Saturday, March 20, 2010


The following expert tips to training your brain, as a long-term strategy to ward off dementia, come from Dr Paul Nussbaum, a neuropsychologist and an adjunct associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine:

1. Join clubs or organizations that need volunteers:

If you start volunteering now, you won't feel lost and unneeded after you retire.

2. Develop a hobby or two:

Hobbies help you develop a robust brain because you're trying something new and complex.

3. Practice writing with your non-dominant hand several minutes every day:

This will exercise the opposite side of your brain and fire up those neurons.

4. Take dance lessons:

In a study of nearly 500 people, dancing was the only regular physical activity associated with a significant decrease in the incidence of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease..

The people who danced three or four times a week showed 76% less incidence of dementia than those who danced only once a week or not at all.

5. Start gardening:

Researchers in New Zealand found that, of 1,000 people, those who gardened regularly were less likely to suffer from dementia.

Not only does gardening reduce stress, but gardeners use their brains to plan garden they use visual and spatial reasoning to lay out a garden..

6. Buy a pedometer and walk 10,000 steps a day:

Walking daily can reduce the risk of dementia because cardio vascular health is important to maintain blood flow to the brain.

7. Read and write daily:

Reading stimulates a wide variety of brain areas that process and store information. Likewise, writing (not copying) stimulates many areas of the brain as well.

8. Start knitting:

Using both hands works both sides of your brain. And it's a stress reducer...

9. Learn a new language:

Whether it's a foreign language or sign language, you are working your brain by making it go back and forth between one language and the other.

A researcher in England found that being bilingual seemed to delay symptoms of Alzheimer's disease for four years.

(And some research suggests that the earlier a child learns sign language, the higher his IQ - and people with high IQs are less likely to have dementia. So start them early.)

10. Play board games such as Scrabble and Monopoly:

Not only are you taxing your brain, you're socializing too.

(Playing solo games, such as solitaire or online computer brain games can be helpful, but Dr Nussbaum prefers games that encourage you to socialize too.)

11. Take classes throughout your lifetime:

Learning produces structural and chemical changes in the brain, and education appears to help people live longer.

Brain researchers have found that people with advanced degrees live longer - and if they do have Alzheimer's, it often becomes apparent only in the very later stages of the disease.

12. Listen to classical music:

A growing volume of research suggests that music may hardwire the brain, building links between the two hemispheres.

Any kind of music may work, but there's some research that shows positive effects for classical music, though researchers don't understand why.

13. Learn a musical instrument:

It may be harder than it was when you were a kid, but you'll be developing a dormant part of your brain.

14. Travel:

When you travel (whether it's to a distant vacation spot or on a different route across town), you're forcing your brain to navigate a new and complex environment.

A study of London taxi drivers found experienced drivers had larger brains because they have to store lots of information about locations and how to navigate there.

15. Pray:

Daily prayer appears to help your immune system. And people who attend a formal worship service regularly live longer and report happier, healthier lives.

16. Learn to meditate:

It's important for your brain that you learn to shut out the stresses of everyday life.

17. Get enough sleep:

Studies have shown a link between interrupted sleep and dementia.

18. Eat more foods containing omega-3 fatty acids:

Salmon, sardines, tuna, ocean trout, mackerel or herring, plus walnuts (which are higher in omega 3s than salmon) and flaxseed. Flaxseed oil, cod liver oil and walnut oil are good sources too.

19. Eat more fruits and vegetables:

Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables mop up some of the damage caused by free radicals, one of the leading killers of brain cells.

20. Eat at least one meal a day with family and friends:

You'll slow down, socialize, and research shows you'll eat healthier food than if you ate alone or on the go.

[Thanks to my good friend, Dilip, for forwarding the email containing the foregoing information.]


"If you are old, don't try to change yourself. Change your environment."

~ B F Skinner (1904-1990); perhaps the most celebrated psychologist since Sigmund Freud;


I have found the following intriguing puzzle on the net.

Can you make a perfect square by moving only one of the match sticks?

There is a variation to this exercise.

