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 Qin 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 my understanding of his work. This post only covers his Chapter One of Open and Close. I shall cover the other chapters in the 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 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 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 You or Buy your Proposal.
  6. The 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 have 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 evidence).
    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.

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 friends shared on Facebook 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 wants to embark on 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 than 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 shows 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 customers appreciate as increased value and can enjoy a wow-shopping experience that they come back for more. The list of value features and services is clearly identified and delivered as shown on the map.
  4. To serve customers 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 owners. Stock options are 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 guess from his investment strategies of balancing growth with returns to capital, going lean, and forever experimenting and learning.
So, here is my mind-map and I hope you learn from it.

You could also learn much by going to the 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!

Previous:Stage 7 Joy of the Truly Rich - 5 Gems from I-Ching
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 Confucius' School, also known as Ru Jia 儒家.  The 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 tells 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 patient 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 a misunderstanding as a 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. An examination is about learning where we have done well and where we need to put in the further effort. An examination should be like a mirror telling us where else we need to go next. An examination should be part of the joy of learning and not to become 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 to be abstract academic subjects only. Learning is about attitude and the depth of knowledge. The more we learn, the more we discover that there is 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 a 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 have a break-through, we can progress very fast. During this stage of struggle, we need a 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 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 is the right behavior:

2 有子曰 YouZi says:

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.

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 basis 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 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

03 August 2012

Stage 7 Joy of the Truly Rich - 5 Gems from I-Ching

Wealth is only meaningful when we share it. We share with those that help us generate it and those that are in needs. We invest it to develop the talents and share it with them to promote co-operation and harmony. True joy comes from enjoying it together with others. We then understand why the rich are giving their wealth away. They are not stupid but really wise because that is the meaning of being a human.

A famous Chinese book comes with the title " 穷的只剩下钱 So poor that the only thing left is money." We can find other similar quotes like "Money can buy a house but not a home; medicines but not health; a bed but not sleep; sex but not love etc. Jesus said, "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." [Luke 12:15]. The truth is that money iteself is not evil. It is how we get it and how we spend it. I define wealth not in terms of the accumulation of the things but in terms of the amount spent in bringing goodness to others and self. This is the key teaching of i-Ching as well. The true joy of riches is in sharing it with others. Here are 5 gems from i-Ching that show us how to really enjoy the wealth that we have at this stage.

G1 Spend it on Worthy Projects - #14 大有 Great Possession
We got rich through doing the things covered in Stage 1 to Stage 6 summarized in one phrase, "by doing the right things well without giving up". Now that we are rich and powerful, we should not change the way be behave. We continue to use our wealth to stop evil and promote goodness. Spending money on helping the those in needs, finding cure for diseases, relieving sufferings are worthy and meaningful projects. Spending money to protect the environment, promote peace and harmony among people and nations are worthy projects too. The key is to use our wealth to bring goodness on earth and then we share in the joy with them. Mencius said that "enjoying oneself alone is not as good as enjoying with others 独乐乐不如众乐乐.

G2 Enrich Others & Co-operation - #42 益 Increase
This gem talks about taking from the rich and giving it to the poor. It is about taking from the CXOs, the senior management and enriching those at the bottom ranks, the staff and workers. Good working relationship between the top and bottom will lead to greater profits. It is good to see the changing trend in the western mangement books towards putting the staff or employees first. They talk about bossless company. But I find the term a typical one-track thinking of the western mindset to swing from one end to the other. In reality, there are times and situations that need a boss and times and situations that need not. A better term and concept will be a joint dynamic boss and not bossless. Most of the time, when the objectives are clear, people can be self-directed and jointly work together for the benefits of the company. At certain crisis or critical times, the one that is most able in that situation should take the lead. When the situation changes, another one that is most capable will take over the lead. When the mission is accomplished, the boss steps down and the organization can be run jointly with service agreements and understanding. There is in fact a company that does that - The Morning Star Company.

G3 Develop, Care and Share the Critical Resources - #48 井 The Well 
In the ancient world, the well is critical resource that need to be built and the water shared. What are the critical resources for your wealth generation? You need to invest, develop, care and protect it. One key resource is definitely people and their skills. We must remember to share the rewards with those that help produce it. In present world, we exchange our time, labor and skill for the salary we earn or for the profits that our customers pay us. Our reward is money. With the money we earn, we use it to buy the things that we need and enjoy. We must therefore continue to invest the money earned on the people, skills and production resources that generate it. We need to continue to renew our skills and production facilities. In the high technology world, the critical skills may change with time and we shall cover this in the next post.

G4 Gather and Build Abundance of Talents and Wisdom - #55 丰 Abundance
Abundance here is meant to be abundance in talents, wisdom, righteousness and harmonious co-operations. We build the right culture on righteousness and harmony and we must bring in the talents to increase the wisdom. Such accumulation will lead to greater abundance and benefits to the world.

