Saturday, November 21, 2009


Don't talk to people about "changing"; talk to them about doing something different.

Thinking drives behaviour.

Change the thinking, not the behaviour.

As a change leader, your job is to create a stimulating environment where change can really flourish.

A change leader must:

- know your people & your business;

- insist on realism;

- set clear goals & priorities;

- follow-through;

- reward the doers;

- expand people's capacities & capabilities;

- know yourself;


Recently, unwittingly, I got myself engaged in three inexplicable incidents involving three seemingly intelligent professionals.

I was directly engaged with two of them, but the third, the sorry fellow known to me, starred in another equally despairing incident, as recounted to me by a good friend.

Nonetheless, the three gentlemen had done a variety of idiotic acts, which they were smart enough to know better.

To avoid any sensitive repercussions, I have decided not to describe the incidents in detail.

However, what has actually intrigued me most is why did these smart persons push themselves into what I like to call "self-destruct mode".

While searching for some answers to satisfy my curiosity, I scouted the net & found a book, 'Why Smart People Do Dumb Things', by a reportedly world-acclaimed industrial psychologist, Dr Mortimer Feinberg.

Interestingly, I became fascinated by a quick snapshot of the Table of Contents (Thanks to 'LookInside' at amazon):

- Introduction: What's the Problem?
- Smart Screw Ups Anonymous is in Session;
- Seeking the Virus of Self Destruct Intelligence;
- Narcissism & the Disconnect Effect;
- Inmania: The Danger of Insulation from Criticism;
- The Arrogance of Intelligence;
- The Unconscious Need to Fail;
- e Pluribus Stupiditas: Collective Dumbness;

One particular passage in the book has also caught my immediate attention:

"...intelligent people suffer extreme logic override: reality blindness...they act in defiance of realities that are obvious to persons of far lower cognitive capacity... blindness to reality is a function of narcissism, which builds up their self absorption so high that they lose sight of the real world..."

This sounds more like intellectual arrogance to me!

The book was unfortunately written in 1995, but I have decided to order a second-hand copy from alibris. Hopefully, I can get an adequate explanation about some aspects of human stupidity, so to speak.


Here are some quick notes which I took recently while reading an online article, but I have forgotten to record the source:

1) adopt a feisty attitude;

2) be very intentional about the way you go about your daily activities;

3) feel optimistic about your future;

4) stay active, stay engaged;

5) pay attention to maintaining your health;

6) don't let anything worry you;

7) have friends of all ages;


"The future challenges us to examine and prepare in advance to solve the problems which it has in store for us, problems which may well overwhelm us with their sudden onslaught if we do not anticipate them. It is the not-yet-existent future, or certain special possibilities out of a numberless infinity of possible futures, which throws light or shadow on the present...[And an] adequate response to the ever-shifting challenge of a rapidly
changing future can be nothing less than a comprehensive and inspiring vision of the future!"

~ Fred Polak, Dutch scholar writing in his magnum opus, 'The Image of the Future' (1961);

Friday, November 20, 2009


What one specific activity would have the greatest impact on bringing my masterplan to fruition?

What is the one specific activity that I most need to execute this week?

What do I feel inspired & ready to do today?


This colourful poster of the American superhero, 'Superman', at the Bugis Junction shopping mall on North Bridge Road, certainly jogged my sweet memories.

I remember, as a young teenager with growing pains during the fifties, I was often mesmerised when reading comics about a mild-mannered reporter of the Daily Planet, Kent Clark, who often turned himself into a man of steel when urgent help was needed.

He was always "Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!"

With the advent of television during the sixties, I was often glued to the series of 'Adventures of Superman', starring George Reeves.

It just strikes me that two puzzling questions as follows still bug me till today whenever I think about the superhero:

1) why did he wear his undershorts on the outside?

2) why did he duck whenever some bad guys threw some projectiles at him, when he could easily deflect flying bullets?

Can somebody out there throw some light on these questions of mine?

[The foregoing retail boutique at the Bugis Junction sells all the Superman's paraphernalia.]


"From this point on, there is a growing realization that man's future may be literally what he chooses to make it, and that the ranges of choice and the degree of conscious control which he may exercise in determining his future are unprecedented. ... The outcome of the futures chosen will depend in turn on our ability to conceptualize them in humanly desirable terms... There is, in this sense, no future other than as we will it to be."

~ from John McHale, one of the founding fathers of futures research:

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Here's the link to an interesting article by Dr Susan Whitbourne in the 'Everyday Psychology News Aggregator'.

Her exploration of several possible pathways to successful aging, & her five tips to turning your pathway into a successful one are worth reading.

By the way, her other articles on her 'Fulfillment at Any Age' weblog with Psychology Today are also worth reading.

