20 December 2012

Year End Reflection & 10 Keys for Success of Chinese Management Master

Reflection is not just about looking at the past, but also about building for the future. It is much better done with a reference framework to guide us. A 10-Keys for Success by Chinese Management Master Zeng Shi Qiang  is referenced here to help you, especially when you are still young.
Doing a Good Reflection at Year End
It is Christmas Season once again. The year is coming to an end. It is time for reflection and planning for the coming year. For older people, time seems to pass so ever quickly. For the young, life is still such a long way to go and there are many things to hope for and to accomplish. It is even more important that we do a better job at reflection.

Reflection is not just about looking at the past but also about building for future. There are so many things to look at the past but not all are of equal important. It is better to look the fast with a future orientation. It is better done when we have a guide as to what to look for - what the important things of life are.

Using the 10-Keys for Success of Chinese Management Master Zeng
Famous Chinese Management Master Zeng Shi Qiang 曾仕强 gave many great speeches all over the world and his messages can be found easily and widely on the internet. The only problem for the English readers is that they are all in Chinese. Machine translation from Chinese to English for his messages will end up with many jokes if one understand both languages. So here is my attempt to translate one of his key message into English that you may benefit from it. One famous one is the
"Chinese 10 keys for success" and is attractively summarized from 1 to 10 points as follow:




The Translated with i-Ching Hexagrams Added:
The meanings of some of the phrases, even in Chinese, are not very clear. One needs to listen to his speech to understand. I also take the opportunities to add in the relevant i-Ching hexagrams for ease of referencing the i-Ching wisdom as well. So here is the complete mind-map.
For more on i-Ching or Sinology see Ancient Chinese Wisdom


Integrating into the Wisdom Base (Knowledge Base of Success Principles)
There are the many sayings of successful people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Li Ka Shing, Stephen Covey, Richard St John and even from Philosophy like Lao Zi and also from the Bible. I am a strong proponent of integrating any new knowledge to an existing knowledge base so that the total knowledge can increase over time. By integrating and re-organizing knowledge, we are able to enhance our knowledge in both broadness and depth. I started with Adding Bill Gates to Steve Jobs Wisdom for Success, and overtime into this Mind Value: Success Principles from Bible, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc And here is the 8th edition of the sayings of the wise and successful:

Hope this mind-map helps you in your reflection of the past and your planning for your future.

A joy filled Christmas Season and an Abundant New Year to you and your family.

Lim Liat (C) 20 Dec 2012

14 December 2012

Two Types of Goods & Their Economics

Conventional economics teaches about the supply and demand of tangible physical goods. Tangible goods are consumables and they get less when used.  It is a scarcity mindset of fighting for bigger share of a fixed pie. There is another type of goods, the intangibles, such as information, software, skills, talents and emotions like love and joy, that do not get consumed when used or shared. They work on a different economic law, the law of network effect when the more it is shared, the greater is the total benefits. The abundance by sharing law can be applied to the scarcity economic laws to increase the production of a much bigger pie. It is one of the key factor for the economic of scale. Consider this law of abundance by sharing in your next decision making to open up your innovating mind to create more by sharing and using less. Consider open sourcing and crowd sourcing etc.
Two Different Types of Goods with Different Economic Laws
There are two main categories of goods - the tangibles and the intangibles.

Tangible Goods and Scarcity Mindset
The tangible goods tend to be also consumable --- it gets less and less when used and gets used-up. When one person uses it, there is less for another. It is the famous sharing of the fixed pie. A whole set of economics laws is dealing with this kind of goods. (There is another type of tangible goods such as a National Park, where it does not get less that fast with additional people, but it will break down due to congestion and destruction when too many people use it at the same time.)
This scarcity brings forth the concept of opportunity cost. If I use it do this will prevent me from using it to do others. It bring forth the problem of distribution. Who should get more or less of this limited amount of goods.

Intangible Goods & Abundance Mindset
There is these other kinds of goods, the intangibles, such as information, software, talents and even emotion such as love, courage and joy. These kinds of goods are Non-consumable - they don't get used up when use. They can be used at the same time concurrently with many users and non get lesser of the goods. In certain time, there is this network effect of greater total value when more people use and share it. This "Abundance by sharing" also works in the tangible goods economy by increasing the production effectiveness and efficient due to sharing of skills. The economic of scale of the scarcity based economy is not just the outcome of the sharing of a fixed costs over greater quantity of units of production but also from improvement in the production methods due to better knowledge.

More details can be found in the following mind-map:

Next time in your decision making, remember this law of "Abundance by sharing" or "Sharing to get more for everyone".

Lim Liat (C) 14 Dec 2012

03 December 2012

Strength alone has no meaning - Reorder Your SWOT

All strengths are dependent on the situation. They should be determined externally by the situation unless you specific choose the situation wherein your strength is relevant. Going further, we should do our SWOT in the order of TOWS! BTW, No idea is useless. You just need to choose the situation and the job or person that need it. Finding the jobs that make use of your idea is also innovation. Innovation is not just the invention of things or even services. Giving new meaning and hence new uses for existing products are also innovation. 
When sending my daughter to work this morning, I encountered the following situation as shown in the photo below:

What can you see or learn in above photo?

That's is the very sexy looking Ferrari? I wish I can afford one?

Ferrari is better to be in red than white?

It is a traffic jam.

That's is the 1st level kind of thinking.

For deeper thoughts ....

In a traffic jam or at a red traffic light, the Ferrari is as fast my Honda.

Any strength is situation dependent. 

All the horse powers in the Ferrari cannot be used in a traffic jam.

Strengths or weaknesses should be viewed externally, from the opportunities and threats that are present in the situation.

So we must :

a. choose the theater of operations where our strengths can be used or

b. get the strengths that we need when we are forced into a situation.

Doing SWOT in TOWS Order

This lesson is the key to the SWOT analysis that we do often in strategic planning. We tend to do it inwardly first, from what we think as our strengths and weaknesses and look outward for the opportunities and threats. Hence, we see what we like to see and miss out the greater opportunities (threats are opportunities too. So I purposefully not mention it here) that lie in our blind spots. Furthermore, strengths should be measured not by us but our customers and the market relative to our competitors

We should invert the way we do SWOT. We should look at the OT and then derive the S!W. Or even we should do it T O W S! Look the external threats, find the opportunities, discover the weaknesses and find the strengths to come out with a set of action plans (the strategies) to convert threats to opportunities, weaknesses to strengths, so as to ride on the strengths to capture the opportunities. The good news of external opportunities and threats are that all your competitors are facing them also. There open the great opportunities for you to better them!

Opportunities and threats are uncertain too. If we can convert threats into opportunities then what we first called threats are actually opportunities. If we ignore the risks in our opportunities then our opportunities may change into threats.

Chinese has a famous saying, 塞翁失马焉知非福,a blessing in disguise. Old farmer lost a horse. Neighbors said, "What bad luck." Horse returned with other horses. Neighbor said, "How lucky." Farmer's son fell from taming the horses and broke his leg. Neighbors said,"How unfortunate." There was war and all young men in the village were conscripted except the son with the broken leg. Neighbor said,"How lucky." Often, we could not even be sure of the outcomes of our decisions in a world of changes. Changes in the external environment could make our prior wise decision looks stupid!

So, we have the following levels of thinking ...
  1. lt is a crisis, we have problems.
  2. There is opportunities in every crisis besides the threats.
  3. Opportunities have their risks and threats have opportunities within. It is not so clear after all. So manage the risks in the opportunities and convert the threats into opportunities. 

No idea is useless. 
Extending even further, there is no such thing as a useless idea.
You just need to find the situation and the job or person that need it. 
Finding the jobs that make use of your idea is also innovation. 
Innovation is just the invention of things or even services. 
Giving new meaning and hence new uses for existing products are also innovation.

Hope this post give you lots of ideas to improve your business and life.

Lim Liat (C) 3 Dec 2012

18 November 2012

Confucius as the Best Coach - Personalized Teaching

We all know that Confucius is a great teacher. Chinese has given him the title of "万世师表" translated as "The Model Teacher of All Generations".  I think he is great for two things, the content and his method of teaching. To be an effective teacher, we must master the two things, the content and the method of teaching (pedagogy) . Within pedagogy, the key, very often missing, is a good understanding of the character and learning attributes of the students.

