China’s content-rich microblogs


Sites like Sina Weibo can even get Western figures and celebrities, like boxer Mike Tyson, to come aboard.

sina-weibo

WHILE Twitter is blocked in China, there are local microblogging sites to keep me informed and entertained.

Among the providers for microblogging service include Sina, Tencent, Xinhua, Souhu, People’s, Phoenix, NetEase and more.

Sina tops the list with 500 million registered users and 46.29 million daily active users as of December 2012.

Its popularity is proven with public and media using “Weibo” to refer to its microblogging site, although Weibo stands for microblog in general.

(Twitter has over 200 million active users churning out 400 million tweets a day, according to its blog post in March this year.)

The Chinese microblogging sites have similar basic features as their US counterpart, such as tagging other users with the symbol @, trending topics with hashtags and posting within an allowed character limit.

But what sets Weibo apart from Twitter is the rich media content.

Besides photos and animated GIF, some Weibo allow users to embed video and music files, and start a poll in their posts.

These elements have enhanced the Weibo surfing experience and created an entertaining platform for all.

A unique feature on Sina Weibo is the charity platform. Users can initiate a charitable cause, pledge donation, sign up as volunteers or simply repost a cause.

I am drawn to Sina Weibo for one simple reason – you can find almost everyone on it, from celebrities to writers, and government departments to restaurants.

Many of the official accounts are well-maintained, providing frequent and useful updates.

While Chinese president Xi Jinping does not have an official account, there is an account dubbed “Xuexi Fensituan” (Learning from Xi Fan Club) dedicated to disseminate news and photos of his activities.

The account owner has denied speculations that the account was a publicity effort, claiming that he was only a supporter.

Sina Weibo, which was launched in August 2009, is celebrating its fourth anniversary this month.

In an unaudited financial report for the second quarter of 2013, Sina Corporation announced a 209% year-on-year growth for its Weibo advertising revenue, which amounted to US$30mil (RM98.74mil).
The non-advertising revenues also increased from US$23.8mil (RM79mil) in the same period last year to US$32.2mil (RM106.9mil).

Back in April, China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba invested US$586mil (RM1.9bil) to purchase an 18% stake in Sina Weibo. This deal valued Sina Weibo at US$3.3bil (RM10.86bil).

The population on Weibo continued to beckon Western figures and celebrities to come on board to reach out to their Chinese fans.

The latest to join Sina Weibo was retired American boxer Mike Tyson, whose username is “Quanwang Taisen” (King of Boxing Tyson).

After greeting Chinese fans on his maiden post on Monday, he went on to ask who is the best fighter in China.

Amid the genuine replies (Donnie Yan and Jackie Chan, for instance) came an answer that had everyone in stitches – chengguan.

The term refers to the city management officers who are often labelled as abusive for getting involved in physical brawls with street vendors.

A clueless Tyson then asked, “Who is Chengguan? A tough man? I’ve never heard it (sic).”

He mentioned it again in a post later, “So many guys talking about chengguan as a great fighter? Still not a clue about him … All I’ve heard about are Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, and wait wait, the Chinese dama (middle-aged women)!”

(Local news reports said the term Chinese dama became a popular term when the women rushed to snatch up gold.)

Needless to say, Tyson’s Weibo went viral, attracting 200,000 followers in just three days.

Although Sina Weibo has a reputation for self-censorship – posts with sensitive topics or keywords are deleted – it remains largely as a platform for freedom of expression.

It was even described as China’s Hyde Park in a report by Xinhua in December 2011: “… An open space where people feel free to participate in public affairs”.

As such, Weibo is the place to gauge public sentiments and there are calls lately to urge opinion leaders to observe their social responsibility on social media network.

Contributed by Tho Xin Yi

  • Tho Xin Yi (thoxinyi@thestar.com.my) sees Weibo as a tool to get first-hand news and gain insight into the Chinese society. She follows 329 users on Sina Weibo.

Food for blog


Blogging_ChanWhenever we attend an event, there is live tweeting, live blogging, Facebook updates and we ask questions that our readers pose to us.

DO YOU remember Doogie Howser, MD, an American television comedy-drama starring Neil Patrick Harris as a teenage doctor?

If you were a child in the 1980s, you could not have missed it. Howser kept a diary on his computer and the episodes ended with him making an entry in the diary. That was possibly our first introduction to what is now known as web log or blog.

According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary a blog is a website that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.

Blogs have become tremendously popular among Malaysians as they look for an alternative source of information to supplement what is being reported in mainstream media.

By the end of last year, marketing research company NM Incite tracked over 181 million blogs around the world, up from 36 million only five years earlier in 2006.

So how big is blogging? NM Incite says three out of the top 10 social networking sites in the United States — Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr — are for consumer-generated blogs.

Blogger is the largest of these sites with more than 46 million unique US visitors during October 2011, making it second only to Facebook in the social networking category, and Tumblr was the fastest-growing social networking or blog site on the top 10, more than doubling its audience since last year from home and work computers to 14 million unique visitors.

Overall, these three blogging websites combined for 80 million unique visitors, reaching more than one in every four active online users in the US during October 2011.

And who are these bloggers and what else do they do online? A study by NM Incite indicates that women make up the majority of bloggers, and half of bloggers are aged 18 to 34.

Most bloggers are well-educated: seven out of 10 bloggers have gone to college, a majority of whom are graduates and about one in three bloggers are mothers, and 52% are parents with children under 18 in their household.

Blogging_Yang Yang: Blogging with passion will eventually allow you to do it full time.

Besides this, bloggers are active across social media: they’re twice as likely to post/comment on consumer-generated video sites like YouTube, and nearly three times more likely to post in message boards/forums within a month.

According to Nuffnang, Asia-Pacific’s first blog advertising community, bloggers generate income through ads placed on blogs by various brands, and become part of a close-knit community through a vast range of exclusive events and contests.

“In Malaysia, blogging started growing exponentially in 2007 when Malaysians started seeing its commercial viability,” said Nuffnang co-founder Timothy Tiah.

Nuffnang has approximately 250,000 bloggers on its books and Tiah revealed that almost 50% of them are active.

“In the US, some bloggers have successfully evolved into full-fledged media companies that employ full-time writers and editors,” said Tiah who believes blogs and traditional media can co-exist.

“Clients do not view blogs as an alternative to traditional media. We are benchmarked against Twitter and Facebook.

For example, having an editorial piece in the New York Times supersedes one by an online publication,” Tiah explained.

Local blogging heroes such as Paul Tan and Vernon Chan, and Singaporean Dawn Yang agree that blogging with passion will eventually enable one to do it full time.

Chan said his site (vernonchan.com) was born out of the love for technology.

“I enjoyed writing but in 2009, I decided to take it more seriously and focused my writing on gadgets and tech-related news,” said the former graphic designer.

“The blog now operates as a tech website with four writers on board.

“The tech scene is fragmented with plenty of players, but it’s healthy competition.

“I look up to sites like amanz.my and soyacincau.com as they were pioneers in this field,” he added.

Chan said that to remain competitive, a blogger needs to focus on speed, frequency and being current.

“Whenever we attend an event, there’s live tweeting, live blogging, Facebook updates and we ask questions that our readers pose to us,” said Chan.

He walks around with a tablet, two smartphones, a laptop, a DSLR camera and is always connected with his readers thanks to U Mobile broadband.

Tan echoed Chan comments and added that an honest blogger serves the reader and not the advertiser.

“We have gotten ourselves in trouble with a particular company a few times as they were not happy with some of the comments from the readers that were published on the website.

“They stopped inviting us for test drives and events for a while, but we serve our readers, and readership is currency, ” said Tan, the founder of paultan.org, a leading motoring website in Malaysia.

Tan also debunked the myth that people will read any content as long as its free online.

“Online readers are looking for something fast so it is important to be quick.

“We do live updates and we have trained our readership,” said Tan, whose company now owns popular Malay blog site, Ohbulan.com among others.

Tan did not mince his words when asked to comment about bloggers who only write advertorials.

“There are bloggers who only attend events if they are paid and will only write a blog posting if there’s a monetary exchange,” he said.

Across the causeway, controversial fashion and lifestyle blogger Dawn Yang (clapbangkiss.xanga.com/) was in Kuala Lumpur recently to attend an event and the 27-year-old told MetroBiz that she started blogging to keep in touch with her friends.

“It started by accident but in 2005, I won an online competition as Singapore’s hottest blogger. That opened many doors for me,” said Yang who was sent to Taiwan for a year to be an artist.

She also secured several endorsement deals from international brands to promote their brands on various platforms.

“Blogging has evolved over the years with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. We can’t just operate on one platform,” said Yang.

Blogging in Malaysia is seen as an easy way to make a quick buck, but to quote blogging guru Alister Cameron: “As I have repeatedly written in one form or other, blogging is not about writing posts. Heck, that’s the least of your challenges. No, blogging is about cultivating beneficial relationships with an ever-growing online readership, and that’s hard work.”

By Nevash Nair

Health is wealth! See you at the Star Health Fair


Health screenings reveal many have chronic diseases

KUALA LUMPUR: A quarter of those who went for health screening last year were found to have a chronic condition they were not previously aware of.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said 25% of 317,766 people who went for a health screening in government clinics and hospitals found out they had conditions such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

“It is an alarming figure,” he said after launching the Star Health Fair at the MidValley Exhibition Centre here yesterday.

However, he said most of those who discovered they were suffering from such diseases were over 30 years old.

Liow said it would be difficult to provide free health screening to all Malaysians.

