What If You Can Trap CO2?

I was waiting  for my laptop to boot, somehow it takes longer today than any other day. I then turn and flip some magazines  – found a company called Climeworks. They were listed as one of the innovators in climate action business. Pretty cool! Actually their climate solution is focusing on decarbon the air. They call it “Active Air Capture”.

Basically the solution works by blowing air through reusable filters that chemically trap CO2 (Carbon Dioxide). Then heating the saturated filters to release the gas then inject it underground to bind with basaltic rock, which can hold it indefinitely. Wohauu!!

I headed on to their website and found this. Climeworks work with three main sectors namely Food & Beverage, Greenhouses and Energy, Fuels & Materials. What I found interesting was in Food & Beverage – where CO2 is needed to make carbonated drinks, here they want CO2! See below – from Climeworks website

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 12.17.50 AM

Source: http://www.climeworks.com/our-customers/food-beverage/

Apparently in F&B business, they need CO2 to do this activities such as packing fresh meat & vegetables, gas for draft beers and softdrinks and dry ice for freezing & chilling food.

It is interesting because of the cyclical model of CO2. As it explains in the picture above. The CO2 release will be captured back and used back in carbonating the drinks! Violaa!

As for farmers in greenhouses, raising CO2 level could increase yield as much as 20%! The best part this CO2 is renewable. Check out their table below:

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 12.22.21 AM

Source: http://www.climeworks.com/our-customers/greenhouses/

Personally I feel this technology works best in certain environment, as Climeworks based  in Iceland. I am not sure whether this method works in other place. The model looks convincing, nonetheless.

Some other considerations is the capacity of capturing the CO2 and release it back as renewable energy into sectors that use CO2. Wondering whether there’s such a thing called CO2 trading online using blockchain technology.

You can get more information here www.climeworks.com

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Top Five Great Ideas in 2017 From “The Field”

In 2017, my team and I met more than 1,000 people from multiple workshops throughout the year when we ran our flagship training,  Design Thinking Innovation workshop. The significance of design thinking workshop is in the fieldwork, which I’d like to call as ‘The Field”. During the fieldwork, the trainees last year interviewed between 2,000-3,000 people last year.

From those multiple workshops we had, they generated lots and lots of ideas. The following were the Top Five Great Ideas in 2017:

 

1.Student loan (PTPTN) becomes the employer’s benefits for employees. 

Most employees, young executives particularly carry substantial student loan – around RM 30,000 – RM 45,000 (locally known as PTPTN). Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 8.58.49 PM.png

*Source: iMoney

These loans were part of their commitment when they study in local universities. Part of the deal with PTPTN, once the students graduated they need to repay back to PTPTN. Somehow this didn’t happen as effective as both parties wished, PTPTN overall repayment rate is very poor, only 3% .

What if the PTPTN loan is taken over by the employers as part of employees benefits? It could be carve out from the insurance provision or medical benefits. Someone from Compensation & Benefits (ComBen) in HR department could advise this better. Or maybe if you have thousands of staffs with PTPTN loan, it certainly could amount to few millions RM, how about having a company to manage this loans? Well, something to think through.

 

2. Children bank account package just like we used to have 30 years ago.

Wither children bank accounts in our local bank? You probably noticed that many banks these days do not really have an attractive children bank account like we used to have aeons ago such as Yippee, Bank Bumiputra and Tabung Haji (where you get a replica of Tabung Haji building as your coin box). I opened bank account for my kids recently and few years ago, then I received a link via SMS from the bank – excited then I clicked the link – the I was upset – because it was a bad link (automated from their system but poorly maintained either by the marketing department or webmaster – yes let’s start the blame game!)

From “The Field”, we found a lot of respondents wondering why the bank no longer offer beautifully designed children bank account. Actually later I found the answer from some senior bank managers who said, “deposits are outdated, banks prefer offering financing these days.” I was rather upset because the answers we “soooo like bankers”. LOLS. Haven’t they heard Fintech? LOLS

What if the local bank could revive and rejuvenate children bank accounts once again? Make investment and saving as part of everyday lingo in the family. These days, saving and investment is missing in children’s vocab, all they know is buying this and that. I know some local banks offer children bank acccount, most of it dull. Make it fun and exciting please!

 

3. Investment account that’s accessible by “normal and average Joe”

Normal and average Joe has only saving account. Many roll up their eyes when we talk about investment products from banks. They either just haven’t heard about it from the bank or they just said the bankers tell them these investment products are only for the HNWI (high net worth individuals).

Again, I was rather upset because the answers we “soooo like bankers”. LOLS. Haven’t they heard Fintech in Wealth Management? LOLS

What if the bank could give access to their simple product that usually require RM 100k deposits from one HNWI to “100 normal people and average Joe that have RM 1k for investment and wealth creation?”

product-discoverability4

Source: Centric Digital

 

4. Make Top Management (Senior Vice Presidents and C-suites) teaching in the company

The knowledge gap in the company (especially tacit and implicit) is growing wider. The gap is widely seen between the Top Management and Middle Management to Entry level Executives could only be fixed not with hiring external consultants or run training programs after training programs or coordinate leadership development programs after programs, ratther companies have to start to look for the solution internally.

The challenge is often, the management is asking the wrong question and always in a hurry to look for the right answer. The question they usually asked is “why our knowledge gap is getting wider?” which is looking for the right answer. Instead the appropriate question should be, “how to accelerate the spread of knowledge between the management faster?” which is to explore possibilities. One of the popular ideas generated in our workshop is to “teach the top management how to teach their managers”.

What if we could teach leaders how to teach their strengths and transfer their skills? Further research would validate this idea that General Electric (GE) have done this many years ago via Crotonville University.

Things+Leaders+Do+GE_s+Jeff+Immelt+on+the+10+keys+to+great+leadership.

Source: Slideplayer

5. “Dress down” day to Productivity

In Malaysia, the proliferation of new generations as the workforce is already between 50-70% at the executives and junior managers level. Some companies that have thousands of employees, could save money from providing uniforms for white collar executives and junior managers. In some companies, the top management still frowned upon the concept of “Dress down” day. The concept allows the employees to dress with anything they like within the formality guidelines, although some companies have little guidelines, having something to rely on will do more good than harm.

The new generation prefer freedom of expression and they do have nice collection of wardrobe simply because fashion these days are cheaper and with so many options. Therefore allowing them to “dress down” in most of the days, it will give them the “extra benefits” to stay in the company and would boost their morale and consequently productivity while working in the organization. In other words, when you allow them to wear jeans, slip on shoes, hoodies etc, they will work harder.

In our interviews with the millenials respondents, that was the feedback and the great idea was “Dress down day”. Check out this analysis from NY Post on “Dress down and productivity”.

What if “Dress down day” could boost productivity and increased morale of the employees, would that save the company in medical bills and unproductive work habits? Of course, save of the uniform tailoring too!

dress-down-day-or-no

Well, those are the Top Five Great Ideas in 2017. I will be sharing more stuffs and great ideas from “The Field” from my LinkedIn-Khairul Anwar. See you there!

Brickbats? Email me at donkhairul@gmail.com 

Megatrends 2020 and Beyond, Quick Summary

I have been wanting to write this Megatrends post for some time, its just I couldn’t. I was going through multiple reports on Megatrends from the net and they are very exciting. I also read some books to dig deeper into the subject and trying to find out what is it all about.

Here are the Quick Summary from various sources, which I will provide you the links at the bottom of this post.

