continued in the Next Post]


"Once you have learned how to ask relevant questions, you have learned how to learn & no one can keep you
from learning from whatever you want or need to know."

~ Neil Postman & Charles Weingartner, authors of 'Teaching as a Subversive Activity' (1969);

Friday, October 10, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: 'THE HABITS OF S.U.C.C.E.S.S: Nurturing Intelligent People @School @Home @Work', by Henry Toi

My first intellectual encounter with the 'habits of minds' - or critical attributes of effective & creative thinkers & problem solvers - came about when I became a member of ASCD during the late eighties.

The membership gave me ready access to their wonderful subscription magazine, 'Educational Leadership', as well as a host of other valuable resources, including two publications, 'Developing Minds: Program for Teaching Thinking' (Book I) & 'Developing Minds: A Resource Book for Teaching Thinking' (Book II), edited by scholar-educator Dr Arthur Costa.

From my personal perspective, the two books have the best collection of "thinking stuff", with a principal focus on developing student's mastery of thinking skills.

The original 'habits of mind' - or "intelligent behaviours" as the author prefers to describe them - was featured in one of the book chapters, which was later expanded & eventually evolved into four separate publications (totalling over 500 pages), which I have also acquired & read a few years ago:

Book 1: 'Discovering & Exploring Habits of Mind';
Book 2: 'Activating & Engaging Habits of Mind';
Book 3: 'Assessing & Reporting on Habits of Mind';
Book 4: 'Integrating & Sustaining Habits of Mind';

For the benefit of readers, I like to recap the "habits of mind" (they are work in progress as more may be added, according to the author) as follows:

1) Persisting
2) Managing impulsivity
3) Listening with understanding & empathy
4) Thinking flexibly;
5) Thinking about thinking (meta-cognition);
6) Striving for accuracy;
7) Questioning & posing problems;
8) Applying past knowledge to new situations;
9) Thinking & communicating with clarity & precision;
10) Gathering data through all senses;
11) Creating, imagining, innovating;
12) Responding with wonderment & awe;
13) Taking responsible risks;
14) Finding humor;
15) Thinking interdependently;
16) Remaining open to continuous learning;

What I have in my hands right now, after perusal, is a 200-page book entitled 'The Habits of S.U.C.C.E.S.S: Nurturing Intelligent people @School @Home @Work', by a Singaporean author, Henry Toi.

In a nut shell, this locally published book is a seemingly reorganised condensation of the original 16 "habits of mind" into 7 strands forming the apt acronym, S.U.C.C.E.S.S, apparently taking a cue from psychologist George Miller's 'M-Space' variable.

The S.U.C.C.E.S.S acronym stands for:

1) Suppleness (incorporating thinking flexibly; creating, imagining & innovating; & remaining open to continuous learning);

2) Understanding (incorporating listening with understanding & empathy; responding with wonderment & awe; & gathering data through all senses);

3) Constructiveness (incorporating questioning & posing problems; applying past knowledge to new situations; & thinking interdependently);

4) Courageous Thinking (incorporating persisting; & taking responsible risks);

5) Exactness (incorporating striving for accuracy; thinking & communication with clarity & precision);

6) Self-management (incorporating thinking about thinking or meta-cognition; & managing impulsivity);

7) Silliness (incorporating finding humour);

From the intellectual standpoint, I regret to say that the author has not added any new insights to the skills repertoire as originally envisaged by Dr Arthur Costa.

What the author has done, remarkably to some extent, is the inclusion of many jokes to enliven his S.U.C.C.E.S.S model, as well as several colourful visual maps to capture key points of relevant chapters.

Additionally, the author has also introduced many interesting ideas for cultivating his S.U.C.C.E.S.S model.

My only adverse comments of the book are as follows:

- the overwhelming quantity of jokes as illustrations of essential attributes seems to be an overkill. Jokes are OK, when you share them in a classroom, as part of a fun learning ambience, but a line must be drawn when you are writing a book of this genre;

- I would have preferred real-world/real-life examples as illustrations of essential attributes instead of too many silly jokes; to be frank, the silly jokes seem to trivialise the intellectual integrity, although I can well understand the author's intent in living up to the concept of "silliness" as set forth in his S.U.C.C.E.S.S model;

- The visual maps at the end of chapters are rather rudimentary, & actually, from my point of view, they serve no useful purpose other than static captures of key points; it would have been more worthwhile, even brilliant, if only the author has used them as spring-boards to guide the reader into thinking 'what's next for me?' or 'where do I go from here?', taking a straight cue from "habit of mind" #7; in fact, Dr Arthur Costa has rightly said: "a critical attribute of intelligent behaviour is not only having information, but also knowing how to act on it!";

In fairness to the author, I want to say this: Henry Toi's book is quite fun to read, partly because of his light-hearted approach. Naturally, his silly jokes help to enliven & probably expedite the metaphorical connections to the many points he wants to to drive home in his book.

