Saturday, February 7, 2009

SPOTLIGHT: It's just a matter of perspective!

I have taken a digital snapshot of this Adidas ad poster inside the sports store on the 4th floor of Takashimaya Department Store in Ngee Ann City on Orchard Road.

I certainly like the idea of "You have good days & bad days. Today was a good day."

However, I reckon we can always make today a good day everyday.

It's just a matter of perspective!


While visiting the Wisma Atria shopping mall this afternoon with my wife, as part of our routine weekend window-shopping spree, I just took out my Nokia N93 handphone camera to capture the following two ad posters.

I haven't yet figure out why I took them, but they certainly struck my personal fancy at that point in time.


The above apt catchphrase is attributed to futurist & educator Dr Edward B Lindaman, also author of 'Thinking in the Future Tense'.

I have stumbled upon the following great post, even though belated, in the form of a Daily Meditation in the 'Living Life Fully' weblog, which I thought truly exemplifies, upon realisation, the essence of the foregoing catchphrase.

The post is prefaced by a wise quote from Chris Widener:

"The world needs people like you to dream of something great and then pursue it with all your heart."

So what will happen if you do this? And why does the world "need" you to do it?

Quite simply, the world needs us to pursue things with passion because positive energy, the energy that comes from living with passion, is necessary for all of us to experience. And only when you do this will you contribute something truly unique to you as an individual to the world. And only when you do this will you be able to serve as a role model for other people who long to see someone who's going after their dreams and living a special life.

Things may be hard--they often are when we pursue our dreams. There will be difficulties, but if you know you have to climb mountains and go through valleys in order to reach the destination of your dream, then those difficulties won't be at all daunting to you.

The world needs you to be you, and you can be you only when you're true to your personal dreams and desires. Something great doesn't have to affect the entire world--it can be something simple but enduring and important. And great is different for each person, too.

You know your dreams. Only you know your dreams. Find them, live them, love them, and pursue them. Only when you do so will you be pursuing your authentic self. There's no need to cast aside your present life--don't let that idea hold you back. The great novel can be written in an hour a day for a year. The new curriculum can be developed early in the morning before the day starts.

Your dreams are yours, and they are within your reach. You have to stand up and reach for them, though.

Questions to consider:

What are some of your most important dreams?

Why do so many people find it difficult to pursue their dreams?

Who is keeping you from pursuing your dreams?

Here's the link to the original post.


To answer the question, this is what I have gathered from futurist & educator Edward Cornish's excellent book, 'Futuring: The Exploration of Tomorrow':

- preparing for what we will face in the future;

- anticipating our possible future needs, problems and opportunities;

- identifying possible situations that might be encountered;

- expecting the unexpected;

- thinking long-term as well as short-term;

- dreaming productively;

- using even poor information if that is all that is available;

- learning from our successful predecessors;

[For more information, please get hold of the above-mentioned book &/or drop into the World Future Society. Let your mouse do the walking.]


"One of life's most fulfilling moments occurs in that split second when the familiar is suddenly transformed into the dazzling aura of the profoundly new.

These breakthroughs are too infrequent and we are mired most of the time in the mundane and trivial.

The shocker: what seems mundane and trivial is the very stuff that discovery is made of.

The only difference is our perspective, our readiness to put the pieces together in an entirely new way and to see patterns where only shadows appeared just a moment before."

~ Dr Edward Lindaman, futurist, educator & visionary president of Whitworth College (Spokane, Washington) during the 70's; also author of 'Thinking in the Future Tense';


During my heydays in the corporate world during the nineties, I often read the 'Executive Excellence' newsletter.

For me, it contained superbly written & highly relevant articles for the busy executive, with the best & latest in thought leadership.

I understand the newsletter has now evolved into several:

- 'Personal Excellence';
- 'Sales Excellence'; &
- 'Leadership Excellence';

Recently, I have gone into their corporate website to take a look.

According to the website, the 'Excellence' "gurus" or thought leaders possess a rare combination of traits and abilities, as follows:

1) Preparation: academic and professional.

2) Character: values, ethics, beliefs, purpose, mission, integrity, walk the talk.

3) Principles: big message, point of view, tenets, main points.

4) Personality: charisma, style, originality, authenticity, one of a kind.

5) Performance: inspiring action, real-world performance, work ethic.

6) Experience: beyond local and regional, more national and international.

7) Expression: substance and style in writing, speaking, coaching, consulting, mentoring, training, or teaching.

8) Influence: difference, results, change, transformation.

I reckon, from the standpoint of developing executive excellence, these are the same traits and abilities one should also emulate & acquire as a true professional today.

Interestingly, the publisher has also organised the "gurus" or thought leaders by ranking:

Top 20

Gary Hamel
Warren Bennis
Dave Ulrich
Marshall Goldsmith
James Collins
Peter Block
Ram Charan
Noel Tichy
Kevin Cashman
Tom Peters
John P. Kotter
Bill George
Jack Zenger
James O'Toole
Barbara Kellerman
James Kouzes
Clayton Christensen
Marcus Buckingham
Peter Senge
Meg Wheatley


James Loehr
Norm Smallwood
Michael Porter
Max Bazerman
Jay Conger
Rosabeth Kanter
C.K. Prahalad
Ichak Adizes
Kevin & Jackie Freiberg
Chip Bell
Carly Fiorina
Gifford Pinchot
Bill Isaacs
James Champy
Morgan McCall, Jr.
Jack Welch
Nicholas Negraponte
Jay Conrad Levinson
Michael Treacy
Dan Goleman


