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I am the "IBM Collaboration & Productivity Advisor" for IBM Asia Pacific. I'm based in Singapore.
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Omnisopie - mankind according to Dueck

I just finished Gunter Dueck's famous book Omnisophie (Sorry, German only). Dueck develops a unifying philosophy standing equal to Plato, Aristotle and Epicurus. While the three Greek gentlemen tried to define and devise a philosophy that can be applied to all of mankind, presuming everybody "ticking" equal, Dueck reveals that there are 3 archetypes of people: the correct people, the true people and the natural people, with each of them represented by one of the philosophers.
There are 3 types of people: Correct, True and Natural
The difference stems from the primate of thinking in the types: left brain (the computer), right brain (the neural network) or body brain (the gut feeling). Only when recognising these three fundamental types a philosophy that does justice to all can be developed. On close to 450 pages he dives deep into explanation and details for this distinction.
In today's world the correct people, who run systems and ensure orderly conduct, are the majority (and thus considered to be "normal"), while the true people are confined to science, philosophy and the occasional guru (of whatever discipline). The natural people have been tamed and can run their instincts in the "fun society" which is expensive enough, so they need to subdue to the system, to be able to afford it.
Everybody uses an internal seismographic/sensory system, that indicates what needs attention. Based on the personality type we are initially equipped with a different set of sensors and thus needs and priorities. Over time with experience and education new sensors are planted, that fire off on different input. This way parents, teachers, role models and the society at large can alter the behaviour of any individual and overlay the natural tendencies. But it will never be more than an overlay and the true nature will try to get through.
This mechanism stems from our oldest part of the brain from a time where a split second decision "freeze, flee, attack" could decide over life and death and "thinking it through" was an unaffordable luxury and mostly deadly. Since speed is of essence the sensory system is drilled to act on incomplete data. Just a high enough probability, not a certainty, is "pulling the trigger". It works pretty much like Pavlov's dogs. So if something looks like "as if", the trigger is pulled and the alarm goes off. A constant fire of these sensors brings us into, how Dueck calls it, the flash mode, where we react more than we act.
The three archetypes have four common strategies: The ruler, the hunter, the eremite (Dueck calls this strategy "the wren", but I like eremite better) and the castle builder. That results in 12 core patterns of how we tick and what is important to us. Together with additional 5 criteria Dueck distinguishes 60 types (details on that warrants an additional post), that are very unequally present, with correct people in majority. One insight out of this is, that Maslov's hierarchy of needs needs to be rewritten for each of the types. The current model puts people in a hierarchy where first needs (natural) need to be fulfilled, then one integrates into a system (correct) before the maximum of self realisation (true) could be achieved. For Maslov, a true person, it was natural (pun intended) that "truth" represents the highest value.
Our educational system is designed to produce correct people, as it was necessary for the industrial revolution, where a large number of people was needed to fulfil well defined task, literally "fit into the system". Today, with an abundance of factual knowledge, that is an outdated model. Anything clearly defined and repeatable can and will be handled by automated systems. The new needs are creativity, deeper insights and gut decision making abilities. Dueck advocates that after (mathematical) intelligence, emotional intelligence now the time has come for Professional Intelligence (Sorry German only).
So we live in a time where the correct people need to hand over the reign to the true people. Could that be the Age of Aquarius coming? Naturally that isn't without friction and some of the current turmoil could be related to that.
Dueck builds his argument on a broad foundation citing not only above gentlemen, but also Confucius (a correct philosopher), Kirkegaard (a natural philosopher), Lao Zhe (a true philosopher), Freud (a correct psychologist), Carl Jung (a true psychologist), Carl Rogers (a natural psychologist), Kant (a correct philosopher), The Buddha (a true teacher of detachment), The Jesus (a natural teacher of love) and many more.
I tremendously enjoyed reading the book, it is full of insights and "bingo" moments. Here a two of them: To become the master of one's seismic trigger mechanism one has to enter silence and detach from the world to reach a state of Awareness (yes - with a capital A), an insight available to mystics since the beginning of time (I strongly recommend: go on a retreat with members of your faith to practise stillness. Don't have a faith? Go with the Buddhists, they won't try to proselytise you).
The second one: the most successful form of government, with its idea of separation of powers, closely resembles the trinity of correct, true and natural: The government are the doers (a natural property), the parliament ensure due process, so everything is correct and the judiciary ensures that everything stays true to the spirit of the democratic idea.
The concept of a trinity is very pervasive in religion. For Christians the trinity stands for The Father (correct), The Son (natural) and The Holy Spirit (true). For Buddhists it is The Buddha (true), The Dhamma (correct) and The Sangha (natural). I'm sure you can find that elsewhere too. Stay tuned for more on Omnisophie in future posts.


