An article by Joey Ng


The 3Rs is something we are all familiar with. Increased affluence in the society has push ‘green’ initiatives higher in many personal and corporate belief systems. The purpose of this article is not to tell us what the 3Rs and their impact are, but, is an attempt to metaphorically link the deeper values of the 3Rs with the function of an organization.

To reduce is to use lesser. No compromise of output with a reduction in input
equates efficiency. A simple example, it used to take 10 men to produce 100
bottles in a minute. If the company is able to reduce manpower to 5 and yet
maintain production rate of 100 bottles per minute, efficiency has been achieved, and the surplus 5 can be reassign other task, or produce another 100 bottles, increasing the overall productivity of the company.

Reuse can be simply defined as ‘use again’. Whenever an entity is used again, the return of investment (ROI) increases. ROI increases with each usage. Reusing do help company reduce cost, however, it does not apply to everything. Certain assets like machineries will reach a tipping point when further usage could actually mean higher cost. For example, the older a car, the higher the rate of fuel consumption, and the more likely it will break down. Eventually, the cost of keeping it in operations will be higher than investing in a new one. The idea that reusing drives creativity through the ingenious use of resources is also not far fetch.

Recycling is one of the greatest acts of unselfishness. The reality is, all of us who are reading this article will not live long enough to see the end of Earth, no matter how much we try to kill her. Recycling is an ongoing process with long term benefits in mind. All the ‘green’ deeds of today are for the next few generations to reap and enjoy.
Everyone knows the importance of recycling, but most still find the effort
gargantuan. Why? The short sightedness, the inability to look beyond the short
term is one possible reason. Why should I recycle when there is no impact on me if I don’t?
Short term thinking is the ‘Achilles Heel’ of organizations looking to run
sustainable business. When employees are not able to see the long term
benefits of their current actions, they will center their deeds on immediate
returns. Or, if the benefit of their work will only be reaped in the future, they will
be less, or even not motivated to perform. Another scenario is employees finding no reason for effort when they know that they will no longer be around to enjoy the harvest.

Many, if not all, functions of an organization face the challenge of short-sightedness – Innovation, self-development and branding for example. Let’s focus on branding. A strong brand requires years of consistency to build and uphold. Just like recycling, where what matters is the consistent effort over an
extended period of time. In both disciplines, the impact of nonpractice
will not be felt immediately. If I choose to not recycle a piece of paper today, the world will not collapse tomorrow. If I choose not to use the company colors appropriately, the brand will not suddenly lose its appeal. However, if this attitude persists overtime, collectively from each individual, the
damage will be felt sooner than the benefit of the contrasting paradigm.

Many actions undertaken in an organization have a strategic bearing if one is
able to look beyond the face value of the task. Let’s take putting of date when
saving E-documents for example. The primary purpose is of course to facilitate
the tracking of files, looking beyond the face value, this action serves as a,
conscious or unconscious, effort to promote the spirit of accountability. Another
one, maintaining the cleanliness of the office pantry can be parallel to ownership. No one cleans the chalet’s kitchen!
Going back to the title, when the conscious efforts of the 3Rs are practiced
continually and consistently, it would reach a level of subconscious where without much thought, one is able to readily and effortlessly apply the principle – or some call it spirit -in other actions. In the long run, when practice cohesively, the 3Rs will of course benefit the environment and society and, their deeper values (productivity, increase in ROI and long term thinking), to the organization and all its stakeholders. 




There is something about sitting around in a close huddle and swapping stories that makes people bond together like nothing else does.

Long ago, when I used to literally shiver at the thought of going up to a stage and speaking in front of an audience, someone wise had given me a golden piece of advice: “Pretend & act that you are confident – and soon you will start feeling that way”. “Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way round?” I wondered. “You feel confident first – because of which you are able to act that way”. But the all-consuming panic and stage fright quickly ensured that I followed the one path to survival shown to me. And wonder of wonders – it worked!! That was one trick I have used over and over and over again all through my growing years and in my professional life too!

The same thought came rushing to me again: “Pretend / Act a certain way – and soon you start feeling the same way too!”. Only this time, the scenario was different. In front of me was a group of senior managers of an MNC bank. We had just finished doing many exercises using the Myer-Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI). The idea was to highlight how – below our apparent similarities, each one of us is so uniquely different as a human being, in the way we perceive the world and make our decisions around it. The day had proceeded better than expected – and the fact that the group had reached the realization of the differences was palpable. The key question now for me as a Facilitator was to now move them back in the opposite direction: “How do I get them to come together again, with the new appreciation of how unique they were individually – and yet how similar they were in many ways that wove them together as a team. How could I make them see that together they created a unique mosaic, which is so uniquely “them” as a team?”.

This is when the learning of many years came rushing to me: “To get a group of people feel like a close team, get them to pretend / act they are already a close knit team, sitting in a huddle, swapping stories about each other”.

But sometimes with people, it is not as easy to get them to drop their defenses. Years of competitive corporate life, sometimes makes one believe that showing your real self somehow exposes you and makes you more vulnerable to the office politics. “How do we get around this deep seated psyche?”. There is a popular concept in football called a “head-fake”. The footballer moves his head in one direction, when he actually intends going in the other direction. We needed a head-fake.

The head-fake for us came in the form of PLAY. The one thing that makes people let their guards down, other than small children is the act of playing. “Nothing serious, we are just playing”!…. Oh yes, that really works!

We soon had all 10 senior managers take up colors and markers and unleash their creativity in drawing a tree – complete with roots, leaves, buds, thorns, trunk, birds around…. Well, the only restriction they had was their own imagination. And then, we made a creative leap…. “Just imagine that the tree you have drawn is your personality tree and each component there represents something in your personality – for ex. The trunk being your core values, the flowers being your achievement, the thorns being your challenges & struggles, the leaves being your skills, the buds being your opportunities and so on…”, “Can you think for 10 minutes and share the story of your tree?”

