Saturday, July 11, 2009


"Only through engaged conversations over time can managers create failure-tolerant work environments that invite innovation. This is not to say that a major achievement shouldn't be applauded, or that repeated, avoidable mistakes should be tolerated. But astute managers mark the daily progress of small successes & failures with an evenhanded, open curiosity about the lessons learned & the next steps to take."

- Richard Farson, in a 2002 Harvard Business Review article on 'The Failure-Tolerant Leader'; [Here's the link to the original article.]


I have, not too long ago, & also as part of my evolving personal collection, the following apt quote from Philip Kotler at the forefront of my daily idea scratchpad:

“To prepare for the twenty-first century, companies need to imagine alternative scenarios for the marketplace of the future, and use these scenarios to stimulate their thinking about possible contingencies and strategies. My advice, therefore, is get busy building scenarios and determining what they imply in the way of strategic planning. Do not think business as usual.”

I can't recall where I have gotten it, but I have also adopted it as one of my 'Today's VIP (Very Important Pose'), as well as considered it as one of my 'Pragmatic Insights from the Experts' in my personal weblog.

To my pleasant delight, I am glad that it helps to set a profound preamble to this book review of mine.

The lead author, now 78 or so, but surprisingly still active, is undoubtedly recognised as an internationally acclaimed marketing guru; hailed by the Management Centre Europe as "the world's foremost expert on the strategic practice of marketing."

Naturally, I have been quite excited to approach in reading his new book, 'Chaotics', but my fascination begins to fade after reading several pages at the front portion of the book. This is primarily because the author has drawn excellent material from several earlier authors - which he has humbly acknowledged at the onset & within the chapters of the book - namely:

- Clayton Christensen ('The Innovator's Dilemma' & 'The Innovator's Solution');
- Jim Collins ('Good to Great');
- Peter Drucker (The Age of Discontinuity');
- George Day & Paul Schoemaker ('Peripheral Vision');
- Richard D'Alveni ('Hypercompetition');
- Arie de Geus ('The Living Company');
- Benjamin Gilad ('Early Warning');
- Andy Grove ('Only the Paranoid Survive');
- Gary Hamel ('Leading the Revolution');
- Peter Schwartz ('Inevitable Surprises');

[The only odd one I have not read, to my chagrin, is probably Hermann Simon's 'Hidden Champions'.]

I have, in fact, over the years, read the works of these authors not only once, but many times in order to personalise their many ideas for easy application.

So, specifically for me, reading 'Chaotics' is like doing a grand refresher course.

In fact, it also reminds of me of the great works of two Scandinavian consultants Yves Doz & Mikko Kosonen (with their masterpiece: 'Fast Strategy: How Strategic Agility will help you Stay Ahead of the Game') & innovation strategist/futurist Jim Carroll (namely, 'What I Learned from Frogs in Texas: Saving Your Skin with Forward-Thinking Innovation' & 'Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast').

However, in fairness to the two competent authors, this bold statement of mine is not going to diminish the value of the book.

Strictly speaking, I reckon, riding on the shoulders of giants, so to speak, is apparently a cool move on the part of the two competent authors, because they didn't have to spend time dabbling with fancy theories. All they need to do, is to give all the proven stuff a new spin, which they have done so marvellously in 'Chaotics'.

In that respect, I have found useful nuggets, in addition to the fact that the two competent authors have synthesised, within 200-odd pages, all the "borrowed brilliance" into a timely, disciplined strategy guide on building strategic robustness, market responsiveness & operational resiliency, as embodied in their 'Chaotics' Management System.

In a nut shell, I want to say that the book is all about developing organisational agility & prosperity, but first business leaders need a new view of the world, & a new framework for dealing with it.

[At this juncture, I am reminded again by this superb insight from Dudley Lynch, author of 'Strategy of the Dolphin' & 'The Mother of All Minds':

"When your mind changes its worldview, it changes the world! Not just the world-at-large outside you, but also your own interior personal world, writ large!"]

So, 'Chaotics' comes in real handy, because it provides a comprehensive roadmap to navigate the so-called interlocking fragility of turbulence, chaos, risk & uncertainty amidst globalisation & digitisation, as well as a practical operating manual for inculcating new strategic behaviours.

[Readers can also go to this publisher's link to download an overview document on 'Chaotics'.]

For me, the beautiful nuggets come in the form of abundant pertinent probing questions, which all managers of today should ask themselves, if they really want to survive & thrive in the 'Age of Turbulence', all interpersed throughout the book (& strategically segmented to suit finance, IT, manufacturing, purchasing & HR) , plus a myriad of thoughtfully-crafted checklists of recommendations & ideas to consider.

In terms of immediate takeaways or learning points, the foregoing stuff is already worth the price of the book. It's like having both competent authors at your side to guide you.

For reader's benefits, I like to fish out a handful of the worthwhile checklists:

- factors that can cause chaos;
- hypercompetition strategies for disruption;
- most common mistakes that business leaders make when turbulence hits;
- ten innovation mistakes a company can make during a turbulent economy;
- ten most common mistakes companies make relative to valued stakeholders during turbulence;
- one effective & efficient approach to scenario construction;
- ten practices to weather continually extended & heightened periods of turbulence;
- ten effective HR recommendations to help retain talent;
- four key changes in the marketspace;
- eight factors for marketers to keep in mind when embracing 'Chaotics' marketing strategies; - three important recommendations for keeping margins above water;
- six key steps for sales executives to inspired the team;
- common characteristics of firms of endearment (endeared company);

Some of the authors' concepts like defending vulnerabilities/exploiting opportunities for sustainability, as well as dual vision/triple planning, though not entirely new, are worth reading, too.

