Saturday, October 17, 2009


"It's no longer enough to be a 'change agent'. You must be a 'change insurgent': provoking, prodding, warning everyone
in sight that complacency is death."

~ Robert Reich, author of 'The Future of Success: Working & Living in the New Economy', & also former Secretary of Labour during the Clinton Administration;


Here's the link to an interesting though belated article entitled 'Your Job is Change' on Fast Company, by Robert Reich, author of 'The Future of Success: Working & Living in the New Economy'.

I like his concept of mastering the power of change insurgency strategy, as embodied in his 'Ten Rules for Change Insurgents'.

Don't miss the side bars towards the end of the article, namely, 'How to Detect Change Resisters: It's in Their Talk' & 'You Can Be a Change Insurgent'.


I just thought that the following extract, taken from the book, 'The Future of Success: Working & Living in the New Economy', a seemingly well-researched analysis of the present state of working life in America, by Robert Reich, professor of public policy & former Secretary of Labour under the Clinton Administration, is still worth thinking about for practically everyone in today's fast & furious world:

"The emerging economy is offering unprecedented opportunities, an ever-expanding choice of terrific deals, fabulous products, good investments, and great jobs for people with the right talents and skills. Never before in human history have so many had access to so much so easily.

Technology is the motor. In communications, transportation, and information-processing, the new technologies that gained momentum in the 1980s and 1990s are now racing ahead at blinding speed. They are making it easier to find and get better deals from anywhere and allowing us to switch instantly to even better ones. These technologies are radically sharpening competition among sellers, which in turn is provoking a staggering wave of innovation.

In order to survive, all organizations must dramatically and continuously improve--cutting costs, adding value, creating new products. The result of this tumult is higher productivity--better, faster, cheaper products and services of every description.

Economically, all of this is to our great and unequivocal benefit. But what it means for the rest of our lives--the parts that depend on firm relationships, continuity, and stability--is acutely problematic. There's no diabolical plot here, no trap cunningly devised by evil corporations and greedy capitalists. It's a matter of straightforward logic.

The easier it is for us as buyers to switch to something better, the harder we as sellers have to scramble in order to keep every customer, hold every client, seize every opportunity, get every contract. As a result, our lives are more and more frenzied.

The faster the economy changes--with new innovations and opportunities engendering faster switches by customers and investors in response--the harder it is for people to be confident of what any of us will earn next year or even next month, what they will be doing, where they will be doing it. As a result, our lives are less predictable.

The more intense the competition to offer better products and services, the greater the demand for people with insights and ideas about how to do so. And because the demand for such people is growing faster than the supply, their earnings are pushed upward.

Yet the same competition is pushing downward the pay of people doing routine work that can be done faster and cheaper by hardware and software, or by workers elsewhere around the world. As a result, disparities in earnings are growing steadily larger.

Finally, the wider the choices and easier the switches, the less difficult it is for people to link up with others who are just as well educated, wealthy, and healthy as they are--within residential communities, businesses, schools, universities, and insurance groups.

And the easier it is for them to exclude the slower, less educated, poorer, sicker, or otherwise more disadvantaged, all of whom have greater needs. As a result, our society is becoming more fragmented.

In short, rewards of the new economy are coming at the price of lives that are more frenzied, less secure, more economically divergent, more socially stratified.

As buyers switch more easily to better deals, all of us have little choice but to work harder to satisfy buyers.

As our earnings become less predictable, we leap at every chance to make hay while the sun shines.

As the stakes rise--toward greater wealth or relative poverty, highly desirable communities or patently undesirable ones--we'll do whatever we can to be in the winner's circle and to get our children safely there as well.

For all these reasons, most of us are working harder and more frantically than we did decades ago when these trends were just beginning, and than do citizens of other modern nations where these trends are not as far along.

The price may be worth it. The terrific deals are benefiting all of us in myriad ways. But even if the price is acceptable today, will it still be worth it in the future as the stakes continue to rise?

There is, undeniably, much to celebrate about the new economy. American capitalism is triumphant all over the world, and with good reason.

Neo-Luddites who claim that advancing technologies will eliminate jobs and relegate most of us to poverty are wrong, even silly. Isolationists and xenophobes who want to put up the gates and reduce trade and immigration are misguided, often dangerously so.

Paranoid populists who say global corporations and international capitalists are conspiring against us are deluded, possibly hallucinating.

We--you and I and most Americans--are benefiting mightily from the new economy. We are reaping the gains of its new inventions, its lower prices, its fierce competition. We are profiting from the terrific deals it's offering us as consumers, and to a large and growing portion of us as investors. We are driving the new economy forward.

