Sunday 27 February 2011

Lost and Found

What is the odd of losing your wallet and finding it again for 2 consecutive days? It happened to me over the weekend!

I had lunch with a friend who migrated to Sydney and now taking a job in the UK on Saturday. We were joined by another colleague who eventually paid for the rendezvous. It was at Sari Ratu in Kelana Jaya.

The last time we met up was around 3 years ago and it was great to know that he and his family are doing fine down under. As usual I heard the same story of having better pay, better lifestyle and quality of life; and need not be worried about expressing oneself as popular reasons why he and many others Malaysians choose to live abroad. At least they are rewarded on meritocracy, claims my friend, although admitting that discrimination is still felt even in developed countries.

I only realised that my wallet was no longer in my pocket when I reached home. I quickly googled for the phone number of the restaurant and was told that the wallet is in their safe keeping. I quickly rushed back to the restaurant. It was really a great relief when the casher opened a locked drawer and took out my wallet, sealed in a plastic bag. As there was no contact number anywhere in the wallet, they were not able to contact me earlier.

The way the wallet was kept while waiting for me to turn up impressed me, indicating the culture of integrity and customer service of the workers at the restaurant. A part from reminding me of not to be careless in the future, this episode serves as a reminder that they are people who are honest and proud of their honesty.

While some may feel that lighting doesn't strike twice, I did drop my wallet again while having breakfast at Nasi Lemak Tanglin, the next day. This time, one of the workers picked up my wallet and handed it over to me while I was having breakfast. Again, another demonstration of people who are honest is their work and did not take opportunity from other people's carelessness, me in this case!

If the culture of integrity and honesty could be developed and sustained across all strata of our society, I am sure this country will fly towards future success. One of the lessons learned from the recent global financial crisis was that people tend to forget the basic of being human in the race of creating wealth for themselves, even leaders of large global organisations.

The experience over the weekend certainly humbled me as a person. Not only I need to enhance my risk management (read to be more careful with my wallet), I also observed ordinary people assuring me that there are honest people out there and we as a society should be proud of them.

Sunday 20 February 2011

Are You Dealing With Real Friends?

How many of us will switch on whatever gadgets that we use to access the Web in the morning before even brushing out teeth? I am not sure how many hands are raised but many of us are becoming more dependent on the Web to keep our lives going.

Part of this addiction is through various social network platforms, Facebook, Twitter to name a few. Lately, I have been receiving invites to join a lot more of new platforms which are fast crowding the cyberspace.

One important feature of social networks is our ability to connect with "friends". This feature allows us to be in control of who should be allowed to share their views, thoughts and even telling us what they eat on a real time basis. As much as we analyse (I trust we are doing this even now) the identity of any person requesting to be our friends, others are doing the same on us. This brings us to one important challenge, how do we profile ourselves on these social networks.

Loss of privacy is a main concern to most of us, especially if our data is stolen and used by unscrupulous people who are scanning the web for such opportunities. Some of us may be too careless by revealing private information that allows crooks to take advantage from it. As a way to mitigate this risk, people may camouflage their identities using nicknames or even false identities. They are also people who prefer not to use their real identities just for fun.

The group function on Facebook has been used in many occasions as a mean to shape public views. Discussions posted on such pages reinforce the points advocated the the group initiators. What I observe as an emerging trend is the existence of cyber-trolls, people using false identities posting intimidating comments on such pages to turn the tide to other directions. Given that it is very easy to create a new Facebook account using fake identities, cyber-trolling appears a new mean to counter opposing view on cyberspace. 

This could also be observed on popular blogs, especially on matters involving public debates. For example, in the past, articles in English on such matters did not attract many opposing comments. Nowadays, it appears that "the other side" are becoming more interested to counter the posted views, using good English as well. Is this a sign that there are groups out there who are investing substantial resources to hire profession cyber-trollers to fight their cause?

Somehow many people tend to be too trusting when dealing with people and information on the web. Some even take the information as wholesale truth, without any attempt to verify them. Developing a more skeptical attitude may be a wise idea as there is no effective filter on the web. I normally try to triangulate news or information by considering what are said on websites where the writers' identities are known. Reading comments and feedback from other readers would also provide some idea on the issue being discussed. In fact this skepticism should also be applied on all information, including what we watch on TV, listen on the radio and those found in daily newspapers.  

Given the risks of dealing with people whom we do not know, screening our friends on social network is something for everybody to consider. I do not have criteria for safe friends but giving this issue more attention would certainly avoid unnecessary problems in the future. 

Sunday 13 February 2011

The Freedom to Question and Innovation

Human had survived many challenges from the days time begun. It is this ability to anticipate and react to changing environment that differentiate the human species from the likes of dinosaurs. While we are relatively smaller than the dinosaurs, the ability to use our brain power enabled us to survive extreme challenges. In short, human has been innovating, doing something new that add value, from time in memory.

What drives innovation? I suppose it starts from having a view that status quo is not acceptable. By applying this broad definition, innovation applies to all facets of our life, not just related to scientific discoveries. It could cover the social system that we live in, ways of doing work or even the way we think. Therefore, innovation is everybody's business, not just to those wearing thick spectacles in laboratories.

To be innovative requires the human mind to be able to understand what is out there and to question and challenge whether they are acceptable or something need to be done for the better. Some people do not mind this process of understanding and challenging. However, there are people who are not comfortable to let others to use their brain power to assess, evaluate and challenge. I would imagine dictators would fall into this category.

