In defence of Merdeka

Independence has been achieved, yet has to be constantly defended, continuously renewed and expanded as the process of de-colonisation is on-going and new threats arise.

THIS week marks the beginning of our 58th year of Independence. Much has been done to entrench sovereignty and independence on our land. But much more needs to be done.

Colonialism did a comprehensive uprooting of traditional systems and replanted them with new ways, methods and systems to produce a chaotic and confusing amalgam of people, social patterns and economic modes.

We are still shaking off the vestiges of that colonialism, whose shadows still fall large. We are still in the process of building independent policies, structures and systems

This is so in post-colonial developing countries in general. As the leaders of the Group of 77 and China stated in their summit held in Bolivia recently, the process of de-colonisation is incomplete and on-going, even decades af­ter the winning of Independence.

That is a good reminder. In particular, the structures and levers of the global economy are still under the domination of the rich developed countries.

The former colonial masters may have let go of formal control of the colonies but they made sure to set up a system in which they could continue to control the important components of world finance, trade and economy.

For so many decades, even until now, the major economic and social trends and policies were set by the combination of the Interna­tional Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Group of 7 rich countries.

These policies, made by institutions based in Washington, became widely known as the “Washington Consensus”. Countries that were indebted especially had to abide by the rules, which were often against their own interests.

Some countries, including Malaysia, were fortunate enough not to have been caught in the debt trap and thus escaped the Washington Consensus. We had a close shave during the Asian financial crisis in 1997-99, but unlike other Asian countries, we did not have to borrow from the IMF, and could devise our own policies from the crisis.

Many other developing countries (almost a hundred) that fell under the IMF-World Bank spell could not chart their own policies, had their economies shaped the wrong way and their development postponed. Independence was much constrained, often present only in name.

Malaysia has been able to shape and re-shape its own policies. If mistakes were made, they could and can be corrected.

Years after Merdeka, the economy was still under British domination. The plantations, tin mines, banks, wholesale trade, industry, were mainly in foreign hands. In 1970, 70% of the corporate assets were owned by foreigners.

A strategic policy was designed to reduce the foreign share while boosting the local share, and to restructure the participation of the various local communities in the economy. Society is still debating the effects and implications of that policy and its implementation.

However, there is appreciation that a successful part of the policies was the wresting back of control over the natural resource-based sectors and obtaining national benefits.

Malaysia has been one of the richest expor­ters of commodities. It helped make Britain rich during colonial times and its companies still dominated the sector long after Merdeka.

Through a series of policies over decades, Malaysia took back ownership of the biggest plantation and mining companies (through the famous “dawn raid” at the London stock market). It signed production and revenue-sharing agreements with the international oil companies.

These policies opened the road for more of the revenues from our important commodities to be retained locally. They also became major sources of government revenue that financed development projects.

Value was then added to the raw materials through processing, refining and manufactu­ring. Rubber exported as gloves and tyres, palm oil exported as cooking oil and wood ex­­ported as furniture bring more revenue and jobs to the country than if they were exported in raw forms as latex, crude palm oil and timber.

Research and development as well as marketing institutions were created to find more efficient ways to produce new uses for the processed materials and more markets. In contrast, those developing countries that fell under IMF-World bank policies were not able to provide state support for their agriculture.

When foreign manufacturing and services firms entered, they were told to set up as joint ventures with local companies, with limits on equity. This could facilitate benefit-sharing and participation in the economy for locals.

Yet Malaysia still became a favourite location for global investors.

In the years leading to the mid-1990s, external debt built up, the current account of the balance of payments went into high deficit, and the financial sector was liberalised, which made the country vulnerable to external shocks.

The 1997-99 crisis taught the lesson that excessive debt, a wide current account deficit and too much financial liberalisation can lead to a major crisis.

In the 2008-2010 global crisis, Malaysia had built up enough defences (especially foreign reserves and balance of payments surpluses) to be resilient.

Economic growth has recovered, but care has to be taken to address the significant budget deficit and increase in foreign debt.

On the global front, developing countries that were fed up with dependence on the IMF and World Bank and their lack of reforms have created their own institutions, such as the Chiangmai Initiative and the BRICS Bank.