And yet . . . As wondrous as the new economy is, we are also losing parts of our lives to it--aspects of our family lives, our friendships, our communities, ourselves. These losses closely parallel the benefits we're gaining. In an important sense, they are two sides of the same coin.

And as the new economy accelerates, both the gains and the losses are likely to increase. Working ever harder in order to compete within a system where competition is growing fiercer; selling ourselves with increasing determination within a system that's turning almost everyone into a self-promoter; sorting by wealth, education, and health in a system that's making it ever easier to sort--these phenomena are self-propelling.

The more people join in, the more imbalanced the situation becomes, and the harder it becomes for any individual to choose a different path..."


How do I need to be different?

How do I need to think differently?

What do I need to do differently?

Friday, October 16, 2009


Some shop or boutique owners certainly take great pains to create great & memorable trade names for their businesses, so that their customers can easily remember them.

Also, the chosen trade name has an obvious strategic fit with the business.

The foregoing foot & hand reflex joint at the Millenia Walk is a good example.

I am intrigued by the next example as shown below.

With due respect, the following shop or boutique owner probably has a different idea when coming up with a trade name that somehow doesn't fit strategically with its business.

What do you think?

As a matter of fact, I have noticed a growing trend in many shopping malls in the city where trade names of boutiques &/or retail shops are deliberately juxtaposed irrelevantly. Are they just trying to be different, or making an arrogant statement?


In his book, 'The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow', leadership expert John Maxwell describes the five qualities of leaders with effective problem-solving ability, as follows:

1) Anticipate problems:

- Problems are inevitable and good leaders anticipate them. Have a positive attitude but plan for the worst.

2) Accept the truth:

- Denying problems only prolongs the agony. Be willing to look at the issues honestly, accept responsibility, and move forward.

3) See the big picture:

- Have a vision of the future and be able to see where the organization can be in five or ten years. Do not be overwhelmed by emotion or bogged down with details. Have someone trustworthy ferret out the details.

4) Handle one problem at a time:

- Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

5) Don't give up on a major goal when they're down:

- See life as a roller coaster - sometimes up and sometimes down. Don't give up on the vision just because some glitches occurred.

A significant key to effective problem solving is the capacity and willingness to view problems or challenges from a new perspective and to seek innovation in exploring potential options.


Strategy guru & strategic management profesor Gary Hamel offers some exercises to "train yourself in the art of 'seeing around corners", as follows:

1) Exercise Your Imagination:

- Pick the worst service experience you've had in the last year and think about the business model that failed to meet your expectations. How would you change it—element by element?

2) Get Addicted to Change:

- Keep asking yourself, "What's changing? What's the opportunity this presents?" Do this at least a dozen times a week.

3) Search for What's Not There:

- Next time you go to a conference or pick up a trade magazine, ask—what is no one talking about?

4) Find the Big Story:

- Keep a list of things that strike you as new or different. Scan it occasionally for broad themes. If you get above the trees, you'll have a view that few can match.

5) Follow the Chain of Consequences:

- Whenever you see something changing, get in the practice of asking a series of "then what" questions.

6) Dig Deeper:

- Every year pick a couple of big things that are changing (E-commerce, Genetics, Deregulation in Japan) and resolve to understand them far more deeply than you do.

7) Know What's Not Changing:

- Be attuned to the timeless—the deep needs of human beings—and try to imagine new tools and ways to address those needs.

8) Design Experiences:

- Next time you do a presentation, get rid of the overhead projector and figure out how to help people to feel and experience the power of your ideas.

9) Get a Routine:

- Begin to exaggerate the small and new—reading new magazines, going to conventions outside your "industry," hanging out with people really different from yourself.

10) Surface the Dogmas:

- Ask yourself: "What are ten things you would never hear customers say about our company and our industry?" Then ask: "What are the ten things the major competitors in this industry believe in common?" What orthodoxies and opportunities present themselves?

11) Never Stop Asking Why:

- Revolutionaries ask "why" more than the rest of us.

12) Celebrate the Stupid:

- Ask lots of stupid questions, and be prepared to look foolish once in awhile. Only stupid questions create new wealth.

13) Go to Extremes:

- Pick a performance parameter that's important in your business—time, cost, efficiency, quality, speed—whatever. Push this to the extremes and ask, why not?

14) Find the "and":

- Search for novel solutions that make trade-offs unnecessary.

15) Distinguish Form from Function:

- Get in the habit of divorcing "things" (form) from what they actually do (function), to help you imagine radically new ways to deliver the function.

16) Start a New Conversation:

- Educate people on the difference between operational discussions and strategic dream-fests. Don't let anyone get in the way of your imagination.