This was when we got all of them sitting knee to knee in a close circle. I was privileged to be a part of that circle. The next one hour was one of the most fascinating hours that I have spent – just listening to the stories of these 10 corporate people, entrenched and enmeshed by their daily lives and day-to-day challenges, and yet when each of them spoke, the similarities, the hopes, the challenges and their unique achievements came together so beautifully to form a unique collage.

There was one person who had conquered Mt.Kilimanjaro. He did not look the mountaineering-types. There was another quiet person who donated 25% of his salary every month to charity. His aim in life was to be able to donate 50% at some point. There was another person who had taken breaks from work to be able to sneak across international borders to rescue girl children. There were many jaws that dropped at that moment. Yet another person was an avid off-roader. Atleast two of them cherished dreams of becoming entrepreneurs. One said that the achievement of his life was bringing up two very well behaved children. Many of them had started their careers from very humble beginnings – and were proud of where they had reached. Many spoke about how they want to give back to society, so that many like them would get their chances. A lady spoke about how she just could not lie come what may – another really big man spoke about how he could never ever hurt anyone and how even the thought of having hurt someone unintentionally, makes him lose his sleep. Speaking about their individual journeys, tapping deep into untouched memories, a few of them occasionally choked a bit. When one person wiped his tears, I could see 9 more that were being held back.

We let the conversation go on till there was a natural silence. Yet, it was a very comfortable silence. Somehow in that one hour, the individuals in the group had coalesced into a team. For sure, there would still be a long way to go before they would be a “great” team, but a big chasm had been conquered that day. Figuratively, the members were atleast all holding hands together. There was an invisible bond that now ran through all of them, it was a bond formed by exposing their deepest sides to each other.

The holiest of the Indian scriptures, are the Upanishads. When you break down the etymology of the word, the Sanskrit term upaniṣad derives from upa- (nearby), ni- (at the proper place, down) and sad (“sitting down near”).

Truly, there is something holy about sitting around in a close huddle and swapping stories that makes people bond together like nothing else does. You don’t have to take my word for it – try this with your team today, and do let me know how it goes!





“the process of acquiring knowledge through experience which leads to a lasting change in behaviour”
(Buchanan and Huczynski, 2010, p. 139)

Taking the above as a working definition of learning, we can examine its component parts to explore learning at the level of first, the individual, and second, the organization. It is important to consider both as any group consists of people, who will differ from one another in the ways that they think, learn and behave. This article aims to touch briefly on several of the issues involved in successful learning and introduce related topics that can be researched in greater depth if required.

  1. the PROCESS…
    There are various theories of how individuals learn. Behaviourism was introduced by J.B. Watson a century ago, and states that behaviour is determined wholly by the environment. An
    action has a favourable or an unfavourable outcome, and the positive or negative consequences increase or decrease respectively the chance of the behaviour re-occurring. Simply, if a rat pushes a lever and receives a treat, it will press the lever again because it was reinforced previously for doing so. If it stops getting food, it will learn to stop bothering to push the lever. Behaviours are seen as learned sequences of muscle movements, nothing more.

Bandura (1977) proposed a social learning theory in which we learn through observing others. If a behaviour we copy is reinforced by positive results, we are more likely to repeat it.
Reinforcement is feedback about the success of a past behaviour. This information is perceived, interpreted, and used to guide future behavioural decisions; hence the prevailing idea today of learning as a process. This is the basis of the Experiential Learning Cycle used by FOCUS Adventure, where we actively reflect on what we did, what happened next, and whether it would benefit us to do so again in similar situations.

As for organizational learning – how does an organisation learn? According to Gherardi (1997), in the same way as does an individual – through experience, by processing information,
and changing accordingly. As for an individual, the aim is to increase one’s advantage over competitors in the struggle to survive. An organization that is able to develop and use its
knowledge is said to be learning (Arnold et al, 2005). Senge (1990) writes of 5 ‘learning disciplines’ in his 1990 book The Fifth Discipline: personal mastery; mental models; shared
vision; team learning; systems thinking. This last reminds us that learning is indeed a process.

  1. …of ACQUIRING…
    If, as Bandura’s social learning theory has it, we learn through observing others, who do we choose to copy? There are numerous studies of the effects on children of watching ‘models’ perform either social or aggressive behaviours; whether or not they copy the behaviour is affected by the consequences they see the model receive. There is research suggesting that we select from whom we are willing to learn, and that we copy behaviours consistent with our own self-image and with how we want to be seen by others (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2010).
    Primate children learn from peers and adults through imitation and emulation but only humans practise active instruction (Tomasello, 2000). Two of the most influential child psychologists of all time, Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, disagree on the importance of others on children’s learning. Piaget described a 4-stage developmental sequence – universal, independent of adult input, and fixed according to age and therefore cognitive maturity. Vygotsky, on the other hand, saw learning as primarily a social process, with children benefiting from the guidance of a more knowledgeable partner. At the level of the organization, learning can occur through imitation of other companies, from internal and/or external training, or from day-to-day interactions with colleagues. A learning culture is one in which:
  2. a) the benefits of training are promoted
    b) there are firm policies regarding and adequate resources available for training
    c) employees are supported and their newly acquired knowledge respected
    d) the management models the way by also attending courses (Arnold et al, 2005).

Like rats, we are willing to work if we reap benefits; unlike rats, we are able to complain loudly over extended lunch hours if we don’t get them!