The Best Teacher is a Coach
Coach is one that does these two things well, understanding the student and then using the right methods to convey the right content to the student. Hence,I use coach instead of teacher because coach is personalized tailored teaching. Actually, a good teacher should be the best coach. He/she teaches according to the capability and character of the student. This is best illustrated by the following text:

因人施教 Teach According to the Person's characteristics

论语 11.22 子路问:“闻斯行诸?”
子曰:“有父兄在,如之何其闻斯行之?”
冉有问:“闻斯行诸?”子曰:“闻斯行之。”
公西华曰:“由也问闻斯行诸,子曰,‘有父兄在';求也问闻斯行诸,子曰,‘闻斯行之'。赤也惑,敢问。”
子曰:“求也退,故进之;由也兼人,故退之。”

【译文】
子路问:“听到了就行动起来吗?”孔子说:“有父兄在,怎么能听到就行动起来呢?
”冉有问:“听到了就行动起来吗?”孔子说:“听到了就行动起来。”
公西华说:“仲由问‘听到了就行动起来吗?'你回答说‘有父兄健在',冉求问‘听到了就行动起来吗?'你回答‘听到了就行动起来'。我被弄糊涂了,敢再问个明白。”孔子说:“冉求总是退缩,所以我鼓励他;仲由好勇过人,所以我约束他。”

ZiLu asked "Shall we do what we heard immediately?"
Confucius said, "You have father and brother, how can you just do what you heard?" (i.e. consult your elders first).
RanYou asked, "Shall we do what we heard immediately?"
Confucius said,"Yes. Quickly do what you heard。“
KongXiHua asked Confucius, "why different answers for the same question?"
Confucius said that RanYou was hesitant all the time and hence encouraged him to take action whereas ZiLu was impulsive and hence I restricted him.

So, when you read the great quotations from famous people, do watch out that it may not be applicable to all people in all situation.

Wisdom is understanding this simple truth, "It depends" and know how to apply the right principle to the right person in the right situation.

It is not that simple else everyone will be wise already.

See also

Lim Liat (c) 18 Nov 2012

09 November 2012

The War of Tablets - Who will win?

The statement by Jeff Bezos of Amazon tells us that the war of tablets is not just about hardware. It is about the digital Eco-systems in which the tablet is only a link. It not just the initial purchase but the usage of it to gain access to the vast digital world of content and social connection that matters more. Who will win or loose will depend on how it is used. The digital world Eco-system is presented first. It is follow by my 4D Innovation Ecosystem model to help entrepreneurs to come out with their strategies for survival and growth. Looking at the leaders such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft, and seeing their views, we get to understand their competitive position and advantages. Should Facebook also join the game?
It is Not about Hardware Only


"Invention doesn't stop with the hardware.... We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices. If someone buys our devices and puts them in the drawer and never uses them, we don't deserve to make money.- Jeff Bezos, Amazon.

The Digital World Ecosystem



The 4D Innovation Model and Strategies for Success


The Views of the Leaders

Amazon - Tablet as Extension of eBook Readers and Entrance to eShopping
As shown in the mind-map above, Amazon is in the tablet game from its very successful eBook readers. But its specialized eBook readers can be easily replaced by the general purpose tablet like the iPad just as the successful Philips word processor equipments were replaced by PC’s later. But Amazon’s Android tablets are built for eBook reading as first priority. As entrance to its vast amount of content (besides eBooks, Amazon is now like a super mall), it must be cheap and good from the eBook and e Shopping points of view. Amazon will tilt its tablets to create an enchanting experience for e-shopping at its sites and for greater reading and watching pleasure.
Apple - Tablet as filling the gap between iPhone 4" and Mac Big Display
Apple iPhone comes from iPod (music player), iTouch (no need for PC to buy and play songs). iPhone is but iTouch with phone communication add-on. iPhone is a cloud device and not a phone. Nokia saw the world as phone and expanded from phone but was too slow to reach the cloud of digital content and social connection. iPad is just filling up the gap between the small display of iPhone and the large and not too mobile Mac Notebook. Steve Jobs did not think there was a need for a smaller device in between. Cook thought they should protect themselves from others and come out with iPad mini. But iPad mini is still slightly larger than the other, 7.9″ vs 7″ and it was intentionally for preserving the display of iPad 2 experience (smaller but no loss of display content), showing Apple’s tight adherence to user’s experience. Smaller, lighter, cheaper but no other inconvenience caused. A good guide for all others to follow.

Google - Tablet as a device to Connect to its Organized World of Information
Google is still very much information base rather than quality music(Apple) or quality video(Amazon’s intent) base. A great strength is its open standard based vs Apple more proprietary iOS and iTunes store. It is expanding in many directions to establish itself as the main key player in the digital world since its search engine is under challenged from many others, like Microsoft’s Bing and others. Google with its innovative culture will continue to come out with many offerings and may be one of them will make it great like their search engine. For Google then, the tablet needs to be as flexible as possible to do all the wonderful things that they are coming out with. Their mind-set is still very much consumers base and one way of expansion is go into the corporate business with better security and management tools and give Microsoft and IBM some challenges. However, being an open platform, there will be some new entrepreneurs that will fill up this gaps well.

Microsoft - Extending from PC Desktop
Microsoft is trying very hard to extend its dominance on and from the PC desktop. The Apple and Android phones and tablets show that you don't need the complexity of the PC to get things done. Windows8 is integrating phone types apps on the old windows. I am not sure you need to integrate them for the general users; may be for the developers for ease of development of apps. If any user find the phone or tablet apps are not powerful enough for their use, I don't think anyone want to go into the Windows to get the things done. He could just look for and buy a better apps that can do the job. It any job cannot be done easily on a 4" or 10" screen, then go to the PC or Mac to do the job. The job is not for the tablet or phone. Microsoft is an incremental innovator as many have shared. They may not be the first but they have the track record to outdoing the first. eg IE over Netscape, Excel over Lotus 123, Word over Word-perfect etc. Can it do it again with Windows 8? It is a very long and hard catch-up for Microsoft and its partner like Nokia to do.

The Value of Social Connection and Network

We don’t just go into the Cloud to get information and buy things. One of the killer apps of the internet is eMail. The greatest past time now for most people is chatting and connecting with other people. The leader of this Social Network is Facebook. I did not mention it in an earlier post of this because Facebook is not yet in the Tablet War. Does Facebook need to be into the hardware device as well? The common wisdom of the past tell us that hardware is a cut-throat commodity business and businesses are advised to go into software and services like IBM, Xerox etc. But recent stories show that Samsung, Apple and even Microsoft Windows 8 Surface are having great margin of 50%+. Samsung is have great success with its Android devices. So should Facebook go into the hardware game as well like Microsoft? Apple Steve Jobs is famous for integrating software, hardware and design. Google acquiring of Motorola Mobility may show that they also ascribe to Jobs’ view too.

The Advice – It all depends


My advise is that it all depends. It depends on where you want to play in the big digital Eco-system market place. It depends on your relative strengths with respect to the market you want to play in. Our strengths are not what we think but should be measured externally from the market, against our competitors and from the eyes of our customers. Our strength is not just because we can do it but rather we can do it better than others. It is easy for us but difficult for others.

Back to Facebook, for the time being at least, its business is social connection - the bigger the world the better for him. The more the devices that can access it the better. The keys then are for Facebook is to continually offer better social connect experience, new ways of non-intrusive and embedded ads, and define standard interfaces for all others, hardware or software vendors,  to connect to them. The greater the size of those who can access Facebook, the greater the size of the potential market, and with its large installed base, the greater is its ability to fend off the competitors like Google+.  There is perhaps no need to come into the hardware game unless there some new innovation that need that … but such devices is really against the spirit of social connection. Let others build the roads and bridges, the cars, boats and planes into your wonderful kingdom of best social connection experience.

Lim Liat (C) 9 Nov 2012 on a Windows8 machine.

