Monday, September 30, 2013

Brazil attacks US over spying issue

The UN General Assembly opened last week with an electrifying speech by President Dilma Rousseff who slammed US cyber-snooping activities with President Barack Obama in the audience.


INTERNET spying by the US government became a major issue at the United Nations General Assembly last week when political leaders heard a blistering attack by the Brazilian president who was visibly angry about how her country and her own office have been targets of cyber-snooping activities.

She called the US action a breach of international law, a grave violation of human rights and civil liberties, and a disrespect for national sovereignty.

It was condemnation in the strongest terms at the highest political forum in the world, with UN and commercial TV stations beaming the speech live.

The surveillance issue, which has caused ripples with continuous revelations in the media emerging from whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s files, has now reached the UN.

And in the most spectacular fashion. It was an extraordinary scene when President Dilma Rousseff gave the opening speech among the government leaders gathered for the annual General Assembly.

Traditionally, Brazil’s president speaks first, followed by the US president. Thus, Barack Obama could not avoid hearing her speech.

Many had expected Rousseff to touch on the Internet spying issue, since she had strongly criticised the US when the media broke the news on specific instances of US Internet surveillance on the Brazilian President’s office, other departments, including the Brazilian Mission to the UN, and the national oil company Petrobas. She recently cancelled a state visit to Washington.

But her speech and performance was far beyond what was anticipated. With the atmosphere electrifying in the packed hall of leaders, the Brazilian president cut out the usual diplomatic niceties while addressing one of the most sensitive issues to have emerged globally in recent years.

She called it “a matter of great importance and gravity ... the global network of electronic espionage that has caused indignation and repudiation in public opinion around the world.”

Rousseff described the Internet spying as creating “a situation of grave violation of human rights and of civil liberties; of invasion and capture of confidential information concerning corporate activities, and especially of disrespect to national sovereignty”.

She started by laying the foundation of her argument: “A sovereign nation can never establish itself to the detriment of another sovereign nation.

“The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country. The arguments that the illegal interception of information and data aims at protecting nations against terrorism cannot be sustained.”

She said she fought against authoritarianism and censorship, and thus has to uncompromisingly defend the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of her country.

“In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy. In the absence of the respect for sovereignty, there is no basis for the relationship among nations,” she added.

Her speech touched on three actions. First, Brazil had asked the US for explanations, apologies and guarantees that such procedures will never be repeated.

Second, Brazil is planning actions to defend itself from the spying. It will “adopt legislation, technologies and mechanisms to protect us from the illegal interception of communications and data”.

Third, she proposed international action, saying: “Information and telecommunication technologies cannot be the new battlefield between states. Time is ripe to create the conditions to prevent cyberspace from being used as a weapon of war, through espionage, sabotage, and attacks against systems and infrastructure of other countries.”

Stating that the UN must play a leading role to regulate the conduct of states with regard to these technologies, she called for the setting up of “a civilian multilateral framework for the governance and use of the Internet and to ensure the effective protection of data that travels through the web”.

She proposed multilateral mechanisms for the worldwide network, based on the principles of freedom of expression, privacy and human rights; open, multilateral and democratic governance; universality; cultural diversity; and neutrality of the network, guided only by technical and ethical criteria, with no restrictions allowed on political, commercial, religious grounds.

Delegates who hoped that Obama would respond were disappointed. He did not refer to the Brazilian president’s address made only a few minutes before.

He made only a passing reference to the issue, saying: “we are reviewing the way we gather intelligence.”

Rousseff’s speech came at the right time and venue, since people worldwide have been increasingly troubled or outraged by the extent of cyber-spying revealed by the media.

The issue is even more serious for developing countries. Media reports indicate that there are double standards, with the US spying programme requiring a special court procedure for opening data on individual US citizens, while there is no such procedure for residents outside the US, and thus the surveillance is comprehensive for the world outside the US, with the citizens, companies and government offices all being targets.

Moreover, the media reports show that the US actions do not stop at surveillance. There are also schemes to engage in cyber actions or attacks.

Rousseff’s speech at the UN indicates Brazil plans follow-up moves in the UN for setting up a multilateral system to regulate the use and misuse of the Internet. This would be a timely international response to the recent revelations.

Contributed by Global Trends, MARTIN KHOR
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Abusing intelligence is stupid


Governments that deliberately pervert their spy agencies are shooting themselves in the head.

ALL countries operate spy agencies, so some of their practices and experiences are universal.

Governments deem intelligence services to be useful, even necessary, in evaluating and anticipating events – so they are earnestly nurtured and cultivated. However, whether and how far these services actually contribute to policymaking depends on a multitude of variable factors.

The capacity of a “secret service” derives from the scale of its available resources – human, financial, technical, etc.

The richer a country the greater the means for developing its intelligence service, and the more powerful a country the greater its need or purpose for doing so.

Yet that need not mean that a richer or more powerful country would have a more competent intelligence service.

Unlike conventional institutions such as the armed forces, the critical criteria cannot be the strength of numbers or the expanse of field coverage.

Since the quality of information handled is key, spy agencies perform like a scalpel where other security institutions act like meat cleavers.

At the same time, all of them need to be coordinated and concerted through optimised complementarity.

Conceptually, the intelligence services are highly professional institutions performing specialised tasks in the national interest.

In discharging their duties, they must observe laws and conventions that guide and limit their clandestine activities.

In practice, however, they are often politicised in the perceived interests of specific administrations.

This compromises their credibility, debases their status and subverts their effectiveness.

Another universal experience, regardless of a country’s developed or developing status, is that the intelligence services are boosted in times of great national distress.

Trying times are also the best times to stretch and test their capacities.

Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), for example, originated in the Secret Service Bureau established in 1909.

This was a joint effort of the War Office and the Admiralty, with a focus on Imperial Germany.

The impetus for the service developed with the exigencies of two world wars.

In the United States, the demands of wartime intelligence in the early 1940s resulted in the creation of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) to coordinate information streams from the armed forces.

The OSS would later morph into the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), technically the first US spy agency.

The United States until then did not have a centralised intelligence agency, so the CIA emerged to fill the gap.

As it was with the SIS, the existence of the CIA was not officially acknowledged until decades later. But what began as a fledgling effort requiring British inputs soon ballooned into a US intelligence community comprising no less than 16 spy agencies.

Intelligence agencies tend to have a civilian (police) or military character depending on the needs of the state at the time. Nonetheless, their constant is the primary purpose of protecting the state.

