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  • Storytelling & Four Shifting Forces

    2:27 pm on October 22, 2012 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , creativity, , , , , technology,

    Back in New York, I attended one of the best Cre­ative Morn­ings ses­sions, a cap­ti­vat­ing talk deliv­ered by Jonathan Har­ris on the sto­ry­telling. I’ve blogged before on decon­struct­ing the power of sto­ry­telling, and if you’re look­ing to under­stand more about this, Jonathan Har­ris’ projects are absolutely remark­able. They have ranged from doc­u­ment­ing an Eskimo whale hunt to cap­tur­ing human emo­tion on the inter­webs to inter­view­ing Tibetans on hap­pi­ness. Here’s his Cre­ative Morn­ing talk and my visual notes from that day:


















    So my notes couldn’t quite cap­ture the tail bit of his talk (I basi­cally ran out of space!), but essen­tially, he high­lights key trends that he is observ­ing in our evolv­ing world of tech and storytelling:

    1) Rise of Social Engi­neers: Never before has there been such a small sub­sec­tion of soci­ety ( aka. soft­ware devel­op­ers in tech star­tups who are hav­ing a big effect of mil­lions of human through design of software.

    2) Urges & Out­comes: All tech extends some pre­ex­ist­ing urge. What is the urge within humans that needs to be enhanced?

    3) The Ethics of Code: How can we reg­u­late soft­ware? Could there be a self-directed eth­nics from the cre­ators of soft­ware? This ties in back to point 1 on the respon­si­bil­i­ties of a social engi­neer, given their wide-spread influence.

    4) Heal­ers & Deal­ers: Star­tups are basi­cally falling into two buck­ets: heal­ers and deal­ers. Heal­ers: mar­ket­place com­pa­nies that con­nect peo­ple. e.g. kick­starter. Deal­ers: Atten­tion economies that take up your finite resource aka. time by con­vinc­ing peo­ple to spend time on their product/sites. e.g. facebook.


    All in all, I was very struck after the end of his talk with this question(s): what kind of pres­ence do you want to have in this world? Am I a healer or a dealer? As our world’s lan­guage con­tin­ues to trend towards a technology-based one, how do we posi­tion our­selves to become cre­ators once more, instead of just cura­tors of information?

    For now, I sup­pose I am sat­is­fied with being a Healer in the invest­ment world. The big­ger pic­ture of all of this, is won­der­ing, as an investor, what trends in soci­ety do I want to help accelerate…

  • My Week's Discoveries: Malaysia

    9:17 am on August 31, 2012 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , creativity, , , , , , , , ,

    So, I’ve been in South East Asia for the past three weeks, namely Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore. The trip has been long time com­ing as I haven’t been back to my home coun­try in over five years, and boy — am I ever glad I did. I have never been so inspired, hum­bled and proud of my fel­low coun­try­men for the incred­i­ble work that they are doing in South East Asia. If you have the priv­i­lege to be involved with their orga­ni­za­tions or have a cof­fee with these remark­able indi­vid­u­als, I assure you that it will be time well spent. Also, given that today is Inde­pen­dence day in Malaysia, thought it would be timely to share a few of my dis­cov­er­ies with you.

    1) Malaysia Social Enter­prise Alliance

    This is a Malaysian orga­ni­za­tion for social enter­prises and entre­pre­neurs with solu­tions to some of the most urgent social prob­lems in Malaysia and glob­ally. One of their more notable endeav­ors is Change­Week­end, a 9–10 month pro­gram as a facil­i­ta­tive plat­form that would equip orga­ni­za­tions with design think­ing and devel­op­men­tal skills. Even more incred­i­ble is the dri­ving force behind all of this is a won­der­ful lady, Ellynita Lamin, who has a heart of gold and is trail­blaz­ing her way in this part of the world. Don’t just take my word for it, check out what one of the local news­pa­pers has to say about her work too!

    2) Teach for Malaysia 

    Teach for Malaysia (TFM) enlists Malaysia’s most promis­ing lead­ers to improve edu­ca­tion in Malaysia. It mod­els after Teach for Amer­ica, where it is a two-year, fel­low­ship pro­gram where fel­lows are placed in local schools. Besides the fel­low­ship, the team has not only enlisted an incred­i­ble amount of sup­port from pri­vate and the Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion, but clear strat­egy and vision in how fel­lows can trans­form Malaysia’s edu­ca­tion sys­tem from inside out. Change is on the hori­zon. This ini­tia­tive is par­tic­u­larly close to home for me as I went through the pub­lic edu­ca­tion sys­tem in Malaysia (yes, just like the adorable kids in the video!) and to get a glimpse of what TFM is up to, check out the video below.