Frances Hesselbein
Judith Glaser
Renee Mauborgne
Ken Blanchard
Jeff Snipes
Eileen McDargh
Beverly Kaye
Nathaniel Branden
Barry Conchie
Patrick Lencioni
David Allen
Phil Geldart
Josh Bersin
David Nadler
Libby Sartain
Nigel Nicholson
Bill Byham
Jon Katzenbach
Edward E. Lawler III
Robert Whipple


Joseph Grenny
Michael G. Winston
Christopher Rice
Richard Chang
Andre Martin
Joel Barker
Malcolm Gladwell
Ken Shelton
Gregg Thompson
Ira Chaleff
Lois Zachary
Edgar Schein
Barry Posner
Dianna Booher
Spencer Johnson
Michael Feiner
Larry Senn
Jeff Sonnenfeld
Larry Bossidy
Vijay Govindarajan


Stephen R. Covey
Lance Secretan
Dede Henley
Bill Adams
Maya Hu-Chan
James Cabrera
Rob Lebow
Ron Crossland
Steven Arneson
Terry Bacon
Robert Kaplan
Phil Harkins
Ian Mitroff
Joseph Jaworski
B. Kim Barnes
Howard Guttman
Richard Leider
Gary Harpst
Chris Majer
Daniel R. Tobin

To be frank, & at first glance, there are a handful of them whose work I am definitely not familiar with. I am curious, & will endeavour to find out their fortes & books.

In a way, the ranking of "gurus" or thought leaders gives you a pretty idea about the important stuff - their books - one should read as a professional today.

By the way, here's the link to their great website.


What matters most?

Is what I do significant?

~ inspired by Stephen Shapiro, writing in his weblog; he is also the author of '24/7 Innovation: A Blueprint for Surviving and Thriving in an Age of Change';


"One idiot who walks gets further than five intellectuals who only talk."

~ Ville Keranen, Jyväskylä, Finland; author of 'How to Change the World: The Role of Individual in a Systemic World' presentation;

Friday, February 6, 2009


I have stumbled upon this fascinating story about the 'Smallest Russian Submarine: Officially Registered as Boat'.

Here's the link to the story.

WORDS OF WISDOM, from Vivekacharya Pavan Choudary

While surfing the net, I have stumbled upon the corporate website of guru Vivekacharya Pavan Choudary, CEO & MD of French pharmaceutical multinational company Vygon in India.

Says he, “One of the most important tasks of a CEO is to coach”.

He gets to practice and hone this art not only at Vygon but also outside in his spare time.

“Coaching is my weekend passion”, he says.

Incidentally, he is also the author of the book, 'When You Are Sinking Become a Submarine: Winning Through Wisdom & Creativity'.

What an intriguing title for a creativity book!

I read that he was in fact here last year to provide a keynote presentation at the American Creativity Association gathering in Singapore.

I didn't attend the event, & neither did I "catch" any news report of his lively presentation.

Nonetheless, I have taken the liberty to extract his words of wisdom, not in any particular order, from the website:

"Success is a function of Desire & Hard Work.
Spectacular success is a function of Desire, Hard Work & Wisdom."

"A good guide can be of immense help.
A good guide can even help you convert your handicap into a Great Asset."

"Uncalled for harshness, arrogance, & inability to feel the imprint of one's words on others are among the most important reasons for failure."

"When you reach a destination. Relax. Enjoy the experience.
Then decide the next one.
If your past glories weigh more than your future dreams,
Decay has begun."

"Brilliance is when you can see what others can't see.
Genius is when you can fathom what others can't even imagine, the unique ability to grasp the subtle & the hidden."

"Sensitivity can help you exploit opportunities.
Sensitivity is alertness.
It is also wakefulness.
At another level, it is also receptivity."

"The other raw material for good luck is humility.
Humble people get more opportunities than the arrogant.
What is luck but opportunities."

"As long as jealousy doesn't drive you to harm those you are jealous of it too can be productive & constructive as it inspires you to do better."

"Wisdom is knowing yourself & others;
Enlightenment is knowing the Universe.
The Great are both wise & enlightened.
That is why their conquests are total."

"Possess the courage & conviction of a General &
the compassion & calm of a Saint, &
Success will be yours."

"It is better to build on your strengths than go on a revenge-seeking spree with your competitors.
Revenge will occupy your time, dilute your power & increase stress."

Meanwhile, I have already ordered a copy of his above-mentioned book from Kinokuniya Bookweb. It will be delivered to me by courier on next Tuesday.

Please stay tuned for my book review.


In an earlier post, I have reproduced a wise quote under 'Today's VIP (Very Important Pose)' as follows:

"One piece of knowledge . . . is better than prostrating oneself in prayer a hundred times."
~ The Prophet Mohammed, quoted by Idries Shah, 'Thinkers of the East', Arkana [Penguin], New York 1971, page 179;

This is my personal response or interpretation:

"Experience gained through putting ideas to work in our own life is far more important than just reading about it &/or knowing what to do in the head.

That's to say, hard knocks pay dividends because at the end of the day, one knows exactly what works & what doesn't work."

To satisfy my intellectual curiosity, I sent an email to my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, to seek his personal response:

Here it is:

"I concur with you.

The Sufi perspective would also be somewhat as follows:

- 'knowledge' in this sense is beyond the level of corporatespeak . . . it is closer to 'wisdom' thus 'one piece of wisdom' in possession is better than 'begging for it from God one humdred times' (the lazy way).