My concluding remark is thus, if you have not read any of Dr Arthur Costa's books, particularly in connection with the "habits of mind", then this book is still reasonably good & easy to read, notwithstanding my adverse comments.

[Henry Toi is the Executive Director of the Art Costa Centre for Thinking in Singapore. Readers can visit his corporate website at]


"The nicest thing about the future is that it always starts tomorrow."

~ Author Unknown;

BOOK REVIEW: 'SIX FRAMES', by Edward de bono

I have been an avid fan of the work of creativity guru Edward de bono for a very long time, ever since I had started to acquire & read his classics, 'Mechanism of Mind', 'The Use of Lateral Thinking' &/or 'Lateral Thinking for Management', during the early seventies.

Later, I went on to acquire & read his 'Tactics: The Art & Science of Success', 'Six Thinking Hats', 'Teach Yourself How to Think', as well as 'Opportunities: A Handbook of Business Opportunity Search' in subsequent years.

For me, I have really considered them as great work, based on what I could take away, from the maestro.

I had even acquired & read his 'Serious Creativity', which I knew was more of an intellectual amalgamation of all his earlier works up to the nineties. I thought it would be a great refresher. It did, at least to my pleasant delight.

The last two books from him which I had read not too long ago were 'How to be More Interesting' & "How to Have a Beautiful Mind'. Not bad.

As for most of his other works which I had the opportunity to read in the intervening & ensuing years, I can only say that I have been most ambivalent at best. Half of the time, he was always talking about his previous stuff.

The other half of the time, I have had to read about him moaning & groaning about other people hijacking his intellectual stuff, & yet he didn't bother to credit others before him - not at all - accordingly, let alone for all of us to get a chance to smell his bibliography.

Regrettably, 'Six Frames' is another example that happens, for me, to fall into this 'ambivalent' category.

In a nut shell, 'Six Frames' is supposed to be a deliberate & disciplined framework for one to think about information, from the standpoint of purpose, accuracy, point of view, interest, value & outcome.

Tactically, I see the 'Six Frames' as perspective windows, each represented by a simple metaphoric iconographic: 'Triangle', 'Circle', 'Square', 'Heart', 'Diamond' & 'Slab' respectively.

Fundamentally, I find that the author's premise is sound & valid, because as he argues, where you choose to direct your attention & what you choose to notice, can affect your information problem solving, so to speak.

My disappointment is actually with the author's treatment, which seems to be superfluous & pompous to some extent. If only he had made concerted efforts to help the reader to "see" ideas out of the "information", that would have given more added credibility to his offering.

That is to say, to teach the reader how to "provoke insight" from the swirling information around us, to paraphrase his terminology.

Also, I find that some of the worked examples in the book pertaining to the frames seem to be too perfunctory. As a reader, I don't get the "provocative operacy", i.e. the skills of "making things happen" with the postulated frames from the author, to paraphrase once again his terminology.

From my personal perspective, thinking about information is often quite an easy task, but the action situation - putting the intent into performance, from theory to practice, so to speak - is rarely as simple as thinking. That score is, in fact, the essence of "provocative operacy".

Sad to say, I get the feeling that the author is trying to ride on the apparent success of his earlier 'Six Thinking Hats', 'Six Action Shoes', & 'Six Value Medals', by churning out this book on 'Six Frames'.

Another sore point for me from this book is this.

The book has about 140 pages. About a third of each page, at the top, is occupied by each of the 6 iconographics. The sentencing & paragraphing of the book have also been deliberately spaced out by the publisher.

In reality, you get only about 50 pages of stuff, which therefore reinforced the quick impression of a perfunctory treatment.

Over the years, most of the de bono's stuff are essentially about the productive "philosophy of thinking" or "modes of thinking". That's to say, never tool-specific; one has to read his books thoroughly & diligently to get down to the brass tacks of application.

This book is no exception.

On the other hand, could it be that the author has already ran out of steam? I really don't know.