    The typical learning curve shows performance of a new skill improving slowly at first, then accelerating to reach a plateau. In learning to ride a bike, the initial stages require thinking about each step and each body part, and a great deal of trial and error (and possibly bruising). Practising makes it easier and with time it becomes almost automatic. Fitts (1962) expresses this as 3 phases of skill development: i) the cognitive phase: requires attention, effort and includes lack of understanding and errors; ii) the associative phase: behaviour patterns are established and improve with practise; iii) the autonomous phase: performance is increasingly automatic and resistant to interference.

Anderson(1983, 1987; in Arnold et al, 2005) differentiates between procedural knowledge – knowing how to do something, without necessarily being able to explain it – and declarative knowledge, which is factual and can be made explicit. Declarative knowledge may not result in a change in behaviour unless it is processed in some way (Arnold et al, 2005), as described in the Experiential Learning Cycle mentioned above.

In our modern, globally connected world, technology is advancing and changing almost too fast for us to keep up (some of us have given up trying!), it is important for employees to be able to use and understand current tools, systems and knowledge, therefore, has become a valuable resource. Organizations which can make the implicit, procedural knowledge of individual employees available for everyone else to learn from are therefore at a distinct advantage.

Knowledge management is the conversion of individual into organizational learning (Rajan et al, 1999). Some companies have databases of knowledge created by employees considered expert in their field which are available to everyone else within the company. Knowledge that the organization itself has can be found in SOP’s, manuals, job descriptions and patents, and more gained from assessments, evaluations and learning from the experiences of other companies.

  1. … through EXPERIENCE…
    Experience is different for each individual – the same event can be pleasant for some people and boring, or scary for others. Put 10 people on ‘whale watch’ together and they’ll have 10 different experiences. What we attend to and focus on, how we interpret what we do and what happens to us is affected by personality, cognitive style, and some temporary factors such as mood, fatigue, or anxiety level. How rewarding an experience is to us is determined by the levels of neurotransmitters in our own brain, (especially dopamine).

We do not passively experience the world, but actively seek out certain environments and activities and avoid others. The experiential learning cycle emphasises learning by doing, but as Bandura and his followers show, we can also learn by listening, watching and hearing about other people’s experiences. Some personality types are better able to learn from mistakes than others and inhibit the impulse to make them again.

If experience is unique, how can it be discussed in terms of an organization? Companies can observe the strategies of their competitors and see how well they work. They can then monitor and evaluate the effects without ever being directly affected. Of the events which happen to a company itself – recession, expansion, moving offices – it is likely that all those involved will be affected but in different ways. Perhaps the key message is that the whole does not equal the sum of the parts. That is to say, what happens overall does not accurately reflect what has happened to each bit. How to recognise, understand, and cater for different personalities in the workplace will be considered in a separate article.

    Not everything that we experience will result in a change. The cellular basis of learning and memory, Long-Term Potentiation, involves a change in the connections between synapses, which are the tiny gaps between brain cells (neurons) across which messages pass. There is a famous saying in neuropsychology: “neurons that fire together, wire together”– in other words, experiences that stimulate the firing of groups of neurons cause those neurons to strengthen their connections with one another. Learning circuits are strengthened through repeated use – so experiences lead to changes in behaviour according to how often they are repeated.

There are examples of cases in which experience does not lead to change. Learning may be impeded by brain injury, anxiety, stress, depression, or by old age. There are numerous developmental disorders, learning disabilities, and neurodegenerative conditions which affect various aspects of learning or ability to acquire and remember knowledge (e.g. dyslexia, ADHD, autism, Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease).

Arnold et al (2005) suggest that transfer of learning brought from training courses back into the workplace, depends on the characteristics of the trainee, the quality of the course, the supportiveness of colleagues and management, and opportunities to use the new knowledge. Acquiring knowledge is all very well, but what determine whether or not it ever gets used are both the individual’s own competence and motivation, and the company’s receptiveness and willingness to adapt. At this level, it is still: “Use it or lose it” – it is not repetition that matters but factors that affect implementation in the first place.

Acquired knowledge may not translate into visible change in organisations where the culture is not one of openness and flexibility, or where employees are suffering from work overload. Change is more likely to occur in an environment of recognition and encouragement. The children in the social learning studies who saw models rewarded for a behaviour copied the behaviour – adults who see colleagues rewarded for putting in the time and effort to learn are likewise motivated to follow their example.

  1. …in BEHAVIOUR
    We, our behaviour, and our environment are linked together in triangle of reciprocal interaction where each of the three cornerstones affects the others. We are able to think about and to choose how to behave, we can learn from what others do and how the consequences of their actions affect them. Learning is shown to have occurred by a change in what we do or don’t do, in the methods we use or in how well or how often we act. An exploration of the factors that influence the many and varying behaviours shown by any individual are beyond the scope of this article. They include but are not limited to: personality, genetics, environmental experience, goals, motivation, and stress.

Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) differentiate between single-loop and double-loop learning. A system that demonstrates single-loop learning acts to maintain performance at a desired level. It is able to adjust and adapt to correct deviations from a pre-determined norm. Double-loop learning, however, involves an evaluation of the norm as appropriate or not, and challenging assumptions, beliefs, routines and decisions. It is related to the ‘Challenge the process’ component of the The Leadership Model – MICE from Kousner and Posner. This form of learning can improve the behaviour of an organization because it insists on the justification of what the company does and how it does it.

In conclusion, learning can be said to involve a number of components which apply at both the individual and group level. In order for an organization to learn, its members must learn and apply their newfound knowledge in the communal environment. The clients of FOCUS Adventure are the companies whose logo are displayed on the welcoming power-point slide, but the activities and debriefs are experienced by the individuals who attended and take away the learning points. What they then do with those learning points depends both on their own characteristics and those of their company.