“It would be costly to screen everyone,” he said, adding that the ministry, however, is implementing a pilot project to enable village heads to give basic health screening.

“We’re trying to train them to do simple tasks like taking blood pressure and the Body Mass Index (BMI),” he said, adding that the project is being carried out in two areas for now.

Liow also commended The Star for organising a fair specially dedicated to health.

What’s hot?: Visitors checking out the booths at the health fair at the MidValley Exhibition Centre.

“It is my sincere hope that The Star Health Fair will not only be the first of many such fairs, but will also achieve success, perhaps even surpassing the Star Education Fair!” he said.

Star Publications (M) Bhd group managing director and chief executive officer Ho Kay Tat said in his speech that The Star Health Fair complements what the newspaper offers in print.

“As The People’s Paper, The Star believes in serving the community and what better way than to help them lead healthy, active and productive lives,” he said.

In Penang, The Star also held a two-day health fair at the Straits Quay ending today.

By REGINA LEE
newsdesk@thestar.com.my

Penang Fair Packed with healthy fun

The Star Health Fair kicks off at Straits Quay in Penang with something for everyone.

FROM yoga to Wing Chun and salsa to gymnastics, The Star Health Fair 2012 in Penang has something in store for everyone.

Starting today at one of Penang’s newest hotspots, Straits Quay, the two-day event is jam-packed with exciting events running from 7.30am to 10pm on both days.

Line dancing will kick off the fair’s schedule today on the scenic pro-menade facing the Straits Quay marina from 7.30am to 9am.

This will be followed by a mass aerobics session at Quay North at 8am. During this one-hour session, participants will get the chance to shake it loose using a variety of different styles and moves.

Kickboxing, Latin dancing, bhangra, senam silat, zumba, dang-dut, Thai dancing and Bollywood dancing are just some of the diffe-rent styles that will be incorporated into the lively session.

Events will then move into the Straits Court located just inside the mall’s entrance.

After a fitness demo, martial arts will take centre stage from 9.30am till noon.

Expect action-packed moves as self-defence exponents go all out to show their Silambam, Ip Man Wing Chun, Kendo, Jodo, Shao Lin, Jiu-Jitsu and Silat Cekak skills.

There will also be free health checks from 10am to 6pm at the Straits Court while free health talks will be conducted at the 1st floor lobby from 11am to 5pm.

Among topics that will be discussed are stress management, how to prevent and survive heart attacks, understanding cancer, and autism.

There will also be a talk on yoga while a mass family yoga session by yoga master Yogacharya Prof Prabhuji will be held at the main lobby from 5pm to 6pm.

Free refreshments will be offered throughout the fair, including Milo drinks and Fitnesse breakfast cereals from Nestle Products Sdn Bhd, drinking water from Keluarga Utama Sdn Bhd and F&N Seasons drinks from F&N Beverages Marketing Sdn Bhd.

These companies will have booths at the venue. Other participating companies such as Takasima and Tesco, hospitals and pharmacies will also have booths at the fair. The public can sign up as Tesco Clubcard members at the Tesco booth.

As the sun sets on Straits Quay today, it will be time to slip on those dancing shoes.

All visitors are invited to cha cha, samba, waltz and tango into the evening with the first of two dance performance sessions from 6pm at the main lobby.

The dancing will then move to the floating stage near the marina for the day’s finale with belly dancing, Bollywood dancing, Zumba and Pop Jazz.

Put on your walking shoes for the second day of the fair tomorrow as there will be a 3km Fun Family Walk. Participants will enjoy a brisk tour of Seri Tanjung Pinang that will kick off at 7.30am.

The walk is open to those aged 13 and above. Those interested to participate are requested to come early to book places as the event is limited to 500 walkers.

Those who complete the walk in an hour will be eligible for an attractive lucky draw where Sony tablet computers, global positioning system (GPS) devices, Takasima exercise equipment and Tesco vouchers will be among prizes up for grabs.

The lucky draw is also open to those who participate in The Star Health Fair 2012’s other mass activities such as the mass aerobics sessions and family yoga sessions.

Aside from a fitness demo and martial arts demo, Day Two of the fair also holds a Kids’ Segment at the main lobby.

During the one-hour session that starts at 5pm, Master Q and Friends will make an appearance followed by modern aerobics and gymnastic dancing, modern dancing and Latin for kids.

There will also be free medical checks on the second day from 10am to 6pm at the Straits Court and free health talks at the first floor lobby from 10.30am to 5pm.

Among the highlights of these sessions is a blood donation drive by Gleneagles Medical Centre and talks on qigong, traditional Indian health remedies, kidney transplants, knee arthritis, menopause and prostate cancer.

There will be dance performances from 6pm, first at the main lobby until 7pm followed by the floating stage from 7pm to 8pm. The dances include the genres of rumba, paso doble and jive.

The Star Health Fair 2012 is orga-nised by The Star and endorsed by the Penang Municipal Council.

Takasima and Tesco are the fair’s main sponsors, Straits Quay the official venue host, while Pantai Hospital Penang and Gleneagles Medical Centre, Penang, are the event partners.

Admission to the fair is free.

RM1.7b spent on generic drugs last year

The Sundaily April 7, 2012 Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai had his blood pressure checked by Columbia Asia nurse Muzarith Sofia after officiating the Health Fair, April 7, 2012. BERNAMApix

KUALA LUMPUR (April 7, 2012): Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said a total of RM1.7 billion was spent by the government last year in purchasing generic drugs, mostly to cater for the increasing number of non-communicable diseases (NCD) patients nationwide.

He said the government expected the expenditure would increase every year.

“Why the sudden increase… because of NCDs, because of high cholesterol, hypertension and so on. Patients have to take Levithol and all kinds of medicine. Everyday you have to take the medicine and it is very costly,” he told reporters after launching The Star’s Health Fair 2012 here today.

Liow explained that most of the generic drugs were supplied by local manufacturers but some were imported.

“It’s more cheaper (to use generic drugs), in fact this is the trend in the world now, most hospitals in the world are using generic drugs…efficiency of the drugs is the same and we can help more people. In Malaysia, in terms of percentage of generic drugs used, it is about 50%, “he said.

Thus in efforts to reduced the number of NCD patients Liow said the government was planning to organise 80 health carnivals at the community level nationwide by the end of this year to create awareness among the people to go for regular health screening every year.

He also recommended that Malaysians over the age of 30 instead of 40 undergo regular screening for NCD risk factors every year, due to many cases of NCD being detected in the early stages.

“This is important because NCDs do not kill you quickly. It is a silent group of diseases, slowly killing you with heart disease, kidney disease and much more,” he said, adding that one in seven Malaysians were diagnosed with diabetes.

Other than that, Liow said the government was also making efforts to train community and Neighbourhood Watch leaders to represent the ministry in conducting health screening at grassroots level.

He said a pilot programme on this had been conducted in Pahang and that it proven to be effective. — Bernama

Good dose of healthy fun

Stories by WINNIE YEOH, HAFIZ MARZUKI, CAVINA LIM, JEREMY TAN, KIATISAK CHUA and ROYCE TAN Photos by GOH GAIK LEE, GARY CHEN, LIM BENG TATT and CHAN BOON KAI, The Star April 9, 2012

THOUSANDS of people spent their weekend in a healthy manner by making a beeline to Straits Quay in Tanjung Tokong, Penang, which was the venue for the inaugural The Star Health Fair 2012.

Activities started from as early as 7.30am and lasted till 10pm on both days.

Many took part in mass line dance and mass aerobics sessions.

There were also martial arts demonstrations such as lion dance, silambam, Ip Man Wing Chun, Japanese Kendo and Jodo, Shao Lin traditional martial art, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, silat cekak, kickboxing and praying mantis boxing.

Visitor Sharon Lim, 27, who was among those who witnessed the martial arts demonstrations, said she missed out the happenings on the first day.

“A friend from outstation visited me on Saturday. However, I made it a point to come today as I am a red belt holder in Taekwondo,” she said yesterday.

Family outing: Participants enjoying a leisurely walk during The Star Health Fair at Straits Quay.

Earlier, some 500 people turned up for the Fun Family Walk. They took a 3km walk around the Seri Tanjung Pinang.

Another 200 people also joined in the mass aerobics session at the North Quay.

There was also a blood donation drive to replenish the blood bank of Gleneagles Medical Centre.

Visitors also attended health talks on subjects such as ‘Stress Management’, ‘Understanding Cancer’, ‘Does My Child Have Autism’, ‘Menopause’, ‘Prostate Cancer’, and ‘Health Remedies Following Ancient Science and Vasthu Sastra (Indian Geomancy)’.

The kid’s segment where cartoon characters Master Q & Friends came to greet children was also a big crowd-puller.

Parents were as excited as their children to meet the characters and many opted for family photo shoots.

Crowd-puller: Ervin and Eelynn Kok keeping the audience mesmerised with their slick samba moves at Straits Quay’s main lobby.

Ballroom dancers took centre stage with several couples showing off silky moves in samba, cha cha, rumba, jive, waltz, tango and paso doble.

It was followed by sensual belly dance, Bollywood dance, pop jazz and also the exciting zumba party.

Infectious mood: The crowd joining in the Zumba dance party in the open air at Straits Quay.

On Saturday, more than 200 people turned up in the Straits Quay promenade to take part in the mass line dance.

Shirley Ong, 71, said line dancing had been her hobby for the past 12 years.

“It keeps my mind alert and it is also a good form of exercise. I also get the opportunity to mix with more young people,” she said.

