Monday, December 26, 2011

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Friday, December 23, 2011

unfinished business?...

Hi..sorry to all who visited, if only to find that I have not updated it since the last one, sometime back in May. A lot has taken place since. The year has been somewhat tumultuous. But I shall not bore you with sad stories. Plenty actually. As if the eurozone debt crisis and the looming global recession (what? again?) isn't enough...hmmm.

I have been reading quite a bit too since, despite corporate demands both at the group and operating levels, and postgraduate classes that demands my attention over the weekends. I need to read something else too, to take me away from my literature review, journals, academic writings, articles, books etc etc conceptual, theoretical and research frameworks bla bla bla...haha.  This one, I picked at Borders (ya I know they have filed for chapter 11 in the US) the Gardens Mall, MidValley, Kuala Lumpur, is a good one. I was glad I picked it up...

We are almost at end of 2011 and while we are optimistic at the prospects of 2012, we are however, mindful or at the least, not overly disturbed, I hope... by global economic scenario or probably affected by the fears depicted in the movie '2012' of the global apocalypse or the end of the world as prophesied by many ancient cultures (incas, mayans and what have you..haha)... So, I guess books like Lee Kravitz's '...unfinished business...' is an excellent way to reflect upon one's life. Not so much of trying to do the right things, but of trying to catch up or do the things one has always wanted to do, but never had the time to do so...

Unfinished Business is about one man's extraordinary year of trying to do the right things. And to quote Publishers Weekly 'Kravitz is a thoughtful writer, and his memoirs  reveals a delicate personal journey'. Over the last two years, I come across a lot of new terms like re-defining, rein-venting, re-thinking, re-doing, re-living....and this book is a timely reminder about what life is all about and probably might strike a chord with those of us who have been trapped in the relentless pursuit of work and career. (Which is not to mean that they are unimportant).

The blurp on the back page read: '...after losing his job, Lee Kravitz - a man who had always worked too hard and too much - took stock of his life and decided to spend an entire year making amends and re-connecting with the people and the parts of himself he had neglected. Kravitz embarked on ten journeys, traveling everywhere from a refugee camp in Kenya to a monastery in California and learned along the way that the things we let slip are exactly those that have the power to transform, enrich, enlarge, and complete us.' Hmm transform? what about structured and institutionally directed 'transformation' programs? hehehe

So, folks, if you are thinking or in the midst of reviewing your 'new year resolution' list, I suggest you stop and pause a moment to have a glimpse at what Kravitz has to share. Merry Christmas and a happy new year my friends, silent loyal and casual visitors alike...hehehe

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

economically rich vs socially miserable? ...

Henry Mintzberg, my favourite management guru wrote in his book 'Managers: Not MBAs'that in a democratic society, we do not exist for our social and economic institutions; they exist for us. He went on to say that in recent years, we have been experiencing a glorification of self-interest perhaps unequaled since the 1920s. Greed has been raised to some sort of high-calling; corporations are urged to ignore broader social responsibility in favour of narrow shareholder value; chief executives are regarded as if they alone create economic performance. A society devoid of selfishness may be difficult to imagine, but a society that glorifies selfishness can be imagined only as cynical and corrupt, he goes on complaining. He went on further to say that our societies have been tilting increasingly out of balance, in favour of the economic against social, correspondingly in favour of markets at the expense of other social institutions. We need both, he says, but are finding ourselves increasingly dominated by one. This is interesting...he says that MBA education plays a significant role in all this...hmmmm...

He then taks about the degradation of human values, and then quoted Jensen & Meckling who said that 'there is no such thing as a need, everything is a trade-off (except of course, the need for more...' and illustrated it with a rather startling example: George Bernard Shaw, the famous playwright and social thinker, reported once claimed that while on an ocean voyage he met a celebrated actress on deck and asked her whether she would be willing to sleep with him for a million dollars. She was agreeable. He followed with a counter proposal: "What about ten dollars?" "What do you think I am?" she responded indignantly. he repiled, "We've already established that-now we're just haggling over price."

He also talks about analytical and economic immorality, legal corruption and a society of meanness.... In the real world of decision making, he says the economic and social decisions get all tangled up. Put it in another way, there's always discretion in business decision making, to thwart social needs or to take them into consideration. Business may not exist to serve social needs, but it cannot exist if it ignores them.

This was written in 2003...almost 10 years ago. You were right then and may still, to a certain extent, be right but alot of things have changed professor! The world now has the likes of Yunus looking at microfinance in a different light. We now have social entrerpreneurship. New technologies especially internet technologies have transformed the world much more than the invention of telephone did to mankind.

The Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzenitsyn (1978) made his point with lucidity when he wrote while living in America: I have spent all my life under a communist regime, and I will tell you that a society without an objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking a very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have beneficial effect on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulse.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

of cotton, jutes, alumnis and coffee...

