31 July 2014

Durians, Singaporeans, Li Ka Shing and Sun Zi's Art of War

Durians, Singaporeans, Li Ka Shing and Sun Zi's Art of War, what have they in common? This common element brings out the secret of the success of the super-rich Li Ka Shing and the essence of the Art of War of Sun Zi. It is also a characteristic of Singaporeans that will ensure their success in the competitive world. Find out this key word and apply it well in your life.
Durian is a very pungent and tasty fruit well liked by many in South East Asia. Here is a picture of durians:

The Durian Business Model
The problem is, the tasty part of the fruit in inside and you cannot see. Though you want the flesh to be creamy, sweet, slightly bitter, and very small seed, you can't really tell (unless you are an expert) from the outside. You may run the risk of paying a lot for the fruit only to discover that the 'flesh' inside is no good (not ripe or too watery, with big seeds). So, the Durian Sellers come out with a good business model for you, the customer. The model is "Guaranteed Good to Eat" (Bao Jia 包吃. You can pick and they will open up for you to eat. If it is no good, you don't pay for it. They replace another one for you. You only pay for those you eat. If part of the opened durian is good and part is bad. The bad part will be replaced from another durian. That is a sure win and safe model for the customers even though the price may be higher than you if pick yourself and pay for them.  It is also a sure win model for the suppliers too as the costs are covered in their supplier chain and the not good durians can be used in making durian cakes and other products.

The Secret of Li Ka Shing's Success.

李嘉诚说: 做生意要记住:手头上永远要有一样产品是天塌下来你也能赚钱的
Li Ka Shing: Must have some business such that even when the sky falls down there is still profits to make. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, also quoted this particular Li's statement in his talk too. Successful serial entrepreneur are NOT merely risks taker. They are the minimizing risks takers. They identify the key risks and find out the likelihood and take measures to protect themselves for such risks. If they can't, they just go into such unmanaged risky business. If common people take such approach, the con men will have a much harder time trying to cheat people.

The Singaporeans Key Attributes
Singaporeans are recognized for their KiaX's - The most famous one is KiaSu, translated as Afraid to Loose. For details see The Kia-Su Kia-X's Uniquely Singaporeans - Mindset... The inverse of afraid to lose will be 'guarantee to win' 包赢 Bao Yea. This is exactly what Li Ka Shing said above ... make sure you can still a profit no matter what happens, even if the sky falls down. 

The Objective Function of Sun Zi's Art of War
If we don't study Sun Zi's Art of War well, we will think that the key principle of war will be maximizing destruction, especially of the enemy.  However, a careful study of Sun Zi's Art of War will reveal that Sun Zi has an objective function, like in Operation Research Optimization, for war and it is Maximizing Benefits using Minimum Costs. You can see it clearly in the following quotes from his book:
  • Chapter 3v3.4 必以全争于天下, 故兵不顿, 利可全,
    An all out win by absorbing the enemy's resources and so loses no soldiers & gain all benefits 
  • Chapter 3v1.3 是故百战百胜, 非善之善者也;不战而屈人之兵, 善之善者也。
    Winning every battle is not the best. Win without a battle is the best.
    (i.e. there is no need to go for a war that consumes resources. The enemy just surrenders without a fight.)
  • Chapter 11v2 合于利而动, 不合于利而止
    Move only when there are gains. Stop when there are no gains. 
  • Chapter 12v2 非利不动, 非得不用, 非危不战
    Fight only on gaining advantages, benefits, or in danger
  • Chapter 2v4  4 故智将务食于敌, 食敌一锺, 当吾二十锺, 萁秆一石, 当我廿石。
    The Wise take over the Enemy's resources (rather than destroy it).
    It is worth 20 times more!
  • Chapter 3v1.2 凡用兵之法, 全国为上, 破国次之; 全旅为上, 破旅次之; 全卒为上, 破卒次之; 全伍为上, 破伍次之。
    The methods to use the force are: best to take the enemy' city intact rather than destroy it. Better to capture the battalion than to destroy it ...
  • Chapter 4v11 古之所谓善战者,胜于易胜者也。
    The skilled warrior of the past win against the enemy who is easy to defeat.
  • Chapter 4v12 故善战者之胜也,无智名,无勇功,
    The skilled warrior of the past, their win brings no fame for wisdom nor boldness.
    (i.e. They do not start a war just to gain glory).
  • Chapter 6v33 夫兵形象水,水之行避高而趋下, 兵之形避实而击虚;
    Army formation should be like water that bypasses the height and flow downward. So, the formation should avoid the strength of the enemy and attack the weak or undefended.
  • Chapter 4v1 孙子曰:昔之善战者,先为不可胜,以待敌之可胜。
    The skilled warrior of the past first be undefeatable and wait for the opportunity to win against the enemy. (Wait for the enemy to make mistakes or instigate the enemy to make mistakes. He does not take unnecessary risks to attack first.).
  • Chapter 5v15 是故胜兵先胜而后求战,败兵先战而后求胜。
    The winners plan first to win and then ask for war; the lose first start a war and then seek to win. (Plan first and see if a win is possible. Never start a war without planning and analysis.)
Sun Zi Art of War is actually the Economics of War with an objective function of maximizing benefits with minimizing costs. Sun Zi is actually the great great grandfather of Operations Research!