It would loosely also equate with 'a bird in hand is worth two in the bush'.

- Another consideration would be, when we are praying we are talking to God, when we are meditating, God is speaking to us! What we need is less talk and more action . . . then we allow ourselves to receive God's grace.

Hope it helps."

Frankly, I like Dilip's Sufi perspective.

Come to think of it, I suddenly remember one of Albert Einstein's famous quotes:

"Knowledge is experience; everything else is just information."

Nonetheless, what has just transpired between Dilip & me is actually a great example of 'Knowledge Shared is Power Squared'.

Now, that gives me another bright idea to write about in my next post!


How do I feel about my performance to date?

How does it compare to what I have originally expected to accomplish?

What were the reasons for any shortfalls in expectations?

What will I do differently in the future?

What can I do immediately to rectify the shortfalls in my performance results?


"In the world of power, there are broadly two kinds of people: the Viles for whom only ends matter & the Naives for whom means are as important as the ends. The path of goodness coupled with creativity & wisdom is the only way to an enduring victory."

~ Vivekacharya Pavan Choudary, CEO & MD of French Pharmaceutical MNC Vygon, in India; also, author of 'When You Are Sinking Become a Submarine: Winning through Wisdom & Creativity';

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I remember vividly, one of the most challenging creative endeavours I got myself into, as part of my journey as a knowledge adventurer & technology explorer during the early years, is developing multiple viewpoints when looking at the environment.

Oftentimes, when we look at something in the environment, we tend to look at it from one preferred perspective.

That something can of course be a thing, a person, an event, or just some body's idea.

Interestingly, that one perspective of ours is often unwittingly governed by our biases, prejudices, expectations, beliefs, hopes, & even frustrations, etc.

Why do we need to develop multiple viewpoints?

Very simple . . . so that we don't get stuck at one single viewpoint or perspective. Worst still, a truncated perspective!

With multiple viewpoints, we can get more perspectives to look at something.

How can one go about developing multiple viewpoints?

It's not difficult actually, all we need to do is to be prepared to adopt an open mind.

Let's say we are looking at an object. All we need to do is explore the attributes of the object as one possibility.

Attributes can run like these (think of them as basic guidelines, not some hard & fast rules):

- size;
- shape or structure;
- weight;
- colour;
- texture;
- components;
- nature of parts & their relationship;
- principle of operation;
- uses;
- origin;
- history;
- place in nature;

If that something happens to be a person, then explore, additionally:

- gender;
- racial or country of origin;
- face & body features;
- behaviour & gestures;
- voice patterns;
- distinguishing marks on the face &/or body;
- social &/or cultural norms;

If that something happens to be an event, then explore, additionally:

- by using the journalist's questions;

If that something happens to be some body's idea, then explore specifically:

- what's positive about it?
- what's negative about it?
- what's interesting about it?

or just a quick one, what's good & new about it?

Another possibility is to do a quick comparison & contrast. That's to say, we explore the similarities as well as contrasts.

Here are some other possibilities:

- associate what we are looking at by asking what it reminds us of.

Making associations can be real fun.

From my personal exploration, possible associations can come from:

1) The Nature World;

2) The Animal Kingdom;

3) Other Human Cultures & Civilisations;

4) Other Industries;

5) The Sciences;

6) The Arts & Crafts;

7) Sports;

8) Leisure Activities;

We can even go to a higher level by exploring analogies & metaphors.


- with our personal observation, we can even argue for or argue against, in the form of an imaginary debate;

- we can learn to apply our personal observations with the view of an utility response, by asking, if it's an object: what can we do with it? How can it be used?; if it's an event, what can we learn from it?

- we can also learn to anticipate future developments &/or new applications from our personal observations of the environment;

What I have just written is not meant to be an exhaustive presentation. Just sharing some of my personal experiences.

By developing multiple viewpoints, we are actually enhancing our perceptual sensitivity, which is a critical prerequisite for personal, professional as well as business creativity.


What will the future look like?

What will the leader of the future need to be like in order to succeed?


"One piece of knowledge . . . is better than prostrating oneself in prayer a hundred times."

~ The Prophet Mohammed, quoted by Idries Shah, 'Thinkers of the East', Arkana [Penguin], New York 1971, page 179;


“To be successful in this fast-changing and complex world, we need to become adaptable, knowledge focused and people centred.”

~ David Bennet & Alex Bennet, founders of The Inn at the Mountain Quest, a research, retreat & learning centre dedicated to nurturing human & organisational worth; also, joint authors of 'Organisational Survival in the New World: The Intelligent Complex Adaptive System';


The old man was a witness in a burglary trial.

The defense lawyer asks Sam, "Did you see my client commit this burglary?"

"Yes," said Sam , "I saw him plainly take the goods."

The lawyer asks Sam again, "Sam, this happened at night. Are you sure you saw my client commit this crime?"

"Yes" says Sam, "I saw him do it."

Then the lawyer asks Sam, "Sam listen, you are 80 years old and your eyesight probably is bad. Just how far can you see at night?"

Sam says, "I can see the moon, how far is that?"

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


'The Monday Interview' in the 'Straits Times' had carried an inspiring story on a "young man in a hurry". That young man happened to be the Thai Express Group of restaurants founder Ivan Lee, 33.

[The group, with 76 outlets around the Asia Pacific region, had a turnover of S$100 million last year.]