Hi, I wrote this as notes on my facebook and I thought I might as well put it on my blog. In my earlier blogs there has been some mention somewhere this pot of coffee story but I am writing it again in a different context to relate it to its rightful intent..hehehe..please read on...

I just got back from Dhaka, Bangladesh or what was formerly East Pakistan, this morning. Interesting country of more than 160mil people. Dhaka alone has about 30mil inhabitants. My first trip of many more to come InsayAllah. We were there as part of the Malaysian AIM (Asian Institute of Management) alumni Association delegation led by Hj Zul, its (AIM Malaysia Alumni president), Zeb Mazumbar from SIngapore and MP Singh, chairman of the Federation of Asian AIM Alumni Association (FAIM) and president of the India Chapter of AIM alumni. It was a wonderful trip, excellently organised by Anwar Chowdry, our Dhaka colleague. Thank you Anwar, for the numerous meetings and dinners. It was a really great networking experience for everyone. I made alot of new friends. I must thank the AIM Alumni Bangladesh Chapter for graciously including me into your roll of honorary life membership, among others, at its meeting last night. I am humbled and greatly honoured indeed. Thank you.

Being an immediate past president of the University of Hull (England) alumni Association in Malaysia and for years now deeply involved in the activities of a few other university alumni assocation (the university of aberystwyth, Wales as an example), I concur with the views of many, that alumni work is, apart from nostalgia and passionate ties with our alma mater and networking opportunities for business or other purposes, are but only for those few who are cut for this thankless job ( of leading an alumni body). To quote my good friend Richard, who was also with me in Dhaka, an alumni effectively only need 3 chaps to run it with the two others being absent for most of the meetings..hahaha. He (Richard) could not have put it any better.

Which reminds me of the story 'A Cup of Coffee' ...

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, some plain-looking and some expensive and exquisite, telling them to help themselves to hot coffee. When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice-looking, expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is but normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the better cups and are eyeing each other's cups.“ "Now, if Life is coffee, then the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, but the quality of Life doesn't change.“ "Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee in it."

Anwar Chowdry, you did a great job. I wish everyone nothing else, but great success. I believe you will have the support of all your colleagues/alumnus from every corner of Bangladesh from as far north as Rajshahi to Chittagong in the south. Thank you very much again for the warm welcome and kind hospitality...

Monday, March 28, 2011

the rule of law...

Haha we've looked at a marketing book, an architectural appreciation, let us now get a bit more serious shall we? hehehe. This book caught my attention while rushing to pick up last minute chocolates at Terminal 4 (again?) huhu... What's wonderful about this book is that it's not a law book; its for everybody. It explains, clearly, simply, powerfully, to any audience, what the rule of law means and how important it is to everybody in modern society.

The author, Lord Tom Bingham, 'the most eminent of British Judges' (Guardian), held office successively, as Master of the Rolls. Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and Senior Law Lord of the United Kingdom, the only person ever to hold all three offices. He became a life peer, as Baron Bingham of Cornhill, in the County of Powys, on becoming Lord Chief Justice in 1996. In 2005 he was appointed a Knight of the Garter, the first professional Judge to be so honoured. He retired in 2008, and in the same year was elected by the Institute de France as the first winner of the the Prize for Law awarded by the Alexander S Onassis Public Benefit Foundation. Tom Bingham died in September 2010, six months after the first publication of this book.

The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law was established in 2010 with Lord Bingham's support, as part of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, striving to support the development and strengthening of the rule of law as set out in this book.

The Rule of Law was chosen as a 'book of the year' by Chris Patten, former chief executive of HongKong and Chancellor of Oxford University (in the Observer), Gideon Rachman (in the Financial Times) and Geoffrey Robertson (in the New Statesman).

This book, although written by a former judge, is not addressed to lawyers. It does not purport to be a legal textbook. It is addressed to those who have heard references to the rule of law, who are inclined to think that it sounds like a good thing rather than a bad thing, who wonder if it may not be rather important, but who are not quite sure what it is all about and would like to make up their minds.

'The rule of law' , a much used phrase but little examined. Bingham, said to be one of the most acute legal minds of our time, examines what the idea actually means and made clear that it is not an arid legal doctrine but the foundation of a fair and just society, a guarantee of responsible government, and an important contributor to economic growth.

Of course, we must however be mindful that he examined its historical origins and captured its essence as understood in western democracies today. Closely argued indeed. But then again, you may have a different interpretation.

I am still reading it and I have not put it down...its with me everywhere I go haha....go get your own copy bah! contrary to ' but whoever said law books are an interesting read? this one is!! hehehe ... ngeh3x wink2x dot3x

Sunday, March 27, 2011

New York Oh New York...