She has in fact written a book, entitled 'The Search for Fulfillment: Revolutionary New Research that Reveals the Secret to Long-Term Happiness' (to be released in January 2010). Here's the link to her corporate website.


"Dreams give us hope.
Hope ignites Passion.
Passion leads us to enVision success.
Visions of success open our minds to recognize possibilities."

~ Debbie Kennedy;

"Far-reaching Possibilities help us enlist Support from others.
Support from others keeps us focus & committed.
Focus & commitment fosters Action.

Action leads to Progress.
Progress leads to Achievement.
Achievement inspires Dreams.
Dreams give us hope."

~ Joel Arthur Barker;

[Source: A Powerpoint Presentation by author, futurist & film-maker Joel Arthur Barker, 'The Next 10 Years: A Choice of Visions" (available on slideshare);]


"Everything in your life is there as a vehicle for your transformation. Use it!"

~ Ram Dass, author & spiritual teacher;


Here are some excellent suggestions from success coach Brian Tracy:

1) Whatever challenges you face, focus on the future;

2) Whenever you are faced with difficulty or obstacles, focus on the solution;

3) Assume that something good is hidden within each difficulty or challenge;

4) Assume that whatever situation you are facing at the moment is exactly the right situation you need to ultimately be successful.

5) In every challenge, look for the valuable lesson;

6) To sustain your positivity all the time, make - & execute - a daily to-do list, in line with your life goals;


Whenever I step into the Far East Plaza shopping mall located on Scotts Road with my wife, for our regular window-shopping spree, I always seem to hear the popular disco song of the early 80's, 'Funkytown', reverberating in my head.

"... keep me moving, keep me grooving with some energy..."

Incidentally, the song was featured in the soundtrack of the second 'Shrek' cartoon movie, which I had watched recently on StarHub cable television.

My wife & I simply love to pop into my 'Funkytown', so to speak, once in a while, especially the basement & the two upper floors, where young Singaporeans love to hang out, amidst the bustle of all the little shops, 3m by 3m, that sell all the unique & fashionable Korean & Japanese urban street-wear.

My wife has often remarked that I stood out like a sore thumb while visiting the funky place, mingling with the flashily-dressed younger Gen Yers.

As I recall, Far East Plaza was built in the mid-80's. At one point in time, it was very run-down, almost grungy & grubby.

In recent years, it has been spruced up, but has never been able to match the shining glamour of the surrounding shopping malls on Orchard Road.

Nonetheless, it has its own unrivalled "sense of edginess" by virtue of its staggered-profile frontage on the street level along Scotts Road, which seems to carve out a sheltered urban space that is popular as a "water-hole" with young Singaporeans, especially those who are really into the subculture phenomenon, as well as visiting tourists.

The vibrancy & energy of the place, as I sense it, is almost likened to the flamboyant Harajuku street scene of Tokyo, Japan, although most people may argue that here it is more subdued in a way.

For the visiting tourists, there is a startling array of shops dealing with electronics & cameras, tailored suits & safari jackets, sports shoes & leather bags, polo shirts & denim jeans, music CDs & iPods, eye-wear, luggage, & other fashion knick-knacks at "bargainable" prices. It's really a good place to haggle, or rather to test your power of persuasion!

Besides many restaurants on the upper floor, & various fast-food joints serving ethnic cuisine in the basement, plus hair-dressing & beauty saloons, located all over the place, Far East Plaza apparently has the largest concentration of tattoo parlours in Singapore.

So, if you want your face & body to be tortured, this is the place. I am told that the best tattoo artists in the country can be found at Far East Plaza.

Meanwhile, readers can enjoy some of my digital snapshots as shown below.

Actually, they don't do true justice as mine is not a professional photoshoot sojourn.

In other words, you have to drop into my 'Funkytown' to see - or rather to feel the vibrancy & energy of the place - for yourself.

Even the entrance to the toilets at Far East Plaza is funky!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


1) What would I try to accomplish if I couldn't fail?

2) What would I do if I win the lottery & had no financial constraints?

3) At what point in my life was I most excited about my future?

4) What do I want my life to be like in 50 years?

[Source: Dr Stephen Kraus, success scientist, & also author of 'Psychological Foundations of Success';]


"The only things in this life that you really regret are the risks you didn't take. And God knows if you see a chance to be happy, you grab it with both hands and to hell with the consequences."

~ from the movie, 'Grumpy Old Men' (1993), starring two great actors, John Lemmon & Walter Matthau; [The movie story centred on a 50-year feud between two neighbors since childhood, which only got hilarious when a new female neighbour (played by Ann Margaret) moved across the street.]

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Here's the link to an interesting article on change readiness assessment in the 'Chief Learning Officer' online magazine.

