Friday, February 5, 2010


"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep the balance you must continue forward."

~ Albert Einstein;

Thursday, February 4, 2010


"The word ‘knowledge’ actually means ‘to have sport with ideas’.

A knowledgeable person is someone who can play with ideas, not just someone who can retain facts, recall information or simply repeat a task.

To play with ideas means holding information in the short-term and long-term memory and processing them by comparing and contrasting, attributing, classifying, sequencing, prioritising, evaluating, determining cause and effect, analysing for bias and drawing conclusions.

Through these series of thinking activities, new ideas can be created through inventing, inferring, generalising, predicting, hypothesising and making analogies.

Therefore, if you wish to be a knowledgeable person, you should not practise retaining information, but instead, process information.

When you put effort into processing information, you will become capable of a metacognitive or executive level of thinking that includes self-awareness, self-inquiry (self-dialogue), self-monitoring and self-regulation of the processes and contents of thoughts, knowledge structures and memories.

In essence, you become a thinker capable of solving problems, creating ideas and making decisions."

~ Professor Y.K. Ip, Associate Director, Centre for Development of Teaching & Learning, NUS, Singapore;


Yesterday afternoon, I had watched an old but entertaining movie, entitled 'The Freshman', on StarHub cable television. It starred the legendary Marlon Brando & Matthew Broderick.

The movie - actually a comedy - centred on an unusual bonding encounter between an Italian importer, Carmine Sabatini, whom the neighbourhood believed to be a Mafia boss [owing to his resemblance to the Godfather character], & a young college student, Clark Kellog, from Vermont, who was attending his first-year film course at New York city.

I enjoyed the witty dialogue as well as the numerous quirky scenes in the movie, one of which involved the hilarious antics of a Komodo Dragon.

Best of all, I enjoyed watching one of my favourite movie stars from the sixties, Marlon Brando. It was really fun, for a change, to see him playing a comedy character.

Among his many great movies, my personal favourites included 'Viva Zapata!' (with Anthony Quinn), 'On the Waterfront', 'Sayonara', 'One Eyed Jacks', 'Mutiny on the Bounty', 'Superman' (even though his character role lasted less than 15 minutes), 'Apocalypse Now', & not forgetting the 'Godfather' epic.

Back to 'The Freshman', one particular scene &/or dialogue, during which the young man earnestly wanted to seek an urgent discussion with the old man, while the latter was having a good time with his daughter - playing the young man's love interest - on the ice-skating rink, caught my personal attention:

Clark: "You promise?"

Carmine: "Every word I say, by definition, is a promise."


Most people are familiar with the traditional SWOT Analysis tool.

Here's a new tool, designated as Defensive/Offensive Evaluation (D/OE), which is advanced by its creator as an effective alternative.

I like its extensive value creation process & vulnerability probing mechanism.

Take a close look. Explore possibilities with it. Here's the link.


If I could help my clients to discover their authentic competitive advantage, what difference would that make for their businesses... & mine?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Today, while surfing the net, I came across the term 'Predatory Reading' for the first time.

It came from a strategy paper for history students, entitled 'Reading, Writing, and Researching for History: A Guide for College Students', by Patrick Rael, Bowdoin College.

According to the paper, reading scholarly works requires a new set of reading skills.

I fully concur with the author. To paraphrase, one simply cannot read scholarly material as if it were pleasure reading and expect to comprehend it satisfactorily.

Yet neither do anyone has the time to read every sentence over and over again.

Instead, one must become what one author calls a "predator" or "predatory reader".

In a nutshell, I reckon it's akin to becoming a critical & analytical reader.

That is, you must learn to quickly determine the important parts of the scholarly material you read.

The most important thing to understand about a piece of scholarly writing is its argument.

Accordingly, arguments have three components: the problem, the solution, and the evidence.

Understanding the structure of an essay is key to understanding these things.

Here are some hints from the foregoing strategy paper on how to determine structure when reading scholarly material:

1) Think pragmatically. Each part of a well-crafted argument serves a purpose for the larger argument. When reading, try to determine why the author has spent time writing each paragraph. What does it "do" for the author's argument?

2) Identify "signposts." Signposts are the basic structural cues in a piece of writing. Is the reading divided into chapters or sections? Are there subheads within the reading? Subheads under subheads? Are the titles clearly descriptive of the contents, or do they need to be figured out (as in titles formulated from quotations)? Are there words or concepts in the titles (of the piece, and of subheads) that need to be figured out (such as novel words, or metaphors)?

