Top 10 Great Ideas in 2018 from the Field-Walk

Hey, I am back after long hiatus (exactly 1 year!). Been super busy, I will make more commitment this year. One article at least per month. Let’s work it out. 🙂

This post is about Ideas that I have personally observed that were generated by participant of our Design Thinking Innovation workshops in 2018. I started compiling these ideas and take note how popular these ideas among the participants. I also have super great news that some ideas in 2017 became reality and being implemented (some at national level!), it was thrilling feeling to see this happening.

Now let me share 10 Great Ideas in 2018:

  1. Thrash for Wifi access. This idea came from Sabahan because internet cost for mobile is quite expensive to Sabahan graduates and average household. Therefore they rely (especially youth) on public wifi. The youth willing to collect thrash around the cities and in return they get wifi access (via coupons or digital link)
  2. Smoking ban in public place. This idea came from several groups during early 2018. It was laughed at and ridiculed by mostly smokers because of the wide scope of the implementation. Interestingly, now at the time of writing, smoking is now completely banned in public eateries nationwide and progressing to wider coverage by 2019 end.
  3. Open banking, share all banking data in one app or one source. This interesing fintech ideas came from several banks and customers. It used to be each bank collect their own customer data and they shouldn’t (and couldn’t) share it with other bank. For example if you are a user of credit card from Bank A, if you are applying another credit card for Bank B, they wouldn’t know. This became a problem especially if the customer is a bad paymaster of credit card Bank A. The problem later might spill to Bank B. On the other hand, if you are a great paymaster, your credit ratings improved, your data is shared with other banks, you become a highly sought customers from various banks. That’s the advantage.
  4. Trap rubbish at the river or drainage using mesh. This idea came from people in flood-prone areas. The flash flood usually happened in rainy season and caused major traffic problem. One of the problems are clogged drainages and rising water from the rivers because of thrash! While it is understandable we shouldn’t throw rubbish, I personally found the thrash sometimes from factories because of the quantities are massive. So to effectively and efficiently clean up the river, using wire or nylon mesh to trap the river would be quick.
  5. Auditors and HR staffs are from business departments and branch operations. This fabulous ideas came from multiple banks. The audit and HR departments found out 2 major problems. First, these two departments are not well liked by the staffs because of poor misperception. Second, most staffs joined these two departments are juniors hence little operations and business experiences. Consequently, most of their work deemed lack substance and lack empathy. An insight surfaced, those with experiences that joined audit and HR department tend to be more matured and heightened empathy. They also managed to convince their former colleagues to be more receptive and cooperative in bringing the business to the next level!
  6. Video conference for long distance meeting. This idea came from government officials that live far from the headquarters. Some had to travel 8-10 hours for an hour meeting. To cut time, cost of travel and health bills, the use of video conferencing could effectively and efficiently for both parties. Let’s use meeting for key decision making. Hopefully the next phase of national broadband plan in 2019 will be spearheaded faster than expected. Faster connection will definitely help!
  7. Tax break for donations by the public to schools and universities. It is true and evident the government funds to schools are getting lesser by the year due to various reasons. It is also true and evident, most parents would want to donate (and willing) to donate for schools where their kids studies. Tax is a very good tool for the government to use to invite this “money on the table” by giving tax breaks (double if possible).
  8. HR to drive innovation capabilities development. This idea came repetitively from banks and MNCs pointing that many HR “waits” for business departments request for innovation program. HR in their views still see “innovation” as technical know-how, technology-based and only for selected people. HR as the people builder needs to step up quickly grasp the big gap of innovation capabilities by launching innovation training programs and workshops because innovation today and beyond is everybody’s business.
  9. Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered & gravity dumb-bell. It turns out a lot of people want to get fit by using dumb bell (including me). The insight we found that a lot of people don’t know what kind and how much weight they should do that will effectively help them meet their goals. Using AI & gravity, user only need to buy one dumb bell of this kind and start getting fit progressively, without having to own a whole rack of those bells!
  10. Launch fintech fast to collect data. Fintech is pervasive these days, many local banks turn confused what they should do actually. They found many banks took very long time to think “analytically and holistically” so much so go to market become painstakingly long. The idea is about fast launch of basic fintech products & services for example CASA account, children account or loan application with primary purpose to collect data and learn from it before even considering the full blown product. This could make sense because by the day there are many more technology players in this area, therefore investing in sophisticated technology may not pay off in the long run. Think about it.


