Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Half Brain of the Future

Dan Pink in his book Whole New Mind talks about how we use our left and right brain. While we use both sides of our brain for everything we do, each side specialises in different tasks.

The left brain specialises in taking things apart, in sequence and is textual.

The right brain specialises in synthesising things simultaneously contextually.

Understanding this difference can help explain how the labor markets work. Once upon a time, analytical and planning abilities were very important in the workplace.

It allowed you to advance in your employment and rise in society. However, in the last few decades, especially in the USA, where a lot of jobs have been shipped to India and China, this has become a problem.

It has become a big issue and a very sensitive hot button, impacting not just economy, but also politics and social stability.

What not many people realise is that the jobs that are being shipped are essentially the structured, logical, routine work that can easily be outsourced and automated.

They can be mass-trained to a workforce or done by computer algorithms.

However, the right brain processes cannot currently be outsourced or automated. There is no software that can easily replace a graphic designer, a creative consultant, a design thinker or a mentor or coach.

Therefore, the differentiating skills of the future are no longer left-brain, but right-brain. When you want to survive and thrive in the market, you must be able to bring not only analytical abilities, but creative abilities as well.

Learn. Now.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Speaking Of Insensitivity

Image result for taboo

Shariah, Hudud, 13 Mei, Beer, Macai, Dedak, Rosmah...

Interestingly, not every word there will be offensive to you. It might actually refer to very positive connotations in your head, depending on who you are and what you understand and accept.

Whenever we hear the word "sensitive" nowadays, it rarely refers directly to neurological phenomena, but hot button topics that can offend people, even when the reasons for offence aren't clear.

What it really refers to, is "current cultural insensitivity", or the reference to concepts, people, places or events that can offend people by mere mention, let alone discussion of it.

"Current", because it isn't permanent and can last for as short as a day to as long as decades. "Cultural", because it has to do with the ambiguous and constantly morphing meaning of ideas in different people's heads, but have a shared narrative among a group of them. "Insensitivity" because the one person talking about the idea doesn't have full understanding of the meaning inside the other person's head.

For a few months, "McDonald's" was a bad word and there were people arguing over social media questioning each others' rationale and religious convictions for patronising the franchise.

Then, one day, the original organisation that made it an issue dropped it, and it was no longer insensitive to say their name or eat there.

"Starbucks" is still a thing, though.

All this insensitivity is caused by different levels of understanding and acceptance to a particular idea. For example, it is seen to be okay for a racial slur to be used by someone of the target race in jest, but a no-no for those from other races.

So, to be able to track what is okay and what isn't at any one time is a challenge as there are now so many social influencers who can turn the tide one way or the other.

Thus, the safest way people discuss these socially insensitive ideas is to do so in small groups, away from those who find it offensive.

The next problem that arises is, because of this safety, these small groups feel too free to use the ideas derogatorily to attack, decry or malign other groups. With chat apps being ubiquitous, it gets easier and creates more hatred and more hidden negative context. This keeps and pushes us apart.

This leaves only two other options: Either stop using current culturally insensitive words, or start talking about them in a mature manner. Both are difficult, but only one is practical.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Building Rapport through Trust

Every relationship starts with a connection called Rapport and the foundation of that rapport is Trust.

There are generally two opinions on the concept of Trust:
  1. Black & White - "I either trust him, or I don't. There's nothing in the middle!"
  2. Gray - "I trust him a little. What he does after this will determine whether I will trust him more".
I prefer to work with the Gray concept of trust, that you can go from 0% to 100% trust. Trust, in practical terms, is how much you feel safe with another person.

A stranger who sits next to you at a bus stop creates 0% trust. When you have a conversation that talks about something you are both interested in, fashion, football, makeup, comics, you feel safer, thus your trust of her goes up, let's say 5%. It's still not enough trust to hand her your handbag while you go to the ladies.

So far, I've only met one person who insists she will let her BFF take care of her husband while she is away. Now THAT's 100%.

We place different levels of trust in our family, friends, colleagues, etc based on prior experience. One man confided in me that he trusts his friend more than he does his wife because of things she has done before.

Thus, the key to improving rapport is by creating Trust, and increasing Trust comes with consistency of action. When you create more Trust, you improve the quality of your relationships.

Be someone people can trust.

Monday, 23 January 2017

The Trust Factor

Human beings are comfortable with people they trust.

They trust people who they believe share similarities with them.