Arnold, J., Silvester, J., Patterson, F., Robertson, I., Cooper, G. and Burnes, B. (2005). Work
Psychology: Understanding Human Behaviour in the Workplace (4th edition). Essex: Pearson
Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory.Taken from Arnold et al (2005).
Buchanan, D.A. and Huczynski, A.A. (2010). Organizational Behaviour (7th edition). Essex: Pearson
Fitts, P.M. (1962).Factors in Complex Skill Training.Taken from Arnold et al (2005).
Gherardi, S. (1997). Organizational learning. Taken from: Buchanan and Huczynski (2010).
Rajan, A., Lank, E. and Chapple, K. (1999). Good Practices in Knowledge Creation and Exchange.
Taken from: Buchanan and Huczynski (2010).
Senge, P. (1990). The 5th Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation.
Taken from: Buchanan and Huczynski (2010).
Tomasello, M. (2000). The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. USA: Harvard Univerity Press







Organization Values
F.O.C.U.S in Play
By Joey Ng


  1. Organization Values: What is it?
    There are many ways to define ‘Organization Values’. Most describe it as a kind of philosophy that drives success, the motivational force for performance.
  2. Why do companies have values?
    In The Fifth Discipline, author Peter Senge states ‘Values describe how the company wants life to be on a day to day basis, while pursing the vision.’ Kouzes and Posner state in their book, The Leadership Challenge, ‘Values provide the common standard by which people could calibrate their decisions and actions.’ With a common standard, resources can be more effectively and efficiently aligned. Clear values allow team members to work independently and interdependently because decision making processes are guided by the same principle.

Values also serve as a point of reference to hire and promote. Research has shown that when personal values are congruent with the organization values, employee commitment is higher and they will find it easier to perform (more on this in 3.1). Organizations also use values to deliver consistency, be it in production or service. And values can be seemed as a form of brand promise to stakeholders.

  1. How are values used by leaders and the team?
    Organizational values are used by leaders to lead, influence and set examples and members see organization values as the company’s expectation of them.

(Deviating from the title for a sentence: choosing the right personal value will define the leader’s character and personal values is one of the most powerful tools to lead, influence and set examples.)

Values build trust. The need for trust elevates when there is no direct control over each others work and it is through the subscription of shared values that team members trust everyone else is doing the right thing. Teams also use values to influence the way other members think and behave. Instead of dictating behaviors, team uses values to guide members towards the desired culture.

3.1. Are you at the right place?: Aligning personal values with organization values
Kouzes and Posner in their research found that when there is clarity between personal and organization values, people displayed the highest level of commitment. Have you ever had the feeling ‘This is not the right place for me?’

Values of an organization define the company culture. Values can be used as reference to measure how much one fits into the company’s culture. If the fit between personal and organization values are at loggerheads, perhaps a personal exit is best for all parties. Just imagine a square block trying to fit into a round hole. Probabilities will come with great deal of discomfort of all parties, square or round.

  1. F.O.C.U.S. at work
    In comparison to the values of most companies, FOCUS’ is unique in many ways. Instead of the usuals (integrity, continuous improvement, customer excellence, teamwork), we have ‘Fun!’ How many ompanies list fun as a standard?

Most organizations subscribe to rather common values because they promote the right social ethics and morals. Generally, organizations center their values on these 3 themes:

1) Caring attitude (internal and external)
2) Performance standards
3) Differentiation

Examine closer and you will discover elements of these themes in F.O.C.U.S. F.O.C.U.S. is easy to understand and the ‘openness’ of each values allows stakeholders to interpret and more importantly, apply the values according to the context of the event. 4.1 describe possible application of the values for all stakeholders while 4.2 demonstrates how the values drive quality in a programme.

4.1. F.O.C.U.S. for everyone
Here are some other ways to look at FOCUS Adventure values beyond the official description and possible applications in our daily dealings. One will also notice how the values are interrelated with one another.

F.O.C.U.S for Everyone

FOCUS Adventure sells fun and fun is what we are good at. A fun culture makes time
spend in the office more enjoyable and exchanging banters is one easy way to close gaps.
Fun can also be applied when conversing with clients. It will make the exchange more
lighthearted and with it, easier to close ties.

Transparency is one of the easiest ways to build trust. We can
be open by telling and asking. Openness also covers the way
we think. In a diverse society, opinions are bound to differ.
Being open means seeing others’ outlook as an alternative
point of view, rather than a conflicting one. Every decision
we make should be based on context, thus, the right answer is
not always the right answer, if there’s such thing as right
answer in the first place.
Thinking with an open mind is one way of challenging our paradigm to allow evolvement
and at the end of the day, make better judgments.

Walt Disney – ‘It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.’
Our growth is determined by the challenges we embark on.
Human are wired to seek comfort. Seeking challenges should
first start with seeing the big picture over the initial discomfort.
Walking into any unchartered territories will sure bring about
some blips and bumps but, whatever happens is an add on to
our knowledge pool.

We undertake many activities daily; some do more, while others do many more. When
doing what we are doing, do we understand the purpose of our actions? Understanding
and agreeing are correlated but not guaranteed. When one is working with understanding
and non-agreement, one is very likely complying. When there is both understanding and
agreement, commitment increases.

The most fundamental understanding we need is the understanding of the objective. How
we understand the objective will determine the approach we use. The objective is to
create an apple, but, it was understood as an oran ge. The approach is centered on making
an orange and the output at the end – orange.

A higher level of understanding is the understanding of everything as
a system. Everything we do is interrelated to something else some
one does. Whatever system we work within is a subset of another
system. By widening our understanding of the systems we work
within, it allows us to be ‘open’ and gain different perspectives on
the same matter.

