Saturday, September 26, 2009


As I review these two digital snapshots of the shopfront display of the GAP retail boutique at the Vivocity shopping mail, I just wonder about this question:

Are kids so lucrative for big business?

As a matter of fact, GAP just happens to be one of such boutiques - they are newcomers from the United States - as there are already many others, including seasoned players, in the Singapore marketplace.

The answer is seemingly yes, judging from today's Singapore kids who are apparently in control of their dual-income parents' discretionary expenditure.

Fashion clothes are just the tip of the iceberg. Just look at the local spheres of education, entertainment, recreation, sports & travel.

Also, I notice that most parents have no qualms in forking out money to buy fancy stuff for their kids.

Interestingly, Oshgosh B'Gosh, the oldest, largest & most recognised branded marketers of baby & young kids' apparel in the USA, have been active in Singapore since the late nineties.


I remember this immortal line from the poetry of the English poet Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936):

'Oh, East is East, & West is West, & never the twain shall meet...'

As a student during the sixties, I had understood it to mean "two things are so different that they can never come together or agree..."

Well, judging from the foregoing digital snapshot, it is obvious that the twain hath met.


Donald Latumahina, the brain behind the Life Optimiser weblog, has distilled the following 9 lessons on creativity from the brilliant physicist & Nobel laureate Richard Feynman (1918–1988), as follows:

1) Be curious about anything;

2) Be bold to try something new;

3) Be playful;

4) The pleasure should be in finding things out;

5) Be brutally honest about what you think;

6) Get so deep that you forget about anything else;

7) Provide solid, uninterrupted length of time for creative work;

8) Aim for simplicity;

9) Really know what you do;

You can go to this link to read the original blog post in its entirety.


The strategy of exploiting chaos in order to seize opportunities in today's crazy times is obviously the rousing battle cry of innovation expert Jeremy Gutsche's new book, 'Exploiting Chaos: 150 Ways to Spark Innovation During Times of Change'.

I have mentioned about this book briefly in an earlier post ['Braindancing Smorgasbord' weblog].

Backed by excellent credentials - host of TrendHunter TV, founder of, reportedlythe world's largest network of trend-spotting & cool-hunting pros, & now a widely-sought keynote speaker in North America - the author & his book are seemingly getting raving reviews.

In the first place, the book is quite unique in itself: visually engaging, with a fancy mix of large format, bold letters, coloured texts, oversized fonts, long & short sentences, wide spacing, & interspersed with wise quotes, jumpy lists & large portraits or photographs. All these features make reading a breeze!

In fact, I get the impression that the author may have been heavily influenced by the published thoughtwares of corporate skunk Tom Peters.

In reality, the author writes exactly like Tom Peters with his short, staccato bursts of energetic prescriptions, occasionally outrageous & yet written succinctly, with enchanting anecdotes & provocative examples from real-world events, in contrast to the staid academic texts of the time.

So much so that reading his book on my part reminds me of reading Tom Peters' 'Reinventing Work' series of small pocket-sized hard-backs, namely, 'The Brand You 50', 'The Project 50' & 'The Professional Service Firm 50' (combined, they also give a total of 150 ways to spark innovation, many of which are still relevant for today) during the late 90's.

I don't mean to throw a wet blanket on 'Exploiting Chaos', but it is obvious to me that the many ideas in the book are not ground-breaking or revolutionary, but the author certainly has given them a new & refreshing spin with his so-called 'Crowd Sourced Insights'.

The latter is definitely a cool innovation on the part of the author, even though, with the luxury of today's Internet & Web 2.0 technologies, he has apparently extended the content analysis intelligence methodologies of futurist John Naisbitt, whose resultant book, 'Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives', rocked the world during the early 80's.

Instead of running probably a large team of media analysts to scan some 6,000 local & regional newspapers, trade journals, etc., within the United States during the 80's as in the case with John Naisbitt, TrendHunter intelligently uses a small project team of dedicated staff to sift & resift & repackage the constant flow of disparate spotted ideas (known as micro-trends) from some 28,000+ global trend hunters.

They are then posted on the TrendHunter website - just imagine they garnered 40 million page views in 2008 - & then, measured & filtered down to 360+ clusters of inspirations, which in turn are reconfigured into their popular Trend Reports, which are sought after by big boys, like The Economist & Financial Times.

In a nut shell, the book's selling point, besides promoting the company's lucrative Trend Reports, is how to ride & leverage on the current recession & emerging trends - through the adept use of some of the 150 ways offered in the book as fuel to spark innovation - to make a quantum leap.

The 'Exploiting Chaos' framework, comprising 'Culture of Revolution', 'Trend Hunting', 'Adaptive Innovation' & 'Infectious Messaging', is interesting too, but one needs to work diligently to get it to work.