Saying NO needs a wrapper

Everywhere saying NO to a request is loaded with difficulties (unless your are an admin of course, since NO would be your only word, at least for developers). Depending on context and culture these difficulties vary. One of the core reasons is that every NO to the content of a request always carries the risk of being perceived as NO to the relationship between sender and recipient. To successfully say NO you need to separate relationship and request (easier said than done) and wrap it up nicely. After all a NO feels like a raw meat paddy thrown at you (Vegetarian need to stop reading now).
This is how a RAW NO feels like
The solution for the hamburger is to grill the meat, add garnish and wrap it into a bun. A similar approach is needed for a NO.
Proper treatment for a meat paddy, Vegetarians please imagine it is Tofu
The general pattern for NO is: YES - NO - YES. So you wrap your no into 2 yes:
  1. YES, I'm interested in continuing this relationship and work towards your success
  2. NO, this is not how it is going to work / not what I will do for you
  3. YES, this is my suggestion to deliver the success we are both interested in
Delivered in 2 YES the NO is much more bearable. Of course the challenge is to find the common success criteria in the eternal quest for a win-win scenario. Entire books have been written how that exactly works. Absolute recommended reading.


On Islamic Banking and Knowledge Management

I've mentioned Islamic Banking before. It is a very interesting concept. When you compare some of its leading principles, you will find a perplexing strong resemblance of knowledge management principles. Seems someone centuries ago anticipated the needs of modern knowlege management. Taking a page from Wikipedia you can learn: "The basic principle of Islamic banking is the sharing of profit and loss and the prohibition of riba (usury). Amongst the common Islamic concepts used in Islamic banking are profit sharing (Mudharabah), safekeeping (Wadiah), joint venture (Musharakah), cost plus (Murabahah), and leasing (Ijarah)".
When compiling KM principles we find similar scenarios:
  • KM requires to capture and share insights in successes and failures. (sharing of profit and loss)
  • KM insights must be maintained as long as they are relevant (safekeeping)
  • Successful KM is a joint effort. Everybody contributes to the success of it (joint venture)
  • You need to go that extra mile to make KM work (cost plus)
I'm in no way an expert on Islamic banking, culture and rules, and I might get it totally wrong, nevertheless I found that similarities striking.


Culture Snippets.

