September 4th, 2011

Identifying opportunities

An innovator can unveil the uncertainty and mysticism surrounding an idea if the facts, assumptions, perceptions and opinions are properly evaluated.

THE SOLE aim of the innovator is to generate profit from a novel or creative idea. To do this, he first examines and studies the landscape that he is in.

He examines his surroundings, in the context of his own strengths and weaknesses. He questions everything he observes and does not take anything for granted. He evaluates every assumption and ascertains the credibility and reliability of claims and evidence before him. This is the basis of critical thinking.

An innovator is a critical thinker when he has learnt the art of separating facts from opinions. He examines the basis of assumptions and delves into perceptions that surround the proposition. Collectively, opinions, assumptions and perceptions are regarded as “noise” and are usually discarded by men of science. The innovator however, extends the boundaries of traditional critical thinking and extracts underlying messages from the noise.

In the last five articles, we explored all these concepts of critical thinking, with the aim of bringing the innovator closer to the heart of the truth.

The next task in critical thinking is to put all the pieces together so that the complete picture reveals an opportunity that is not obvious to the masses.

Unfortunately, this is the most difficult part. In isolation, each individual piece tells a certain story. When assembled however, the combined parts of the jigsaw puzzle may reveal an entirely different representation. To make matters even more difficult, the final picture may be like a hologram — showing different images to different people, depending on their points of view.

Which one is the true portrait of the opportunity and which one is the illusion? The ability to distinguish one from the other is what differentiates an entrepreneur from an innovator. An ordinary entrepreneur sees a business opportunity whereas an innovator charts the journey to a profitable destination.

We must understand that not everything is visible to the naked human eye. Sometimes we need tools to make invisible things become visible. Just like a micro-biologist relies on a microscope to bring minute organisms into full view under the lens and a banker uses an ultra-violet light lamp to view the watermarks of currency notes, the innovator needs a tool that brings invisible messages from facts, opinions, assumptions and perceptions into his viewfinder.

A simple tool that makes the task easier is the “FAPO (Facts, Assumptions, Perceptions Opinions) Matrix” See Table. The matrix, shown in the table, shows the complete picture of the situation being evaluated.

The power of this deceptively simple tool lies in the fact that, when all aspects of the situation are shown on one sheet of paper, the relationships between the different parts become visible. Somehow, the human brain finds it easier to make sense out of complex data when all of it is presented on one page.

The “FAPO Matrix” functions as the “third eye” and allows the innovator to “see” what others miss out – the richness provided by the intersections of the four components.

Fill up the matrix by listing key facts as bullet points in the first quadrant. You should not have more than five or six points. Do the same with the other quadrants – list down five or six assumptions, perceptions and opinions. You need to ensure that the validity of the claims has been established and that the sources are reliable. This is not always possible, so include uncertainties in the assumptions quadrant.

Work with the FAPO Matrix in a group consisting of friends from varied backgrounds – those who like the arts, sciences, mathematics. sports and others. Pit the facts against the opinions and see how quickly biases show up. Compare the facts against the assumptions and you can swiftly determine the reliability and credibility of the assumptions.

For some off-the-wall insights, contrast the assumptions against the perceptions and you may find links that were elusive to you all along.

Evaluate the opinions together with the perceptions and you may discover hidden intelligence about the target market.

The multiple possible combinations provide a fertile ground that can be analysed to provide lush information. The output from the FAPO Matrix is a clear and unambiguous understanding of the state of affairs, which opens up the mind to opportunities that should have been obvious but were buried under the noise.

The innovator is not a philosopher – his purpose for critical thinking is to correctly identify an opportunity or to solve a problem. If done in a structured manner, the skill can be learnt by just about anyone and the uncertainty and mysticism surrounding innovation can be eliminated.

Since critical thinking is the first step, it has to be both accurate and precise. A by-product of critical thinking is the identification of various problems, weak links and potential pitfalls that are causing the opportunity to remain untapped. These issues become the input to the next stage – Constructive Thinking. The objective of Constructive Thinking is to address and overcome these concerns and propose workable solutions.

We have reached the end of Part Two of this series on critical thinking. Part Three will deliberate on Constructive Thinking and the tools, techniques and methodologies that the innovator can use to sharpen his mind.


■ Datuk Dr Kamal Jit Singh is the CEO of Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM). It is the vanguard for innovation in Malaysia. Established by the Government through an Act of Parliament, AIM will be the driving force behind Malaysia’s push towards establishing an innovation economy.

Source: The STAR Home Eduction Sunday September 4, 2011

It doesn't pay to be a 'yes' man

It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil... and a fatter pay cheque, especially in today’s work environment, learns AUDREY VIJAINDREN

ALTHOUGH there are upsides to being nice, such as being better liked by colleagues, the bottom line, according to recent studies, is that agreeableness is negatively related to income and earnings.

