The long journey to success is a journey of personal growth and change

Many things we do that is meaningful, is never easy.

Often we will face significant challenges, make mistakes and create enemies. But at the same time we become better, we learn new things and we make new friends – as long as we have a clear purpose and aim to do what is right with humility, sincerity and integrity. It is so important to find your purpose and values.

Inspire people towards their purpose, build up and not take down. Help them see the future. Spend time with them creating the future. Allow them to be creative, don’t kill dreams, don’t kill diversity. Accept them as people with big dreams.

Hold firm to your values. Your values will guide you in your actions and decisions, especially when you are faced with difficult choices.

Keep your beliefs strong – yet, open to other beliefs. Because beliefs are just that: beliefs. These are not truths. Always ensure that we keep our minds open; open to learning new things. Be a good listener, and seek first to understand others in order to be understood. Resist the temptation to jump and react in the first instance, stay calm and contemplate your situation properly.

Empower others. Empower them with knowledge, information and the ability to make decisions. 

Forgive. People who are sincere, should be forgiven. 

If you’re on a journey that is meaningful – you will need all these and more because the journey is tough, but the journey is the reward, even if you do not reach the end.

If you want innovation, you have to encourage independent thought

We live in an age where technology, customer expectations, and markets shift rapidly. Sticking with dogma and age old ideas, methods, products and services will no longer cut it.

Assuming that we believe in the above – and I would not be too far off the mark, I’d guess – then we need to be able to adapt, respond, anticipate these shifts before and as they happen. We need to be agile, and most of all we need to be innovative. We need to find even more effective solutions to old and new problems. What worked in the past will not guarantee to work in the future.

Innovation is the key to winning in the fast changing world.

But innovation is not just an activity. It is more than that. It is a mindset, a culture, a function that everyone plays – and not just some people in labs and research centres.

Like creativity, you cannot force innovation. Like creativity, innovation must be allowed to flow, naturally. The biggest enabler for innovation is allowing individuals the freedom to have independent thought.

The seed of a new idea would only come from a ground that is fertile with many different thinking. In groups of people, society and organisations – allowing people to think different allows them to explore new ideas, test new perspectives, find new solutions in ways never been thought of before. A social group that emphasises conformity over individuality will psychologically limit the collective minds. This is often the subtle tyranny of the majority.

A society or organisation that is conscious of these subtle effects will need to take steps to allow individuality and take these steps even further by bringing in people who would be expected to see things differently – given they come from different backgrounds and thus would naturally see things differently. Artists will see different solutions to problems than would engineers or accountants. People from different industries will see different ways to solve problems. This is vital in order to encourage innovation. Societies and organisations will need to infuse their own culture and groups of people with people from other backgrounds in order to create a much richer diversity of thought.

Holistic assessment of children’s progress

 

Are exams the best way to help children develop?

This is a big question. I find that exams based assessment of a child’s development results in a narrow focus and thus, inadequately prepares the child for the challenges they will face many years later in life.

Exams based assessment – whilst are objective – only emphasises (i) academic knowledge; (ii) enforces rote learning; (iii) creates behaviours of studying (self learning) only for the exams.

The above 3 emphasis are becoming increasingly inadequate these days.

For one, academic knowledge is no longer sufficient. What is important is that children start to explore learning outside of what is covered in text books. The world today is moving so quickly that knowledge nowadays is everywhere.

Secondly, rote learning does not help children develop the skills to learn on their own, or to learn through discovery and experimentation. Rote learning emphasises that the answer is pre-determined.

Thirdly, learning should be a constant habit – and not something only needed for the purpose of passing exams. This constant learning habit is highly prized when the individual progresses through life when things are constantly changing requiring a constant unlearning and relearning.

So what is the alternative to measuring a child’s development?

In the first place, we need to ask why we are measuring a child’s knowledge etc? The goal of measuring a child’s progress is to identify areas the child is strong at and areas the child can be further developed.

Assessment of children’s progress should not be seen as a means to “rate” or “grade” them. It is more important to develop children than to grade them.

Once we have properly adopted this mindset, then we can move forward with the alternative assessment. But before we go into that, we need to also understand what are the qualities on which we wish to develop our children?