  1. DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE – In all megatrends report, demographic change becomes the central theme that’s driving all the other elements. I still remember Drucker’s word in one of his chapters titled “Sources of Innovation”. He said, “when there’s huge demographic change we should expect huge change in other variables.” Demographic change includes ageing population, drop in birth rates, people live longer, greater access to basic needs, access to education and urbanization.
  2. ENVIRONMENT SUCCESSION – Many called it crisis, I prefer the word “Succession”. Dr Thomas Friedman in his book “Thank You For Being Late”, called it “Mother Nature”. We need to make sure we are able to successfully cater to few more billions people in the next 2-3 decades. This include access to food, water, energy and air. When we have more people, we need more space. When we need more space, we clear the environment to make way to housing etc. All of us need to be creative in consuming. As it is our consumption habits may not be sustainable in the long run. Hence I prefer the sharing economy.
  3. MACHINES & TECHNOLOGY – The “rapid feeling of change” that we feel today started around 2006 & 2007 (Tom Friedman). It is the time in between when Facebook & Apple technology hit the market. Fast forward 10 years later, all the technology converged and “gave birth” to Industry 4.0. Now, you can feel the word “disruption” and it is not going to stop. There’s a lot of development in internet, telecommunication, smart factories, artificial intelligence, robotics, data analytics, automation, virtual reality, IoT and digital solutions. You will probably gain more insights by reading Moore’s Law on how technology double itself in almost every year these days.
  4. MONEY MODELS – Whilst not many Megatrends cover this specifically, I intend to add on and highlight this as an important trend. The freenomics is an interesting money model. The rise of social enterprise also a trend that corporations need to consider integrating in their overall business strategy. The sharing economy is creatively emerged as the way forward for us to adapt to new pattern of consumption. As the number of connected population increases, innovative money models certainly more sustainable for any organizations.
  5. PERSONAL EXPRESSION – This trend is covered in one of the reports which I found important to point out. Most people have more choices now. Thanks to wealth created from various economic entry points. Consequently, corporations are struggling to meet everyone’s need (although it is impossible, similarly impossible vice versa!). This includes the way people want to work, what they want to wear & use (brands & functional), how they think, when they want to be with their families, who they want to be their boss and so on. This will demand more flexible, adaptable and much less command & control organization. I remember reading PwC report back in early 2000, about the future of work, it says something like this, “in the future there’ll be a few large organizations and these organizations are served by SME, micro enterprises and independent experts.”
  6. GEOPOLITICS – Several of the reports covered this topic. I could agree that geopolitics is also important. Our economies are more integrated than ever before. When some nations in crisis, some other nations are in growth mode. Some countries have more money and on shopping spree around the world. This posed a new dynamics in terms of culture and national income. The big trading nations such as China, USA, Russia, Brazil, UK (?), Euro (?), Middle East (?), Asean countries (?) and thriving ground for new market. Then there’s war going on in some parts of the world, war-mongering attitudes around neighbouring countries and strained international relations.

 

Khairul in the opinion that in the coming years and beyond 2020, human values becoming very central and core to nation, organization and personal development. Be nice to others, because we can!

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

www.designthinking.com.my

Sources:

  1. http://www.ey.com/gl/en/issues/business-environment/ey-megatrends
  2. https://www.pwc.co.uk/issues/megatrends.html
  3. http://www.haygroup.com/leadership2030/about-the-megatrends.aspx
  4. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/books/review/thomas-friedman-thank-you-for-being-late.html?_r=0
  5. Top 20 Global Mega Trends and Their Impact on … – Frost & Sullivan

Great Leaders Teach

Leadership is today’s buzz word akin to management in the 1980’s. You probably have been asked at least once, “Are you a leader or manager?”. Of course the right answer is “leader” because it is incumbent that all of us must be one, at least to be relevant in today’s organization. But how to become great leader?

Robin Sharma once in his book said that a leader decides which mountains to climb and a manager decides how to climb it efficiently. I think that analogy makes it easier to distinguish the function of leader v. manager. I juggle both most of the time and I believe most of us do the same. Right?

I was at a client’s office late afternoon last week. I was waiting for the Chairman long enough to strike a conversation with one of the managers, whom happened to be the Human Resource Manager. She is leading the organization’s academy and we exchanged smiles – and we talk. Replying to her question, I said my coaching is targeted to top talent – making top talents even better and hopefully they stay longer. Besides, my leadership program for managers and leaders is to enable them learn how to teach. She shared her stories of going through a particular coaching program, NLP programs, EQ and so on. She is a very prolific manager and hungry for new knowledge. She is quick to share her coaching experiences with talents around her but except these talents are not internal but external to her organization. According to her it is not possible to share her knowledge internally because no one would appreciate – she hasn’t tried yet. She hasn’t got over the feeling yet to drive the coaching initiative for her organization. She doesn’t know where to start. What a waste.

Large organizations are endowed with this wealth of experienced managers and leaders at all areas. They are groomed from ground up (most of them), defended the organizations through thick and thin and possess deep knowledge of the organization trade secrets. Unfortunately they don’t have the platform to showcase and transfer this latent and tacit knowledge embedded in them for years. So much knowledge sedimented in the same body and brain for years. These are not top leaders and senior management that may come and go – I am referring to prolific managers and leaders that are on the ground; servicing the customers and take the brickbats from their direct reports. We must do something.

One of the ways to scoop out this deep seated knowledge is through making these managers and leaders learn how to teach. This “teaching approach” has been used by General Electric, PepsiCo, Southwest Airline, Home Depot, Cisco, DARPA and many global organizations. Just look at yourself, someone must have taught you well. So it worked! Hence, we need to make our organizations teach and learn from each other. Best if the top management learn how to teach their experiences and the rest will ultimately follow.

You can start by getting the managers and leaders go deep down themselves to truly understand what is it they are very good at. This is call Teachable Point Of View (TPOV). Jack Welch (former CEO of GE) in his own words said, “As a great leader, you need to have teachable point of view.” TPOV helps managers to focus on their ultimate strengths and dissect them into learning curriculum. Say for example a Marketing Manager may be good at product launching. So he will create his TPOV based on product launching. He will gather all his experiences related to product launch (its successes and failures) and organize it to match his organization needs – and the best part he is doing this to teach his engineering department about product launching! This applies to all other managers and leaders from various department.

Coming back to the Human Resource Manager, her eyes lit up when I shared that with her. She now plan to make 2015 as her experimental year from just a manager to becoming a great leader through teaching. Wish her good luck!

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Innovation Lessons Worth Heeding

“The culture of innovation is across the globe is more robust than ever. We think that’s worth celebrating.” –

Robert Safian, Editor Fast Company

 

Fast Company Magazine, March 2014

I received Fast Company March 2014 edition on high note because it is packed with ideas on innovation and innovative companies list from around the world. I feel extremely motivated and inspired. I love innovation and I’d one day dream of getting into innovation in education. Well I am working on it block by block.

In this edition, Fast Company covers a list of 50 Most Innovative Companies together with 10 companies from 10 sectors and loaded with things these companies did, do and going to do on innovation front. Most of these companies are tech-based ranging from apps (Dropbox), medical (Medivation), communication (Google), tech centre (iHub), smart phone (Xiaomi), engineering (GE), elelctrical (Tesla and Philips) and genomics (Beijing Genomics Institute). A long list indeed and I bet some of the companies were unheard of. But I rather attracted to the innovation lessons in Fast Company March 2014 edition and there are truly motivating for me to share. There are 12 altogether, but for relevance I cut it short.

LESSON 1 – EXCEPTIONAL IS EXPECTED

This is about focus, focus and focus. Google tops the list for this one for its ability to focus in Search business. You can refer to Google company website and they will say the same thing. While it is extremely difficult to apply focus when you are a start-up, many people think it is easier for the big companies. Trust me it is equally difficult or worse. Focus breeds exceptional quality and mastery. In the world where “innovation” is ubiquitous, exceptional product will stand out. It is those that holds the red umbrella among the blacks will be seen and that’s truly exceptional. We need to really think through our product so it becomes exceptional before we launch it. Once launched and spotted as red umbrella, it has to deliver promises. It is expected these days. If you think you don’t cant make it exceptional yet, communicate that to your customers. They are more than happy to oblige and help you achieve your next goal.