The author's principal argument about the giants of business - Disney, CNN, HP, GE, Apple, Sun, to name just a few - having started & prospered during time of crises, certainly makes good reading. Encouraging, too.

There is only one point in the book that sort of annoys me: 'Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast', even though his checklist of parameters, 'Perspective', Experimental Failure', 'Customer Obsession' & 'Intentional Destruction', is reasonably valid.

I hold the view that strategy formulation or thinking strategically must always comes first & be sustained throughout, so that one can really do something about the culture.

On the whole, this book is still worth reading. To paraphrase the marketing maverick Seth Godin, "with the ideas from the book, you might catch an ideavirus".

Nonetheless, I also like to recommend two books to go as companion reading:

Jim Carroll's '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', which I had already reviewed in this weblog.

[Readers can go to the TrendHunter website to download a 25 page preview of the book. Here's the link.

Alternatively, the Business Week online magazine has singled out 24 of the 150 ways to spark innovation in a slide presentation. Here's the link to view it.]


[continued from the Last Post.]

Whenever rough ideas start to churn inside my head, especially at the early stage after all the information has been gathered, in preparation for, say, writing a book review or tackling a problem, they go round & round like a swirling mess.

This probably explains why our heads are round. Just kidding!

Sometimes, I am conscious about it, but oftentimes, I am not, as if it is invisible, even though it's always there, working on the surface of my mind.

It can be most challenging in a way, as it requires me to do the unthinkable, i.e. doing nothing physically.

I just got to leave it alone to take its natural course, although I may still ponder about it occasionally. In other words, I just got to trust the process.

Creativity experts call it, "taking a break, getting away from where you are", but the term 'incubation' is often acknowledged & used to describe the phenomenon.

According to the experts, the conscious left-brain initiates the intent, while the unconscious right brain takes up the churning, involving sorting, organising & aligning of disparate information inside the head.

Interestingly, while I may be slacking off, so to speak, suddenly the Aha! moment may appear, often while I am running on the treadmill, or taking a shower, or sitting on the toilet, or doing something relaxing, but irrelevant.

Sometimes, it comes while I am commuting in a MRT train or even driving.

Sometimes, even in the middle of the night while asleep. It's like a jolt of lightning. Hey, the lightning bulb looks very familiar now!

In a sense, I now know why, as they say, we got to "sleep on it"!

That's also why it is very important to have a notebook on standby to be ready to record the sudden insight.

Albert Einstein called this process "combinatory play".

In fact, & no wonder, Prof. Teresa Amabile at the Harvard University once defined 'incubation' as:

"A process of unconscious recombination of thought elements that were stimulated through conscious work at one point in time, resulting in novel & useful ideas at some later point in time."

I often like to associate the 'incubation' stage with the 'Twilight Zone' [one of my most favourite TV series during the sixties] - the wonderful space & expansive time of chaos & perturbation, where reality & dreams mix!

Historical anecdotes abound:

- Kekule's sudden realisation regarding the circular structure of benzene while dozing off by the fire;

- Archimedes' instant recognition of the principle of displacement while bathing;

- Elias Howe's breakthough concept of a sewing needle with a hole in the 'wrong end' from a dream;

Although the 'incubation' stage may flow from the 'preparatory' stage, as mentioned in my earlier post, they in reality flow into each other.

This is because, drawing on my own experience in writing a book review, & letting the raw ideas simmer in the stew pot of my mind, so to speak, I may from time to time go back to review my scratchpad notes on the book (as well as notes on other books), thinking about them, & leaving them behind to work on something else.

Then, when I least expect it, out of the churning mess, the eureka moment - the realisation of the best angle to approach the review - unexpectedly pops up!

I must say that 'incubation' is actually the most critical stage in the creative process. It may be the least understood & respected, but it is the most powerful.

In fact, this is often the stage that most of us tend to mess up the most with all kinds of distractions, as well as the hustle & bustle of everyday tasks.

Amusingly, & to sum up this blog post, Japanese inventor extraordinaire, Dr Nakamats, who gave the world the floppy disk, among other useful inventions, practises a deliberate form of incubation process through the disciplined use of what he calls:

- 'static room';
- 'dynamic room' &
- 'underwater swimming';

in that particular order. You can read about them in my earlier posts of this weblog.

Frankly, I do not subscribe to his elaborate antics, even though they worked for him, but I prefer to play some soft music e.g Baroque, Classical &/or New Age selections, in the background, as part of my own disciplined routines in creating a relaxing & conducive environment.

[to be continued in the Next Post.]


What does it mean to be rich & happy?

