The Art of Listening (We hear everyday but do we listen?) by Terence Tan


Communication has always been a key factor of how people, teams and organizations operate. But what are some of the things that we as individuals can do to help create that environment of openness and where we don’t stereotype or judge other?

Here is a consolidation of examples and questions on communication to ponder about, which we can use for our own development as well as for debrief during our programmes, especially for facilitators.

Part 1 – I wonder how well I listen…
1) Do I withhold judgment until I hear the entire story?

2) How many of the important facts do I usually remember?

3) Do I listen from the other person’s point of view?

4) How many questions do I raise to clarify an issue I know vaguely of?

5) What efforts do I make to check out disputed points with other sources?

Part 2 – I wonder why my communications breakdown…
1) Do I close up or open up when a misunderstanding occurs?

2) How often do I resist new ideas because they don’t fit my style or pattern of doing things?

3) Do I talk to people, but ignore their reactions and behaviours?

4) Have I always insisted on having the last word?

5) Do I listen and think before I act?

6) Do I use too many words to present a simple idea?

Part 3 – I wonder how interpersonal conflicts get started…
1) Do I think first before discounting others’ ideas?

2) Have I always commanded rather than invited ideas or actions?

3) Am I interested primarily in self-promotion… or just appear to be?

4) Do I frequently procrastinate when a decision is needed?

5) Do I expect others to read my mind or to understand what I am thinking?

6) Do I tend to make others think I am rubbing them the wrong way?

7) Am I often misunderstood?

Part 4 – I wonder what I can do to be a better listener…
1) Don’t pretend to know it all?

2) Avoid telling people what and how they should think

3) Admit your mistakes without the excuses

4) Encourage each other to keep the best interests of the group in mind

5) If you think you disagree, ask the other person to explain or clarify

6) Find out if the disagreement is about the details or the conclusion drawn

7) Find out exactly what the problem is before trying to work out the solutions

8) Make it easy for everyone to “give in” or to contribute a little

9) Use other examples or hypothetical situations as a case study to solve a hot problem or issue

10) Lastly, show your appreciation and thank others for really listening to you





Cracking the code
Once you have ascertained your best-fit personality type according to the MBTI, the next step to learning more about yourself is by finding out your unique cognitive process. The 4-letter type code that describes your core personality is actually hiding your dominant and auxiliary mental processes within it. These are mental patterns by which you exercise most often everyday. However, in order to discover what your cognitive processes are, you will have to “crack the code”. Come, let me show you and we shall discover the unique “YOU”.

In any 4-letter type code, the middle 2 letters represent, what is known, as the functional pair. This pair of letters essentially describes how we prefer to take in information from the outer world and how we make our decisions based on whatever information we have received. For example, an ENTP’s functional pair would be NT. This means that this is a person who experiences hunches and may tend to read “between the lines” in another person’s words. An NT would then make decisions via an analytical, logical approach but with “intuitive” information that supports a decision. It is through these letters that we can derive our cognitive processes, where every letter in the functional pair has an extraverted and introverted nature.

Step 1:
Look at the last letter of your 4-letter type code. If it is J, then this means that the T or F in the code is used in the external world. If it is P, then this means that the S or N in the code is used in the external world. For example, if your type code is ISTJ, you would exhibit extraverted thinking as a cognitive function.

Step 2:

So since one of the letters in the functional pair has been labeled, naturally the other letter would exhibit its introverted nature. In the ISTJ example, introverted sensing would be displayed along with the above-mentioned extraverted thinking. You can label both cognitive processes as Si and Te.

Step 3:

So between the two processes, which is dominant and which is auxiliary? Simple. If your 4-letter type code starts with an E, then your dominant process is the one with an extraverted nature. If your type code starts with an I, then your dominant process is the one with an introverted nature. In the example of an ISTJ, this means that an ISTJ leads with introverted sensing as his dominant process and is supported by extraverted thinking as his auxiliary process.

The 8 Cognitive Processes Elaborated

Extraverted Sensing

Extraverted Sensing occurs when we become aware of what is in the physical world in rich detail. We may be drawn to act on what we experience to get an immediate result. We notice relevant facts and occurrences in a sea of data and experiences, learning all the facts we can about the immediate context or area of focus and what goes on in that context. An active seeking of more and more input to get the whole picture may occur until all sources of input have been exhausted or something else captures our attention. Extraverted Sensing is operating when we freely follow exciting physical impulses or instincts as they come up and enjoy the thrill of action in the present moment. A oneness with the physical world and a total absorption may exist as we move, touch, and sense what is around us. The process involves instantly reading cues to see how far we can go in a situation and still get the impact we want or respond to the situation with presence.

Introverted Sensing

Introverted Sensing often involves storing data and information, then comparing and contrasting the current situation with similar ones. The immediate experience or words are instantly linked with the prior experiences, and we register a similarity or a difference—for example, noticing that some food doesn’t taste the same or is saltier than it usually is. Introverted Sensing is also operating when we see someone who reminds us of someone else. Sometimes a feeling associated with the recalled image comes into our awareness along with the information itself. Then the image can be so strong, our body responds as if reliving the experience. The process also involves reviewing the past to draw on the lessons of history, hindsight, and experience. With introverted Sensing, there is often great attention to detail and getting a clear picture of goals and objectives and what is to happen. There can be a oneness with ageless customs that help sustain civilization and culture and protect what is known and long-lasting, even while what is reliable changes.

Extraverted Intuiting

Extraverted intuiting involves noticing hidden meanings and interpreting them, often entertaining a wealth of possible interpretations from just one idea or interpreting what someone’s behavior really means. It also involves seeing things “as if,” with various possible representations of reality. Using this process, we can juggle many different ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and meanings in our mind at once with the possibility that they are all true. This is like weaving themes and threads together. We don’t know the weave until a thought thread appears or is drawn out in the interaction of thoughts, often brought in from other contexts. Thus a strategy or concept often emerges from the here-and-now interactions, not appearing as a whole beforehand. Using this process we can really appreciate brainstorming and trust what emerges, enjoying imaginative play with scenarios and combining possibilities, using a kind of cross-contextual thinking. Extraverted intuiting also can involve catalyzing people and extemporaneously shaping situations, spreading an atmosphere of change through emergent leadership.