Physiological safety is something we all know, psychological safety is something we tend
to over look. The environment we create, is it safe for people to be themselves, is it safe
for people to be ‘open’ and is it safe for everyone to have fun? When some deem unsafe,
it forces them to put on a mask unwillingly and narrow the communication channels to
one way.

4.2. F.O.C.U.S. for facilitators
A teambuilding programme is a system comprises of many elements and several subsystems. One good energizer will not compensate the lack of dialogue opportunities between participants and a fantastic final activity will not make up for the facilitator’s low energy level. Instead, it is the synergy of the different elements and entities that will decide whether it is a teambuilding programme, or is it a FOCUS ADVENTURE TEAMBUILDING PROGRAMME!

With so many different pieces to attend to, running a quality programme is not easy, well, it should not be! Using F.O.C.U.S. as a guideline will at least lead the programme towards the right direction and also, ensure consistency no matter who is running the show.

F.O.C.U.S for Facilitators

The FOCUS experience should be centered on the word fun: Fun in the activities and fun in the delivery.

How open is the communication channel between the facilitators and the participants? Is it facilitation? Or is it teaching?

How challenging the activities are structure will determine the level of learning the experience can yield. Too easy, teams will make no effort, too difficult, teams will give up. How effective an activity is depends on how solid the understanding of it is.

Understanding the need of the programme (objective) and the profile of the participants is the first step to any programme design. This understanding is also necessary to adjust the programme against the plan.

Field time and SA are correlated but not guaranteed. The higher a facilitator’s SA, the lower the likelihood of accidents. Safety in a programme is not limited to participants’ physiological state but, psychological state as well. Is the environment created safe enough for participants to voice their opinion, is it open enough for them to offer an alternative point of view.

Organizations values are created and designed to be purposeful and meaningful. The meanings will only be brought to life when they are implemented. In the mantra of ‘Open’, there is no fix way of utilizing F.O.C.U.S. How would apply your F.O.C.U.S today?

3. Senge, P.M., 2006. The Fifth Discipline: The arts & practice of the learning
organization. London: Random House Business Book
4. Kouzes, J.M. & Posner, B.Z., 2007. The Leadership Challenge. 4th ed. San
Fransico.:John Wiley & Sons.






Organisational Development
By Dean Martin


  1. First step, for everyone in the organization to respect one another
    2. Good attitude should be rewarded, bad attitude questioned or punished
    3. Persevere to do whatever it takes to better your environment and your current circumstance despite discouragement from others
    4. One person struggles, we all struggle! One person triumphs, we all triumph!
    5. We need to have a shared vision
    6. Working in this company could be the highlight of our lives, but that’s the problem, it can only be a highlight if we make it happen through the decisions we make and the action we take
    7. Stay focused on the outcome
    8. Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate our deepest fear is that we are powerful measure
    9. Just because you deserve something it doesn’t mean they will give it to you, sometimes you need to take what is yours
    10. Failure is the first step towards success
    11. Play like champions and hold your head high

Dear all!
I’m truly sorry for writing this extremely long email, but I think it is high time we address certain issues that plague us and have been affecting us for some time now. I write this after receiving inspiration from a movie I watched together with LTA yesterday and once again, this email like all the others I have sent out may offend certain people and may cause a divide before it can bring us together, but it’s something I need to say. If I had to say this in any other company, I am sure I would be fired, but I truly believe there is something special in this company which allows us to take criticism and feedback constructively and develop from it. This actually could also be used as an article which is related to our everyday lives and the circumstances I feel we face in the office on a daily basis.

The movie I watched was actually a small snippet of Coach Carter which is one of the most motivational and inspirational movie of all times. And I think this video could actually be used to replace the Shackleton Story which we currently use to show leadership, perseverance, resilience and teamwork. The few lessons I learnt through the movie have been listed above and this message is about how I relate the lessons to Focus Adventure itself.

The first point as per the movie is that everyone in the company needs to start respecting each other. Not that we don’t already respect each other, but I believe that we could start doing it a little more, maybe not in terms of calling each other “Sir” but we need to appreciate the fact that we all contribute to the company development in our own ways. Some people write articles, some people set waypoints that everyone else can use, some people take up initiative to clean up the store or arrange equipment.

In relation to the current situation about articles, I don’t believe that writing articles should be the basis on which we should promote or demote people. And I honestly don’t think it should be enforced until it becomes a culture. Let us compare this to “Arranged Marriages” something which we would all feel so strongly about. Enforcing the use of articles is like forcing people to commit to something they are not yet accustomed to, like how a bride and groom are married even if they do
not love each other. Next, the hope that in time they will learn to love each other, or in our context “until it becomes a culture”, can never be understood or guaranteed. And finally we may end up despising each other or the system like how sometimes people involved in an arranged marriage hate each other a few months or years into the relationship. I think
enforcing anything without gaining the understanding of everyone involved is foolishness. Which is why, Boss’ message about writing articles is so much more inspiring since it aims to explain the reason and purpose behind writing articles, whereas, the other email is directive and simply enforces something without reinforcing the purpose behind it.

The next point from the movie, good attitude should be rewarded while bad attitude should be questioned or punished. The point here is that we should define clearly what attitude is, then determine whether it is good or bad, rather than basing it on the feelings and emotions of people involved. All big companies have directives which state which attitude is rewarded and which is not and I believe it is time we do so to.