How does one live a richer & happier life?


"Part of human nature resents change, loves equilibrium, while the other part welcomes novelty, loves the excitement of disequilibrium. There is no formula for the resolution of this tug of war, but it is obvious that absolute surrender to either of them invites disaster."

~ Prof. J Barlet Brebner;

Friday, September 25, 2009


According to George Leonard, aikido master & author of the classic, 'Mastery: The Keys to Success & Long-Term Fulfillment':

"What is Mastery?

It resists definition yet can be instantly recognized. It comes in many varieties, yet follows certain unchanging laws. It brings rich rewards, yet is not really a goal or a destination but rather a process, a journey.

We call this journey mastery, & tend to assume that it requires a special ticket available only to those born with exceptional abilities.

But mastery isn't reserved for the super-talented or even for those who are fortunate enough to have gotten an early start.

It's available to anyone who is willing to get on the path & stay on it -regardless of age, sex, or previous experience..."

Here's a quick summary of the key points from the master:

1. It's a never-ending journey.

2. You can either be on the mastery journey or on the quick-fix journey.

3. The mastery journey can begin whenever you decide to learn any new skill.

4. The mastery journey is simply practice; to practice diligently; but to practice primarily for the sake of practice.


1. Work only a half a day; it makes no difference which half - it can be either the first 12 hours or the last 12 hours.

2. Work is the master key that opens the door to all opportunities.

3. Mental attitude plays a far more important role in a person's success or failure than mental capacity.

4. Remember that we all climb the ladder of success one step at a time.

5. There are two ways to get to the top of the oak tree. One way is to sit on a acorn & wait; the other is to climb it.

6. Do not be afraid of taking a chance. Remember that a broken watch is exactly right at least twice every 24 hours.

7. The secret of happiness is not doing what one likes, but in liking what one does.

8. Eliminate from your vocabulary the words, "I don't think I can" & substitute "I know I can".

9. In evaluating a career, put opportunity ahead of security.

10. Remember that success requires half luck & half brains.

11. A person has to take risks to achieve.

12. People who taker pains never to do more than they get paid for, never get paid for anything more than they do.

13. No job is too hard as long as you are smart enough to find someone else to do it for you.

14. Opportunity comes often. It knocks as often as you have an ear trained to heat it, an eye trained to see it, a hand trained to grasp it, & a head trained to use it.

15. You cannot procrastinate-in two days, tomorrow will be yesterday.

16. Sell your wristwatch & buy an alarm clock.

17. A successful person realizes his personal responsibility for self-motivation. He starts himself because he possesses the key to his own ignition switch.

18. Do not worry. You can't change the past, but you sure can ruin the present by worrying aver the future. Remember that half the things we worry about never happen, & the other half are going to happen anyway. So, why worry?

19. It is not how much you have but how much you enjoy that makes happiness.

20. Believe in God & obey the 'Ten Commandments'.

[Note: Kemmons Wilson, (1913–2003), was the founder of the Holiday Inn chain of hotels. His autobiography, 'Half Luck & Half Brains', tells the story of the Holiday Inn.]


• What's good in my life?

• What's good & new in the world?

• What am I grateful for?

• How am I blessed?

• What am I excited about?

• What are some of my best memories?

• What am I looking forward to?

• What am I proud of?

• Who do I love?

• Who loves me?


If readers are keen to learn about the fundamentals of strategic foresight, I suggest going to this link to register for the initial ten free lessons from the esteemed World Future Society.

The weekly lessons, e-mailed to subscribers, offer straightforward explanations of the futurist profession’s most useful “futuring” techniques, with practical examples of they are used and resources for finding more information.

The lessons include:

- Innovation Enhancement

- Technology Trends

- Trend Analysis

- Scenarios

- Visioning, & more.

The World Future Society, founded in 1966, is an association of people interested in how social & technological developments are shaping the future. It endeavors to help individuals, organizations, & communities see, understand, & respond appropriately & effectively to change.

Through media, meetings, & dialogue among its members, it raises awareness of change & encourages development of creative solutions.

The Society takes no official position on what the future will or should be like. Instead it acts as a neutral forum for exploring possible, probable, & preferable futures.

The World Future Society has published numerous books, including 'Futuring: The Exploration of the Future' by Society founder Edward Cornish, as well as several print & electronic journals, including 'The Futurist', a bimonthly magazine focused on innovation, creative thinking, & emerging social, economic, & technological trends.


Just some quick thoughts that come to mind:

- stay focused on your life goals, but remain flexible in your pursuit;

- embrace life-long learning & keep learning new things;

- master critical thinking skills, to think strategically about the future;

- read widely, mainstream as well as fringe stuff;

- widen your mental horizons through traveling & networking;

- be open to new ideas, including those that annoy you;

- gather broad experiences & don't over-specialise - remember, specialisation is for insects!