Revision 2 10 Nov 2012.

22 September 2012

Wisdom for Success in a 21st Century VUCA World

21st Century World is characterized by VUCA of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity plus Deception (VUCAD). Successful living calls a new mindset. The world-view of the factors, causes and proposed solutions are shown in a Visual Model. But surprising the wisdom that you need is not new but originated 5000 year-ago in a book called i-Ching, meaning, the Bible for Change. Applying the wisdom will lead to you the objective of harmony and abundance of diversities of people, races, cultures, living things in nature and in the universe.

Alvin Toffler, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn".

So what do we need to unlearn and relearn?

The Generations of Our Mindset
1. The Deterministic World of Clarity and Confidence
The mindset of the 19th century industry age is deterministic cause-effect, which is still the mindset of many people today, even those in the government, the engineering and scientific mindset... symptoms of the one best answer, cockiness, and in today world, presumptuous.

2. The Probabilistic World and Control Limits - Not so sure but predictable within limits
The mindset of the 20th century, thanks to quantum and statistical theories, is a probabilistic world with predictability. We understand variation, standard deviation, and we only jump when things are outside the control limits. E W Deming's A system of profound knowledge is a must read. It covers four areas of  an appreciation of systems, understanding of variation, theory of knowledge, and psychology.

3. The VUCA World - What shall we do in this seemingly mess?
The mindset of the 21st century, the hot term in this week seminars, is VUCA which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. VUCA comes from the US Military awhile back but is new to the management gurus. Some military literature have it as VUCAD, with D standing of delay in the feedback of information from the confusing raw data. But I would like to change the D to represent Deception. In the VUCA world, delay is implied. However, in this modern world of spam, hoaxes, outright sabotaging, it is important to recognize intentional Deception and be not deceived.

The key is how do we live successfully in this VUCA world?

Do a google on VUCA and see the articles on how to, especially on leadership. Start with this HBR http://blogs.hbr.org/frontline-leadership/2010/11/leading-in-a-vuca-environment.html.
The are books that address this issue such as Strategic Speed: Mobilize People...Leaders Make the Future: Ten New... etc.

The Big Surprise
But the BIGGGGG SURPRISEEEEEEEEEEE, the leadership advices from the above articles and books are only a subset of the wisdom of I-CHING, the "Bible for Change". The unchanging principles of i-Ching is a good guide for us to live in this VUCA world. To read more about i-Ching, see http://mind-value.blogspot.sg/2012/05/making-i-ching-come-alive.html

The VUCAD World Visual Model:


What are the principles for doing well in the VUCAD world?

1. Universal Rules
You find the things that are unchanging or robust that always work no matter what the situation. You find such universal truths and principles in books such as the Bible and i-Ching.

2. The Patterns or Paths when Change follows
Change does not happen haphazardly but follow a patterns. i-Ching have contains 64 Hexagrams of Situations and for each Hexagram, a description of the situation and a judgment of good or bad, followed by 6 stages of change, each with a line of advice and the judgment of good or bad outcome.

3. Learning how to read the Situation:
3 Major factors in any situation, the Heaven(the Seasons), Earth(Terrain, market, industry, PRETEL), and People and 2 keys of your positioning(strengths, weaknesses, offerings, etc)  and timing relative to the 3 external factors.

It is often then we do not read a situation well. In which case, we are encouraged to probe, to conduct small experiments and survey to find out more, to validate our assumptions and intuition. Watchout for garbage in garbage out in planning. Planning based on wrong data or interpretation of data will lead to wrong actions. In the VUCA world, go for robust and lightweight agile alternatives for common people. Few people have the insights or intuition of Steve Jobs and so we go for alternatives with greater option, and place more bets, that make them definitely less effective than one concentrated effort. But we can go long and adjust as shown in next step.

4.  Apply, Monitor and Adapt
Keep the mission, vision and values intact while you adapt the 'how' first. You change the ways you behave or do first before you change your vision or mission. But never change your values based on the universal truths, else you loose your identity.

Hope you like it and please your advices.

Lim Liat (C) 22 Sep 2012

17 September 2012

The Secrets of True Happiness

The secret of true happiness is not to have one's feeling be dependent on the external happenings. It is to have joy, the internal feeling of the heart that change not with happenings. It begins with knowing your identity and accepting your strengths and even your weaknesses. It is knowing the world is imperfect and unfair and hence living at ease with those that are beyond our control and making it better with those that are withing our control. Using the body-mind-heart-character model will dislodge the secrets of happiness. Pleasure is good feeling from the body. Happiness depends on the external happenings. Joy is the internal peace & pleasure of the heart and does not depend on the external events.

It is interesting that friends in the email and facebook communities talked about happiness recently. On reflecting what they have said, here is my consolidated view on happiness. I always want to put any good quote or advice that I read or heard into a context so that we can understand the truth and proper use of the quote or advice. The internet world is full of good advices and opinions from people all over the world. It is so easy to share things. However good things without the context only leads to misunderstanding and wrong use that may result in great harm. So we must learn and build models of the world around us to gain better understanding and predictive power upon which we can influence the outcome of our life.

A recommended model to use in the understanding of the human behavior, of which, happiness is the topic of interest in this post,, is the Body-Mind-Heart-Character-Relationship model. I will write about this model in greater details in future. But for now, we apply the B-M-H part to the understanding of happiness.

Here is the mind-map for the "The Secret of True Happiness".

The Body-Mind-Heart Make-up of a Person
When we look at the three parts of Body-Mind-Heart of our 'person', then we can easily see that "Happiness" of the body gives us pleasure and come from external happening such as having a good party, a joy ride in Disneyland. Reading a good book and watching a good movie with the visual and sound effects give us pleasure in our body and also our mind. The movie has a good plot and it is touching. It makes us think of lovely and good thoughts.

The Negative Type of Response & Solution
Bad things also happen in our life, such as loosing a sale, reprimand by our boss, betrayed by a friend. 'Unlucky' accidents, not due to us, also happen to us to upset and depress us. So we can quickly conclude that since such bad things happen frequently to us in this world, a good solution will be to get-out of this world. A good start is to simplify our life. Make sure we don't depend too much on the things of this world. The lesser the dependent, the less upset we will get from it. If you take this to the extreme, you can join the monastery or to become a hermit. That is the negative way to solve the problem - avoid it.  But does our solitude brings us happiness? The answer is partially. There is a conflict of real living and living as if dead! What are to do with the feelings that we are built with? The answer lies not in eliminating but in directing it. Build the internal joy of the heart is the answer.

The True Happiness is Internal Joy - Build it Up.
The passage to the door of the heart comes from our mind. The door to our mind is our body of course. But we must now take care of what we input into our mind and then into our heart and into our spirit if you are of the religion persuasion. We are to guard our mind and heart through controlling our body.

Joy comes first with our mind knowing our identity and then accepting our make-up, our strengths and also our weaknesses or limitations. We are uniquely make up of different extent of strengths and lack of strength, in our many attributes. Acceptance of our uniqueness is the first step to great joy. Then we recognize that the world that we live in is an imperfect world and it is also an unfair world. For factors that are beyond our control and influence, we just need to adapt to it and be at ease with it. For factors that we could influence, we help to make it  a better world.

The keys to more joy in our heart is to learn to be contented. Being content does not mean we don't strive to be better. We want to be better but at present we are contented with what we have. We learn to be contented in whatever situation we are in. Joy comes easily when we have a grateful heart. When we appreciate what others have done for us. The secret of joy is but having faith and hope. Faith that this is a good, yourself, others, world and hope that we can make it better. On deeper reflection, joy is but a facet of something call Character, that we must develop into maturity. The final outcome, the fruit, of this mature character, have many facets shown in the mind-map. It is best summarized by Paul in Gal 5:22-23 of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness (forgiving, empathy), goodness (good works), faithfulness (loyalty, integrity, trustworthiness), gentleness (giving ways) and self-control.

It is easier and more effective to spend time and energy to build what is in the inside of us, our character, and of joy as one facet, than trying to control our external happenings which usually lies beyond our sphere of influence. Why waste time trying to control those that are beyond our reach? Build up your inner joy that you can do by controlling what your read, see, touch and mix with and think on those thoughts that are pure, right, worthy, lovely and of excellence.