Out of curiosity, I just transposed his story against the characteristics of entrepreneurs as defined, based on a research study, by Pearson Education in their recent article, 'Entrepreneurs: The Driving Force behind Small Business 2009', which I had read on the net.

Interestingly, Ivan Lee had matched practically every characteristic:

1) willingness to take initiative:

Against many naysayers & detractors, including his father-in-law, he went ahead with his debut Xin Wan eatery in Hougang's Heartland Mall in 2005 by charging Singaporeans at double or triple hawker centre rates for no-frills fare such as French toast, shaved ice desserts, &, yes, instant noodles!

Also, the fact that he had daringly chased a girl (now his wife, Grace) driving a Porsche Boxster convertible while he was riding a Honda 400 cc racer motocycle was a true exemplification of his willingness to take initiative, as well as to embrace the risk of failure.

2) preference for moderate risk:

The first eatery was swamped from day one. Its success proved that he could trust his instincts, even if no one else did. Taking a risk & proving the naysayers wrong is deeply satisfying to him.

3) confidence in their ability to succeed:

"I had this strong, overwhelming sense that I could turn things around..."

"If I were to do it, it would be on my own terms, so I could take the credit for the success & blame for the failure."

4) self-reliance:

He refused the offer of a penthouse from his father-in-law because he wanted to be able to buy a home for his family.

He says he feels "uncomfortable" with taking anything that he feels is not rightfully earned as it becomes a debt he feels obliged to repay.

5) perseverance:

"For the first few years . . . I ploughed everything back into the business. I had no money for myself. I lived frugally, I rented a small apartment. My wife humbled herself to live with me."

6) desire for immediate feedback:

To me, this is the only odd one, but on the other hand, I can see from two incidents which he had related proves to me that he is one hell of guy who knows how to get immediate feedback:

1) "My wife has a hard time making our daughter go to bed on time & brush her teeth. I cut her a deal. If you do what mummy wants, I will do this - give her a sweet or promise to take her somewhere tomorrow. It's amazing how a kid understand how she has made a good deal, And she has."

2) "My in-laws gave us a penthouse as a gift when we got married but I turned it down. 'What are you trying to prove?' I'm always faced with this question. I was this arrogant son-in-law who don't accept the house. My ego is my problem. So I gave her a choice. I asked her, 'What do you think is right for you?' She said, 'I will live with you,' in that old condo in Newton."

7) high level of energy:

His wife, Grace, says his ability to juggle many things has to do with his analytical mind.

8) competitiveness:

According to his wife, Grace, his fierce urge to win & his intellect, when fired up, make for one-sided contests.

9) future orientation:

According to his wife, Grace, his mind is never more thoroughly engaged than when he is thinking of his next move for his business.

"The commercial success of Starbucks, when you look at it, the size & scale, it awes you. It is mammoth in speed & scale. That is the direction we want to go."

10) skilled at organising:

He & his team of managers pour over every detail, to either cut costs or improve quality. His team obsesses about efficiency & waste.

His team finds new ways to squeeze seating space from the kitchen (as it does not generate revenue), by redefining how chefs work.

11) value achievement over $:

His personal space, like the rest of the premises, is sparse with beige walls, simple furniture & computers. It is in line with his keep-it-simple approach.

Taking care of his people is a key priority in an industry that relies on human interaction yet is known for its high employment turnover. He fights to keep good employees on board, he says.

It's no coincidence!

So, my point is this: if you want to emulate Ivan Lee, please ensure that you have the characteristics of entrepreneurs!

[I have taken the liberty of extracting the above photo of one typical Thai Express outlet from this link.]


Despite the "gloom & doom" scenarios as painted by a broad variety of people, at least I am glad to note that there are some people who have their senses to urge us to stay hopeful & not get dragged down by pessimism.

Here's one good example from MP for Pasir Ris Punggol GRC Teo Ser Luck on the front page of today's issue of the Straits Times:

"The economy may go into depression but we must not."

I reckon there are always two or more ways to look at the future.

One is the "gloom & doom!" perspective; the other is "from crisis, comes opportunity!" perspective.

I take a slightly different perspective - what we focus on fills our thoughts.

In other words, we must be fully aware of what we choose to see & where we direct our attention.

Take a look at today's issue of the 'Straits Times':

On the front page, right at the bottom, an ad from IWC chrono-automatic watch reads:

"The best investment you can make now."

To me, it's not the watch, but I read it as "self-directed learning".

On page A4, at the bottom half, the first line from the ad of ITE reads:

"Upgrade, Update & Unleash Your Potential"

It's about continuing education. That's the right way to go forward.

On text page A5, an ad from Frederique Constant watch reads:

"Live Your Passion!"

In tough times as well as in good times.

On page A9, an ad from Lion Global Investors reads:

"Placing a world of opportunities within your reach!"

As I read further: ". . . there are opportunities to be found in a crisis"

Even acclaimed trends strategist Gerald Celente, despite his painting of hell scenarios for the United States, agrees that there are great opportunities to be exploited.

"Think ahead & be forward looking!"

". . . prepared to take a long term view, . . ."

On page A10, an ad from NAFA (Nayang Academy of Fine Arts) reads:

"Articulate Your Passion!"

As I read further: "Take a leap!"

For me, the best way to have passion is to do what you love & love what you do!

On the opposite page A11, an ad from StarHub reads:

"Today, business is: ushering in prosperity with cost efficient solutions."

Just think of: how to make your products or services faster, better, smoother & more importantly, at a lower cost, than anybody else?

As I read further: "Good fortune awaits . . ."