How can you make a perfect square using only three match sticks?

Friday, March 19, 2010


"It's not true that what is useful is beautiful. It's what is beautiful that is useful. Beauty can improve people's way of life & thinking."

~ Anna Castell-Ferrier, furniture designer;


"Contrary to popular belief, 'flashes of genius' are uncommonly rare. Innovation begins with the analysis of opportunities. The search must be organised, & must be done on a regular, systematic basis."

~ Peter F Drucker;


I have found the following interesting anecdotes from the book, 'A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future', by researcher Daniel Pink, which gives a quick understanding about a fundamental aspect of creativity:

In the 1970's, Hershey Food Corp ran a series of goofy TV commercials that inadvertently contained a crucial lesson in creativity.

In the ads, a person walks along dreamily while munching a chocolate bar. Someone else, equally oblivious, strolling about while eating peanut butter. The two collided.

"Hey, you got peanut butter on my chocolate," the first person complained.

"You got chocolate on my peanut butter," the other person replied.

Each person sampled the result. To their surprise, they discovered they had created a masterpiece: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Hence, the new tagline: "Two great tastes that taste great together!"

Lesson learned:

Sometimes, the most powerful ideas come from simply combining two existing ideas nobody else would have thought to unite.

Take John Fabel, an avid cross country skier. He loved the sport, but his backpack straps always bruised his shoulders. One day on a trip to New York, he passed by the Brooklyn Bridge - & saw the solution to his problem.

Fabel combined the structure of a suspension bridge with the components of a traditional backpack - & invented a new, easy-to-tote, & new popular backpack called EcoTrek.

Cognitive scientists Gilles Foucconnier & Mark Turner calls this phenomenon 'conceptual blending', as outlined in their book, 'The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending & the Mind's Hidden Complexities'.

It reminds me of Arthur Koestsler's 'bisociation of matrices'.

No wonder, management thinker Margaret Wheatley once said:

"Creativity is fostered by information gathered from new connections; from insights gained by journeys into other disciplines."

Closer to home:

When Singapore embarked into the designing & planning of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) in the early seventies or so, designers were confronted by the need to air-condition all the underground stations in light of our hot & humid climate.

One designer drew inspiration from having seen the practical usefulness of sliding doors at the entrances of shopping complexes & office buildings, which were air-conditioned in town.

Singapore's MRT became the first in the world to have fully air-conditioned underground stations.


Among my library arsenal of books about 'Games Strategists Play', especially in terms of survival in the corporate &/or business world, my personal favourites include the following three great works, namely:

- 'The 48 Laws of Power', by Robert Greene & Joost Elffers;

- '36 Strategies of the Chinese: the Adapting Ancient Chinese Wisdom to the Business World', by Wee Chou How;

- 'Thick Face, Black Heart: The Warrior Philosophy for Conquering the Challenges of Business & Life', by Chin Ning Chu;

For me, they had served as excellent primers on learning how people think in their minds when their personal survival is challenged.

The strategy stuff can be used for great evil or for great good. It depends on the reader. There is really nothing wrong with most of the strategies per se.

I like to share with readers the essentials from the first book:

Law 1: Never Outshine the Master

Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite – inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.

Law 2: Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies

Be wary of friends-they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.

Law 3: Conceal your Intentions

Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions. If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defense. Guide them far enough down the wrong path, envelope them in enough smoke, and by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.

Law 4: Always Say Less than Necessary

When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinx like. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.

Law 5: So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life

Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win; once you slip, however, you are vulnerable, and will be attacked on all sides. Make your reputation unassailable. Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen. Meanwhile, learn to destroy your enemies by opening holes in their own reputations. Then stand aside and let public opinion hang them.

Law 6: Court Attention at all Cost

Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the crowd, then, or buried in oblivion. Stand out. Be conspicuous, at all cost. Make yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colorful, more mysterious, than the bland and timid masses.