People see similar facial expressions, body language and behaviour, and believe they share the same interests.

People hear similar speech patterns, speed, intonations and topics, and believe they share the same opinions.

People move in the same directions, towards the same things, and believe they share the same goals.

People react to the same situations with the same emotions, and they believe they share the same values.

When you are able to behave, speak, aim and emote the same way, you will have built the minimum foundation of trust.

Water in a teacup becomes the teacup. Become water, my friend.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Living the 4 Relationships

Traditional Muslim scholars classify relationships into 4 dimensions:
  1. Spiritual - Me and Allah
  2. Psychological - Me and Myself
  3. Social - Me and Humanity
  4. Environmental - Me and the Physical Universe
Within each relationship there are norms and rules of interaction, called Adab. Translated simply, they are Manners. Deeper, they refer to the quality of the relationship being navigated.

Allah has taught us, through Rasulullah SAW, the adab of interacting with Him in worship. The adab is present in the studies of Taqwa (Allah-awareness), humility and love.

The adab of me and myself is seen in how I care for my mind, body and soul. Whether I respect myself enough to take in only what benefits them and stay far away from what damages them. (Daily stuggle, for sure).

The adab of me and others is seen in my daily interactions with people. How I respect them, how I care for them, how I advise or admonish them, how I listen to them.

Finally, the adab of me and my environment is seen in how I appreciate the objects around me, how I maintain them and how I dispose of them.

The example of Rasulullah SAW provides a good blueprint and yardstick to close the gap and follow in his footsteps. While his relationship with Allah is a given, observe how he maintains utmost discipline in his diet, hygiene, fitness and intellect. How he treats his family, companions and enemies; with respect and fairness. How he treats his possessions. He names his mirror, his sword, his horse and maintains them according to their rights.

These four relationships represent the daily interactions we navigate throughout our lives. When one of them suffers in quality, we aren't living a full life.

Pay attention to your relationships. Live your life through them.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

The PLF as Organisational Leader

"I like what you write, but it isn't relevant for me," said a friend. "I'm not a trainer. I work with people. I manage a department".

"Then, fortunately, being a Professional Learning Facilitator is still one of the best investments for your skillset," I begin.

"How so?"

"Well, as a PLF, you practice the philosophy of Learn It, Do It, Live It. This helps you to provide instructions so that your people don't just understand and carry them out, but they become champions of the culture you're building in your organisation," I reply.

"The L.E.A.R.N. model helps you get that done by specifically appealing to how the brain processes information and how it likes to be persuaded. You can then customise your message to get it across to individuals and groups," I add.

"Sounds useful. It also doesn't sound like a train-the-trainer course," he challenged.

"That's because the approach is different. It prepares you to develop skills to interact and collaborate with people, not command and control," I smiled.

"I get it. You facilitate, not dominate," he offers.

"That's a good way to put it. We are all human beings. People respect you for how you help them, not how you demean them. So, to get the ball rolling, respect them as peers first. Then, the mutual respect will come," I conclude.

"But, what if I don't get the respect that will help me and them do our jobs?" he asked, now interested.

"Let's talk..."

Friday, 20 January 2017

A PLF Fosters Independent Thinking

By the simplest definition, a Professional Learning Facilitator uses whatever is permissible to create the best environment for someone to learn.

However, the final target of any education is the development of the independent individual. To eventually not need a PLF. To master learning themselves.

L - We want to show them how to practice lifelong learning and find meaning in knowledge, instead of waiting for a PLF to debrief them.

E - We want to show them how to be excited by what they see, hear, do, smell, taste and feel, while others only see drudgery.

A - We want to show them how to be curious and think, while others are happy with what it.

R - We want to show them how to let go of what they cannot change, work on what they can and understand the WHY of the people they interact with.

N - Above all, we want to show them how to share what they've learnt so that others may gain benefit through the stories they tell.

This is the life journey of a PLF.

Walk with us and you'll understand why we do what we do.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The PLF as Parent

Welcome to the weekend, where children look forward to spending time with their family. With their parents. With you.

Children are natural learners. They don't really need expensive venues or toys to enjoy themselves. Wide open spaces, an unused box or markers and paper most often do the trick.

Applying the L.E.A.R.N. model here can make the experience memorable.

L - Show your children how learning can be gained from things and activities as innocuous as leaves, pebbles and jumping.