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Happy New Year 2019!



Talent Development Program For High Potential Employees

In Malaysia, talent development program for the high potential is on the rise right now. In a forum Talent Development and Succession Planning that I attended recently (April 2014), it was clear that many organizations and companies are now revving up talent program for the high potentials. But why? The obvious reason is to make sure their organizations possess the right people  and at the right place to continue what the present leaders do and take it steps ahead. For business organization it is for growth and for the government for national development.


Most organizations (businesses and government) do this program either through retaining the existing talents by providing them developmental “wings” so that they can fly or by attracting external talents to meet the business needs. In general, most organizations use a hybrid of the two methods to ensure steady talent pipelines. Most organizations also noticed the limited information about high potentials program locally. Each organization rely heavily on international external expertise for some ideas. Slowly we generate our own variation of high potentials program to meet our business needs. That’s what I saw recently that the time is ripe for the next trajectory to truly understand what’s best for the talents here and based on what we already know from our past experiences in high potentials programs, what should we do next? We should have a good reference from a comprehensive research of what have been done and implemented, what are their impact, what is the link to the business, how could we do it better and how much did we spend for high potentials program.

High potentials program = Corporate athletes. They need to be identified, nurtured and supported to achieve better performance.

In a 2013 report by a survey done University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill, around 56% organizations now have a formal process to identify high potential employees, whilst almost 40% have no formal process and the rest discontinued their high potential talent development programs. Let me share a little bit more about the findings in this report. Somehow I could related some of it to the forum. In the talent forum where I attended (April 2014), I could see that there are many program of variations on how organizations implement high potentials development program. In most companies, high potential talent makes about 10% of the employees’ populations. The largest employee population is the average (fort holders) around 80% and the remaining 10% is the low performers. Some companies with deeper pocket have luxurious high potentials program, whilst some have rule of thumbs and empower the managers to engage the talents continuously as part of the overall high potentials programs. Each method has its own merit.


More about UNC report. The report from UNC highlighted that as many as 83% companies identify the high potentials to meet the increased demand for leaders as well as to retain key talents. Additional reason to identify high potentials are to improve overall organizational performance (76%) and to adapt to changing business conditions (57%). Whilst we could see the strong and valid for organization to find out their high potentials, only 2% of the organizations are extremely satisfied with their current process of talents identification, very satisfied (27%) and moderately satisfied (52%). This is an interesting insight because more than 50% think there is a better way to do it. This is what I mean of sharing best practices among the companies could help all of make better talent decision in the future.


Another interesting insight is almost half (47%) of the current talent pool doesn’t meet anticipated future needs of the organization. This is similar to the quote by someone in marketing, “I know that I lose 50% of my budget in marketing, but I don’t know which half.” On the other hand, as many as 84% organization admitted that the demand for high potentials has changed in the past 5 years.

Internal employees should be given opportunity to be identified as high potentials. Some are reluctant leaders for various reasons including access and educational qualification. Strong sense of purpose is key in a thriving organizations for a successful talent development program.

The same report also indicated several key reasons and key drivers of high potentials. They are growth (74%), competitive pressure (61%), dynamic business models (50%), globalization (44%), attrition/turnover (39%) and technological advancement (36%). On the other hand, organizations also conveyed that the primary reasons why the decrease of high potentials programs are lack of attrition/turnover (61%) and lack of business growth (50%). I could infer that whilst organizations agreed that ideally growth, competitive pressures and dynamic business model would inject better needs for them to embark on high potential programs, however, the lack of staffs turnover and slowed growth can’t afford them to go full swing as it involves huge investment.


In conclusion, there are several contradiction answers from the organizations participating in this survey but it certainly provide a good baseline information for further understanding of high potential programs. You could see the constraint of organizations, bearish business conditions, highly demanded talents but not enough resources to bring them in as well as challenges of high potentials to be integrated in the current company culture.


I would like to offer some suggestions that could help business leaders and their HR leaders to make better decision when it comes to high potentials program. These suggestions are my personal view from what I know and I observe.


1. Have a good baseline study through a comprehensive internal data collection on all talent development and leadership initiatives and the impact to the business. They can do this by bringing in good researcher with adequate business experiences that can talk “business sense”. Let the organization and HR do what they do best and work with the researcher by providing data.