Introverted Intuiting

Introverted intuiting involves synthesizing the seemingly paradoxical or contradictory, which takes understanding to a new level. Using this process, we can have moments when completely new, unimagined realizations come to us. A disengagement from interactions in the room occurs, followed by a sudden “Aha!” or “That’s it!” The sense of the future and the realizations that come from introverted iNtuiting have a sureness and an imperative quality that seem to demand action and help us stay focused on fulfilling our vision or dream of how things will be in the future. Using this process, we might rely on a focal device or symbolic action to predict, enlighten, or transform. We could find ourselves laying out how the future will unfold based on unseen trends and telling signs. This process can involve working out complex concepts or systems of thinking or conceiving of symbolic or novel ways to understand things that are universal. It can lead to creating transcendent experiences or solutions.

Extraverted Thinking

Contingency planning, scheduling, and quantifying utilize the process of extraverted Thinking. Extraverted Thinking helps us organize our environment and ideas through charts, tables, graphs, flow charts, outlines, and so on. At its most sophisticated, this process is about organizing and monitoring people and things to work efficiently and productively. Empirical thinking is at the core of extraverted thinking when we challenge someone’s ideas based on the logic of the facts in front of us or lay out reasonable explanations for decisions or conclusions made, often trying to establish order in someone else’s thought process. In written or verbal communication, extraverted Thinking helps us easily follow someone else’s logic, sequence, or organization. It also helps us notice when something is missing, like when someone says he or she is going to talk about four topics and talks about only three. In general, it allows us to compartmentalize many aspects of our lives so we can do what is necessary to accomplish our objectives.

Introverted Thinking

Introverted Thinking often involves finding just the right word to clearly express an idea concisely, crisply, and to the point. Using introverted Thinking is like having an internal sense of the essential qualities of something, noticing the fine distinctions that make it what it is and then naming it. It also involves an internal reasoning process of deriving subcategories of classes and sub-principles of general principles. These can then be used in problem solving, analysis, and refining of a product or an idea. This process is evidenced in behaviors like taking things or ideas apart to figure out how they work. The analysis involves looking at different sides of an issue and seeing where there is inconsistency. In so doing, we search for a “leverage point” that will fix problems with the least amount of effort or damage to the system. We engage in this process when we notice logical inconsistencies between statements and frameworks, using a model to evaluate the likely accuracy of what’s observed.

Extraverted Feeling

The process of extraverted feeling often involves a desire to connect with (or disconnect from) others and is often evidenced by expressions of warmth (or displeasure) and self-disclosure. The “social graces,” such as being polite, being nice, being friendly, being considerate, and being appropriate, often revolve around the process of extraverted feeling. Keeping in touch, laughing at jokes when others laugh, and trying to get people to act kindly to each other also involve extraverted feeling. Using this process, we respond according to expressed or even unexpressed wants and needs of others. We may ask people what they want or need or self-disclose to prompt them to talk more about themselves. This often sparks conversation and lets us know more about them so we can better adjust our behavior to them. Often with this process, we feel pulled to be responsible and take care of others’ feelings, sometimes to the point of not separating our feelings from theirs. We may recognize and adhere to shared values, feelings, and social norms to get along.






The participant who talks too much:

A way to approach the dominant participant and pull in non-participants is to redirect the discussion to another person or another topic.  Alternatively, facilitators may wish to reframe their comments, making them viable additions to the discussion.  Facilitators might also ask one or more members of the group to act as observers for a few sessions, reporting back their observations to the group. Perhaps, assigning the avid talker to the observer role would help the person develop sensitivity.  Another approach is to break down the group into smaller task groups.

The participant who will not talk:

A way to approach participants is to provide opportunities for smaller group discussions or pair-share discussions. Smaller groups may help put some participants at ease. A second strategy is to ask opinion questions occasionally (e.g., “How do you feel about this?”). This may encourage participation by reducing participants’ fear of answering incorrectly. Another strategy is to have participants write out their answers to a question. Having the words written out may make it easier for a shy or fearful person to speak up.

The participant who is dominant:

Give the participant responsibility within the group or a role in which he or she has to fulfil. Reinforce alternative behaviour and introduce a quota system, in which each participant is given three stones or bits of paper, and they have to give one up every time they speak. When they have no more, they cannot speak again.

The discussion that turns into an argument:

In good discussions, conflicts will sometimes arise. If such conflicts are left ambiguous, they may cause continuing trouble. Some useful strategies in tackling these situations are as follows:

If the solution depends on certain facts, the facilitator can ask participants to refer to the text or another authority.

If there is an experimentally verified answer, the facilitator can use the opportunity to review the method by which the answer could be determined.

If the question is one of values, the facilitator may use the occasion to help participants become aware of the values involved.

The facilitator can list both sides of the argument on the board.

The facilitator can take a strong position as moderator, preventing participants from interrupting each other or speaking simultaneously. Facilitators can lay ground rules for discussion, such as asking participants to focus conflict on ideas rather than people and to resist being judgmental.

Unclear or hesitant comments:

The facilitator can encourage participants, who make unclear contributions, to give examples and factual evidence of their points. The facilitator can also restate points for verification or rejection by the participants, or give enthusiastic nonverbal cues and patience.

The discussion that goes off track:

Some facilitators keep discussions on track by listing the questions or issues they want to cover on the board or summarizing the discussion on the board as it proceeds. Stopping and asking a participant to summarize where the discussion is at the point it appears to go off track may also help.

The participant who verbally attacks the facilitator:

When participants argue for the sake of argument, facilitators might lose the battle if they are drawn into it.  Participants who verbally attack facilitators often want attention, so simply giving them some recognition while firmly moving on often takes care of the problem. If participants are simply trying to embarrass the facilitator, they may seek to make him or her defensive with such comments as, “How do you really know that…?” or “You’re not really saying that…?” Such questions can be handled by playing boomerang. The facilitator might say, “What I’m saying is…, but now I’d like you to share your perspective.” Turning the question back to that participant forces him or her to take responsibility for his or her opinion.