[By the way, a S$10 million "hongpao" (red packet) is awaiting the lucky winner(s) on the evening of 6th February 2008 from Singapore Pools]

On page A12, an ad from Lumiere slimming centre reads:

"Beat the Recession!"

How about that? One way to beat recession is to "slim down" operational wastes, unnecessary expenditures, process bottlenecks, bad habitual patterns, fancy stuff, low payoff areas, etc.

On page A13, I found a very appropriate question from the AXA ad:

"Are you looking for ways to capitalise on market opportunities while enjoying certainty over your savings at the same time?"

Incidentally, Motorola has an ad offering an opportunity to meet Prof John P Kotter of Harvard Business School to help you find answers to the following pertinent questions:

Are you well positioned to lead change in the toughest economic conditions?

have you developed strategies to deal with change?

Can you anticipate the issues arising from the change?

Do you have the skills to lead people to commit to change?

Are you ready to initiate change?

If these are your challenges, make yourself free & available on 20 March 2009 at the SMU.

The power of focus is a fascinating phenomenon, at least for me. It can make or break you. Think about it.


Yesterday afternoon, I have gone to the NTUC Income office at Bras Basah Road to file my insurance claims.

As I alighted from my express bus service #502 all the way from my home in Jurong West, I had spotted this apt ad poster at the bus stop in front of the office.

Home is always the safest place to be, in good times as well as tough times. Nobody can argue with that.

Otherwise, as I see it, the adage, "Home Sweet Home", makes no sense at all!


"The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river."
~ H Ross Perot, an American businessman, who founded Electronic Data Systems (EDS) in 1962; sold the company to General Motors in 1984, & founded Perot Systems in 1988; his true adventurous exploit in rescuing two EDS top employees from prison during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, with the help of retired US Army Special Forces Colonel 'Bull' Simons, is legendary, culminating into the action movie, 'On Wings of Eagles' (starring Richard Crenna, as Perot, & Burt Lancaster, as Colonel Simons);

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


While surfing the net, I have stumbled upon this interesting definition for a mentor:

"Someone whose hindsight can become your foresight."

In fact, there's another good one:

"Mentoring is a process when the past meets the future to become the present."

Wow! great definitions!

So, in a way, your & mine 20/20 hindsight can actually become someone else's insight as well as foresight.

Another interesting quote comes to mind, also, from an unknown author:

"Hindsight is good; foresight is better, but insight is the best of all!"

Now, back to mentors, mentorships & all that jazz.

I just want to share my personal story in this post.

Looking back at my own career transitions over almost a quarter of a century from 1967 to 1991, I was very lucky to have very good "mentors", although that term did not exist at all in the corporate dictionary in those days.

Also, in another way, my "mentors" did not realise that they had chosen to be my "mentors" in the first place. I had unwittingly chosen them due to the nature of my jobs.

My first "mentor" was Herr Hans Rey, Managing Director of the Swiss engineering firm, Buehler Brothers Engineering Works, in Singapore. That was my first job as a mechanical draftsman from 1967-69, & I had in fact already written an earlier post about it.

He was most generous to accord me the opportunity to continue to attend my Polytechnic studies, by releasing me one full day per semester week, with full pay.

To me, he always had that friendly disposition, especially with the cheeky grin on his sun-tanned face, giving me the first impression that corporate life could be fun too.

My second "mentor" was the late Herr Heinz Waetcke, Managing Director of Behn Meyer & Co, a German trading firm, affiliated to one of the world's oldest trading firms, Arnold Otto Meyer, based in Hamburg, Germany.

I started off as a trainee engineering executive in the company, & rose through the ranks from 1969 to become a Divisional Manager towards the tail end of the seventies. I was then in my early thirties, & a lot of my clients often marvelled at my managerial youthfulness.

Herr Waetcke often reminded me of a typical German Gestapo officer from WWII. Actually, he looked somewhat like the great Swedish actor, Max von Sydow, who often put on the uniform to play a German army officer in the movies.

I didn't mean any disrespect to my former boss.

In reality, I had learned a lot of good stuff from Herr Waetcke, especially his meticulous planning when undertaking any business endeavour, & his discerning attention to the most minute details.

More importantly, I was most impressed by his stern, disciplined demeanour in dealing with the rank & file, irrespective of whether one was German or Singaporean.

When I left the German firm after working there for eleven years, he even wrote me an unprecedented testimonial, which I still keep until today.

On the strength of that letter, I had managed to secure a senior managerial job with the UMW Group, a local Malaysian conglomerate, in the early eighties. I had in fact three big bosses breathing down my neck - the Chia brothers, all descendants of the late Chia Yee Soh, founder of the Group before the war. [UMW had started off as a bicycle repair shop, followed by automotive spare parts.]

They were, by seniority, Charlie Chia, Datuk Eric Chia & Denis Chia.

I had also in fact written a few earlier posts about my professional encounters with them.

From Charlie Chia who grew up under the personal tutelage of his late father & the founder, I had learned about sticking to the basics, staying grounded, feeling the pulse of the operation, & the importance of humility & prudence.

Although he had a sharp business mind despite his age - he was then almost in his late sixties - his favourite topic was always & understandably "spare parts", the precursor to the group's business. His intimate knowledge of spare parts was legendary, especially his uncanny memory for part numbers.

From the late Datuk Eric Chia, who was the "wildest" among the three, I had learned about the importance of understanding thoroughly the product, the market as well as the competition, & more importantly, the process of strategic thinking.