2. Have a good chat with the business leaders to get a good sense of where the business is heading and what are the challenges they see coming in 3-5 years. With hyper-competition and long tail economy, things are likely to change faster than expected.


3. Develop a good and integrated identification program to get internal employees offer themselves as part of high potentials. This provide opportunity for current employees to get full understanding of high potentials program and they would understand better if you need to bring in external talents to be part of the team later.


4. For internal employees that become high potentials, you must design and develop a strong program to renovate the way they think and redesign their job roles to fit in the high potentials track. After some time in the previous, they need a strong program to undo certain departmental beliefs and increased expectations.


5. Demand performance in all areas for all high potentials and at the same time show sincerity and authenticity to support their personal development. Try to get independent counselor or coach once a while and let them have a private chat. This helps the high potentials to have a different “talks” and get different views on matters that is important to them and the organizations they serve.

Business leaders and HR leaders should be transparent of their future needs and pain points. These leaders must be honest with each other in fair minded discussion with shared interest of the organizations.

I will be sharing more in my next post on types of programs that are currently being done in some organizations and what are the top competencies needed from high potentials. Stay tune.


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3D – Managing The Millennials – Discover the Core Competencies Managing Today’s Workforce (Part 2)

continue on Part 2.


16. Three behavioural competencies needed to effectively managing the Millennials employees:

  1. Adapting – willing to accept a Millennial employee doesn’t have same experiences, values or frame of reference that you had when you were the same age. You got to suspend own biases and adjust your management style.
  2. Communicating – ability to make a connection at a relational level. Able to stay engaged even when both parties are frustrated because sometimes tension can escalate to emotional conflict.
  3. Envisioning – ability to create both meaning and accountability for the Millennials employee. Able to connect their personal goals and aspirations with the organization objectives.


17. Negative stereotype can adversely impact the willingness of a managerial leader to mentor or help young person – particularly when the older employees sees the younger as an economic threat. Managerial leaders may also put off by attitudes and behaviours that are not consistent with their own. And the worse is the managerial leaders decided not to engage at all or do it condescendingly. Studies show that people who receive constant negative feedback often show lower levels of effort as a result.


18. The Millennials work to live – not live to work. That does not mean they are lazy. It does not mean that they do not want to work. They want to work that is meaningful. If there is a disconnect between the experienced and the young, odds are that tacit knowledge will not be retained in the organization.


19. Millennials value being rewarded. Not just the usual ones like increase in pay, bonuses and promotions. They also want time-off and the opportunity in community projects during company time. The stress that you have has to do with perceived unrealistic expectations on the part of the Millennials. Here the three keys to incenting Millennials:

  1. Create incentives that twentysomething value
  2. Clearly and thoroughly state desired outcomes and expectations
  3. Provide timely and fair assessment of their performance

20. Millennials value self expression. They have both a desire and a need to make their mark on the world. They enthusiastically embrace change and thrive on brainstorming, creating and problem solving. Creativity doesn’t generally fit a mechanistic or efficiency model. Many managers struggle with cultivating the imagination of Millennials because they manage job description rather than people. In fact, talking about working together you are better off being an autocratic than faking collaboration.


21. Millennials has a lot of need for an audience. Simply because they are used to it already from their childhood days. You got to be emphatic, get closer, be curious and grow them. And you don’t have to; Try to like them, not be like them and rethink what you have been taught.

22. Some of the things managers have been taught by their superiors on managing younger ones:

  1. Don’t get close to them, because you may have to fire them someday.
  2. Don’t think it is wise to fraternize and become drinking buddies with them.
  3. Familiarity breeds contempt, and sooner and later they will use something against me.
  4. You have to keep clear lines between staff and management or else they will get confused.
  5. HR won’t let me hang out with them, they it is too risky. 


23. Achievement is the intrinsic value that drives the Millennials need to be affirmed. Feedback that is not being interpreted as being affirming is met with anything from incredulity to counterattack – not only by them by sometimes their parents as well. This explains the new mix of defensive young employees and interventionist helicopter parents confronting managers today. This is attributed largely to change in parenting style. Defensiveness can also manifest such as taking offense, unwillingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions, guardedness, resentment, and anger. In the workplace these are often seen in response to criticism and evaluation.