3) Topic sentences. Topic sentences (usually the first sentences of each paragraph) are miniature arguments. Important topic sentences function as subpoints in the larger argument. They also tell you what the paragraph that follows will be about. When reading, try to identify how topic sentences support the larger argument. You can also use them to decide if a paragraph seems important enough to read closely.

4) Evidence. Pieces of evidence -- in the form of primary and secondary sources -- are the building blocks of historical arguments. When you see evidence being used, try to identity the part of the argument it is being used to support.

5) Identify internal structures. Within paragraphs, authors create structures to help reader understand their points. Identify pairings or groups of points and how they are telegraphed. Where are they in the hierarchy of the argument? Hierarchy of major points is very important, and the most difficult to determine. Is the point a major or a minor one? How can you tell?

6) Examine transitions. Sometimes transitions are throwaways, offered merely to get from one point to another. At other times, they can be vital pieces of argument, explaining the relationship between points, or suggesting the hierarchy of points in the argument.

7) Identify key distinctions. Scholars often make important conceptual distinctions in their work.

8) Identify explicit references to rival scholarly positions. Moments when a scholar refers directly to the work of another scholar are important in understanding the central questions at stake.

9) Stay attuned to strategic concessions. Often authors seem to be backtracking, or giving ground, only to try to strengthen their cases. Examine such instances in your readings closely. Often, these signal moments where authors are in direct conversation with other scholars. Such moments may also help steer you toward the thesis.

10) Remember that incoherence is also a possibility. Sometimes it is very difficult to determine how a section of a piece is structured or what it's purpose in the argument is. Remember that authors do not always do their jobs, and there may be incoherent or unstructured portions of essays. But be careful to distinguish between writing that is complex and writing that is simply incoherent.

Finally, remember that you cannot read each piece of scholarship closely from start to finish and hope to understand its structure. You must examine it (or sections of it) several times. It is much better to work over an article several times quickly - each time seeking to discern argument and structure - than it is to read it once very closely.


"Creative minds always have been known to survive any kind of bad training."

- Anna Freud;


A school inspector was impressed by the children that he had observed, but wanted to ask one more question before departing.

"How many hairs does a horse have?" he asked.

Much to the amazement of both the inspector and the teacher, a nine year old boy answered "3,571,962."

"How do you know that your answer is correct?" asked the inspector.

"If you do not believe me," answered the boy, "count them yourself."

The inspector broke into laughter and vowed to tell the story to his colleagues when he returned to Vienna.

When the inspector returned the following year for his annual visit, the teacher asked him how his colleagues responded to the story.

Disappointedly he replied, "I wanted very much to tell the story but I couldn't. For the life of me, I couldn't remember how many hairs the boy had said the horse had."

The point of this simple story is this:

Get the big picture. Memorizing facts without understanding their relevance is an utter waste of time!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


"I make up my mind about someone within thirty seconds of meeting that person. In the same way... I also make up my mind
about a business proposal within thirty seconds and whether it excites me. I rely far more on gut instinct than researchng huge amounts of statistics."

~ Richard Branson, in his autobiography, 'Losing My Virginity', in which he acknoweldges gut feeling as a vital ingredient in his entrepreneurial judgement & business venturing decisions;

Monday, February 1, 2010


Who are you?

Who needs to know?

Why should they care?

How will they find out?

~ from the book, 'Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team', by Alina Wheeler;


"You can do something with what you are given, to change it. The world, as it is presented to us, is not the only possible world. Through our imagination, we can use it as a model for other possible worlds... "

~ Robert Fisher & Mary Williams, 'A Teacher's Guide to Unlocking Creativitiy: Teaching Across the Curriculum';


[Extracted from the 'Braindancing Smorgasbord' weblog]

This unusual post has been prompted by a recent event in my life, during which I have been dragged out of semi-retirement by my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, to help him helm a project presentation to a bunch of supposedly intelligent professionals, who somehow acted so dumb.

The incident brought me into a seemingly confrontational encounter with one of the aforesaid professionals, who apparently reminded me of my past experiences in the corporate world.

I like to call it the dinosaur mentality, but this one was running on steroids.

Dinosaurs were supposed to have died 65 million years ago following a massive asteroid collision, but that didn't stop creative movie producers from coming out with celluloid dinosaurs.