An instructor Lily Tan, 47, said she picked up the dance 10 years ago as it was simple and suitable for people from all walks of life.

She added that she had incorporated other dance moves into line dancing.

“I visit other dance groups to exchange ideas. I also like to add in some ballroom dancing style,” the grandmother-of-two said.

Healthy beverages were provided to visitors by F&N Beverages Marketing Sdn Bhd and Keluarga Utama Sdn Bhd.

The fair was organised by The Star and endorsed by the Penang Municipal Council with Straits Quay as the official venue host.

Relaxing moment: Visitors trying out Takasima’s range of massage chairs on display.

Takasima and Tesco were the main sponsors while Pantai Hospital Penang and Gleneagles Medical Centre, Penang, were the event partners.


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A Christmas wake-up call


BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 23:  Santas-to-be w...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

PUTIK LADA By RAPHAEL KOK

Christmas is the time for us to redeem and reconcile our relationships with people that we care about. It’s a time for us to remember and rekindle the passions in life that we dream about.

IT all began in a little town called Bethlehem, where a baby was born in a manger. Over centuries, it has captured the joys of wintertime like listening to sleigh bells ringing, building snowmen in the meadow and roasting chestnuts on an open fire.With or without snowfall, Santa Claus always comes to town whenever the season is upon us, in the malls and on the streets.

Today, Christmas is no longer just a religious or cultural festival celebrated in the West, but a global event transcending race, religions and cultures.

Much of its universal appeal lies in the values embodied in the spirit of Christmas. The highlight at any Christmas party, whether hosted by Christian families, schools, offices or friends, is the exchange of gifts.

Christmas is about goodwill to all and sharing between loved ones.

Of course, cynics would say that Christmas also epitomises the sin of greed, considering how much people spend on Christmas decorations, shopping and parties.

However, that says more about human nature, rather than Christmas itself. After all, how we celebrate Christmas is very much like how we celebrate life.

In life, just like during Christmas, we expect to be rewarded for the good things we have done. Life, just like Christmas, is about dreams and desires.

True, more often than not, they are materialistic in nature. True, we always want to have more than what we already have, and that there is no end to dreams and desires.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Instead, where we go wrong is not knowing what we truly want out of life. We instead want things that bring little value to our lives.

We crave for more clothes, cars, properties and sources of physical affection. We crave for the same things we already have in abundance, except in different designs, colours and sizes.

We are like kids crying out for toys, ice-cream and a playmate, with no time to think of the consequences.

However, there’s got to be more to life than chasing every temporary high.

Just like Lord Buddha centuries ago, Mark Zuckerberg exhorts us to eliminate desires. Not just any desire, but desires that don’t really matter to us to begin with, or any more.

Having desires is not greedy. Having false desires is.

Our fragile minds, wrecked by insecurities, are always vulnerable to being incepted by foreign ideas. We constantly worry about what others think of us, and what they tell us we should be like.

Not only are we weighed down by excess material and emotional baggage, but we are also forced to abandon our own innermost dreams and desires.

Only when you have eliminated your false desires, will you discover what you want, what you really want.

Basically, start doing the things you have always dreamt of doing but never did because you kept telling yourself “Not this weekend, there’s a sale”, “Not this month, peak period” and “Not this year, saving for a bigger car”.

And it doesn’t just stop there. If you fail to recognise the things that truly give you joy, chances are that you will fail to recognise the things that truly give joy to the rest of the world.

Getting a gift for someone is never easy. We can’t read minds.

Sure, you may ask them what they want, but that’s rather spoiling the whole idea of a gift or they may be too embarrassed to reveal their innermost dreams and desires to you anyway.

The true value of a gift is not how much it’s worth to the giver or anyone else, but to the recipient.

How much the person appreciates the gift is a measure of how much you actually know and care for the person.

As noble as our intentions may be, the act of giving itself is simply not enough. Yes, it’s the thought that counts. But with more thought put into a gift, the more value the gift has.

So make your gifts count, be it to your family, friends or lover.

Don’t just go for the safe gifts like chocolates, Hallmark greeting cards, mugs or even expensive jewellery.

Make an effort to think hard about what the person truly wants. It may be something the person never even thought about having.

Don’t just buy something off the shelf. Forget about the price tag.

Be original. Go the distance. Fly to the moon and back. Like writing a song for your girlfriend that she can tell everybody this is her song. Don’t just say “I Love You”, say “I Love Us”.

Sometimes, the greatest gift is simply changing the way we treat others. Like being more obedient to your Mum and Dad. Or stop yelling and giving unreasonable deadlines to your employees.

And instead of just giving away monetary handouts such as bonuses, subsidies or salary increases every year, governments should also give its people greater freedom to express themselves.

As a wise prophet once said, man does not live by bread alone.

People should also be entitled to ask questions like “Who is producing and selling this bread, was there an open tender exercise?” and “Why do I only get one loaf, and my neighbour gets two?” without fear of persecution.

Whoever we are, rich or poor, Christmas ultimately serves as a wake-up call for us to change our lives for the better.

It’s the time for us to redeem and reconcile our relationships with people that we care about. It’s a time for us to remember and rekindle the passions in life that we dream about.

There’s something magical about Christmas. It’s the magic that makes us believe in miracles, and make miracles happen. It’s the magic that makes us rediscover our freedom and power to dream.

So, although it’s been said many times, many ways – have yourself a merry little Christmas, for now and always.

The writer is a young lawyer. Putik Lada, or pepper buds in Malay, captures the spirit and intention of this column – a platform for young lawyers to articulate their views and aspirations about the law, justice and a civil society. For more information about the young lawyers, visit http://www.malaysianbar.org.my

China to Launch Space Station Test Module Next Week


China to Launch Space Station Test Module

by Clara Moskowitz, SPACE.com Senior Writer
China is developing its first full-fledged space station, called Tiangong (Heavenly Palace). Early tests of China’s skills at rendezvous and docking, shown in this artist's illustration, are set to begin in 2011.
China is developing its first full-fledged space station, called Tiangong (Heavenly Palace). Early tests of China’s skills at rendezvous and docking, shown in this artist’s illustration, are set to begin in 2011.
CREDIT: China Manned Space Engineering Office

China will launch a test module for its first space station next week between Sept. 27 and Sept. 30, state media reported today (Sept. 20).

The unmanned module, called Tiangong-1 (which means “Heavenly Palace”) will test autonomous docking procedures and other space operations in preparation for China’s plan to build a 60-ton space station by the year 2020.

The Chinese Long March 2F rocket set to launch Tiangong-1 has already been rolled out to its launch platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gansu Province, according to state-run news service Xinhua. [Photos: China's First Space Station]

The liftoff was delayed last month when a Long March 2C booster, similar to the rocket that will loft Tiangong-1, failed to deliver an experimental unmanned satellite to orbit. However, after an investigation into the accident, China successfully launched a military satellite aboard a related Long March 3B/E rocket on Sunday (Sept. 18), clearing the way for the Tiangong liftoff.

Final tests of the spacecraft and its booster will take place over the next few days, a project spokesperson told Xinhua.

“Every main system is standing by and the final preparations are running smoothly,” Xinhua reported.

The 8.5-ton Tiangong-1 is slated to dock with the unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft, which will launch at a later date. It will be the first docking between Chinese spacecraft, and will represent a significant step forward in the nation’s space capabilities, experts have said.

Medical and engineering experiments will also be carried aboard Tiangong-1. [How China's First Space Station Will Work (Infographic)]

China is only the third country, after the Soviet Union and the United States, to launch a person to orbit. The first Chinese manned mission, Shenzhou 5, launched astronaut Yang Liwei in 2003. Two more manned missions followed, including a flight that featured the nation’s first spacewalk in 2008.

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Up Close and Personal with Steve Forbes


By TEE LIN SAY and JOHN LOH starbiz@thestar.com.my

BORN: July 18, 1947
MARITAL STATUS: Married with 5 daughters.
Just celebrated his 40 th anniversary
HIGHEST QUALIFICATION: B.A in History from
Princet on in 1970
CAREER: Editor-In-chief of Forbes media,
president and CEO of Forbes Inc
FAVOURITE FOOD: Lamb chop, french fries
and cheese burgers. All the things that are bad!
FAVOURITE PLACE: Bicycle riding and
collecting letters and original manuscripts from
Winston Churchill, among others.
RELIGION: Presbyterian
POLITICAL PARTY: Republican

STEVE Forbes probably knows of the familiar Chinese saying that wealth does not pass three generations. Whether he believes it or not, given the onslaught traditional media have been facing in recent years, one wonders if that ominous saying has more than a tinge of truth to it.

He has grounds to be worried, though. The Forbes family business is now into its third generation. The publishing business was started by B.C. Forbes who then handed it over to his son Malcom Forbes and is currently under the stewardship of Steve Forbes.

Judging by the statistics, Forbes is taking on the proverb head on.

The company’s flagship publication, Forbes, is the United States’ leading business magazine with a circulation of more than 900,000. Forbes, Forbes Asia and the company’s licensee editions together reach a worldwide audience of more than six million readers. The circulation of Forbes‘ international editions is 590,500.

“The tools have changed tremendously because of the Web. However, the purpose remains the same. We were the early embracers of the Web, and we did not confuse purpose and method. That is why in the United States there is no magazine that has done as well as ours on the Web,” said Forbes.

“It is because of this that we are able to put out more content. Ninety-eight per cent of our content doesn’t appear in our magazine. Our early embrace of the Web has resulted in us having 20 million unique visitors a month and the number is growing in terms of usage. Our affiliated sites receive five million to six million visitors,” says Forbes.