In a nut shell, these are the key cultural elements that should be examined in a change readiness assessment within an organisational setting:

- Key performance indicators:

- Risk tolerance:

- Decision making:

- Organizational structure:

- Flexibility and innovation:

- Change history:

- Processes and function:

- Communication:

- Competitive awareness:

- Rewards:


"At Sony, we have a very simple vision; we do not invent anything from scratch... What we do is watch trends, then borrow technology, take technology invented from scratch by someone else, & then make it smaller & better... with more features, miniaturise it & then market the hell out of it... Everyone from top to bottom of Sony Corporation understands this vision. It is simple & clearly understood."

~ Akio Morita, founder & former chairman of Sony Corporation, in response to a question from a group of graduate students, 'You built up this company from nothing into one of the largest & most successful companies in the world. How did you do it? What's the secret?';

[as reported by Leslie Choudhury, writing in his article, 'Seeing is Believing', in today's CATS Recruit Page in the 'Straits Times';]


I recall, in the sixties & all the way through the seventies & into the eighties, whenever I want to have a cuppa, I would always go to one of those conveniently located shop-house coffee shops to indulge myself.

The coffee shop would probably be owned & run by a Hainanese operator.

The owner (or his wife) would most likely be sitting behind the counter at one front corner of the coffee shop, whose job was primarily to bark out customer orders to his employees at the back of the shop, where the kitchen was located, as well as to watch the daily till.

Invariably as I sat down, next to a small round table with marble-top, I would be served by a friendly but elderly man in a pair of shorts & singlets.

At best, the server might even be a small boy, who happened to be the owner's son undergoing his mandatory "apprenticeship", under the watchful eye of his father or mother, as typical of a Chinese family-owned business.

Occasionally, depending on his mood, & whether one is a regular patron, the owner might even crack some jokes with you or share some local political trivia of the day, when you go up to him to settle the "bill".

Today, the scenario has changed dramatically.

At one end of the spectrum, we have the designer coffee shops, like Starbucks, equipped with fancy gadgetry & with a myriad of drink concoctions & sweet snacks to dazzle you & also to titillate your wallet.

At the other end, we still have a dwindling number of the coffee shops from the good old days, but they are definitely hard to find nowadays.

I know of one located at the junction of Beach Road & Seah Street, where foreign talent - Mandarin-speaking young ladies from mainland China, who sometimes have problems understanding our accent - has replaced the archaic elderly waiters.

In between, we have the "reengineered" old-fashioned coffee shops, which have chosen to go up-market, & are often tucked inside modern shopping malls, like Kopitiam, OldTown, Yakun, just to name a few.

Depending on where you hang out (in my case, it was the upper floor food court at the IMM Jurong East shopping mall), you probably have to queue up for your cuppa.

If you order extra stuff like boiled eggs &/or toasted bread with kaya &/or butter to go, you will probably be given an electronic device, as shown below.

The purpose of the small wireless device - with flickering lights - is to tell you that your order is ready, & you have to go back to the counter to pick it up. Naturally, you have to return the device in exchange for your order.

Drinking a cuppa today has moved from hi-touch, lo-tech to lo-touch, hi-tech. I certainly miss the nostalgia.

Monday, November 16, 2009



The Singapore Ministry of Community Development, Youth & Sports (MCYS) has released an interesting guide book to help Singaporeans better prepare for old age.

Here's the link to download the guide.

Entitled 'Adding Life to Years - Happy, Healthy & Active Seniors', it puts together a list of schemes that Singaporeans can practise for a balanced & healthy life in their silver years.

The book includes information on work, savings, health, lifestyle & legal issues all relevant to Third as well as Fourth Agers.


As a Singaporean, I know very well my fellow Singaporeans, especially the ladies, will never resist the urge to indulge in frenzied browsing through weekend bargain sales in the shopping malls, whenever the opportunity arises.

The foregoing digital snapshot was taken at the Promotion Gallery on the third floor of Isetan Scotts departmental store on Saturday afternoon.

What a surprise? There wasn't any of the usual frantic shopping crowd on a Saturday afternoon.

In fact, the same scenario has appeared in the 'Talking Hall' (the name for the promotion gallery) at the Takashimaya departmental store in Ngee Ann City.

Even more surprising, the basement 2 atrium, where there was a large display of Christmas gifts for kids, was not packed with people at all. [See the digitial snapshot below.]

Well, I have read that the APEC leaders (including President Barack Obama) in town this week had agreed in consensus terms that the world economy was still fragile.

Maybe, that's the reason for the absence of shopping crowd. I really don't know.

Nonetheless, it's a daunting prospect for all retailers & marketers in general!