The early Soviet Union felt it needed to guard against counter-revolution, and so established the Cheka secret police under the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The Cheka then underwent several transformations to become the NKVD, which in turn experienced further transformations to become the KGB of Cold War lore, in the process picking up military elements in the world wars.

The Malayan Emergency (1948-60) was a domestic insurgency that exercised the resources of the police force.

The police department that focused on vital intelligence gathering was the Special Branch, evolving under British tutelage during the colonial period and developing further upon Malayan independence.

Currently, all national intelligence agencies combine human (Humint) and signals (Sigint, or telecommunications interceptions) intelligence.

The latter comprises communications between individuals (Comint) and electronic intelligence (electronic eavesdropping, or Elint) that favour countries with bigger budgets because of the costs incurred in technology and expertise.

However, while a common strength lies in surveillance or information-gathering, analysis and interpretation of the information so gathered often fail to keep pace.

Where analytical deficits occur, political interests often exploit these spaces to pervert the course of intelligence gathering.

At the same time, the quality of intelligence is sometimes patchy where official links are weak.

Britain’s SIS was thus handicapped in Germany during the First World War, just as US intelligence services are now hampered in Iran and Syria as they were in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

The problem is compounded when governments refuse to acknowledge their inadequacies and prefer to give their own dubious capacities the benefit of the doubt.

The mistake often lies in equating overwhelming military superiority with operational success requiring sound intelligence.

And so regime change in Iraq was described as a “cakewalk” and a “slam dunk”, with unanticipated difficulties emerging once the plan was operationalised.

A similar development almost occurred in Syria upon underestimating President Bashar al-Assad’s effective control.

Hyper-intelligence combines the prowess of two or more ally countries’ intelligence services, taking spying to a whole new level.

The US-British “special relationship” is one such example, only that it is more than bilateral collaboration.

What began as a post-war agreement between London and Washington in 1946 soon encompassed the other English-speaking countries of Canada, Australia and New Zealand in the UKUSA (United Kingdom – United States of America) Agreement.

Focusing on but not limited to Sigint, this “Five Eyes” pact formalises the sharing of intelligence on other countries that any of the five spies upon.

Earlier this month, a leak by former US intelligence operative Edward Snowden revealed that the UKUSA Agreement goes further than these five Western countries. It effectively and routinely includes Israel as well.

The National Security Agency (NSA) reputedly runs the most extensive intelligence gathering operation for the United States.

Its global reach is shared with the largest unit in the Israel Defense Force, the NSA-equivalent Unit 8200 (or ISNU, the Israeli Sigint National Unit), in unfiltered form.

That means anything and everything that the United States and/or the other “Five Eyes” countries knows about the rest of the world from spying are known by Israel as well.

It explains Washington’s determination to “get Snowden” – not only are the leaks embarrassing, they discourage other countries from engaging the United States in security cooperation.

The other problem is no less serious: politicisation, which corrupts and perverts otherwise professional and competent intelligence services.

This amounts to blowback, a CIA-originated term meaning self-inflicted policy injury.

It (in)famously occurred when the US-British axis that invaded Iraq built its rationale on the lie that Saddam had stockpiled “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) – even when whatever little intelligence there was had indicated that Iraq had dismantled WMD facilities years before.

It happened again when Washington insisted that Assad was responsible for chemical weapons attacks in civilian areas.

Not only had Russian intelligence and UN inspectors found anti-Assad rebels culpable instead, but both German and Israeli intelligence had privately cleared Assad of those charges.

The inside information available to diplomats had cast such doubt on the US allegations that US-friendly countries such as Singapore refused to accept Washington’s version at the UN.

Politics had dictated that the United States stick with its allegations, just as politics had dissuaded Israeli policymakers from correcting misinterpretations of intelligence data wrongly blaming Assad.

Fiddling with intelligence for some passing gratification such as attacking an adversary may seem tempting, but dumbing down vital strategic data is a dangerous and costly exercise. It is also an act of singular and self-defeating stupidity.

Contributed by  Behind The Headlines: Bunn Nagara
> Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia.
>The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.

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Flawed perception remembering Heroes and Zeroes 

Flawed perception remembering Heroes and Zeroes

Yuen, a Special Branch officer, spent most of his time being hunted down by the communists and was even shot in the chest. 

Remembering heroes and villains 

There is a flawed perception that the fight against the CPM was a battle only between the Chinese-dominated movement and the Malay-majority soldiers and police. Many innocent Chinese lives were also taken by the CPM.

THIS is not another comment about Chin Peng but a reflection on how two Special Branch officers, both of Chinese descent, fought against him. It is also a timely reminder to many of us who have not heard about them, or simply forgotten about these heroes in our midst.

It is also about the thousands of Chinese civilians who lost their lives because of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), a reality which many have forgotten or, worse, chosen to ignore.

There is a terribly flawed perception that the fight against the CPM was simply a bitter battle between the Chinese-dominated movement and the Malay-majority soldiers and police.

The two Malaysians who dedicated their lives to fighting the communists were the late Tan Sri Too Chee Chew, or better known as CC Too to his Special Branch colleagues; and Aloysius Chin, the former Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police and Deputy Director of Special Branch (Operations) at Bukit Aman.

Too was highly regarded as the master of psychological warfare and counter-insurgency and his deep knowledge of the CPM helped the authorities to fight the guerrillas. In fact, he was widely acknowledged as one of the world’s top experts on psy-war as head of Bukit Aman’s psychological warfare desk from 1956 to 1983.

In the words of his long-time friend, Lim Cheng Leng, who wrote his biography, “CC Too could read the communist mind like a communist.”

The web of intrigue of how friends can become foes is exemplified in Too’s relationship with Kuantan-born Eu Chooi Yip, the communist mastermind in Singapore. Eu was Too’s special friend and Raffles College mate, but the two ended up as foes in different arenas.

Aloysius Chin also dedicated his life to fight the CPM and I had the privilege of meeting Chin, who wrote the book The Communist Party of Malaya: The Inside Story, which reveals the various tactics used by the CPM during different periods in their attempts to overthrow the government.

Malaysians have never had much fondness for serious history books. Worse, their views of historic events are often shaped by the movies they have watched.

Unfortunately, movie producers, armed with what is called poetic licence, often dramatise events to make their movies much more interesting.

Who can fault them as they have to sell their movies?

But we really need to read up more about the events during the Emergency era, especially the assassinations of Special Branch personnel and the many ordinary policemen, who were mostly Chinese.

The CPM’s biggest hatred was directed at the Chinese policemen, who were regarded as “running dogs” as far as Chin Peng was concerned.