Determine to have joyful day no matter what because joy is what you are made of.

Lim Liat (C) 17 Sep 2012.

Updated Map:

See also The Key to Happiness - Just One Word

And for a wonderful talk on Happiness:
Happiness 101 with Tal Ben-Shahar www.youtube.com
He recommends:

Take Action -- Do them regularly to have Peace & Happiness:
1. Give yourself & others permission to be human.
2. Simplify Life and Give Times for Recovery
3. Exercise regularly 3x30min/week
4. Meditate & 3 Deep Breaths often esp when upset
5. Appreciate Life and be grateful. ... Write down 5 things you appreciate every day.

12 September 2012

Bait first and then Catch is the Better Way says Gui Gu Zi C5

To chase and catch is a not only stressful but of low success rate. The better method is "bait to catch" said Gui Gu Zi. It takes a match of four key factors, our strengths, his strengths, the Others' relationships and situational features. Baiting is first step. We need to also to know how to catch and exploit the advantages. It is best summarized in the "Mop Principle" of "Suck you in and Squeeze you dry!". It also applies to the attraction, development, retention and employment of talents.
The simplest way to catch a prey is to chase after it. However, it may not the smartest thing and easiest thing to do. The chaser needs to have strength that out run the prey. The success rate is not very high and it is very exhausting and stressful. Ask the Cheetahs. Human beings should have better methods. We invented fishing with a bait. "Bait to Catch" has higher success rate and it takes less resources. This is the advice of Gui Gu Zi Chapter 5.

What could serve as a bait of course will depend on the characteristics of the prey. Hence, Gui Gu Zi recommended us to find out and measure those characteristics. Go far and near and find out as much as you can. "It is not lack of planning but lack of actions (discovery types) before the planning that causes business to fail" say one Chinese Classics Guru.

"Knowing our enemy" and then "Knowing ourselves" are key strategic advices from Sun Zi. (See Sun Zi Art of War (Sun Tzu) in One Minute). Gui Gu Zi reminded us to look at two more set of factors, the politics among the players in our theater of play and the situational factors. It is the interplay of all these four sets of factors that we can set our baits and catch our prey.

Baiting is the first step. How to baits are given by Gui Gu Zi too. This is be followed up by the catch. Catching successfully also includes employing the catch to gain other advantages. This whole process is best summarized by a saying of my boss. It is called the the "Mop Principle" of "Suck you in and Squeeze you dry!".

These advices do not just relate to strategies but also about the attraction, selection, development, retention and employment of the talents to bring great performances for the company.

All the details are best captured in the mind-map below:
Hope you know what to do now to accomplish your dream.

Lim Liat (C) 12 Sep 2012

07 September 2012

Critical Thinking on Singapore Fertility 1 - Is it a problem?

The first thing that we learn about critical thinking is to question the claim. Low fertility rate is claimed to be a serious problem. On further questioning and thinking, the issue is really about preservation of this thing called "Singaporeness". In which case, the solution is not just about increasing fertility but about defining, propagating and maintaining this Singaporeness. Not finding the right problem will get us to find the right answers to the wrong problem!
This is the first in a series of Critical Thinking using Singapore Fertility as an example. It is a hot and important issue and we need to find the real problem and come out with the real solutions with the right thinking framework.

The reducing fertility rate of Singapore is getting much attention, especially when it was pointed by the former MM Lee Kuan Yew in the Aug 2012 Dinner. His quotes and the abstracted points are shown in the mind map below:

Begin with Questioning the Statement and Not Find the Answer

If you attend my thinking course, one of the first basic thing to learn is to question the claim. Why? How come? So what... For improving your thinking please see my Thinking Frameworks.

Singapore education system has placed too much emphasis on finding the right answers to questions set by teachers. Hence, it is very very rare that a student will question the question set by teachers. We bring this into the working life and we seldom question the boss' statement of a problem.

If you read the quotes of Mr Lee carefully, the main issue is not about fertility but about preservation of this thing of Singapore Cultures, ethos, codes, etc which I call "Singaporeness". This difficult to describe but can be felt kind of behavior that Singaporeans seem to stand for and be proud of. I talked about this Singaporeness in Looking at Singapore Immigration with a Yin-Yang Mindset.

If Preservation of Singaporeness is the Issue then Fertility Rate is a sub-Issue or even a none-issue.

Culture are usually and naturally transfer from one generation to the next. But there is a problem. The Law of Entropy from the Science seems to be applicable to the society as well. Without intervention, things naturally degrades and increases in randomness over time. So we find dilution of culture and values over generations. But we also noted that certain culture and races seems to have strength in the preservation of their culture. This is, to my limited knowledge and observation, the Jews, the Chinese, the Indians etc, those with a strong and long living culture are able to withstand the erosion of time. But those do not come by naturally. The Jews, Chinese and the derivatives had in their own Holy Books and Classics, the commandment to teach the next generation.

Hence, if you buy my point (which you need to question it first) that it is the preservation of Singaporeness, then the proposed solution will be:

1) Define what is "Singaporeness".
2) Teach, Memorize and Internalize it for individual.
3) Sustained with an Eco-system or Community. It is communicated, encouraged, values, codified in behavior, stop with mores, etc in our daily practice and behavior.
4) Improving the "Singaporeness"
Preservation should not be seen as just keeping the old standards but about improving the standards as well overtime.

What do your think?

Lim Liat (C) 7 Sep 2012

See also:

02 September 2012

Looking at Singapore Immigration with a Yin-Yang Mindset.


Due to our western education influence, most people are looking at issues with a one track mindset. Because some Singaporeans complains about some of the behaviors and congestion etc caused by influx of large quantity of immigrants, Singaporeans are labeled 'anti-immigrants' and asked to be more inclusive and loving.

The real issue is best summarized in the remark "Singapore is no longer like the Singapore that we know and built for the last 50 years".

The issue is not just about welcome or not welcome, or lack of love for the immigrants. It is about love and standards or values of Singaporeans. We must hold the two in dynamic balance. We love and welcome immigrants but at the very same time we also want to maintain our Singaporeans good values and standards.

We welcome immigrants that believe and accept our values and standards. We want them to join us to bring up and expand these Singaporeness. But we don't want our Singaporeness to overrun by too large influx of immigrants that destroy our Singaporeness,

We are not so narrow minded to reject immigrants and only want to maintain our Singaporeness at the expense of growth and a better Singapore. Because one of the key ingredient of Singaporeness is Multi-Racial Harmony. We don't just value diversity, we synergize them while keeping and respecting their differences. Strength comes from both diversities and synergy. Singaporeness have other values of openness, honesty, integrity, law-abidingness, cleanliness physically and morally, progressiveness, quality, helpfulness etc. We are the land of opportunities that allow for your diversities provided you uphold our Singaporean's values.

We say yes to both 'Love for Immigrants' and 'Singapore's values and standards'.

We welcome immigrants to join us to build a better Singapore and to uphold our Singapore's values and culture.


Lim Liat(C) 2 Sep 2012

30 August 2012

Detect & Fix It Before It Cracks Up by Gui Gu Zi C4 Overcoming Crack

It is only natural that things degrade and crack up through time. Effort must be spent for early detection and fixing else it would end in great disaster. It applies to a society as well. A little disorder here and there and it will ends with an anarchy of confusion and destruction. Wise men see the early signs of problems and come out with ways to fix the cracks and to prevent them. We can fix it incrementally or if it is not repairable, then uproot it, transform it into a new order. Gui Gu Zi's teachings are applicable to running country or a business
There are things and people that are near us and yet not noticed by us. There are people and things that are far away and yet we are close to them. Bonding in relationship is not a matter of distance but of the heart - a desire and will to spend time and effort to build the relationship. Relationship without maintenance will degrade slowly and eventually breaks up.

Crack not fixed early will become greater and greater and eventually completely cracked up and become useless. It is better to detect and fix the crack early. There are tell-tales signs for us to detect such early cracks. These are but a few wisdom from the teachings of Gui Gu Zi. In the mind-map below, we have a longer list of principles and methods. Please read through them and apply them to your personal relationships, businesses and the society at large.