Living in a diverse region like Asia Pacific brings a lot of opportunity to interact with different cultures and views of the world. Having time to kill at the Mumbai airport waiting to back to Singapore I'd like to share a few observations:
  • When you meet people in Malaysia or Indonesia you shake hands with men always and with women if the start holding the hand out. After the handshake you put your hand to the heart to indicate that the greeting came from the heart where honesty is located. I find this gesture quite charming.
  • Business cards are handed with two hands all over Asia in a way that your counterpart can read the card. Also you don't stuff business cards away but key them on the desk during a meeting. It is expected, that you actually read them.
  • In India when a team is asked to work on a presentation, they will not pick one team member to present the result, but share the parts of the presentation within the team to present.
  • Eating roadside food in Mumbai is fun, at least if you have local colleagues who can pick the right stall and explain what you are eating and the story behind that food.
  • For European ears Thai language is surprising, since the base tone is higher and intonation is on the end of the words
  • There is no such thing as "The English language". There is "the family of languages referring to some degree to English". I like English spoken by people from Beijing best
  • While an English man would state: "It looks like there is an issue and we have to evaluate options.", the same message in Singlish gets compressed to "So how?"
  • 300 seconds are 5 minutes, at least on every watch. When asked to deliver a pitch in 5 minutes or less in Mumbai, it can be anything between 100 and 1000 seconds. And if you cut the speaker of after 5 minutes they are actually puzzled that you do so. (I wouldn't cut anybody off in a customer or public event, but in a training exercise any time)
  • Where ever you go, insist with your hosts to try local everyday food. It is lighter on the travel budget and great fun to sample new things. And your hosts see a human side when you appreciate or struggle with the local stuff. Hotel or high end dining is usually rather detached from local habits.
  • Read the local newspaper in the morning (if you understand it), so you can make small talk with customers. They like when overseas guest are aware of their place
  • When your counterparts struggle with language, pull out your white board markers and draw on the board
  • We react to body language much faster than we can think. I struggled quite a while with the Indian head shake, which is a sign of affirmation, not a negation
  • Germans are considered not to have humor.
  • In Malaysia it is considered rude to use your index finger to point (and that other finger too). So people will use the thumb, pressed to the closed hand to point directions


The 2005 press freedom ranking

The 2005 press freedom ranking compiled by the "Reporters without borders" is out. There has been a lot of movement in the middle, most notably the decline of the United States from 22nd to 44th place, while at top and bottom there is little movement with North Korea firmly claiming the last place. I'm sure the report will make it into the media (maybe not in the lower quadrant) and finger pointing, questioning and spinning will take place. The report is quite interesting proving the claims wrong that press freedom (fostered by democracy) both needs wealth and a long development time. East Timor is a shining example, being one of the youngest countries and topping all its Asian neighbours.
  2002 2003 2004 2005
USA (outside)-135108137
East Timor-305758

And its nice to see that Singapore has improve its ranking, while it still has to catch up with its immediate neighbours. I have "normalized" the values to the base 100, the result is the graph below.


We should never forget, that freedom is not 10 different types of cereals on your supermarket shelf, but: "Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently." (We had that Lady before)


Don't speak unless it improves on silence!

I'm back. Three days without a single word. Three days getting up at 4:45am. It was like a trip to a seven star hotel --- spiritually. Physically a youth camp is the more appropriate description. 50 people share one room on mattresses and various snoring opens a lot of possibilities to practice patience and tolerance.
The teaching we receive go beyond words, so it is difficult to give a written account how it was. The proceedings however are no secret. After raising at 4:45am we had the first offering of light and flowers session at 5:15am. Greeting the day with Pali chanting was a refreshing alternative to my daily hectic routing.
" Namo Tassa Bhageavatao Arahanto
Samma Sambuddhassa".
It is Buddhist practise to bow towards the Budhha, his teachings and the monks and nuns. Being a rather proud European (all man is created equal) it was my first lesson in humbleness. The Venerable Mahinda explained in the evening briefing, that it is up to us, if we want to follow that custom. I was the only non-Asian in the group, so if felt it's better "if in Rome, do like the Romans do". What a wonderful lesson learned for me.
After the morning chanting and a traditional Chinese vegetarian porridge breakfast, Sister Sumitra explained about the nature of Metta (Loving kindness) and how the meditation on loving kindness needs to be conducted. She surprised me with a lively and up-to-date way to explain things. On the various layers of meditation she said: "Look it is like a zip file: you look from outside, it is very small. But then you look inside and realize how big it is". I wish all Office workers would have that level of IT literacy.
Sister Sumitra introduced the Natural State of Mind. In the Natural State of Mind, the mind rests within. is sharp and aware of every phenomenon arising. It is not projected to the outside nor does it generate any thoughts. (Do try this at home, it is a real tough call!). In this Natural State of mine one can connect to the spiritual heart and feel the tender soft and deep compassion, that is the very fabric humans are made of. There is no philosophy you have to subscribe to, no rites to perform, no vows to take, no initiation to go through. Calm the mind and you will feel the compassion.
The Buddhist call this compassion Metta (in Pali = loving kindness). Cultivating this loving kindness enables one to radiate it our to oneself, all the beings in the surroundings and the whole world. Seems the principle of loving yourself and your neighbour is quite universal.
To cultivate one's mind sitting and walking meditation are one way to get going. We had sufficient time until the evening to practise. When you sit on your cushion or meditation chair you also can practise tolerance against pain. When you can overcome this pain your meditation will become deeper. I realized, that with some kind of light-hearted humour I was reminded of the Buddhist believe: "All live is suffering".  