    3) Week­end: The Week­end Movement 

    This is a com­mu­nity of peo­ple that is cre­at­ing a week­end move­ment where they come together to build projects, cre­ate solu­tions and bring great ideas to life. So far, their week­ends con­sist of Hack Week­end, Make Week­end and Change Week­end, and I’m sure it doesn’t stop there. The week­ends are designed to kick­start inno­va­tion and new projects. If you ever are in Malaysia for a week­end that coin­cides with one of their work­shops, def­i­nitely don’t hes­i­tate to check it out!

    4) Malaysia Design Archive 

    This is a beau­ti­ful project com­bin­ing design, his­tory and preser­va­tion of cul­ture. The project traces, maps and doc­u­ments the devel­op­ment of graphic design in Malaysia to pro­tect our visual his­tory. Malaysia’s his­tor­i­cal design influ­ences are par­tic­u­larly fas­ci­nat­ing as this is a meet­ing point and cul­tural cross­ing of the East and West — from ornate Islamic texts, to Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy and Euro­pean engrav­ings. As you browse the site, the graph­ics tell a won­der­ful story of Malaysia’s cul­tural trans­for­ma­tion. I highly rec­om­mend you start here.

    5) Other notable mentions:

    • SOLS 24/7: edu­ca­tion pro­gram in Cam­bo­dia, Laos, East Timor, Malaysia and Thai­land that has edu­cated over 80,000 youth.
    • Gawad Kalinga: Build­ing com­mu­ni­ties through tourism, social enter­prise, dis­as­ter relief, recon­struc­tion and devel­op­ment to end poverty.

    Thanks to Ellyne, Shie Haur, Nicole, Tas­nim and John for inspir­ing this post.

  • So, what is strategy anyways?

    1:42 pm on July 18, 2012 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , creativity, , strategy

    Two week­ends ago, I attended a four hour ses­sion on Strat­egy taught by Mark Pol­lard (who also has a really thought­ful blog). I spent the after­noon learn­ing about dif­fer­ent tools and frame­works and below is the four hour ses­sion dis­tilled into two pages in my notes. Over­all, I thought the class was use­ful in get­ting a peak into the dig­i­tal brand­ing world, and Mark was a par­tic­u­larly great facil­i­ta­tor, a highly under­rated skill! If you’re inter­ested in learn­ing more about adver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing, def­i­nitely place this class on your watchlist.


    As I thought more about what I took away from the ses­sion, I felt that the focus was pri­mar­ily around the dig­i­tal agency world (which is fair as it is where Mark’s back­ground is in). How­ever, I wanted to share a cou­ple of my per­sonal thoughts on what I think is strat­egy in a gen­eral setting.

    Good strat­egy stems from the ques­tion of: How do you max­i­mize impact given a lim­ited amount of resources? Here’s a cou­ple of guid­ing thoughts:

    1) Ker­nel of Strat­egy: A diag­no­sis, guid­ing pol­icy & coher­ent set of actions

    I recently picked up Good Strat­egy Bad Strat­egy by Richard Rumelt and it has since influ­enced a sub­stan­tial amount of how I think about strat­egy. I came across this book when a good friend asked me “How do you define strat­egy?” As I stam­mered and stum­bled across my dif­fer­ent per­cep­tions of my answer, he promptly handed over the book and had my eyes opened since.

    The basic premise of the book is that strat­egy con­sists of three com­po­nents, a diag­no­sis, guid­ing pol­icy and a coher­ent set of actions. A diag­no­sis is not a descrip­tion of symp­toms, but an analy­sis. A guid­ing pol­icy ensures that you under­stand your con­straints and is an ele­ment of strat­egy. How­ever, the first two need to be trans­lated into spe­cific actions by coor­di­nat­ing poli­cies and actions on crit­i­cal key­stone objectives.

    1) Value Cre­ation: Price is what you pay, value is what you get

    I think a key devel­op­ment point of strat­egy is under­stand­ing what value you are cre­at­ing. The  value of product/service needs to be at the core of what you are devel­op­ing. There is a des­per­ate need to escape the exis­ten­tial ter­rors of bad and inef­fi­cient products/services. You achieve this by tak­ing a close and hard look at prod­uct value.

    Value cre­ation is par­tic­u­larly impor­tant in the world of social change, where the prod­uct devel­op­ment is cri­tiqued less than the sto­ry­telling around it. We have become so accus­tomed to ‘feel good’ exhor­ta­tion in this space that we feel ‘guilty’ ques­tion­ing fur­ther about the real impact and value a non-profit/social enter­prise is creating.