The Principles for Overcoming Cracks

The Full Translation of Chapter 4 Overcoming Cracks



Previous: Chapter 3 Progress Comes from Getting Your Proposals Adopted - Gui Gu Zi Shows Us How
Next: Chapter 5 Bait first and then Catch is the Better Way says Gui Gu Zi C5

More Chinese Wisdom:Ancient Chinese Wisdom

Lim Liat (C) 30 Aug 2012

29 August 2012

Progress Comes from Getting Your Proposals Adopted - Gui Gu Zi Shows Us How

Whether you are an entrepreneur, a start-up or working for people, you success comes from having your ideas adopted and implemented. It begins with a proposal, follow by a presentation to an interested party to finance, adopt and execute the proposal. Gui Gu Zi shows us how to come out with a solid proposal, how to present, how to find and even quit a partnership. Our success in life comes from mastering such integrated skill sets.

Some background on translation
There is much wisdom in Gui Gu Zi's writing. However, I find it very difficult and it takes me a long time to bring out the essence of his teachings. This is because even if I translate the writing from Chinese to English, the English translation may make no sense at all without explanation. I need to spend much time reflecting on what is written to get the meaning. Even the Chinese translations may not agree with one another, and I find the translated work not very useful as well. I will follow the typical rules of Hermeneutics for Interpretation - that is to let the text interprets itself and stay in context. I will also need to bring it up to date with the present to make it useful and therefore run the possibility of adding my own thinking. Sometimes, the translation just could not get the original Chinese meaning out well, so I at times, leave the original Chinese text there so that those who understand it can get the true meaning. So, in all these posts on Gui Gu Zi's writing, they  represent my understanding of what Gui Gu Zi is saying. It may differ from other translations, and I hope you find my translation more useful.

The Affairs of Organization and Kingdom
The Chapter begins with a clear statement that it shall cover the affairs of management from the King to the officials. In our modern times, it is about the affairs of boss and staff. Successes are about ideas, plan and execution. Great plan needs to be presented to the right people for support, and great plan needs to be executed well. These 3 areas of having a great plan, making a persuasive presentation and finding the right partner are taught here.

Why You are Not Consulted or Missed Out - How to Get into Your Boss' Inner Circle
Gui Gu Zi covers the interesting situation that while some people are physically close to the boss yet they are not his confidantes. He give six reasons, covered in the mind-map below, and we need to take heed. It shows us how to get into the boss' circle.

Now that I get your attention, please read the full content of the mind-map below.

Have you been thinking and coming up with a good idea lately
If you are a leader, then you must take the lead and come out with good ideas. If not, don't expect a promotion or an increase in revenues or savings.

Do you know how to convert your ideas into a plan? 
Ideas without a plan remain empty. The grave yards are buried with the great ideas of many.

Do you know how to make a presentation?
Plan needs to be presented to get support and be adopted. 
If your presentation has not been successful, you may want to cross check with mind-map below to find out how to improve your plan and presentation.

Do you have the right partnership to execute the plan? Are you pitching to the right people?
Presenting to the wrong party will only waste your time and cause you be depressed due to the rejection. Heard of Chinese proverbs about "singing to the cow"? 

Working with the wrong party to execute your plan will only bring you pains and lots of disruptions and sabotages. You must find the right partner, understand their objectives, values and feelings. 

It is not about spinning a story to suit any partnership but to truly find the match between you and your partners. 

It is also about leaving the partnership or company when there is a misfit. You must need to know how to tell the would be losers and quit first before they bring you down with them, especially when they are not accepting your plan of transformation to save themselves.

The map is rather large. But it is because it is full of details. 

Hope you find in the above map the answers you need for your progress.

All the best to your success in life. Please remember to share them with us too.

Lim Liat (C) 29 Aug 2012



More Chinese wisdom is Ancient Chinese Wisdom


27 August 2012

The Persuasive Dialogues for Being the Best Lawyer or Salesman from Gui Gu Zi

The purpose of dialogues is about discovering the intentions, to differentiate truth from lies, to gain common understanding and agreements, to persuade and to convince others our view points, to ensure executions are done rightly. Whether you are a lawyer, salesman, teacher, politician or just a leader to get things done through people, you need to master this skills of persuasive dialogues from Gui Gu Zi. It begins with having your own clear stands, a worldview of how things should work, a net of discerning and evaluations, then a tool sets for dialogue, to listen, probe, and raise challenging questions, to empathize, to touch the heart and to form a close relationship.
Chapter 2 of the Book of Gui Gu Zi is titled "反应", translated, in "Reaction or Response". But in reading the whole chapter, I find a more descriptive title should be "Persuasive Dialogues". It is about how to convince others to accept our point of view. But convincing others begins with having our own stand and worldview, and to listen first, then to ask the right questions, to understand others first. Stephen Covey's 5th habit of "Understand first to be Understood" resonate well with Gui Gu Zi.

The is the Mind-Maps that Give the Details.

The first secret is "无形", without shape. Our intention cannot be made known first, else we shall be getting the answers we want or be manipulated. We can do that at the end when a partnership is to be formed. But "Without Shape" does not mean without principle or just do whatever. Gui Gu Zi gives a list of guidelines on how to probe to discover the truth, the set of measures for comparisons, the attitudes needed, and so forth as shown in the map.

The Details for the Dialogue

I shall making changes in the future as I gain better understanding and shall be simplifying the map to make it clearer. But in the meantime, I hope you like and learn from what is shown in the map.

Previous: Chapter 1 The Original Spin Doctor - Gui Gu Zi on Open & Close.
Next: Chapter 3 Progress Comes from Getting Your Proposals Adopted - Gui Gu Zi C3 Shows Us How

For more Chinese Wisdom see Ancient Chinese Wisdom

Lim Liat (C) 27 Aug 2012

21 August 2012

The Original Spin Doctor - Gui Gu Zi on Open & Close

How can you be a good and succcessful person, a winner in life? Success in life is about knowing the working principles, the Dao, of the universe and how things work, and the finding and forming the right partnerships, whether in a family, company or even political party. How to do that? Especially on how to discover the intent of the hearts. How to persuade others to follow or to support your proposal? Please read the wisdom from GuiGuZi shared here.
Gui Gu Zi (鬼谷子) is a famous strategist in the times of the Warring States Period of Chinese History (around BC 400). The translated name is Fellow of the Ghost Valley. He was named after where he stayed. He was the teacher of the famous military strategists like 苏秦, 张仪, 孙膑与庞涓. 苏秦 Su Qin was the one who persuaded the other 6 countries to form a vertical alliance to check the expansion of Qin. Su Qin then supported his fellow classmate 张仪 Zhang Yi to go to Qin and persuaded Qin to use the strategy of a horizontal alliance to break out the vertical alliance. Qin followed it and eventually conquered the entire China and forming the Chin Dynasty.  We can see that Su and Zhang were great strategists, or lobbyists or spin doctors in today terms.

In the first chapter of Gui Gu Zi' book, "Open and Close", he boldly proclaimed that "由此言之,无所不出,无所不入,无所不可。可以说人,可以说家,可以说国,可以说天下。"

translation: follow my talk, anything can come out, anything can enter, nothing is impossible. It can persuade people, family,country and the whole world.

Such confidence and such persuasive power as demonstrated by his students! Hence, I call him the original Spin Doctor and all students of this persuasion will surely benefit much to study his work.

What is his secret? Two words only, Open and Close. It is the principle, or the Dao, of Yin and Yang. Please see Yin-Yang Thinking Framework – Innovative and Critical.

Instead of giving you the English translation of his work, which may still be mystical after the translation, I shall present you the my understanding of his work. This post only cover his Chapter One of Open and Close. I shall cover the other chapters in future.