Some initial thoughts on the qualities we seek in children, and later as adults:

  • academic (of course)
  • attitudes & behaviours
  • values & goals
  • leadership
  • communication, collaboration, interaction
  • physical health – sports, outdoor activities
  • empathy – emotional & spiritual quotient
  • intellectual capacity – thinking, critique
  • action & discipline
  • creativity, innovation & art

Of course, the above list may not be entirely appropriate and may even miss out other qualities. But what is important, it needs to encapsulate the many qualities we seek as people as they grow older and attempt to make the world better.

The even bigger question now is how do we measure the child’s progress in the above qualities.

Remember, the measures are meant to identify strengths and development areas. Not to rate or grade.

There are already many psychometric & other tools to measure these qualities. We only need to use them on a more regular basis through the child’s progress through school to understand more about their development.

These tools can be utilised by both teacher and parents alike in order to gain a more balanced view of the child’s development.

Avoid gaming the system

Since, this assessment is not for purpose of rating or grading the child – it will mitigate the effects of “gaming the system”. In order to enhance the credibility of the assessment tools, we can build in self-regulating mechanisms to prevent a deliberate high or low score.

What is most important is that the child makes as much progress in their development: a high score on an assessment may mean that the child need not undergo specific tasks to develop further. A constant high score means that the child has a low record number of development / improvement exercises – which could look less impressive as compared to a child who is consistently improving.

Conversely, a deliberately low scoring may mean that the child will have to undergo a rigourous number of development / improvement exercises. Which could be both taxing on the child and the tutor.

I know this system is not perfect, but it is a starting point in building a self-regulating mechanism to prevent the child, the tutor and the parents from gaming the system.

To add further mitigation – external parties may be called into assess the child further using these tools (or a variation of the tools). The tools need not require a constant intimacy with the child, but can be assessed on the spot like many psychometric tests.

Other forms of assessment can be done in a similar manner of how role-playing games (“RPG”) players acquire experience points (“XP”) to upgrade their RPG characters. These can be related to the child completing certain academic and non-academic tasks. Points, badges and recognition can be given to demonstration of certain activities, behaviours etc – such as teamwork, leadership etc.

To achieve the above, technology can be used to document, record, and provide an updated scoring system as the child progresses. Now with mobile technology, these form of scoring can be done on the move and at the right moment the tasks have been completed by the child.

Training the tutors & developing the infrastructure

There will naturally be major changes to the tutors and infrastructure for this to happen. Therefore this will not happen overnight. Investment will be needed, incentives can be provided to the private sector to participate in driving the change by providing some of their resources – financial as well as human capital.

The tools are perhaps the items of least concern as many of these are already available.

Training can be quite minimal, as many of the tools come with its own diagnosis. However, should training be required – there are a large number of organisations that have employees trained in these tools. They can be roped in.

Implementation and moving forward

This post was not meant to be an answer, nor would it be correct. The goal is to initiate a discussion around this important topic. After all, education is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) economic multiplier.

The key thing for all of us is to start looking at our education systems and ask ourselves the question whether it is helping us develop more leaders, thinkers, doers and creators for the fast changing 21st century connected and borderless world?

Start with the qualities of people we want in our economy now and many years ahead – and then work backwards to design an education system that meets those needs.

Strengthening governance in entrepreneural firms

As entrepreneur organisations grow in size, it is often very difficult for the founders (who are often owners) of the business to ensure every part of the firm is giving them the right level of returns and aligned with the right set of objectives.

Increasingly more so, there is a need to rely on professional managers specifically and employees in general to carry out their tasks in line with the founders’ expectations.

Thus there is no choice but to institute the appropriate level of governance with the simple purpose of ensuring the firm and its management are aligned with the founder and owners’ strategic objectives; that the firm has the right people; and that the firm is giving the right level of returns for the investments made.

However, there is also a need to ensure that governance does not handicap the firm’s dynamic entrepreneur spirit; or worse still result in paralysis.

To address this, there are three vital elements: (1) clarity and maturity of roles of the parties in the governance process; (2) transparency of decisions and information flows to enable self-management and fewer suffocating processes; and (3) human capital emphasis and alignment of purpose, values and goals – which is rigorously implemented from point of people attraction & recruitment, right up to development & leadership successions.