12 days to go -- Metta retreat


We had the briefing last Thursday. The monk answering our questions was very cheerful and his little speech very encouraging. According to him the 3 days of silence will be more rewarding than two weeks of beach club holidays.

Some of the stuff expecting me (courtesy of Thich Nhat Hanh):

Seeing the Buddha before me in the seated meditation position, I breathe in.
Joining my palms in respect, I breathe out.

Seeing the Buddha in me, I breathe in.
Seeing myself in the Buddha, I breathe out.

Seeing the boundary between myself and the Buddha disappear as the Buddha smiles, I breathe in.
Seeing the bondary between the one who respects and the one who is respected disappear as I smile, I breathe out.

Seeing myself bowing deeply to the Buddha, I breathe in.
Seeing the strength of the Buddha enter me, I breathe out.


May they take care of themselves happily.

I just completed my registration for this year's Metta retreat at the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery. I'm exited. While I was living in Munich I used to attend a Taj Chi retreat (our master was a Chinese Benedictine monk) and I've been on a pilgrimage to Lourdes in southern France twice (during my national service at the airforce).
Metta is the Pali word for "Loving kindness". It is the mental state that forms the very foundation of self development in the Buddhist believe. Brother Richard teaches a very easy to perform Metta meditation during the basic Buddhism course:

Contemplation On Loving-Kindness (Metta)

May I be well and happy.
May I be free from enmity, disease and grief.
May I take care of myself happily.

May all beings in front be well and happy.
May they be free from enmity, disease and grief.
May they take care of themselves happily.

May all beings in the right direction be well and happy.
May they be free from enmity, disease and grief.
May they take care of themselves happily.

May all beings behind be well and happy.
May they be free from enmity, disease and grief.
May they take care of themselves happily.

May all beings in the left direction be well and happy.
May they be free from enmity, disease and grief.
May they take care of themselves happily.

May all beings above be well and happy.
May they be free from enmity, disease and grief.
May they take care of themselves happily.

May all beings below be well and happy.
May they be free from enmity, disease and grief.
May they take care of themselves happily.

May all beings in the surrounding ……………….
May all beings who are dear to me ……………….
May all beings who are neutral to me ……………
May all beings who are unfriendly to me ………..
May all beings be well and happy.
May they be free from enmity, disease and grief.
May they take care of themselves happily.  


Survival in Phuket Thailand

Douglas, one of my friends from my Rotary Club was in Phuket when the Tsunami hit there. He was lucky not to be in the hard hit areas of Phi Phi island or Krabi but in a less devastated area of the main Phuket beaches. He shared some astonishing stories. Tourism is the lifeline of Phuket, the local residents make 80% of their annual income during the month November to February. So they are double hit: devastation and lost lifes and a grim outlook for survival due to lack of business.
The Thais in Phuket showed and astonishing resilience to this fate. Within a few days the beaches were cleared from any debris, the shops and restaurants were cleaned and repaired. Douglas said, that the area he was in was mainly flooded and not crushed by the waves. The hoteliers, restaurant and shop owners are desperate for tourist business. And Thai hospitality is at the top of the world.
So if you considered to cancel your trip there, give the LOCAL people a call to find out the situation, you might have second thoughts. They really will appreciate this type of help too.


Not so divided after all?

The election results make one believe, that the US is a deeply divided and mainly conservative country. However following Churchill's statement "I don't trust any statistics if I haven't forged them myself", you can get a very different view when looking at the data from different angles. The good folks at the university of Michigan have redrawn the maps to reflect population rather than state size and added shaded colours to reflect voters percentage. It is worth a look!
And there are the doubts about the validity of the election results (particularity in Florida).
I wonder is it a case of sour loosers or rotten ethics (probably a bit of both)?