In fairness, I certainly want to point out that the framework as expounded in 'Six Frames' does in fact provide us with a quick way to run through incoming information with a critical eye, as to accuracy, bias, interest, relevance, value, etc.

At least, it can hold your initial attention to information that really matters.

For readers who are really keen to try out much better approaches to thinking about information with tool-specific suggestions, in order to deal with the info-glut in the 21st century, I recommend:

- the 'Big Six' from Michael Eisenberg & Robert Berkowitz;
- the 'Questioning Toolkit' from Jamie MacKenzie;

They may be slanted towards education &/or research, but with a little bit of tweaking, you can access their latent power.

For readers who want to explore "ideas through information", please read 'Ideas & Information: Managing in a High Tech World', by Arno Penzias. This book may seem dated as it was published in 1989, but its Chapter 5, page 87 to 105, is a real gem not to be missed.

Last, but not least, 'Surviving Information Overload: The Clear, Practical Guide to Help You Stay on Top of What You Need to Know', by Kevin Miller, is also worth exploring.


"Smart questions are essential technology for those who venture on to the Information Highway. Without strong questioning skills, you are just a passenger on someone else's tour bus. You may be on the highway, but someone else is doing the driving.

Without strong questioning skills, you are unlikely to exercise profitable search strategies which allow you to cut past the Info-Glut Info-Garbage & Info-Glitz which all too often impede the search for insight . . .

Powerful questions - Smart Questions, if you will - are the foundation for Information Power, Engaged Learning & Information Literacy."

~ Jamie Mackenzie, a renowned American educator, writing on his online magazine, 'From Now On: The Educational Technology Journal', slightly more than ten years ago, under the byline "The Question is The Answer";

[For more information, please visit the author's marvellous & enlightening website. It's a goldmine! Here's the link.]

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I have bumped into this book entitled 'Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, & Sexy—Until You're 80 & Beyond', while browsing the Amazon online catalog for stuff on successful aging.

The authors are Chris Crowley, 73, a former litigator who retired in 1990 to ski, sail, bike, play tennis, cook, write books, & take his passion for them on the road, & Henry Lodge (Harry), M.D., 49, a specialist in internal medicine & preventive health care.

Chris Crowley is actually Harry's 70-year-old patient, who's stronger today (& skiing better) than when he was 40.

Together, they have spelt out the 'Harry's Rules', according to what I can figure out from the synopsis:

1) Exercise 6 days a week for the rest of your life;

2) Do serious aerobics 4 days a week for the rest of your life;

3) Do serious strength training with weights 2 days a week for the rest of your life;

4) Spend less than you make;

5) Don't eat crap;

6) Challenge yourself & keep your mind active;

7) Care for & Connect to other people;

8) Commit to feeling passionate about something;


1) Is my problem true?

2) Can I absolutely know that it's true?

3) How do I react when I believe it?

4) Who would I be without it?

~ inspired by the method of self-inquiry from Byron Katie; more information is available at this link;


I have taken the liberty of extracting some learning points from the renowned American inventor & entrepreneur, Paul MacCready, who had made a keynote presentation at the Lemelson Center's symposium, "The Inventor & the Innovative Society," on November 10, 1995.

1) Goal - Recognize unmet need; adapt goal to realities;

2) Positive attitude - Enthusiasm, motivation, "of course";

3) Capability/Detail - Get deeply involved; welcome assistance;

4) Innovate - Lots of approaches; experiment;

5) Enlist the subconscious - Daydream to facilitate intuitive leap;

6) Make it real - Connect to practical so benefits someone;

7) The dominant factor - Persistence, luck, more persistence;

8) The final rule: - Don't follow rules;

The presentation may be dated, but the "rules" are still very relevant today.

Here's the link to the original presentation.


"The future is not a place we are going to, but a place we are creating. The paths to it are not found but made. The making of these paths changes both the maker & the destination."

~ the Australian Commission for the Future (1986-1998);


[continue from the Last Post]

#4: Last, but not least, Jason Bourne was very obsessed with his sense of purpose - to find out the truth, to find out who he really was.

At one point, he almost wanted to give up, because he didn't want the people around him he cared so much about to be hurt in the process.

Remember the particular scene at the farmhouse in 'The Bourne Identity', where he just stood quietly in front of the two kids who were already in deep sleep on their beds, while staying overnight with Marie's old boyfriend, & an awakened Marie came to look for him.

To me, that was his defining moment as a man with great responsibility.