LESSON 2 – INNOVATION IS EPISODIC

I had experience this 1st hand and unfortunately it wasn’t a pleasant one but good learning. When developing product, speed is the name of the game. Sometimes, too much information is not a good thing. My advise is to keep some nascent stage innovation on stealth mode (under the radar). Only people that need to know knows. To announce it big at nascent stage will kill every idea even before it starts. Next is to develop basic product fast enough and learn from it and make adjustment as we go along (with a strict timeline). We call it prototype and prototype is for testing. However non-product developers may not understand this and always use labeling like lousy product even during at prototyping stage. It is incomplete product and it has to evolve. It is episodic but it certainly has continuity. In education for example, there’s already matured science in learning but if you force down the teachers throat to change you can backlash. Pick your right beta-testers and launch it stealth mode.

LESSON 3 – MAKING MONEY MATTERS

When you talk to hard core product developers, money isn’t a big thing. I know how it feels because I have been there once and I learn my lessons. Product developers love their product sacredly. But we have to pay bills to survive the company and the idea, and therefore when you think you want to launch a nicely packaged product but you cant sell, that’s bad news. Try to get something that you can sell even for small amount because money matters. Get up and grow it further.

LESSON 4 – UNLOCKING GLOBAL TALENT UNLOCKS POSSIBILITY

I have a friend who is doing code programming using talents around the world where specifications are mostly done online through email, skype and chat. When the prototype is ready for test and they test a few rounds online then towards the final stage they meet to fix it. Client is rope in during prototyping stage and collaboratively enhance product effectiveness. There is also services right now for product testers (these are talents too!). This efficiency can be emulate but human touch is critical in this kind of relationship. In education this is not a distant future because technology enabled education is already a big opportunity, check MOOC. Technology has allowed most of us to get connected and magic happens on daily basis.

LESSON 5 – PASSION IS UNDERRATED

There is a saying that “do what you love”. But I am in the opinion that at the beginning you have to try to love what you are doing because you are starting out. Not many people get to do what they love at first, slowly they understand themselves better and make a choice to do what they love later in life. If you are not passionate with what you are doing right now, take a step back and evaluate. If you have been doing it for 20-30 years and it is killing you inside, time to make a good judgment. If you decide to stay, contribute rather than isolate yourself. If you really have found what you love doing, jump in. You never know where it will take you, sometimes to happier places. 🙂

LESSON 6 – HAPPY CUSTOMERS MAKE YOU HAPPY

Aligning your team to customer centric and market driven can help innovation thrives in difficult time.

Customer is king. In education, the students are the customers and they have a say. In some schools, the students get to rate their teachers and hold the key for the teacher’s job and promotion. With the democratization of information through online, print and social media people have a good sense of what is good experience and what is bad in education. Yes some businesses get away with it but they don’t last long and most of the time they are non-committal to making customers happy. This applies to other businesses as well and other parts of your company. There are many opportunities to make customers happy, it is whether you think it is going to make any economic sense or not. If yes, start investing small and grow. If not, in time someone will pick it up.

LESSON 7 – DREAMING BIG ISN’T FOLLY; IT’S REQUIRED

Day dreaming can be a good thing.

Science has proofs that day dreaming in the day has positive effects on your productivity and creativity. In innovation the feeling of trying to get something up and make it possible like something big coming out of your chest and brain motivate us to keep working on our prototypes and innovative ideas. The sensation of dreaming is exhilarating and rewarding when you successfully deliver what was at first in your brain. To start something small or thrive something big requires all of us to dream and dream big. I usually start by talking about my dream to other people about it and accept their frown as learning opportunities. You will soon realize that they are like minded people that have the same dream. Geez dreaming is contagious and we can dream big together!

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Democratization of Education Through MOOC

In the education world it is called Mass Open Online Courses (MOOC). I have been following the movement of open courses and instruction for some years already. My journey with MOOC is rather unique because I stumbled upon it by chance when I was looking for free e-books on the internet. It was 6 years ago where I was looking for Toyota Production System book I stumbled into Khan Academy and several other video portals. I don’t quite remember those portals but they were mainly university lectures made into video format. All these videos (the full length) are available online. I used to be able to download this from iTunes some years ago, I don’t think you can do the same now.

Some trivia on MOOC; many people mistaken it with online videos. It is not. You can find thousands of good quality videos on YouTube or TED Talks. MOOC has online tools that help you to know what you want out of the course (normally there’s a pre course survey). I found the survey help me think through my commitment level. There was a time in the middle of the survey I decided to drop that course because of my overwhelming schedule at that time. MOOC also provides you with online access to several open source tools that you are not aware of but it is only available while you are taking the course. For example there is this online tool that help me create a table of innovation using graphic format. MOOC also has quizzes instead of rudimentary examination. In those quizzes I was given 10 questions and I can answer them as many times until I receive the passing mark to get ahead and earn point. I wasn’t penalized and I learn better. For example rock music consists of drum, guitar and bass. It was in the 1970s where electric guitar was born when rock music morphed into a new beast!

MOOC is not just videos, they are instructional courses that’s made online. MIT has its Open Course Ware where it adopted Creative Common License some time in 2002. From 50 courses published in 2002, now MIT OCW (open courseware) has more than 2000 courses; some with Turkish and Korean translation. It was complicated to register and go through MIT OCW back then. However with better adoption from global citizens, MOOC took better shape with the establishment of another provider, Khan Academy. Variety of disciplines are offered in most MOOC ranging from mathematics, history, language, education, humanities, sciences, astronomy, business, entrepreneurship, music and many more.

Khan Academy founded in 2006, where as a not for profit organization and funded by Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, its uniqueness will blow your mind. I love Khan Academy for its content simplification and differentiated teaching using technology. I used to download loads of them on my iPhone. I listen to the lecture while driving and when I have time to look at the screen, I watch how the instructor show me techniques to answer question on trigonometry on his interactive whiteboard. Some special schools adopted Khan Academy as part of its enrichment content. A brilliant strategy, to my opinion.

This democratization of knowledge excites me because I believe education should be customized to personal level. In other words, we can choose what we want to learn and based on our need at that time. It is not necessary for us to go to school or university to get those papers and get stuck by the time it ends. However the very reason that we go to the university is for the accreditation and recognition of our education because without it whatever we do to obtain our real education will not be recognized by the employer or clients. This is where the gap in MOOC at the early stage, where students just learn for his or her own knowledge but unable to demonstrate their knowledge prowess and skills beyond intellectual level; the least they can show it while they do their work if ever they were given chance. The next development of MOOC is something that I truly admire and support.

It was around 5 years I learned about Coursera and much less than that on eDX. These two are providers of high quality university courses especially from American universities. It was when eDX decided to invest several millions into its MOOC development, it creates a new wave of open courses for the global citizens. eDX main founders are Harvard University and MIT. Now they have partners including Cornell, UC Berkeley, Boston University, Dartmouth, Davidson, HKUST (Hong Kong), ANU (Australia) and few more. This is a great development. You should consider visiting their website and enroll in some of the courses. I have enrolled in Innovation and Commercialization from

On the other hand, Coursera started in 2012 founded by Stanford University professors. It is a for profit organization and currently working with Stanford University, Princeton, University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania. There are more than 6 million students on Coursera today and growing. I am currently taking a course on History of Rock Music (University of Florida) and University Teaching 101 (Johns Hopkins University) from Coursera. You should also visit Coursera and have a jam!

"Can MOOC finds a viable business model?"
“Can MOOC find a viable business model?”

What I like most about MOOC today is the convergence of ideas and history has shown us that the moment convergence happens, a big shift is coming soon. I believe other than banking, education is next on the line to experience tectonic shift. It probably take another 5 years or less for Malaysia to see something big coming. It may be a bit late but it is better late than never. Because if change doesn’t happen, there will be serious fall out of competitiveness of the universities and revenue will be impacted as well.

In The Economist, February 2014, says that “online course is its rock-bottom marginal cost: teaching additional students is virtually free. The fixed cost of creating an online course is relatively high, however. Getting started means putting together a curriculum, producing written and recorded material to explain it, and creating an interactive site that facilitates discussion and feedback.” This so true especially for public university. The same article pointed out the obvious that adding another student means adding another block of facility and the need to prepare another accommodation. Besides, to raise the productivity of tenured professors and teaching faculty is already difficult for bigger class means poorer quality. With the perennial concern on graduate quality, best to keep the class at optimum level (depending on courses).