Happy Halloween! ... and where it came from!

Our American friends celebrate Halloween tonight and have successfully (re)exported that festival throughout the globe. Tracing the history of it is very interesting. On a first view it is the mutation/continuation of the Christian "All Hallowed Evening". A celebration to commemorate the saints (hallow=germanic, in German it is heilig = saint) and all passed away relatives.
It was the pope Gregor IV who installed that day on the first of November (and a second one "all souls day" a day after) as early as 837. During this time the usual strategy of the church (then a young and expanding organisation) was to not only Christianize people but also their customs. This had the clear advantage, that the new born Christians didn't need to get used to a new festival season (Christmas and Easter are two other examples of that strategy). But we all know if a pendulum swings in one direction, it will swing back.


Ramadan for one day

A lot of my friends are Muslim. For them currently it is the middle of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. To increase our intercultural understanding my Rotary club decided to join our friends on a day of fasting. It began 4am in the morning with a joint breakfast at Serangoon Road. For the rest of the day we didn't eat or drink anything. Our friends explained, that the rule is "nothing should enter though the natural openings of the body" (of course that doesn't cover breathing). So smoking and sex are out too. At 6:51pm, a time determined by the clerics, we then did break fast in the traditional way of eating dates and drinking tea.
While not eating was easy to cope with, not being able to drink even water was quite a challenge for me. With this first-hand experience I now can understand how time slows down during Ramadan.


No Mr. President, I will not re-elect you!

The US election has some funny twists. Even spammers take advantage of the race between Bush and Kerry. Got SPAM from today. They make use of a tracking service when you click on that image:

The face on the image (I sized it down 4 times and added the red circle) looks rather "dümmlich" (Sorry don't know the appropriate American word) to me. The mail claims I have opted in to receive it and it claims to be in compliance with the CAN-SPAM ACT. How does it come then that:
a) I never opted in
b) the sender is fake. The domain belongs to a Swedish IT service provider, who for sure is not involved in the presidential election
c) The email originated from a Hong Kong provider: "Received: from ([]) .... Tue, 12 Oct 2004 23:23:11 +0200


NO Mr. President, I will not re-elect you!

... even if I would be an US citizen.


Who would you admire more?

I've added another question to my repertoire of intercultural probing. The results are quite puzzling. It's a good starter on parties. Here we go:
There is a scientist who invents a new drug, which costs one cent a pop and cures Malaria, Aids and Herpes within a few weeks. He donates his finding to mankind and never makes a cent out of it (except the price money for the medicine Nobel price).
And there is another guy, who runs a sewage cleaning business. He literally makes money out of shit. One million a day.
Who would you admire more? Who is up the ladder in your value system?


Intercultural Insights

Our neighbour is Nigerian, my wife is Chinese, my business partner British, his wife Arab, his staff Malay, my Java expert Indian, my friends Japanese, French, Indonesian, Bruneian, Austrian, Australian and I'm German. This sets a great stage for learning about cultures. Yesterday Igodholo came over for a coffee and we had a chat about marriage. He was joking, that Europeans marry and divorce, marry and divorce, marry and divorce. His people are more practical: they marry, marry, marry. He shared with me that his father had multiple wifes and he has 20 over brothers and sisters. Half or full doesn't matter in the Nigerian culture.
He also explained, that it is very much a question of social status for a wife, how many wifes she has under her; the more the better. Having many wifes was a common concept in many cultures: the Chinese, Nigerian, Arab... even Christians (the ones around Salt Lake City). And when you count the mistresses in, it's an universal concept (Diamonds go from mine to mistress, not from mine to wife <g> ). Still it feels like a big stretch for me, being raised in an equal right/equal opportunity minded society. There is so much to learn and not to judge.
The great Rosa Luxemburg once condensed it into an single sentence: Freedom always includes freedom for the one who thinks differently.  


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