A parting quote from Gary Hamel:

"Somewhere in this brave new model, size and scale will still matter, consistency still counts, and strategy is still vital to success. Innovation may be the big story, but it is not the whole story. Most companies have already figured out the scale and scope thing—but now they need to start planting new seeds. In the age of revolution, the challenge will be to marry radical innovation with disciplined execution—to merge the efficiency of a Toyota production line with the radical innovation of Silicon Valley, to blend curiosity with diligence. To be a gray-haired revolutionary, a company must be spontaneous and systematic, highly focused and opportunistic, wildly imaginative and brutally efficient."

[Source: HBS Working Knowledge]


"Somewhere out there is a bullet with your company’s name on it. Somewhere out there is a competitor, unborn and unknown, that will render your strategy obsolete. You can’t dodge the bullet. You’re going to have to shoot first."

~ strategy guru & strategic management professor Gary Hamel;

[What Gary Hamel has advocated is that we need to embrace the power of insurgency strategy - bold, never-say-die attitude, move faster, with hyper-aggressive moves, think smarter - in order to succeed in the ongoing battle for the hearts, minds & wallets of today's consumers.

As a side track & talking about insurgency tactics, I often recall what my Chinese-educated classmates from Malacca had deliberately shared with me about the teachings of Chairman Mao Tse Tung, a chief proponent of guerrilla warfare (subsequently emulated by General Vo Nguyen Giap during the Vietnam war) during my days at the Technical Institute, Kuala Lumpur, in the mid-sixties.

Interestingly, here's one example I have never forgotten:

"The enemy advances; we retreat;

The enemy camps; we harass;

The enemy tires; we attack;

The enemy retreats; we pursue;"

In a nut shell, as I had understood in terms of applying to business & marketing, the primary strengths of a guerrilla strategy are agility, adaptability & knowing the landscape.

Coming back to Gary Hamel, I always remember his further elaboration of the scheme of things:

"Competition is not between companies, or technologies, or even products.

It's between business concepts. The question is not, what products do you make?

The question is what ideas do you stand for?

Unless you & your company become adept at business concept innovation, more imaginative companies will capture tomorrow's wealth."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: This is actually not a good sign!

This is actually not a good sign!

If our signboard copywriters can't even write proper English in short sentences - also, that's to say, our advertisers are not discerning enough to spot simple English errors on their own signboards - then, I think there's seemingly a bigger problem at hand.


If you are not a discoverer, then, sad to say, you are not welcome here, judging from the intended message of this management training school. I reckon the school is looking for students who are not just book-smarts.

I had taken this digital snapshot near Bugis Junction quite sometime ago, & can't recall where it was taken - possibly the one at Cosmic Building on North Bridge Road, judging from the chronology of the all related pictures in my desktop folder.


Shifts happen. Change is exponential. Change today happens suddenly, unexpectedly, & unpredictably. This is the harsh reality of today's turbulent & chaotic landscape, where we work & play.

For me, change has always been a fascinating phenomenon.

I reckon one of the most productive learning experiences I have got out of my years of hard knocks or street-smart exposures, especially from the context of navigating change, is this:

We can't change the things, & for that matter, the events & the people, around us.

We can only change ourselves as to how we choose to perceive them, think about them, & finally, respond to them.

That's to say, in order for things, events & people, to change in our lives, first we must change.

More precisely, first we must change our thinking.

Why should we change our thinking?

Because it is the difference that will make all the difference in our lives!

Deliberate thinking can do many things for us:

- solve problems;

- explore possibilities;

- create opportunities;

- break new grounds;

- expand horizons;

- test the unknown;

- probe uncertainties;

Thus, it can bring us to a whole new level – personally & professionally.

I know, change is difficult. I have gone through the change journey many times in my own life.

For example, the first most dramatic change came about when I was transferred by my employer to work in Bangkok, Thailand, during the early eighties, & Catherine had to quit her secretarial job to join me, leaving her two aged parents at home in Singapore.

The second most massive change came about when I had to decide whether to quit the corporate world - where I had spent almost quarter of a century - for good to pursue my fondest dreams during the early nineties.

The third most drastic change came about when Catherine had passed aways suddenly at the University Teaching Hospital at the end of 2001. My world was completely shattered, as I had to face the world alone, without my life partner, with whom I had known for 35 years & married for 18.

Looking back at these emotional milestones in my life, I realised that it was my deliberate thinking, as to how I wanted to deal with the difficult episodes as well as painful events - that got me through.

In fact, it is common knowledge that most people love to whine & moan about change, but very few like to think about changing themselves.