    2) Defin­ing a Chal­lenge: Mak­ing choices and over­com­ing obstacles

    A great strat­egy starts by under­stand­ing the fun­da­men­tal prob­lem at hand.  A great deal of a company/ orga­ni­za­tional task is know­ing how to iden­tify the biggest chal­lenges to keep progress and cre­ate a prac­ti­cal approach to over­come this bar­rier. Two effec­tive meth­ods to get to the root of a prob­lem is the 5 Whys ques­tion ask­ing tech­nique devel­oped by Toy­ota dur­ing the evo­lu­tion of their man­u­fac­tur­ing method­olo­gies, the other is the Why-because analy­sis. Essen­tially, don’t stop at the obvi­ous answer and deter­mine the cause-effect rela­tions between the factors.

    All in all, good strat­egy is like a hypoth­e­sis. It’s tested and adjusted over time. You pres­sure test it, see what works and you pivot. Oh, and the biggest thing: don’t ever mis­take tac­tics and goals for strategy.

    All men can see these tac­tics whereby I con­quer, but what none can see is the strat­egy out of which vic­tory is evolved.

    - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

  • Design Gym: Learn design thinking and solve real world problems

    10:10 pm on July 8, 2012 | 0 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , creativity, , , ,

    How do you solve real world prob­lems with a human-centered lens? How do cre­ate a prod­uct that is effec­tive and beau­ti­ful? Where can you find a com­mu­nity of thinkers that have the skills and process to solve wicked prob­lems? Where do you find an acces­si­ble avenue to learn design think­ing that is prag­matic and  affordable?

    A few months ago, myself and a group of strate­gists and design­ers set out to solve this chal­lenges and emerged with a really excit­ing concept:

    The Design Gym, a com­mu­nity of skilled prob­lem solvers through a workshop-driven design think­ing cur­ricu­lum. We part­ner with orga­ni­za­tions to help them approach their prob­lems in a new way by con­nect­ing their chal­lenges with our community.

    Our inau­gural project is a week­end long inten­sive at the Brook­lyn Brain­ery from July 27th — 29th, 2012. We’re kick­ing the week­end off on Fri­day night with beers, net­work­ing and an intro to design think­ing. Sat­ur­day will be a deep dive into the design process, meth­ods and best prac­tices, and fin­ish­ing off on Sun­day with a hands on appli­ca­tion of skills solv­ing a real-world prob­lem. Don’t worry if you don’t have a design or strat­egy back­ground. We’re all here to learn, and see a prob­lem from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. Sounds like you want to know more? Sign up here, spread the word (we’re on twit­ter too!) and bring a friend!

    If you’re an organization/company/non-profit and are inter­ested in part­ner­ing with us, please feel free to email me. I would love to chat with you. If you have any ques­tions, please email me. If you would like to trade sto­ries about the space or learn more about the project or even just to say hi, please email me. I think you get the pic­ture! I will reply! Seriously.

    A huge shoutout to my team, who are kick-ass all round. Go stalk them: Andrew Hager­man, Daniel Still­man, Jason Wis­dom & Miles Begin.

  • One Book Per Week: Tumblring My Findings

    8:13 pm on June 17, 2012 | 5 comments Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , creativity, , , , , OneBookPerWeek, ,

    Since com­ing to New York, I’ve devel­oped a healthy habit of read­ing on the sub­way going to and fro from meet­ings. My Kin­dle has made it a lot eas­ier to read in a packed sub­way car and my expanded net­works have pro­vided me a wealth of books to add to my read­ing list. After a con­ver­sa­tion with a good friend who inspired a goal set­ting quest, I decided to embark on a One Book Per Week Project — where I would read a book a week as a per­sonal self-development goal. It has been two months in, and I am pleased to share that read­ing is firmly back in life and can offi­cially say that I have read all the books on my shelf. I’ve added some of the books that I read and loved to my Book List but more than that, I would love for my read­ings and dis­cov­er­ies to be shared in a more pub­lic way. Hence, going for­ward, I will be doing this in two ways:

    1) Tum­blr

    I started a tum­blr where I would post quotes and high­lights from books that I am cur­rently read­ing. Major­ity of my read­ings are now done on my Kin­dle and thanks to this awe­some tool called:, all the high­lights from my Kin­dle read­ings will be shared to my tum­blr. Quotes Galore aka. my per­sonal quote bank and track­ing of books that I am cur­rently read­ing. Below is a snap­shot of I def­i­nitely rec­om­mend that you check it out!

    2) Mole­skin Book Visualization 

    One of the skills that I have been work­ing on is the Art of Visual Think­ing. I am nat­u­rally a visual leaner, but the art of trans­lat­ing thought and com­plex ideas into pic­tures is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent thing. Hence, to help me along with this learn­ing process, I decided to com­bine it with my One Book Per Week Project. I bought some brand new mole­skins and will be sum­ma­riz­ing up the books I am read­ing into one page in my mole­skin. This not only enables pushes my abil­ity to retain infor­ma­tion, but also allows me to piece together the book in my own way.

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