Apart from having its own staff of journalists, Forbes also has 800 contributors for its website chosen by its channel contributors.

“No one is doing it on a scale as we are. The bottom line is, we believe the entrepreneurial class is growing around the world. That’s what people want to know. The Web has enabled us to do things with more versatility and flexibility,” says Forbes.

On Money

Though born into money in Morristown, New Jersey, Forbes displayed from an early age that ink did run through his veins as he showed an aptitude to run a publishing business.

Graduated cum laude in 1966 from Brooks School, Massachusetts, Forbes, while studying at Princeton, founded his first magazine, Business Today, with two other students. Business Today is currently the largest student-run magazine in the world.

When asked what he loves more journalism or business and investing Forbes simply says he loves both but is quick to note that money is not everything.

“It is an effort for reward. It is a means of doing transactions. It is a facilitator and gives us the ability to invest for the future. Money puts things in a proper perspective,” he muses.

His first memory of money was as a small boy who never had enough allowance for toys and candies. Forbes had to complete his chores to earn money.
ForbesImage via Wikipedia

“So, my effort for reward was established at a fairly young age. To get money, you have to meet the needs and wants of other people. Sometimes you have to give them things they didn’t know they wanted. The key thing is creativity. Money doesn’t just come to you,” he says.

He believes, though, that people have to invest. That is key.

“If you look around the world today, there are great equity opportunities. It is precisely in terrible times like these that you can get enormous bargains.”

He adds that the time to get into the market is when everyone is getting out. “You do it when the clouds and storms are there. When the storm is gone, everyone will see what you saw,” says Forbes.

He cites the period between the late 1970s and the early 1980s when the global economy was in a troubled state. It started to sputter and then recovered in the late eighties. Between the 1990s and and the early part of the 21st century, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had grown 15-fold.

“The wealth of the world has increased. We’ve had great advances in technology and what’s holding us back is the convulsions and distortions in the US dollar. I think when we get a new president, that will change. If we can get through the next one-and-a-half years, I think reforms will be made and better times are coming,” he said.

On Europe’s debt problems, Forbes says Europe’s woes will persist in the short term especially if the Europeans continue with their “incompetencies in handling the crisis”.

“Europe should be doing what we did in the United States in 2008. They should be having their own Troubled Asset Relieve Programme. If necessary, pump capital into banks. That is why they bail out countries like Greece, not because Greece is important, but because their banks are holding Greek papers and bonds. Hence, Europe has to focus on shoring up its capital,” he said.

He believes though that the axe would have to fall on some of Europe’s banks and that Europe needs to have a programme where it does not let the good banks go down with the bad.

“Europe has to restructure its debts, instead of pretending Greece can pay those loans. They cannot. Restructure the debts. Don’t just focus on austerity. You also focus on growth to make sure the economy grows again. Greece is now increasing taxes, which is the dumbest thing you could do. They should reform tax code, put in the flat tax. They should also make it easier to set up businesses in Greece,” he argues.

Principles in life

Forbes says an important thing in life is to have an ability to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong, and he has three “F” principles faith, family and friends to maintain an everyday balance.

“The best thing was to have parents who already owned a successful business. My father used to say that nepotism doesn’t matter as long as you keep it within the family!” Forbes says with a laugh.

“In my workplace, I am blessed to be in an area where I have always wanted to be in. It must be in the genes. When I was in school, I turned out newsheets for my classmates. I also graded my teachers. I thought, if they can give me grades, why can’t I grade them too? That only lasted once!” he jokes.

Forbes likes riding his bicycle and has done trips to various parts of the world with groups of people. He likes London, Paris and various places in Italy. In Asia, he likes the coastal cities in China and some in the interior as he can feel the growth and energy there. He is amazed by what Singapore has done.

His hobbies include collecting old letters and manuscripts of noteworthy individuals Sir Winston Churchill and the writings of obscure British writer John Goldsworthy.

For young entrepreneurs, Forbes has one advice: focus on value adding. The focus should be on providing something people want, or did not know they wanted before.

“You can find it even in the most common areas. Take Starbucks coffee, for instance. Everyone drinks coffee. Anyone can make it and grow it. They still serve it for free on the airlines and yet, how did Starbucks do so well? They did it differently, serving up the Viennese coffee experience,” explains Forbes.

On his political ideologies

Forbes has no qualms voicing his disapproval of US President Barack Obama. Forbes would like to see a new president who can deliver true economic growth and a stable dollar. He says the problem of the weak dollar, which started under George W. Bush, was compounded by Obama.

“We should be in a recovery by now, but instead we are like an automobile going at 10km per hour. We should be going at 120kph,” says Forbes.

Some of Obama’s measures that he doesn’t agree with include the binge spending and the healthcare bill.

“The healthcare bill is a disaster, which will be repealed in 2013 when the new president comes in. Obama’s massive regulations are crushing the banks. And his regulations on energy he is very anti-coal, very anti everything except for windmills, which is a very medieval technology. He has not reformed the tax codes and wants to raise taxes,” says Forbes.

On Obama’s recent job stimulus package, Forbes says this is spending money the United States does not have.

“Governments do not create jobs. Entrepreneurs do. He does not understand that,” says Forbes.

For his pick for president, Forbes is leaning towards Republican Governor Rick Perry. He likes Perry’s record as Governor of Texas and his success in creating jobs.

“He did not raise taxes, kept the budget under control and has also put in reforms,” says Forbes.

In 1996 and 2000, Forbes campaigned vigorously for the Republican nomination for the presidency.

On why he ran twice as a presidential candidate, Forbes felt there was a vacuum in the field of candidates as more opportunities should be given the people. And his experience from that? “Its more fun to win than to lose!”

Over the next five to 10 years, Forbes hopes to be doing more of what he is doing today, which is trying to influence positive policies to enable his country and the world to grow.

Datuk Dr Ang Bon Beng of Nissan Tan Chong Motor


Up close and personal with Datuk Dr Ang Bon Beng

By EUGENE MAHALINGAM eugenicz@thestar.com.my

Tan Chong Motor Holdings Bhd’s principal activities consist of investment holding and the provision of management services to companies in the Group that main …

IT may come as a bit of a surprise when Datuk Dr Ang Bon Beng, executive director of Edaran Tan Chong Motor Sdn Bhd (ETCM), a local distributor of Nissan cars, says he was never a man with big dreams.

What’s harder to believe is that Ang, who is one of the most well-known and respected people in the local automotive industry today, used to earn a living driving taxis and lorries.

“I never had big dreams. (But) I had small yet realistic ones,” he says modestly. “Big visions come from small dreams,” Ang adds.

The eldest of 10 children, Ang was born in 1949 in Kepala Batas, Penang, to a taxi driver father and homemaker mother. Life back then was about living day to day and making ends meet; sometimes living off just biscuits and water.

After completing his Form Five education, Ang had no choice but to start working, as his parents could not afford to finance his education any further. To help support the family, Ang started driving his father’s taxi to earn a living.

BIO

BORN: March 17, 1949
PERSONAL: Married with four children and two grandchildren
HIGHEST QUALIFICATION: PhD in business administration, University of Honolulu (Hawaii), USA
CAREER: Executive director for Edaran Tan Chong Motor Sdn Bhd and sits on the board of various subsidiaries of Tan Chong Motor Group
FAVOURITE FOOD: Char kuey teow with duck egg and loh mee with vinegar
FAVOURITE PLACE: Kepala Batas, my hometown
HOBBY: Listening to Buddhist music
PHILOSOPHY: Believe, commit, do and deliver
INSPIRATION: My father for instilling the right values in me; Tan Sri Tan Yuet Foh (the company’s late foun der) for motivating me in pursuing career advancement; and Datuk Tan Heng Chew for grooming and preparing me for the cor porate world

“My father drove in the day and I would take over in the nights. It was tough. You would hope to make at least RM10 a day, but sometimes you can’t even reach that.

“Sometimes, the taxi would break down and the repairs would cost RM20 or RM30. On certain days, if you are unlucky, you get stopped by the police and the passenger you’re carrying is forced to get off and you don’t get paid,” Ang reminisces.

In 1970, after several odd jobs, a friend approached Ang for a salesman job with the Tan Chong Motor Group. At the time, the company was expanding its presence in Penang. In the hopes of earning a better living for himself and his family, he took the job.

Despite knowing next to nothing about selling cars, Ang knew he had found his calling.

“After going through so much of hardship in life, selling cars wasn’t hard. I persevered in taking on the challenges that Tan Chong had set out for me to do. I was motivated to push myself further each time I achieved my sales target.”

Ang was promoted to sales manager in 1981. The following year, he was posted to Sarawak and appointed Kuching branch manager. In 1989, he was made northern states manager, overseeing branches and dealers within Penang and Kedah.

Ang was eventually made sales director in 2001, and in the following year, he was appointed executive director for ETCM a post he still holds today. Ang also sits on the board of various subsidiaries of the Tan Chong Group.

The driven man

With over 40 years of experience under his belt, Ang is arguably one of the longest serving individuals to be involved in the automotive industry in the country.

Not many can lay claim to starting off from the front-lines of the automotive business and making it all the way to the top within the same organisation.

Humble beginnings: Dr Ang with his first car in his younger days.

Under Ang’s helm, the Tan Chong Group has survived three recessions.

During the global financial crisis in 2009, while other car companies were struggling to manage inventories and pushing sales, Ang practised an internal safeguard strategy, or vision statement, called “Control the free-fall.”