The objectives are laudable. Developing countries that need finance either to avoid a debt crisis or to fund development program­mes should have alternative sources that hopefully will have less conditions or more appropriate conditions attached to their loans. It is another big step in de-colonisation.

Needless to say there is much more to be done to safeguard Independence and to move forward on independent development pathways.

If only the state could be prevented from taking policies that place conditions on foreign firms, investors and speculators, the world would be free for those global corporate and financial giants to maximise their profits.

But if global binding rules are established to create such a world, then big corporations would again rule the world, backed by their governments. Then the governments of the developing countries would be unable to protect their own citizens, and a new battle for independence would have to be waged again.

Better to preserve the independence we have, and expand it, than to whittle away the gains and then having to fight old battles anew.

A lesson is that Merdeka has been achieved, but should not be taken for granted. It has to be constantly defended, renewed continuously and expanded. To Malaysia and Malaysians, Happy 58th year of Merdeka!

– Global Trends by Martin Khor > Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre based in Geneva. You can e-mail him at The views expressed here are entirely his own. The Star/Asia News Network

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No time to be patient

Can we, Malaysians, not see the changes we so long for in our lifetime?

Change inline-speeding-changes-modern-world

NELSON Mandela is dying. The world waits sombrely and respectfully for what seems to be inevitable. He has lived to a good age – he turns 95 on July 18 – and it is time to let him go. What’s more, this great man’s place in history is assured.

He is in the same league as Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln, for what he did for his country.

Yet, I wonder: Mandela was in his Robben Island prison cell for 27 years. During that time, did he ever think he would not live to see the end of apartheid in his beloved South Africa. Perhaps he thought, “Not in my lifetime.”

“Not in my lifetime”, that’s what we say to denote the unlikelihood of something momentous or significant happening or coming to fruition within our life span.

I guess NIML (as those four words have been abbreviated in this Internet age) would have crossed the minds of cynics concerning the fight to end slavery or suffrage for women in centuries past.

“Freedom for slaves? Never, not in my lifetime?” “Vote for women? Balderdash! Surely not in my lifetime.”

In our more recent past, so many amazing things have changed or taken place that were thought quite impossible, at least NIML: The creation of the Pill that sparked the sexual revolution, men walking on the moon and the birth of the first test-tube baby.

I remember when “Made in Japan” was a byword for shoddily made products that didn’t last and China was an uptight communist state where its repressed people dressed in monochrome colours and were deprived of life’s little luxuries.

Today, Japanese-made products are synonymous with quality; Russia and China are practically unrecognisable from the USSR and China of, say, 1985.

So too South Korea, now east Asia’s poster nation. But it wasn’t too long ago it was under a repressive military dictatorship and it was only in May 1980 that the Gwangju Uprising began that nation’s transformation to liberal democracy.

Who would have thought back in the 1980s, that many Chinese nationals and Russians would become obscenely rich citizens living freely in various parts of the world; or that South Korea would rule with “soft” power through its pop culture.

Ironically, I found Korean music grating and unpleasant during the opening ceremony of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Twenty-five years on, I can hum Arirang, Korea’s popular folk song, and have k-pop songs on my handphone, a Samsung Galaxy, of course.

All that in my lifetime. And I am not that old. Really.

Change is a constant throughout the ages but the current speed of it is what takes our breath away. We accept and even demand it when it involves technology, our devices and machines.

Japanese scientists are ready to send a talking robot called Kirobo into space that can communicate directly with astronauts on board the International Space Station.

Better still, researchers just announced that people with severe spinal cord injuries can walk again with ground-breaking stem cell therapy that regrows nerve fibres.

Dr Wise Young, chief executive officer of the China Spinal Cord Injury Network, was quoted as saying: “It’s the first time in human history that we can see the regeneration of the spinal cord.”

He further declared: “This will convince the doctors of the world that they do not need to tell patients ‘you will never walk again’.”

It is a pity quadriplegic Christopher Reeve, who will always be Superman to his fans, did not live to see it happen in his lifetime.

Yet, strangely enough, when it comes to change to create a better and safer society, change to weeding out corruption, change to needs-based policies, change to save our education system, change to end institutionalised racism, we seem willing to apply brakes and decelerate.