Operationally, the group had practised 'Management by Objectives'. [Datuk was a graduate of the Harvard Advanced Management Program.]

Interestingly, Datuk grew up through the ranks at the group, starting as a hot-shot salesman & jack-of-all trades mechanic, & then rising to CEO & Chairman in the later years. In fact, he was the one who had founded & established the Malaysian operations of the UMW group during the early years.

Despite his position in the group, Datuk was a very down-to-earth person. Because of his huge physique & towering voice, people often got intimidated at first impression, including me.

Nonetheless, he could talk at ease with the small guy manning the guard post at the front gates, right up to the top gun of a large Japanese industrial conglomerate.

Of course, his fiery temper was legendary. I even had the opportunity to taste it at first hand during my first six months in the company. I wrote about that too.

Besides his sharp entrepreneurial mind, & action-mindedness in pushing strategic initiatives, he had a superb memory of past events in the group's history, especially the people who had served him or the company well.

From Denis Chia, an accountant by training, I had learned about the importance of performance results & paying attention to intricate details of the business, although he often got carried away during monthly business review meetings which often became long & dreaded.

In my later years, I was also delegated by Denis Chia to their Thailand operations (UMW Siam) with the objective of restructuring the trading & manufacturing operations in close collaboration with a newly promoted local manager. I had first-hand exposure to productivity studies, besides a first-time encounter with 'culture shock'.

Luckily, I did an excellent job, resulting in Denis Chia sending me to the London Business School in 1985 to complete the eleven-week London Executive Program for general managers.

From the business standpoint, I also had working exposure with major Japanese principals, e.g. Komatsu, Toyota, whose operational staff seemed to be very obsessed with TQM, apparently influenced by quality guru Edwards Deming.

In retrospect, my introduction to & understanding the working principles of the 'Book of Five Rings' (Miyamoto Musashi) & the 'Mind of the Strategist: The Art of Japanese Business' (Kenichi Ohmae) came about while working with these people.

From the perks standpoint, I was amply rewarded: I had a chauffeur driven Mercedes Benz 230 while stationed in Bangkok, Thailand.

My fourth "mentor" was Mr Bjorn Bengtsson, Managing Director of the Swedish Business Development Centre (SBDC), where I worked as Senior Consultant from mid-1987 to early 1990.

My job was to introduce Scandinavian technologies into Asean markets, & then function as a business broker.

As a boss, Bjorn truly embraced "management by objectives", so working under him was plain sailing throughout my tenure.

One of the best things I got rubbed off by him was his painstaking attention to taking meticulous notes during any business discussion. He always carried a ring-bound note book, with lined pages within a thick cover.

One of my major consultancy assignments was developing a R & D software laboratory for Real Time Graphics (RTG) from Vasteras, Sweden, under the auspices of EDB's technical support schemes.

In retrospect, the RTG experience actually exposed me to a working understanding of real-time man-machine communications, since RTG had developed the 'Eyescream' software engine to drive it.

In that respect, I had learned a lot about applied as well as cognitive ergonomics, from Jan-Erik Lundstrom, the brain behind the software engine, which eventually led me to my sheer fascination about the human brain.

While working with SBDC/RTG, I had also the opportunity to visit Sweden, & see for myself at first hand how their consultants work.

Consultus International, one of the early shareholders in SBDC, gave me an opportunity to take an inside view of strategic alliances. Their Chairman, Leif Edvinsson, had introduced me to the term, "thoughtware", which he had apparently coined. That was another spark to my fascination for brainpower. [Leif Edvinsson later wrote the book, 'Intellectual Capital'.]

Another useful tool I had picked up during my professional association with SBDC/RTG was the elephant-tusk ring files, often used in Scandinavia, which opened up from the centre, where pages can be inserted or removed easily. [The tool is now available from the Standax Superstore at Funan IT Mall.]

More importantly, I had also picked up my Swedish boss's penchant for asking the right questions to deal with strategic business issues.

Also, his good sense of humour.

My fifth "mentor" was Pak Kris Wiluan, who had recruited me as General Manager to join his Indonesian conglomerate know as the CitraMas group.

Besides looking after the general administration of thier trading arm based in Singapore, I was responsible for spearheading the group's industrial chemical projects in Jakarta, Surabaya & Medan.

Actually, my track record at the UMW Group in earlier years had paved the way, because Pak Kris happened to be one of the nephews of the Chia Brothers.

Despite my short association with Pak Kris, I was very impressed by his entrepreneurial flair for setting up new businesses. He was one of the pioneers to develop Batam island as an investment & resort site in the late eighties.

Despite being trained as a computer programmer in UK, he seemed to possess a shrewd nose for business opportunities.

At that time, his CitraMas Group already owned oilfield equipment & services, tourism facilities (Turi Beach Resort is just one), marine logistics & transport, property & real estate (Kabil Industrial Estate is also one), telecoms, construction & engineering, & computer services.

To me, Pak Kris's management style was somewhat laissez-faire, but he was a reasonably good boss. He knew how to take care of his bunch of general managers.

As a collector of vintage cars, he gave me a refurbished 8-cylinder 4.2 litres Rover Vanderplas, one of only two on the road at that time, with a chauffeur.

Looking back, Pak Kris was my last boss during the remaining years of my stint in the corporate world.

To all my former bossess from the beginning in 1967 all the way to the early nineties, I certainly like to say a big 'DOMO ARIGATO' for being my "mentors", even though they didn't realise their major contributions to my personal inventory &/or repertoire of knowledge & experiences.