The strategy was to drive his workforce to work harder in the downturn (than they usually would in good times) or risk spiralling down in terms of sales.

That vision statement worked well for the company despite a fall of 2% in total industry volume, Nissan sales in 2009 increased to 29,683 units from 28,313 units in 2008, which was a 5% increase.

This year, ETCM and other Japanese makes are facing a new kind of challenge production disruption as a result of the earthquake that hit Japan in March. On top of this, the recently amended Hire-Purchase Act 1967 (HPA) that took effect on June 15 is also causing a slowdown in vehicle registrations for all car companies.

“To drive my workforce and to safeguard against any impact, we are applying a vision statement called 55%-45%. I tell my team that if they feel they have put 100% into something, it is only 55% and there is still (a potential of) 45% more to go,” says Ang.

Ang says the strategy for this year is to still be able to continue growing market share within the local automotive industry.

“You constantly need to move forward and be able to expand your business. It’s what the shareholders demand.”

Ang says one of the most important recipes for success is having the ability to adapt to changes around you.

“The market is constantly evolving and you have to keep up with the pace of the dynamics, and as a chief (of the company), you need to set a good example to your people. If you don’t equip yourself with the latest strategies or knowledge, you’ll be squeezed out by your competitors.”

Ang says he makes it a point to communicate with the sales advisors, all 700 of them, on the importance of staying ahead and being able to adapt to the changes, especially in times of challenges.

He reminisces about the time when Nissan Motor Co Ltd president and chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn visited Malaysia in 2008.

Ghosn had limited time here and with 20 minutes to spare, Ghosn wanted to visit ETCM’s Serendah (Rawang) manufacturing plant, which is nearly an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur!

“When our people were told that they had to find a way to transport him (Ghosn) to Serendah in 20 minutes, they thought it was crazy. The only way to do it is to fly him there by helicopter. “So we did just that we flew him by helicopter.”

The moral of the story? Be prepared for change at any given time, says Ang.

“I always talk to my people on the importance of change in a rapidly changing environment. It’s demanded of them if they want to survive.”

At 62, Ang, who has a PhD in business administration and master’s degree in law, seems to show no signs of slowing down. Despite the qualifications that he already has, Ang is considering pursuing a masters degree in psychology.

“Having the (working) experience is one thing but (having the) academic qualification is also important,” he says, adding that pursuing a masters degree in law helped him understand legal documents and terminology associated with the automotive industry better.

“It (academic qualification) is an important asset that helps to improve my performance in this company,” Ang says.

Ang’s constant pursuit of knowledge and self improvement are traits he has inculcated in his children. He is quick to admit, however, that despite being able to provide a privileged life for his family today, in no way are his children having it easy.

“They say I’m a tough father,” Ang enthuses, adding that when he looks back at his career, he considers joining Tan Chong and marrying the right woman the best decisions he’s ever made.

“In pursuing a career, you need a lot of support from your family. My wife has always supported me all the way. I’m still faithful to her,” he says with a laugh.

Ang, who has been married for nearly 40 years, has four children. Sadly, his youngest son passed away in a car crash in 2009.

As the chairman of the Penang State Social Welfare Council of 20 years, Ang spends time with the senior citizens at the old folks home in Bukit Mertajam whenever he can.

“It gives me satisfaction to be able to improve the lives of others. Their most common lament is that they wish they could turn back the clock, so that they won’t repeat the mistakes of their past and be where they are today.”

Ang says he often shares his experiences (at the welfare home) with members of his staff.

“I tell my people that they should always make the best use of their time and not waste it doing unproductive things.”

That message is in fact a philosophy that was passed down to Ang by whom he considers his greatest mentor his father.

“My father always told me that if you keep walking, you will reach your destination. Along the way, it may rain and someone (or something) might get in your way and end up slowing you down.

“It might take you a little longer, but as long as you keep on walking, you will reach your destination. Eventually, you’ll be there.”

Rlated Articles:

  • Jun 30 Nissan’s Ghosn is highest paid exec at a Japanese firm
  • Jun 29 Nissan CEO’s $12M pay gets shareholder scrutiny
  • Jun 29 Japan factory output gains for second month
  • Jun 02 US auto sales cooled in May due to shortages

    Nissan Leaf earns top crash safety rating

    By Peter Valdes-Dapena

    The Nissan Leaf earned a top 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Adminstration and a Top Safety Pick Award from the Insurance Insitute for Highway Safety.The Nissan Leaf earned a top 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Adminstration and a Top Safety Pick Award from the Insurance Insitute for Highway Safety.

    NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The Nissan Leaf earned a top five-star rating in the federal government’s new, tougher crash test rating system.

    Under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s new rating system, all vehicles are given a single rating of one to five stars based on their scores in seperate front and side impact tests as well as resistance to rollovers.

    The Leaf earned four stars for occupant protection in front-end crashes, five stars for side crash protection and four stars for resistance to rolling over, resulting in the overall five-star score.

     The Leaf is an electrically powered plug-in car. It can go about 70 miles on a charge, according to EPA estimates.

    NHTSA used updated crash test regimen, introduced last year, which includes a new side crash test in which vehicles slide diagonally into a pole, mimicking a car skidding into a light post or tree.

    General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt also recently earned a five-star NHTSA safety rating.

    Safest fuel-efficient cars

    The Volt and the Nissan (NSANY) Leaf electric car were both recently given Top Safety Pick Awards by the privately funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Institute, which is financed by auto insurers, conducts a different set of crash tests from those conducted by the government. To earn a Top Safety Pick Award, a vehicle must earn top scores in all of the Institute’s tests.

Malaysian taking office in London instead of Kuala Lumpur


Malaysian set to take up duties as RICS president in London

By LIZ LEE lizlee@thestar.com.my

PETALING JAYA: A Malaysian elected as the first non-British president of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) will conduct his duties from the heart of the British political powerhouse in London.

Ong See Lian, who will head the prestigious RICS for the 2011-2012 session, will move into an office in the centre of Parliament Square, overlooking the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, on July 4.

The 60-year-old quantity surveyor from Petaling Jaya, who beat off opposition to win the post in March, will live in a flat at Vauxhall, South London, with his wife Cheah Yoke Ling.

“It is a modest office, more functional than lavish, but I think my window has the best view of London.

  • Full story in The Star today

Innovation management


http://blogs-images.forbes.com/stevedenning/files/2011/06/light-bulb-on-greenboard.jpg

Because it is its purpose to create a customer, any business enterprise has two – and only these two – basic functions: marketing and innovation.

The June issue of Harvard Business Review is—happily—about one of a business’s two  basic functions: innovation. The cover title is “How Great Leaders Unleash Innovation”. The “Spotlight” inside includes four articles on product innovation:

  • How Procter & Gamble [PG] has gone from achieving 15% of the profit and revenue objectives in 2000 to 50% today by setting up an “innovation factory” (p. 64)
  • How the “ambidextrous CEO” at Misys (and elsewhere) manages the tension between innovation and core products (p.74)
  • How Scott Cook at Intuit [INTU] catalyzed his employees to innovate (p. 82).
  • How Rain Bird (among other firms) discovered hidden gold in its reject pile (p.88).

Three other articles also bear on the topic of innovation:

  • The birth of outsourcing back-office services in India at Genpact [G] (p. 45)
  • How customers can inspire employees (p. 96).
  • How firms can compete against free (p.104).

The alarming state of innovation in business today

The seven articles are presented as illustrations of management excellence and thus exceptions to what is happening in organizations more generally. As it happens, the articles collectively give us an illuminating picture of the normal state of innovation in business today—perhaps even more illuminating than the editors and authors intended.

Before we get to evaluate the recommendations contained in the seven articles (which I will do in later parts of this article), let’s first take stock of what the articles say about the general status of innovation today. In this way, we will be able to see whether the recommendations in the articles are responsive to the problems that business enterprises face today.

The picture is not pretty.

Innovation is consistently assigned low priority

Given that innovation is one of the two basic functions of an enterprise, it is strange to learn that in business today:

“competition for resources and attention usually gets resolved in favor of the established business.” (p.77) (emphasis added)

Innovation is viewed as “an irritating drain on resources.”

Just think about that for a moment. Instead of innovation being one of only two main functions of an organization, in the world of business today innovation “usually” gets no look-in at all. Rather than being the main function of the firm, management is typically hostile to innovation.

For instance, at one company, when the CEO asked his senior executives to prepare a plan for coping with global economic crisis in 2008, their response was a proposal to cut a $3 million investment in disruptive innovation.

Remarkable! Is this unusual? No. As the authors say:

“It’s a familiar story.” (p.75)

In an example from another firm:

“A new innovation emerged: the portable handheld scanner. A small team, several layers down within the scanners unit developed a portable scanner. They believed the innovation would revolutionize the market, but they couldn’t get the attention from managers whose focus was winning market share for the flatbed [scanner].” Then a senior executive “intervened with $10 million of funding to validate the portables business, but within months, the scanners had diverted the funds to plug a hole in its budget. The portables R&D team was left with no funds and no authority.” (p. 78)

And why is that? We learn that

“executives almost always bow to the more pressing claims of the core business, especially when times are hard. Innovations … face an uphill battle to secure a share of the firm’s capital. They lack scale and resources and are usually underrepresented at the top table. At best, the leaders of the established business units ignore such projects. At worst, they seem them as threats to the firm’s core identity and values. Often innovation’s only friend is the CEO.” (emphasis added)

Extraordinary! This is after all 2011 that HBR is talking about, not 1911. This is the world of global competition and whitewater technological change, where innovation is crucial to the future. Future is apparently not management’s problem. It’s the lone CEO versus the entire management structure.