The reality was that these Chinese policemen were the biggest fear of the CPM as many had sacrificed their lives to infiltrate the movement, posing as communists in the jungle.

It would have been impossible for the Malay policemen to pose as CPM fighters, even if there were senior Malay CPM leaders, because of the predominantly Chinese make-up of the guerrillas. It was these dedicated Chinese officers who bravely gave up their lives for the nation.

Between 1974 and 1978 alone, at least 23 Chinese SB officers were shot and killed by the CPM, according to reports.

In one instance, a Chinese police clerk attached to the Special Branch in Kuala Lumpur was mistaken for an officer and was shot on his way home.

The CPM targets included a number of Chinese informers, who provided crucial information, as well as Chinese civilians.

One recorded case which showed how cruel the communists could be was the murder of the pregnant wife of a Special Branch Chinese officer at Jalan Imbi as the couple walked out of a restaurant.

This was the work of Chin Peng’s mobile hit squads. The assassination of the Perak CPO Tan Sri Koo Chong Kong on Nov 13, 1975, in Ipoh was carried out by two CPM killers from the 1st Mobile Squad who posed as students, wearing white school uniforms, near the Anderson School.

Other members of the same squad went to Singapore in 1976, shortly before Chinese New Year, in an attempt to kill the republic’s commissioner of police, Tan Sri Tan Teik Khim, but they were nabbed.

Another notable figure in our Malaysian history is Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng, a former Special Branch officer who spent most of his life being hunted down by the communists during and after the Emergency years, as one news report described him.

Yuen was shot in the chest in Grik back in 1951 in an encounter with the CPM and the communists even tried to kidnap his daughter while he was Perak police chief, so much so he had to send her to the United Kingdom in the 1970s for her safety.

Their top targets included former IGP Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Hashim who was killed in 1974 and the Chief of the Armed Forces Staff Tan Sri Ibrahim Ismail who faced three attempts to kill him.

The CPM targets also included many active grassroots MCA leaders. After all, at the Baling talks in 1955, the government side was represented by Tunku Abdul Rahman, David Marshall, the Chief Minister of Singapore, and Sir Tan Cheng Lock of the MCA. The CPM was represented by Chin Peng, Chen Tian, and Abdul Rashid Maidin.

The talks broke down after two days – the deadlock was simple with Chin Peng wanting legal recognition for the CPM while the Government demanded the dissolution of the CPM, or, in short, their surrender.

In a research paper, Dr Cheah Boon Kheng wrote that as of June 1957, “a total of 1,700 Chinese civilians were killed against 318 Malays, 226 Indians, 106 Europeans, 69 aborigines and 37 others.”

At the end of the Emergency, the final toll was as follows – 1,865 in the security forces killed and 2,560 wounded, 4,000 civilians killed and 800 missing, and 1,346 in the police force killed and 1,601 wounded.

The figures, quoted by Dr Cheah, a renowned CPM expert, were taken from Brian Stewart’s Smashing Terrorism in Malayan Emergency.

The fact is this – many innocent Chinese lives were taken by the CPM, and the killings continued even after the Emergency ended in 1960.

Anthony Short, in his book The Communist Insurrection in Malaya, 1948-1960, also wrote that the Chinese civilians suffered the highest casualties in the fight with the CPM.

At Chin Peng’s funeral wake in Bangkok, some of his old comrades put on a brave front to say they fought for revolution.

But they must have been let down by China, which they looked up to, because in the end, it was Beijing which first down-graded its ties with CPM and eventually stopped funding them entirely when it forged diplomatic relations with Kuala Lumpur.

And today, China is a communist nation in name only as its elites and people openly flout their wealth and compete for the trappings of a capitalistic society along with its ills, including corruption.

The CPM said they wanted to fight the Japanese and the British but in the end, faced with the resistance of the Malay majority, the people they killed the most were Chinese civilians and the policemen.

And let us not also forget the indigenous people of the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak who served in the security forces and were renowned for their jungle tracking skills. They too suffered many casualties.

Among our forgotten heroes are some who were awarded the highest bravery awards. The point here is that all laid down their lives for the country as Malaysians.

These are the facts of history. There’s no need to be bleary-eyed because, in the end, we should let the realities and the facts sink in.

Comment contributed by  WONG CHUN WAI \

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Genneva gold investment firm slapped with 926 charges


KUALA LUMPUR: Six senior officers from controversial gold investment company Genneva Malaysia Sdn Bhd were slapped with more than 900 counts of money laundering, illegal deposit-taking and false advertising involving an alleged sum of RM5.5 billion.

Company director Datuk Phillip Lim Jit Meng, 57, was charged with 246 counts of money laundering allegedly committed at CIMB Bank Bhd and CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd in Jalan Kuchai Lama between January 2011 and last December.

Jit Meng, who represented two companies — Genneva Malaysia and Success Altitude Sdn Bhd—was charged with 222 counts in his capacity for the first company and eight counts for the second company.

Another director, Datuk Tan Liang Keat, 41, was charged with 226 counts. Company advisers Datuk Ng Poh Weng, 63, was charged with 155 counts, Datuk Chin Wai Leong, 37, with 23 counts and Datuk Marcus Yee Yuen Seng, 61, with 17 counts. General manager LimKah Heng, 42, was charged with 16 counts of money laundering.

They allegedly committed the offences at the same time and same place. At the same court, Genneva Malaysia, Jit Meng, Tan and Kah Heng were also charged with receiving deposits from the public without a  licence via a scheme involving gold transactions at CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd, Jalan Kuchai Lama, between Jan 10, 2011, and Oct 1 last year.

Ng was also charged with abetting them.

Deputy public prosecutor Dzulkifli Ahmad proposed that bail be denied as it was a non-bailable offence.

"However, if the court allows bail, the prosecution would like to suggest that each accused be allowed bail of RM5 million. This case involves approximately RM5.5 billion in investments from 35,000 depositors."

Dzulkifli said the bail amount should reflect the severity of the offences.

In pleading for a lower bail, defence counsel A.S. Dhaliwal said the fixed deposits of all the accused had been frozen by Bank Negara since last year.

He proposed bail be set at RM50,000 for each accused.

Judge Mat Ghani Abdullah allowed bail at RM1 million for each of the accused. He also ordered them to surrender their passports.

The judge fixed an additional RM100,000 in two sureties for offences under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001.

Ghani allowed the prosecution's application for a joint trial and fixed April 7 until 24 next year to hear the case.

Dzulkifli informed the court that the prosecution would call about 50 witnesses to the stand.


Datuk Philip Lim Jit Meng.