While this may threaten the existing business model, especially for public universities, it doesn’t leave them with much choices nowadays. There is already major financial cut (from 20-30% annually) from the government coffers to finance public universities and it doesn’t seem to slow down. Other than financial savings (maximum 10-15%) from key activities- still not enough to offset the cut; public universities should consider paving the way for MOOC to become the next revenue stream. This could start for students abroad especially from developing countries where it has strong presence. It can be a good brand building before the students make their way to the physical university. I could attest to this when I take courses from Coursera and eDX where I could remember the name of the professors and earn certificate for the classes from the universities.

"University that adopt MOOC fast enough and offer it to the right market will have an edge as the innovation is taking shape."
“University that adopt MOOC fast enough and offer it to the right market will have an edge as the innovation is taking shape.”

In my Rock class from Coursera, there are  15,000 students registered for the course. In my University Teaching 101, there are more than 10,000 students. They come from around the world and with various backgrounds. I read a story of a teenage girl in South Africa where she completed around 15 courses on MOOC and now become the smartest girl in her village. Despite the fact that she never been to school, she is now a village teacher teaching and inspiring other children. She is blessed with her literacy in English and internet connection. This is classic education. A quote from Mark Twain, “Don’t let school get in the way of your education.” I think public universities in Malaysia should seriously do something about this and start small.

There are many ways to start MOOC because as public university they have many resources at their disposal. What they need a strong will and deterministic vision of the university management to leap forward. I will try to cover more information and ideas on how MOOC could benefit the university and how to go about doing it in my next post.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

The Case for Corporate College

In my previous article, “Reviving Youth Unemployment”, I brought up a new development in global education called corporate college. Here I would like to provide a snapshot of corporate college and how it can be game changing solution for government, corporate and university.

If you Google keyword “corporate college”, you will see a long list of corporate colleges around the world. Predominantly in the United States where each state has at least one bearing the state’s name, while other name such as Corporate College LLC, Global Corporate College which may have different customers appeal. In summation, this is indeed a remarkable improvement and advancement since I first researched about it 2 years ago and brought this idea to my board meeting early this year. This is awesome – at least the quantity of corporate colleges blossoming and lets hope competition will weed the weakest and nourish the quality ones.

Life long learning is a skill and modern workforce has to learn to master it.
Life long learning is a skill and modern workforce has to learn to master it.

In Malaysia, the corporate college term is new and foreign. Even as I speak about it to people around the university, they don’t quite like the idea because it will definitely mixing the academic and industry resources in this melting pot called corporate college. Well, I couldn’t argue further because I could see the reasons for such apprehensive gesture. Nonetheless, by not doing anything it is equally if not more harmful to the nation. I just hope in that kindred spirit to build Malaysia’s talent pool and remedy future’s talent pipeline and marketability, something has to be done NOW NOW NOW.

Corporate college can be easily a misleading concept of training centre or academy. I have seen it many places and work with corporate training centres. In training centres normally they are human resource executives, training executives and administrators. These people coordinate training programs for the organization by engaging external training providers, once a while they call in industry experts to give pep talks and seminars. In training centres they also conduct psychometric assessment to gauge their employees emotional state and when the new top management come, the people in the training centre will also tasked to look for vendors to formulate new workforce development program. They sometimes do this by working collaboratively with the HQ human resource team. On top of that, they are also required to become a business centre where they need to “sell” their internal expertise from the organization (usually technical expertise) to other small medium enterprises or provide some consultancy to other sister companies and so on. This could be a simplistic example but my point is this is not a corporate college and I am sorry to say this is not even a properly run training or knowledge development centre. Sometimes, in the desperate need for us to become “entrepreneurial” and “business savvy”, we forget that we should only sell good stuffs to our customers, not half-baked or questionable solutions that we ourselves are not convinced. If you only let the industry run a training centre, knowledge is for trading. 🙂

On the other hand, in the university not less glaring where its always about research; endless research. Recent article in The Economist, “How Science Goes Wrong”, September 2013; was an eye opener that as much as 50% of publications are almost impossible to be replicated or scale up for mass production. We are talking about billion of dollars down the drain and it is an on-going squandering frenzy unaddressed. On the positive side, university research could provide groundbreaking evidence, clearer direction and profound examples that many industry organizations yet to capitalize. Presently, there is very poor collaboration between the university and industry players because one party requires a lot of money and the other wishes to spend the least possible. Interestingly, both are aiming at the same objectives; building this nation.

Corporate college could be the solution. We can start by revamping community colleges and smaller private entities. Don't let pilot programs fool you.
Corporate college could be the solution. We can start by revamping community colleges and smaller private entities. Don’t let pilot programs fool you.

Corporate college can help to become the middle path solution, at least it helps by converging resources and most importantly the thinking behind how to grow this nation through properly run talent development. In corporate college, there will be academician that could help in the research and act as the knowledge bank of the program. If you have hang around with academicians, you would understand what I mean. They are very knowledgeable, dedicated, smart and they are givers. They like to contribute and they want to make a difference. Most academicians I have met always willing to support nation building cause with small fees to them. The academicians from education could help in developing the program structure, designing the assessment and examination, deciding the path for professional development and act as student guide.

In corporate college, the industry player could help in providing critical information about the direction of the business and what kind of people and skills required to achieve its goals. Since industry players meet a lot of clients, they could also share what the customers want and how is it possible to do it by asking the academicians. I am certain there will be some arguments and debates, and it only takes an objective mind and sincere heart to make the arguments work both ways and benefit both parties. The industry top management and middle managers could also share and teach the young workers. They could learn “how to teach” from the academicians and they will become better teacher very quickly. In the process, the researchers would observe and take note of the opportunities to uncover certain issues or make improvement on current manufacturing practice that could help the company more productive and efficient in the next few years. On teaching, I have this Chinese proverb to quote, “If you plan for a year sow rice, if you plan for a decade plan trees, if you plan for a lifetime educate people.”

In Malaysia, there is a need to have some regulation on the programs offered otherwise the students only get junks and binge-studying. The involvement of government should be considered in the area of evaluating and accrediting the right program that meet the objectives. The Malaysian Quality Assurance (MQA) should be roped in and engaged actively to ensure it is not just paper exercise. In several research university (RU), there’s self accreditation authority that would speed up the process. I strongly believe the university in Malaysia should learn how to use this self accreditation more to enable and boost the development of professional program. Currently, most professional development programs are from other international universities. From what I know, Malaysian researchers are very good and dedicated. I believe we already have many powerful researches that could be scale up or perhaps be given the space to become national exports especially in service related research.

"Your actions express your priorities."
“Your actions express your priorities.”

In conclusion, I believe with an open mindset to work things out, all parties including government, industry and university could work things out; perhaps to do something game changing like corporate college. There’s always opportunity to discuss the business model around it and making it a success. From my observation, the private universities are also making moves into the development of solid professional development and certifications. I have yet to see more involvement of public universities and other smaller private colleges in this space. I always give this silly but true example of a multi-level marketing company (MLM) set up their own academy and dish out a diploma in multi-level marketing, apparently it was widely accepted as the de-facto standard of MLM industry. Jaw-drop if you like but sometimes reality hurts. I would like to end this article with a quote, “The problem with this world is the wise is full of doubts and the fool is full of confident.”

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Project Management – Modern Workforce Imperative

While many business philosophers claimed that we are living in the best times of the world, unfortunately modern workforce has been seeing the worse in the last few years. Data from various sources also predicting a bleak outlook and across the ocean ahead. That’s just a general feel, but if you are familiar with things on the ground there’s lots of hope to make it work especially for those in the modern workforce. You may have started to do something about it, but if you haven’t I would suggest you to seriously consider my suggestion – find a way to learn project management because it is the modern workforce imperative.