Additional strategies to handle these situations include:

  1. Confrontation

Facilitators can confront the questioner with their reactions to his or her behaviour. “I am uncomfortable with your questions and remarks. What I really hear you saying is, And I would like to hear…”

  1. Active listening

Facilitators can paraphrase the message they heard and check out the accuracy of their assumptions before responding.

  1. Locating

Facilitators can ask the participant to explain the context behind the question.

  1. Deferring

Often, the best strategy is to invite participants to come up after the session and arrange for a time to talk about the disagreement further, and then move the discussion on to another topic.





I only realised it was lunch time when I felt a rumbling feeling in my tummy and during that point, I didn’t realise how hungry I was. I started to call out to my colleagues to go lunch
together and after gathering a few people, we were set to go. We took a small van and we managed to squeeze everybody in it. I was behind the wheel and we were chatting merrily
with each other about work and some random stuff when we came upon a down slope. As I negotiated the slope, I noticed there were two birds on the left side of the road and I didn’t
take much notice of it. I was nearing to where the birds were when the birds took a sudden decision to dash across the road. I had to tap the brakes to avoid running over the birds and
because of this reaction, the merry conversation that we were having was abruptly interrupted and followed by silence. I looked back to see if everybody was okay and fortunately nothing happened. I explained what had happened and everybody thought it was kind of funny. Putting the little commotion aside, we continued our conversation and head down to our lunch destination.

After coming back from lunch, feeling satisfied, contented and full, I started to recall the whole incident. It got me thinking; why did the birds choose to cross the road, instead of flying off and over the road? That decision will only be known to the birds…


“The set of competencies that a person is born with or are his innate qualities making him perfect for certain skills and tasks are referred to as his abilities. Abilities are often the result of the genetic makeup of a person. Because of this, we see some people good at computer programming (it comes naturally for them) while others might be good at physical sports, and yet others at languages and dances. Ability is something that is either there or lacking. There are people with the ability to learn languages while there are also people who find it hard to learn a new language. If you ask a girl to become a ballerina without having the ability, she would struggle to master the nuances and her performances may not look natural at all. This is in sharp contrast to a girl having the natural flair for dancing and has a rhythmic body.


“If you are good at lifting weights and are a budding weightlifter, it is clear that you have the ability to lift weights, but there is certainly a limit to your ability to lift weights. For example,
you may have no difficulty in lifting weights up to 150 KG but, beyond that, you may fail miserably. Thus, it would be better to say that the man has a capability to lift up to 150 KG of
weight. Capability, as the name implies, certainly places a cap on the ability of a person. However, it is also the potential that a kid can realize if he has the ability in a particular field.”
If a kid of 5 has the ability to perform basic gymnastic exercises, experts assess the kid’s capability in terms of his/her potential. If a player makes his debut shows glimpses of his
brilliance, selectors realize his capability and give him chances to live up to his potential in later games.”


Each of us has our own ability and it can be anything under the sun. Some of us realise it, and some of us don’t. Some of us have a unique ability and some of us share certain ability with others. When we were young, we looked up at actors, actresses, athletes, politicians and other famous people and ponder if we can be as strong, famous and influential as them. We have the capability to be like them, but decisions making, planning, luck and fate play a big part during the journey.






During my time in University I had one very influential professor whose favorite quote was : “the only thing better than being smart is sounding smart.” Some people may not agree with this statement; however my university found that this man was valuable enough to fly him down from his other job inWashington DC where he worked as aWhite House advisor three days a week. And, many Fortune 500 companies found him valuable enough to pay him big bucks to teach his writing style to their employees.

I will now pass along a few of his simpler speaking and writing tips.

1st It is imperative that at all times you speak and write with authority using only the active voice. (what is the active voice you ask) the active voice quite simply is the absence of the passive voice. (what’s that?) the passive voice is the one that we use most commonly, but we often do this shun responsibility for our comments.


Passive Voice

The car was red and it was going too fast so it had an accident.

Active Voice

The driver caused the accident by driving his red car too fast.
As you can see the active voice gives responsibility and immediacy to all of the words.

The car was red: the car is always red, or maybe it was recently painted and is now blue.
The red car: there is no doubt about the details of this car’s color

The car was going too fast: it is true the car was going too fast, but why? Surely it was not doing it by itself.
The driver drove the car too fast: this puts the responsibility on the driver, not the car.

The car had an accident: why?
The driver caused the accident: ooo that’s why!

Example finished:

The active voice is more direct and more professional. It also makes it seem like you have the facts and know what you are talking about, not that you are leaving out details that you don’t know.

2nd USE SPELLING AND GRAMMAR CHECK!!!! Though studies show that correct spelling is not essential to relay the meaning of what you are saying, nothing is more embarrassing in a professional setting. I repeatedly hear participants comment on the numerous grammar errors on the signs we have in the bathrooms.

3rd do not use contractions, just don’t do it. Contractions were introduced into the English language as a form of short hand writing derived from people speaking the language incorrectly. It is normal in casual conversation or even casual emails. It looks bad in proposals and marketing material.


1st As we mentioned before use the active voice whenever it is possible. In actuality it is always possible to avoid the passive voice, but this is not easy to do so start out by reducing how often you use it.

2nd Do not use slang. Each culture has their own slang words, mine is aint. It means am not, therefore I say am not when speaking to participants.

3rd Train yourself to stop using pause words. I had a high school teacher take off one point for every pause word we used in presentations. Some of us would have negative scores if we were graded now. It is not easy but we must eliminate: uh, um, ah, ok, and alright. (Like I said, not easy)


Changing language will never happen over night, however if we practice and politely remind each other of our mistakes we will slowly improve.

Changing writing can happen immediately if you are willing to sacrifice the time. You should already be using spell check. Now after you use spell check use (Ctrl F) and search for anywhere in your paper that you have used these words: am, is, are, was, were, be, been. (that’s right, no linking verbs) wherever you find these words you have used the passive voice and should reword the sentence into the active voice.