Its directors Datuk Philip Lim Jit Meng and Datuk Tan Liang Keat faced 246 and 226 counts of money laundering respectively; business advisers Datuk Ng Poh Weng (155), Datuk Marcus Yee Yuean Seng (17), Datuk Chin Wai Leong (23), and general manager Lim Kah Heng (16).

All six claimed trial to the charges.

The company itself, Genneva Malaysia Sdn Bhd, faced 222 counts of money laundering and Success Attitude Sdn Bhd, eight counts.

Four of them, Philip Lim, Tan, Hah Heng and Ng, were also charged under the Banking and Financial institutions Act 1989 with two counts each of accepting deposits without a valid licence via a scheme involving gold transactions.

Earlier, Philip Lim and Tan pleaded not guilty at another Sessions Court to making a false statement in an advertisement on the company's website, saying its gold trading was in accordance with Islamic law.
Genneva Malaysia Sdn Bhd also faced a similar charge.

The case has been set for mention on Oct 28 and the two were granted bail of RM20,000 each.

Contributed by PUNITHA KUMA NST;  M.MAGESWARI and Maizatul Nazlina The Star/Asia News Netowork

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Innovation Value and key Drivers to Success


The ability to increase business value through innovation is a critical success driver for most organizations. The markets that we operate in provide both opportunity and risk from an innovation perspective as they are rapidly changing.

Markets provide opportunities if we get it right and threats if we do not, particularly given the intense competitive nature of most industries. Our quest to realize innovation results is further complicated by the complexities involved for most firms – the sheer number of players to potentially coordinate with in the value chain; rising costs; margin erosion; increasing regulatory, customer and consumer demands; evolving business models; shorter cycle times; and new sources of competition, just to name a few.

The good news is that if you can get it right, you stand to gain a competitive advantage and will reap the benefits of increased revenue and profits. Hence, the lure of identifying new growth opportunities, increasing volumes and market share, securing a competitive advantage, improving margins and strengthening brand loyalty, provides a powerful incentive to be successful at product innovation. However, the challenges that organizations face do not make this easy. Developing new products and technologies is consequently one of the more complicated initiatives an organization can undertake.

Take for example the telecom market wars occurring over the past year. Samsung and Apple have emerged as two clear winners that have been able to leverage powerful innovation machines. The competition (Nokia and Research in Motion) have stumbled badly in their respective innovation capabilities and ultimately paid the price in the marketplace.

Creating Innovation Value: Four Key Drivers to Success
Figure 1: The Innovation Performance Framework

The Innovation Performance Framework™ (Figure 1) is a useful framework that examines the complexity and addresses some of the challenges in product innovation by separating them into four key themes: product innovation strategy; portfolio management; new product development process; and climate and culture (see Figure 1 for illustration). Interestingly, past studies suggest that organizations that excel or master these four key themes do, in fact, achieve better results from their product innovation efforts.

Let’s examine some of the challenges innovators have in each part of The Innovation Performance Framework:

Product Innovation Strategy: It all starts at the top. If there is not a clear and crisp product innovation strategy that supports the business strategy, problems begin. Some key challenges are: Do we have one? Is it clear? Is it the right strategy? Is everyone aligned? Are people walking the talk? Are there realistic expectations on new product revenues?

Lack of a product innovation strategy tailored to support the strategy of the business is often cited as a most common problem.

Portfolio Management: This is the strategic allocation of resources that ensures innovation efforts advance the product innovation strategy. This is also the prioritization of projects in the pipeline to ensure that resources are being tactically deployed on the right projects for the right reasons. Some key challenges are: too many projects and not enough resources to get everything done, difficulty in deciding which projects to select (when evaluating multiple projects that are competing for the same resources), difficulty in optimizing the portfolio of projects (i.e. short-term versus long-term, high-risk versus low-risk), poor alignment on priorities, and resources that are simply stretched too thinly.

Idea-to-Launch Process: This is the roadmap or playbook that takes each project from idea to launch including all of the activities and decisions that must occur in order to be successful. Some key challenges are: not enough high quality ideas; not having a standard playbook that can be used repeatedly for projects; leadership that cannot articulate the importance of their idea-to-launch process; employees who have not received training or have not developed a knowledge foundational base on and around innovation best practices; not tailoring the development process to support the business strategy and project needs; being unable to say no to projects and/or the need to be realistic with actual time and resource expectations that otherwise lead to unrealistic speed-to-market pressures; expectations for resource commitments to work on projects that are not in the official process; too many minor projects that negatively impact the resources available for innovation projects; and the inability to yield effective decisions in a timely manner (i.e. everything is a high priority thus creating ‘gridlock’ which in turn results in significant delays). It is no wonder given the above why achieving and then sustaining success is so difficult for many companies.

Climate and Culture: This is ‘the way the organization works’: the typical behavior, norms, values and leadership style that enables or hinders product innovation performance. Some key challenges are: difficulty in striking a healthy balance between ‘discipline and focus’ and ‘flexibility and judgment’, driving projects to successful completion while managing cross-functional teams (i.e. shortage of trained project leaders, staff turnover, gaps in necessary skills, lack of training and/or experience), management of failure, and poor support from other parts of the organization. In other words, creating and supporting a climate and culture that supports innovation company-wide.

How is your organization performing at product innovation and how does it compare to other companies? Without clear metrics and a way to compare them it can be difficult to know whether you are doing good or bad at product innovation; whether your investment in R&D is producing the desired results, and what areas of your performance in and around the Innovation Performance Framework might need to be improved or strengthened. The good news is you can change, the question is do you want to?

Contributed by 


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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Singapore's new hiring rules: citizens first, foreigner curbs target professionals

 
Singapore Makes Firms Consider Citizens Before Hiring Foreigners

Singapore will impose new rules prodding companies to consider locals before hiring foreigners for professional jobs, according to the Ministry of Manpower.

The city state will set up a job bank where companies are required to advertise positions before applying for so-called employment passes for foreign professionals, it said. The advertisements must be open to all Singaporeans.

“Even as we remain open to foreign manpower to complement our local workforce, all firms must make an effort to consider Singaporeans fairly,” Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said in a statement today. “‘Hiring-own-kind’ and other discriminatory practices that unfairly exclude Singaporeans run against our fundamental values of fairness and meritocracy.”

Singapore tightened restrictions on foreign workers for a fourth straight year in February, in part because of voter discontent over congestion, rising property prices and greater competition for jobs and education. The curbs have led to a labor crunch and rising wage costs for companies, which the government has said will probably hurt growth in Southeast Asia’s only advanced economy.