The third point speaks about persevering to improve the situation despite discouragement from others, like I mentioned early in this email, I could well be fired for writing something like this, but let me once again emphasize that I do this to improve our current situation and to minimize the arguments and grudges that exist in the office. I have been discouraged in the past about writing or saying whatever is on my mind, but it is time to bring it out in the open which is also why I took the role as the Manager of Organization Development. I believe these matters need to be discussed openly, which was the goal behind the survey I had created for all the facilitators just that we have not had the chance to discuss anything as yet. Well the survey at least did show
which of our colleagues we appreciate in the office and which we don’t. It also showed us the points we could improve on if we chose to take the initiative to change. The fourth point is the essence of teamwork where if one person struggles we all struggle and if one person triumphs we all triumph. This is the kind of mentality we need to develop in order for the
company to be successful! We tell our participants everyday about teamwork, about how it is important to communicate on a face to face level rather than through emails, but the fact is that we do not practice what we preach among ourselves! This is the worst thing an organization like ours should face, because I believe if we ourselves cannot discuss and face the issues that affect us, we have no right to tell our participants to do it either! Let us remove the planks from our own eyes before we look at the splinters in those of others!

The next point is about having a shared vision. I personally believe that we all need to share a vision or at least be informed about the pros and cons about the vision before can even think of enforcing it. This is the only way we can actually make our time here in Focus Adventure worth it otherwise, I think we are all just here at the end of the day to get a salary and there is no meaning to the job itself. The current system we have in place may not be the most ideal but I believe it offers us an avenue towards success, but then there are some of us who are putting obstacles in our own path. I agree with boss’ recommendation of having at least one good article a year and not about a minimum or maximum number of articles every month.

The other points can all be summarized together, and it basically tells us that we all need to keep each other in check on the way to achieving our true potential! And that we should play like champions so that one day we may finally be able to hold our heads up high and effectively bring across our message to our participants and clients!

Thanks for taking the time to read all this! Hope we can move in the “right direction” from here!




Any transaction in FOCUS Adventure starts with the incoming inquires from prospective clients. Inquires can stream in by different channels like, phone calls, emails through referrals and captured by online form. Regardless the incoming channels, all the information will be recorded in a standard way, i.e. the OPTIONS form. The form aims to elicit clients’ learning needs. Briefly, the OPTIONS form is,

Objectives refer to things like learning outcomes, purposes, etc.
People refer to group size, demographic of participants, special physical needs, etc.
Time refers to amount time to be invested, date and time of the proposed program, etc.
Investment refers to the budgeted funds for the impending program
Other considerations refers to less common items like special dietary needs, physical conditions of the learner, critical coordination with other agencies, etc.
New Ideas offer an opportunity for the clients to become creative. Some experienced clients could transfer some brilliant ideas from previous programs that might work well for the impending program.
Site refers to preferred venue for clients.

Clients who contact us through phone would have all these information filled up by a project staff but those who visit the website can complete the online OPTIONS form. Suffice to say that with the information, drafting the first-cut proposal would be possible. Once the inquiries are recorded, they will be distributed to the respective project staff as main contact points. Also referring to the OPTIONS form, the suitable facilitator can be selected to represent FOCUS Adventure for subsequent engagement activities.

The appointed project staff would engage the clients by initiating a meeting. Meetings are not restricted by in-person. It can be carried out via tele-conferencing or video conferencing. At the first contact (meetings or tele-conference), the facilitator would walk through the OPTIONS form to clarify with the client for any discrepancies. The walk through process will also help to surface new needs which were not conceived of at the point when the OPTIONS form was being filled up.

The outcomes of those meetings should provide adequate information for the program developer (facilitators/trainers) to develop the program. Sealing the deal within one meeting is possible provided the requirements are straightforward. When dealing complex learning issues, more than one meeting may be needed. Eventually, the project staff will send the completed proposal to seek for clients’ inputs and approval. If necessary, subsequent meetings can be initiated. Once the clients have approved the proposed program, the required resources would be secured.

From the helicopter view, the OPTIONS form represents the starting point of the Learning Needs Analysis (LNA) of the business of the process. In order for the programs to be considered suitable, it is essential for LNA to be carried out at the onset of the inquiry. The information captured by the form when being used properly in program design can produce desirable outcomes for the clients.

From the training perspective, it is useful for new Projects partners to step onto the steep learning curve. The form provides an adequate coverage for any new Projects partners to start serving the clients without having to learn through the arduous process of trial and errors. Using the form as a guide, reasonably accurate information can be obtained. As mentioned, just from the OPTIONS form, we do not expect 100% coverage. However, it can certainly help to generate an initial draft to maintain the interest of the inquiry. One of the key reasons is respond time to the clients. Even if the initial proposal sent is not totally customized, it does create an impression that FOCUS Adventure is paying keen interest in the inquiry. That is important from customer service point of view.

More from the training aspect; Senior Projects partners can evaluate the competence of the new Project partners from the entries made onto the OPTIONS form. This can serve as a consistent gauge when measuring progress and competence of the new Projects partners.
Click this link to see the online OPTIONS form:





It is becoming increasingly common for employees to become frustrated due to initiatives and instructions handed down from their employers. People in various organizations have been required to take up duties such as secondary roles, and have had many additional requirements added to their criteria for promotions or productivity. If not brought across or explained in detail to its target audience, such movements while intended to be positive in order to improve productivity and effectiveness, may have an adverse effect and cause employees to be stressed, always worried that their jobs are unstable or insecure.

In order to reflect a little deeper on this, I would like to share a story with everyone. There were two unemployed men who lived in a village located about 3 miles from a river. Thus the
governor of the village decided to hire these men to carry water from the river every morning and fill up the tank such that water would be easily available to the rest of the village. He gave each man 2 buckets and paid them $5 for every time they filled the tank. Both men realized that they could each make about 20 trips before the tank was filled, which meant they could earn about $100 a day. They would always head down to the bar in the evening to have a drink and relax after a heavy days work.