As a result, he was very result-oriented in what he wanted to do, & nothing was going to stop him from attaining his focused objectives.

His sense of purpose, fueled by a sense of responsibility, & result-orientation gave him that sharp edge - & more importantly, great power - to deal with imminent dangers as he pursued the people who wronged him from the very beginning.

From 'The Bourne Identity' to 'The Bourne Ultimatum', what started off as an initial search for vengeance became a final quest for atonement for him, as he pulled & put all the missing pieces of the whole puzzle together, with the unsolicited help of Pamela Landy & Nicky Parsons of course.

As he began to realise he was a soldier, with the name of David Webb & with the desire to serve his country, he just couldn't forget all the deadly mistakes he had commited under duress, & he was going to right them, for once & for all.

I really like the scene at the safe house in Paris in 'The Bourne Identity' when he cornered his rogue CIA coordinator, Conklin, & said to him:

"I swear to God, if I even feel somebody behind me, there is no measure to how fast & how hard I will bring this fight to your door step. I'm on my own side now."

The fact that he didn't shoot the rogue CIA bigwig, Abbott, in 'The Bourne Supremacy' (but recorded the latter's confession), the Russian police officer at the opening scene [translated from Russian: "My fight is not with you", as he told the pleading officer], & the pursuing CIA assassin (Paz) in New York after the stunning car crash at the end segment of 'The Bourne Ultimatum', as well as his own confession to the Russian girl, whose parents were killed in his first assignment, & also his revelation to the brother of Marie about Marie's unfortunate death, truly reflected his powerful choice & personal commitment to reintegrate into the human race.

After watching the three Bourne movies, I have come to understand that, actually deep down in every one of us as human beings, we all have this ardent desire to do good, & not evil.

As shown in the movies, even with "behavioural modification training", our basic human nature was hard to crack.

The moment Jason Bourne knew exactly who he was, he knew precisely what he wanted to do.

As he told Pamela Landy after handing over to her the documentary evidence about the clandestine Blackbriar Project, which he had stolen earlier from Noah Vosen's office in New York, in the concluding segment of 'The Bourne Ultimatum':

"This is where it started for me. This is where it ends."

Looking back, I reckon that clarity of purpose in his head was what had really kept him alive & going for so long on the run.

Coming back to the real world, if first we know who we really are, then it gives us tremendous power to choose who we can be & what we can do; in other words, it becomes easier for us to define our true purpose in life & to pursue our fondest dreams.

Great philosophers like Socrates, Lao Tzu & even the legendary Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu as well as the legendary Japanese combat strategist Miyamoto Musashi, had affirmed this powerful success secret.

Know thyself & be purpose-driven.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


While taking the SBS Transit bus service #502 from Orchard Road back to Jurong West today, I have spotted this catchy banner at the Singapore Chinese Girls School on Dunearn Road.

Since I could not take a snapshot of the banner for production in this post, I have just taken the liberty to zap it off their school website.

I am certainly impressed by the school's availability of opportunities for pupils with talents in a diverse spectrum of disciplines:

- the linguistically inclined;

- the scientifically curious;

- the entrepreneurial attuned;

- the globally connected;

- the IT savvy;

- the kinesthetically talented;


With a stroke of serendipity, I have spotted this seemingly thinking model just behind the glass panel of the Zara clothings store, while window-shopping with my wife at Ngee Ann City on Orchard Road this afternoon.


Actually, this is a truncated snapshot of a panel ad on a SBS Transit bus, which just happened to have struck my fancy, when I was standing at the bus stop on Penang Road this afternoon.


When I wake up in the morning or as my mind wanders throughout the day, what are the first thoughts on my mind?


"The future of the past is in the future. The future of the present is in the past. The future of the future is in the present."

~ John McHale, artist, engineer, ecologist, sociologist & scientist; also author of 'The Future of the Future: Where the New Technology is Taking Us & What We Can Do About It' (June 1969);


I am always fascinated by what I can read about the brain, or more specifically, about brain fitness & its connection to successful aging.

During my early years of exploration, in the seventies, eighties & throughout the nineties, I have devoured a lot of books about optimum brain performance. I have in fact slowed down in recent years, but that doesn't stop me from pursuing new developments in the area.

Many thanks to MRI, PET, SPECT, fMRI & MEG as they facilitate more leading-age research projects by the brain experts. I now know comparatively more about how my brain actually works & how to cultivate its tremendous power.

I always believe that everyone needs to have a basic understanding of the brain.