This will be a good first step towards speaking and writing at the highest level of professionalism. Our company is a leading brand in our field, it is time that we started looking and sounding like it.

(note: this article did not use any of the advice that I have written when it was made.)

(Note: this article did use the advice that I have written when I made it.)

-Notice the difference in the flow of the article.

Sounding Smart

During my time in University I had one very influential professor whose favorite quote stated: “the only thing better than being smart is sounding smart.” Some people may not agree with this statement; however my university considered this man valuable enough to fly him down from his other job inWashington DC where he worked as aWhite House advisor three days a week. And, many Fortune 500 companies found him valuable enough to pay him impressive amounts to teach his writing style to their employees.

I will now pass along a few of his simpler speaking and writing tips.

1st professionals must speak with authority, using only the active voice at all times. (How can you recognize the use of the active voice?) The active voice quite simply represents the absence of the passive voice. (How can I recognize the passive voice?) People speak using the passive voice most of the time in order to shun responsibility for their comments.


Passive Voice

The car was red and it was going too fast so it had an accident.

Active Voice

The driver caused the accident by driving his red car too fast.
As you can see the active voice gives responsibility and immediacy to
all of the words.

The car was red: the car is always red, or maybe it was recently painted and is now blue.
The red car: there is no doubt about the details of this car’s color

The car was going too fast: it is true the car was going too fast, but why? Surely it was not doing it by itself.
The driver drove the car too fast: this puts the responsibility on the driver, not the car.

The car had an accident: why?
The driver caused the accident: ooo that is why!

Example finished:

Professionals using the active voice sound more direct and professional than those who do not. It also makes it seem like you have the facts and knowledge of the subject matter, not like they have left out details because they do not know them.

2nd USE SPELLING AND GRAMMAR CHECK!!!! Though, studies have shown that authors do not need to spell correctly to properly relay the meaning of their work. It spares them from the embarrassment of spelling incorrectly in a professional setting. I repeatedly hear participants comment on the numerous grammar errors on the signs we have in the bathrooms.

3rd do not use contractions, just “don’t” do it. Contractions began in the English language as a form of short hand writing derived from people speaking the language incorrectly. Speakers often use contractions in casual conversation or even casual emails. However, it looks bad in proposals and marketing material.


1st As mentioned before, orators should use the active voice whenever possible. In actuality orators could always avoid the passive voice, but this may prove challenging, so start
out by reducing how often you use it.

2nd Do not use slang. Each culture has its own slang words; I use the slang word “aint.” It means “am not”, therefore I say “am not” when speaking to participants.

3rd Train yourself to stop using pause words. I had a high school teacher take off one point for every pause word we used during presentations. Some of us would have negative scores if a teacher graded our presentations now. It may challenge your vernacular, but we must eliminate: uh, um, ah, ok, and alright. (Like I said, not easy)


Changing language will never happen over night, however if we practice and politely remind each other of our mistakes we will slowly improve.

Changing writing can happen immediately if you apply yourself and sacrifice the needed time. You should already use spell check. Now after you use spell check use (Ctrl F) and search for anywhere in your paper that you have used these words: am, is, are, was, were, be, been. (That is right, no linking verbs) wherever you find these words you have used the passive voice and should reword the sentence into the active voice.

This serves as a good first step towards speaking and writing at the highest level of professionalism. Our company recently received recognition as a leading brand in our field, we should start looking and sounding like it.







‘The Invisible Gorilla’ – Suppose you are asked to watch a video of two teams of basketball players passing balls around. One team is dressed in white while the other black. As you are watching, you are tasked to count the number of passes made by the players in white. Midway through the video, a man in a gorilla costume walks into the middle of the action, thumps his chest and slowly walks out the other side. Do you think you would notice the gorilla? It seems silly to ask this question because the answer is obviously “yes”.

However, when this experiment was conducted at Harvard University several years ago, more than half the participants failed to notice the gorilla. They were so focused on counting the passes that they completely missed the chest-thumping ape. This study, titled ‘The Invisible Gorilla’ by psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, is one of the most best-known experiments and it shows that our attention has a capacity limit – we can only consciously read and process a limited amount of information at any one time.

At any given moment, facilitators are exposed to vast amount of sensory information, each vying for his attention. It is humanly impossible to process every bit of information at the same time due to the limited mental bandwidth we operate with. Any attempt to consciously stretch this bandwidth will only result in exhausting our mental state and lowering our sense of awareness. Try focusing on every object in the space you are at right now for 60 seconds. What was it like? How did you feel? I bet once the 60 seconds are up, your mind would immediately switch to a ‘break’ mode and go blank for a few moments.

To make up for this inherent shortcoming, facilitators need to operate with a high level of Situation Awareness (SA). SA is the ability to recognize, process and comprehend important elements of information in a given situation. Dr. Mica Endsley, recognized by many as a pioneer and leader in the study and application of SA, defined it as:

‘…the Perception of the Elements in the Environment within a Volume of Time and Space, the Comprehension of their Meaning, and the Projection of their Status in the Near Future.’

In simpler terms, it means making sense of the current situation and mentally mapping out cause-and-effect relationships.

SA is the radar that operates at the subconsciously level, constantly scanning the surroundings for abnormalities and providing updates to our mental model. Like an air-traffic control tower radar that is continuously feeding the traffic controllers with information, it identifies aircrafts that are flying too fast or heading towards the wrong runway while at the same time, provides the controllers with the most updated view of the air space.

Aside from detecting abnormalities, SA is also allows facilitators to capture information that are subtle yet significant. While a facilitator cannot control the amount of sensory elements present, he can however determine the types of elements to focus on. The more acute his SA is, the more sensitive he will be to his surroundings and this places him in a better position to anticipate changes and introduce timely intervention.

High level of SA enables facilitators to:

1) Maintain a high level of safety.
Prevention is better than cure. Having a high SA would lead to a heighten sense of anticipation. Because facilitators are able to project the plausible consequences of the current situation, this gives them that extra second to introduce preventive measures or eliminates threats before they turned into actual risks.

