Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Free (again)

"One strategy for making an impression with customers, especially when rivals insist on nickel-and-diming them, is to give away something that other companies charge for - or wouldn't think of offering in the first place.

The investment can be small; the returns can be priceless. A little generosity can go a long way." (Taylor & LaBarre, Mavericks at Work)

ICOT pics

They're up.

Monday, June 29, 2009

"I'll Be There" (Jamie Foxx & Ne-Yo)


The facilitator told us to draw our visual impressions when we hear the term '1 Malaysia'.

Here's what the 'Gen Y' (1980-2000) group drew...

What the 'Baby Boomer' group (pre-1964) drew...

Here's what my group, Gen X (1964 - 1980) churned out...I monopolised the right side of the chart...many people thought those were spectacles (smile):

Miracles 2.0

There are miracles. And there are miracles.

In the first category: feeding thousands of hungry stomachs with barely enough for a family of three, moon-walking on water in the middle of a storm (without a surfboard), raising the dead, Malaysia qualifying for the World Cup (smile), etc.

The second category, whilst far less epistemically vivid (a termed I learn from Glenn Miller, and is intellectual-speak for 'radiating with awesomeness'!) and open to debate, is more frequent and personally contextualised. For example:
  • finding an ATM which dispenses 10-dollar bills (when your account only has something like RM46.82 in it)
  • being assigned overseas so you can spend about 20 precious weeks with a grand-parent who would pass away the following year
  • being fully sponsored for a graduate degree program
  • running out of gas 3 miles from a gas-station, only to have the engine sputter to life long enough for the car to reach the station
  • getting a job ten minutes from your home and three from your child's nursery
  • making friends with a former enemy (i.e. a person you wouldn't have lunch with unless your boss forced you to!)
  • getting a freelance assignment (out of the blue) which brings in a few hundred bucks which holds back the monthly avalance of expenses
  • being able to appreciate new genres of books
  • getting home before the storm hit
  • receiving an encouraging email right after a tense meeting
  • finding a car park in a crowded mall
All the above (and much more) wouldn't count - normally! - as 'divine intervention', but why look only at mega-events? Can't the divine move us in the nano (and/or very 'natural') moments of our lives?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The 3 Ages of a Human Being (de Bono @ the ICOT)

Friday was the second time I watched Edward de Bono speak. He's not the most passionate speaker in the world but the minutes fly by when he presents. His visual language is pure captivation.

De Bono didn't say anything he hasn't been saying the past 20 years. The talk revolved around the importance of perception, the inadequacy of argument, the benefits of 'parallel thinking' and the need to design new ways forward via the use of lateral thinking.

Key ideas:
  • We need a new word, 'ebne' which means: Excellent, But Not Enough (de Bono applied this to our traditional tools of thought, which have come down to us from the GG3, the Greek Gang of 3 - Socrates, Plato and Aristotle)

  • 90% of errors made around the world are errors of perception (rarely to do with knowledge or truth, e.g. a small boy is frequently asked to choose between a BIG $1 coin and a small $2 coin and he always choose the $1 coin, creating laughter among the older boys; when someone advised him that the smaller coin was actually worth more, the small boy politely agreed but said that if he has selected the $2 coin he wouldn't have earned as much money! The boy had perception, the others seemed only concerned about truth)

  • Truth / Judgment, Logic and Argument were tools promoted by the Church to combat heresy, resulting in herself being rather poor at Perception, Creativity and Design (I think Roger Olson and other post-conservative evangelicals would agree)

  • Argument is poor thinking because it's largely negative, anti-explorative, inefficient and the two parties tend to focus on the "worst 5%" of their opponent's point of view
  • If we can change perception, we can change emotion, thus changing behaviour (ditto with NLP which seeks to change perception by manipulating physiology and internal representations)

  • An idea for the Israel / Palestine issue: All nations supporting Israel should provide $3 billion in aid to Palestine with the caveat that for every rocket fired into Israel, Palestine would have to give Israel $50 million

  • The yellow hat (among the six thinking hats) promotes "value-sensitivity" - we may reject an idea but the more creative among us would still hold on to and explore the helpful concepts inherent in an impractical suggestion

  • Every creative idea is logical in hindsight, but invisible in foresight"(!!), thus the need for lateral thinking (e.g. challenge, provocation, concept-exploration, etc.)
De Bono ended with a delightful look at the three ages of a human being. Ages 0-5 is the age of WHY. 6-11 is the age of WHY NOT. And age 12-80?

The age of BECAUSE.