- extend your social conversations & listen attentively;

- connect the dots by bridging disparate ideas & experiences;

- challenge yourself constantly - your assumptions, your beliefs & your limits;

- be infinitely creative & innovative;

- think global, act local;

- approach every daily experience with a positive mental attitude;

- get serious at having fun & laughter;

- exercise self-discipline & avoid instant gratification;

- develop positive values & personal ethics in your relationships;

- anticipate problems, shorten response times & act decisively;

- exercise regularly, eat moderately & enjoy life, to maintain a healthy mind, body & spirit;

- most importantly, be passionate & purposeful about who you are & what you do;


"The further we push out the boundaries of knowledge & innovation, the more the next great value breakthrough - that is, the next new hot selling product & service - will come from putting together disparate things that you would not think of as going together."

~ Thomas Friedman, 56, American journalist, columnist & author; his major works include 'The World is Flat';

Thursday, September 24, 2009


"Innovation is an invention that changes the way we do things & that has a social or economic impact on the world."

~ from innovation strategist Jorge Barba;


In real terms, Bugis Street does not exist in today's Singapore topography. It's actually a very crowded shopping arcade.

As far as I can recall, Bugis Street was originally located between North Bridge Road & Victoria Street, where today it is the entrance to the Bugis Junction shopping mall.

The name was believed to have come from the original Bugis (a seafaring tribe from the Sulawesi region of Indonesia; they came before the British;) settlement which was sited around the Rochor River.

Throughout the late 60's, 70's & up to early 80's or so, Bugis Street was famous for its raucous charm & nocturnal activities, which annoyed (&/or embarassed) the conservative government for years until it decided to redevelop the entire area during the mid-80's, particularly in connection with the Bugis MRT Station.

The new Bugis Street, at least by name on paper, was eventually resited right opposite the original street between Victoria Street & Queen Street, forming what is today Singapore's largest & cheapest street-corner shopping district (around 9,000 m2 with some 800 shops), bounded by Victoria Street, Queen Street, Rochor Road & Cheng Yan Place.

Although transformed, the heat & humidity didn't change much, because it is non-air-conditioned.

During the early colonial era, there used to be low moulds of white sand in the area, earning its colloquial Hokkien moniker of 'Peh Sua Pu' (Bei Sha Fu, in Mandarin, which means "white sand float"). However, the Cantonese folks often referred to the street as 'Hak Gaai' ('Hei Jie' in Mandarin, which means "black street") as there were many clubs catering to the Japanese invading forces during the war.

Throughout the late 60's, 70's & up to the early 80's, the area was surrounded by dilapidated shop houses, dirty back alleys & stinking drains.

By night, in contrast, the entire area was a roaring red-light district, famous for all the sleazy bars & 'ah qua' street shows, "choreographed" by transvestites, which were favoured by visiting international sailors on shore leave.

I recall, as a young engineer, I had visited the place during the early 70's - in fact, it was the first time I had stepped foot in the area - with a visiting German engineer, who had heard of the place & wanted me to bring him there after dinner.

That night, we found a small table. I ordered a coke for myself & a beer for my colleague. The bill came with a big shock: S$20/-.

Knowing very well that the area was a hub for other fringe members of the local community, who were somehow involved in gambling, pimping & other nocturnal activities, I just paid the bill without question.

But, to our sensory delight, we had a grandstand view of the 'ah qua' street show, in which flamboyantly dressed beautiful men with voluptuous female features sashayed their way, up & down, in single file.

For me, it was an out-of-this-world experience, because, for the first time in my life, I realised what my favourite movie actor of the 60's & 70's, the Duke aka John Wayne, had once said about his preference for acting in westerns: that's the only place where men were men, women were women.

I had heard of wild stories about hordes of drunken sailors, down to their bare briefs, dancing or more like prancing on the roof tops of public toilets, but that night I didn't get the chance to see them in action.

Also, some of my adventurous friends had told me that the area was serviced by many enterprising make-shift food hawkers, with their wide range of exotic gastronomical delights, especially bull penises with noodles.

Having been conned once, I didn't want to go back again.

Today, the entire Bugis area comprises two shopping malls:

- the air-conditioned Bugis Junction (actually made up of the old Malabar Street/Malay Street/Hylam Street) serving the more up-market shoppers, &

- the non-airconditioned still-so-called 'Bugis Street', serving street corner shoppers, especially with all the inexpensive fashion knick-knack stores & tourist souvenir shops, specialty food & drinks outlets, as well as fresh fruit stalls.