The secret of Apple's success was described by Philip Yeo as "it was designed for dummies“. See The Message behind “Philip Yeo’s Apple Apps’ gullible dummies.

The Golden Rule for Designed for Dummies is
  • Minimum effort with Maximum Returns” or “MaxValue@ZeroCost”

So, here is the question for your consideration.
If you have to pick an opponent, which of the following would you choose?
  1. A weak opponent that you can easily defeat and no one think much of you.
  2. A strong opponent so that when you beat him everyone sings your praises.
Your answer reveals your understanding of Sun Zi's Art of War.

Lim Liat (C) 31 July 2014

24 July 2014

Mind-Mapping to Gain More with Less On Design Principles

There are many wonderful things we can learned from the internet Cloud. But we will benefit a lot more with a little more effort by drawing a mindmap about what we learned. Here is one on design principles.
Here is a good article on design, the Design Philosophies From the Masters where it gives 13 inspiring quotes about design.

13 is a bit too many for our memory retention. By drawing a mind-map about thr 13 quotes, I was forced to understand them better and ended up with only 4 principles on the tecnhique for design. Here is the mind-map for design principles:
The first two branches are strategic statements that we need to design well and design is about coveying  ideas for not just ease of understanding but also motivating enough to cause the reader to do something about it. The next four are techniques for design -

  1. go for harmony of diversity and not uniformity (let the strength of diversity show up but be not in conflict with each other but be supportive of each other).
  2. Simplicity with hidden depth and not just simplicity alone. The technique that I recommend and use is the principle of MiniMax ---- minimize the number of features we want but of the features selected, we go into greater depth to deliver the highest value.
    See also Mind Value: 10 Design Rules for the Dummies
  3. Differentiate - Be bold to be different from the common at least in just one small way.
  4. Emotional - The outcome should cause a Wow response to say I want it. There is a quote that says I don't care about what you say but I will never forget how you make me feel. 
Lim Liat (c) 24 July 2014

Inside vs Outside - Is Batman right?

Want to exercise your mind on some deep thinking?

Try this quote from 'Batman Begins'

"It's not who you are underneath. It's what you do that defines you."

Sounds like DengXP's "Not white or black cat. The one that catches the mice is a good cat".

Do you agree?

Consider this:
  • James 1:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 
  • James 1:26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
But, what about this:
and this
  • "for we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." (Rom. 3:28)
  • Matthew 5:28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
  • Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
  • Matthew 23:27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.
How to resolve this Inside-Outside mess?

The answer can be found in this Japanese Proverb:

Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.

So, Batman is only 50% correct if you are a kind teacher, else we can say such extreme view is completely wrong since half truth is actually a lie.

West vs East Mindset
This is the typical western mindset of Either OR.
The Chinese mindset of Yin-Yang will think of it as a coin with two sides, the head and the tail. A head side does not exist without the existence of the tail side.

The Chinese mind set has a set of fixed priniples based on values but are flexible in its applications. ( 仁义为本,权变为末). The application of the principles must always fit the people in the situations that they are in. To the superficial observer, the Chinese systems seems inconsistent, one time this, one time that. But the consistent principle is fit. Jesus said in Mark 2:22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins."

In today medical practice, it is called personalization ---- health supplements must fit the nature of the person's bodies. This is actually ancient TCM concept.

See Confucius as the Best Coach - Personalized Teaching

Don't be just a screwdriver and think that the world are all screws. Neither do we think we are a hammer, if we are not a screwdriver, and think the world are nails to be hammered!

Know about how they think differently from us, whether we be East or West, see
East West Fusion Mindset as a Key and as Simple as ABC

Lim Liat (c) 24 Jul 2014

14 July 2014

The Dao of Heaven is Abundance From Giving - DaoDeJing 81

True wisdom is understanding the extremes and maintaining the right balance. The Way/Dao of Heaven is the abundance that comes by giving. The Law of Mulitpling Returms from Giving, works for the natural world and also for man. These are very similiar to the teaching of the Bible too.

The first and last chapter of a book are probably the most significant part of the book. Lao Zi's Dao De Jing begins with  道可道,非常道 the Dao that can be described is not eternal Dao, telling us that the true understanding of Dao cannot be fully expressed in our limited langauge and mind. Nevertheless, he spent the remainder of the his book describing what the Dao is and how it works. The conclusion in Chapter 81, ends with:
The saints accumulate not. He that serve others possesses more. He that gives to others gain more.
天之道,利而不害;The laws of heaven bring benefits without any harm.
圣人之道,为而不争。The law of the saints is serving without competing.

The Law of Heaven and for Man is then about the multiplying effects of giving and serving without fighting to gain for oneself.