Kirpalian Kernels

Kirpal Singh - poet, author, futurist and creative thinker extraordinaire - is best known for his work, Thinking Hats & Coloured Turbans where, if my sketchy recall of reviews of the book is right, he proposes a kind of imaginative, cyclical, loopy and even semi-mystical form of thinking.

Singh likes to provoke and the ICOT organisers can surely take pride in his note that he was 'occasionally provoked' during the weeklong conference. Some jottings I took down from his plenary address on Day 4:
  • "Scientific proof is for and of the times...we must nurture our children's confidence in their intuition"

  • "Learning just a little about each other is not enough...e.g. simply studying about Comparative Religion is insufficient, we need to live it" - spoken in the context of a call for deeper inter-cultural understanding and even the insertion of this subject (and that of Relationships/The Other) in to school curricula.

  • "Futurist studies must be taught in schools" - Singh lamented the fact that at present nothing was being taught on how to develop, say, space colonies or deepsea colonies; he related this to the work of Alvin Toffler (author of FutureShock and, most recently, Revolutionary Wealth) and Kevin Warwick's cyborg studies and how the future would bring inconceivable changes (all the more reason, I reckon he would say, to begin conceiving of all we'll have to deal with!)

As a professor of Literature, Singh invests much energy in peering boldly outside his field of expertise. I was moved by his story of how he brought his hosts from Laurentian University to visit a Sikh community which initially invited him for dinner. Apparently, the non-Sikhs and Sikhs, despite living together for about 120 years, have never once visited each other's homes. That a Singaporean had to travel 12,000 miles to arrange a meeting is telling, to say the least.

As with communities of ethnicity, so with communities of learning. I am sure Singh would welcome efforts towards more inter-disciplinary studies (in fact, he coined the term 'HISTERATURE' to denote a juxtaposition of History and Literary studies). Such learning would - not unlike welcoming strangers into one's home - reflect a good foot forward in the journey of reconciliation, something our fundamentalist-stricken world surely craves for - even if it doesn't know it yet.

Buzan and Managing the Manager of Knowledge

I left about 15 minutes into the Tony Buzan talk (on Day 3 of the ICOT). Not because I wasn't impressed but because I had already been impressed with the same talk delivered two years back.

In 2007 at the Mind-Map Conference in Singapore, Buzan also talked about:
  • The inadequacy of traditional school systems to assess the intelligence of students (hardly a new thought but certainly worth repeating)

  • The importance of nurturing the mind, failing which paralysis and atrophy sets in (read: if you're NOT working out on a regular basis and/or if you're NOT consistently learning new things - why not?)

  • The significance of images (as the universal language of mankind) and associations in understanding how the brain works, thus his brainchild, the mind-map
Buzan put the modern development of education and brain research into some perspective: The universe began 15 billion years ago, civilisation a 100,000, the traditional school system 150 and breakthroughts in brain research less than 20 years ago. A drop in a drop in a drop of space-time history. (I'm not sure how useful this piece of data is but it does at least have that 'ooh-ahh' effect).

We've come a long way from the industrial revolution to knowledge management to the management of the manager of knowledge i.e. the brain.

"WE are teaching THEM?!" (Buzan on Children's Thinking)

Melody was born about three weeks ago. One comment me and my wife make quite often is the way her eyes open wiiiiiide in an all-embracing stare at the world around her.

Last Wednesday, Tony Buzan did a Q&A with the crowd with resonated deeply with me, especially given Melody's way with her eyes:
  • Which group of people are the most inquisitive? Answer: Children
  • Who are the most enthusiastic? Children
  • The most persistent? Children
  • The most happy and enthusiastic? Children
  • The most eager to learn? Children
"And," he then cheekily asked, "WE'RE teaching THEM how to think??" The tragedy of the destruction of children's love for learning can be seen in the everyday:
  • Children love to run - we tell them to sit still
  • Children love to sing - we tell them to keep quiet and "Listen to me!"
  • Children love to look deeply into objects and people's eyes - we say, "Don't stare!"
  • Children love to touch anything and everything - we go, "Don't touch!"
In the context of Christian education (and I can't resist this): Children love all people and love to imagine. Then we come along and teach them who's "in", who's "out" and what they can and can't believe.

God forgive us.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pop's Dangerous Child-King

Like two-thirds of the planet, I didn't fully 'register' the death of Michael Jackson upon first hearing it. Like the 9/11 attacks, we'll find it hard to forget 'where we were' when we got the news.