When comes to window-shopping, Bugis Junction is one of my & my wife's regular hangouts.

At least once a month or so, we love to walk through the so-called Bugis Street on our way to visit the Chinese temple - Kuan Yin Thong Hood Cho - at Waterloo Street, from the Bugis MRT Station.

[For more information about the so-called 'Bugis Street', please visit this link.]


Over the last few weeks, the series of blog posts - 33 so far - under the heading of 'Random Spotlight' (or just 'Spotlight' in much earlier blog posts; 120 of them) has set me thinking further about my personal experience.

Originally, I have initiated the 'Spotlight' & now, the 'Random Spotlight', as a disciplined & deliberate part of my journey of intellectual stimulation in the Third Age.

From the physical standpoint, it forms an integral component of my morning walkabouts, as well as my window-shopping sprees with my wife.

Hence, I have to be alert to what's around me or what's in the immediate horizon of my physical environment. More importantly, what's really out there!

With the aid of my digital camera & pocket notebook, my eyeballs are raring to go.

For each 'Random Spotlight', I have given a personal reaction to it. Whether it is just random musing on my part, it doesn't really matter.

Sometimes, I add a little story to embellish my personal response.

I find the personal experience quite challenging & fun too, because I have to ponder & think about what to write & what angle I want to explore or respond.

Ideas start to bounce inside my head. The bouncing keeps me awake. I reckon that what I enjoy the most.

Sometimes, the whole endeavour requires me to do a little bit of reading &/or research just before I write, but most of the times, it has always been a spontaneous exercise.

Then, I realise what I am doing is relatively similar to what the School of Thinking, reportedly the largest of its kind in the world, developed by creativity guru Michael Hewitt-Gleeson from Down Under, is doing in their web-based thinking skills training curriculum.

Working with an online format, he throws a Daily Feedback Question (DFQ), which may come in the form of a brief situation report, or a simple commentary, or a question, or a provocative quote, & participants are required to give a written reaction.

This goes on for the initial ten lessons, & upon completion, you move to the next level, called 'Beyond Critical Thinking'.

Sometimes, on the other hand, I feel like I am riding on Dr Win Wenger's well-publicised 'image streaming' exercise, although I must admit that mine is more of a distant variation.

From another perspective, while typing out my personal response on the computer keyboard, I consider what I am doing as akin to practising a creative thinking methodology known as 'brain-writing', especially when I type furiously what comes to my mind.

Then again, because I don't do it continuously in a prolonged stretch, I must say that mine is another distant variation.

Nonetheless, looking at the foregoing two generative methodologies, plus the one from Down Under, the desired outcome, at least from my perspective, is more or less the same: eliciting personal responses, & thus, enhancing personal creativeness.

I reckon, writing from what is immediately inside our head - where our lifetime inventory of memories, based on our daily explorations & everyday experiences are stored - at the point of interaction, or response, so to speak, actually drives our thinking machinery.

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, between stimulus & response, there is this interactive space, where we have the freedom as well as the power to choose.

Come to think of it, here also lies the prelude to personal creativity. Isn't it?


Can I afford to be so arrogant as to pretend I know something I actually don't know about, the knowing of which could transform my personal as well as professional life?

~ inspired by Werner Erhard, 74, best known to the general public as the brilliant brain behind transformational models, such as the "est Training" during the 70's & the “Forum” during the 80's, which were later sold to a group of his former employeees, who had formed 'Landmark Education';


"Nothing else matters much - not wealth, not learning, not even health - without this gift: the spiritual capacity to keep zest in living. This is the creed of all creeds, the final deposit & distillation of all important faiths, that you should be able to believe in life."

~ Harry Emerson Fosdick, (1878-1969), American clergyman;


What follows is a wonderful, but light-hearted, list of "core competencies of a remarkable leader" from performance coach & productivity strategist Kevin Eikenberry:

1) champions change;

2) communicates powerfully;

3) develops others;

4) builds relationships;

5) focuses on customers;

6) influences with impact;

7) thinks innovatively
; [I would add "& strategically"]

8) values collaboration & teamwork;

9) solves problems & makes decisions;

10) takes responsibility & accountability;

11) manages projects & processes successfully;

12) sets goals;


One of my most favourite authors, thinkologist Dudley Lynch, whose intellectual classics include 'Strategy of the Dolphin' & 'The Mother of All Minds', has offered the following suggestions, in the form of pertinent questions, to be considered when one wants to implement a new idea:

1) would you like to do it?

2) how do you think you might best go about it?

3) is it worth the effort that is going to be required?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


My wife, being a Vietnamese, loves to eat assam fish head curry, because of its sourish taste. So does my good friend, Jeffrey, from the Wednesday Club, who has a similar liking for the spicy stuff.