Local Talent

Responding to feedback from Singaporeans that some companies are hiring foreigners over citizens, Tan and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam met with senior management in a number of financial companies to emphasize that they should make a concerted effort to develop a local talent pipeline, the manpower minister said in Parliament in March.

“We must set expectations about what is acceptable and what is not,” Tan said today. “It requires persuasion, explanation and leading by example. The worst employers must be taken to task.”

Singapore will also raise the minimum pay for employment-pass holders to S$3,300 ($2,600) a month in January, according to the statement. The job bank will be set up by mid-2014, it said. Companies with 25 or fewer employees will be exempt from the new rules, as well as jobs that pay a fixed monthly salary of S$12,000 or more, according to the statement.

The government will also identify firms “that have scope to improve,” such as those with a lower concentration of Singaporeans at the professional, managerial and executive levels, compared to their peers, or those that have faced nationality-based discriminatory complaints, the ministry said.

Foreign employment growth in Singapore slowed in the first half of 2013 from a year earlier and the labor market will remain tight for the rest of 2013, the ministry said this month.

Singapore Foreigner Curbs Target Professionals: Southeast Asia

Singapore's Tan on Foreign-Worker Curbs

Singapore will widen foreign-worker curbs to professional jobs as the government clamps down on companies that hire overseas talent at the expense of citizens, stepping up efforts to counter a backlash against immigration.

The Southeast Asian nation said yesterday it will set up a job bank where companies are required to advertise positions to Singaporeans before applying for so-called employment passes for foreign professionals. The unprecedented policy will target jobs that currently pay at least S$3,000 ($2,400) a month.

“There are concerns among Singaporeans, which I think is fair, and so it’s timely for us to introduce this,” Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said in a Bloomberg Television interview yesterday. “There are Singaporeans out there, well-skilled and capable, who are looking for jobs and I think this step would actually facilitate that process.”

The country is persisting with a four-year campaign to reduce its reliance on foreign workers, after years of open immigration policy led to voter discontent over increased competition for housing, jobs and education. The move has led to a labor shortage and pushed up wages, prompting some companies to seek cheaper locations.

“This is a step up from the government’s efforts to tighten the quality and the quantity of the foreign worker inflows,” said Chua Hak Bin, an economist at Bank of America Corp. in Singapore. “We’re moving to another phase now where they’re looking to ensure that opportunities for the middle-income Singaporeans are maintained.”

Better Matching

Singapore will also raise the minimum pay for employment-pass holders by 10 percent to S$3,300 a month in January, the Ministry of Manpower said in a statement yesterday. The job bank will be set up by mid-2014, it said. Companies with 25 or fewer employees will be exempt from the new rules, as well as jobs that pay a fixed monthly salary of S$12,000 or more, the ministry said.

“It makes a lot of sense to hire locally from the communities that we operate in,” said Audrey Tan, a Singapore-based spokeswoman for Pratt & Whitney, the jet-engine unit of United Technologies Corp., where Singaporeans make up 75 percent of its more than 2,000 workforce in the city.

The nation’s unemployment rate rose to 2.1 percent in the second quarter, with the resident jobless rate at about 3 percent.

That “translates to 50,000, 60,000 Singaporeans without jobs,” Tan, the minister, said. “What the regime allows is that there may be a better matching of demand and supply” between companies and job-seekers, he said.

Fewer Locals

The government will also identify firms “that have scope to improve,” such as those with a lower concentration of professional Singaporeans compared with industry peers, or those that have faced nationality-based discriminatory complaints, the ministry said.

Responding to feedback from Singaporeans that some companies are hiring foreigners over citizens, Tan and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam met with senior management in a number of financial companies to emphasize that they should make a concerted effort to develop a local talent pipeline, the manpower minister said in Parliament in March.

Citigroup Inc., which has about 10,000 employees in Singapore, said citizens and permanent residents make up 82 percent of its workforce.

‘Right Balance’

“It is essential that we strike the right balance,” Adam Rahman, a Singapore-based spokesman at the bank, said in an e-mail. “It is important to have some foreign talent who have global perspectives, expertise and skills to complement the overall development of Singapore as an international financial hub.”

Standard Chartered Plc, which has 7,600 employees in the city, said it will study the impact of the framework, which it expects will create more opportunities for locals. “The new portal will provide greater transparency and continue to promote fairness in hiring processes,” Peter Hatt, head of human resources for Singapore and Southeast Asia, said in an e-mail.

Singapore was ranked the most-favored expat destination based on economic factors such as income and housing in a 2012 survey of more than 100 countries released by HSBC Holdings Plc. Including the criteria of lifestyle and well-being of children, Hong Kong topped the list.

Second Choice

“Hong Kong and Singapore vie for talent on an ongoing basis,” said Marc Burrage, regional director of Hays Plc in Hong Kong. “If these changes are going to make it harder for expats to find work in Singapore, then what that could mean is that people will start to consider Hong Kong whereas in the past it may have been their second choice in Asia.”

Singapore’s inflation rate quickened to 2 percent in August. Domestic cost pressures are expected to persist amid continuing tightness in the labor market, the central bank and the trade ministry said in a statement yesterday.

“Further tightening on foreign labor participation should place upward pressure on wages and therefore core inflation,” said Daniel Wilson, an economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in Singapore.

The city’s population has jumped by more than 1.1 million since mid-2004 to 5.3 million, driven by immigration. A proposal to boost the population to 6.9 million by 2030 prompted thousands to protest in February.

The framework “is designed to placate the electorate,” said Lee Quane, Hong Kong-based regional director at ECA International, which provides research on employment, relocation and compensation. “The impact is going to be negligible. Singapore has almost full employment.”

The city studied employment policies in markets including Hong Kong, the U.S. and U.K. before developing its framework, the minister said.

“We’re very mindful that there’s no one silver bullet that solves everything and we’re also mindful that every country has their own slightly different circumstances,” Tan said.

Contributed by 

Monday, September 23, 2013

China fights corruption, Bo Xilai sentenced to life in prison



Bo Xilai (sitting on the defendant's seat), former secretary of the Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and a former member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, is sentenced to life imprisonment for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power at the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan City, capital of east China's Shandong Province, Sept. 22, 2013. He was deprived of political rights for life. The court announced the verdict. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi) 

Bo Xilai (C), former secretary of the Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and a former member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, is sentenced to life imprisonment for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power, at the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan City, capital of east China's Shandong Province, Sept. 22, 2013. He was deprived of political rights for life. The court announced the verdict. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi) 

Bo Xilai, former secretary of the Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and a former member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Sunday for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

He was deprived of political rights for life, and his personal assets were also confiscated.