I was in the car driving to KL, looking forward to listen to Edward de Bono speak at the conference. I got an SMS saying the King of Pop had died. About 4.5 seconds later I must've told myself it was a prank. Then I reread the message again and my friend texted that the radio was playing MJ's hits throughout the whole morning. I turned the radio on. Sure enough, You Rock My World was playing. The rest...well... the rest didn't matter.

I recall the first time I watched the Beat It, Billie Jean and Thriller videos. A part of me was simply awe-struck with the energy, the passion, the rhythm and the sheet power of this pint-sized black guy burning up the screen. If anyone could make a non-pop fan go WOW, he could. (Check out the video above, which came out barely 10 years ago, and try to imagine that this was a guy in his forties!)

To this day, MJ's steps with the zombies in the Thriller video ranks up there with the best of the best. I even tried to teach my aunt and her friends the first few steps! Other recollections:
  • listening to his brand new single (after many years) I Just Can't Stop Loving You on the way to Primary 4 (or was it 5?) in the morning and thinking, "MJ's singing again!"
  • watching my cousin, Derek, practise MJ moves in his Singapore apartment!
  • waiting anxiously for the new MJ video, "Bad" (and being somewhat shocked with his crotch-grabbing)
  • watching my classmates do the Beat It dance moves at a school concert
  • trying to memorize the final poem from Thriller which starts with, "Darkness falls upon the land...midnight hour's close at hand...."
  • watching closely every MJ video that came out over the years (you don't just 'glance away' when MJ is on screen with something new!)
  • a friend telling me that songs like Dirty Diana were unique and it's because no one sang this way that MJ was a star
  • putting up music videos of Earth Song and They Don't Really Care About Us for my students at Fairview
In 2001, I did something I've done only once: Buy a CD in Singapore. MJ's Invincible album. I remember browsing through the cover on the plane back being quite moved by his passionate 'Thank Yous' and 'I Love Yous' sprinkled all over the place. He even included a note of thanks to Chris Tucker saying, "I love your art".

My take on him and the little boys he allegedly molested? Not guilty.

So he sleeps with boys in his bed? I've never been convinced about the bad-ness of this. I mean, c'mon, don't all loving dads allow their sons to share beds with them? And don't brothers share beds as a form of loving support and embracing warmth? Why did the media have to make it sound like Michael took a shower with them?

Farewell, Pop's dangerous Child-King, the thriller who never grew up, Mr.Bad who created some of the most popular songs of goodness (Heal the World, Earth Song, Man in the Mirror), the MoonWalker, the Gloved One or just - to the many fans of his who grieve and are half-hoping this is all one big hoax - Michael Jackson.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cyborg 1.0 (Day 3, ICOT)

Cyborg 1.0. That's the label for Kevin Warwick, who put a computer chip in his arm, connecting his nervous system to a computer, the Web and another nervous sytem! This allows him to control robots with his brain and communicate 'invisibly' brain-to-brain with another human being.

The implications are tremendous:
  • we're closer to a 'cure' for brain diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's (Warwick showed a video of a Parkinson's disease patient who, when stimulated via electrodes, actually got up from his chair, walked faster than he previously could, and even performed a small jingle!)

  • can education be Matrix-like, where skills are downloadable? (Warwick explained that, yes, theoretically, entire neural archtypes can be transferred; on the other hand, just because you possessed, say, Tiger Wood's neural structure - although what this would consist of is another black box altogether - that wouldn't necessarily mean you could win the U.S. Open because you'd also require his physique, etc.)

  • what about identity, free-will and consciousness? if someone else could tap into your brain and nerves, could that imply a potential loss of self-determination (a'la Being John Malkovich and similar super-suggestive mechanisms)
Warwick also made a fascinating point about neural implants enabling the human brain to access dimensions we previously couldn't: infra-red, ultra-sound, ultra-violet, x-rays, etc. Our five senses miss out on 90% of the sensory dimension!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mahathir, James & Capelli (Day 2, ICOT)

Not exactly a day with much new knowledge or tools, but lots of metaphors and good reminders. I listened to four talks, one of which was only a 'brochure' for the school the speaker was from: not good.