2) Identify opportunities to enhance the learning experience.
Seeing things that others do not is one of the hallmark of effective facilitation. While most would focus on actions that are at the heart of the activity, seldom would participants reflect on the minor incidents – incidences that come as quickly as they go. Part of SA is about being sensitive to these minor, and to many, insignificant incidences. Insightful learning, the kind that people do not recognize at first but seems so apparent when pointed out, are created when facilitators are able to spot these opportunities and create meaning off them.

3) Adjust delivery style.
Another hallmark of effective facilitation is the facilitator’s ability to adjust his delivery style. Once in a while, concerned and discomforted participants will question the facilitators’ style of delivery, but these are exceptions to the rule. In the Asian context, out of respect to the facilitators, most participants tend to keep to themselves and go with the flow. Not knowing what participants are truly feeling is a major stumbling block because the facilitator might be thinking he is doing the ‘right’ thing and would continue doing so.

By the time participants surface their concerns, it might already be too late because the damage is done. Two common cases are; 1) When the facilitator is being too strict with the rules. 2) When the facilitator uses languages that some participants are uncomfortable with. For example, jokes on sexual orientation might not fit well with participants who are strong believer of the LGBT social movement.

However, when facilitators are able to detect signs of discomfort, or feel a sense of passive aggressiveness from the participants early, they can make the necessary adjustments to their delivery before more damages are done.

4) Making better decisions, spontaneously.
Facilitators make spontaneous decisions all the time because no matter how well the programmes are designed and planned, it is not possible to factor in every possible variable. Seasoned facilitators have countless tales of curveball anecdotes. In order to make better and more informed snap decisions to respond to changing and emerging patterns, facilitators need to stay two steps ahead of the situation. For example, knowing what to do the moment grey clouds are spotted or how to adjust the programme in the event of a delay in catering services.

Here is the good news – SA is not an inborn ability that is bestowed to a lucky few. SA is an ability that facilitators can work on and be better at, it is a sense that can be trained, like a highly trained nurse who can read the faintest of pulse or a skilled wine sommelier who can give a full description with a single sip. Increased exposure and field time is widely acknowledged as key pillars in building up one’s SA. In a series of studies conducted by researcher Gary Klein on how experts in various fields make spontaneous decision in urgent situations, he found out that these individuals are able to tap on the wealth of experiences they have amassed over years of practice and understanding. One of the better-known case studies is about a seasoned fire fighter, who made the decision to pull his team out of a burning building moment before it collapsed, though there were no obvious signs of any structural damage. In an interview later, the fire fighter said he felt a hunch and something in his mind told him that the building was going to give way soon, and that made him pulled his team out.

Although experience is key to the development of SA, paradoxically, experience is also SA biggest enemy because the more experienced a facilitator is, the more likely he will fall into a routine mindset, let his senses down and allow complacency to sip in. This transition from experience to complacency is best explained through the “conscious competence” framework:

1. Unconscious incompetence
A rookie facilitator does not recognize SA as an important feature and might deny the usefulness of the skill. The facilitator must recognize his own incompetence and the value of SA before moving on to the next stage.

2. Conscious incompetence
The training facilitator now knows what SA is and acknowledges that it is a skill he lacks. He makes effort to work on his SA.

3. Conscious competence
The trained facilitator now understands how to apply SA, but he needs to concentrate and think in order to use it effectively. Without thorough cognitive effort, his SA might not be as reliable. It is only through constant practice would his SA move to the next stage.

4. Unconscious competence
The seasoned facilitator has had so much practice that SA has entered the unconscious part of the brain and it has become “second nature”. As a result, he no longer needs to consciously think about applying SA.

5. Complacency
Once SA operates at the subconscious level, the seasoned facilitator might missed the natural ‘check and balance’ system that comes with conscious thinking, thus, opening up opportunities for the occasional lapse in attention. Inexperience facilitator requires field time and practice to sharpen their SA, seasoned practitioners too need to remind themselves on the trappings of complacency. Below is a list of techniques rookie facilitator can work on to improve their SA and seasoned practitioners can adopt to guard against complacency.

1. Active involvement – SA is not a passive process, it does not just come on to the facilitator. For SA to function effectively, one has to play an active role and be with the situation. This means the facilitator has to be mentally present, consciously making sense of the events that are taking place around him. Active involvement requires the facilitator to stay engage with the process and be as involved as the participants through the experience.

2. Setting goals – Professor Kip Smith and Dr. Peter Hancock, prominently researchers in the field of aviation and human behavior in dynamic situations, defined SA as ‘adaptive, externally directed consciousnesses. They see SA as an intentional behavior that is directed towards the goal. In other words, we assess what we set out to assess. Our SA is most sensitive towards the objectives we set because our focus is primarily on them. Setting goals will help funnel our attention towards key areas. Clearly defined goals serve as both guide and reminder to the facilitator on what to look out for. Because human’s attention is limited and easily distracted, the way in which our attention is deployed will determine what is read. Before an activity commences, facilitators should be clear on where to focus their attention on, for example, to capture specific learning opportunities and/or to mitigate risk at a precise point. These points for attention could also be a specific time, juncture, person, situation, reaction or conversation.

3. Delegate responsibilities to co-facilitators or participants – There will be occasions where there are simply too many things taking place at the same time. In such instances, a facilitator can either split the area of focus with his co-facilitator (one concentrate on safety while another concentrate on learning moments) or delegate secondary roles to the participants, such as ‘Safety Officer’.
4. Expose to a variety of experiences – Facilitators who limit themselves to a small number of programme types will develop very sharp sense of SA but only in environments they are extremely familiar with. Conversely, facilitators who expose themselves to a wider range of experiences will develop wellrounded SA that can be applied effectively across various situations. For experience facilitators, exposing themselves to fresh challenges is one of the best way to guard against complacency because it reminds them that learning is an on-going process and that no facilitator can ever claim to have enough SA.