Law 7: Get others to do the Work for you, but Always Take the Credit

Use the wisdom, knowledge, and legwork of other people to further your own cause. Not only will such assistance save you valuable time and energy, it will give you a godlike aura of efficiency and speed. In the end your helpers will be forgotten and you will be remembered. Never do yourself what others can do for you.

Law 8: Make other People come to you – use Bait if Necessary

When you force the other person to act, you are the one in control. It is always better to make your opponent come to you, abandoning his own plans in the process. Lure him with fabulous gains – then attack. You hold the cards.

Law 9: Win through your Actions, Never through Argument

Any momentary triumph you think gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory: The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.

Law 10: Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky

You can die from someone else’s misery – emotional states are as infectious as disease. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.

Law 11: Learn to Keep People Dependent on You

To maintain your independence you must always be needed and wanted. The more you are relied on, the more freedom you have. Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity and you have nothing to fear. Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.

Law 12: Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm your Victim

One sincere and honest move will cover over dozens of dishonest ones. Open-hearted gestures of honesty and generosity bring down the guard of even the most suspicious people. Once your selective honesty opens a hole in their armor, you can deceive and manipulate them at will. A timely gift – a Trojan horse – will serve the same purpose.

Law 13: When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never to their Mercy or Gratitude

If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasize it out of all proportion. He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself.

Law 14: Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy

Knowing about your rival is critical. Use spies to gather valuable information that will keep you a step ahead. Better still: Play the spy yourself. In polite social encounters, learn to probe. Ask indirect questions to get people to reveal their weaknesses and intentions. There is no occasion that is not an opportunity for artful spying.

Law 15: Crush your Enemy Totally

All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely. (Sometimes they have learned this the hard way.) If one ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out. More is lost through stopping halfway than through total annihilation: The enemy will recover, and will seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit.

Law 16: Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor

Too much circulation makes the price go down: The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear. If you are already established in a group, temporary withdrawal from it will make you more talked about, even more admired. You must learn when to leave. Create value through scarcity.

Law 17: Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability

Humans are creatures of habit with an insatiable need to see familiarity in other people’s actions. Your predictability gives them a sense of control. Turn the tables: Be deliberately unpredictable. Behavior that seems to have no consistency or purpose will keep them off-balance, and they will wear themselves out trying to explain your moves. Taken to an extreme, this strategy can intimidate and terrorize.

Law 18: Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself – Isolation is Dangerous

The world is dangerous and enemies are everywhere – everyone has to protect themselves. A fortress seems the safest. But isolation exposes you to more dangers than it protects you from – it cuts you off from valuable information, it makes you conspicuous and an easy target. Better to circulate among people find allies, mingle. You are shielded from your enemies by the crowd.

Law 19: Know Who You’re Dealing with – Do Not Offend the Wrong Person

There are many different kinds of people in the world, and you can never assume that everyone will react to your strategies in the same way. Deceive or outmaneuver some people and they will spend the rest of their lives seeking revenge. They are wolves in lambs’ clothing. Choose your victims and opponents carefully, then – never offend or deceive the wrong person.

Law 20: Do Not Commit to Anyone

It is the fool who always rushes to take sides. Do not commit to any side or cause but yourself. By maintaining your independence, you become the master of others – playing people against one another, making them pursue you.

Law 21: Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Seem Dumber than your Mark

No one likes feeling stupider than the next persons. The trick, is to make your victims feel smart – and not just smart, but smarter than you are. Once convinced of this, they will never suspect that you may have ulterior motives.

Law 22: Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness into Power

When you are weaker, never fight for honor’s sake; choose surrender instead. Surrender gives you time to recover, time to torment and irritate your conqueror, time to wait for his power to wane. Do not give him the satisfaction of fighting and defeating you – surrender first. By turning the other check you infuriate and unsettle him. Make surrender a tool of power.

Law 23: Concentrate Your Forces

Conserve your forces and energies by keeping them concentrated at their strongest point. You gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, than by flitting from one shallow mine to another – intensity defeats extensity every time. When looking for sources of power to elevate you, find the one key patron, the fat cow who will give you milk for a long time to come.