While this may seem illogical to some, it's now a proven fact that nice guys finish last on the pay scale.

Sharmini Hensen says being cordial does not fit well in corporate life

Life coach Sharmini Hensen says this is especially true in the Malaysian workforce.

"Although the phenomenon appears to be cross cultural, it's more evident in Malaysia because being polite and a people pleaser have always been part of our upbringing and culture. 

"However, being cordial and nice doesn't fit well in a corporation because in any situation or relationship, you need to articulate what you want and know how to get it. If you don't, you'll just end up being miserable and it'll show. Being a 'yes' man or'DBKL', picking up everyone else's rubbish, just doesn't cut it.

"Nice guys always try to save the day by taking on too much, causing other people to dump more tasks on them. Eventually, Mr Nice Guy gets overwhelmed and burnt out causing him to produce mediocre work. At the end of the day, he'll probably lose out on promotions and raises."

On the other hand, a worker who's able to say "no" or "no, not now" is someone most bosses want to work with, Hensen believes. 

"Contradictory to what we were brought up to think, the majority of managers would rather pick an assertive worker over an obliging one.

"This is because managers know that these employees are focused and won't stand for nonsense, especially when dealing with vendors and other third parties. They demand to be treated right and paid for what they're worth."

Country manager of Malaysia, Chook Yuh Yng, echoes her opinion. 

Chook Yuh Yng says niceness is not a trait sought by employers

"An office worker who's nice in terms of agreeableness to every issue without thinking of the outcome does not have traits that are desired by employers. 

"Employees who tend to be overly agreeable may not be seen as good decision-makers or leaders. Their promotion is likely to be delayed until they dare to be more upfront."

It's the same with women. It does not pay to be nice.

"It's a known fact that nice women earn much less, they become doormats and blend into the furniture although they've been holding senior positions for many years. 

"But women don't have the same benefits as men when attempting to be assertive. They tend to over communicate and get unnecessarily emotional.

"For women, the strategy should be a little different, the less you say the better otherwise you'll be labelled with the 'B' word and the effects are adverse," Hensen adds.

Clinical psychologist and human behaviour expert, Wendy Walsh, believes women need to master peaceable methods. 

"At the end of the day, there needs to be social and emotional intelligence. Social intelligence means knowing when it is safe to be disagreeable. Women who stand up for themselves in the workplace tend not to be rewarded too much, they have to work their social skills in a peace making way. 

"It's sexist but it's true that when women are more disagreeable, assertive and aggressive, they are called the 'B' word but men are called ambitious and tough when they have the same behaviours. 

"The ability to disagree doesn't necessarily mean being rude, angry and abrasive, but it does mean being able to say to your boss, 'no, I deserve more'. And you can say it in a very polite way."

Hensen says it's a 21st century phenomenon to become incredibly selfish, which is not a bad trait. 

"It's okay to be very selfish with your work in order to create results. Stop being a wuss and doormat, it never applied before and it surely doesn't apply today. We're in the leading edge of change and that kind of attitude doesn't make you leading edge material. 

"However, be wise in balancing it out, sometimes you have to stand up and say 'no' while other times you need to be supportive and accommodating. But don't use these findings as an excuse to slide by and sail through your work day by doing as little as possible." 

Although it may not be in some people's nature to be confrontational and disagreeable, Hensen says it helps to focus on your self worth. 

"Notice even your smallest achievements and don't be embarrassed to talk about it. Bring it up during your appraisals and get the recognition you deserve. However, when a person has a certain level of esteem and strength, they also have dignity and class. State what you want and don't pester the bosses for it. If you feel that you're not getting due recognition, move on to the next opportunity with your dignity intact."

However, human resource consultant Peter Kanagaraj believes that in most Malaysian companies, one's chances of promotions and increments are heavily dependent on one's immediate supervisor. 

Peter Kanagaraj says promotions here depend on supervisors

"For instance, if you're a 'yes' man and your boss appreciates that, then you'll probably rise to the top quickly, but if he hates managing people who answer back and question his opinion, or feels that his job is threatened by your presence, your attitude will bite you.

"Also, company policies play an important role. Some organisations practise an open-door policy, which allows employees to approach higher management without having to go through their immediate supervisors. This gets them noticed even if their supervisors are not their biggest fan, opening more opportunities for advancement."

Kanagaraj says the scenario in Malaysia is different compared with other developed countries. In such countries, due to an abundance of competent persons, only the best secure employment and make it to the top.

Naughty or nice?

TWO years ago, a United Kingdom study into the link between personality and salary found that nice people are paid nearly STG1,500 (RM7,308) a year less than those who are more aggressive in the workplace.
Researchers for the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex claim their study shows that the amiable are on average paid less. 