I will always cherished the endearing memories of their unwitting "mentorships".

[Note: 'Herr' is a German term for Mr; 'Pak', an Indonesia term for Mr, but also generally used to address another gentleman who happens to be one's senior, by ranking or age; 'DOMO ARIGATO' is a Japanese word for 'Thank You';]


"The real true source of power in any company
today is ideas; the rest is housekeeping."

~ Marsh Fisher, co-founder of the Century 21 real estate firm, & principal developer of the 'IdeaFisher' idea generation software;


[continued from the Last Post]


The wise old Arab simply adds his own camel to the 17, bringing the total number of camels to 18.

Then, the camels are divided as follows:

- ½ of 18 is 9 camels for #1 son;

- 1/3 of 18 is 6 camels for #2 son;

- 1/9 of 18 is 2 camels for #3 son;

After each son takes his allotted camels (9+6+2=17), the wise old Arab's camel remains.

He mounts it & rides off into the sandstorm.

[from the book, 'Ageless Memory: Secrets for Keeping Your Brain Young: Foolproof Methods for People Over 50', by Harry Lorayne.]

Monday, February 2, 2009


A rich Arab dies & leaves his seventeen camels to his three sons.

The camels are to be divided as follows:

- half to the first son;
- one-third to the second son;
- one-ninth to the third son;

The three sons can't seem to work it out without chopping up some of the camels!

A wise old Arab happens by on his camel & solves the problem immediately - without cutting up any camels.

Do some mental exercise & try to figure out how the wise old Arab did it. [Clue: He reads Edward de bono's books. In other words, he is a lateral thinker.]

[from the book, 'Ageless Memory: Secrets for Keeping Your Brain Young: Foolproof Methods for People Over 50', by Harry Lorayne. Please find the correct answer in the Next Post.]


If I were seeking counsel concerning a major change I would like to see happen in my life, how high would be my level of hope & faith that the anticipated change will happen?


While surfing the net, I have stumbled upon this hardcover book with the intriguing title, 'Strategic Acceleration: Succeed at the Speed of Life'.

The author of 'Strategic Acceleration' is Tony Jeary. This is his opening shot:

"In today's global business climate, growth and success are determined by two organizational needs. The first is the need for speed. The second is the need for results. Speed is the strategic engine needed to compete and win in a rapidly changing marketplace. Results determine the ability of Leadership to execute and sustain a vision in the marketplace.

There are three enemies of speed and results:

• The first enemy is the absence of clarity

• The second enemy is the lack of focus.

• The third enemy is poor execution.

The absence of clarity drains organizational energy. Lack of focus produces a culture of indecisiveness and excessive preparation. Poor execution degrades effectiveness, limits results and restricts growth.

Learn how to Succeed at the Speed of Life."

I have yet to read his book, but I certainly like his principal methodology to deal with the three "enemies", with my humble annotations:

1) Clarity: understand your targets & the "why" behind them;

Undoubtedly, clarity is power, especially when one is fully aware & understands the true reason or purpose for doing something in the first place;

2) Focus: concentrate on what really matters, & filter out what does not;

Italian argicultural economist Vilfredo Pareto was abosultely right. Stephen Covey, too, with his First Things First. Anyway, our brains follow what we focus on.

3) Execution: use effective communication to get things accomplished - faster!

You know what to do, how to do it & also, why you need to do it, but if you still don't do it, then everything goes back to square one. Bias for action is one thing, but getting it done is more important, result-wise.

Makes sense, & not exactly ground-breaking, but I am still going to procure the book for my personal library, because I want to know what else is inside the book.

By the way, Tony Jeary has also written several reasonably good articles. Readers can go to this link to take a look.

[Come to think of it, I remember Bob Proctor came up with something quite similar many years ago, but seemingly hyperbolic, at least to me, called 'Disciplined Income Acceleration'.]


"Nothing is the same thing twice. Including your own perspective."

~ from the 'IDEO Eyes Open: A Field Guide for the Curious' website;

Sunday, February 1, 2009


The following advice has been extracted & adapted from the classic, 'The Magic of Thinking Big', by David Schwartz:

The first step toward personal development:

Believe in yourself, believe you can succeed.

Here are three simple suggestions to guide you in acquiring & strengthening your power of belief:

1. Think success, don't think failure, at work & at home;

When you face a difficult situation, think, "I'll win,' not "I'll probably lose."

When you compete with someone else, think, "I'm equal to the best," not "I'm out-classed."

When opportunity appears, think "I can do it," never "I can't."

Let the master thought "I can succeed" dominate your thought process.

2. Remind yourself regularly that you are better than you think you are.

Successful people are just ordinary folks who have developed belief in themselves & what they do.

Never - yes, never - sell yourself short.

3. Believe Big.

The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief.

Your personal development is a matter of your own personal application. This is something which you just got to make time, do work, & make sacrifice. Nobody can do it for you.

Leaders in every other life pursuit get there by following a chosen personal development & growth program conscientiously & consistently.

Your personal development & growth program must do three things.

1) tells you what to do;

2) describes to you how to do it;

3) gets results;

Very briefly, results come from the conscientious & consistent application of what-to-do & how-to-do of your program.


How do I inspire myself?

How do I make the recession work for me & not against me?

What' s the upside to a downturn?

What can I do differently tomorrow morning?

How can my life's routine moments become the catalyst for brilliant experience design?


While surfing the net today, I have stumbled upon this belated, but interesting, article about leadership.