We tell ourselves, “slowly lah”, or “some things take time” and yes, even “not in our lifetime” because we believe the things we want changed are too entrenched or too rotten.

I refuse to accept that because, as I have repeatedly lamented, we don’t have the time to slow such things down. We need to change urgently and effectively or we will fall further behind other nations. What I think we need for effective change to happen is great statesmanship and selflessness from our leaders.

While Mandela is rightly honoured and revered, he could not have succeeded in ending apartheid without the support and courage of F.W. de Klerk, the now largely forgotten last white president of South Africa who freed Mandela.

Similarly, it was Mikhail Gorbachev, the last general secretary of the Soviet Union who brought political, social and economic reforms that ended both the USSR and the Cold War.

It is men in power like them who had the political will, the vision and steely courage to dismantle their untenable systems of government and set their nations on the path of a new future.

Do we have a de Klerk or Gorbachev among our leaders who will demolish race-based politics and policies, free our education system from politics and truly fight corruption and crime? A leader who will move our nation onto a new path of greatness by quickly harnessing all the talents that a multiracial Malaysia has to offer without fear or bias?

Can it happen in my lifetime? Since I have seen what was deemed impossible, NIML, the first black man elected US President, I want to believe the answer is yes, we can.

So Aunty, So What? By JUNE H.L. WONG

> The aunty likes this quote: Patience is good only when it is the shortest way to a good end; otherwise, impatience is better. Feedback: or tweet @JuneHL­Wong

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Gen Y – they are different, deal with it

Understand them, get the best out of them rather than trying to remould them


SINCE I started the column about a year ago, I often get requests to write about the “younger” generation (Gen-Y).

They are also referred to as Millennias, those born from 1981-1991 (22-year-olds who are new graduates joining the workforce to those who are in the early 30s). Some famous people in this generation include Mark Zuckerberg and Lady Gaga.

There are many surveys to find out who they are, their characteristics and how to better manage them. There are many studies on them because they make up 25% of the world’s population.

Retailers, computer and mobile phone companies, games and gadget producers would certainly like to know their tastes, habits, likes and dislikes. Financial institutions would like to know their spending patterns, propensity to save, online purchasing habits, among others.

At work, managers, senior managers and many of the older generation would like to know how to better relate and work with them.

The complaints my friends have about Gen-Y would be something like this:

They have hired a young graduate from a good school, the resume looked impressive, he is pleasant looking, dresses professionally and speaks quite well.

Six to eight months into work, and the guy seems to be always late for work, late for important meetings, appears distracted at work, cannot be reached (on handphone), leaves work at 6:30pm and complains he has no work-life balance, makes mistakes in documents and presentations to clients, goes to meeting unprepared the list goes on.

“When you give them feedback, they don’t take it too well and may want to resign.

“They don’t know what they don’t know. They make mistakes and think they are right. They have unrealistic expectations and think they were unfairly treated.

“They are choosy about what they do. They want interesting and exciting work but cannot deliver. They don’t take on much responsibilities but think they should be paid more”.

Someone asked me what they could do to change them. I thought it ought to be the other way around we need to change our ways, expectations and how we work with them.

The generation is a reflection of the society they have grown up in. They didn’t cycle nor walked to school. They didn’t grow up poor and deprived.

They grew up in a world of celebrities, designer goods, smart phones, computers and the Internet, 24/7 connectivity, iPod, Facebook, Youtube and addictive e-games (instead of games played in the field, rivers or jungle).

They are different in many ways. Accept it and deal with it.

We believe in doing one thing at a time and being focused. Are they distracted and cannot focus or are they good at multitasking?

At work, they listen to music, chat and surf all at the same time. When they are chatting, it is not with one person at a time but with half a dozen different chat groups (as opposed to a few individuals).

They move more they spin the pen when they are at their desk, they click the mouse and turn the pages faster. They have so many windows opened, they flip back and forth.

While they are eating, they surf, text, send pictures on Instagram, make Facebook posts, listen to music, tweet and have conversation with the person in front of them or maybe squeeze in a game at the same time. That is the way they are.

That means they can handle eight tasks while having a meal which equals to higher productivity.