SA serves two fundamental purposes. Firstly, it enables facilitators to maintain a high level of safety. No facilitator ever plans for things to go wrong. The reality is, no matter how well the programmes are designed and how clear our instructions to the participations are, accidents are unavoidable. Accidences are after all, a matter of statistics. It is at these points where the facilitator’s foresight, speed of reaction and judgment makes all the differences and SA is central to this process. Secondly, SA supports a higher standard of learning. It is a facilitator’s ability to spot learning moments that are otherwise oblivious to everyone, and make sense of it that would create the most value to the learning process. It is here where facilitators can stimulate the deepest reflection amongst the team because it examines the underlying forces that drove the participants’ behaviors. Behaviors so instinctive that is invisible to most, but so apparent once they are pointer out. Just like the gorilla in the video. “people will focus on procedures and not notice anything that isn’t just part of the procedures”
― Daniel Simons, author of ‘The Invisible Gorilla’





In recent times, as modernization occurs and technology becomes fast-paced, most of us are moving more quickly to keep up with the advancements. However, to achieve the best and nothing less than that, we often forget that we too could become workaholics and neglect ourselves just to devote our time for work. Our passion could just become success and life would hold not much value in any other aspect. Thus, should being a workaholic be widely practiced? This article defines a workaholic and the effects of being one so that we in turn can consider our individual situations and make better decisions.

Definition of a Workaholic
Workaholics keep many irons in the fire and cannot understand the relationship between that behavior and a zero leisure time.  They are the first ones to reach office and last ones to leave. Workaholics generally, prefer to do most things by themselves rather than ask for help or designate someone else to do it.  If they have no choice but to assign a project to someone else, they get impatient when they have to wait.  They cannot understand why something takes so long to be accomplished.  Their definition of the term “too long” becomes “any time that’s not now.”

However, how do they become the way they are?

Reasons Behind Being a Workaholic
Poor time management and striving towards personal success within an organization could be two main reasons for the sudden passion to overwork. Many employees are driven to climb the ladder very quickly and often forget to slow down and take a steady pace to achieve a more permanent success.

Workaholics believe that “layering” helps them to maximize their productivity.  Thus,whatever work they are doing at that moment, they add an extra layer or two on that.  For example, eating a lunch and writing a memo at the same time, etc.  If a call is received during that time, it would actually lead to doing three things all at one time, or as they call it, multi-tasking. A sense of competition builds in them so that they are able to not only sustain but become ‘Champions’ in the rising pressure of the work environment and boost their own self-esteem, not forgetting a greater pay rise and accelerated promotions.

Time especially starts getting poorly managed when assignments are greatly taken on to grow faster. With lesser time on their hands, workaholics then to ‘crash’ it all at once, not balancing between work and rest. Leisure is hardly significant for them.

Effects of Being a Workaholic

Workaholics overly commit themselves to their job and live in constant frustration for biting off more than they can chew. They are unable to relax because they feel guilty when they are not working on something. This eventually results in much stress and anxiety. Being a workaholic does not in turn produce good signals to the mind and body as it can lead to isolation and then depression. It deterioratesthe health of a human being which could lead to various diseases in the future.
Since most of the time, things never seem to move or get done fast enough for them, they lose their temper frequently.

Research has shown that people on average spend 98% of their waking time in thinking about their past or the future and only 2 % live in the present.  A workaholic spends 99% of his time mentally planning and thinking about the future instead of relishing the now. Thus, only 1 % of the time is divided between the present and past reflections.

With little time spent with their loved ones, they tend to forget, ignore, or undermine birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, or other important social events.  Relationships hurt them much more and their people crave for their presence and understanding.

A little something to ponder about: Is it common to hear someone is his last days saying, “I wish I had spent more time in the office?”

Thus, is being a workaholic something to be greatly practiced? Or a change needs to be made for the good of the person, the organization, the people around him and society in general? Let us look forward to a better change for a healthier and robust generation for Singapore.





I found this article online last night and would like to share it with you all. There is wisdom in its simplicity. My favorite point is point 8. Every one has different ways of experiencing flow and to be able to fully immerse yourself in it is a blessing. Find your flow!

Studies conducted by positivity psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky point to 12 things happy people do differently to increase their levels of happiness. These are things that we can start doing today to feel the effects of more happiness in our lives. (Check out her book The How of Happiness.)

  1. Express gratitude.– When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value. Kinda cool right? So basically, being grateful for the goodness that is already evident
    in your life will bring you a deeper sense of happiness. And that’s without having to go out and buy anything. It makes sense. We’re gonna have a hard time ever being happy if we aren’t thankful for what we already have.
  2. Cultivate optimism. –Winners have the ability to manufacture their own optimism. No matter what the situation, the successful diva is the chick who will always find a way to put an optimistic spin on it. She knows failure only as an opportunity to grow and learn a new lesson from life. People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless
    opportunities, especially in trying times.
  3. Avoid over-thinking and social comparison.– Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous. If we’re somehow ‘better’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, it gives us an unhealthy sense of superiority. Our ego inflates – KABOOM – our inner Kanye West comes out! If we’re ‘worse’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, we usually discredit the hard work that we’ve done and dismiss all the progress that we’ve made. What I’ve found is that the majority of the time this type of social comparison doesn’t
    stem from a healthy place. If you feel called to compare yourself to something, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself.
  4. Practice acts of kindness.– Performing an act of kindness releases serotonin in your brain. (Serotonin is a substance that has TREMENDOUS health benefits, including making us
    feel more blissful.) Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside. What’s even cooler about this kindness kick is that not only will you feel better, but so will people watching the act of kindness. How extraordinary is that? Bystanders will be blessed with a release of serotonin just by watching what’s going on. A side note is that the job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin. Move over Pfizer, kindness is kicking ass and taking names.
  5. Nurture social relationships.– The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships. Did you know studies show that people’s mortality rates are DOUBLED when they’re lonely? WHOA! There’s a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from having an active circle of good friends who you can share your experiences with. We feel connected and a part of something more meaningful than our lonesome existence.
  6. Develop strategies for coping.– How you respond to the ‘craptastic’ moments is what shapes your character. Sometimes crap happens – it’s inevitable. Forrest Gump knows the
    deal. It can be hard to come up with creative solutions in the moment when manure is making its way up toward the fan. It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on-call, and in your arsenal at your disposal.
  7. Learn to forgive.– Harboring feelings of hatred is horrible for your well-being. You see, your mind doesn’t know the difference between past and present emotion. When you ‘hate’
    someone, and you’re continuously thinking about it, those negative emotions are eating away at your immune system. You put yourself in a state of suckerism (technical term) and it stays with you throughout your day.
  8. Increase flow experiences.– Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still. It’s when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you become one with the task. Action and
    awareness are merged. You’re not hungry, sleepy, or emotional. You’re just completely engaged in the activity that you’re doing. Nothing is distracting you or competing for your
  9. Savor life’s joys.– Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy. It’s easy in a world of wild stimuli and omnipresent movement to forget to embrace life’s enjoyable experiences. When we neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic. It’s the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them.
  10. Commit to your goals.– Being wholeheartedly dedicated to doing something comes fully equipped with an ineffable force. Magical things start happening when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere. When you’re fully committed to doing something, you have no choice but to do that thing. Counter-intuitively, having no option – where you can’t change your mind – subconsciously makes humans happier because they know part of their purpose.
  11. Practice spirituality.– When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us. We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever. It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists. Some of the most accomplished people I know feel that they’re here doing work
    they’re “called to do.”
  12. Take care of your body.– Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be. If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected. Did you know that studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft? Not only that, but here’s the double whammy… Six months later, the people who
    participated in exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self accomplishment and self-worth.