Originally, we intended to savour the assam fish head curry at my neighbourhood food-court, located in Block 490 on Jurong West Avenue 1. Jeffrey changed his mind & suggested an alternative.

Together with his wife, Betty, & another couple, Gek Wee & S T, also from the Wednesday Club, we travelled down in separate cars to 885/7 Bukit Timah Road to have lunch at the Forture Seafood Steamboat Restaurant.

It is located about 150m or so from the Sixth Avenue Center, just after Cherry Avenue on the left-handside, travelling away from the direction of the city.

Frankly, we don't know why the name of the restaurant is spelt 'Forture'. Maybe, it's FORtune for the fuTURE.

The ambience of the setting may not be the best for an air-conditioned restaurant. The tables were roughly spreaded on the top with thin creasy plastic sheets. In a way, it's more of an upgraded zi char (cooking on the fly) outfit.

To my delight, the food turned out to be yummilicious, so to speak.

Besides the assam fish head curry, we had spicy hot-plate tofu, chunky hot-plate beef, fried kai-lan (vegetables) with crispy toppings (apparently made from the chopped tidbits of kai-lan), & crispy deep-fried chicken wings.

Even the appetiser side-dish, achar pickles, was so wonderful that we had to order for additional rounds.

In comparison, my wife felt that the assam fish head curry at our neighboourhood food-court was better. I reckon it has to do with the stronger assam base with more coconut milk in the Forture's version, which happens to be Jeffrey's preferred choice.

Anyway, food choices can be very personal.

Finally, it was time to go & the bill came up upon request - it was wonderful too, to our wallets I mean!

The damage was only S$61/- (including beer & soft drinks). So each couple forked out S$20/-, while Jeffrey, being the paymaster, was kind enough to absorb the difference.


Recently, while out window-shopping in the city, I found two promotional ads that really perplexed me.

One, promoting Panadol pain-relieving pills as shown in the foregoing digital snapshot, was placed on the tunnel wall at the interchange platform (Harbourfront-bound) of the Outram Park MRT Station.

The other, promoting a line of ladies' clothes, as shown in the digital snapshot below, as part of the shopfront display in Vivocity shopping mall.

If I were to think of a single word to describe my personal reaction to the two ads, that word would be OXYMORON.

That's to say, the two ads were incongrous, or rather, they seemed to have what I call the contradictory effect.

Let me go back to the first ad.

If one were to practise yoga or any form of disciplined relaxation routines, then the issue of a tension headache or any bodyache for that matter, would not arise at all.

Hence, Panadol would not rock with yoga.

In the case of the second ad, the whole slogan didn't make sense to me - because, if you could resist everything, then, there wouldn't be any place left for temptation?, at least from my perspective.

Unless, it was typical advertiserspeak. Then again, was it designed to confuse the mind?

The mind always searches for personal meaning. If it finds something that doesn't make sense, it has two choices, & the most common choice is to "shut down" & stay with the status quo.

Psychologists call this phenomenon "cognitive dissonance".

Or, was the whole promotional display just all part of an elaborate plan to jazz up the shopfront?

Or, on second thoughts, is it true that shoppers just can't be bothered to read what's on display. They just invariably follow their hearts, so to speak.

After all, we all know that buying, especially for the ladies, is always an impulse thing.

However, thinking about it again at a higher & broader level, maybe one should just see the world as it is, savour the sensory experience, & try not to intellectualise every observed scene.

Then again, what's the point of having a mind? Am I contradicting?

Anyway, thank you very much for your kind patience with my random musings.


Here are just some of the many ways to unleash your personal creativity:

- Set up a dedicated 'think' space at home & don't forget to document your creative sparks in a notebook or journal;

- Know your "peak period" of creativity flow - mine is either early in the morning or late in the night;

- Read as much as you can, but try to go beyond mainstream & start to read odd or fringe stuff – just to get new perspectives or ideas. A quick browse of a Nature magazine gave R Buckminister Fuller some clues to his invention of the geodesic dome;

- Ask some dumb questions: The Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo came as a result of a staff member asking, “How come we don't open the zoo at night?”;

- Believe in yourself, & that you are creative; in fact we are all born geniuses; "only schools have degeniused us", according to R Buckminster Fuller;

- Scan everywhere you go & observe everything or everyone for potential ideas; ideas often come from observations in anywhere; a Singaporean inventor often observe kids hanging out on the beach with nothing to do, & so he invented a series of sand-castle-building tools for them;

- Clear your mental clutter – so that you have more space for many different & new perspectives & ideas;