Nearly 3,000 men aged between 24 and 64 living and working in the UK were grouped into five personality types, depending on their openness to experience, conscientiousness, level of extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. 

Researchers Dr Cheti Nicoletti and Dr Alita Nandi, demonstrated that those who were nice earned approximately six per cent less.

Nicoletti said: "The results clearly show that agreeableness and neuroticism are penalised in the workplace while extroversion is rewarded. While it's penalised in the labour market, it may make a person more socially acceptable, increase their social networks and finally lead to better mental health and well-being."

A recent United States study proved that these findings stand true even to today. The study which looked at the link between personality and wages found that "agreeable" workers earn approximately US$10,000 (RM29,800) a year less than their mean colleagues.

The study, titled "Do nice guys - and gals -- really finish last?", examined levels of "agreeableness" attributed to different people and compared it with their pay.

Agreeableness was defined as a tendency towards warmth, kindness and cooperation with other people.

Men who were deemed to disagree the most made 18 per cent more than those seen to be more willing to agree.

Disagreeable women make five per cent more than women who are more willing to seek common ground.

Data was compiled over 20 years from three different surveys. As a further part of the research, 460 business students were asked to pretend to be managers reviewing descriptions of potential employees. Researchers found that those viewed as more agreeable were less likely to get the job.

Cornell professor, Beth Livingston, who authored the study with University of Notre Dame's Timothy Judge and Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario, said managers are clearly rewarding nasty behaviour.

"Nice guys are getting the shaft. The problem is, many managers often don't realise they reward disagreeableness," she told the Wall Street Journal.

By Audrey Vijaindren 2011/09/03
Source: The NST Home Local 2011/09/03

Raya greetings came via post

   One main feature of all old press coverage of Hari Raya Aidilfitri was the mass exodus of people getting out of town, making their way back to kampung.

And today the more mass exodus of people making their way back to kampung still holds .. Sep 2011

One of the most arresting pictures was one where people were clambering over one another to gain entry into a bus through its rear exit. 

Though today many drive own vehicles be it, motorbikes, motorcars or 'belons' .. .. Sep 2011

Similar scenes could be seen elsewhere in town, whether in railway stations, bus stops or taxi stands.

Today, while many leave the city to balik kampung, there is an increasing number who stay in town, because they have made the town their kampung as their parents and grandparents are here now. 

To them, it is balik bandar instead, coming from out of town, or overseas, back to the city centre to visit family and friends.

Back then, cakes, kuih and all other dishes and delicacies were always home-made and the family -- men, women and children -- would all pitch in to help, whether to help stir the dodol, tend the fire of a makeshift oven, or to knead the dough.

Nowadays, difficult to make own or home-made as many had not learned to make own cookies and not forgetting the time, the money (expensive bahan-bahan lor ..) the skills and etc. .. Sep 2011

Nowadays, almost everything can, and is, bought off the shelf.


  And just wait, 3 days after raya where the price will go down .. but one thing for sure kueh raya bought from the stalls banyak yang tak sodap dan biasanya terkoncing .. can say no quality lor ...   Sep 2011

The post office in Jalan Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, in August 1979, received more than 800,000 Hari Raya
  greeting cards to be delivered for the festive season.  

It was March 28, 1960, and the drizzle on the first day of Hari Raya did not prevent these four charming
  Malay girls from Kampong Baru from visiting friends and exchanging greetings.  

Clad in spanking new clothes for Hari Raya, these children were happy to be out and about
in this July 27, 1978 photograph.

The orderly queue that was eager to meet and greet Tun Hussein Onn
and his family during his open house at Seri Taman on Sept 6, 1978.

As the month of Ramadan drew to a close, the women folk, with their friends of all races,
gathered to prepare ketupat for Hari Raya Aidilfitri in this photograph taken on June 18, 1988.

In those days, no one had to make appointments when visiting the homes of neighbours and friends because every house would be an "open house" on the first two days of Hari Raya. 

Ziarah menziarahi memang di tuntut tapi sukarnya adalah persediaan .. normally to ensure your attendance, many of us are tired after travelling and need rest, when we visit our relatives we will be served with 'heavy foods and drinks' thus manyak berat mau to the next place and thus in the like of KL city, if you can go 3-4 house a day then consider yourself great .. Sep 2011

Today, people wait for the strike of midnight to send mass SMSes to friends and faraway family members, wishing them "Selamat Hari Raya" and seeking forgiveness for the past year's transgressions.

But in the old days, greeting cards and letters did the job, and weeks before the actual day, the post office would be inundated with sacks of them, all to be sorted out and sent on their way.