G5 The Joy of Togetherness - #58 兑 Lake
What is heaven like? Is it not everyone doing well and living harmoniously and happily together ? You don't have to wait till heaven to enjoy this joy. Just share what you have with others. Joy comes from a strong principles centered inner life and a soft and supporting exterior. Joy is about togetherness. It enables people to overcome hardship and life threatening challenges with confidence and vitality. Learning and growing together brings joy

By now you get the drift that only in sharing our wealth do we find the true joy and meaning for our wealth.

Follow This Series Making I-Ching Come Alive!

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Next:Stage 8 Preventing the Inevitable Decline - 3 Guides from i-Ching

Lim Liat (C) 3 Aug 2012

02 August 2012

Stage 6 Success that Lasts - 5 Keys for Staying at the Top

Success is usually fleeting. Here are five keys to make sure your success last. The first key is to understand abundance comes from harmonious interactive flows of diversities. The second key is to develop character strength. The third key is to go for lasting value. The fourth key is to use your strength righteously. The fifth key is constant renewal to ensure completeness.
If you have done well in the past stages, then success and abundance will follow. The key question of course is, "How can one this stage of abundance last forever?". Here are five keys according to I-Ching. This post is article 10 of the series Making I-Ching Come Alive! The Key Principles & Applications.

Key 1 Abundance Comes from Interactions & Flow of Diversity - #11 泰 Great-Vibrant Flow
Success is not just about abundance of things but also about harmony of diversities. Lots of traffic without smooth flow is called a traffic jam. That is not nice. True success is about lots of flow and interactions without jam and conflicts. There are 3 key words - abundance, diversities, and harmonious interactions that make up true success. The modern term is called synergy. Synergy is about 1 + 1 = 10, 100, 1000 etc. It is the multiplying effect. Multiplying comes from interaction of not the same but of different things. Each diversity contributes to the whole and make the whole grow. Synergy can only work when there is harmony among the diversities. This is possible when they share the same objective and beliefs. It is also the interaction that produce the growth.

Success is like life. Life is about change and growth. Keep up the interactions and the whole will grow. Stop the interaction and the whole will stagnate and die. So here come the danger than success and abundance bring. Firstly, we may get so satisfy and complacent that we do not want to change anymore. The will lead to stagnation. Secondly, we may get so proud that we don't learn anymore. Thirdly, our people may loose sight of common objective and become more interested in protecting their turf and that leads to infighting. So, we need to make the trumpet call of Steve Jobs that say, "Stay hungry and stay foolish". i.e. continue to make progress and stay humble. See Follow Your Heart - Learning from Steve Jobs' Commencement Speech.

Key 2 The Power to Control Oneself - #26 大畜 Large Accumulation
Success in another form is one ability to control oneself. It is the maturity of our character and virtues. It is about our moral character strength. There are two aspect of this strength.

  • One is the ability to stop - to overcome greed and lust. Not to be tempted away from one's principles.
  • The other is the ability to continue the movement in the fight for justice and righteousness despite the difficulties. 

Such character comes from long term training and overcoming the challenges of life like disappointments and betrayals. It is going through a desert experience.

The utmost character strength is freedom to follow whatever our heart  desires and yet not committing any wrongs. This is the stage that Confucius reached at the age of 70s. (吾十有五而志于学,三十而立,四十而不惑,五十而知天命,六十而耳顺,七十而从心所欲,不逾矩。”)

Key 3 Make it Last and Leaving a Legacy - #32 恒 Lasting – Permanence
Build things that last a long time. Create an impact that leaves a legacy. Go for things that are meaningful and worthy. It does not mean we don't innovate or follow new trends. It does mean that whenever we create or follow a trend, we make that meaningful that lasts a long time and have a long term impact.

See also The Principles for Greatness

Key 4 Use Your Strength Wisely in Righteousness - #34 大壮 Great Strength
With our accumulated abundance of resources, network and influence, we have great power and strength. However, that does not mean we can do whatever we wish. We need to the core righteous values and our mission that bring us the success. We must heed the warning that power brings corruption and absolute power brings absolute corruption. Great men and nations all fall because of misuses and abuses of their strength and power. The more we are given, the more is expected of us.

Key 5 Complete the Task and Make it Complete - #63 既濟 Completed
Don't do things halfway or half-heartedly. Bring it to completion and make things complete. We need watchfulness and renewal to do that. We adapt when needed to continue. The required standards that customers want increases with time as better and better things are being offered. What is deem complete and acceptable now will become obsolete and sub-standard. Continued renewal is the key to stay complete.

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Next:Stage 7 Joy of the Truly Rich - 5 Gems from I-Ching

Lim Liat (C) 2 Aug 2012