I also know that my brain is my pre-eminent information processor as well as my perpetual idea generator.

Hence, the more I use it, the more I can get out of it.

Newspaper or magazine reports have often highlighted the frightening aspects of aging, especially in terms of cognitive decline & dementia.

What is most interesting is that I have learned that my brain is shaped by how I use it, & that my brain continues to form new neurons throughout my life, as long as I continue to maintain an active mind.

According to Dr Elkhonon Goldberg, renowned neuro-psychologist & author of 'The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger as Your Brain Grows Older', it is important to have disciplined well-directed mental exercises as we age.

For me, I have already set up disciplined daily routines to read books, to review books, & also to blog.

In reading, I take a very active approach. I do a lot of marginal annotations in the book. Also, I jot down a lot of notes in my scratchpad.

From there, I do a lot of visual captures as idea springboards with my MindManager Pro, SmartDraw &/or Inspiration.

Best of all, I still get involved in "pow-wows" from time to time with my business associates & social buddies, notwithstanding my occasional stints in consulting &/or training projects. That often helps to keep my mind agile & sharp.

Dr Goldberg calls this "internalisation" of learning. I call it "assimilation".

I also like what Dr Goldberg has written about the vast memory stores of knowledge & experiences in our heads that are built up & accumulated over the years as one ages.

His principal point, as I understand, is that the vast memories give the elders an edge, especially from the standpoint of an acquired ability to size up situations quickly & solve problems more intelligently, without having to go through step-by-step assessments which the youngsters might need.

He calls this maturing of mind as "wisdom".

For me, the more relevant issue is how I can make use of it i.e. my maturing, to improve my memory, attention span, confidence, competence, & reasoning throughout my twilight years.

I reckon, combining my intellectual stimulation activities as I have just described with physical exercises, moderation in nutrition & active socialisation, I am on the right track.

Of course, I have to make sure that I don't forget to learn & try out new things along the way.

Dr Goldberg reminds me that the rate of development of new neurons as one ages is somewhat influenced by a systematic program of cognitive activities.

He maintains that the incorporation of novelty, challenge & variety in all our mental as well as physical activities can often help to provide the extra resistance to our aging.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


First, the definition of a miserable job, according to the book, 'The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (& Their Employees)', by business consultant Patrick Lencioni:

"A miserable job is not the same as a bad one.

A bad job lies in the eye of the beholder. One person’s dream job might be another person’s nightmare. But a miserable job is universal.

It is one that makes a person cynical & frustrated & demoralized when they go home at night. It drains them of their energy, their enthusiasm & their self-esteem.

Miserable jobs can be found in every industry & at every level. Professional athletes, CEOs & actors can be - & often are - as miserable as ditch diggers, janitors & fast food workers."

Now, the signs of a miserable job, according to the author:

"The first is anonymity, which is the feeling that employees get when they realize that their manager has little interest in them a human being & that they know little about their lives, their aspirations & their interests.

The second sign is irrelevance, which takes root when employees cannot see how their job makes a difference in the lives of others.

Every employee needs to know that the work they do impacts someone’s life - a customer, a co-worker, even a supervisor - in one way or another.

The third sign is something the author calls "immeasurement," which is the inability of employees to assess for themselves their contribution or success.

Employees who have no means of measuring how well they are doing on a given day or in a given week, must rely on the subjective opinions of others, usually their managers’, to gauge their progress or contribution."

[More information can be found at this link.]


"We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells,

~ Anais Nin, 1903-1977, American writer of French origin, best known for her published journals & diaries, & being a lover of Henry Miller;


While browsing the net this morning, I have found the following interesting exercise - something to rack your brain - at this wonderful link (if you are curious to find out more about thinking):

On the lost planet of Kaaju, Kaajuans speak a language not that dissimilar to our own.

Two words have been linked to two objects but there is confusion as which is which.

One of these objects is a Kiki and the other a Booba.

Can you identify the right symbol with the right word?


What words or pictures come quickly to my mind when I am thinking about the future?

Monday, October 6, 2008


[continue from the Last Post]

#3: Jason Bourne was obviously a lateral thinker, & personally embodied a broad & resourceful repertoire of skills & tactics, which allowed him to out-think, out-smart & out-manoeuvre the dark ominous forces of the shady world of international espionage, coverture & intrigue.

As a result, he was able to create tactical improvisations & initiate counter-measures to evade surveillance, avoid capture as well as to neutralise his assailants.