E - Vary what they see, hear and do to provide as much useable input as possible. Thinking happens best with related information. For example, a museum today, a park tomorrow.

A - Pique their curiousity by getting them to notice things they often take for granted. A question like, "Why do trees have leaves?" can get the ball rolling.

R - Tell children when their opinions match what we know about the world. However, respect their thought process and other conclusions such as, "Allah gave the tree leaves as clothes".

N - After the adventure is over, request that they replay their day to you or each other. They'll surprise you with their insights, which you can add to (yes, you tell your story too) and it'll help create a shared memory that will be retold for years to come.

Get off Facebook. Go play with your kids.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A Strength is More Than an Ability

What is a Strength?

There is a difference between a Strength and an Ability.

You might be very good at accounting, but it's like torture every time you sit down to work on the numbers.

Conversely, you might be average as a teacher, but the thought of going to class tonight to share what you know gets you through the day.

A Strength is an ability that makes you feel Strong. If it doesn't, and it drains you instead, then it's a weakness.

What are your Strengths?

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The DNA of Relationships

Conversations are the DNA of a relationship.

The better the quality of the conversation whether it be verbal, virtual or visual (sign language), the better the quality of a relationship.

As with DNA, the more abnormal the conversation, the more abnormal the relationship.

What is a measure of the quality of your conversation? Honesty.

It is the clarity and openness of your communication that creates strong bonds. Whereas the 'close'ness only hacks away at it.

Are you more honest:
  • with a Facebook stranger than with your own spouse?
  • with a friend than with your own mother?
  • with your cat than with yourself?
Have a conversation with someone you love today. Make it the best one you've ever had.

Monday, 16 January 2017

The SELF of Communication

As much as we want to categorise communication into modes or types or channels or media, the brain doesn't seem to allow for clear distinctions. Not yet, at least.

For simplicity's sake, I tend to introduce communication skills by their function, Speaking, Empathising, Listening and Facilitating (SELF). This way, we can focus on learning each skill in snackable form. The reality is, of course, that all of them are interrelated:
  1. Speaking - getting what you want other people to know across.
  2. Empathising - understanding from visual, verbal and vocal cues what the other person is feeling.
  3. Listening - getting what another person wants you to know.
  4. Facilitating - creating a space where communication is honest.
Whenever there is an interpersonal communication breakdown, you can now analyse the situation and ask yourself where is this happening? Is it in:
  • how you are saying it,
  • how you are interpreting the emotional signals,
  • how you are understanding it or,
  • how you are making the other person comfortable?
Test it out today.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Professional Learning Facilitators and LEARN

All Professional Learning Facilitators follow a model called L.E.A.R.N. to deliver their lessons effectively in a learning program for clients. Each letter stands for a key area of focus.

L - Learn, learn, learn. Life is meant to be a ground for learning. Learn from everything, good and bad, and you will be better prepared for what comes next.

E - Excite the senses. People interact with the universe through their senses. Provide input and meaning and your audience will be open to what you have to give.

A - Ask. The brain welcomes questions. They are the catalysts for thinking. Ask the right questions in the right way, and your audience will process what you have given them.

R - Respect. Everyone has their own principles, knowledge, experience and opinions. Listen to understand their why and build on commonalities, not differences.

N - Narrate. The mind looks for structure and sequence and a story has what it seeks. Provide your lessons in the form of stories and your audience will understand easier.

Once a PLF has mastered this model, it becomes part of themselves and changes how they interact with people, personally and professionally.

Master this and so will you.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Different Starting Points in Different Minds

Everyone acts according to a different set and sequence of events in their heads. A husband who is surprised that his wife asks for a divorce, packs up, and leaves, isn't aware that she's been tolerating his antics for years.

For him, every time she complains about his behavour, he does damage control to fix it, and when she calms down, he's happy to go back to status quo.

For her, she sees a repeating pattern of disappointment, where she has to constantly nag him into form.

He sees a series of unrelated events.

She sees an accumulation of injustices that require only one more straw to break the camel's back.

A separation like this is nonviolent. But when, in the eye of the beholder, a global series of violent injustices accumulate in someone's mind as related incidents, this is when it is suddenly surprising to everyone that someone picks up a knife, a gun or a bomb, and proceeds to punish the perceived source of injustice.

Surprising, because in our minds, the act was not called for. Because, in our minds, we don't see what has accumulated in theirs.

Human beings are such fragile creatures.

I pray we become stronger.