Let me expand a bit on each.

Roles and responsibilities in governance

It is primarily important to clarify the roles of the governors of the business (directors) who need only focus on strategy & capital use, human capital, and performance & outcomes.

This should be distinct from the managers of the business who have the freedom to do whatever that is needed within the boundaries set by the governors. Ultimately the managers are accountable for fulfilling the organisational purpose, values, strategy as well as the business performance, outcomes and returns.

For this to work effectively, the governors need to divorce themselves from operational decisions, sentiments and apply objective judgment on key strategic matters. The management should be given the freedom to execute operational decisions, and ultimately be held accountable to achieve the objectives set by the governors.

Keeping the roles of governors separate from the managements ensures that there are checks and balances, and thus enhances the governors’ ability to hold management accountable for the results of the business.

Transparency of decisions & information for self management

In order to avoid layers and extensive need for processes, the most effective form of governance is transparency of information and decision. With a high level of transparency, decisions can be open to review by a wider group of people and thus ensure sufficient rigour in the decision making process. The level of transparency ensures that softer issues such as integrity and moral issues are considered and thus creates a more ethical enterprise. This avoids the need to establish committees upon committees and several decision making layers.

To further assist in the self management (and thus reduced bureaucratic infrastructure): information transparency particularly with regards to performance, data for analysis ensures that the firm’s employees are provided with all the relevant information to form their own analysis and thus carry out decisions. Once those decisions are made, the transparency of the outcomes ensure that there will be checks and balances which will keep the persons accountable for those decisions “honest” in driving the right results. Thus, this avoids the need to have several performance review committees and meetings used to hold management and decision makers accountable for results.

Transparency of decisions and information ensures a more efficient way of driving the right decisions and accountability for performance.

Alignment of employees to purpose and values

Last but not least, an uncompromising emphasis on organisational purpose and values is vital to ensure that the two forgoing aspects of governance are doubly effective.

Be very clear that these are not complex rules that limits freedom and is difficult to understand and cascade through the organisation. Organisational purpose and values are a set of concepts that provide employees with “true north” and guidance for their daily actions. It is important that the firm constantly emphasises purpose and values throughout and at the same time involve employees in dialogues on these matters to develop greater buy-in and clarity without creating too many rules.

By having clear and uncompromising set of purpose and values, the organisation can there for ensure stakeholders act in the right manner in relation to their roles in governance, and how they use information and decision making transparency.

To implement this, it is necessary to have the methods to assess and communicate these values and purpose at the point of recruitment and throughout the employees’ life cycle within the firm. It is important to internalise these concepts and ideas within the firm through staff reviews – but be careful not to use it for the purpose of rewards, but use it as a recruitment, development and a tool for career progression.

Ingredients for innovation

innovation is not a set of procedures or rules.

innovation comes from a set of conditions put in place to extract the most amount of creativity from people within an organization or society.

I would like to explore ideas on what is needed to establish this innovation culture. please give me your feedback and ideas. critiques are ok, but do offer some suggestions. I’m learning too.

to me there are a few ingredients that I find indispensable when it comes to creative the right climate for innovation.

the first relates to the people: amongst which people need to be educated from young in a manner that moulds the mindset in a manner that retains the youthful curiosity, ambition and courage to explore, try new things, experiment, make mistakes and learn from this experience.

the second relates to the environment or climate: in order for creative minds to flourish, the environment needs to be conducive to the spirit of enterprise, experimentation and learning from mistakes. for this to work well, the environment needs to embrace openness, diversity, collaboration and supports a learning climate. these are key values that can be instilled in the institution’s or society’s value set. some of this can be implemented through “hard practices” such as promoting open design, data and information transparency, structures that force cross functional and diverse individuals, and adequate support for learning.

the final element in having an innovation environment relates to processes that allow ideas to be realized: internal redtape and processes should not hamper new ideas and give sufficient “space” for those ideas to prove themselves in a manner that is low risk but high frequency. only through frequent attempts can learnings be acquired and refined into something of created value. resource allocation must not be absolute and must allow dynamic reallocation to emerging needs.