To conclude my review, 'Chaotics' is still worth pursuing, especially if you are hard-pressed for time in seeking a lifeline while traversing uncharted waters. Best of all, to the credit of the two competent authors, their writing style is crisp, succinct & easy-to-read.


"Giving up the illusion that you can predict the future is a very liberating moment. All you can do is to give yourself the capacity to respond to the only certainty in life - which is uncertainty. The creation of that capability is the purpose of strategy."

~ from the 'Lord Goold Memorial Lecture: Marketing Strategy' by Lord John Brown, Group Chief Executive of BP,


I have stumbled upon the following beautiful poem in Australian-based business consultant David Nomchong's 'Business Growers' weblog, in which he had described how he had chanced upon it after a visit to the private residence of a successful Australian businessman, Ruben Scarf. The latter had originally written it to his son, Gerrad.

Interestingly, 'Business Growers' have also adopted it as its business philosophy.

"To my children."

"Each day we live is the preparation for the future of our life. The acts we sow today from the harvests for tomorrow's reapings! What we reap today has been previously sown for us or by us. Little in life is accidential!"

"Be not decieved that youth has special licence to waste, to fornicate, to indulge. The law is clear - the law is changeless and also just - use what you have that is good on which to build your life. Thus every day will produce a succession of happy, productive tomorrows".

"Despair not for your future prospects in life, in love, in marriage. Your future is in your own hands. Daily you prepare yourself for the prize or the punishment that is to be yours - Industry goes not unrewarded - no self-indulgence unpunished."

"Remember always!"

"The prize and the price are usually equal. Don't decieve yourself that easy profits are the key to permanent success. Welcome adversity as a friend, an ally. For it polishes the metal of the strong and the wise. Also it erodes the will of the weak, the self-indulgent - above all! You are your best friend or you can be your worst enemy."

Friday, July 10, 2009


[continued from the Last Post.]

These are my photoshots of the 'Evolution', a thrilling outdoor ride with rotation on 3 axes - judging from the extremely loud screams of the riders - at VinPearl Land.

[More information about VinPearl Land is available from this link.
[Destination Vietnam Schedule: 3rd to 10th June 2009]


[continued from the Last Post.]

These are my photoshots of the gravity-defying 'Swing Carousel' & 'Pirate Ship' outdoor rides at VinPearl Land.

[To be continued in the Next Post. More information about VinPearl Land is available from this link. ]
[Destination Vietnam Schedule: 3rd to 10th June 2009, with 3 nights in Nha Trang & 4 nights in Dalat]


I reckon, at least from the kids' perspective, the principal highlight of the visit to Nha Trang, in addition to frolicking on the two beautiful beaches, was their personal adventures on VinPearl Land, considered to be the largest amusement park in Vietnam.

VinPearl Land is located on Hon Tre Island, which is the largest island just off the coast of the city.

Access to Vinpearl Land, in addition to the fast boats & slow ferry, is by the 3.3 km cable car system, reportedly the longest cable car system to cross the sea in the world. It is supported by nine pillars shaped like the Eiffel Tower at 90m above the sea.

For the benefit of the kids, we went there by cable car early in the morning, but returned by ferry in the late evening.

My photo shots did not do justice to the myriad fun adventures because I had captured only three of the major thrilling outdoor rides, namely 'Evolution', 'Swing Carousel' & 'Pirate Ship'.

On the day of our visit to VinPearl Land, the weather was so hot - at least 37 degrees C - that I would rather spend my time under the shade.

Instead of walking around with my digital camera under the sun, I preferred toying with ideas in my scratchpad under the shade, while my buddy, David, chose to squat at the Beer Garden with his cool beers.

In fact, the kids were very smart too. After a few thrilling outdoor rides, they chose to hole themselves up in the large video arcade, which was fully air-conditioned. The arcade also had its own variety of indoor stuff, besides video games.

I didn't hangout in the video arcade beacause it was really noisy. It seemed to me that the kids had a much higher noise threshold compared to adults.

[to be continued in the Next Post. More information about VinPearl Land is available from this link. ]
[Destination Vietnam Schedule: 3rd to 10th June 2009, with 3 nights in Nha Trang & 4 nights in Dalat]


One thing that impresses me most is the spontaneous welcome greetings to walk-in customers by the sales assistants on duty at all the Giordarno retail outlets, followed by their smiling faces.


For me, this digital snapshot at the shopfront of a watch retailer inside the Wisma Atria shopping mall reminds me of one small but beautiful aspect of President John Kennedy's famous inaugural speech during the early sixties, which many consultants & trainers over the years have often used to epitomise the power of purpose & focus.


Do I know what my unique selling proposition is in the marketplace?

Do I know what my sustainable authentic competitive advantage is, & what difference it would make to my life?

~ inspired by the work of Michael Neray, progenitor of 'The Essential Message';

[According to him, at the core of every successful business, big or small, in any industry & in any geographical area, is the ability to answer these two essential questions.

In a nut shell, they boil down to one simple question:

Do I know what makes me different?]


"It's never a money problem, just an idea problem!"

~ Reverend Robert Schuller, 83, American televangelist & author, known around the world through his weekly 'Hour of Power' television broadcast;

Thursday, July 9, 2009


The small Red Coral Hotel, with spartan but clean facilities, while located in the back alley, off the Tran Phu Boulevard, was our temporary residence for 4 days/3 nights in Nha Trang. It was only five minutes' walk away from the popular Tran Phu Beach.

[Destination Vietnam Schedule: 3rd to 10th June 2009, with 3 nights in Nha Trang & 4 nights in Dalat]