Saturday, March 6, 2010


"Time is limited, so I better wake up every morning fresh and know that I have just one chance to live this particular day right, and to string my days together into a life of action, and purpose."

~ Lance Armstrong, 7-time winner of the Tour de France;

Friday, March 5, 2010


What is the commitment that will constitute a major shift for me?


"Your opponent, in the end, is never really the player on the other side of the net, or the swimmer in the next lane, or the team on the other side of the field, or even the bar you must high-jump. Your opponent is yourself, your negative internal voices, your level of determination."

~ Grace Lichtenstein, Writer & Editor;

Thursday, March 4, 2010


[If you were a Star Wars fan, you would realise that "Size Matters Not!" was uttered by Master Yoda, the doyen of the Jedi warriors.]


While waiting for the traffic light to turn green in my favour on Tuesday, the foregoing scene with the catchy caption sort of grabbed my visual attention from my driving seat in the car. I was then sending my car for LTA inspection at the VICOM facility located in the Sin Min Industrial estate.


I am prompted to write this post after having watched an old movie from the 70's, entitled 'The Day of the Jackal' on StarHub cable television a few days ago.

The thrilling movie apparently captured one of the many failed assassination attempts on President Charles de Gaulle, during his leadership era of France back in the sixties.

After several failures, a militant underground group, known as the OAS, comprising mostly surviving generals from the French Foreign Legion campaign in Algeria, decided to recruit an outsider - a professional assassin (played by Edward Fox) - to undertake the secret assignment. He demanded US$500,000, half to be paid via a Swiss bank account & the balance after the job was done.

The disgruntled generals had felt betrayed following de Gaulle's granting of full independence to French Algeria.

The assassin's codename was 'Jackal'.

Despite his personal cover being blown, the cunning assassin, who was an expert in disguises, continued his meticulous & methodical preparation, from running across international borders with forged passports & other personal documents, to taking his own sweet time to source for a specially-configured sniper rifle, switched several vehicles, dodged trail attempts by various security authorities, plus "fooling around" with a rich woman, & even a newly acquainted gay friend (unfortunately both ended up dead), as part of his elaborate tactical manoeuvres to prove he was the world's most ruthless assassin.

In a nut shell, the movie was essentially a riveting cat & mouse game, between a cool French police detective, Claude Lebel (played by Michale Lonsdale) assigned to the case, & the elusive assassin on the run.

The anti-climax of the movie at the end of it all was that the assassin failed in his last assignment, but worst still, his true identity remained an enigma.

One particular scene in the movie had caught my immediate attention.

After securing the contract, the assassin adjourned to his hotel room, sat down comfortably in an arm chair, took out his yellow legal pad, & wrote down in a dispassionate manner, as follows:

- How?

- Where?

- When?

Didn't the foregoing questions look familiar?

For newspaper journalists, they are part of their daily working process, known as the 5W1H questioning framework, of preparing a story.

I recall from my secondary school days, during which my English Language teacher often insisted that the framework was useful in clarifying & understanding something already written in more depth.

As a matter of fact, I have found it's an invaluable memory jogger & prompt in writing useful content for a business proposal.

For working professionals, or entrepreneurs, I reckon the 5W1H questioning framework is also an amazing tool for brainstorming & problem solving.

By the way, the other "Ws": What? Who? Why?

In the Total Quality Movement, a parallel tool is often suggested: The 5W or better known as the 5 Why.

That is, you ask 'Why' five times consecutively, with the explicit view of getting to the bottom of the problem.

In other words, to look beyond the obvious causes of the problem to the underlying systemic root causes.

I believe the 5W or 5 Why had originally been popularised by now-troubled Toyota as part of their kaizen activities.

Coming back to the 5W1H questioning framework, it is widely believed that its origins probably came from Rudyard Kipling, whose immortal poem, "The Elephant's Child", goes as follows:

I Keep six honest serving-men:
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.
I let them rest from nine till five.
For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
For they are hungry men:
But different folk have different views:
I know a person small--
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!
She sends 'em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes--
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!

As you can read from the foregoing poem, it is quite obvious that Toyota probably got their earlier inspiration from it.

I offer the following suggestions to help readers enhance the potency of the 5W1H questioning framework:

1) Extend the questions, by turning the raw single-word questions into question phrases, e.g. how much? why not? what time? which place? who can? where else?

2) Ask a planned sequence of questions, as part of a generative process to develop further thoughts with the view to reach a more complete answer to the problem;


"Like a painter, the strategic leader must have an all-encompassing view of the beginning and the end, the whole and its parts as one instantaneous impression held retentively and untiringly in the mind of the leader."
~ Sir Winston Churchill;


I had captured the foregoing digital snapshot of a large ad panel at a bus stop on Orchard Road a few days ago. I was very intrigued by the bold message.

The question in my mind: Do the universities of today truly impart real-world knowledge, or are they just there to dispense paper qualifications?