Law 24: Play the Perfect Courtier

The perfect courtier thrives in a world where everything revolves around power and political dexterity. He has mastered the art of indirection; he flatters, yields to superiors, and asserts power over others in the mot oblique and graceful manner. Learn and apply the laws of courtiership and there will be no limit to how far you can rise in the court.

Law 25: Re-Create Yourself

Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define if for you. Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions – your power will be enhanced and your character will seem larger than life.

Law 26: Keep Your Hands Clean

You must seem a paragon of civility and efficiency: Your hands are never soiled by mistakes and nasty deeds. Maintain such a spotless appearance by using others as scapegoats and cat’s-paws to disguise your involvement.

Law 27: Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cult like Following

People have an overwhelming desire to believe in something. Become the focal point of such desire by offering them a cause, a new faith to follow. Keep your words vague but full of promise; emphasize enthusiasm over rationality and clear thinking. Give your new disciples rituals to perform, ask them to make sacrifices on your behalf. In the absence of organized religion and grand causes, your new belief system will bring you untold power.

Law 28: Enter Action with Boldness

If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it. Your doubts and hesitations will infect your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter with boldness. Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.

Law 29: Plan All the Way to the End

The ending is everything. Plan all the way to it, taking into account all the possible consequences, obstacles, and twists of fortune that might reverse your hard work and give the glory to others. By planning to the end you will not be overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know when to stop. Gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead.

Law 30: Make your Accomplishments Seem Effortless

Your actions must seem natural and executed with ease. All the toil and practice that go into them, and also all the clever tricks, must be concealed. When you act, act effortlessly, as if you could do much more. Avoid the temptation of revealing how hard you work – it only raises questions. Teach no one your tricks or they will be used against you.

Law 31: Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards you Deal

The best deceptions are the ones that seem to give the other person a choice: Your victims feel they are in control, but are actually your puppets. Give people options that come out in your favor whichever one they choose. Force them to make choices between the lesser of two evils, both of which serve your purpose. Put them on the horns of a dilemma: They are gored wherever they turn.

Law 32: Play to People’s Fantasies

The truth is often avoided because it is ugly and unpleasant. Never appeal to truth and reality unless you are prepared for the anger that comes for disenchantment. Life is so harsh and distressing that people who can manufacture romance or conjure up fantasy are like oases in the desert: Everyone flocks to them. There is great power in tapping into the fantasies of the masses.

Law 33: Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew

Everyone has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall. That weakness is usual y an insecurity, an uncontrollable emotion or need; it can also be a small secret pleasure. Either way, once found, it is a thumbscrew you can turn to your advantage.

Law 34: Be Royal in your Own Fashion: Act like a King to be treated like one

The way you carry yourself will often determine how you are treated; In the long run, appearing vulgar or common will make people disrespect you. For a king respects himself and inspires the same sentiment in others. By acting regally and confident of your powers, you make yourself seem destined to wear a crown.

Law 35: Master the Art of Timing

Never seem to be in a hurry – hurrying betrays a lack of control over yourself, and over time. Always seem patient, as if you know that everything will come to you eventually. Become a detective of the right moment; sniff out the spirit of the times, the trends that will carry you to power. Learn to stand back when the time is not yet ripe, and to strike fiercely when it has reached fruition.

Law 36: Disdain Things you cannot have: Ignoring them is the best Revenge

By acknowledging a petty problem you give it existence and credibility. The more attention you pay an enemy, the stronger you make him; and a small mistake is often made worse and more visible when you try to fix it. It is sometimes best to leave things alone. If there is something you want but cannot have, show contempt for it. The less interest you reveal, the more superior you seem.

Law 37: Create Compelling Spectacles

Striking imagery and grand symbolic gestures create the aura of power – everyone responds to them. Stage spectacles for those around you, then full of arresting visuals and radiant symbols that heighten your presence. Dazzled by appearances, no one will notice what you are really doing.

Law 38: Think as you like but Behave like others

If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways, people will think that you only want attention and that you look down upon them. They will find a way to punish you for making them feel inferior. It is far safer to blend in and nurture the common touch. Share your originality only with tolerant friends and those who are sure to appreciate your uniqueness.