Most of today’s organization do not rely so much on new information or new knowledge to thrive or grow their business. Most of us rely on doing more of the same as long as the customers don’t complain. Once a while, we add new things but that will only means new price increased and most customers don’t like it. Sometimes, in business we add new services by combining other services for example in an executive program I bundled together the premium access to library and journals as well as library membership. By bundling I give my client more services but if you look closely, I don’t change anything on the service. I just make it available right on time and deliver it just the way my customers want it. Well, this is only a simple example how one ways product features can be enhanced (not necessarily innovated).

The buzz word of today’s organization including government, is innovation. What innovation means? Briefly, it means making new improvements from something current to satisfy new needs and new customers. If you are in a technology company, you may need to explore new ideas and technology frontiers, where real innovation is your everyday thing. Nonetheless, most innovations are either in incubation period, infancy stage or progressing stage that requires years of testing and trial before actually making it to the market and make a difference financially and impacting the bottom line. Hence, to keep the business afloat we need to learn to use and utilize our current resources and maximize the productivity and yield as much as possible. This require an impeccable project management skills and this can be learned; almost overnight.

 

Project Management skill is one of modern workforce must-have skills.
Project Management skill is one of modern workforce must-have skills.

There are several paths to project management. The usual path is to take up proper certification programs from Project Management Institute (PMI) where you are likely to see PMP or APMG International where you are likely to see PRINCE2 certification. Lately there has been an influx of project management certification from Australia, IPMA and several more which I lost count. Secondly, you may choose to attend and participate in your own local provider to learn the fundamentals of project management. I think this is a good idea because in a 3-4 days you will get good overview and get to try out the hands on of building your project paper.

Thirdly, you may opt to buy or print some books online and read them. Jot some notes and do some graphics for you to remember. Finally, which also a cheap way to get access to project management knowledge is by searching for online videos on project management. By all means, you must find a way to get yourself enrolled in either way.

Project management mindset will take you very far in your career. I haven’t mentioned project leadership where you are taking charge of the project and lead your team including your project sponsor, user, director, and also opposition to achieve project goals. It is amazing that project management has developed to become an imperative skills in modern workforce but as someone who is growing up in organization and observing this phenomenon in fresh eyes, I have this to tell you, once again; do sign up for project management (choose one or two of the methods above). While it may take you a while, to get the hang of using the project management tools, you will get used to it after managing 2-3 real projects.

The very reason I say this because a lot of times in organization including in government find difficulties in implementation and executing the projects they have discussed. Often it gets stuck in the middle and then lost in vacuum because they are no takers who can pick this up and manage it in a manner that is both satisfying for the stakeholders. As a project manager, our role is to ensure we achieve the projects’ objectives and we do this by working through and with other people. It is an interesting role and it is still in high growth stage. I don’t want to bore you with the statistics, but if you are looking for one just Google them because there are plenty of them the last 2-3 years.

You also can learn some hands on experience by organizing events for your company or friend’s, involve yourself in social programs where you volunteer to become the committee member, actively seek for internship, enroll in dinner & dance party or simply create a project of your own and get others to join you. There are many ways, but the point is to get yourself learn the project management skills.

I recently had a project management session with my client, and I have been seeing this development where organizations are in dire state looking for more project managers. Not necessarily with certification, by all means if you have the funds go get the certification but if you don’t, never stop your learning there. Find other ways.

I hope you really going to consider this and please share this information for those who will benefit in your circle. Hope this note help improve the awareness of project management skills and inspire those middle managers to learn project management and become life long learners. 🙂

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Design Thinking (DT) As Strategic Tool – Personal Experience

“I may have overused DT tool because I conveniently used it in several occasion, and the latest was during a strategic meeting to evaluate a partnership proposal.” – That was my starting remarks when I shared my personal experience using DT tool at genovasi aka (Malaysian DT House). Let me tell you why.

From my personal experience, “a tool and a fool seldom differ”. Hence learning how to use the tool is paramount and foundational to anyone, and by knowing how to use it to your advantage is a skill and a gift. A tool helps me to put things in perspective and find the relationship of various information. Just like a hammer that helps you to pound nails so you can hang your jacket. But if you decide to “think” like a hammer where you pound on everything, please be reminded that – “a tool and a fool seldom differ”. I have been using A3 report introduced by Toyota to build business case, I used Porter’s Five Forces to analyze market and I used my intuition to give that second opinion about affairs of the heart. 🙂

Now, why Design Thinking (DT) tool? Simply because it is one of the tools that I learned inside out where with the help of the coaches at genovasi; my team and I learn its application and limitation. Briefly, DT is a human-centered tool where the ultimate focus is to humanize the solution for optimum users satisfaction. You can use this problem-solving tool to create new products, services or in my case to evaluate business proposal. It is humanly possible to learn how to use DT tool and it is also almost impossible for your solution to go wrong if you adopt DT as part of your solutioning design. Nevertheless, just like any tool, DT has its own critics, which I wont touch here. Now let me summarize my own DT experience in the 5 steps and how I used them.

Five Steps of DT Problem Solving tool
Five Steps of DT Problem Solving tool

EMPATHISE

At this stage, my team and I discuss the broad view of the Why, What, When, Who, Where and How about this partnership proposal. Since this partner is an international partner, we are very serious in making sure we put all things on the table. I found getting all team members to Check-in help to uncover their emotional state during that discussion.

We exchanged numerous questions, choose certain key words and drill down further and help ourselves with coffee and tea at the same time. 😛  We used post-it notes and flipcharts. The purpose of this is simple, to put things up and let everyone see it. It gets everyone involved and be part of the solution. This step is critical in getting everybody on one-page and clarify matters early. This step is explicitly discussed and practiced in DT process.

We also ask people outside from our circle and get their feedbacks on partnering with international business ventures.

In some occasion we meet to discuss issues surrounding our objectives. Surprisingly, many of the people we met were rich with tacit experience and knowledge in these areas. This is the power of conversation which is hammered on in DT process.

We also shared our vision using a journey map to get their thoughts and learn their reservations, which could help us in the long run.

DEFINE

We got back from all these interactions and unpack our thoughts and share it out.

Of course, as a DT practitioner I don’t really say things like, “Let use DT and unpack”.

I use DT tool and processes without acknowledging it, I just guide our session through and it takes several days.

Unlike in our program @ genovasi where we have to quickly get it done (because of time limitation), but here I really take them through and get them to buy in especially my team because it takes only one believe that “this is not worth our time” to drop everything. Besides, in the process we also are in on-going communication with the international partners to shape this proposal.

In the process, we try to define the Point of View (POV) of our international partners. Navigating the international waters is very challenging with differences in time, culture, communication and perception. I recently learned that a “mediator” in Middle East is understood as “someone that meddle things up”. How about that? So we really need to define the people that we are dealing with and to avoid any prejudice or negative perception. We finally identified several POVs and we agreed to dive further  and move forward.

IDEATE

With clear POVs and after getting feedbacks from various people, we started to Ideate possible scenarios and situations that would help us uncover some information to validate our assessment. We also internally discuss and sometimes argue whether what we choose is acceptable to avoid any the curse of knowledge and setback of incremental judgment. Just like in other DT session, we allow as many ideas, similarly here where we let people throw in any thinking that come cross their mind. I also let people to ask question so they can substantiate and clarify their idea to gain further understanding.

PROTOTYPE

We end up with three scenarios (which remained confidential) and we internally tested them in several engagements. We iterated a few of them and we earned better confident level now. We also build further communication strategy on our prototypes and humanize it further. It is important to always remember that it is not about “us” or/and ‘them”, its always about achieving our mutual goals. This is difficult to do and I have to continuously remind myself, because it is easy to fall trap in either one and forget the goals and objectives. At the end of all this, we need to satisfy both parties hence the goals are sacred to us all.

TEST

Gladly, we ran several testing session and we are very happy with the results. We make some changes in the prototypes as we learn new information, especially in the POVs. The continuous conversation and discussion internally and externally help us to formulate the right solution to achieve our goals.

In conclusion, DT helps me to help my organization making better decision in evaluating this partnership proposal.