Two recent real-life events, encountered by me & my good friend Dilip Mukerjea, somehow seemed to convince both of us that some, if not all, of the universities of today are primarily driven by the profit motive, rather than to excel themselves as institutions of true learning.

Two professionals, both holding Masters, one in Commerce from an overseas university, & the other, in Technopreneurship & Innovation Program (TIP) from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), readily admitted that, after being cornered by Dilip, they could not draw up a business plan for an investment proposal, let alone able to talk about the salient aspects of a business plan.

On the other hand, two final-year undergraduates, who claimed to be on the Dean's List at the Singapore Management University (SMU), had set up an entrepreneurial venture in the education domain, driven by their noble, altruistic intentions, with eighteen others.

Dilip & I had initially thought that they could be an intelligent party to a project discussion, but it turned out that we had to spend time coaching both of them, as they totally lacked the understanding of fundamentals of being entrepreneurs in the first place:

They forgot to bring along their name-cards when we met; their website was a sloppy job, besides being one year behind in update; they wanted to know more about accelerated learning technologies & yet they didn't know who Georgi Lozanov was. They were in fact very naive in many respects.

In a nutshell, they didn't do their expected "due diligence".

No wonder, another good friend of mine, a corporate strategist with a publicly listed company, who had often moon-shined as a lecturer on corporate strategy with the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) once told me that working adults of today, who were pursuing evening MBAs, were more interested in seeking "model answers" than to really want to learn about the complexity of the business world.

This post of mine is not intended to belittle any university, whether local or overseas.

It is just that I always hold the view that the book-smart phenomenon is still a standard practice among tertiary institutions of learning.

I remember vividly a rare remark, as reported in a local newspaper many years ago, from the late Ng Teng Fong of the Far East Organisation. He employed a lot of MBAs, but he lamented that none of them could readily make an investment decision for his organisation.

By the way, Dilip & I had recently created a visual-spatial checklist & template, with a gestalt perspective, to help professionals & businesspeople to draw up a business plan for a start-up, or an ongoing business. It will be an integral part of Dilip's consulting & coaching portfolio: 'Strategic Visioning with Lifescaping'.

[For another interesting perspective, readers can also pop into the weblog of former head honco of NTUC Income, Tan Kin Lian, to read his apt post, entitled 'A Nation Run by Scholars'.]

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


"The winds and waves are always on the side of the best navigators."

~ Edward Gibbon, English historian;

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


"Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time."

~ Marion Edelman, 'Finding Joy';


The “19 Es” of Excellence have their origins in the work of one of my most favourite authors, corporate strategist Tom Peters, writing in his 'Re-Imagine' book:

1) Enthusiasm. (Be an irresistible force of nature!)

2) Energy. (Be fire! Light fires!)

3) Exuberance. (Vibrate—cause earthquakes!)

4) Execution. (Do it! Now! Get it done! Barriers are baloney! Excuses are for wimps! Accountability is gospel! Adhere to the Bill Parcells doctrine: “Blame nobody! Expect nothing! Do something!”)

5) Empowerment. (Respect and appreciation rule! Always ask, “What do you think?” Then listen! Then let go and liberate! Then celebrate!)

6) Edginess. (Perpetually dancing at the frontier, and a little or a lot beyond.)

7) Enraged. (Determined to challenge & change the status quo!)

8) Engaged. (Addicted to MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around. In touch. Always.)

9) Electronic. (Partners with the world 60/60/24/7 via electronic community building and entanglement of every sort. Crowdsourcing rules!)

10) Encompassing. (Relentlessly pursue diverse opinions—the more diversity the merrier! Diversity per se “works”!)

11) Emotion. (The alpha. The omega. The essence of leadership. The essence of sales. The essence of marketing. The essence. Period. Acknowledge it.)

12) Empathy. (Connect, connect, connect with others’ reality and aspirations! “Walk in the other person’s shoes”—until the soles have holes!)

13) Experience. (Life is theater! Make every activity-contact memorable! Standard: “Insanely Great”/Steve Jobs; “Radically Thrilling”/BMW.)

14) Eliminate. (Keep it simple!)

15) Errorprone. (Ready! Fire! Aim! Try a lot of stuff and make a lot of booboos and then try some more stuff and make some more booboos—all of it at the speed of light!)

16) Evenhanded. (Straight as an arrow! Fair to a fault! Honest as Abe!)

17) Expectations. (Michelangelo: “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” Amen!)

18) Eudaimonia. (Pursue the highest of human moral purpose—the core of Aristotle’s philosophy. Be of service. Always.)

19) Excellence. (The only standard! Never an exception! Start now! No excuses! If not Excellence, what? If not Excellence now, when?)

Monday, March 1, 2010


I thought the foregoing photo illustration, which has accompanied an article entitled 'Failure: The Mother of Innovation' by innovation strategist Paul Sloane, is certainly apt to be posted here as my 'Today's VIP'.