The Jinan Intermediate People's Court in east China's Shandong Province announced the verdict.

Bo was found guilty of taking bribes totaling 20.44 million yuan (about $3.3 million), either personally or through his family members, between 1999 and 2012.

Bo's position had been rising during this period, from the mayor of the Dalian in northeast Liaoning province, to the CPC secretary of the city, to the governor of Liaoning and Commerce Minister.

In return, Bo helped Dalian International Development Co. Ltd., of which Tang Xiaolin was general manager, in taking over the Dalian City liaison office in Shenzhen and also helped Tang obtain quota licenses for importing cars, the court said.

According to court findings, Bo granted Xu Ming, chairman of Dalian Shide Group Co. Ltd., favors in the company's introduction of a football-like sightseeing hot-air balloon and in its bid for a petrochemical project.

The court found that Bo directly accepted cash totaling 1.1 million yuan from Tang. He was aware of and showed no objection to the fact that his wife Bogu Kailai and their son, Bo Guagua, accepted monetary gains and properties worth 19.33 million yuan from Xu.

According to the verdict, Bo Xilai, while Party chief Dalian in 2000, assigned Wang Zhenggang, then urban planning chief of the city, to take charge of a project to be built by Dalian for an unidentified higher authority.

In March 2002, after the project was completed, the higher authority allocated 5 million yuan to refund the project. Wang proposed that Bo, who had moved to become the governor of Liaoning, use money to cover the expenses of his family. Bo consented and asked Wang to approach his wife Bogu Kailai for the matter.

The 5 million yuan was eventually transferred to an account designated by Bogu.

The court's judgement said on Nov. 13, 2011, Bogu and Zhang Xiaojun murdered British citizen Neil Heywood by poisoning him at the Lucky Holiday Hotel in Chongqing. Heywood's body was found on Nov. 15.

Guo Weiguo, then deputy police chief of Chongqing, was in charge of the Heywood case, but he failed to pursue the case to protect Bogu, the court said.

On Jan. 28, 2012, Wang Lijun, then Chongqing's police chief and vice mayor, told Bo Xilai, then Chongqing's Party chief and member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau that Bogu was the suspect.

Bo later lashed out at Wang for framing a murder accusation against Bogu, slapping Wang's face and smashing a cup.

At the request of Bogu, Bo asked Wu Wenkang, then deputy secretary general of Chongqing's Party committee, to launch an investigation against Wang Zhi and Wang Pengfei.

The two had been involved in the investigation of the Heywood case but had then handed over a resignation letter in order to expose the murder case.

Bo asked Chongqing's Public Security Bureau to interrogate Wang Pengfei. Bo proposed and approved the withdrawal of the nomination of Wang Pengfei as a candidate for deputy head of Yubei District of Chongqing.

In his bid to prevent a review of the Heywood case, Bo also violated the organizational procedures and convened a Standing Committee meeting of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee to remove Wang Lijun from his position as Chongqing's police chief.

After Wang Lijun's defection to the US Consulate General in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province on Feb. 6, Bo allowed his wife to take part in official meetings to deal with the impact, and sanctioned her suggestion of asking a hospital to fake a diagnosis that Wang suffered from mental illness. Bo also approved the release of the false information that Wang was receiving a "vacation-style treatment."

The verdict said Bo's these actions were important reasons behind Wang's defection and why the Heywood case was not handled in a timely and legal manner.

All these had created an extremely adverse social impact and greatly hurt the interests of the country and its people, the court said.

The court found Bo guilty of bribe-taking, in that as a public servant, he used his power to seek benefits for others and illegally took money and properties from others.

Also as a public servant, Bo took advantage of his position and embezzled public funds with other accomplices, the facts of which constituted the crime of embezzlement.

The court said Bo's abuse of power is extremely serious and has led to huge losses to the state and the people.

The court held that there are sufficient and authentic evidences to support prosecutors' charges against Bo: accepting bribes worth 20.44 million yuan (about $3.3 million), embezzling public funds of 5 million yuan and abusing his power.

Though Bo himself and his lawyer had denied all three charges, the court said these charges are supported by testimonies by several witnesses including Tang Xiaolin, Xu Ming, Bogu Kailai, Wang Zhenggang, Wang Lijun and others, as well as other evidence such as photographs of physical evidence, documentary evidence and electronic data.

In addition, Bo himself has also confessed to part of the facts, and his confession corroborated with those facts.

The court did, however, exclude 1.34 million yuan from the bribery accepted by Bo, saying that there are not enough evidence to support the charge that Xu Ming paid the amount in air tickets for Bogu Kailai and Bo Guagua and that Bo was aware of this.

The illicit money and goods that Bo accepted as bribes or embezzled have been recovered or compensated, the court said.

The Jinan Intermediate People's Court said its verdict was based on the facts, the nature and the circumstances of Bo's crimes and their harm to the society.  


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 Weibo brings public confidence in Bo Xilai's trial openness
 China's Bo Xilai on trial
 China's content-rich microblogs

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chin Peng’s Farewell: A Letter to Comrades and Compatriots

My dear comrades, my dear compatriots,

When you read this letter, I am no more in this world.It was my original intention to pass away quietly and let my relatives handle the funeral matters in private. However, the repercussions of erroneous media reports of me in critical condition during October 2011, had persuaded me that leaving behind such a letter is desirable.

Ever since I joined the Communist Party of Malaya and eventually became its secretary-general, I have given both my spiritual and physical self in the service of the cause that my party represented, that is, to fight for a fairer and better society based on socialist ideals. Now with my passing away, it is time that my body be returned to my family.

I draw immense comfort in the fact that my two children are willing to take care of me, a father who could not give them family love, warmth and protection ever since their birth. I could only return my love to them after I had relinquished my political and public duties, ironically only at a time when I have no more life left to give to them as a father.

It was regrettable that I had to be introduced to them well advanced in their adulthood as a stranger. I have no right to ask them to understand, nor to forgive. They have no choice but to face this harsh reality. Like families of many martyrs and comrades, they too have to endure hardship and suffering not out of their own doing, but out of a consequence of our decision to challenge the cruel forces in the society which we sought to change.

It is most unfortunate that I couldn’t, after all, pay my last respects to my parents buried in hometown of Sitiawan (in Perak), nor could I set foot on the beloved motherland that my comrades and I had fought so hard for against the aggressors and colonialists.

chinpeng01My comrades and I had dedicated our lives to a political cause that we believed in and had to pay whatever price there was as a result. Whatever consequences on ourselves, our family and the society, we would accept with serenity.