Quotable quotes from the other three:
  • "How does a man not necessarily burdened with a superior intellect find himself in a position of extraordinary power?" (Colin James on President George Bush)

  • "Democracy cannot solve the problem of bad leadership" (Dr. Mahathir on the inadequacy of liberal democracy, although he wasn't saying we shouldn't vote)

  • "The timespan for one generation today is 6 years" (Glenn Capelli)
  • "The camel looked like it was designed by a committee" (Dr. Mahathir)
  • "I was suspicious the IMF and World Bank were really trying to control our economy instead of helping the country" (Dr. Mahathir on why he rejected IMF loans during the 1997-8 financial crisis in the region)

  • "I'm not a scholar. My only qualification is my driver's license" (Colin James)

  • "A five-month old foetus can distinguish his/her father's and mother's voice from the womb" (Glenn Capelli)

  • "Being analytical is great but if you overdo it you become the first four aphabets of the word." (Colin James comparing analytical intelligence with somatic and emotional intelligence)

  • "Why should someone spend their time translating for you??" (Dr. Mahathir promoting the use of English - the 'language of knowledge' - to teach Science and Maths in Malaysian schools; he was taking a shot at those who wanted to revert to Malay)

  • "The deaf talk with their entire body; we normal folks are so boring - we just move our mouths." (Glenn Capelli)

  • "There are 6,000 languages in the world - 90% of them near extinction" (Glenn Capelli)

  • "When you run out of language, the violence begins" (Colin James on the Middle-East situation)

  • "Natural play is the greatest developer of the brain - it's better to let a child play with the cardboard box than the toy inside it!" (Glenn Capelli)

  • "I was studying to be a priest, but I had a problem with one of the vows: Obedience" (Colin James - he reminds me a little of John Dominic Crossan...)

  • Colin James implying that religion and prayer are manifestations of human stupidity; he cited the lack of empirical evidence affirming the efficacy of prayer (no comment)

  • The organisers running out of the fantastic salmon sandwiches at tea-break

  • The organisers telling people that coffee would be served at 10.30 and actually keeping their word. Nope! They should serve it earlier than the time they specified, thereby evoking little cost-less, PR-positive gasps of delight.

Monday, June 22, 2009

"There is no PURE intelligence" (Day 1, ICOT)

Some points from the sessions I attended (about all I can recall for now):
  • Giving standard tests and examinations, whilst seemingly the fairest way to assess pupils, may in fact be un-fair because it ignores the different kinds of intelligence of the students
  • Intelligence is always contextual; there is no 'pure' intelligence
  • Multi-tasking is a myth
  • Photographic memory is a myth (the savant who could draw out the exact details of Rome as he flew in a helicopter over the city notwithstanding)
  • Character is indispensable for education; the 'best and the brightest' of America were the ones who started the Vietnam war
  • Teaching knowledge is less effective than teaching concepts
  • The best way to win in Monopoly is to buy as much as you can, not just Mayfair and Park Lane!
  • Learning increases when our hormones are tensed or fired up (e.g. driving!)
  • 55% of Australian workers wouldn't mind taking a pay-cut for a more fun work environment

Funniest Moments:

  • Rosmah Mansor (Malaysia's First Lady) speaking about the baby who was in her 'stomach' - twice
  • The VC of UPM being unable to pronounce Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi and giving up (with Howard Gardner helping him out later)
  • The facilitator saying that the First Lady had 'made history' with her speech (I can't recall for what, but something tells me my eyes will roll if I found out...)

Nice Moments:

  • The coffee (very creamy and nice) and free Internet kiosks (which don't require you to stand, like in Changi)
  • The roast lamb, steam fish and pasta at lunch
  • Shaking hands with Kirpal Singh who remembered me from the MindMap conference two years back
  • Skipping the opening ceremony (and its dozen anti-insomnic speeches!)
  • David Koutsoukis telling jokes, giving fun tips and cool acroyms (e.g. "ABCD" = "Above and Beyond the Call of Duty", "SANTA" = "Saving ANother Teammate's Ass"!)

Not-so-nice Moments:

  • Waiting 20 minutes for the First Lady to arrive then having to sit through another 10 minutes of a Permata promo ad
  • Howard Gardner's very wordy slides
  • The First Lady reading out her presentation and having no slides!
  • The banquet tables at lunch which made it awkward to sit down once people were on the table; better, IMO, to use long-tables or standing tables as they did at Norrkoping and Melbourne respectively
  • Some lady talking on the phone for almost 30 minutes at the Koutsoukis presentation
  • The lack of forks at the buffet!

Lau. Out.

Standing Out

You're looking through the workshop and paper presentation titles. Your eyes fall upon names like:
  • Shared visions and visualisation: Driving forces, individuals and teams
  • Achieving sustained success
  • Rethinking Agrulculture: a paradigm shift
  • Establishing Connections among critical thinking, language proficiency and writing
  • Applications of Edward de Bono's thinking methods in Malaysia

Yada yada yada. Titles like these constitute almost 80% of the agenda. What a breath of fresh air then to see headings like:

  • 100 Kids, 100 Clouds, 100 Days
  • Educating for the Unknown
  • Tribethink vs. Worldthink
  • Marks, Scribble and Draw
  • Making Visible the Invisible

As in life, so in conferences - titles that stand out win.