“At the best of times, innovation investments can be painful. Typically success rates are low and returns on investment far from assured. The returns that do materialize moreover rarely do so in the short term. That makes innovation hard to justify when cash is tight—even when everyone knows it’s essential to the long term success.” (p.89)

Where innovation teams do exist:

“most consisted of part-time members—employees who had other responsibilities pulling at them.” (p.71).

Even the CEO often ducks responsibility

And what is the role of our CEOs? We learn that

often … the CEO pushes the key decisions about the right balance between investment in new and core businesses down into the units, ceding much of his or her own power and creating a collection of feudal baronies.” (emphasis added)  (p76).

Amazing! Now innovation doesn’t have a single friend.

Communications are poor and cynicism is pervasive

We learn also that communications are far from open and authentic:

“when leaders attempt to deliver inspiring messages, many employees react with skepticism, question whether leaders are just trying to work harder.” (p.98)

As a result:

“In many companies the majority of frontline employees are cynical about leaders’ motives and intentions.”

The lack of transparency is a two-way street. Following one presentation to the C-suite, one CEO questioned the presenter:

“When I pressed him, he admitted that he didn’t agree with anything he had just said and that he was presenting what he had been told to present.” (p.79).

False assumptions about motivation

This may be because of wrong assumptions about motivation:

“In national surveys, over the past three decades, the majority of American shave identified meaningful work as the single most important feature they seek in a job.”(p.98)

But:

Rarely do executives suggest imbuing the work with greater meaning and purpose. Fewer than 1% say that managers should show … how [employees'] work makes a difference.” (p.98) (emphasis added).

Most executives start from the assumption that employees are ultimate self-interested, proposing performance incentives such as pay increases, promotions, recognition, food and breaks—interventions that… managers had already tried to no avail.” (p.99). (emphasis added)

The problems are systemic

The problems are not just a few individuals straying from the way. The problems are structural and systemic:

“In many companies, innovation units find themselves measured against the performance standards of the core business. This puts the innovation unit at a disadvantage as it struggles to a well-established business that has proven itself.” (p. 79)

The constraints are embedded in the very systems by which firms are being run.

“One obstacle is the profit center structure which makes it impossible to consider a product’s revenues and costs separately. Another is the cost accounting system which is not good for identifying the actual expense of generating new offerings.” (p.138).

It should not be surprising therefore that given these management practices and attitudes

“some think it’s foolish to even attempt to create innovative-growth businesses.” (p.72)

The disastrous results of these management practices

It should hardly be surprising therefore that the results of these management practices are dismal. As shown by Deloitte’s magisterial study of 20,000 US firms between 1965 to 2010,

  • The rate of return on assets is only one quarter of what it was in 1965.
  • The life expectancy of firms in the Fortune 500 has declined from around 75 years half a century ago to less than 15 years and continuing to decline.
  • Executive turnover is accelerating.
  • The topple rate of leading firms is increasing.
  • Only one in five workers is fully engaged in his or her work.

Nor should we really be surprised at the finding by the Kauffman Foundation that between 1980 and 2005 in the US, firms older than five years created practically no new net jobs. Almost all of the 40 million net new jobs were created by firms younger than five years.

And should we really be surprised to find that the US economy is undergoing a series of jobless recoveries, while most people’s incomes remain flat?

The lowly status of innovation today

The disastrous picture of the typical big firm that emerges from these articles is extraordinary:

  • Instead of innovation being regarded as one the firm’s two main functions, management typically assigns innovation low priority.
  • Both CEOs and mid-level managers exhibit pervasive attitudes and behaviors that are hostile to innovation.
  • Innovation receives inadequate resources and staff.
  • Managers do not communicate authentically to inspire staff to innovate.
  • Processes and accounting systems conspire to undermine innovation.

According to the articles, we are not dealing with a few ineffective managers or a few minor problems amid basically sound management practices.

In effect, the problems of innovation are systemic and structural and common to most large organizations.

Systemic problems require systemic solutions

To deal with systemic and structural problems, effective solutions need to be systemic and structural.

For the most part, however, as we shall see in later parts of this review, the recommendations contained in the various HBR articles are based on one-shot actions by individual CEOs or managers. These single-fix solutions deal with symptoms of the problem, rather than the underlying disease.

The apparent short-terms gains from these one-time individual single-fix solutions are unlikely to survive the relentless antagonistic pressure of embedded managerial attitudes, habits, practices, processes and systems.

In effect, the leash from which “Great Leaders” need to “unleash” their organizations is none other than management itself. For innovation to flourish on a sustained basis, individual one-shot actions are not enough. Management itself must be transformed.

Solving The Innovation Enigma:

Logo for Procter & Gamble. Source of the logo.Image via Wikipedia

As noted yesterday in part 1 of this article, the June issue of Harvard Business Review puts a spotlight on product innovation with four separate articles:

  • “P&G’s Innovation Factory”: How Procter & Gamble [PG] has gone from achieving 15% of the profit and revenue objectives in 2000 to 50% today by setting up an “innovation factory” (p. 64)
  • “The ambidextrous CEO”: How the “ambidextrous CEO” at Misys (and elsewhere) handles the tension between innovation and core products (p.74)
  • Intuit’s catalyzing employees”: How Scott Cook at Intuit [INTU] helped catalyze his employees to innovate by hiring a lot of innovation coaches (p. 82).
  • Gold in the reject pile:” How Rain Bird (among other firms) discovered hidden gold in its reject pile (p.88).

The four ideas are presented separately like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that has not been put together.

None of the articles attempts to explain why the typical corporation systematically undermines innovation, as discussed in the first part of this article, namely:

  • Instead of innovation being regarded as one the firm’s two main functions, management typically assigns innovation low priority.
  • Both CEOs and mid-level managers exhibit pervasive attitudes and behaviors that are hostile to innovation.
  • Innovation receives inadequate resources and staff.
  • Managers do not communicate authentically to inspire staff to innovate.
  • Processes and accounting systems conspire to undermine innovation.
  • Organizational structures (“profit centers”) and traditional cost accounting get in the way of innovation.

The articles offer no coherent explanation of the innovation enigma, i.e. why do most managers—highly intelligent, well-educated and well-paid—think, speak and act in a way that undermines innovation and thus the future of the organization and ultimately the economy. In the articles, it  is taken for granted that this is what “often” happens in “most organizations.” It’s the way things are. There is no attempt to explain why this is the way things are. Without understanding why things are this way, the proposed solutions risk not dealing with the real problem.

None of the articles for example explains that these beliefs, attitudes and behaviors reflect a mental model of management that was dominant in the 20th Century and is still pervasive in the Fortune 500 today.

The main principles of this mental model can be seen in most management textbooks and many business school teachings. They comprise:

  • The goal of the organization is to produce goods and services through a supply chain that makes money for the shareholders.
  • The role of the manager is a boss, namely, a hierarchical controller of individuals.
  • The coordination of work is achieved through rules, plans and reports, i.e. bureaucracy.
  • The predominant value of the organization is efficiency, principally by saving money and economies of scale.
  • Communications are hierarchical in nature, through commands and instructions.

The principles are interlocking, so that attempts to change any one by itself will be undermined by the other principles.

These interlocking principles also help explain why innovation has such a hard time in organizations today.

They also explain why the separate innovation ideas in the four HBR articles are by themselves unlikely to provide a lasting solution to the enigma of innovation.

The ambidextrous CEO

Thus the “ambidextrous CEO” (p.74)—who, the article says, is often the “only friend” of innovation in the whole organization (p,78)—will be pitted against the perceived goal of the organization to make money and the role of the managers to get the supply chain moving ever more efficiently. Even if the occasional CEO succeeds in encouraging innovation in the short term, eventually the systemic forces of the mental model of traditional management will cause the organization to revert back to its “normal” mode of operation—grinding out the core products and services to make money for shareholders. Since managers are rewarded for making money in their “profit center”, they will be tempted to focus on making money and neglecting innovation. The chances of a single “ambidextrous CEO” consistently winning battles against this array of systemic forces are low.

The “ambidextrous CEO” is thus likely to be become another management casualty. More seriously, the firm itself will become another organizational casualty as it fails to innovate fast enough for today’s marketplace, where continuous innovation is a necessity.

A single ambidextrous individual is not enough to generate continuous innovation on a sustainable basis. What is needed instead is for everybody in the organization to become ambidextrous in managing the tension between core products and innovation. The article, alas, gives no hint that this might be possible or how to accomplish it. With everything resting on the heroic shoulders of a single individual—the “Great Leader”—the system of traditional management will be the inexorable winner. Systems are more powerful than individuals.

Catalyzing staff

Similarly the excellent idea of Scott Cook at Intuit to use coaches to catalyze staff to get on with the task of innovation through rapid experiments with customers (p.82) may get short term results, as one can see from the rapid rise in share price of once Intuit succeeded in generating continuous innovation to delight its customers.

Over time, however, unless Intuit changes the fundamental assumptions of traditional management, managers, financial controllers and consultants will question the substantial resources being spent on “innovation coaches” (“What’s the rate of return?”) and prove in detailed spreadsheets that the company would be more profitable if it focused more sharply on making money for the shareholders. If the principles of traditional management remain in place, eventually the firm will succumb to the arguments and declare success and fire the coaches so that it can improve the bottom line with tighter control of employees, more elaborate plans, more frequent reporting, and clearer instructions to become more efficient. In effect, the system of traditional management will eventually defeat the individuals trying to do things differently.