While taking the following digital snapshots at the underground pathway leading into the Tang's Plaza on Scotts Road/Orchard Road junction, a handful of apt quotes flashed through my mind:

"Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream."
~ Malcolm Muggeridge;

"If you want to succeed, you have to forge new paths & avoid borrowed ones."
~ John Rockefeller;

"What others apprise, the same you want to; what others avoid, the same you want to; that is why, you fail as others; how ridiculous it is!"
~ Lao Tzu;

"In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different."
~ Coco Chanel;

To me, they epitomised the wonderful spirit as embodied in the power of asking 'Why Not?' questions in one's mind.

I realise from past experiences, that in the course of exploring options to a problem, asking 'Why Not?' questions often put our minds in a shifting perspective state.

In a nut shell,... to think differently; be different & make a difference!

In fact, asking 'Why Not?' questions often challenges our assumptions & beliefs about the world. They also provoke our status quo.

In strategic as well as tactical terms, they can ultimately help us to take the things we see everyday, & think about them in new ways, & explore unnoticed possibilities - or unintended implications - along the way.

Hence, I am gratified to know that the Singapore Design Festival is pursuing the same line of thought.


"Information is not enough. Action is what unites every great success. Action is what produces results. Knowledge is only potential power until it comes into the hands of someone who knows how to get himself to take effective action. In fact, the literal definition of the word 'power' is "the ability to act.""
~ Anthony Robbins;

Sunday, November 15, 2009


I have probably watched the two crime action motives, 'Bad Boys' & 'Bad Boys II', on StarHub cable television, more than a dozen times in each case.

My wife often wondered why I could bother or rather have the quiet patience to sit through the two action movies over & over again.

To be honest, I simply loved the high-octane action sequences, the witty dialogue & also enjoyed watching the two fine actors, Will Smith (as Mike) & Martin Lawrence (as Marcus), playing the two street-smart, loose-cannon, wise-cracking police narcotics officers.

In 'Bad Boys II', which I had watched last night, the two nosy cops got entangled with a crime lord from Cuba, who wanted the entire slice of the Miami drug trade.

Marcus's sister, Syd (played by Gabrielle Union), & who was also a love interest of Mike & who also happened to be an undercover DEA operative, got caught unwittingly in the deadly cross-fire. She was kidnapped by the drug lord, & brought to Cuba.

The remaining more or less one-third of the movie showed the rescue attempt right inside Cuba, with the help of a ragtag group of operatives from Police/US Coast Guard/US Special Forces, plus some local anti-Castro rebels, through a myriad of conveniently located underground tunnels.

Interestingly, every time I had watched the movie, I had somehow picked up some useful learning points.

After finally rescuing Syd at the crime lord's residence in Cuba, Mike, Marcus, Syd & another team member, got separated from the main group & could not reach the tunnel in time to escape as Cuban Army forces rushed to the aid of the crime lord.

That was when Mike decided to call the group to abort the original escape plan, while he was planning to go to Plan B. Naturally, while the gunfight was still going on, Marcus irately asked what was Plan B, to which Mike scolded him for not paying attention.

Luckily, the foursome managed to hijack the crime lord's Humvee, & made a daring escape through the foothills & the nearby cocaine-processing shacks along the way, with enemy forces hot on their heels.

This time, the bewildered Marcus asked again whether they were still on Plan B, to which Mike rebutted: "No, this is definitely Plan C."

Humour aside, I certainly like the improvisational creativity routines of Mike.

Transposed to real life, we just go to think on our feet all the time. Shifts happen.

As we confront unexpected difficulties or unintended obstacles along the highway of life, we just got to improvise our way to negotiate them, using whatever resources available at hand.

Remember, the MacGyver Factor!

'Bad Boys II' may just be only a movie, or even a no-brainer to some people for that matter, but for me, I have learned:

In spite of distractions, a presence of mind, or more precisely, awareness of the present moment, & improvisational creativity can always give us the edge in life pursuits.


"Everyone has a talent. What is rare is the courage to nurture it in solitude and to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads."

~ Erica Jong;


Writing in his book, 'Psychological Foundations of Success', Harvard-trained scientist Stephen Kraus, also CEO of Next Level Sciences Inc., a peak performance consultancy, has synthesized decades of research on success & well-being into a scientifically valid five step system for personal achievement that anyone can use:

1. Vision: The science of clarifying what you really want from life;

2. Strategy: The science of turning lofty ambitions into consistent actions;

3. Belief: The science of minimizing FUD (fear, uncertainty & doubt);

4. Persistence: The science of drive & determination;

5. Learning: The science of making course corrections in life;


What went well and why?

What went less well and why?

What would we do differently now?

What would we do the same way?

What went unexpectedly well and why?

What went unexpectedly badly and why?

Are there new assumptions/rules to be made?

Why did we not foresee what happened?

How can we improve learning in the future?

[Source: 'Strategic Learning in Action: How to Accelerate and Sustain Business Change' (1994), by Tony Grundy]