(My own presentation titles for the 14th ICOT are at best above average: "The 6 Thinking Hats" and "Emergent Education: Exploring the 'Already' and 'Not Yet' of Learning").

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reporting / Reflecting on Forums

I've written more than my fair share of reflections on forums or seminars. And I've read plenty, too. I could be wrong, but the most common 'categories' of reporting are:
  1. Summarising 'what happened'
  2. Summarising the views of the speakers
  3. Outlining how we felt
Nothing wrong with the above except the articles sometimes get a little repetitive and key points don't usually jump out.

The time is ripe for a fresh template with categories people may find more interesting:
  • Top 4 issues raised/discussed
  • Top3 most controversial moment
  • Most humourous speaker
  • Least convincing speaker (if our Asian sentiments could allow this)
  • Most creative suggestion / idea
  • Top 4 action-steps (plus the most practical)
  • Key theological points (or Biblical passages) raised
  • Celebrities (or politicians or 'famous people') mentioned
  • Links to relevant sites
  • Any more?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Facebook Username

Yeah, I've got it too.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

That One Thing

Her singing was way sub-par. She used an accent which made her sound more contrived than contemporary. Her vocal projection was so weak, you weren't absolutely sure she had opened her mouth.

But (the Simon Cowells of Malaysia aside) I'm not sure the audience would've complained that much.

Because however poor her technical delivery was, no matter how the guests snickered, the female singer who performed at the Horn Bill Restaurant many Saturday evenings ago never stopped slow-dancing where she stood, and doing so with a kind of passion you couldn't help but notice.

It's as if she really didn't care that she wasn't all perfect. She needs more training for her voice, definitely. But she could give/show a few tips to many a discouraged professional, the most important being: You gotta find that ONE thing you do absolutely well and - even if the black rain of public roasting falls hard - do it like the world went round because of it.


First, websites grabbed a huge chunk out of the marketing and PR budget. Instead of posters and brochures, companies suddenly had to pay attention to hyper-links and word-of-mouth.

Then blogs put websites on the defensive. Today corporate websites neglect the conversational component to its own detriment. 

Of late, social networking media like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter are taking the fight to blogs (with Google Wave 'threatening' to consolidate the micro-blogging phenomenon in one swooping tide).

What's next? Neuro-twittering? Micro-blogging plugged in neurologically? Connection at the speed (and intimacy) of thought? I not only know/understand/feel where you are, what you're doing, but even what emotions you're having? Real-time, 24/7?

Talking about a 'sharing minds', eh?

What Every Installation Contractor Needs to Value-Add

Cleaning services. Especially if the installation involves drilling.

Yesterday my place looked like four and a half bowls of white sand had been thrown all over it. Had to spend almost an hour mopping, wiping, vacuuming and even grabbing the debris with my bare hands.

Sure we're glad there was a new machine in place but the clean-up was 'pricey'. And my poor books are seriously dusted even now.

Virtually all machine purchase bills come with installation costs - almost none come with damage-to-the-premises services. I don't, of course, expect the vendor to remove the installation fee but surely they can help with the clean-up? (Most of these guys lug semi-tons of equipment wherever they go - what's an extra industrial-quality vacuum, some anti-dust liquid and a brush or two, eh?)

Especially when there's MASSIVE garbage all over, any contractor that smiling offers to clean-up his own professional mess for free is definitely got a referral.

As things stand, all they'll get a blog-complaint.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Stress Spectrum

Kinda over-simplified but I had to write something for the assignment on managing employee stress-levels.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


"This visually dramatic special illustrates the planet's fragile state entirely from a birds-eye view in stunning high definition. With spectacular aerial views from more than 50 countries, viewers will see the extent of human impact on our landscapes. And not a moment too soon: In the past 50 years --a single lifetime -- the Earth has been more radically changed than by all previous generations of humanity." (from National Geographic)
Watch the full movie here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


How do you instantaneously get someone out of a sorrowful gloomy mood?

Ask him, sincerely, to explain something very few people other than him understands. Make it like you want to know. Convince him it's urgent that he breaks it down - right away.

This will put him in 'expert' mode, his mind tells the body to stop moping, and the adrenaline rushes back in.

Depression cannot 'breathe' in such circumstances.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Creative Peace-Making, Pt.2

Micah Mandate uploaded the second part of the creative peace-making series. This one's entitled Redeeming the Rules of Engagement.

Monday, June 1, 2009