As they all say, only a wet baby really appreciates change.

Maybe, I was more fortunate in comparison to other people handling massive life changes in some ways, as I had already explored the subject of developing personal change mastery furiously & relentlessly through reading books & attending seminars, starting at the end of the seventies, when I first became a divisional manager.

On the other hand, I was already trained as a mechanical engineer. So, I was used to exploring issues, problems & challenges systemically as well as systematically.

I reckon the foregoing intellectual & mental build-up certainly had helped me in some ways.

Maybe, & more explicitly, it had something to do with my innate traits. Or possibly, I had a big chunk of my father's genes, as he was a strict, hard-headed disciplinarian.

At the age of 15 or 16, without prompting from any body, not even my parents, I had already taken charge of plotting my own life design, by going first to a technical school, a boarding school, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, after my Form III (secondary school, by Malaysian educational standards) in Yong Peng, Johor. I had wanted to become an engineer.

I reckon the inborn independent streak & subsequent personal resilience developed in a boarding school might have strengthened my emotional resolve.

Nonetheless, I like to share a couple of my experiential axioms, so to speak, in the form of sequential steps, for handling & dealing with change.

The first most important step is to acknowledge the change.

Then, accept the change as it is. As it stands. Mentally & emotionally.

Next, brainstorm some ideas or possibilities. Consider the positive & negative aspects, but more importantly, the interesting aspects of the change.

For me, I would say that one's focus should be put on the interesting aspects as they form the real impectus for one to move forward.

Also, play with some scenarios - optimistic, realistic & worst-case. Write them down on paper.

One important lesson I had learned from writing down is that it is often cathartic. It crystallises your thought processes.

There's no point harbouring on the past. The change has already happened. Deal with it. Of course, we can draw some lessons or hindsights from the past.

However, one must be realistic enough to know that the directional setting should be the present, to make use of whatever resources we have at our disposal, in order to prepare for - & move forward to - the future.

Naturally, resources can also come in the form of emotional support from friends as well as family members.

Again, I was fortunate to have good friends - members of my Wednesday Club - especially after Catherine had passed away. They were there for me - they often created social opportunities for me to enjoy myself.

My three elder sisters were there too for me. They had regularly dropped into my office at that emotional point in time of my life to make sure that I was OK.

In the ultimate, as I look back into my own personal journey, one can hold steadfastly to the course of change by first thinking through on what to do, or where to go, & then, following through on what has been decided.

To conclude this blogpost, I like to leave this wonderful quote from William Shakespeare, as food for thought:

"Nothing is so lest thinking make it so."

Come to think of it, change management still boils down to a matter of perspective.


"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

~ Steve Jobs, quoting Leonard da vinci;

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: I'm designed to wear in many different ways!

Looking at the intended marketing messages, I am certainly impressed by the ingenuity of the merchanising display artist &/or boutique owner at the Ang Mo Kio Hub for coming up with the catchy idea to prick shoppers' eyeballs - & cajole their hearts!


"A person can have the greatest idea in the world - completely different & novel - but if that person can't convince enough other people, it doesn't matter."

~ Gregory Berns, psychiatry professor & author of 'Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently';


Whenever I go down to Orchard Road &/or even all the way up to the Suntec City Convention Centre from my residence in Jurong West, I often hop on to the SBS Transit Express Bus Service #502, which normally takes about 35-40 minutes to hit the beginning section of Orchard Road i.e. Orchard Hotel.

The public transport service route as mentioned is regularly served by single-decker buses, especially during off-peak hours. During peak hours, like the early mornings as well as peak evenings, I have noticed that the route is served by double-decker buses, in order to carry the expected larger passenger volumes.

Since I often travel on public transport during off-peak hours, & of course also depending on my ultimate destination, very rarely do I have the chance to hop on to a double decker bus.

Yesterday evening, close to 5pm, & on the way back from Plaza Singapura at the tail end of Orchard Road to Jurong West, my wife & I had the opportunity to hop onto a double decker. We went up to the front seat on the upper deck.

We have travelled on the same bus route probably hundreds of time, but most of the times on a single-decker bus.

From the upper deck, we realised that our panoramic view was very different. An elevated viewpoint certainly gave us a larger vista.

In fact, our visual horizon was further, unobstructed in many ways, when compared from the almost street-level viewpoint of a single-decker.

Comparatively, at almost street-level, our panorama from the bus window seat is restricted, & occasionally blocked by taller & bigger objects, even at distant view.

For example, oftentimes when I passed the Raffles Town Club on the junction of Steven Road/Dunearn Road on my left, I could not see what was behind the concrete fence.