Most scholars and teachers think that Lao Zi is teaching us about selflessness, no action and the following of nature. But by going through the chapters of Dao De Jing as we have done, we can find that Lao Zi is teaching us about enlarging our self to include all, that we may give to all, and that the Law of Nature works by multiplying back the giving and returns in abundance of lives and things. It teaches us to serve and to give of ourselves and our possessions and that will bring forth a better and a more abundance world.

Here is the details of Dao De Jing 81 expressed in mind map format together with the relevant and similar Bible verses for your reference and reflection:
True Wisdom is:
1. What is on the outside and the inside may differs. Pleasing words, especially flattery words, are not trustworthy. It also works in reverse, trustworthy words, speaking the truth, may be hurting to us. We should guard ourselves against words that charms us. That is how con man deceive people.
2. Arguing to convince others may to be right way to fully persuade a person. Arguing may just makes a person more defensive and angry and could never be convinced. The good and persuasive person works on our thoughts and desires first and walk through our reasonging that we may discover for ourselves our own errors and do our own correction without any arguments!
3. Since time and effert are limited, if we want to understand something deeper, we need to narrow down the scope. On the other hand, if we want to see something in perspective, we should broaden our scope. By going higher up to see farer and going down to see the details, we get to understand a subject better. Don't misinderstand this verse to stop us from being broadminded or being an expert in a narrow field. There is no value judgement in the verse. It is just statement of fact of constraint and we need to know how to work the constraint that we face in life. Choose wisely.

The Secret of Abundance is:
The secret of abundance is counter-intutive. We thought we should accumulate to get more. But in a world of interdependency and exchanges, it is the more value we give, the more returns we will get. In a network work, the multiplying effect works both way, for good or for bad. The Dao of Heaven, the Order of Nature, or the Will of God will ensure this law of multiplication works all the time.

Lim Liat (c) 15 July 2014

09 July 2014

How Wise Are You? Lao Zi can tell in DaoDeJing 27

Can wisdom be measured? Lao Zi thought so and gave some very high standards in DaoDeJing 27.  It is about perfection without traces, zeor defects and 100% people being taken of, including the good and the bad people. Wisdom is ever learning and teaching others all the time. It contains the elements of love to care for all and also to do them quietly without seeking any glory. People who claim they are wise and yet not helping others are still in darkness. Dare to challenge yourself and see if you measure up by looking at the mind-map below:

DaoDeJing 道德经 27:

I have included wisdom from Confucius and Jesus Christ that have similar sayings in the above mind-map. Lao Zi said that any good work should leave no trace for people to praise you. Jesus said that we should not let the even the other hand know what one hand is doing! Confucius' famous saying on love includes the part to help others too, when one is able. It is like Jesus saying do unto others what you like others do unto you. Lao Zi said that love should be included in true wisdom. Wisdom without love is still blur! People who are self-centred and without concern for others are actually not wise.

Hope you gain some lessons from this teaching like I did as shown in the mind-map.

Have a good and meaningful day with showing some concern for those around you.

Lim Liat (c) 9 July 2014

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A Leader Holds Things in Balance and Reject Not -- DaoDeJing 28
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04 July 2014

Anchoring & Reflecting to Master Change and Stress - DaoDeJing 26

Two keys for sustainable success in this busy world of changes is recommended by Lao Zi. They are a strong foundation and taking frequent rest to ensure the actions follow from the foundation. They apply to our personal life and also to the businesses that we run.
The world of increasing changes and competitions cause many people to be overly anxious and active. Being busy, or too busy, is perhaps their way to resolving their worry;giving no time to worry. They confuse busyness as productive activities. They should recall Parkinson's law that says "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion". Distracted by their present successes to ignore the impending changes.

How then can we tell what are the meaningful and important activities ?
We must first have a set of foundational values or principles to be the measuring standards.
Then we just have to monitor all activities through the lens of our values and principles. Stephen covey principles centered leadership. Jim Collins uses level 5 leadership, hedgehog principles of sticking to the cause, the vision.

Here is the translation and interpretations of Dao De Jing 26 in a mind-map format:

Application 1 Worry and Stress:
Are you under great stress? Are you anxious and not knowing what to do? Are you miserable and angry?

Lao Zi suggests that you take a break, a rest to reflect on your values of life. What are the values you should hold on to and are you deviating from those values? If there be any deviations from your values, then take the actions to correct them. If there be not, then have the peace that you are doing the right things and continue on even though it may seems difficult. The best cure to worry and stress is to face them and examine your values and the facts.

Application 2 Corporation Renewal:
Businesses often fail when they leave their original values due to the busyness brought about by their success. Apple was built on elegance and simplicity of use. Over time, they just build lots and lots of products hoping to increase the revenues. They got into big problems that the original founder that they fired earlier, Steve Jobs, was brought back to save the company. Steve Jobs did the very thing that make Apple successful. He killed most of the products and go back the very busy of making Mac computer with translucent and sexy exterior and ease of use OS (based on Next).
What were the original values and value propositions that make your company successful?
How are you implementing and releasing those values in your products, services, solutions and branding? How are your making them?

Lim Liat (c) 4 July 2014

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How Wise Are You? Lao Zi can tell in DaoDeJing 27
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