In the final analysis, I wish to be remembered simply as a good man who could tell the world that he had dared to spend his entire life in pursuit of his own ideals to create a better world for his people.

It is irrelevant whether I succeeded or failed, at least I did what I did. Hopefully the path I had walked on would be followed and improved upon by the young after me. It is my conviction that the flames of social justice and humanity will never die. – September 21, 2013.

* Chin Peng died at hospital in Bangkok on Malaysia Day, September 16, 2013 at the age of 89. This is his final letter to his comrades and compatriots published in his memorial booklet.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.


DM latest3MY COMMENT: My views on the status of the late Chin Peng are well known. I think his remains should be brought home and his wish to be interred with his parents should be granted. It is not being magnanimous but about honouring our treaty obligations. 

I therefore compliment the former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Rahim Noor for standing up for the rights of Chin Peng under the 1989 Hatyai Peace Agreement between the Malaysian Government and the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). On the other hand, former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir under whose administration the peace deal was signed did not make any comment on the Chin Peng matter. I suppose it is convenient for him not speak on this issue since his son, Dato Mukhriz, has entered the race for UMNO Vice Presidency.
 
Now that Chin Peng is dead, his cremated remains should be brought home to be buried beside his parents. This is not about politics. It is the most honorable and decent thing to do. We must also learn to accept our history, and recognise that Chin Peng fought the Japanese and British imperialists, although we may not accept his ideology and methods. More importantly, when our government signed that peace treaty, we accepted him and his comrades as non-combatants and partners in peace.
 
image

Yes, many lives were lost during the Emergency (1948-1960). Armed conflicts cost lives. The United States lost 55,000 soldiers and Vietnam many times more. But once the Americans and the Vietnamese signed the Paris Peace agreement,  they began the process of rebuilding their relations, and today both former combatants are working together to advance their common interests. Reconciliation is possible only if we can come to terms with our past and learn the lessons of our history.–Din Merican

Related posts:
Chin Peng's remains couldn't be interred in his Sitiawan hometown to be cremated in Bangkok instead 

Time to leave the CPM era behind; Chin Peng, CPM no longer Enemy No. 1


The death of Chin Peng has created a buzz about the relevance of the Red spectre in Malaysia, especially among Malaysian Gen Yers. 

IT has been an educational week for finance manager Rita Wong* as she tried to find the answers for her 10-year-old son’s questions.

“He’s always curious and this week it has been all about Chin Peng,” Wong relates. “‘Who is he, mum; why can’t he come home; why do we have to be scared of his ashes?’”

Wong, a 40-something working mother, says she has had to recall her history lessons in school but even then “most of the answers he is asking for are hard to give as I don’t really understand it myself.”

Chin Peng, the Malayan-born guerilla who led a fierce Communist insurgency against the British in the peninsula after World War Two, and later against the government after independence, died early last week after living in exile in Thailand for more than two decades. He had fought alongside the British during the Japanese military occupation, but had started a fight to establish an independent Communist state here in 1948.

Thousands were reportedly killed during the insurgency, tagged by the British administration as the Malayan Emergency, that lasted until 1960.

Hence, even in death, his name still evokes much bitterness in Malaysia, as seen during the week in the media and social media network.

“I can never forgive him because the Communists killed my grandfathers and uncles,” says a marketing manager in his 30s.

But for over 80% of the Malaysian population aged below 55 (some 25,610,000 Malaysians) who would have been in their diapers or not born when the Emergency ended, Chin Peng remains a distant grandfather story or, at the most, an answer to an examination question.

With his death, many are saying it’s time to also put the CPM ghost to rest, as can be seen in the comments in cyber space.

“Does Chin Peng’s death really matter?” writes secondary school student Tianqian Tong. “I thought he had died for years actually...”

Like many young people, Tong does not see Chin Peng and communism as a security threat any more.

“Chin Peng and the CPM are in the past, not in the present, neither will they be in the future. We are now free and independent,” notes Tong.

“Anyway, history is a lesson for the future – every single thing will be remembered. It will be good for us to learn that ‘In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher’.”

A number of the comments in cyber space are also quite light-hearted and related to a topic that’s very popular among Gen Yers these days.

“His ashes could spread around the country and invade the body of every Malaysian. This could be worse than an alien invasion ...” says one in a long line of zombie jokes about the “Chin Peng ashes – to return or not to return” debate.

A budding entrepreneur who only wants to be known as Amin admits that he finds the issue a tad confusing. “We all now want to ‘make friends’ with communist China and break into their market,” he observes.

Chin Peng and the CPM have not been a valid bogeyman for a long time, local theatre director and lecturer Mark Teh says.

“Bogeymen are ghosts or phantoms. The reason we have them is to create an irrational fear in people,” he opines.

For many young people, the Emergency and communists are lumped together with the Japanese Occupation and fight for indepen­dence under the topic of “War in History”, Teh points out.

“Many do not know the difference. But it is not completely their fault that they are confused. It’s because the history books present it in a sketchy manner. It is presented in a linear way that does not add up sometimes and discussions are not encouraged.”

This may have led to a thirst for information on communism among some, but not to the point where they want to stage a revolution, he adds.

“They are intrigued by it because of the gaps in history but I don’t think they are interested in the ideology or to embrace communism.”

Teh, who used to teach Culture and Society in Malaysia, had organised an “Emergency Festival” with a loose collective of young artists in 2008 to mark the 60th anniversary of the insurgency.

It was an attempt to re-examine the documents, images and narratives of the Malaysian Emergency from the younger generation’s perspective, he explains.

“We saw many students participate because they wanted to create alternative spaces for themselves and answer the questions they have about this part of Malaysian history.”

Teh feels this is the underlying issue in the debate on Chin Peng and the CPM’s role in the struggle for independence.

“The argument is contemporary because it is really about people fighting for their own version of Malaysia now – and they are reclaiming a past, whether it includes the CPM, Chin Peng or a past that excludes their contribution or labels them only as terrorist,” he says.

Writer Zedeck Siew, in his 20s, agrees, saying that any interest in communism among the young is mainly due to the suppression of communism’s place in history.

“In the classroom, we had the impression of the communist as an evil, grimacing Chinese fellow creeping through the jungle, killing cops and citizens. People have realised that this is not a complete picture.

“Those who want to learn about the CPM and Chin Peng are merely trying to find out more about the country’s past,” he reasons.

Crucially, interest does not equal participation, he stresses. “Frankly, I just can’t see my peers leaving their iPad, artisanal cupcakes and comfortable suburban warrens to join a people’s Armed Struggle and subsist on rations.”