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) a nonprofit, membership-based organization that fights for intelligent urban planning, design, and preservation through education, dialogue and advocacy celebrated its fifty-second year of offering walking tours to the public in 2009. In 2008 more that 10,000 people participated. I picked this excellently illustrated (photography by Edward A Toran) 10 Architectural Walks in Manhattan by Francis Morrone & Matthew A Postal, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York counter, at Macy's on 34th street.

No way would I have the time to see and appreciate all the buildings and architecture of Manhattan, so this book would be a great weekend browse haha.

Kent L Barwick, president emeritus of the Municipal Art Society of New York, in his foreword wrote: '...on april 8, 1956, architectural historian Henry Hope Reed led what was not only the first Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) walking tour but also probably New York's first architectural walking tour for the general public. It was so novel that that the New York Times sent a reporter and a photographer to cover it. The Times's reporter documented the bewildered looks and comments of passersby at the sight of thirty-eight individuals walking along the streets through a spring snowstorm, stopping to look at old buildings. The group was taken for bird-watchers or people in search of rooms to rent. In fact, the hardy tour-takers were part of a MAS effort to build a constituency that would support the preservation of the city's notable architecture.'

This illustrated guidebook takes visitors to the great buildings, spaces and neighbourhoods of manhattan. Highlights include downtown New York for a look at preservation, planning and early skyscapers; Madison Square with its pantheon of nineteenth century sculpture; New York's newest elevated park, the High Line; Art Deco structures in Midtown; the Beaux-Arts grandeur of Grand Central Terminal; modernist structures around Columbus Circle and Park Avenue; the splendour of Central Park; and Harlem's Hamilton Heights neighbourhood.

I wanted to visit New York way back in 1988 when my cousin was then the deputy director of MIDA in New York but it never happened. I had dinner with him the other night with his daughter who was born in Manhattan. Their apartment was not far away from Macy's.

We have no less interesting buildings and architecture, both old and new. From Moorish architecture to modern intelligent ones too. When I was enjoying the architecture of Chicago in 2009, the guide gave tribute and mentioned our Petronas Twin Towers while explaining some of their skyscrapers!

In 2009 I landed in Newark on transit to Chicago. This time around I enjoyed the chats with an Uzbek, Jewish and Russian taxi drivers on the way to and from La Guardia and JFK...haha.. New York never sleeps they say.. Its difficult not to fall in love with New York..a potpourri of ethnicity, truly diverse and multicultural...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

soul traders: in for the kill..yet again...

No no's too long. I have stayed away long enough. I need to get back to blogging. Update and carry on from the last one which was about 3 months ago? sheeeshh lest I get trapped in Newton's 3rd law; 'Inertia: the tendency of a body to stay at REST or continue its state of motion' haha. Even if it means my readers (wink) have given up on me or gone away or if my relatives are having a grand feast or barbecue celebrating my departure from blogosphere..har har har...ya rite..

It's too easy..heheh (wink). Ok, to start the mood again, I guess reviewing the piles of books I have acquired since (15 or more I think) from my travels, would be appropriate kot. Quite timely too..what with the upcoming sarawak elections, unrest in the middle east and all..hehe.

This book I picked up at Changi on my last trip to Singapore looks interesting and relevant with the times (wink). It's called 'Soul Traders: How Honest People Lost Out To Hard Sell' by Jonathan Gabay (a lecturer at CIM UK and a marketing reformist). I like his forward remark: 'For all those I have taught and those from whom I am yet to learn.' He takes you on an often-times disturbing journey looking behind a century of billboards, TV ads, campaigns and irresistible slogans (perhaps some porno videoclips too along the way hahaha...naaah i just made that up..huhu) to see how hard sell has captured honest souls. From religion to commerce and politics (see? you need spin jobs and marketing skills in politics too you know?), the psychological tactics used to manipulate public opinion over the past 100 years have become even more devious, for want of a better word (wink). Perhaps ethically and morally wrong are no longer's irrelevant to some, so long as the end justifies the means, some would always say, right? wink.

The compelling stories behind some of history's key events will astound you: from who sold chemicals to the Nazis, how public perceptions were managed to win support for wars, how fat cats abused our respect, and the astonishing rise of some of today's best-loved high street brands.

The entire world is undergoing massive change so says the author. Long-held convictions have been replaced with deep-seated cynicism. What will it take for leaders to rebuild reputations and regain faith? Will twentyfirst century digital and virtual communication make us ever more susceptible to persuasion through mobiles and inboxes (you not the unrest in the middle east testimony enough of the massive effect/impact? hmmmm) or can we embrace the world of hype and maybe learn to get even? Getting even is more like it, I would imagine...embracing? hmm perhaps..wink2x

Jonathan goes on to feed your suspicion that there is more to what you're being told and sold than first meets the eye, or if you're keen to build a profitable and ethical future for your organization through learning from history's greatest lessons in hype and propaganda, then Soul Traders is definitely for you..Go grab your personal copy maaaa... hehehe...and enjoy the rest of the weekend folks! ciao