Law 39: Stir up Waters to Catch Fish

Anger and emotion are strategically counterproductive. You must always stay calm and objective. But if you can make your enemies angry while staying calm yourself, you gain a decided advantage. Put your enemies off-balance: Find the chink in their vanity through which you can rattle them and you hold the strings.

Law 40: Despise the Free Lunch

What is offered for free is dangerous – it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit. It is also often wise to pay the full price – there is no cutting corners with excellence. Be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and a magnet for power.

Law 41: Avoid Stepping into a Great Man’s Shoes

What happens first always appears better and more original than what comes after. If you succeed a great man or have a famous parent, you will have to accomplish double their achievements to outshine them. Do not get lost in their shadow, or stuck in a past not of your own making: Establish your own name and identity by changing course. Slay the overbearing father, disparage his legacy, and gain power by shining in your own way.

Law 42: Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep will Scatter

Trouble can often be traced to a single strong individual – the stirrer, the arrogant underling, the poisoned of goodwill. If you allow such people room to operate, others will succumb to their influence. Do not wait for the troubles they cause to multiply, do not try to negotiate with them – they are irredeemable. Neutralize their influence by isolating or banishing them. Strike at the source of the trouble and the sheep will scatter.

Law 43: Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others

Coercion creates a reaction that will eventually work against you. You must seduce others into wanting to move in your direction. A person you have seduced becomes your loyal pawn. And the way to seduce others is to operate on their individual psychologies and weaknesses. Soften up the resistant by working on their emotions, playing on what they hold dear and what they fear. Ignore the hearts and minds of others and they will grow to hate you.

Law 44: Disarm and Infuriate with the Mirror Effect

The mirror reflects reality, but it is also the perfect tool for deception: When you mirror your enemies, doing exactly as they do, they cannot figure out your strategy. The Mirror Effect mocks and humiliates them, making them overreact. By holding up a mirror to their psyches, you seduce them with the illusion that you share their values; by holding up a mirror to their actions, you teach them a lesson. Few can resist the power of Mirror Effect.

Law 45: Preach the Need for Change, but Never Reform too much at Once

Everyone understands the need for change in the abstract, but on the day-to-day level people are creatures of habit. Too much innovation is traumatic, and will lead to revolt. If you are new to a position of power, or an outsider trying to build a power base, make a show of respecting the old way of doing things. If change is necessary, make it feel like a gentle improvement on the past.

Law 46: Never appear too Perfect

Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most dangerous of all is to appear to have no faults or weaknesses. Envy creates silent enemies. It is smart to occasionally display defects, and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable. Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity.

Law 47: Do not go Past the Mark you Aimed for; In Victory, Learn when to Stop

The moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril. In the heat of victory, arrogance and overconfidence can push you past the goal you had aimed for, and by going too far, you make more enemies than you defeat. Do not allow success to go to your head. There is no substitute for strategy and careful planning. Set a goal, and when you reach it, stop.

Law 48: Assume Formlessness

By taking a shape, by having a visible plan, you open yourself to attack. Instead of taking a form for your enemy to grasp, keep yourself adaptable and on the move. Accept the fact that nothing is certain and no law is fixed. The best way to protect yourself is to be as fluid and formless as water; never bet on stability or lasting order. Everything changes.

Essentials from the other books will follow in due course.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


"The opposite of play isn't work. It's depression. To play is to act out & be willful, exultant & committed as if one is assured of one's prospects."

~ Brian Sutton-Smith, Professor Emeritus of Education, Pennsylvania University;

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


If readers are looking for simple tools & quick strategies to grow the life you want, here's a link to a fun place to make a headstart.

I like the playful, hands-on, web-based, visuo-spatial approach to exploring personal growth & change in your Career, Creativity, Health, Leisure, Lifestyle, Money, Relationship & Spirituality.

You can try it out for free for 2 weeks.