Yesterday, I could see that there was actually a landscaped garden shielded from public eyes by the wall.

Also, I realised there was a large pond alongside the Pan-Island Expressway, just after the Adam Road exit, on my right.

There were other interesting examples, at least from my personal curiosity standpoint, but too numerous to highlight here.

My point is that an elevated position does give one a much broader perspective to look at a scene.

Metaphorically, an helicopter ability facilitates our ability to see the world afar & anew.

Just like an helicopter, considered one of the most versatile aircrafts on earth, which has the ability to take off & land vertically, as well as hover, which in turn gives it the capability & flexibility to manoeuvre in & out of hard-to-reach areas, we can adopt a series of elevated viewpoints that allows us to see the forest from the trees, so to speak.

Sometimes, when we stay too close to the ground, especially when appraising a situation or a problem, we tend to be oblivious to what's really happening out there in our immediate surroundings.

This is not to say that we should not stay grounded, as a feel of the pulse on the ground is also important in any situation appraisal.

What I am saying is that, we got to occasionally detach ourselves from the ground level, & raise ourselves above it, in order to see further, & maybe beyond what's really happening around us.

An open-up vista can certainly engender an expanded mental perspective.

After all, every moment of our lives is governed by our perspective. Whichever vista we use to view an experience with will determine how we see it, how we feel it, & how we react to it.

Creativity is a matter of perspective. So is change leadership. We have to use a different vista to see the issue or problem.

In the ultimate, so much of life is a matter of perspective. We have to see things from different angles.

Actually, come to think of it & in the end analysis, an helicopter ability is all about seeing the world, projects, problems & challenges in fresh & unique ways.

It's about being open-minded, spontaneous, inquisitive & hungering to explore new & better possibilities.

No wonder, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, while serving as our Prime Minister, has openly outlined his four primary characteristic traits he wanted in the appraisal of candidates as ministers.

One of them is the helicopter ability.

When Philip Yeo, one of Singapore's most brilliant high-powered road warriors in attracting foreign capital, was serving as Chairman of the Economic Development Board (EDB), he was confronted by initial problems in selling Singapore as an offshore petrochemical hub to global investors.

With a spark of inspiration, he actually took an helicopter ride to survey our few small offshore islands one day, which eventually led to the building & construction of the new Jurong Island, which came from the merging - via landfill - of seven small islets.


I have stumbled upon the following interesting story floating on the net.

A woman living downtown came out of her house and saw 3 old men with long white beards sitting in her front yard.

She did not recognize them.

She said "I don't think I know you, but you must be hungry. Please come in and have something to eat."

"Is the man of the house home?" they asked.

"No", she replied. "He's out."

"Then we cannot come in", they replied.

In the evening when her husband came home, she told him what had happened.

"Go tell them I am home and invite them in!"

The woman went out and invited the men in.

"We do not go into a house together," they replied.

"Why is that?" she asked.

One of the old men explained: "His name is Wealth," he said pointing to one of his friends, and said pointing to another one, "He is Success, and I am Love." Then he added, "Now go in and discuss with your husband which one of us you want in your home."

The woman went in and told her husband what was said.

Her husband was overjoyed. "How nice!! he said. "Since that's the case, let's invite Wealth. Let him come and fill our home with wealth!"

His wife disagreed. "My dear, why don't we invite Success?"

Their daughter was listening from the other corner of the house. She jumped in with her own suggestion: "Would it not be better to invite Love? Our home will then be filled with love!"

"Let us heed our daughter's advice," said the husband to his wife.

"Go out and invite Love to be our guest."

The woman went out and asked the 3 old men, "Which one of you is Love? Please come in and be our guest."

Love got up and started walking toward the house. The other 2 also got up and followed him. Surprised, the lady asked Wealth and Success: "I only invited Love, why are you coming in?"

The old men replied together: "If you had invited Wealth or Success, the other two of us would've stayed out, but since you invited Love, wherever he goes, we go with him. Wherever there is Love, there is also Wealth and Success!"

[The source of this story is attributed to Bob Proctor.]


"The greatest achievement was at first & for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, & in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities."

~ James Allen, (1864–1912), philosophical writer, best known for his inspirational books, especially his most famous classic, 'As A Man Thinketh' (1902);

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Here's the link to an interesting perspective that illustrates how small our planet Earth is in the larger scope of things.

If a human could walk on the surface of Canis Majoris, the largest known star in the universe – he/she would have to walk for 650,000 years to circle the star, compared with 2 years 11 months to complete the same task on planet Earth.