A few months later, both of them got more muscular from all the carrying and completed the job faster and faster. Then in order to earn more, they began to compete with each other in terms of who could complete more trips and fill the tank faster than the other, and instead of taking the entire day to fill the tank are able to fill it in just 4 hours after which they rest, relax or head over to the bar.

One day, the first guy has an idea which he thinks long and hard about. He decides to build a channel which would bring the water from the river to the tank directly! The next morning, after he has completed his duty of filling up the tank, he heads back to the river and attempts to map out the best route for his new channel. He understands that it is a huge task and thus needs to find the shortest possible route to make it easier for him. That very afternoon, he returns to the riverbank and spends the rest of the time till the sun sets digging the first section of the channel.

Day after day, the same thing happens and he returns to his digging after completing his work of filling the tank. His other colleague continues to go over to the bar and enjoy himself. As the days pass, the man digging the tunnel seems to become weaker and is not able to carry water from the river to fill the tank efficiently any more. He realizes that he is now only able to carry 10 trips while his peer is able to carry 30 trips. Thus his pay drops from $100 to $50 a day and the colleague is paid more at $150 a day. Seeing the additional income, the second man tells the first and he says why do you continue to dig even though you can see yourself becoming weaker every day? Stop digging and you will be able to relax at the bar and once again earn your $100 a day. But the first man is steadfast to his concept of the channel and ignores his colleague’s opinion.

Many years pass, the man comes across a portion in the land mass where the ground is rocky and extremely hard to dig. But he endures and endures until finally one day he completes his
channel and is ready, at last, to test it. However, the day he completes his work is in the winter and the lake is frozen over thus, no water flows into the channel. Seeing this, the second man is unable to control his laughter and runs back to the bar and share the first’s misfortune with everyone else in the town. The first man returns to find that he has become a laughing stock to all the townspeople, but he continues to believe in his plan and his dream that one day, the water fill flow from the river directly into the tank and there would be no need for people to walk to the river to collect water anymore. The winter months pass slowly and every day the man walks down to the river to find no water flowing into the channel. People continue to ridicule and humiliate him and he slowly starts to despair.

Finally, it is time for the spring and the weather warms up and sun can be seen shining brightly high in the sky. The river is not frozen anymore and water flows directly into the village tank. The governor on seeing this realizes that he has no use for the two men to go down to collect water from the river anymore and gives the entire $200 to the first man.

The second man who now finds himself out of a job, goes directly to the bar and drinks himself silly. Weeks pass and the second man has moved into a state of depression and is in a pathetic state. The first man now enjoying the fruits of his labor decides to expand his business and construct channels for other nearby villages. The first man, seeing his friend in this pathetic state, invites the second to work and assist him in the business and both men do extremely well together.

The moral of this story is actually pretty simple, while all of us view secondary appointments, reading articles and stuff an additional burden to our already taxing work life, it could actually be a good thing for all of us to do. While I don’t subscribe to the thought process that we should view it as a yellow ball, like we are expected to view all other challenges thrown at us cause I feel it’s just a way for the company to make us do more for less, it could well be a very beneficial duty which will not only improve our knowledge but also develop our personalities. It is about looking beyond the micro difficulties we may face to understand the importance of the macro view which would be developing ourselves as professionals.

That said, while we are constantly improving and providing higher quality service, delivering better quality programs, we need to ensure that this is not only limited to one department but actually spreads among the rest of the company as well! Again, while I do not subscribe to the idea of making this a culture, I think it’s a good way for each of us to achieve more than just the work and experience we gain through our daily toils here.



Mousetrap Locus of Control

Mousetrap Locus of Control


Mousetrap, it’s a Locus of Control.

Handling an active mousetrap surfaces two very distinctive reaction from our participants – on one hand, there is the almost nonchalant attitude, and on the other hand, too fearful to even consider how embarrassing one’s reaction is.

The differences in these polarize reactions are more than a matter of being able to bear some pain or having confidence in handling the mousetrap. It has plenty to do with the belief in who has more control over each other. Human or Mousetrap?

Locus of Control was part of psychologists Julian B. Rotter’s theory on Social Learning. Developed in the 50s, its original intent was to study human personalities. Over the years, its application stretched into the domain of industry and organizational psychology.

Locus of Control refers to an individual’s perception on how much influence one has over events in his/her life. Spread on a continuum is a set of dichotomies – Internal and External Locus of Control.

Those who have high internal locus of control believes that they are the responsible of most, if not all, happenings and occurrences in their life. Outcome and future are dictated by their deeds and actions. On the opposite, people who are highly external believe forces outside of their control determine their fate. They are not in-charge of their destiny.

Because they believe success is within their control, those skewed towards internal control are more likely to put in extra effort and by and large, self-motivated and approach activities with more optimism. On the contrary, external believers see their endeavors independent of the outcome, and thus, would likely question the need for additional effort, if there were any at all to start with. They are generally more pessimistic.

Internal locus of control does carry more positives over external, but like everything else, there are potential perils that should not be overlooked. Firstly, not everything is within our powers. By trying to control too much, we could become overly aggressive towards others. Second, we might ignore aspects outside of our grasp that are highly significant. And lastly, we might falsely perceive success or failure as our own doing (some parallels between this point and Attribution Theory).

So back to the mousetrap. Participants react according to how they feel. The feeling of fear and anxiety when handling a mousetrap derives from the anticipation of the worse possible scenario – getting hurt by it. But the matter of fact is, the only way to be hurt by the mousetrap is when it is not properly dealt with. We are the one that handles the functioning mechanisms. So long as the instructions are correctly followed, no harm will occur. In other words, we are in control over the situation and we dictate the outcome – pain or not pain. To succeed in this activity of Mousetrap, it is then essential for one to have high internal locus of control, and believe that they are the difference maker. At the end of the day, the mousetrap is just a … mousetrap. Why should we allow it to control how we feel?