It improves my ability to exert creative confidence, provoke my own and team thinking, expand the team’s capability, strengthen trust and build strong determination to shape the right solution. Of course, with more practice I would do better in using this tool because human is unpredictable; and that quality makes DT even more interesting as a human-centered tool. It is fluid yet structured, it is fun yet strenuous and it break rules yet build trusts.

During a presentation with my team @genovasi
During a presentation with my team @genovasi

You can learn DT tool from internet, just Google Design Thinking. There are many courses and article about it right now and its free. You can buy a book on Design Thinking, again just Google or go to bookstores near you. But what truly a big difference in my own DT learning journey was the passion and patience that genovasi coaches have demonstrated throughout 10-weeks of real DT lessons @ Malaysia DT  House in Petaling Jaya. This program was in partnership with Hasso Platner Institute (HPI) and it is also taught at Stanford University. I couldn’t be more thankful to Prime Minister’s Department for initiating this awesome program and to let genovasi team be on the driver’s seat to drive this – they are just the right team and at the right time.

My sincere thank you and big-hearted congratulations go to The Ultimate Genovasi Team; Carol Wong, Mahadzir, Azman, Michelle, Mike, Foong Wai, Firdaus, Suyin, Teck Hin, Jun-Elle, Fazlina, Genie, and not forgetting our Outreach Project Partner (OPP) and also other genovasi team members. Special thanks to all IADP 3D intakes members, you guys rawks!

"DT house" @Malaysia
“DT house” @Malaysia

“Master It, Muster It”

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

15 Rules to Personal Effectiveness – Joker’s Guide

It’s always refreshing sometimes to look back and reminisce of the past. For me, i wrote back a similar title – Personal Effectiveness ; Joker’s Guide back in 2011. You can read it here. From where i started writing about it, i have been practicing and sharing with more people on this thoughts and what i call RULES. The more i talk about it to more people, the more profound the rules become. I get more evidence that the rules work the way it is supposed to work and it validated what i always believe.

For example, Rule 10 is “Learn to Write”. I started writing in 2007 and now i am reaping the benefits of it. My language command is a lot better and my thinking process is more orderly than it was. I learned how to do creative writing and it helps my proposal writing to be more personalized and convincing.

Another is Rule 11 – “Run Your Own Race”. Sometimes i can be easily caught up with other people’s race. Especially when things dont work out the way i want it, i got trapped in the losers mentality. It is hard to live when you feel trapped and in the state of hopelessness. When i practice this Rule 11, i make a point to remind myself that my time will come and i should persevere. It also help me not to be a procrastinator for a long time (short term procrastinate is fine i guess!). With this Rule 11, i also learn about people around me have their own race. Therefore i learn how to communicate better with them. Just because i am their supervisor, i can ask them whatever i want or wherever i want it. On the other hand, it is also applicable to business where it takes time to see any initiative to take shape and let alone to bear fruits of success.

One of my favorite rules is Rule 8 – “Self Leadership, Self Management”. It is easy to ask others to lead, but it is a lot easier to be a bystander in a leadership position. Many leaders do that and they gain credits for things that they dont deserve. While it is without a doubt they earned that leadership position, they should also live up to it for as long as they in that position. For example, leaders should lead from the front – which i call show up leadership. Show up means your face is always around in good and bad times. Leaders make decision and take ownership of that decisions. Some leaders hide behind the veil of “developing the young through delegation” – these are leaders that hide instead of becoming the first line of defense in times of crisis. As leaders, they are responsible to manage themselves professionally. Some leaders misbehave professionally by accusing their organizations and products too openly. They do it in the name of “open communication”. I like to tend to this issue by asking them back openly on their contribution to the problems. Most of them felt embarrassed because they know they just talk about it – but they hardly do anything about it; and they have been “there” for years.

Well, there are 15 Rules to Personal Effectiveness – Joker’s Guide altogether. Some of the rules are things that you are already practicing. Therefore it is good to acknowledge that you are doing the right thing. On the other hand, for rules that are new to you, please consider practicing them slowly and put yourself a challenge to acquire it. One thing you must know, these rules are universal and have been the guiding light for ancient people as well as successful modern citizens in today’s world.

The differentiation this time is about how i deliver these 15 Rules today, it is in a video format – 15 Rules to Personal Effectiveness – Joker’s Guide. Something that i do by chance with some friends. The result was awesome and i want to share it with you. Hope you will enjoy this video and hopefully later you will start considering some of these 15 Rules! 🙂

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com 

Design Thinking – DT Personal Journey

There was a quote by Steve Jobs saying, “Design is how it works.” I think he was right. Recently i met an engineering student with strong right brain, he echoed that quote. He’s an undergraduate in Mechanical Engineering. He said a lot of people equate design with advertisement, art or schematic drawing. It’s wrong he said. I agreed with him; completely.

It was just weeks ago i graduated from a Design Thinking program organized by genovasi in collaboration with Hasso Platner Institute (HPI). The program was a 10-weeks hands on and pants down (i mean i have to do a lot of running around!). The entire program was done in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

The training room set up was brilliant and well thought. Everything were on rollers and wheels (except us). There were fun activities, higher order thinking games and best of all like minded folks; they came from various background but still when it comes to getting this done we only had one source; the Design Thinking (DT) 5 steps and 12 commandments. We literally guided by how to use and apply them in various settings and actual projects.

 

"DT house" @Malaysia
“DT house” @Malaysia

As i travel my DT journey i am beginning to see the world and its problems in new dimension. I got acquainted with design magazine such as Wallpaper and Fast Company (Design issue was released in October 2013). I ventured with enthusiasm what DT capable of doing and now am a DT convert.

There is only one immediate problem i see now; it is a new field that people are still struggling to adopt en-masse. Even when i spoke to my consultant friends, ehemmm! DT is perceived as playful as Mickey Mouse in pin stripped jacket.

Besides, even i personally have to constantly reminding myself on DT whenever i approach new “design challenges”. I sound dogmatic of trying to repackage old rules in new nicely ribboned matte box. Heck, as a convert i should be right? 😉

Look around you will find design plays significant role of a successful products or services. You can see this especially in IT application because technology enablement is a big part of user experience. DT place “human” as central to its approach. Why technology? This is because of our borderless and cross border economic aspiration. For eg. App-based application is used by global citizen and to appeal such a huge majority is a daunting task. But once your app is widely accepted (many examples of this) you are sure to turn them into money machine. This is impossible to do 15-20years ago because of heavy reliant on domestic market. But now with technology, this is not far a distance.

 

Pushed to a corner with a design challenge
Pushed to a corner with a design challenge

While we’ve seen rapid expansion of technology companies, we also observed tech giants that too big too fail; failed. They were unable to cope with this massive power given to global users in the name of UX (user experience). This lies DT approach that see the intersection of User Needs, Technology and Business as Innovation opportunity.

In summary, as a DT convert i only have this to say, “nobody can stop an idea that time has come.” DT is making wave and it is for good cause and for humanity. I know i am in.

Well, thats all for now. I surely get back with more insights as i travel my DT journey.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Thinking Needs Re-Thinking

I am fully convinced now. I have been looking for evidence and now i have found it; few months ago. Its just i am buying time to write it down.

Initially i disturbed that almost everyone i met in the management rant about today’s graduates and workforce lack thinking skills. They lambasted them for being clueless and ‘like chicken no-head’ when it comes to problem solving and creative solutions. Of course they are and surprisingly the management was equally clueless how to solve this perennial problem.

Guess what? I have found the answers. Thinking needs re-thinking.

In the beginning i am curious why a children can generate many ‘creative solutions’ but as we become grown ups we stuck up? It’s just illogical right?

Not really, this is where it needs re-thinking. They are two major findings here. Let me explain how we can accelerate thinking skills for our current workforce.

Firstly, teach them thinking skills and tools. Seriously, SWOT is a thinking tool that helps us to see a problem in a SWOT manner. I bet some of you dont know what SWOT is. People that understand SWOT would have this simple thought process when approaching problems.

Next tool is WDYM; What Do You Mean is a great tool to question any statement and uncover the gist of things. Ask this several times you will get to the bottom of any issue. The best part you will only stop once you reach an agreement of the thing you WDYM about.