I am referring to the wonderful trilogy of Jurassic Park movies, plus Godzilla, & not forgetting the earlier versions from Japan. They were my personal favourites as a movie buff.

Interestingly, as a teenager growing up with pains during the sixties, I was often mesmerised by the Flintstones animated television series, especially the hero Fred Flintstone, who often had to grapple with havoc created by his pet dino.

Naturally, I had also watched the two great Flintstones movies.

Back to the 21st century, especially to the aforesaid incident. Dilip & I had to face the crappy humanoid dinosaur.

Because of my desire to understand the science of irrationality, I went back to dig up some of my library books.

The first book that fell into my hands was clinical psychologist Dr Albert Bernstein's 'Dinosaur Brains: Dealing with All Those Impossible People at Work', which I had read during the late eighties.

At that time, I was a General Manager of a technology firm. I was attracted by one particular blurb from the book, "The key to thriving in the corporate jungle is understanding dinosaurs."

The findings from Dr Bernstein were fascinating:

- the humanoid dinosaurs are responsible people who act out unconscious fantasies of the primeval jungle;

- their principal default setting - in other words, primitive thought pattern - is called lizard logic;

- they prefer to work in crisis mode;

- they always try to gain dominance by blind aggressiveness;

- they delight in making other people look stupid & they always have the last word;

- worst still, they think that what they are doing makes perfectly good sense;

Gee Wiz! Dr Bernstein was right on the ball. The illustrative characteristics were manifested right in front of my eyes via the aforesaid gentleman.

By the way, Dr Bernstein had even narrowed down his 7 coping strategies in dealing with lizard logic.

Other books that had appeared in my quick foraging included:

- 'The Dinosaur Strain', by corporate consultant Mark Brown - this one is more about disempowering mindsets & how to reset them;

- 'Mean Markets & Lizard Brain: How to Profit from the New Science of Irrationality', by Professor Terry Burnham - this one explains why lizard logic often screws up our money making initiatives;

- 'Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions', by Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at MIT - it's worth reading, especially for understanding human behaviour better;

- 'Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness ', by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein, both professors - this one is quite an interesting read, even though it is tied to behavioural economics of the American scenario;

Nonetheless, there is one consensus or rather common denominator from all these books:

Our brain is divided into two operating parts:

- the executive brain, where rationality & logic prevails;

- the lizard brain, so to speak, responding more to emotions, present needs, pleasure, temptations, instincts, & pain avoidance;

Sad to say, we continue to share part of our brain with our cold-blooded cousins, & evidence from the above experts had proven that we have very little control over it.

We just have to live with it.

I certainly like what maverick guru Seth Godin has recently exhorted, while launching his new book, 'Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?':

"You don't need to be more creative. All of you are actually too creative. What you need is a quieter lizard brain.

The genius part is getting the lizard brain to shut up long enough to overcome the resistance."

His contention is that our lizard brain is the source of resistance.

For many of us, I reckon this tactical approach is quite an easy thing to do, but for that particular gentleman, regrettably, I don't think so, because Dilip & I also had an earlier but unexpected encounter with him several weeks ago. For a man of his standing, his negative thoughts were horrendous.

I really feel sorry for all the people who have to work & live unwittingly at the mercy of his mesozoic logic & disconnected behaviour.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


"People who go around trying to invent something fall on their tails. The best inventions come from people who are deeply involved in trying to solve a problem."

~ Howard Head (1914– 1991); aeronautical engineer who is credited with the invention of laminate skis & the over-sized tennis racket;


In my personal view, Geoffrey Moore, writing in his best seller, 'Crossing the Chasm: Marketing & Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers', has offered a simple & yet useful template for one to organise quick thoughts in preparation for an elevator pitch.

Just fill in the blanks as follows:

1. For (target customers);

2. Who are dissatisfied with (the current market alternative);

3. Our product is a (new product category);

4 That provides (key problem solving capability);

5. Unlike (the product alternative);

6. We have assembled (the key product features for your specific application);

Here's a simple example from the book, using Silicon Graphics in Hollywood:

1. For post-production film engineers;

2. Who are dissatisfied with the limitations of traditional film editors;

3. Our work station is a digital film editor;

4. That lets you modify film images any way you choose;

5. Unlike workstations from Sun, Hp or IBM;

6. We have assembled all the interfaces needed for post-production film editing;

After all, the purpose of an elevator pitch is to grab immediate attention from a target customer or an investor, to focus on the "essentials" of the business problem, & then, to get the conversation going.