At the end of it all, or rather the larger picture was that, he was very determined to stay alive & to keep going in his relentless quest for the truth. Actually, it was more of a quest for atonement on his part.

Amusingly, as Pamela Landy, deputy director of counter-intelligence, newly assigned to spear-head the hunt for the super spy, rightly said to all the CIA surveillance guys in 'The Bourne Ultimatum':

"This is Jason Bourne, the toughest target that you have ever tracked. He is really good at staying alive, & trying to kill him & failing just pisses him off!".

Here's a quick roundup of his skills & tactics, as portrayed in the movies:

- versatility with multiple foreign languages, including French, Italian, German, Russian, Spanish;

- proficiency in dealing with electronic communication & surveillance devices;

- adept with fire-arms, single-handed &/or with both hands;

- a knack for hot-wiring as well as driving vehicles, from two-wheels to four-wheels;

- best of all, skilled in hand-to-hand unarmed combat techniques, often with lightning moves & improvised weapons from everyday objects e.g. ballpoint, towel, rolled-up magazine, book, electrical cord, etc.;

I reckon I don't need to use selected scenes from the movies to illustrate all the above.

In the real world, I strongly feel that we should emulate Jason Bourne, not as a super spy, but learn to embrace his uncanny ability to acquire a broad spectrum of skills & tactics as a field agent, & also, adopt his remarkable photographic memory of all the skills & attributes he was trained from the beginning as an elite assassin.

We should also strive to equal his methodical efficiency of pursuing his objectives.

I am sure readers, if you have watched 'The Bourne Supremacy', would certainly recall a particular scene during which Jason Bourne's deliberate use of a known passport to cross borders was captured on electronic surveillance, Nicky as JB's former CIA case officer in Paris, responded to her CIA bosses:

"It's not a mistake. They don't make mistakes. They don't do random. There is always an objective. Always a target."

Personally, I am very impressed by his power of focus, & his emotional detachment from distractions & encumbrances, first from Marie & later from Nicky, in pursuing his targets, in spite of his amnesiac handicap.

Of course, all these are figments of imagination from the make-believe world created by seasoned Hollywood tale-blazers.

To me, that's not the point. The point is what can we learn? where do we go from here?

Several years ago, I had attended the National Achievers' Congress in Singapore, during which Jim Rohn, was one of the keynote speakers. Jim Rohn has often been acknowledged by Anthony Robbins as the latter's mentor.

According to Jim Rohn, one of the most important things to do in order to survive & thrive in the 21st century is to acquire multiple skills.

A case in point is mastering a second language e.g. Chinese Language.

As Michael Backman wrote in his book, 'Asia's Future Shock', which I have reviewed earlier, "China will have the world's largest economy on a purchasing power parity basis" by the time your kids hit their twenties.

MM Lee Kuan Yew saw this coming many many years ago when he was Singapore's Prime Minister.

Earlier, I have written quite a number of posts about 21st century skills which all of us must acquire in order to become effective managers & professionals.

Here is my broad recap of the critical skills & attributes for effective managers in the 21st Century:

- inter-personal communication (people skills);

- ability to act with integrity;

- ability to manage change & adapt quickly;

- ability to motivate & counsel people;

- being a strategic thinker/visionary leader;

- analytical problem solving skills;

- having a global mindset;

- ability to make informed decisions & take quick actions;

- being able to recognise industry trends & market conditions;

- ability to manage & resolve conflicts;

- knowledge of information technology;

- knowledge of financial performance;

- knowledge of strategic planning;

- influencing & negotiation skills;

- knowledge of multiple languages;

- knowledge of geopolitical & cultural diversity;

- business development & presentation skills;

- having a self development mindset;

- ability to facilitate & manage teams;

- staff recruitment, training, appraisal & mentoring skills;

- ability to manage stress;

- resiliency (able to balance job, family & external demands);

- project management skills;

If you are an educator/parent/student, I suggest dropping by this wonderful link, which provides an excellent roadmap to the skills, knowledge & expertise which all students of today should master in order to succeed in the 21st century.

I reckon, in the end analysis, the most absolutely, fundamentally important aspect of surviving & thriving in the 21st century is the acquisition of skills, skills, skills & more skills!

Just remember the Law of Requisite Variety, which I have talked about so much in earlier posts.

[to be continued in the Next Post]


Yesterday afternoon, while sitting onboard bus service #502 with my wife from Jurong West to Orchard Road, I happened to spot along the way through Jurong East a bus-stop ad from Guinness Stout which read:

"True character is forged through fire."