Other tool is Sweeper; where you generate all the bad stuffs and sweep it under carpet. This could help you and your team find ways to find loopholes and anticipate the consequences. It is also helping you to prioritize imperfections while trying hard to perfecting something.

See, with tools you actually start thinking. I bet with practice you will create the new neural network in your brain on how to think (including your workforce).

"There's a way to do it better. Find it."
“There’s a way to do it better. Find it.”

Secondly, provide ‘open playground’ to express ideas. Opening up a playground always excites me. I once told my boss, if you want to see my play and soar, open the playground. I soared and fly as the top salesperson.

The idea of ‘open playground’ is to allow mistakes to happen and provide support for your team or workforce to fall back on.

It is important for building better confidence and learning. Person responsible for this are the leaders and bosses. Often we get so stuck up and we forget to build other leaders and thinkers. Doers alone are not enough, we need thinkers at the same time.

In conclusion, my two major findings probably are nothing new to you however our ability to put it to practice and continuously asessing its effectiveness would garner new outcomes to your organization.

I strongly feel we are able to create a truly different results (better long term achievements) when we start thinking and leading at the same time. Certainly, if we fail, thus our thinking needs re-thinking.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Power of Rituals

“Consistency builds trust. Trust creates history.

History builds traditions. Traditions become rituals.”

-Martin Lindstrom

Just what is ritual? Rituals are activities that are meaningful to people who observe it. I just complete one of my favourite’s rituals as a Muslim – the Ramadhan (fasting month) and Syawal (celebration month). I fasted for a month from mid-July until mid-August then followed by a celebration until mid-September. What sort of activities involved during this period? At least in Malaysia it looks more or less like this. 🙂

At the beginning of fasting I would fast until the sunset. To break fast I need to buy food at PARAM (Pasar Ramadhan (Ramadhan Market)). Here at PARAM there will be rows of food stalls preparing food for break fast. I would hang around this place to get some foods and drinks. I would perform these activities almost of daily throughout fasting period – about one month. It becomes a ritual to many Muslims in Malaysia.

You probably have your own favourite rituals. Examples of rituals are many – at work, home and society. Rituals are not routines because the latter is boring, meaningless and non-transformative. By fasting, I developed strong sense of gratitude, appreciation and will power. In fact I realized many other spiritual traditions emphasize on fasting to develop inner self. In case you haven’t tried, you should try fasting and get a feel of it.

Now that fasting month is over, I am currently working on another ritual with myself. From my previous reading and listening to great performers from both corporate and life, waking up as early as 5 am is another great ritual. Why? Because we will quickly ‘earn’ 2 extra hours during the day and of course ‘lost’ 2 hours of sleep! Nonetheless to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, “I’ll have ample time to sleep when I am dead!”.  Seriously, to become more effective, I need to find new ways in managing my time and type of activities that I do. It is very easy to get distracted!

Thus far I still didn’t manage to wake up at 5 am, the earliest was 530 am.

The first thing happened on my first 530 morning was, “what should I do now”?

While some advocate starting work early morning, I prefer to do work-out like exercise. I do light stretching and cardio exercise. In some other morning I do concentration exercise on my goals and self. I found early morning gives peace and serenity I need for me to do all these silent activities. I would need to create a schedule so my morning will have better direction – one thing you must know that our brain knows how to play tricks and exaggerate stuffs!

What would happen without rituals? Life will be just routines of things that you will soon find – meaningless and drifting away. It will fly away without much achievements or recognition. As an adult, while we have the power to choose (freedom), we usually choose not to do anything (free and boredom!). As we age, we need to create more rituals so our life is always active and with direction.

Image

Here are reasons why you should consider to have rituals.

The Power and Benefits of Rituals:

a)      Provide direction

> Rituals give you a sense of where you want to be. It forces your brain and body to achieve something that deep inside you know it’s good for you.

b)      Break away from old habits

> Rituals require high discipline and self awareness. If you want to break an old habits, find out how to create a powerful rituals.

c)       It gives meaning

> When certain activities become meaningful, there’s always another ounce of energy come from nowhere to drive it. Find meaning in your rituals, you’ll find your life meaningful.

d)      Creative and fun

> Some private rituals can be fun and funny. Just Google rituals of athletes and peak performers, you will see a whole list of them. But hey, it works!

e)      Give that leap

> Rituals usually will stretch you a bit, but for your own good. You will feel different as you’re going through your own rituals.

f)       Peace while perform

> You’ll be at ease because you are in control of your own life. As a result you will be at peace with yourself and your performance naturally improves.

Part of my rituals now is writing in my blog. Sometimes I find it difficult to write because I focus on originality of my piece. I am still trying to get the hang of it.

Rituals supposed to give that consistent performance after it is fully embedded in your life. And part of the internalizing your new rituals is to force it and constantly reminding yourself to remember to repeat the meaning of that rituals. 😉

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Learning From Failure

Nobody likes the ‘F’ word, failure. And the other ‘F’ comes out after you really fail. Especially in Asian culture, failure means bad and in some cultures if you fail you don’t deserve the right to live because you bring shame to the family or the business that’s associated with you. The Western culture tolerates it better when it comes to failure.

 

My thoughts about failing are a mixed of both. I have failed many times (made more successes along the way of course!) and I still remember the 1st time I failed my parents, it felt really bad that I almost lost myself. Gladly, I am still around for another few failures but I have learned to tolerate it better. I stumbled an article (Strategies For Learning From Failure – Amy C. Edmondson) that talk about how to learn from failure and reasons from failure. Let me share some of the key points.

 

I am going to describe four common reasons of failure and perhaps, how we can build some learning culture from it so we minimize future failures. First reason is Deviance; it means an individual chooses to violate a prescribed process or practice. This happens to many of us especially when we are too dead-sure about our own decision. There is a saying that sometimes it’s good to ask around for feedback before making big decision. Even though Steve Jobs advocate not to trust focus groups too much, but hey it’s always good to ask second opinion right?

 

Second reason is Lack of Ability. For example when someone is considering a new role/job, where sometimes some people are just not fit for certain job. This is where an individual doesn’t have the skills, conditions or training to execute the job. In Malaysia the trend is to recruit the people from the same industry and same background. Take for example banking industry, banks will only take people with banking background then grow them to become business managers or leaders. This is to minimize technical skills gap that is core to banking business. The flipside is it caused an acute talent shortage in banking these days. I would recommend banks to start investing in talents from other background and train them the core skills to provide that ability. Assess the talents from there onwards.

“My life has been nothing but a failure, and all that’s left for me to do is to destroy my paintings before I disappear.” – Claude Monet, Painter.
“My life has been nothing but a failure, and all that’s left for me to do is to destroy my paintings before I disappear.” – Claude Monet, Painter.

Third reason is Uncertainty; a lack of clarity about future events causes people to take seemingly reasonable actions that produce undesired results. This is also common especially with yo-yo business environment these days. This also applies to both corporate man and entrepreneurs. On the other hand, there is no such thing of 20/20 accuracy. One has always willing to take calculated risks. Like a saying, nothing ventured nothing gained.

 

Fourth reason is Exploratory Testing; an experiment conducted to expand knowledge and investigate a possibility leads to an undesired result. This reason can be good to fail because there is a lot of learning can be gained. As saying goes, sometimes what you need is the kick in the teeth by Walt Disney.

 

Failures are not created equal. What first look like a failure at the beginning can transform to a big success later on. Take AirAsia for example when Tan Sri Tony Fernandes took over. It was a loss making venture before AirAsia. But now AirAsia a household name in many countries. I think it is the most profitable low cost airline right now. 😉 Well done! Their Europe routes decision was a failure but they are fast redirecting to Asean market.

 

But the question now is how we can build a learning culture out of failures? The word failure itself is a taboo but failing to learn from our failures equally not a smart move. Management team from all areas must learn to accept failures and build a culture where our own people are able to get up and learn from it. Most of the times we play the blame game and make people suffer when they take up the blame. Numerous times the ‘who did it’ comes a top priority instead of ‘what actually happened’. This closed learning culture is eminent across the board regardless of company size. We must always see failures an opportunity to learn something new e.g. an experiment.