P&G’s innovation factory

In the Procter & Gamble article (p.64), we see a more ambitious effort over ten years to graft an “innovation factory” on to the structures and processes of traditional management. Managers of “profit centers” are now assigned new-growth goals. Processes are put in place to achieve the new growth through sustaining innovations, commercial innovations, and sustaining-transformational innovations, as well as disruptive innovations that undermine existing businesses. The processes include training on disruptive innovation, innovation manuals, innovation guides, an innovation college and a FutureWorks division. The impressive results over ten years include a doubling of Tide’s revenues over ten years, new products such as cheap razors for developing countries and even a new-style dry cleaning business.

Whereas in 2000, P&G’s new growth efforts were achieving only 15% of their targets, now they are accomplishing 50% of their targets. The progress is impressive. P&G has doubled its share price over ten years and is doing better than traditional stalwarts like GE, Wal-Mart or Cisco. But this progress leaves open the question: why is P&G only half-way towards meeting its new-growth goals?

The answer is not difficult to detect if one reads the HBR article carefully. The large-scale innovation effort is in tension with the underlying assumptions of traditional management which the article indicates are still largely intact at P&G. The goal of the firm is still perceived to be that of making money for shareholders with each “profit center” responsible for achieving its part of the goal. Innovation is seen as another way of making money. In the “innovation factory”, the managers still act as bosses or controllers of individuals. The work of the “innovation factory” is still coordinated with the familiar bureaucracy of traditional management through “stage gates”, reports and financial targets. In such an environment, it is not surprising that, despite the massive management effort and support, innovation still has a hard time fully thriving.

Solving the innovation enigma: systemic change

What would it take for P&G to achieve 100% of their growth targets? What would it take for firms like Misys and Intuit to achieve innovation on a sustained basis like firms such as Apple, Amazon or Salesforce.com with exponential growth in their respective share prices over many years?

To accomplish these kinds of exponential gains on a sustained basis, single-fix ideas of the kind presented in these HBR articles will not do the job.

Resolving the enigma of innovation entails recognizing that the problem is systemic. To solve it, the solution itself must also be systemic. In effect, the underlying principles of traditional management need to be transformed. Management has to be reinvented.

Reinventing management: five basic shifts

A number of books point to the principles of the transformation of management, including my book, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management (Jossey-Bass 2010), The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque, The Power of Pull by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison  Reorganize for Resilience by Professor Ranjay Gulati, The Responsible Business by Carol Sanford, and Leadership in a Wiki World by Rod Collins. There are five major shifts:

“Delighting the customer” is an operational business objective, not some vague, abstract or subjective chimera. Measurement is central.

Individually, none of these shifts is new. What is new is doing them together as systemic change. When only one or two of these shifts is pursued without the others, the change tends to be unsustainable because any improvements are undermined by conflicts with the principles of traditional management.

The tension between innovation & core products dissolves

Once these principles replace the principles of traditional management, it becomes clear why traditional management systematically fails at innovation as well as how the separate and seemingly unconnected ideas of the articles in HBR fit within a coherent set of interlocking management principles. As a result, innovation has the possibility of being sustainable. Innovation is no longer fighting with the firm’s own DNA. Innovation has become part of that DNA.

Specifically:

  • Once the goal of the firm is to delight the customers, the CEO is no longer “the only friend of innovation” (p.75). Now everyone in the entire organization is focused on delighting the customers with a clear line of sight to customers so that everyone knows whether and to what extent customer is being delighted. Innovation becomes part of everyone’s job.
  • Now it is no longer a big deal whether it is the CEO handles “the tension between innovation and core products” or whether this is delegated to middle managers because now everyone in the organization is tasked with resolving the tension in the way that best delights the customer.
  • Now the middle managers are evaluated not just on how much money they are making the shareholders, with the temptation to shortchange innovation to plug holes in the budget for core products (p.78). Now the middle managers are evaluated on whether they are delighting the customers, for which innovation is essential. Merely grinding out the core products won’t get the job done.
  • Because the firm is consistently measuring progress in delighting customers, there is much less temptation for individual managers to divert money from innovation to core products: the impact of any such diversions will be systematically revealed by the firm’s measurement systems.
  • Because delighting the customer is much more profitable in today’s marketplace than grinding out the firm’s core products, there is no longer any tradeoff between innovation and making money. Innovation becomes hugely profitable.
  • Innovation stops being “an irritating drain on resources” or “a threat to managers”, because the goal of delighting the customer makes it part of everyone’s job.
  • Because delighting the customer and continuous innovation are now central parts of everyone’s job, there is little temptation for middle managers to staff innovation activities with part-time assignments, as happens in traditional management (p. 71). When customer delight is the firm’s goal, innovation becomes the most important task, requiring the best people.
  • Because the organization adopts the values of radical transparency and horizontal communications, along with the processes needed to support those values, managers and employees stop saying things they don’t believe (p.79). As a result, impediments to innovation are identified and problems get solved earlier.
  • Because managers communicate transparently and horizontally rather than through top-down commands, the risk of apathy and cynicism is drastically reduced. (p. 98).
  • Because the organization adopts throughput accounting techniques, in addition to rudimentary cost accounting (cf. p. 138), managers can see clearly what how financial resources relate to the goals of innovation and delighting customers.
  • Because the firm sees its mission as delighting customers, rather than making money for shareholders, it looks at its divisions as “customer delight centers” rather than merely as “profit centers”. As a result, the organizational structure doesn’t get in the way of promoting innovation (cf. p. 138).

Coherent management principles for innovation

Once the principles of radical management are adopted, the ideas for innovation mentioned in the HBR articles can be seen for what they are: good single-fix ideas that will only work sustainably if they are adopted as part of a coherent set of management principles that are very different from traditional managment:

  • The ambidextrous CEO who can reconcile the tension between innovation and core products (p. 74) is not a bad idea. It’s just not a big enough idea to resolve the enigma of innovation. For innovation to flourish, everyone in the organization must be ambidextrous. And that will only happen sustainably if the basic management assumptions change.
  • The idea of catalyzing staff at Intuit through coaching to accelerate innovation (p. 82) is a good idea. Self-organizing teams are a central feature of innovation. But by itself, delegating to staff is not enough. For such innovation to flourish sustainably, the goal of the firm, the role of managers, the processes for coordinating work, the values of the firm and the communications also have to change.
  • The idea at P&G of putting in place systems and processes to promote innovation (p.64) is a good idea, but implementation will be hobbled, if the systems and processes are grafted on to the principles of traditional management, which are inherently antagonistic to innovation.
  • The idea of looking through the reject pile to find usable innovation (p.88) is a good idea, but it would be even more powerful if it wasn’t just a one-off initiative, but rather the job of everyone every day. For instance, at Toyota, employees come up with around a million innovation suggestions every year.
  • The idea of using customers to inspire employees (p.96) is an excellent idea, but again, implementation will be hobbled unless the goal of the firm shifts from making money for shareholders to delighting customers, and work is coordinated by dynamic linking so that customer feedback is built into everyone’s job.

Tomorrow, in part 3 of this article, I will talk more on the significance of dynamic linking, and show how it resolves the false dichotomy between chaos and bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy, anarchy & innovation amnesia:

Thomas Edison, half-length portrait, facing frontImage via Wikipedia: Thomas Edison

P&G’s innovation factory

In the June 2011 HBR article on P&G, (p.64), we learn that after ten years of effort, massive investments of financial and human resources, and the strongest possible top management support, Procter & Gamble [PG] has been able to improve performance from achieving only 15% of its new-growth profit and revenue targets in 2000 to around 50% today. This progress is impressive. But the question remains: why after all this effort is P&G still only half-way towards meeting its new-growth goals?

First disconnect: the factory image

P&G is a large old organization (127,000 employees, founded in 1837). It is perhaps not surprising that its leaders set out to build an innovation “factory”. According to the article, it was designed to be a combination of the creativity of Thomas Edison’s industrial research lab (circa 1870) and the speed and reliability of Henry Ford’s production line (circa 1910).

The thinking and imagery are thus early 20th Century in provenance and industrial in nature. The assumption seems to be that the way to succeed in business is to invent something (Edison) and then deliver it (Ford). The thinking is inside-out: “we make it and customers will take it.” The crucial question whether any customer will actually buy your invention is not explicit.

This thinking and imagery were valid for much of the 20th Century when big oligopolies were in charge of the marketplace. But it is out of sync with the 21st Century marketplace reality where there has been a power shift from seller to buyer: the customer is now the boss. The customer now has good information as to what is available and many options to choose from. Whether the firm can invent and build new products has become less important than whether customers will actually buy them. Unless customers are delighted, they won’t.

In practice, we learn in the article that the customer is very much present in P&G’s innovation activities. Thus in addition to the $2 billion spent on research and development, P&G spends “$400 million in foundational consumer research, conducting some 20,000 studies involving more than 5 million consumers in nearly 100 countries.”

There is also a recognition at P&G that “there needs to be an emotional component as well—a source of inspiration that motivates people. At P&G, that inspiration lies in a sense of purpose driven from the top down—the message that each innovation improves people’s lives.”

But when innovation is managed by “profit centers”, it is clear that the message about improving people’s lives is subordinated to the dominant management message: make money for the shareholders.

When a company does one thing, while telling people to do another, the risk of organizational dysfunction is significant. It can lead to the introduction of processes and systems that don’t fit what the work of innovation requires.