According to Jeanne Liedtka, professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, writing in her article “Linking Strategic Thinking with Strategic Planning”, in 'Strategy and Leadership' (1998), 'strategic thinking' differs from 'strategic planning' along the following dimensions of strategic management:

1) Vision of the Future:

strategic thinking: "Only the shape of the future can be predicted."

strategic planning: "A future that is predictable and specifiable in detail."

2) Strategic Formulation and Implementation:

strategic thinking: "Formulation and implementation are interactive rather than sequential and discrete."

strategic planning: "The roles of formulation and implementation can be neatly divided."

3) Managerial Role in Strategy Making:

strategic thinking: "Lower-level managers have a voice in strategy-making, as well as greater latitude to respond opportunistically to developing conditions."

strategic planning: "Senior executives obtain the needed information from lower-level managers, and then use it to create a plan which is, in turn, disseminated to managers for implementation."

4) Control:

strategic thinking: "Relies on self-reference – a sense of strategic intent and purpose embedded in the minds of managers throughout the organization that guides their choices on a daily basis in a process that is often difficult to measure and monitor from above."

strategic planning: "Asserts control through measurement systems, assuming that organizations can measure and monitor important variables both accurately and quickly."

5) Managerial Role in Implementation:

strategic thinking: "All managers understand the larger system, the connection between their roles and the functioning of that system, as well as the interdependence between the various roles that comprise the system."

strategic planning: "Lower-level managers need only know his or her own role well and can be expected to defend only his or her own turf."

6) Strategy Making:

strategic thinking: "Sees strategy and change as inescapably linked and assumes that finding new strategic options and implementing them successfully is harder and more important than evaluating them."

strategic planning: "The challenge of setting strategic direction is primarily analytic."

7) Process and Outcome:

strategic thinking: "Sees the planning process itself as a critical value-adding element."

strategic planning: "Focus is on the creation of the plan as the ultimate objective."


What keeps me ticking?

What keeps me awake at night?

What keeps me motivated on a day-to-day basis?


According to Alex Colket, an amateur neuroscientist & professional game developer, who has developed more than 100 brain training games at, the following skills are the most important in brain fitness training.

1) Language:

Games can exercise various aspects of our language skills. Most commonly they target vocabulary (increasing the number of words you know) and retrieval (making it easier for you to access and use them).

Other games can help you learn grammar/syntax, while specially designed exercises can help you hone the auditory skills necessary for properly processing spoken language.

One of the best ways to develop language skills and improve your brain fitness is to learn a foreign language or review a language that you learned a long time ago.

2) Problem Solving:

Many of the puzzle/strategy games on the market provide excellent opportunities to exercise your problem solving skills. Such games require you develop complex strategies and plan things out in advance, giving your prefrontal cortex a great workout and helping to improve your brain fitness.

Sudoku is a popular example of a problem solving game.

3) Memory:

Memory comes in many different forms, some of which are commonly used in games.

Working memory, sensory memory & motor memory are often put to work in games as you keep track of objects, locations, events and other information required to successfully play.

Other types of memory, like long-term memory are difficult to work into games and brain fitness programs, but luckily, do not change as much as we age.

4) Attention:

Attention is central to just about any game you are playing. In a way, it is a prerequisite to all these other processes as your brain must be alert and ready before you can successfully employ other cognitive functions.

Games are excellent tools to keep your mind alert (ready to process new sensory information) and focused (able to pay attention to something specific amidst myriad distractions).

Before you even start playing, the mere act of learning how to play gives your attention a workout.

Meditation is a non-game, but will do wonders for your attention. If you are looking to improve your score in a game, try some meditation.

5) Eye-hand coordination:

Any game that requires extensive and quick use of your keyboard, mouse, or a game controller/joystick exercises this mental faculty. Processing visual information on the screen and translating it into accurate movements of of your hands and fingers is valuable in developing that necessary link between vision and movement.

Be sure to include eye-hand coordination games in your brain fitness program.

6) Visuospatial Skills:

Many games require you to visually manipulate objects in space.

Gameplay such as this is invaluable in developing strong spatial skills and giving your mind the ability to mentally rearrange and organize things without having to physically do it. This can help with visualizing maps, following directions and picturing objects in your mind.

7) Time Sensation:

Tracking the duration of time is another skill that is often put to use in games.

Knowing how much time has elapsed since an event occurred - or how long it will be until something happens - is an under-appreciated but very important aspect of brain fitness that can be improved by playing games.

8) Multi-Tasking:

As our lives become increasingly hectic and multi-dimensional, the ability to multi-task becomes more and more important.

Many games provide a great workout for this skill as they require you to juggle multiple activities at once.