First of all, I am not a beer drinker. So, I probably have passed by it several times, but have only noticed it yesterday.

It sets me thinking.

Nowadays, I notice that most product ads get very creative & even philosophical. They don't sell features, attributes & benefits any more.

They talk about "essence" or should I say the "longevity" of what the product actually represents to the consumer.

Guinness Stout is obviously one of them.

Out of curiosity, I ran a quick search. The first response I got a short while ago via my Copernic Agent Pro is this comment about Guinness Stout by Martydx on epinions:

"The character of the beer is one word: SMOOTH.

In two words: SILKY HEAVEN.

In a paragraph, a smooth dark beer with a hint of darker chocolate-like flavor, which glides past the gums and mouth, leaving a slightly tart foam on the lips, to be savored as it works its way down your throat. A single glass is never enough to satisfy, because it only increases your longing for this incredible brew . . ."

Well, I am not going to write about Guinness Stout or beer in this post. I just want to share my personal reaction to the apt caption.

Three keywords stand out:

Character - Forged - Fire.

When I think of "character", I think of "integrity".

To me, the best way to describe "integrity" is to consider it as your act of doing something when nobody is watching you.

In other words, a seamless consistency between your personal beliefs & public actions.

Next, when I think of "Forged", I think of the old Japanese sword maker's saying.

"The best steel is made in the hottest fire."

If I am not mistaken, I had heard it from the movie, 'The Hunted', starring Christopher Lambert, as a visiting American businessman in Japan, who got himself unwittingly entangled with a shady group of deadly ninjas led by John Lone.

I have read that the steel forged by the Japanese craftsmen is the finest in the world.

Not only did they use the hottest fire, they also folded the steel over itself, & hammered it numerous times, quenching it in oil each time to ensure its high carbon content & stress to create a superior weapon.

I reckon creating a character works in much the same way.

That brings me to "Fire".

So, "character" is forged through "fire". Baptism of fire, so to speak.

In this case, "fire" means adversity, hardships, sufferings, trials & tribulations.

I often remember MM Lee Kuan Yew's assertion that the true character of a good leader or minister can only come from a baptism of fire.

That's to say, "character" cannot be given, it must be earned through deeds & the sweat equity of hardwork.


"I am nothing & nobody; atoms that have learned to look at themselves; dirt that has learned to see the awe & the majesty of the universe."

~ Geoffrey A. Landis, scientist & sci-fi writer; author of 'Winter Fire' among other works (over 70 books + over 300 scientific papers);


How can I be open-minded & yet still stand up to my personal beliefs?

Sunday, October 5, 2008


I have spotted this T-shirt with the quirky quote at the basement of Far East Square on Scotts Road, while window-shopping with my wife this afternoon.

Frankly, if you want to understand or appreciate the whims & fancies of the younger generation, at least from the consumer standpoint, I reckon Far East Square is the place to hang out.


[continue from the Last Post]

#2: Jason Bourne possessed a very high level of anticipatory prowess, which allowed him to stay one step ahead of his deadly pursuers, as well as to get out of precarious situations at all times.

I reckon we can, in a way, call this, quick thinking on his part.

I am sure readers who have watched the first movie certainly recall the conversation at the truck-stop cafe between JB & his girl friend, Marie, during which JB revealed:

". . . I know you were my first, best option out of Zurich? How do I know that?"

For me, here are some of the selected scenes from the movies that further demonstrated JB's anticipatory prowess or quick thinking:

The Bourne Identity:

- always with eyes roving, constantly scanning for escape options, & while evading the Swiss police, he dropped into the US Consulate in Zurich, resulting in a daring breakout, after being spotted by security personnel, & an eventual hitch-hike with Marie;

- in the Paris apartment, while remaining alert & anticipating trouble, at one point even picking up a kitchen knife in hand, just before a CIA assassin (Castel) came in to kill him & Marie;

- on the way back to the hotel by taxi with Marie, after visiting the morgue, & noticing police patrol cars with sirens on converging ahead at the hotel;

- the next morning at the farmhouse, after realising that the dog was missing [in fact, the night before, he couldn't sleep as he was concerned for the two innocent kids], he executed the hunt for - by first blowing up a gas tank in the farm as a diversionary measure - & deadly showdown with a CIA assassin (The Professor);