It is said that greetings thru SMS is faster, straight to the person, cheaper, interactive as the cost of a card raya now is at least RM1.20 plus postage at about RM0.50-RM0.60 compared to the SMS of maybe RM0.50/message. .. Sep 2011

And when the actual celebrations arrived, it was much more than just an eating and chatting affair -- berjoget (dancing) was also very much part of the festivities, which is almost unheard of these days.

  Can we dance nowadays, nanti adalah keluag media, masyarakat melayu lupa diri, tidak menghormati agama dan perasaan, buat kena tak buat di tulis dalam lipatan sejarah ..   .. Sep 2011

So the best is, to know the meaning of 'menyambut aidilfitri'. To me, celebrating aidilfitri is to thank Allah swt for giving the chance to celebrate it, attend aidilfitri prayers, continue the likes of Ramadhan i.e fasting (no bad words, be nice and good, read Quran verses, less mengarut and etc.). Meeting family, relatives, friends are one of the best occasion. Best of all, be your good self, insyaallah. Wallahualam. .. Sep 2011

Source: The NST Home Local 2011/09/03 

Beware of Bota the giant

BOTA -- even today the name of this town is often misunderstood and mispronounced by outsiders.

Instead of saying Bota, with a soft "a" or "e" in the second syllable, its is often mispronounced as botak, which means bald in Malay.

  Located about 40km from Ipoh, the origin of Bota can be traced back to two villages on the left and right banks of the Perak river. 


It's name is actually linked to a dark myth. 

According to villagers, Bota was the name of a giant monster who is believed to have once lived in an underground cave in the area.

The huge human-like creature, akin to Bigfoot, is said to be attracted to children running around without their pants on!

And, until today, parents will still use this tale to scare their children so that they do not to run around without clothes and return home before evening prayers.
Although there is no record on the history of this town, townsfolk say the original settlement was established about 200 years ago. 

According to Alias Karim, 86, a fifth-generation villager living near the town, the story of Bota -- the giant creature -- had been handed down in his family since the arrival of his first ancestor more than 100 years ago.


Alias Karim, a fifth generation villager, s
ays Bota also hunts humans and animals for food

He said Bota was the name given to a giant who roamed the thick forest, adding that it was more like "Bigfoot".

"The jungle Bota lived in was far away from human settlement then. The creature took shelter in underground caves during the day and only came out at dusk to forage for food.

"But what made the giant so feared by the villagers was its strange interest in children who did not wear pants or shorts," he said recently.

So strong was the villagers' belief in Bota's existence that parents, including Alias' own, did not allow their children to go outside their houses after sunset for fear they might be abducted by the giant.

Bota would leave its cave to hunt for its favourite food -- fish -- which could be found in the many swamps existing back then.

The creature liked to hunt for ikan puyu, or the climbing perch (Anabas testudineus), and ikan tilan, or the swamp eel (fluta alba).

"But, when it is desperate, Bota, who was muddy-grey in colour, will also hunt for humans and animals as food.

"Sometimes, when villagers heard cases of missing people in those days, they would immediately blame it on Bota." 

In earlier days, the area around the villages used to be a dense forest.

So widespread was the belief in Bota that the two villages on both banks of the river acquired its name and became known as Bota Kiri and Bota Kanan.

The town's population now consists largely of Malays from Perak and Kedah, and the Banjar people.

Bota is famous for its tuntung or river terrapins.

A river terrapin breeding centre, established by the Wildlife Department in 1968, is a major tourist attraction besides the royal mausoleum of a few ancient Perak Malay rulers.

The wildlife conservation centre, situated in Bota Kanan, had become synonymous with the town.

Surprisingly, it is at the centre that visitors would first get to learn a little about the history of Bota and the origin of the town's name.

And, it is the last bit of question on the information panel there that would leave visitors hungry for more information. 

It states: "Can you imagine what it would be like if Bota the giant roamed this area?"

For Alias, the question would remain unanswered.

"Some believe it is a myth, some believe the creature probably existed. But one thing is for sure, the name of this town is connected to the beast. 

"Of course, thanks to education and development, the villagers now no longer believe and live in fear of Bota the giant. 

"We only use the story to scare the kids to return home early so that they would get ready for prayers," said Alias.

Popular Song of Bota

Oh kome...deghoyan dah bebunga
Maghi kite minang anak daghe
Anak daghe...anak daghe Bota
Teman jumpe..di Padang Tenggale

Musim Deghoyan...Yg tua nak ke Mekah
Yg muda...Gatei nak menikah

Bila musim deghoyan
Dema beghani nampor
Ape deme nak heran
Saman buleh bayor....!!

By Jaspal Singh 2011/09/03

The NST Home Local Article 2011/09/03