 

Next we should build systematic process to detect failures early. Of course you can only learn detecting bit after a few failures. Yes, while we churn out endless reports but we sometimes forget to pick up the analysis and announce it to our team or the entire organization. Most of the times only the know-who and top management get to know lessons learned. But have you heard about stuck-in-the-middle norms where information flows stop at the middle managers level? We can’t afford this when communicating learning from failures. True leaders must fight this idiosyncrasies and outdated thinking to force the communication to be widespread.

 

Here are some of the questions that can be used to minimize/avoid failures:

 

  1. Is the pilot being tested under typical/actual circumstances (rather than optimal condition)?
  2. Do the employees, customers and resources are represented in the company’s real operating environment?
  3. Is the goal of the pilot to learn as much as possible (or rather to demonstrate the value of the offering or commercial purpose)?
  4. Is the goal of learning well understood by all employees and managers?
  5. Is it clear that compensation and performance reviews are not based on successful outcome of the pilot?
  6. Were explicit changes made as a result of the pilot test?
"People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it's simply necessary to love." - Claude Monet, Painter
“People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it’s simply necessary to love.” – Claude Monet, Painter

 

You may find these questions useful in both new product development or business ventures. Sometimes what you need is to let someone run through with you these questions to avoid self-fulfilling biasness that you may possess doing it yourself. Management team must allow themselves to be questioned and challenged to ensure all angles are covered. The courage to confront our own and others imperfections is crucial to solving the apparent contradiction of wanting neither to discourage the reporting of the problems nor to create an environment in which anything goes.

 

Trust is key and during this open process trust can be developed to higher level. While finding someone or a team that you trust can be a constant challenge, one must not lose trust in oneself. Sometimes all you need is a failure to learn but never fail to learn. Just bite the bullet and go for it.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

Some said this mantra originated from Steve Jobs, yes the Apple’s. In one of his keynote address to Stanford graduates graduation ceremony in 2005, he reminded the audience about the importance of being ‘hungry and foolish’ as his key success. That was basically it.

What’s more is, I fully subscribed to that mantra and agree unilaterally. Let’s not talk about entrepreneurship although it is a subject that I love to talk and write hence we are not talking about setting up your own business. It is good if you already have a sustaining one or planning to set one. I would like to address the young working class, just like you and me. People that rely on jobs; have bosses, supervisors, customers, colleagues and face daily job challenges.

You know it is very easy to get distracted at work. Sometimes the job that you are currently doing is something you hate the most. That’s why we invented hobbies. Or it may not be the job you thought you wouldn’t do 10 years ago before you join this working class. I have friends who come to me and said, “I don’t know why every time I get a job, it’s always with similar if not the same problems”. Do you feel the same? Let me tell you one thing, even if you are in heaven right now you are likely to complaint. So, it’s normal to be a little bit analytical and critical of own job and its challenges.

Reality of Jobs

Recent surveys in America and Europe about jobs are driving into the same conclusion. The young working class nowadays do not have enough competencies to perform or take over senior people jobs. That’s what the seniors are saying. You can read this post and find out more on this ‘perceptual difference’ between the young executives and seniors. Nonetheless, what I have always believe is that many of today’s jobs are ‘new job’. These jobs are not around 20-30 years ago during the time the seniors climbing their corporate ladder. Therefore the idea of new skills needed to perform today’s job seem foreign to many of them and us. But let’s not discuss too much now, check out some of these facts derived from that survey.

1. A growing number of people are remaining healthy and active well past the traditional retirement age ad want to carry on working, whether for the money or for the fun of it. That create problems for younger workers.

  1. Workers will have to take responsibility for their own future. The pleasure of the having traditional working role were the certainty of a parent-child relationship. You could leave it in the hands of the corporation to make the big decisions about your working life. Now the world is moving towards adult-adult relationship which will require each one of us to take a more thoughtful, determined and energetic approach to exercising the choices available to us.

  2. In some countries, unemployed youth will be given allowances as long as 40 weeks (incentives) for them to cover basic needs which otherwise if not provided can cause social problems such as criminals.

  3. Getting the innovation engine going again is essential to reducing structural rate of unemployment.

  4. The mismatch between the skills demanded by employers and those available in the market is a reflection both of bad choices by students, who have not thought hard enough about what will help them find a good job and of education systems that are too often indifferent of needs of the labour market and too slow to change even if they try.

Yes, I cover a little bit of here and there from more than 10 pages report. What did you get from here?

You Are On You Own

Basically to survive, young executive needs to take charge of his own life. This is not what they use of doing. Having pampered by their nurturing parents, many of them clueless when asked to become agile, resilient, creative, imaginative and working in a team. Although not all of them, but too many of them. It is common today to generalize the young ones to be ‘like that’.

Some of them are very lucky because they have parents who have access to more things thus their outlook are different. Of course not all of them successfully rearing their children, some actually spoiling them because of less time spent at home to look after their boys and girls. Therefore my advise to young executives that they need to start looking for knowledge that they passion about. Something they would want to do for free because it will then become their latent skills.

Say you are in large corporation, you should always raise your hand and push your superiors to give you more jobs and tasks you can develop stronger willpower, depth of skills and be a team player. Because many young executives resist extra jobs, just by doing a little bit more you can become ‘hero’ by your boss. Ask for training and continuous education. Another trick is to learn how to connect yourself with the seniors. These people have strong knowledge and wealth of experiences that take years to accumulate. Tap on this young man!

Get ready to dive into sea of opportunities
Get ready to dive into sea of opportunities

Seek The Experience

I told more people lately, they need to be explorative and be a seeker. You got to chase that experience and make the best out of it. Experience will not come to you, sorry. You need to immerse yourself into it then only you get to see that world. Although many NGOs and associations today are fighting for greater activities, incentives and policies by the government to change education system, introduce entrepreneurs program, provide micro-financing and pass small business laws, you can always do something about it by yourself while waiting.

It is common today to see young executive job hop from one place to the other. Although many of y bosses disagree with this, I think it is not the job hopping causes trouble it’s more the why job hop. If you do it because you want to gain new experience, learn new skills and beef up your network. You are just as hungry for greater things; and joy. Nonetheless, bosses are right too because too many young executives job hop because they don’t like the job, want more pay and benefits and worse unable to perform as expected. They have escapism mentality and run away from responsibilities.

One of the things I tested is to go to another job that will force me to learn critical skills in business. Skills such as project management, sales, strategy formulation and relationship building. What I did was I seek a project manager and consulting job. In 3 years I learn a lot about this trade and accumulated solid experiences in the areas I wanted. But mind you, it is also important for you to identify what are skills needed for you to be where you want to be.

These are the three skills needed for all young executives; selling skill, relationship building skill, and managing skill.

Worri-less

Don’t worry if your boss, parent or colleagues try to talk you out when you want to move to other job.  You must stick to your higher plan and accept the fact these people or employers are your vehicle to get to where you want to be. Even if you make mistake, it has nothing to do with them because they told you so! 🙂

What’s more important is to keep the relationship fresh. I don’t believe in winners take all mentality, and bipolar mindset. Maybe you have experienced working with some narcissistic bosses, be nice to them and just walk out with dignity if you plan to leave the company. Remember to always give your best wherever you are. Give more and share more, you don’t lose anything. You are actually building social capital and goodwill. You are going to need to use it someday.

To drive home the conclusion, it is all about you if you want to be successful or at least survive in working class. Sometimes it pays to keep your jobs long, but in today’s economy the job may not want to keep you that long. Always be alert and able to pick up new skills. Invest in yourself including your intellect. One of my friends say that it is who know, not what you know. I disagree. Knowing what you know make you a leader and always one step ahead; but please don’t be ignorant. It pays to be a little selfish as Charles Handy used in his book, ‘The Hungry Spirit’; proper selfishness.

Stay hungry, stay foolish. 

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com