This is the original URL:




                                                                                                                  A TOOL FOR INNOVATION

                                                                                                                              By Leonard Kok

Look at the diagram above. What do you see? Do you see blocks of irregular shapes? Or do you see regular blocks of shapes resembling alphabets, even a word? Well, what we see will depend on which part of the diagram we look at, literally.

If we interface this with real life issues, we can also say that the way which we look at an issue depends on the perspective which we take at the point in time. In addition, the position which we take also depends very much on our personal inclination, personality type, upbringing, interest(s) and a host of other personal and sometimes very subjective factors. In short, we have a tendency to look at an issue in a certain way most of the time.

At the organizational level, organizations which remain on the cutting edge of technology, operations and processes respond to challenges swiftly because they take a multi-dimensional perspective of the issues facing them. Sure, a company can outsource to increase price and quality competitiveness but the competitive curve will plateau in time.

Increasingly the new core competence is creativity and innovation. In fact, many people are now calling it the Creativity Economy. “Think-out-of-the Box” – the catchphrase of many corporations during the Star Wars era, is enjoying another round of limelight and the innovation saga will continue, now for a longer period of time.

So, how do we, based on our inclinations and the tendency to look at things the way we are wired to – see things from a FRESH perspective?

An excellent tool is SCAMPER. SCAMPER is easy to remember because it is a mnemonic and helps us think of changes we can make to an existing product or to create a new one. Companies or individuals can use these changes either as direct suggestions or as starting points for lateral thinking.

Developed by Bob Eberle in 1991, SCAMPER stands for:


Think about substituting part of your product/process for something else. By looking for something to substitute you can often come up with new ideas.
Typical questions:

·         What can I substitute to make an improvement?

·         What if I swap this for that and see what happens?

·         How can I substitute the place, time, materials or people?


Think about combining two or more parts to achieve a different product/process or to enhance synergy.
Typical questions:

·         What materials, features, processes, people, products or components can I combine?

·         Where can I build synergy?


Think about which parts of the product/process could be adapted or think how you could change the nature of the product/process.
Typical questions:

·         What part of the product could I change?

·         And in exchange for what?

·         What if I were to change the characteristics of a component?


Think about changing part or all of the current situation, or to distort it in an unusual way. By forcing yourself to come up with new ways of working, you are often prompted into an alternative product/process. Typical questions:

·         What happens if I warp or exaggerate a feature or component?

·          What will happen if I modify the process in some way?


Think of how you might be able to put your current solution/ product/process to other purposes, or think of what you could reuse from somewhere else. You might think of another way of solving a problem or finding another market for your product.
Typical questions:

·         What other market could I use this product in?

·         Who or what else might be able to use it?


Think of what might happen if you eliminated various parts of the product/process consider what you might do in that situation. This often leads you to consider different ways of tackling any issue. Typical questions:

·         What would happen if I removed a component or part of it?

·         How else would I achieve the solution without the normal way of doing it?


Think of what you would do if part of your product/process worked in reverse or done in a different order. What would you do if you had to do it in reverse? You can also use this to see your issue from different angles and come up with new ideas.
Typical questions:

·         What if I did it the other way round?

·         What if I reverse the order it is done or the way it is used?

·         How would I achieve the opposite effect?

Below are three examples which illustrate the SCAMPER tool.

Example 1:

Objective: I want to invent a new type of pen.


ink with iron, nib with knife


writing with cutting, holding with opening


pen top as container


body to be flexible

Put to other uses

use to write on wood


clip by using velcro


nib to fold outwards

Example 2:

Imagine that you are a producer of computers and printers, and you use SCAMPER to aid you in the process of looking for new products.


use of high tech materials for specific markets – use high-speed components?


integrate computer and printer, printer and scanner


put high quality ink in printer, use high quality paper


produce different shape, size and design of printer and computer

Put to other uses

printers as photocopies or fax machines


eliminate speakers, colour screens, colour ink etc…


make computer desks as well as computers and printers, or computer chairs etc…

  1. Many of the ideas may be unfeasible or may not suit the equipment used by the manufacturer, but some ideas could be good starting points for discussion of new products.

Example 3:

You are a manufacturer of nuts and bolts, and you are looking for new products. SCAMPER would give you:


use of high tech materials for niche markets, such as high speed steel? Carbon fiber? Plastics? Glass? Non-reactive material?


integrate nut and bolt? Bolt and washer? Bolt and spanner?


put Allen key or Star head on bolt? Countersink head?


produce bolts for watches or bridges? Produce different shaped bolts (e.g. screw in plugs)? Pre-painted green bolts?

Put to other uses

bolts as hinge pins? As axles?