Some words of encouragement from the two creators, Chris Hewett & Brent Poole:

"... significant change is always possible, but only when there’s some fun in it, when it unfolds in small, manageable steps, and when there’s plenty of encouragement from family, friends,... "


While surfing the net, I have come across the following piece of nice writing from change strategist Dr Nancy Dixon, (also author of 'Common Knowledge: How Companies Thrive by Sharing What They Know') entitled 'Learning from Failure, It's Possible'.

Here's the link.

She has built on an earlier but belated article, available as a .pdf download from this link, entitled 'Failing to Learn & Learning to Fail (Intelligently)', by Dr Mark Cannon & Dr Amy Edmondson (Harvard University).

Both authors had offered an interesting model, which comprises the following major activities necessary to be in place:

• A systematic way of identifying failures;

• A process in place for analyzing failures; and

• A culture that promotes deliberate experimentation;

Dr Nixon has also incorporated some of her own case examples in her article mentioned earlier.

Her summary:

"It is possible for organizations to learn from failure, but to accomplish that requires...

1) a way to systematically collect data on small failures;

2) designing systems to jointly analyze the data on failures; and

3) encouraging experimentation which deliberately results in failures from which the organization can learn;"


"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results."

~ Sir Winston Churchill;


"My epiphany was, not that I was an information architect, but that I wasn't very smart. I was, in a sense, an empty bucket; a bucket being filled up by others. All that I knew was what people were teaching me, with none of it coming viscerally from me. So I decided that I would put into that empty bucket only those things that I truly understood. How would I know if I truly understood them? I'd know I understood them if I could explain them to another human being. So my epiphany had nothing to do with architecture. My epiphany had to do only with my personal limitations."
~ information architect Richard Saul Wurman;

[Richard Saul Wurman, author & founder of the celebrated TED conferences, describes himself as an "information architect," a term that he defines as "the individual who organizes the patterns inherent in data, making the complex clear. It's a person who creates the structure or map of information which allows others to find their personal paths to knowledge, and it's also the name of the emerging 21st century professional occupation which addresses the needs of an age, focused upon clarity, human understanding and the science of the organization of information." ]

[Source: Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)'s Ubiquity online magazine about the IT profession.]

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Today, I have picked up a new phrase, while surfing the net for 'killer innovations'.

It's 'Creative Failure Methodology'. In a nut shell, it involves the concept of "embracing failure" with the "trials & errors" or "hard knocks" approach.

One author wrote about "creative accidents". Another, about "planned serendipity".

The surfing led me to a belated blogpost by creativity expert Michael Michalko on the Amazon website.

He related that the term was first described by physicist William Shockey, who was credited for the invention of the transistor in the mid-40's, which introduced the world to the Electronic Age. [As a result, he won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1956 with two of his colleagues.]

This is what William Shockley and a multi-disciplinary Bell Labs team did. They were formed to invent the MOS transistor and ended up instead with the junction transistor and the new science of semiconductor physics.

These developments eventually led to the MOS transistor and then to the integrated circuit and to new breakthroughs in electronics and computers.

William Shockley described it as a process of “creative failure methodology.” In fact, he commented further:

"A basic truth that the history of the creation of the transistor reveals is that the foundations of transistor electronics were created by making errors & following hunches that failed to give what was expected."

John Wesley Hyatt, an Albany printer and mechanic, worked long and hard trying to find a substitute for billiard-ball ivory, then coming into short supply. He invented, instead, celluloid— the first commercially successful plastic.

Roy Plunkett set out to invent a new refrigerant. Instead, he created a glob of white waxy material that conducted heat and did not stick to surfaces.

Fascinated by this “unexpected” material, he abandoned his original line of research and experimented with this interesting material, which eventually became known by its household name, “Teflon.”

The author gave an interesting corollary:

"In principle, the unexpected event that gives rise to a creative invention is not all that different from the unexpected automobile breakdown that forces us to spend a night in a new and interesting town, the book sent to us in error that excites our imagination, or the closed restaurant that forces us to explore a different cuisine. But when looking for ideas or creative solutions, many of us ignore the unexpected and, consequently, loose the opportunity to turn chance into a creative opportunity."