Women rights activist Smita E concurs, saying that young people now seem to be largely anti-ideological. “I base this statement on my observation that people don’t read enough and don’t have time to read big books and think big thoughts.”

What is true, however, is that young people are starved for local histories, she adds. “It’s about alternative histories, not communism per se.”

Postgraduate student Ahmad Z also feels ideology rarely survives these days. “The grand narrative is history, though I believe young people see communism as a symbolic representation of change.

“If there is a resurgence in interest, it is a romantic interest of communism in Malaysia but not in the sense that people are trying to revive it and to suddenly pick up arms,” he says.

Putting the academic input into the issue, Boon Kia Meng believes that for many young people, the communist armed struggle belongs in the annals of history now.

“As Chin Peng mentioned in his memoirs, he was a man of his time and circumstances, where the world, in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese occupation, was overtaken by nationalist and anti-colonial movements and liberation struggles,” explains the academic.

“The armed resistance of the CPM was conditioned by those wars and the realistic options before them, in the context of British detention of firstly the Malay anti-colonial Left (a thousand were detained before the Emergency) and the crackdown on labour unions and political groups. The Emergency in 1948 was the culmination of British desire to secure their economic and geopolitical interests in the region.

“The CPM, rightly or wrongly, decided on armed struggle in the face of such challenges.”

Today, conditions are very different, says Boon. “A measure of formal democratic institutions has prevailed, and capitalism is triumphant globally, including in so-called communist China. As such, the bogeyman of communist terror in Malaysia is no longer a plausible claim.”

In fact, he highlights, most left-wing political movements today are democratic grassroots movements or parties.

“Just look at the elected governments of Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador, or even the growing popularity of the Greek radical left, Syriza (a likely winner in the next Greek elections) and the Occupy Wall Street movement. They are all non-violent, popular struggles.”

Ironically, even Chin Peng had noted the change of the times. Writing in his 2003 memoir My Side of History, he said: “A revolution based on violence has no application in modern Malaysia or Singapore... The youths who have known only stable governments and live in an independent age of affluence will find the choices I made as a teenager deeply puzzling... I was young in a different age that demanded very different approaches.”

He also stated that one of his final wishes was to “exchange views with young Malaysians nowadays to understand how history is shaped, exchanging ideas about how things move the world.”

Open dialogue and ­reconciliation

For many young people, an open dialogue on Chin Peng and communism is something they hope will happen now.

Student Nik Zurin Nik Rashid says it might be difficult for them to feel the victims’ experience but it will not hamper them from empathising.

“To ask the current generation that live in ignorance of such an experience is like asking a Malaysian what it feels like to be at Auschwitz: they can’t answer, and neither should they,” says the 19-year-old who is currently an undergraduate in a university in Texas.

The fact is that in the modern context, any way you look at it, the CPM is no longer around, she says.

“The CPM is no longer the enemy for the simple fact that it does not, for all intents and purposes, exist as a cohesive force that mobilises the masses since it signed the armistice with our government in 1989. By that alone, they are no longer the “Number One Enemy” as much as the Russian Federation is no longer a de facto enemy to Nato or the US since the Soviet Union collapsed.”

Nevertheless, she does not believe the CPM deserves any form of pardon.

“If Hitler is still unforgiven for his crimes, then I don’t see why Chin Peng needs to be forgiven for his Red Terror campaigns during the Emergency.

“To many, Chin Peng and his Commies will not be forgiven, and that is understandable.”

Alternative musician A. Nair feels that an open dialogue will help reconcile our nation with its painful past.

“If we try to be politically correct all the time, we will not get any idea across. If the older generation gets upset about us not caring or being insensitive about what they went through, it is something we need to learn to understand.

“But they also need to understand that it is not relevant to us now. We are moving towards a developed society, so we need to be more open and less sensitive.”

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Mental Exercises For Battling "It Won't Work" Syndrome

Every company has ideas that come up (sometimes frequently).  And, based on the stage of the startup and the degree to which the idea is unconventional, there are always good, rational reasons why the given idea can't possibly work.  There are also bad, irrational reasons too.  The problem is, it's hard to tell the difference.
Here are some of common reasons why something won't work:
  1. We've debated this several times before and have decided it wouldn't work.
  2. We've tried this before, it didn't work.
  3. Doesn't really fit our sales model.
  4. It's not appropriate for our industry.
  5. It might work for tiny/small/large/huge companies, but we sell to tiny/small/large/huge companies, and it won't work for them.
  6. Our investors/board would never agree to it.
  7. It might work, but we can't afford the risk that it won't.  (Note: When someone says “it might work…but…” they're almost always thinking: It won't work)
  8. Our team/plan/pitch-deck is not really setup for that.
  9. We could try it, but it's a distraction.  (Note: This often means “I've already decided it's not going to work, but I can tell I need to convince you we shouldn't try it…”)
There are many, many more reasons why any given idea won't work, but the above are a sufficient sample for this article. Oh, and by the way, I have at various points in time made all of these very same arguments myself (“I have met the enemy” and all that)

2 Mental Exercises To Try

Now, here are a couple of mental exercises to try when you or you or your team is stuck.

Exercise #1: What if I told you that it's working really, really well for XYZ Company?  How do you think they made it work?

The idea here is to assume the idea is good and has worked for a company very similar to yours.  Then, ask yourself (or your team):  Now that we know it worked for them, what do we think they did to make it work?

What this does is mentally nudge you to think about how to work through whatever the obvious limitations to the idea already are.

Example: I know that nobody in our industry uses a freemium model because the infrastructure/support costs are just too high.  But, we just learned that XYZ Company is launching a free version.  What do we think they did to make it work?

Exercise #2: What if we had the proverbial gun held to our heads and we had to do [x]?

The idea here is to assume/accept that the decision to implement the idea has already been made — presumably by some higher authority.  Now, assuming that, what would you do to make the best of it?

Example: Our major investors just told us that before they can agree to funding our next round, we need to build an inside sales team.  They think inside sales teams are the bomb.  We can't afford not to listen to them — what do we do to make the best of the situation?  If we had to build an inside sales team, how would we go about doing it?

Note:  In neither case am I suggesting that you mislead your team (or yourself, in case you're like me and have conversations with yourself late at night).  These are meant to be mental exercises, just to help drive discussion and analysis.  Though I'll confess, there is a small part of me that wonders what would happen if one did make the hypothetical seem real (at least for a short period of time).

What do you think?  Any mental tricks or tactics you've used (or thought of using) to help break-through conventional thinking?

Posted by Dharmesh Shah