The Open & Close Overview

We don't live alone. Our life is about living with others, forming groups and relationships. Success in life is about living well, harmoniously with and mutually benefiting one another. We must therefore know how to pick the right friends, marry the right spouse, join the right company or form the right partnership. We must know the characters of the people, their ambitions and motives and see if they match ours to have good and lasting relationships. Motives are internal things that are not easy to detect. We also need to persuade others to buy our ideas and join our partnership. In a business, it is marketing, selling and investments for start-ups etc. The key principles are captured by Gui Gu Zi and summarized below:
  1. The wisdom is to control the door to our heart. The door to our heart is our mouth, says the author. It symbolically represents what we take in and give out. 
  2. The key is 
    1. to open, to give out the good things, or to take in the good things.
    2. to close, to focus, digest and reflect the good things taken in, or shut out the bad things from the outside.
    3. there are times for us to keep silent and listen well and there are times for us to speak and ask questions to gain understanding.
  3. Objectively Observe and Measure, Listen and Ask, to discover the their inner ambitions and motives of their hearts.
  4. Decide to Partner or Not depending on the Similarity or Differences of the Ways of their Hearts.
  5. Persuading the Other to Join Your or Buy your Proposal.
  6. Final objective is to have harmony and to complete the righteous and worthy cause that we have started.
The Details of the How To's
The map below shows the How To's in greater details.

Please go through it carefully as there is much wisdom.


See also Similar Verses in Bible and Chinese Classics 7 on Mouth and Heart for additional wisdom, this time from the Bible. Proverbs 13:3 He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.

For Gui Gu Zi Chapter 2 see The Persuasive Dialogues for Being the Best Lawyer or Salesman from Gui Gu Zi

It may be good to look at Greek philosopher Aristotle's view on persuasion. He has 3 categories of:
  1. Ethos:
    the character, and of the credibility and authority of the source or author.
    If you don't have any authority, then quote from those who has the authority or credibility.
    e.g. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates etc 
  2. Logos:
    the reasoning or arguments used to support a claim (induction and deduction) must be valid.
    and be supported by facts and statistics (empirical evidences).
    Some propose the use of the terms Coherence (logical) and Correspondence(relevant).
  3. Pathos:
    the emotional or motivational appeals;
    Use vivid and emotional language and illustrations e.g. Steve Jobs' style.
    Best is to tell a story. 
Next... The Persuasive Dialogues for Being the Best Lawyer..Gui Gu Zi 2.
Or More ....Sun Zi and Other Strategists
More posts on Chinese Wisdom can be found in Ancient Chinese Wisdom

Lim Liat (C) 21 Aug 2012

19 August 2012

Fooling Ourselves and Others with Stats - Fertility Rate Vs Home Prices...

Watch out for conclusion drawn from simple co-relation. In the Fertility Rate example, by introducing another factor, Free Education and Healthcare, I get the conclusion that Home Price relative to Income is actually not significant at 95% confidence level. The formula is:
Fertility Rate = 1.56 +0.5 FreeEdc - 0.02 HomePrice
Simple statistics course will tell us that correlation does not imply cause and effect relationship. Nevertheless, such statistics are used to study and 'prove' causal relationships in many fields like sociology, economics, medicines etc. A good example is shown in the post Fertility Rate Vs Home Prices....

The author show a chart of Fertility Rates against "Home Price to Income Ratio", "Mortgage as Percentage of Income" for countries in Singapore, Hong Kong and 4 Scandinavia Countries and draw the conclusion that:

"The amount people have to pay for their homes relative to their income is inversely correlated with Total Fertility Rate (TFR)."

It is indeed very convincing if you just look at the data. The correlation is indeed very high. The Green Table in the chart below shows the correlation to be -0.9645.

However, I was aware of other factors that could be significant as well in the Scandinavia Countries, namely, free education and free children healthcare. Education and healthcare costs are important factors, if not more, than living cost in the raising of children. In fact, I would argue that we already got a house as a couple and giving extra space to babies and toddlers actually cost about zero. But the raising up, such as, the healthcare and education of children, will be the real costs and the responsibilities concern of parenting.

Due to lack of data, only 6 data points presented, I can only add one more factor, with value of 0 or 1, to denote existence of Free-Education and Healthcare for children. So, Singapore and Hong Kong will be 0 (not free) and the other 4 countries will be 1 (Yes - Free). 

I run the data using Excel (I  don't have more sophisticated Stats Software) and Linear Regression. 

The full input and regression analysis output is shown in the chart below:


The points to note are:

1. The addition of another factor, FreeEdc (short hand for Free Education and Healthcare), the fit becomes even better.  Correlation increases to 0.9898 vs -0.9645.

2. FreeEdc is a stronger factor(0.51)  than Home(-0.02) (i.e. Home Price to Income Ratio). The t-stat is 2.7 which is significant of we choose a 95% confidence limit. 

3. In fact, Home factor is relative small -0.02, and is also statistically significant at a t-stat of 1.4937, which is way below the usual t-stat of 1.96 for 95% confidence limit and can be discarded!

4. Constant Intercept is 1.5623 with t-stat of 5.3 (almost 6-sigma, 1 part in a million) and tells us that leaving to nature, without encouragement or discouragement factors, people will reproduce at that rate. But it actually tells us that there are quite a number of factors that we don't understand and need to dig into the 1.5623.

Conclusions:
When the casual factors of something is complex, like Fertility Rate, simple 1 factor co-relationship analysis will lead us astray. We need to look at the problem in greater depth, and have to look into more factors first before we reduce every to just one factor. While simplicity is good, over simplification could be wrong.

Please watch out when people show you simple statistics to persuade you. 

Lim Liat (C) 19 Aug 2012

15 August 2012

High Growth Strategies For Success - Learning from Amazon 1997

Jeff Bezos' 1997 Letter to Amazon's Shareholders contained excellent advices on how to scale a company into long term success. Most CEOs talk big strategies without the details for execution and could not be held accountable. Jeff provided the details. You can use it as a reference to build your company.
Some friend shared on Facebook on the Letter to Shareholders by Jeff Bezos of Amazon in 1997. It contained the strategies of Amazon for rapid growth to success. There are many insights in the letter that I think are still very useful for any start-up that want to embark of fast growth to success.

The first thing that stands out was his long-term focus. Amazon had just gone IPO in May 1997 then. Any CEO of listed companies will tell the pressure to produce short-term results to please the market analysts and investors. However, Jeff instead explicitly stated he wanted to go for long term shareholder value and not for short-term and will not react to the Wall-streets pressure! Amazon actually continued to make losses until Q4 of 2001 where the profit was $5M on revenue of $1B. Nevertheless, the share price of Amazon continued to rise despite the annual losses. How can it be so? It could be the sentiment then of the dot-com company before the 2000 crash but I think it is more due to the clear growth strategies that were explained and executed well supported by real evidence of customer and revenue growth.

So, I took the extra time to read the letter carefully and to remapped it into a mind-map format for better clarity and to serve as a good lesson for entrepreneurs. It is also a good exercise and an illustration for those wanting to learn about mind-mapping.

Strategies that say they go for long-term shareholder value and customer obsession are impressive but cannot be executed. Jeff show us the details. You must read the map from top to bottom. They are causally related.

  1. Long-term shareholder value can only be achieved by wise and prioritized investments to extend the market leadership of Amazon. 
  2. Market leadership must be measured with a set of metrics on customers, revenues, infrastructure and brand strength. Not just big talk.
  3. Customers Obsessions must be delivered with a set of features and services that customer appreciate as increased value and can enjoy a wow-shopping experience that they come back for more. The list of value features and services are clearly identified and delivered as shown in the map.
  4. To serve customer better, investments must be made to improve and expand the infrastructure.
  5. Then you need talented staff to deliver the promises. The talented staff must be motivated to work hard, smart and long! The compensation scheme was listed. They were to think and act like owners and were better to be made owner. Stock options is offered more than salary.
  6. Relationships with key partners must be built. It is interesting to note many of the key partners in the list are no longer in existence! They did not learn from Amazon?
  7. Risks and Challenges are identified and it was a pity not to have the details of how Jeff managed those risks. We could roughly guessed form his investment strategies of balancing growth with returns to capital, going lean, and forever experimenting and learning.
So, here is mind-map and I hope you learn from it.

You could also learn much by going to Amazon website to find their vision and principles for success.

All the very best to your success.