- Start “possibility coagulation” - this requires openness & a willingness to ask questions;

- Regain your childhood curiosity - by spending some time with kids - their sense of wonder can really be infectious; I love to hang out with kids;

- Eliminate “Yes, but…” from your daily vocabulary, & replace it with “Yes, and…”, & watch out for all the possibilities that may start to appear;

- Allow ample time for incubation – I like to call it the 'Twilight Zone': just pose your problem in your mind & then let it go; then listen to the solutions that come to you – sitting on the toilet bowl, soaping in the shower, taking a walk in the park, while commuting, etc.;

- Switch off the inner critic – that pesky little voice that undermines your personal confidence;

- Laugh & joke often, everyday - if you have ever watched the 'Seinfeld' sitcom, you will note than jokes often allow you to see things differently;

- Grab your iPod & go for a run or a fast walk around the block: This combination of change in scenery, physical exertion & your favourite music will make you feel better, raring to go for exploring some new approaches;

- Seek out creative company &/or develop a creative community by your side: The best ideas are forged not in moments of solitary genius, but during lively exchanges with others;

- Daydream more often, & allow your mind to wander: A wandering mind may allow your brain to search more widely for new connections that could trigger a "eureka" moment;

- Apply proven generative techniques, e.g. idea-mapping, image-streaming, brain-writing, lotus-blossoming, etc., to help you boost your personal creativeness;

- Simply start doing, by immersing yourself in a broad variety of creative endeavours, e.g. gardening, cooking, playing music or instruments, starting a blog, writing poetry, & even talking to strangers on the streets or while queueing in a line, etc.;


There's actually a little story behind this digital snapshot of a bus ad.

A few days prior to it, I had watched an old, but heart-warming, movie, 'Without Limits', on StarHub cable television, which I believe had unconsciously influenced me in some way to take the shot.

The movie had tracked the true life story of the famous late 60's/70's long distance runner, Steve Prefontaine or Pre as he was known (played by Billy Crudup) from his youth days in Oregon to the University of Oregon where he worked with the legendary coach Bill Bowerman (played by Donald Sutherland), later to the Munich Olympics (1972) & his early death at age 24 in a car crash.

I consider it as one of finest movies about athletics I had ever watched.

Even though it was about the young hero, the movie captured beautifully the psychology of running & the sport of winning. With his goal-driven attitude [to him, "every race is a work of art"], he ran like the wind, & had no physical obstacles or limits he couldn't overcome.

Nonetheless, there is another interesting aspect from the movie, which seemingly has reinforced what I had read earlier about the real Bill Bowerman.

In the movie, while coaching Pre, Bowerman was tinkering with some waffle-soled running shoes, a hobby that later became a little company called NIKE. Today, NIKE is a cultural phenomenon & a multi-billion dollar company!

Now, I really understand the true essence of 'Just Do It!'.

[From the heydays of the nineties, & up to early 2005, I had often made use of the foregoing example of Bowerman's experimentation with his wife's waffle iron in my creativity training.

It illustrates how a keen observation of a simple daily experience in one's life could be converted into an innovative reality.

Interesting, I had read from the book, 'Just Do It', that the original waffle iron was still hung on the walls of NIKE Headquarters.]


Do I think strategically about the future?

Do I use my core competencies to gain competitive advantage?


"There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, & because there is only one of you in all time, the expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly & directly."

~ Martha Graham, (1894–1991), famed American dancer & choreographer; often regarded as one of the foremost pioneers of modern dance;

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


What follows is actually an interesting, though belated, article entitled 'Strategic Thinking for Trendy Times', from Eli Harari, aka The Thinking Coach. The article was originally published in the Facility Management Journal Online.

Here's the link.

He highlighted a few important attributes of a strategic thinker:

1) Be childlike - “Learn to look at the world, at your problems with the same sense of awe that a child would. When you can open your eyes to all possibilities, you will find solutions to your problems are nearer than you think.”

2) Positivism is a prerequisite to strategic thinking - "Being critical & negative will close options, whereas being positive &d inclusive will open many doors & opportunities."

He also shared his strategic thinking model, which he called The FED Pyramid. [FED stands for 'fact-finding'; 'evaluation & reasoning'; 'decision-making';]

I certainly like the five basic questions, which help one to develop a personal strategic thinking mindset, in conjuction with the use of his foregoing model:

1) What does it mean?

- Seek facts only. A state of mind that considers facts only is free of bias, emotional involvement – all natural human traits.

2) How is this going to affect me personally?

- If you can evaluate personal impact within the bigger picture, “internal quiet” is restored. This is the only time strategic thinkers may indulge in the personal.

3) What is it that they are at?