Being good at multi-tasking is an essential skill, but you should try single-tasking to be more productive and efficient.

9) Processing Speed:

An important aspect of intelligence and brain fitness is the ability to interpret and act on information quickly.

Generally, a faster brain means a sharper and better-organized mind.

Games are an ideal vehicle to increase your processing speed as many of them require you to think and act with great speed.

Many computer or web-based games can help develop your brain's processing speed by feeding screens and information to you progressively faster.

10) Pattern Recognition:

The ability to identify a complex arrangement of sensory information and properly categorize it is a valuable real life skill that is often exercised in games.

Pattern recognition games typically give you the first few elements of a series and ask you to figure out the next item.

[Source: Longevity]


According to Keith Wright, an educator & director of the Australian International Language Academy, critical thinkers are people who:

• Seek to be well-informed about a broad range of subjects and issues;

• Listen and look for the “why”, “what”, “when”, “who”, “where” and “how” factors in issues;

• Are open-minded towards views that are different from or conflict with their own;

• Are flexible and respectful when considering and discussing alternative opinions;

• Know the importance of listening to other opinions especially when they do not agree;

• Appraise the reasoning and views of others objectively and fairly;

• Are self-confident in their own abilities to reason and advance alternative arguments;

• Pursue a logical line of reasoning to get to the facts surrounding or underpinning an issue;

• Trust in the processes of reasoned, logical inquiry and research;

• Evaluate data and detail on their merit and the supportive and relevant evidence;

• Test claims and assertions for appropriateness, application, accuracy and adequacy;

• Weigh up and question what a proponent or author is claiming against other evidence;

• Can transfer known detail to an unknown realm in a rational way;

• Are conscious of bias on the part of a proponent and themselves as respondents;

• Willing to confront their own biases, beliefs and prejudices with openness;

• Use discretion in suspending, making, delaying or altering judgments;

• Readily reconsider and revise well-formed views when necessary;

• Seek a logical conclusion based on evidence - not on assumption;

• Are alert to opportunities where critical thinking techniques need to be applied;

• Have a respect for the different views and attitudes of others;

• Have a cultural consciousness;

• Have an appreciation of the expertise of others;

• Are always willing to learn from others;

• Think about what they are thinking – meta-cognition;

Assess yourself! Are you a critical thinker? Which of the above 21 attributes do you apply?


"The real challenge in crafting strategy lies in detecting the subtle discontinuities that may undermine a business in the future, & for that there is no technology, no program, just a sharp mind in touch with the situation."

~ Prof Henry Mintzberg; internationally renowned academic, who writes prolifically on the topics of management & business strategy, with more than 150 articles & fifteen books to his name, including his seminal book, 'The Rise & Fall of Strategic Planning' (1994), which criticizes some of the practices of strategic planning today;


"The way forward is paradoxically to look not ahead but around."
~ John Seely Brown, computer scientist & innovation strategist;

Monday, October 12, 2009


This sports bag on display at the 'The Wallet Shop' - with the fancy slogan - at Jurong Point shopping mall caught my personal attention this afternoon.

I had to shoot it through the shopfront glass window. As you can see quite clearly, my body image had been imperfectly captured in the reflection.

Aptness of the slogan aside, I just wonder how does one capture a perfect scene without being captured - through a reflection, say in front of a mirror - in the same snapshot?


On Thursday afternoon, together with my wife, I went to visit my second eldest sister & her husband, Mr & Mrs Khoo, who are staying in the Kembangan area.

My wife & I deliberately brought along a Peking Duck & some roasted meats, which we had bought fresh from our neighbourhood food-court. We also travelled by MRT to their place, located about 15 minutes from the Kembangan MRT station. The train journey took about 45 minutes.

Mr & Mrs Khoo have two sons, both working in China, with one in Xiamen & the other in Shanghai. The latter often return to Singapore about once a month. Combined, they have two grand-sons & one grand-daughter, all in the late teenaged age.

My second eldest sister is already in the late seventies, while Mr Khoo has crossed over to the early eighties. Both have been happily married for 55 years. They are in relatively good health. Currently, they stay together with the first daughter-in-law & grandson.

Both are also retired. Besides gardening & karaoke time with their own bunch of friends & relatives, they spend regular holidaying time in China, at least 2 to 3 times a year, with their two sons respectively. In fact, they will be going there again for a month next week.

Fortuntately, my wife can speak Mandarin, & so communication is not an issue. Also, my wife is gregarious by nature, & she can click very well with all my four sisters, three elder & one younger.