I recall that corporate strategist Tom Peters once called it "unplanned interruptions" as a prelude to entrepreneurial discoveries.

So, well-known behavioural scientist B.F. Skinner was right when he advised people that "whenever you are working on something and find something interesting, drop everything else and study it".

Come to think about it, I reckon, "Creative Failure Methodology" is, in some ways, analogous to the 'Intelligent Fast Failure' methodology put forward by innovation educator Jack Matson. I have written about it in this weblog.


How does the whole world looks like to me?


"Whenever you are working on something & find something interesting, drop everything else & study it."
~ B F Skinner (1904-1990), who was perhaps the most celebrated psychologist since Sigmund Freud; best known for his 'Skinner Box', a lab device for animal experimentation, for studying responses to external stimuli;

Monday, March 15, 2010


According to the Career Services Network of Michigan State University, here are the 'Competences Empoyers Seek in College Graduates' - in a nut shell, they are the essentials for success in the 21st century:

1) Working in a Diverse Environment:

Learning from people who are different from you—and recognizing your commonalities — is an important part of your education and essential preparation for the world you will join.

2) Managing Time and Priorities:

Managing how you spend your time, and on what, is essential in today’s world. Learn how to sort priorities so you stay in control of your life.

3) Acquiring Knowledge:

Learning how to learn is just as important as the knowledge itself. No matter what your future holds, you’ll continue to learn every day of your life.

4) Thinking Critically:

Developing solid critical thinking skills means you’ll be confident to handle autonomy, make sound decisions, and find the connection between opportunities you have to learn and how those opportunities will affect your future.

5) Communicating Effectively:

Developing listening, interpreting, and speaking skills is just as important as reading and writing.

6) Solving Problems:

You may only have thought about problem solving when you’re faced with a crisis. Understand the process and mind-set of successful problem-solving and you’ll more easily handle the bigger challenges that come your way.

7) Contributing to a Team:

In the workplace each person’s contribution is essential to success. Having the ability to work collaboratively with others is vital. This includes identifying individual strengths (yours and others) and harnessing them for the group, building consensus, knowing when to lead and when to follow, and appreciating group dynamics.

8) Navigating Across Boundaries:

Life is filled with boundaries—good and bad. Discover how to avoid the boundaries that become barriers so you don’t hamper the ability to collaborate with other people.

9) Performing with Integrity:

It only takes one bad instance to destroy years of good faith and good relationships. It’s important to develop a code of ethics and principles to guide your life.

10) Developing Professional Competencies:

The end of college is the beginning of a new education. Build on what you already know and keep learning new skills—your job will challenge you to grow and develop in ways you haven’t imagined yet.

11) Balancing Work and Life:

You’ve got a lot to accomplish in limited time. How do you get it all done and still stay sane? The key is maintaining balance among the different parts of your life.

12) Embracing Change:

Just about every aspect of life is in a constant state of change. Sometimes it may seem that no sooner do you get caught up than you have to start all over again. No matter how you feel about change, you have to learn to deal with it.

The full report is accessible & downloadable at this link.


'Agility' is seemingly the hottest buzz word in today's corporate circles.

To me, 'Agility' is both your intellectual & physical muscle you use to jump into action, & capitalise on whatever business opportunities that come along, even when the information is incomplete &/or when you are under extreme time pressure.


"A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying."

~ B F Skinner (1904-1990), who was perhaps the most celebrated psychologist since Sigmund Freud; best known for his 'Skinner Box', a lab device for animal experimentation, for studying responses to external stimuli;

RANDOM SPOTLIGHT: SMartegise Your Career

Even SMa jumps on to the seemingly lucrative education bandwagon as Singapore becomes the region's education hub.

[SMa = Singapore Manufacturers' Federation, formerly Singapore Manufacturers' Association]

Sunday, March 14, 2010


"In evaluating people, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. If you don't have the first, the other two will kill you."
- Warren Buffett;


What would I do if I am my competitor?

What if I was my customer?

[Source: Pradeep Solanki]