- This question seeks to locate the bigger picture & discover the governing principle. The principle is the underlying cause & reveals the bigger picture. The difference between cause & symptom becomes clear.

4) Where is it all going to end?

5) What’s to be done now?”

- This is an open-ended question that anticipates the future.

I suggest readers to play, explore & experiment with it.


What will give me competitive advantage as a strategic leader?

How do I develop the requisite skills in order to gain competitive advantage?


I am currently reviewing Rich Horwath's 'Deep Dive: Mastering the Three Disciplines of Strategic Thinking for Competitive Advantage', & while doing so, I am reminded of two simple but great stories that I thought illustrate the art of strategy to win:

First story:

A businessman was talking with his barber, when they both noticed a goofy-looking fellow bouncing down the sidewalk. The barber whispered, "That's Tommy, one of the stupidest kids you'll ever meet. Here, I'll show you."

"Hey Tommy! Come here!" yelled the barber. Tommy came bouncing over "Hi Mr. Williams!"

The barber pulled out a rusty dime and a shiny quarter and told Tommy he could keep the one of his choice.

Tommy looked long and hard at the dime and quarter and then quickly snapped the dime from the barber's hand.

The barber looked at the businessman and said, "See, I told you."

After his haircut, the businessman caught up with Tommy and asked him why he chose the dime.

Tommy looked at him in the eye and said, "If I take the quarter, the game is over."

Second story:

A man approached a very beautiful woman in a large shopping mall:

"I’ve lost my wife somewhere in this mall... Can you talk to me for a couple of minutes please?” he requested.

“Why?” asked the woman.

“Because every time I talk to a beautiful woman may wife appears out of nowhere."

My book review will follow shortly. Please stay tuned!


“Creativity permeates the cosmos. It is the driving force that sustains the particles, the stars & galaxies… it surges through the body with each beat of the heart. We all have access to creativity. At times, we summon it to use in our work & daily lives… it can arrive in a dream… or it may result from a long struggle… it can appear as a sudden, dramatic insight… One thing is certain: Creativity is ever present. It is a force to be enjoyed or endured but above all celebrated. Creativity is free, alive & spontaneous."

~ David Peat, 71, English physicist & author; his many books includes 'Synchronicity: The Bridge between Matter & Mind', & 'Turbulent Mirror';


I am definitely amused & intrigued. Advertisers nowadays certainly know how to catch moving eyeballs, wherever you may be.

In two earlier posts, I have mentioned about the ad for energy drink 'Naughty G'. The earliest one even had an image of a lady's hands all over a gentleman's bare torso.

Obviously, it has been designed to tantalise the gentlemen.

Behold, the sexiest lace with the catchy tag of 'naughtiest panty' - as captured by my digital snapshot at Vivocity shopping mall yesterday afternoon - is now available.

It has been undoubtedly designed to razz the ladies (as well as the gentlemen)!

As a matter of fact, to ante the offering, the same advertiser even throws in a second eyeball teaser. See below.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Dream, create, explore, invent, pioneer, imagine... Do these words describe what I do? If not, I am already irrelevant.

~ inspired by Gary Hamel, world-renowed management strategist, writing in his book, 'Leading the Revolution';


While sorting out the digital snapshots I have taken during my walkabouts on Orchard Road, it just strikes me that owners of shopping malls have taken a softer, innovative art-oriented approach in wooing shoppers through permanent advertising & promotional displays at their premises, instead of the traditional hard-nosed approach.

To illustrate, the following shots have been taken just outside the Paragon shopping mall, that has recently been given a revamped facade. The building owner has even incorporated the permanent displays with beautifully landscaped flower garden plots.

The following three shots have been taken on the steps just outside the newly-opened S$700 million ION Orchard shopping complex (it means "I ON Orchard"). The display really stands out with the colourful metal figurines - "it resonates a high level of energy, dynamism & magnetism, characteristics of an ion, an electrically charged particle.":

Only the newly-opened S$650 million Orchard Central shopping complex has done it differently. I would even say it's out -of-the box.

It has chosen to do the permanent display indoors, on the large ground floor atrium, which has a tall ceiling space. It seems like a waste of profitable rentable floor space on the ground floor, but I guess the owner has really thought that money isn't everything.

I reckon the owner probably thinks that the artistic design over-rules for the moment, to woo the shopper.

This shot has captured only the bottom part of the display - a model of a shopper - as it stretches actually some four stories or more upwards, as I see it.

As I see it, all these developments truly reflect the intensely competitive retail market in Singapore, where shoppers are now getting more demanding as well as discerning.

On the other hand & come to think of it, maybe trends observer Dan Pink has a point, as he argues in his book, 'A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future'.