Lim Liat (C) 15 Aug 2012


14 August 2012

Stage 9 How to Get Out of the Pit - 5 Transformational Wisdom from I-Ching

How to get out from the pit or to reverse the declining trend? I-Ching provides us with 5 transformational wisdom. Firstly, Retreat - get out and sell out intact. Secondly, Return to the core of original success. Thirdly, Replace with new mission. Fourthly, Extra-Ordinary boldness packaged with softness. Fifthly, the attitude of Uncompleted work for continued transformation. A good example of transformation that uses the 5 wisdom is Anne Mulchany who transformed Xerox of the copyier into the New Xerox of Document and Business Process services.
1. Retreat - get out and sell out intact from
Previous post covers detection of decline. Once you detect and confirm the decline, it is good to immediately take effort to transform the company. You may need to get out of your declining market. Please note, the market may be not be declining, it is just that you are not able to compete with the leaders. e.g. Digital Photography is increasing for the Samsung, Canon etc but not for Kodak. Cloud-Devices like the iPhone, tablets are blooming markets except for Rim and Nokia who are still trying very hard to stay in the market.

To enter a new market or to revitalize key businesses, you need a lot of cash and resources. The fast way to get cash is to sell-off businesses and assets that are of value, painful maybe, but needed to be done. Xerox sold of their desk-top printers division, the one started by Anne herself, and other things.

Plan withdrawal is no shame but a good transformation strategy. It gives you the resources needed to start new mission when the time is right.

2. Return to the core of original success  #24 复 Return – Recovery 
When a company is going on a fast track of high growth, they tend to get into all kinds of new businesses and into areas that where they may not have the strength but just the money. The grand strategies may attract a lot of interests, support and investments, but if not executed well, it will end in great failure. Actually, slower or reducing growth rate may cause the management to invest in more and diverse businesses to try jack up the revenues. Those are bad strategies. One should get back to the core, the core principles and strengths that make the company successful in its early days.

When Steve Jobs returned to save Apple, he cut the 150+ product lines of Apple back to  the original Apple computer and laptops only. When Lou Gestner took over IBM, people advised him to break IBM down and sell off. He found that IBM have great people, technology and customer relationships. What was needed was not breaking up but more integration around the needs of their customers and helping their customers with their capability, extending even into non-IBM products. Anne found in Xerox the same things of great people and technology. She sell off to get money to invest more in R&D so that Xerox can take the lead in the new mission of business process management and document services, a natural extension of Xerox copier and printer business.

Get back to the core righteous business practices and your core competences. 

You may need find new uses and markets for your core competences as Xerox did. 

Kodak, while invented the digital photography, have missed the boat due to their reluctance to cannibalize their successful film business, have rightly and boldly gave up their digital camera business and back to where they are strong at in printing and chemical businesses. They may need to find new markets for their chemical strength in order to get out of Chapter 11. Corning Wares is able to find great new market for their glass-competence.

3 Replace with new mission -  49 革 Replacement
Actually, the Chinese word has a stronger meaning that the 'replacement'. It is the word used in revolution 革命, the over-throwing of a government and establishment of a new regime. Transformation requires such drastic effort. It is best to start with a new mission. Below are the additional steps:

  A Transformational Replacement must have
        1. worthy mission
        2. benefits the people (staff, customers, and other stakeholders)
        3. at the right time
        4. with the right preparation
        5. based on righteousness
        6. build trust among the people after the replacement

Under Anne, Xerox replace the old mission of being a copier or a printer product company into a new mission of "Business Process & Document Management Service" company. The new CEO has extended it to include Information Technology outsourcing. But hopefully, they realize their key business is still in business process management for effectiveness in running businesses and IT are but the enabler.

4 Extra-Ordinary boldness packaged with softness -28 大過 Excessive
Transformation requires boldness because you are going against the tide. But Boldness alone is not enough. You cannot bull-doze your way against the tide. You must use the soft approach. This is the great wisdom from i-Ching. You must package your bold core with softness. To attract is better than to force.

Back to Anne of Xerox. She communicated with her staff and customers face to face. She had to sell her story of the new xerox. She have to explain the reasons for the laying off to the very people that grew up with her and now having to let them go. The support she gained help much moving the transformation.

When Steve Jobs got back to Apple to save it, he boldly went to Bill Gates for help. He got an investment of US$150M from Microsoft and Gates' commitment to continue to improve the Ms-Office suite on Apple. To Apple to succeed, he got support from his past arch-enemy. He boldly declared in the Apple Conference, Steve Jobs' annoucement of microsoft's investment. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxOp5mBY9IY
  • If we want to move forward and see Apple healthy and prospering again, we have to let go of a few things here. We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. We have to embrace a notion that for Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job. And if others are going to help us that's great, because we need all the help we can get, and if we screw up and we don't do a good job, it's not somebody else's fault, it's our fault. So I think that is a very important perspective. If we want Microsoft Office on the Mac, we better treat the company that puts it out with a little bit of gratitude; we like their software. 
  • So, the era of setting this up as a competition between Apple and Microsoft is over as far as I'm concerned. This is about getting Apple healthy, this is about Apple being able to make incredibly great contributions to the industry and to get healthy and prosper again.
5 The Attitude of Uncompleted work for continued transformation - 64 未济 Uncompleted – Finish it Wisely & Boldly

The only way to have sustainable success in the long run is always to have the attitude of "Uncompleted":  - it is never finished - it can be better - incrementally or radically differently better.

The practice, after you have your mission, vision and values, shall be:
  1. Analyze the situations. 
  2. Find the right positions. 
  3. Take actions to move in the direction with adjustments along the way. Changing the how to achieve the objective is good when the how does not work.
  4. Accomplish this worthy project is good enough. No need to be distracted with other things.
  5. Go on to next higher visions when you have come close to your existing ones.
This is the end of the Series Making I-Ching Come Alive!

Lim Liat (C) 14 Aug 2012

13 August 2012

Stage 8 Preventing the Inevitable Decline - 3 Guides from I-Ching

The basic principle of I-Ching teaching is that everything goes in cycles. Some start-up will make it big into large and successful global companies. But those very success will bring in the stagnation and decline even to oblivion. The three Guides here tell us how to detect it and how to take action to prevent it.
What should Apple's Tim Cook be reading with the current great success of Apple? How can he prevents it from becoming a Kodak or Nokia? Ancient Chinese can provide some wisdom...

G1 Stagnation - How to Detect and Clear it from #12 否 Stagnation
If you ask how did the great and successful man fail, the answer is likely to be pride. But pride, like greed, are not easily detectable. Who ever say that he has enough? We just want a little bit more! Who ever says that he or she  is proud? So, saying that a major cause of decline is pride is not going to be helpful. We find go deeper and this is where i-Ching wisdom is useful. It tells what are the symptoms and behaviors to watch out for. #12 Stagnation first 3 lines of wisdom give us 3 symptoms:
  1. System Procedures and Practices - Out-dated and Inefficient
    1. Are they outdated compared to the current practices?
    2. Are they defective? 
    3. No one care to maintain, tune and optimize the system. They just let the system degrade with time.  The manufacturing costs are higher, cycle time longer, waste is more than their competitors. The company continue to produce products and services that market are not buying.
  2. People Attitudes and Behaviors - Bossing Pleasing
    1. Staff are more concern about buttering up their bosses rather than caring for the customers or even one another.
    2. They are not concern about performance but concern more about being nice. Don't rock the boat.
  3. Sense of Right and Wrong - Whoever has the Power has the say
    1. Right or Wrong is determined by the boss and not by any objective or social moral standards. The desires of the boss is higher than the ethics and laws. 
    2. Hence, corrupt and illegal practices slowly creep into the company. 
I-Ching suggests that the change must start at the top and propagate down throughout the entire company. It is a tough act but must be executed well in order for the company to survive. Don't let the corruption takes deep root and make the change too late.

G2 Infighting and Disorderliness - Remove them with #18 蠱 Worm 
Another big cause of the downfall of empire and corporations is infighting. I-Ching depicts it well as 3 worms fighting in a bowl. Staff are more concern with which political camp to join and support to win the internal battle. Road blocks and traps are set up to impede the success of the other 'enemy' divisions.  Work and resources are duplicated to build strength to compete with each other, all in the same company. The staff are inward focus rather than outward customers and partners focus. 