Be sure to engage them with multi tasks and challenging tasks. Don’t assume they ought to slowly learn the ropes like how it was 20 to 30 years ago when we were a new graduate. Take advantage of their savviness by having them set up tools, work on complex spread sheets and make searches, gather data or come up with ideas.

(There may be qualifications why you will not assign certain work to them. But if you don’t and let them make the mistakes, they would miss the learning opportunity and become bored)

They are used to direct communications having grown up with emails, tweets, handphones, smses, messengers, facebook; they don’t like the rigid hierarchy in the organisation or being limited by their position.

If they have something on their mind, they should be able to talk to or email someone higher in the organisation (regardless of level) rather than their immediate superior who don’t seem to be able to help or understand.

This can be a positive. They are helping highlight stifling work environment that we have got used to and give meaning to better collaboration between different levels in the organisation. Their opinion counts. We need to get used to their feedback and having our views questioned.

Retention is an issue. They may move on for something more interesting or aspire to be entrepreneurs. How could they not when there are so many Internet multi-millionaires or those who became multi millionaires because they started a business or sold an application to Yahoo or Facebook.

They have been told by billionaires, actors and many successful personalities “not to settle”, they can do anything they set their mind to and should dare to fail.

Inspire them with the right ambitions at work. They are a group prepared to work hard if you can show how the hard work fuels that ambition. Spend time to understand their personal buyer values what they value most in their job and aspire for.

Every generation complains about the next generation. The new generation is somehow less respectful, less hardworking but somehow in time they will become responsible adults with major responsibilities at work and as parents.

The hippies from the 70s became responsible adults and CEOs.

Gen Y is our future. If you are at work or at home with them, spend more time with them. They will shape trends, politics, culture, our work place and many other aspects in the world.

If you experience pain and frustration trying to convince your young boss how things are done in the past, don’t try too hard. Listen to his ideas and get used to his ways. You may find that you can still learn and develop.

They are different, they are here to stay. Get used to it… until Gen Z comes.

 Joan Hoi is the author of Take on Change. We need to throw out some of our old selves to better appreciate this young, fun and bright group!

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Are you a manage or leader?


LEADERS and managers obviously have one thing in common they lead or manage teams; but as their titles suggest there are differences between leaders and managers.

As an executive search consultant I have interviewed many senior executives over the years and most of them have indicated that they would prefer to be led than to be managed.

However, I have observed that as an organisation grows it is almost impossible to scale up without a strong management structure. As such, I believe that leadership and management both have a part to play in the growth of an organisation.

The manager

My first encounter with a manager was on my first job. I was fresh out of school and had no knowledge of how an office operated let alone how to use the computer which ran the now obsolete Wordstar programme. I was in awe of my manager. She seemed to know where everything was and always spoke confidently regardless of whom she was addressing. She would also set our targets, monitor our progress and discipline us when necessary. If we accept the definition of a manager as one who directs and controls, then I would say that she played her role well but I found that I was doing the job because I had to and not because I wanted to. My manager was not concerned about engagement as long as we met our targets and would not entertain any queries that would challenge the norm. Whilst I didn’t feel that she was someone I could confide in, I certainly respected her discipline and commitment to her job.

The leader

We have all come across leaders who have inspired us at some point in our lives. In comparison with the manager I mentioned earlier, the managing director of the same company was someone who was out to change the world. She was absolutely passionate about what she believed in and her passion was infectious. She spoke with such clarity of thought that I never questioned her beliefs and was glad to work weekends and long hours to be a part of something bigger than myself. Suffice to say that she was an inspiring individual who has influenced my professional and personal life even until today.

The difference

Warren Bennis lists the following comparisons between a manager and a leader in “On Becoming a Leader,” which was published in 1989:

  • The manager administers; the leader innovates.
  • The manager is a copy; the leader is an original. The manager maintains; the leader develops.
  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
  • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
  • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
  • The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.
  • The manager imitates; the leader originates.
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
  • The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

As such, we can conclude that not all managers are leaders and some managers may never become leaders. Whilst many of us have come across individuals commonly known as “born-leaders,” who simply thrive in situations that call for a leader to step up to the plate, there are also many who made the transition from manager to leader. This then begs the question: How does one make the shift from a manager mindset to that of a leader?