24. Previous generations may have used “why” to signal defiance, but more often than not, Millennials really do want to know why. They have been encouraged to ask why at home, at school, and now they are asking why at work. The reality is that resistance is closer to commitment than compliance. Resistance can be anywhere between compliance and commitment. It is common for lifelong friendships to start with a conflict. Managers who accept compliance as a sign of commitment will find it difficult to develop others or to lead organizational challenge.


25. Applicable advice when managing Millennials:

  1. Resist the temptation to argue, be fair
  2. Acknowledge their feelings, their point, their competence and your differences
  3. Shift the encounter away from positional bargaining to joint problem solving
  4. Help them to save face
  5. Ask them for constructive criticism
  6. Reaffirm the relationship
  7. Aim for mutual satisfaction, not victory


26. To be without emotionally hooked so you can effectively manage the Millennials, you need to become self-differentiating. This is important because poorly differentiated managerial leaders find it difficult to continue a relationship with people who disagree with them or who are not considered to be on their team. If you are a manager, you must know that your technical skills allow you to be promoted into management, but your ability to self regulate and relate to others will determine your level of success. Relationship is not merely a function of structure and power but dependent on a manager’s ability to relate to others. Self differentiating may be the hardest competency to do well because it demands the most of you. It will also be the most fulfilling because it will impact every area of your life. Many people confuse their role and their person. You are much greater than your role. It is part of who you are, but not equal to who you are. When your role is over you still exist.


27. To get the Millennials understand the big picture is to engage in a learning process that is involving, presents complexity, and allows the learner to challenge institutional assumptions. The best managers intuitively know this and create orientations, provide training, and teach through learning activities. Simplicity is key to Millennials, but not simplistic. As a manager you can also use broadening – teaching consequences and helping to connect the dots. You can also share the information you get such as what is going on in the company or at your own level of responsibility can help them to think beyond their own cubicle.


28. To the Millennials high achievement is important. They want to know exactly what they have to do to be successful. They fear taking a wrong step or making bad decision. In fact they would rather not make a decision at all than make the wrong one. Their ability to work in teams often masks their fear of making bad decisions on their own. Working on a team affords Millennials the psychological comfort of sharing the burden of making a mistake. Great managers anticipate when their Millennials need a new challenge and try to create opportunities for them before they become unfocused. Simply because Millennials they are easily bored with their job description. At the same time, you got to allow them to make mistakes and learn. A point of caution, while you feel they know what is expected and equipped to do it, most of the time they don’t know what to do and where to begin. A simple way to direct and ascertain readiness:

  1. I explain what I will do
  2. I do it and you watch me
  3. We do it together
  4. You do it and I watch you
  5. You do it on your own
  6. You explain what you did


29. Millennials need to find meaning in their work. It is a poor quality of discontent when employees feel they are not safe at work. We would say that the quality of discontent is high when employees complain of not seeing their imprint on product or service. We have to reinvent our management systems, so they inspire human beings to bring all their capabilities to work every day. The following are human capability that contributes to competitive success i.e. value creation by Gary Hamel:

  1. Obedience – Taking direction and following rules (nevertheless, when it comes to value creation or competitive success, rule following employees don’t contribute because it is a product of passion and creativity)
  2. Diligence – Being accountable and not taking shortcuts
  3. Intellect – Smart, eager to improve skills, and willing to borrow ideas from others
  4. Initiative – Do not wait to be told and seek out new ways to add value
  5. Creativity – Inquisitive, irrepressible, and not afraid to say stupid things
  6. Passion – Climb over obstacles and refuse to give up

30. As a manager, you need to engage the massive middle group. This group is the group of neither here nor there. They are lost but yet productive in some ways. They are the occupants of the middle part in typical bell curve. These are their general characteristics:

  1. Often feel unable to commit to tasks that hold little meaning for them.
  2. They have strong reservations about jobs they are asked to do; as a result, they approach them half-heartedly.
  3. Rather than acknowledging a problem and taking steps to correct it, they convince themselves that the problem does not exist.
  4. They are often plagued with feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, anger, frustration and alienation.


Hope you will benefit and gain as much as I do. Reading the full content of the book definitely give you extra understanding of Managing The Millennials. Cheerz! 🙂


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