Second disconnect: bureaucracy

In fact, the processes that P&G set up to handle innovation as described in the article sound like bureaucracy. The managers of the profit centers are assigned new-growth goals. To help achieve those goals, processes have been put in place that include formal training, manuals, guides, a “robust stage-gate process”, portfolio management, an innovation college, courses on entrepreneurial thinking and disruptive innovation and a FutureWorks division.

Such arrangements provide a sense or order, comfort and familiarity to managers steeped in a culture of 20th Century manufacturing. The arrangements might be appropriate for activities whose parameters and dynamics are largely known and predictable. It is less obvious that they are good fit for the complex, mercurial, inherently unpredictable world of disruptive innovation in the 21st Century, where new business models and platforms are rapidly transforming apparently mature sectors.

This is not to say that innovation can’t happen in a bureaucracy. The experience of P&G has shown some remarkable individual successes. But the fact that P&G is only attaining 50% of its new growth objectives after ten years of massive effort suggests that there is still room for improvement. Whether bureaucracy is the right way to manage innovation is perhaps one of the avenues that P&G management might want to explore.

Genpact: “light a fire and see what happens”

At the opposite end of the spectrum, in the same issue of HBR, there is an account of a non-bureaucratic startup (p. 45). As head of GE Capital in India, Pramod Bhasin tells how he set out in the late 1990s to offer back-office services across GE Capital. He created a division that was eventually spun off as a separate company, Genpact [G], thus giving birth to an entire outsourcing industry.

Bhasin explains:

“I didn’t do any business plan modeling or studies to prove that an opportunity existed. To me it was obvious. I knew that if we could get sophisticated technology to support us… we had the raw talent to offer our services at a small fraction of the cost elsewhere…

We couldn’t just sit down and do the proper analysis to plan it, because this was uncharted territory. We did draw up a business plan, but there was so much finger-in-the-air stuff that I don’t think it had much credibility. We didn’t even know at the start how big the venture could be. We just said: “Let’s light a fire and see what happens.”

Bhasin was ultimately successful in growing the idea into a separate organization with 45,000 employees and sales of $1.2 billion that was spun off from GE. It operates 39 facilities in 13 countries and serving 400 other companies.

Bhasin’s non-bureaucratic approach of “lighting a fire and seeing what happens” was successful in part because of his energy and entrepreneurial spirit, and in part because the nature of the services to be provided was already known and Bhasin had a large existing customer for the services of his division.

Looking across the broader field of innovation today, where the key issue is whether customers will buy the innovation, the approach of “lighting a fire and seeing what happens” has not been consistently successful, as it tends to lead to anarchy. Big investments end being made for products that no one will buy. Since such experiences are anathema in a large organization, organizations tend to re-introduce the controls of bureaucracy.

Often managers often think that these are the only two alternatives: bureaucracy or anarchy. Since the firm doesn’t want anarchy, it is stuck with bureaucracy.

In reality, a quarter of century ago, we learned in the pages of Harvard Business Review itself that there is a third alternative.

What works in innovation: dynamic linking

In 1986 in a famous article entitled, “The New New Product Development Game,” Professors Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka described how a range of firms had been successful in innovation. Some of the examples were in Japan, like Toyota, Fuji Film, and Honda, and a couple were American firms like HP, 3M, and Xerox. They showed how these companies had set up teams that became extraordinarily innovative and productive—without bureaucracy.

Typically the companies set up self-organizing teams. They analyzed the competitive threat and then pulled together a team of their very best people. It was generally a cross-functional team, with people from R&D, engineering, finance, sales, marketing, and support.

They would then give the team a challenging mission. At Honda, for instance, the challenge was to design a car that would appeal to young people and yet be cheap and of high quality. Then they would step back and let the team figure how to make it happen.

At first, the people on the team would be concerned that this was a new form of layoff. After a while, they would settle down and would socialize with each other. And then they would wake up and realize that unless they got cracking, they would never finish by the deadline. So the team would suddenly grasp the urgency of the situation and start to work together.

Takeuchi and Nonaka noted that when this happened, the well-documented phenomenon of self-transcendence within the group would occur. Self-transcendence is a big word, but it simply means that the individuals started to feel that the goals of the team were more important than their own part in it, their own careers, their own preferred position, their prior attitudes. If they were thinking only about themselves—their own goals and their own interests—the team would get locked into suboptimal patterns of work. Takeuchi and Nonaka noted, “A project takes on a self-organizing character as it is driven to a state of ‘zero information’—where prior knowledge does not apply. Ambiguity and fluctuation abound in this state. Left to stew, the process begins to create its own dynamic order.”

The psychology of this phenomenon was described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his classic book, Flow. He wrote about those times in our lives when, instead of being buffered by anonymous forces, we “feel in control of our actions, masters of our own fate. On the rare occasions that it happens, we feel a sense of exhilaration, a deep sense of enjoyment that is long cherished and that becomes a landmark in memory for what life should be like. . . . The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to the limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

Dynamic linking

Since 1986, the approach sketched by Nonaka and Takeuchi has been developed much further, particularly in software development, in a family of practices known as “Lean”, “Agile”, “Scrum” “Kanban” and “Lean Startups”. See for instance my article: “Scrum is a major management discovery.

These practices, which may be collectively called “dynamic linking”, have in common that (a) the work is done in short cycles; (b) the management sets priorities in terms of the goals of work in the cycle, based on what is known about what might delight the client; (c) decisions about how the work is to be carried out to achieve those goals are largely the responsibility of those doing the work; (d) progress is measured (to the extent possible) by direct customer feedback at the end of each cycle.

In dynamic linking, one meshes the efforts of autonomous teams of knowledge workers who have the agility to innovate and meet the shifting needs of clients while also achieving disciplined execution.

As The Power of Pull points out, one proceeds “by setting things up in short, consecutive waves of effort, iterations that foster deep, trust-based relationships among the participants… Knowledge begins to flow and team begins to learn, innovate and perform better and faster.… Rather than trying to specify the activities in the processes in great detail.., specify what they want to come out of the process, providing more space for individual participants to experiment, improvise and innovate.”

It’s not bureaucracy and it’s not anarchy. It gets the best of all worlds. It has the decisiveness of a hierarchical bureaucracy but without its inflexibility, its rigidity and its tendency to de-motivate workers and frustrate customers. It creates an environment that is radically more productive for the organization, more congenial to innovation, and more satisfying both for those doing the work and those for whom the work is done.

It’s been implemented for over fifteen years in organizations large and small with great success. It’s discussed in detail in chapters 6 and 7 of The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century , along with the specific practices needed to make it operational.

Management amnesia

Intellectual disciplines that advance systematically keep track of the evolution of the subject. Writers are careful to give credit to predecessors, signal alternative viewpoints and demonstrate sensitivity to the evolution of the subject as a whole.

By contrast, in subjects that don’t advance, journals systematically eliminate traces of earlier thinking about the subject at hand. It is as though the articles have “a virgin birth” and emerge into the world without any legitimate parentage.

Thus you could read the articles on product innovation in the June issue of HBR without being made aware of the famous 1986 HBR article, “The New New Product Development Game,” Professors Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, which paved for the way for the later management discoveries of Agile, Scrum and Kanban, and Lean Startups. There is a lack of historical perspective in the writing.

As a result, P&G ‘s “innovation factory” can be presented as “a big new thing”, when in reality more advanced thinking about innovation was available in HBR itself some twenty-five years ago.

At the same time, some amnesia might be valuable. It could be useful for instance to forget about the romanticized version of the hierarchical bureaucracies of Thomas Edison (circa 1870s) and Henry Ford (circa 1910).

With a suitably clear mind, one could then focus on the world of 2011 and examine how companies like Apple, Amazon and Salesforce.com are getting exponential gains from innovation by radically transforming management.

In effect, the leash from which “Great Leaders” need to “unleash” their organizations is none other than management itself.

See earlier post for more:

Radical management: it’s happening! make more money!

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Lawyer to sue Khazanah for denying son scholarship


By NG CHENG YEE,chengyee@thestar.com.my

KUALA LUMPUR: A man wants to sue Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Yayasan Khazanah and its director after his son failed to get a scholarship offered by the foundation and the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust.

Lawyer Chan Chow Wang, 67, said he was planning to retire and personally funding son Xiao Yao’s studies would be a huge financial burden.

He also did not understand why Yayasan Khazanah had rejected the application as Xiao Yao had on Jan 5 received a conditional offer for a place at the University of Cambridge.

Yayasan Khazanah works with the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust to offer the Khazanah Cambridge Scholarship to students who have gained admission to the university through the usual application route.

Xiao Yao is scheduled to do his BA Honours degree in Chemical Engineering via Natural Sciences. The course starts in October.

Chan said that when he appealed to the foundation and asked for an explanation for the rejection, all he got was a letter telling him that the competition for the scholarship programme was very stiff.

He added that he would file a suit against the three parties because of the embarrassment, anguish and depression caused to his son.

“I will also lodge a complaint with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and request it to investigate the scholarship programme,” he said at a press conference yesterday.

Chan said the tuition fee for his son’s first-year study was £18,000 (about RM89,000) while the college fee was £4,462.50 (about RM22,000).

“With living expenses, my son will need about RM150,000 a year for this four-year degree programme and it is a huge sum of money,” he said.

Chan said it would be difficult for him to fund his son’s education as he was planning to retire in two years.

He had also funded the education of his four children, including Xian Yao’s education up to A-level.

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