Eliminate nuts, washers, heads, thread, etc.


make dies as well as bolts, make bolts that cut threads for themselves in material, etc.


Human resource remains and will remain as the mainstay of the Creativity Economy. Is your company ready for the innovation challenge?



Infinite Innovations Ltd (2006) .Retrieved March 5, 2008, from


Mycoted (2008) Retrieved March 5, 2008, from


Mind Tools (2008). Retrieved March 5, 2008, from

4. (2008). Retrieved March 5, 2008, from


‘Get Creative! How To Build Innovative Companies ‘ (August 1, 2005)In Business Week (2008).
Retrieved March 5, 2008, from





What does it mean by being different? Who wants to be different? Why do we want to be different? When should the difference surface? How can we be different? This are some common questions that people asked when faced with differences.

Before we look into the individual questions, let us understand what is different. For most of us, different will mean that improvement is made to the current process and a better result is achieved. To some, different will mean a total change to the process, by means of replacement or extermination. For the first explanation of different, it is largely linked to modifications and fine tuning of processes than change. While the other explanation will lead to change. As we all know, human beings are wired to resist change hence the acceptance of change to be different will be rare. This will mean that when we are faced with changes and we tend to insist that things to be done the usual way but achieving a totally different outcome / result. In this context, we will refer to the second explanation of Change to form the impetus of being different.

What does it mean by being different?
There are many adjectives that are constantly connected to people who are driven to be different. Some examples of these adjectives are mad, crazy, immature, inexperience, stupid, lunatic, etc. Most or if not all these adjectives do not form a motivation for people to want to be different. How many times do you walk down Orchard Road or hanging around Bugis Junction that you see someone full of tattoo or in some fanciful attire? Inevitably all the eyes and attention will turn to them and remarks as mentioned above will be heard.

Facing criticisms from other people is only one of the factors of being different. Constantly challenged by people around to conform to norms will be a very demoralizing process. Over glorified by those glory chasers will indirectly inflate a person’s ego and in turn lead a person to becoming too complacent and subsequently losing one’s desire to change as the risk of changing has a higher perceived price to pay now. Self management will be a crucial discipline that a person has to possess as being different will win you some victories and will result in the person losing more in the end as he / she will slowly and inevitably lose sight of the original purpose of wanting to be different.

Who wants to be different?

  • Individuals with desire to be different and be different.
  • Individuals who are drained by the daily routines.
  • Individuals who want to make a difference.
  • Individuals who are encouraged to be different.
  • Individuals who are faced with life changing events.
  • Teams who want to achieve greater results.
  • Teams who have the culture of constantly reinventing themselves.
  • Teams who are affected by environmental pressure.

The list goes one with more reasons and motivations but fundamentally, the person / team must WANT to be it.

Why do we want to be different?
To answer this, we will need to look at what motivates a person to want to be different. We will look into 2 areas to seek the answer. Firstly, let’s look at physical / external. For example, we do the expectation setting before the slides presentation. That is a norm and template. Effectiveness of it is dependant on the how the mood is set by the Facilitator and of course the background of the participants. Some times, we will be hit with response like “to end on time”, “good food”, etc. Doing it differently, we will change the sequence of activity by presenting the slides and explaining rationale of Experiential Learning, it will set the mood of the participants to set a more helpful expectation towards the outcome of the programme. So what does it take to be different? In this case, it will be largely driven by external factors and from past experience.

The next area that we will need to look into is internally. As mentioned earlier, those are motivated by external factor to bend but there are others who want to bend in order to make things better for themselves and others. These people are constantly looking into processes to see the shortfall and ineffectiveness and thinking of how to improve by doing something different. They are driven by personal desire to do better and be different and for some; it is purely to break the monotone of daily activities.

At the end of the day, being different comes with risk, such as social rejections. On the other hand, it also creates opportunity for one to start a revolution altogether. Remember there was a period in time when Bubble Tea hit the Lion City like a hurricane? What is so special about iced tea with jelly inside? The interesting thing is that within 6 months, the whole storm died down and that was when others start to recognize the business opportunity and entered the business but the trendsetter actually pulled out of it at the same time.

When should the difference surface?
Doing the right thing at the right time definitely put you in a favourable spot. On the other hand, doing the wrong time at the right time will land you in trouble. So what happens if you do the right thing at the timing of it was inappropriate? For example, it is not wrong for a mother to feed her baby with milk but doing that in the MRT or other public transport might lead the mother into dire consequence. We can succeed but if the success comes after the timeline, that is a failure. So timeliness will be crucial for it to take effect and create an impact. Would you want to wait for the situation to turn downwards before we decide to do something about it or should we actively anticipating the situation? Having said that, we also understand that in order to anticipate, it will require a lot of information from different sources, having enough field time in a given situation and with all these, we will need to make some sound assumptions in order to anticipate what is going to happen next. A perfect timing will be one that has the CHANGE implemented just before the situation is to change.

How can we be different?
There is a Chinese saying that to make a journey of a thousand miles, it starts by taking the first step. This is a process that can be easily achieved by some but very difficult to most of the people. To be different is a process of breaking the norm and becoming a trendsetter. The focus in the earlier statement is on the word “Breaking”, as you will really need to break the commonly accepted facts and even one’s common sense and create a totally new perspective. Hence, wanting to do it and really doing it will be critical factors to being different.

Courage! The courage to challenge what is accepted as a socially accepted behaviour / act and status quo. People generally are fast to discover what is different and are very sensitive to notice what is not socially accepted. The courage to take on the criticisms, doing what one believes in, dare to challenge the status quo, these are all easier said than done but nevertheless, there will be people who are willing to challenge the boundaries.

Some times when we are doing a mundane thing, we can still take a different approach in completing it by really looking into the process and after awhile, one will be able to identify areas that improvements can be made. The attitude of wanting and searching will bring about a consistently changing and improving environment and this will also make a mundane job more rewarding.
In conclusion, one who wants to be different has to choose to want to be different and take action to be different even when faced with common daily issues.

Just for thoughts: Is a creative person different or a person who is different creative?