- inside the CIA safe house in Paris, after neutralising his CIA assailants, resulting in a spectacular plunge-down to the ground floor with a dead body as human shield & final blast of the last assailant half way up the stairs;

The Bourne Supremacy:

- despite on the run even in Goa, India, he was always alert & anticipating catch-up from his pursuers, resulting in spotting the guy with the dark sun-glasses & odd clothes on the beach;

- while apprehended by Italian police in Naples, he noticed quietly that the CIA guy, who came in to interrogated him, talking on the phone; after neutralising him & the guard, executed a quick switch of the phone's memory, prior to a quick escape from custody;

- at the safe house of a CIA operative (Jarda) in Munich, & upon apprehending him in flexcuffs, noticing that he was watching his watch (he had signalled earlier for a back-up team) . . . prior to an exciting fist fight, resulting in the death of the latter, as well as a swiftly engineered explosive escape;

- at the Alexanderplatz in Berlin, crowded with protesters, he evaded his CIA pursuers as anticipated, resulting in his temporary kidnap of his former CIA case officer, Nicky, for questioning about his own past;

The Bourne Ultimatum:

- at the busy Waterloo Station in London, reconnoitering the place, evading electronic surveillance, anticipating covert actions from - as well as playing 'cat & mouse' game with - his pursuers, while guiding the nosy British reporter on the run through the apt use of newly purchased card phones;

- at the abandoned premises of CIA section chief in Madrid, Spain, after neutralising the two CIA operatives, & in anticipating the arrival of CIA back-up team, he executed a quick escape with Nicky, by first calling in the Spanish police;

- trailing relentlessly & eventually neutralising the CIA operative (Desh) who was reassigned to kill Nicky in the narrow & twisting streets of the ancient Medina district in Tangiers, Morocco;

- playing the "trick the tiger to leave the mountain" routine with CIA deputy director Pamela Landy & CIA Deep Cover Anti-Terrorism Unit Chief Noah Vosen from their respective offices;

Transposed to the real-world, I have learned that the quick thinking is a very important skill to master in a rapidly-changing world.

Putting it in more explicit terms, failure to anticipate change can be fatal.

As any chess player or military strategist of even sport athlete can tell you, being anticipatory gives you great competitive advantage.

In the realm of business strategy, Mercer Consulting has honed it into a niche craft, & has even coined a fancy term for it: "Strategic Anticipation".

You can read about it in books by former strategists of Mercer Consulting:

- Adrian Slywotsky (e.g. 'Profit Patterns : 30 Ways to Anticipate & Profit from Strategic Forces Reshaping your Business');

- Robert Duboff (e.g. 'Market Research Matters: Tools and Techniques for Aligning Your Business');

George Day & Paul Schoemaker from Wharton have their own version, "Peripheral Vision", which also happens to be the title of their book, 'Peripheral Vision: Detecting the Weak Signals That Will Make or Break Your Company'.

Books by business strategist Benjamin Gilad e.g. 'Early Warning', are worth exploring too in this area.

For further great ideas to be used in building anticipatory prowess for personal &/or professional application, here are some of my favourites:

- 'Dinosaur Strain', by Mark Brown;
- 'It's not the Big that eat the Small', by Jason Jennings;
- 'The Power of ImPossible Thinking', by Jerry Wind;
- 'Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way', by Robert Ramsey (written for school principals but worth exploring);
- Anthony Robbins' 'Power Talk' (Professional Series): 'The Power of Anticipation';
- 'The Titanium Professional', by Hugh Davies;
- 'Who Moved My Cheese?', by Spencer Johnson;
- 'High Impact Leadership', by Mark Sanborn;

A quick one:

In his wonderful book, 'Driving Growth through Innovation', which I have reviewed earlier, innovation strategist Robert Tucker, has put forward some very potent ideas for developing your own future-scan system. It's located on Chapter 5: Mining the Future.

Very interestingly, I have learned over the years of hard knocks & from the strategy gurus, what we often call "timing" or even "luck" for that matter, is actually the end result of:

- anticipatory prowess;

- speed of execution;

- agility in response;

- perceptiveness;

No wonder, futurist & strategist Joel Arthur Barker, has written more than twenty years ago, that the most important managerial skills for the 21st century are: ANTICIPATION, INNOVATION & EXCELLENCE.

[to be continued in the Next Post]


"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."

~ Sir Winston Churchill, 1874-1965; British statesman known chiefly for his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II; he served as Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945; again from 1951 to 1955;