This activity is a great metaphor of the life we face everyday. We all live in the same world and are presented the same challenges. There are of course many aspects of life that are not within our powers to control – like weather phenomena, economic crisis and epidemics. But, we can always control how we react and respond to the situation and influence ourselves and maybe, those close to us.

Look at your hands now; this is where you find success.

Web Reference







Clients to FOCUS Adventure come from all walks of life, ranging from those with serious objectives for their programs to those who just want their employees to have fun and enjoy the day away from the office. Facilitators spend a bulk of their time trying to master the art of the debrief and actually provide clients with a program which will not only impact them physically but mentally and emotionally as well.

In my experience, the time in which people can actually be impacted most is during the final debrief. However, most of us tend to focus on the activities and regularly cut the final debrief to one which is very short and, in my opinion, may not create the impact we set out to achieve. This is one of my biggest challenges as well and thus, I took up an initiative to find a better way of finding such a debriefing strategy and came across one which seems very promising in the book ‘Awaken the Giant within’.

The biggest message we try to put across to clients in the final debrief is that they need to remember all of the things they speak about and experienced during the program when they go back to the office. The best way to ensure it is that they move away from the program with a firm conviction that in order to improve, they need to change the very way they communicate and deal with each other. Many of us believe that changes take time, however, a book written by Anthony Robbins – a very successful individual in the field of turning people’s lives around – basically claims that change can occur in an instant. This can be done using a framework with 3 basic steps:


The first thing that the client needs to believe is that in order for things to improve, something must change. What could this change be? It could perhaps be the application of the lessons learnt during the activities back at the workplace.

The second step is to believe that change starts with me. This can be linked to the morning portion in which we inform the clients that the people who are responsible for achieving the expectations they set is themselves, and drill into them the fact that the change needs to start somewhere and the best place to begin is oneself.

The third step is to believe that I can make the change. We could stand around talking all day about how well the activities went and how much fun we had along the way, but the essence of the entire program comes with the knowledge in each client that they can change the way they have been functioning all this time and experiment something new which could boost their efficiency much more.

The final question to ask after everyone has absorbed all 3 steps is “Are we willing to make the change?


Give the clients a short while to ponder on the point and then, move into the video and closing segment of the program. I think this is something that truly impacted me and inspired me to write this as soon as I read it. I hope it has the same impact on all of you and I am very sure I will try it to see if it works in one of my programs which involve a lot of learning soon. Combined with the concept of making the client figure out the purpose behind all the activities we do, I think it has the potential to have an unforgettable impact if executed well.





In an experiment, four monkeys were placed in an enclosure. In the enclosure, there is a pole. Atop the pole were some juiciest bananas waiting to be grabbed by the monkeys. Indeed, with no hesitation, the monkeys started scaling the pole for their pricy rewards. However during their climb, they were doused with a cold stream of water from the top thus preventing them from getting to the bananas. Monkey likes water slightly more than cats. That how much they would enjoy the splash. In the end, none climb the pole anymore.

In the next stage of the experiment, the scientists removed three monkeys from the enclosure and introduce another three new monkeys that were never splashed. The new monkeys responded to the bananas immediately in the same way which first batch had. The first monkey has seen and felt the cold water; with all his might he prevented the three new ones from climbing the pole. He shouted, growled, pulling legs, jumped up and down, etc. In the end, the three new monkeys even without experiencing the splash of cold water, they did not climb the pole again and they were not soaked.

In the final stage of the experiment, two monkeys were removed and three new ones were introduced. In the enclosure, there were two existing monkeys. One which has seen the water and the other has not. The three new ones responded to the bananas immediately, jumping onto the pole at the first instance. One of the existing monkey that was not splashed previously by water nor has seen the water, bared his teeth, shouted, jumped, growled at the three new monkeys, prevented them from climbing without knowing the reasons behind it. Eventually, no monkey gets to eat the bananas.

What is the connection between the monkeys, bananas, pole and water to corporate culture? Our beliefs are subterranean a.k.a. iceberg beliefs or more commonly known as assumptions. We think of assumptions are the by-products of iceberg beliefs. Most people are familiar with our assumptions but are not discerning about our iceberg beliefs. It takes some willingness and effort to discern its existence and its potent effect it has on our cognitive development. As stated by BF Skinner, humans can be conditioned both positively and negatively. Operant conditioning is the most popular behavioral phenomenon discovered by him in the 60s which set forth the school of behavioral science in the field of psychology.

The monkey story above has demonstrated the definite effects of conditioning coming from external stimulus that has reinforced, changed, altered, transformed, inculcated, influenced, etc the behaviors of the monkeys, to be precise, their beliefs. This can be true for humans too. The facts in the monkey experiment have such uncanny similarity to the works in any organization.

Senior staff members can easily influence the new comers in both the good and the bad manner; this is one parallel aspect between the story and reality.

New comers adapt and live the existing culture with no discernment, following suit for the sake of compliance, in a total blinded manner.

Conditioning is potent as the effect it exercises on us is unobtrusive and subliminal. Conditioning can be premeditated too. Both constructive and destructive results can be achieved by understanding the mechanics of conditioning. Like the movie Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibilities. Leaders, Head of departments, CEOs, Directors have the authority and opportunities to do so. With or without the knowledge of conditioning, they are exercising it daily in both verbal and non-verbal communication occasions. Let’s understand its power use it wisely both at work

The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte, Chapter 12.