Given that any kind of change takes time and usually uncomfortable if not painful, I would offer these six areas as the first step in the transition process from manager to leader.

Something bigger than themselves: A leader usually has a cause to champion. A manager who strives to make this transition would have to find something that he or she strongly believes in, in the context of their own organisations or field of expertise. This could include something they feel needs to be changed or an innovative idea they want to see implemented. For instance, a regional sales director whom I interviewed as a potential candidate for an executive search project shared with me that he was hired by his current employer to develop the market for the company’s products in Malaysia. However, he felt that there wasn’t sufficient demand for their products in one country and he expanded the customer base into China. He successfully created a whole new market for the company and needless to say he was given a promotion for his achievements.

A strategic mindset: A potential leader would also benefit from developing a more strategic view of the business and the industry in which they operate in. For example, managers are usually focused on a function such as finance, sales or human resource. A manager who wants to transition into the realm of a leader would first need to understand how his or her role as a manager adds value to the entire company, the community and the industry. When a manager is able to see the bigger picture, then better decisions can be made that would benefit the business rather than the individual.

Ability to multi-task effectively: Most leaders have the innate ability to deal with many things at once. I’m not referring to being on the laptop or smartphone while meetings are going on, as this will probably be more distracting that productive. Multi-tasking effectively deals more with being able to group similar tasks together and work on more than one item at a time. When there is downtime, this period can then be used to review new information or put together a new group of tasks to be kicked-off next.

Recognising trends: A leader is generally able to see patterns and trends in seemingly unimportant data, even without the help of customer relationship management software tools. They are able to make sense of information whilst managers are often only capable of data gathering and some basic analysis of the information captured.

Long term vs short term: Leaders have a long-term view of the company’s direction and the macro factors that affect the business. Their broader view of the situation also gives them an added advantage when dealing with obstacles as they are able to see beyond the immediate issue and make more informed decisions. On the other hand, managers may only deal with short- to medium-term goals and this lack of foresight may limit their ability to make decisions as compared with the strategic view that a leader is able to take.

Ability to communicate effectively: Communication is without a doubt one of the most important skills a leader must develop. Ideally, a leader would be someone who can communicate in a clear message by being both tactful and direct at the same time. A manager without sufficient foresight or empathy tends to be more directive and concise in delivering a message.

Would organisations prefer to hire managers or leaders?

In my view, an organisation needs both managers and leaders for sustainable success. Leaders are usually the ones we see in the limelight, who are highly influential in an organisation. They are also the ones who inspire the rest of the team with their good performance, passion or superb knowledge of an industry. However, they are usually not the ones who would get into the details and execution of projects. This is not an issue for organisations with sufficient structure and headcount to support these leaders but organisations with very leaner teams need leaders who can be hands-on when necessary; failing which the organisation would require the skills and expertise of good managers to fill the gaps. Therefore, in a world where many individuals are able to operate as either a manager or a leader; the ability to wear both the manager and leader hats interchangeably is a highly sought-after commodity.

Talking HR by Pauline NG

Pauline Ng, the managing director of BTI Consultants, encourages all managers who want to become leaders to make the transition but to keep their “manager hats” handy.

We need competent leaders!

LeaderCompetent leader vital for Information, Communications and Culture Ministry  

The candidate should be someone well rounded, well experienced, not too old or too young

FOR some time now, there has been talk on whether culture is a good fit for the Information, Communications and Culture Ministry (MICC). Some believe culture would be better off parked under the Tourism Ministry.

Culture and tourism, to them, are lines out of the same song not quite jiving with communications or information.

Then, there is talk of some areas of duplication between MICC and the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (Mosti). Both should merge as there are common areas, it has been said.

These ministries aside, some folk have been lobbying that a new ministry, the Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) Ministry, be set up with the MICC being done away with.

All this talk has resurfaced now that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, fresh off his election win, is busy selecting candidates for his new Cabinet line-up that might be announced in the coming days.

There is certainly some overlap between Mosti and MICC, making sense for them to be merged into one entity. Arts, on the other hand, could be part of the Youth and Sports Ministry or spun off into a new ministry under Arts and Heritage.