What strikes my immediate attention is this one line at the beginning:

"Managers are great at solving problems. Leaders, on the other hand, exude their greatness by creating problems."

followed by:

"People who are great problem solvers are often presented with the opportunity to become a manager. However, the keys to the executive suite require that you develop new skills and competencies. You must become comfortable creating problems for your people to solve.

Why would a leader create problems? Intentional problems can be the catalyst for a company to make changes. Problems can evoke the necessary motivation to make a quantum leap in revenue, innovation or significant cost savings . . ."

What a fascinating paradox?

Please go to this link to read the article in its entirety.

The author is Ted Santos, CEO of Turnaround Investment Partners (TIP), a New York-based firm that advises executives/owners/teams who are uncertain about executing high-level change initiatives. TIP imparts tools and develops processes to create breakthroughs in revenues and innovation.


"I believe in the ABCs:

Actions Bring Consequences and Determine Emotions.

In other words, acting positive will make you feel positive. This is the power of attitude because our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens.

We are affected not so much by what life brings to us but by the attitudes we bring to life. A positive attitude brings forth a sequence of positive thoughts, events, and eventually outcomes.

Hence, I offer Pugno's Pearls for a Positive Perspective:

1) Behave in an optimistic manner and you will indeed feel optimistic.

2) Avoid negative people. They are energy vampires and will "suck" energy from you.

3) Learn something positive (and useful) from every failure.

4) Take a good hard look at an avocado. God has a sense of humor, so it is okay to laugh at yourself once in a while.

5) Try to always do what's right, not just what's expedient. That way, even if you fail, at least you were on the "high road."

6) Always tell the truth. It's much easier than remembering to lie consistently.

7) Remember that success favors the well prepared.

As John Gardner, former secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, was noted to have said, "Life is filled with golden opportunities, carefully disguised as irresolvable problems."

[Source: The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine 22 (1): 6-8 (2009), based on a paper from the 2008 Nicholas J. Pisacano Memorial Lecture delivered in June 2008 at the AAFP Program Directors Workshop in Overland Park, Kansas, USA.]


". . . This is an exciting time to be alive. Although our world is an uncertain and changing environment, it is also full of possibilities and there is a certain sense of adventure in the journey.

There are two possible responses you can make to a changing world.

First, you can be tossed to and fro wherever the waves of change take you. If you follow that course, you will be miserable, helpless and ineffective.

Alternatively, you can embrace the changes that happen, ride the waves of uncertainty, and drive further changes yourself. Following that course will lead you to continue achieving, learning and improving.

Most progress has come from people who were not content to accept the status quo, but were driven by a desire to improve things.

Change is hard, but stagnation is fatal!"

~ Prof Rob Hyndman, in his Graduation Address of 25th October 2007 at University of Monash, Australia;


Whenever I get up in the morning, the first thing I will do is to grab my Straits Times or Sunday Times, & then go to answer nature's morning call.

This morning is no different, but I am disheartened to read about a "professional, sincere, helpful, trustworthy . . . very savvy . . . street smart" salesman by the name of Jerry Ee, 35.

According to the Sunday Times, Jerry Ee is suspected of pulling off one of Singapore's biggest theft, making off with S$7.9 million worth of luxury timepieces from his now ex-employers.

By all accounts, Jerry was well-liked while working at Cortina Watch by both clients & colleagues.

What has struck me most was his personal ethos:

"Whatever you do, do BIG!"

What an irony?

It seems from the newspaper report that his Achilles' heel was gambling.

Not surprisingly, gambling always invariably generates a ripple effect, often resulting in chaos, not only to the person who unwittingly started it, but also to those around him or her.

That's why I always consider personal values, especially in the context of doing the right thing, as very important in the pursuit of life's goals.

Having a strong personal value system helps one to stay grounded, to maintain self-discipline, to do good & live good.

Success guru Stephen Covey calls it the 'Character Ethic'.

In a way, I have to thank my late parents. My dad was a very strict disciplinarian. My mum was adept with swinging the cane. Both entertained no nonsense in the family with 13 siblings.

It is good to have BIG dreams, but don't get carried away.

This brings me to another case I read in the papers about a year or more ago. It happened in China, Xiamen to be precise.

There was this young Chinese entrepreneur who grew up to be a very powerful businessman with strong connections to Xiamen high-ranking port & customs officials.

In one of the newspaper reports, there was this picture showing him sitting at his huge desk. On the wall just behind him, he had two large paper scrolls.

The message, in Chinese, read something to this effect:

"There is nothing that is impossible to do in this world; the only impossible thing is your inability to imagine."

I fully concur.

As a high profile entrepreneur, he was eventually arrested by public security & charged in court for graft & corruption connected to the controversial Xiamen port & customs fiasco. [It was linked to the highest political echelon.] If I remember correctly, he was subsequently executed.

I felt very sorry for the guy. He had certainly dreamed - & done - big, & I marvelled at his personal ethos. But he got it all wrong.

Character always comes first.


In close collaboration with my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, Learning Chef, Braindancer & Managing Director of Braindancing International, I have created a new personal weblog, geared primarily towards creativity & innovation, with specially dedicated contributions from Dilip.

As the name implies, it's will be a constantly evolving array of tools, templates, tactics, techniques & tips to turbo-charge your creativity & innovation, personally, professionally & organisationally.

Readers are cordially invited to go to this link to explore.

Enjoy your reading, exploration & assimilation!

[All images in this post are the property of Dilip Mukerjea.]