[My most eldest sister had already passed away in Malaysia. I come from a very big family - originally 13 of us, with Dad & Mum. Three of my elder brothers were already gone. I still have one second-eldest brother, already in the early eighties, & three younger brothers. I am #5 among the brothers.]

Our conversation that afternoon covered a broad range of interesting subjects, from world events to home trivia.

My second eldest sister took the opportunity to share with us one of her most profound learning experiences.

Being inducted to the Khoo family, & also as a mother-in-law to two daughters-in-law, she naturally has her fair share of familial problems with them.

She said that the most important thing in maintaining relationships is learn to let go, even when one is not at fault, & not to allow any unpleasant events to be kept at heart.

She asserted that, if we do not let go, we would only be building up more emotional stresses in our own lives, which in turn would only aggravate our own personal health.

That's to say, let bygones be bygones, & move on with life. I subscribe to this life philosophy, too.

After a simple dinner of Peking Duck & roasted meats, plus bitter gourd soup & stir-fried vegetables prepared by my sister, my wife & I departed by MRT for our home in Jurong West. It was then about 7.30pm.

Naturally, as a younger brother, I felt good to see my second eldest sister & her husband still in good working order, so to speak.

In summary reflection: A good home meal together, a chance to touch base once in a while, & an opportunity to learn something profound from the elders.


"Most thought provoking in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking."

~ Martin Heidegger, (1889-1986); influencial German philosopher;


What will people say of me when I am gone?

What do I wish they would say?

What really matters when my own mortality looms on the horizon?

Will future generations be better off because of me?

~ inspired by the book, 'The Rapture of Maturity: A Legacy of Lifelong Learning', by Charles Hayes;

Sunday, October 11, 2009

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: When you have the best quality, everybody wants a piece of you

The foregoing marketing slogan for the line of seemingly high-quality suitcases is relatively akin to the Gucci product family slogan:

"Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten."

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: Keep what you love; Trash what you don't

This large poster in Ngee Ann City on Orchard Road reminds me of the life philosophy of the legendary martial artist Bruce Lee:

"Absorb what is useful;
Reject what is useless;
Research your own experience; &
Add what is specifically your own."


Here's the link to a fascinating website... with the intriguing story about 'The 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts'.

I recall, as a young man during the early seventies, I was fascinated by the works of the controversial Swiss explorer Erich von Daniken, especially one of his signature works, 'Chariots of the Gods', which gave an entertaining & eye-opening introduction to some of the mysteries of our world.

The book was later made into a movie (German-made, but dubbed in English) & I even saw the movie twice on the same day. In fact, a few of the artifacts mentioned in the article were captured in the movie.

Since then, what had puzzled me most is whether we are alone in the universe?

More precisely, are there intelligent beings in the cosmos?

Naturally, I am well aware of the fact that mainstream scientists often love to throw spanners at von Daniken's work.


I have found this interesting perspective about thinking on the web from a guy who just calls himself "Jack":

"Thinking is when a ‘picture/memory/conversation’ come up in your mind which you did not direct, meaning – it spontaneously popped up in your mind, ‘connected to an event outside of you as a reaction’ and then you ‘followed it’ and you ‘wander around in your mind’ and manifest reactions within you.

When you’re here – ‘looking at something within you’, which you directed for you by you – this is you communicating with you – but if it was something that just suddenly ‘came into your mind with absolutely no relevance to you in the moment as the moment’ ‘running inside your mind, one thought following another to which you react’ = this is thinking."


- analyze
- anticipate
- apprehend
- argue
- assert
- attend
- assume
- believe
- calculate
- categorize
- classify
- cogitate
- comprehend
- conceive
- concentrate
- conceptualize
- conjecture
- consider
- contemplate
- create
- deduce
- deem
- deliberate
- determine
- devise
- discover
- divine
- empathize
- estimate
- examine
- expect
- explain
- fabricate
- fantasize
- foresee
- guess
- hypothesize
- imagine
- induce
- infer
- intend
- introspect
- invent
- judge
- know
- meditate
- muse
- opine
- organize
- plan
- plot
- ponder
- postulate
- predict
- premeditate
- presume
- presuppose
- project
- propose
- rationalize
- reason
- recall
- reflect
- remember
- review
- revise
- ruminate
- schematise
- speculate
- suppose
- suggest
- suspect
- systematize
- theorize
- understand
- wonder

[Source: 'To Think', by Frank Smith;]


Am I inspired out of bed each & every morning by the pure joy of living & expressing my life purpose?

~ inspired by W Bradford Swift, writing in his latest issue of Purposeful Pondering ezine;


"Some people study all their life & at their death they have learned everything except to think."

~ Francois Domergue, (1745-1810); French grammarian & journalist;