#18 Worm tells us to recognize and face the reality of this infighting. It is important to let all recognize this infighting and the harm it brings. Hopefully this triggers a change for the better. The change may include the tearing down of the 'holy cows' of some and go for a win-win for all. It takes great leadership and effort to put thing right again. Go for the right thing for the masses rather than the good things of some interested party. 

G3 Creeping Decay and Stopping it from #23 剝 Stripping 
Big successful company don't collapse suddenly. It may appear to be sudden only to those that are not watching. There are always signs of the decay. They are just unheeded until the last straw that break the camel's back. Quite a number of people foresaw the dot-com crashes of the 2000 - the cash will run out faster than what the management think then. They also forewarn the problem the sub-prime loans and the derivatives. But many, even the big banks and investors ignore the warnings because they have never seen such collapse before.  

Creeping decay is difficult to detect but we have the time to detect it and stop it as early as possible. Early correction and fixing is much cheaper and easier than at later stage. This is the teaching from #23 Stripping. Detection comes from listening to the warning of people. Finding any deviation from the standards. Fixing calls for speed and well co-ordinated effort by all.


Follow This Series Making I-Ching Come Alive!

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Next:Stage 9 How to Get Out of the Pit - 5 Transformational Wisdom from I-Ching


Lim Liat (C) 12 Aug 2012


06 August 2012

What's Wrong with Our Education & How to Fix it?

What's wrong with our education system? Two big mistakes. Firstly, we have made learning painful instead of a joy. Passing exams becomes the main objective rather than real learning to improve one's capability. Secondly, we have made acquiring skills more important than learning how to live rightly. The end result is crimes of greater scale and immoral behavior in the Civil Service, schools and universities, religious organizations like the church and in the society in general. We have wealth and skills but not happiness and well-beings. People are quick to find faults, to complain and to blame, especially blaming the government since they are so well paid. There is an increasing sense of dissatisfaction and frustration with life. The first 6 verses of Lun Yu tell us the problems and give us the answers
In our discussion on Chinese Classics, we looked into greater details on the writings of the Confucius' School, also know as Ru Jia 儒家.  A main book is Lun Yu (论语) , Analects, which is a compilation of the saying of Confucius and his disciples. The key teachings of a book are generally covered in the first chapter and the last. So we went through carefully the first chapter of Lun Yu. You can find the Chinese verses and key points in the slide below:


I have covered the topic on the first and last chapter in Proverbs and LunYu of Confucius and Management According to Confucius 2 : 5 Good & 4 Bad.

From the verses, we can easily see the errors in our modern education system. There are two errors, namely, learning becomes painful instead of fun and technical education comes before moral education, resulting in smart people without a righteous and loving heart.

First Error: Learning is Pain versus Learning is Joy

v1. The Joy of Learning or Learning is Fun

1a“学而时习之,不亦说乎?Learning and practicing(applying it and to become a habit), is it not a joy?

1b 有朋自远方来,不亦乐乎?Having friends from far away, is it not joyful?
This tell us about group learning and relationship building is great joy too.

1c 人不知而不愠,不亦君子乎? Not feeling angry when others don't know about a subject or about you (or not respecting you), it not this a gentleman (a wise or superior man)?

It tells us to be patience when people do not understand our teaching or respect us. We must be happy to teach or impart our learning to others.

Our education system has over-emphasized examinations. We have created the misunderstanding as good education is equal to passing exams. We have produced exam-smart students but not really competent students. We have frequently heard comments that 'we have returned everything to the teachers after the exams'. We have students that scored A in Chinese Exam but cannot converse in Mandarin fluently or read any Chinese books or newspapers with ease. Some of the translations to and from Chinese that we read, even from the universities and the governmental organizations, are laughable at times. 

I am not against exams but against using exams as a sole means of assessing a student. Examination is about learning where we have done well and where we need to put in further efforts. Examination should be like a mirror telling us where else we need to go next. Examination should be part of the joy of learning and not to become a fear. (Just in case someone may think that I am sour grape I wish to clarify that I was among the top in schools and universities and examination was an opportunity for me to be popular and to gain prizes).

So we need to put the joy back to learning. 

Confucius provided us the answer as well:

1. Put into practice what we have learned. Better still, make it a habit that comes naturally and effortlessly.

Students must understand the purpose and usefulness of the subject of learning. Learning needs not be abstract academic subjects only. Learning is about attitude and the depth of knowledge. The more we learn, the more we discover that there are more to it and that motivates us to learn more. Consider the game of golf. It was such a simple game and yet so addictive. For any subject, find the purpose, find the application, monitor the progression (examination is one form to assess the progress), and give them the time and attention to progress.

2. Group Learning is Fun especially from Distant Friends that share the same interests.

Learning together with others that share the same interests, especially from those different backgrounds or ideas, will be even more interesting. With today's digital technology, it is even easier to create such learning experience.

3. Be good at teaching and sharing with others. Be patience. Give encouragement.

We are of different gifting and we learn and progress differently. We need to have more patience in today's instant mindset and greater creativity in helping others to learn. Teaching is about motivating others to learn as well. We also know that learning is a step-wise function. Once we discover our mental-block and has a break-through, we can progress very fast. During this stage of struggle, we need lot of patience, coaching and encouragement.

Second Error: Smartness before Righteousness

Consider verse 6 
『6』子曰「弟子,  Confucius said,"
入则孝,  in the home then honor (the elders) - filial piety
出则弟,  in the society then respect others (bosses, friends, colleagues...)
谨而信,  work with carefulness(excellence)  and maintain integrity (keeping promises)
凡爱众, always love everyone 
而亲仁. and be close to kindness/love
行有馀力,  则以学文. 」after doing all the above then with the remaining energy learn the other skills. 

In short, the verse teaches us that we must know how to live rightly as a good person first before we acquire other skills.

It is good to know that our Minister of Education is pushing for more moral education rather than just science and maths. But here comes the key, what should be the content of the moral education? What are the right behaviors?

The content can be found in verse 6 itself about honoring parents, respecting others, working with excellence, maintaining integrity, loving everyone and caring for our own members. This particular verse 6 becomes the foundation of a famous child teaching book called "弟子规" written by Confucius scholar of the Qing dynasty. He expanded on the six subjects. One English translation can be found here.

Verse 2-5 also tell us what are the right behavior:

2 有子曰 YouZi says:

其为人也孝弟,而好犯上者,鲜矣;不好犯上,而好作乱者,未之有也。
Those that respect parents and friends, they are seldom disrespectful to their superiors. Those that are not disrespectful to their superior and at the same time create troubles, cannot be found.

君子务本,本立而道生。孝弟也者,其为仁之本与!
Wise men (frequently translated as Superior Men) focus on the development of basics first. When the basic foundations are strong, moral virtuous character is birthed. Respecting our elders and friends is the basic of love and compassion.

3 子曰 Confucius says:“巧言令色,鲜矣仁!” "smooth, flowery and tricky speech, tempting appearances, are seldom associated with true love and compassion.

4 曾子曰:“吾日三省吾身:为人谋而不忠乎?与朋友交而不信乎?传不习乎?”
Zeng Zi says: "I examine my life daily on three things. Am I faithful in my work? Am I trustworthy with my friends? Am I doing what I am teaching?(or Do I put into practice what I have learned?)

5 子曰:“道千乘之国:敬事而信,节用而爱人,使民以时。”
Confucius says: "The ways to govern a big country are: faithful in work and be trustworthy. Controlling my spending(be not wasteful) and loving the people, using the people at the right time (i.e. use them when they are free and not to disturb their farming or other productive activities).

We can see the urgency for putting moral development back into the basic education system as we see the increasing incidents of crimes and other immorality frequenting our newspapers and social media. The bad behavior even happened in the religious circles like the church, the government, even the home affairs forces and the professional organizations with codes of ethics like medicine and laws. 

Lim Liat (C) 6 Aug 2012