Given the level of competition is the present globalised environment, no country or economy is spared from the need to be competitive. Under such circumstances, it would be natural to fall back on the natural instinct of people for survival, to innovate. For this to happen, nothing should be secret. The issue is whether the community we live in allows all its members to question and challenge? As Bill Gates argues in his book Business as the Speed of Thoughts, any business that does not add value will parish. I suppose this applies to groups of people and even countries as well.

Community leaders who derive control from intimidation, fear and suppression would not welcome the culture of questioning and challenging. To them the status quo must be preserved i.e. they should continue to be allowed to lead, irrespective of them leading the community to the dogs. Under this circumstances, it would be very challenging for the society to innovate as by nature they would be scared to consider change. So, not withstanding how many agencies or programmes to promote innovation, the chance for success would be very remote. This will be further amplified when the society has reached a stage of going back to the leaders for every problem that they face. Off course the leaders would be happy as the society is beholden to them. 

However, as data, information and knowledge reach people using cheap and simple technology such as social network platforms, the ground is slowly shifting. Furthermore, putting in place technological and information infrastructure is big business and these people with power would be tempted to promote this for "reasons only known to them". As what we saw in other places lately, having more data, information and knowledge made people more conscious about the present and provided them with more options in moving to the future, beyond what were promoted by those in leadership. Some societies had decided to challenge and change status quo. 

I trust, we as occupants of this planet, would be able to leverage more on the availability of knowledge and information to keep on questioning, challenging and innovating. One caveat though. Not every status quo is bad. For example, those in charge of governance are expected to act in the best interest of all stakeholders. This has been established for a long time and I do not see this changing. In fact, a lot of problems that we faced globally were the result of failures of the people in charge of governance to perform their functions effectively.

One simple step that we could take is to encourage everybody under our care to start asking questions, even on matters which we feel strongly about. We may not be able to answer all these questions but by giving permission for people to consider beyond status quo, we are nurturing innovation.

Sunday 6 February 2011

Blogging From Multiple Platforms

Blogging is quickly turning into second nature to some of us. It provides us with the opportunity to share our views and thoughts with the global audience.

Given the web could now be accessed from multiple platforms, bloggers are now able to write their blog entries using mobile phones, laptops and now iPads. This enables full mobility and blog entries could be made everywhere.

It does not mean that all the platforms provide similar blogging experience. The PC and laptops are the most convenient whereas other mobile devices have to make compromises in terms of available blogging features such as adding pictures and adding links.

I suppose recent events showcased this point where the whole world could monitor views and experience on a real time basis. Combined with other social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, information, views and thoughts is close to impossible to be stopped.

It would not be a surprise that many governments around the world are now reviewing their strategies in managing overflow of information, in the light if recent developments.

I hope bloggers would continue to share their views and thoughts with a single objective of making this world a better place for everybody.

This posting is my first using my iPad!

Friday 4 February 2011

Angle, Perspective and Story

I am discussing about photography.

Being an owner of a Nikon D90, I try, whenever possible, to capture scenes, events and stories through the lens of this sophisticated tool. Different people take up photography for many reasons. In fact photography is gaining interest in Malaysia, perhaps due to availability of high end digital cameras at fairly reasonable cost. I know a number of friends who ended up as a full time photographers. 

When my camera is not with me, my iPhone becomes handy. In fact most official events are captured through this gadget as it would be very odd for me to carry my D90 during those occasions. While the photo quality is not as good, what matter more are the angles of the photo, your perspective of the event and the storyline which you want to communicate.

In fact angle, perspective and story are not only applicable to taking photo-shots but could be applied in any situation when effective communication is essential. In the present era when people could express what they have in their minds in many ways and forms, having angles, perspectives and stories which resonate more to the target audience would help in sending the points across and hopefully convincing the audience.

This brings us to another aspect of communication, understanding the audience. I'm sure we have heard a lot of talk show over the radio when people could call in to air their views. Listening to these conversations would be interesting as we could hear a specific issues being discussed from many angles and perspectives, depending on the background, knowledge and emotional state of the callers. Listening deeply is a very effective way of understanding the audience. Sometimes,  what was not said could also be critical as well. this could be a painful exercise especially when what was said went against our own viewpoints. However, if we would really want to understand others viewpoints and thought, a little patient would help.

How do we convey our angles, perspectives and stories? 

We do this in many ways on a daily basis. When we talk with friends over teh tarik or when we are engaged in heavy discussions during official meetings, we do attempt to influence others through our own angles, perspectives through our stories on the subject being discussed. In societies with high power distance, the views from people with higher standing could be considered differently compared to the rest. This is why we need to have a fairly good idea of how people around the table are thinking. It could prudent to choose when to engage heavily and when to let go. We could not expect all our viewpoints would be received well all the time.

The availability of social network platforms enables us to express ourselves to a wider audience in ways we feel appropriate. In doing so we need to remember one point, everything we write would be recorded permanently. It helps to articulate our our viewpoints using angles, perspectives and stories that we reflect fairly on our personalities.

Remember your angles, perspectives and stories well reflect you as a person and how you would be perceived, rightly or wrongly. 

I would like to acknowledge the presence of my friend Rahim Hamid on blogsphere through his blog As I Was Passing.