It is not an easy decision, but whatever the outcome, one things is for sure Malaysia’s Cabinet should not be bigger than China’s, which has a population of 1.6 billion, as opposed to our 28 million.

Australia and Singapore have gone though the same phase that Malaysia is going through now in terms of merging and segregating its various ministries. In 2001, Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) was expanded to include Arts.

Over a decade later, the Arts and Heritage portfolios became a part of the culture ministry. At present, the role of the MCI is to oversee the development of the ICT, media and design sectors, public libraries and the government’s information and public communications policies.

On a similar note, Australia expanded its Communications Ministry to include Arts in 1994. Four years later, the ministry expanded to include information technology (IT).

However, in 2007, Arts became a part of the Environment/Heritage Ministry. The Communications/IT Ministry was renamed as the Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy.

Even the United Nations has a specialised agency to deal with technology in the form of the International Telecommunication Union because the role of the Internet and broadband transcends all boundaries.

The vision of Malaysia’s MICC is to be a pioneer in promoting the 1Malaysia Concept based on national principles to achieve a harmonious and gracious nation. The ministry’s main aspiration is to enhance Malaysia as a global ICT hub in the region, to ensure information from all sources of media is accurate and precise and to preserve and promote Malaysia’s heritage and culture to the world.

Culture preservation is vital in the era of the social media, but once there is widespread awareness, culture can be placed under the Arts, Culture and Heritage Ministry, or could even be one of the units under the Prime Minister’s Department or the Tourism Ministry.

There are even suggestions that MICC be part of the Prime Minister’s Department so that it would fall directly under the Prime Minister’s purview. However, whether this is feasible remains to be seen.

Communications and information have become vital because of the digital era, and their role in Malaysia might need to be reviewed. Australia and Singapore felt the “need to change because of the need to redistribute and re-focus its ministerial workload to improve public communications and engagement for an increasingly diverse society in the age of social media and rapid technology progress”.

All this brings us to the next question: Who is best to lead the MICC?

There are many talented people out there, but the industry feels the choice of candidate should encompass someone “well rounded, well experienced, but not too old or too young”. The person, while having sound knowledge of Law and Economics, should also fulfil the most important criterion being savvy enough about the workings of the Internet and the new/social media.

The choice of candidate is important because there is no room for mistakes, unlike the blunders made in the past over spectrum allocation and technology choices. Most importantly, the candidate should not regress but rather, take the nation forward on the digital path.

Friday Reflections – By B.K. Sidhu

Deputy news editor B K Sidhu has some candidates in mind, but they are not politicians.

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Dressing stature

Chinese new president visits Tanzania

Elegant couple: China’s President Xi Jinping and wife Peng disembarking from a plane on arrival at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, recently for a two-day visit. – EPA

JUST when you think there are no new personalities projected into the spotlight, comes the debut of the First Lady of China (Peng Liyuan) last week. Her first foreign engagement was accompanying the president on an official visit to Russia and a few countries in Africa.

When the plane doors opened, people saw a modern elegant lady, unlike her predecessors.

She took the husband’s arm when walking down the stairs from the plane instead of walking behind holding the rails. Most unconventional.

Everyone knows that no matter how independent we are, we need to hold on to our man for support when we are navigating steps on high heels. Especially where there is an audience and we cannot afford to trip.

It took a couple of days before people could figure out what “branded” items she was wearing. The bag she was carrying looked nice but did not have the conspicuous logos of a luxury brand that one can spot from a distance.

Throughout the whole trip, there was only a pair of modest pearl earrings. There were no necklaces, strings of chunky pearls or big and flashy stones.

It was just so refreshing. Now wonder there was incessant news about her in the foreign and domestic media in China.

Given her stature, she did not need to dress to scream, “look at me”. People will be looking and scrutinising her. It reminds me somewhat of Adele. If you have a great voice, you can just sing. You don’t need all the massive accompaniments.

When you are in London or Paris, the crowd who buy designer bags like they are free, without needing to think long and hard over which one to buy, are from China. Here is now someone who has shown that you can look elegant, fashionable and well put together without the need to carry expensive brand names.

I can understand the need to dress up. When one is a young up-and-coming executive, one has to drive a nicer car and carry some expensive branded items to show either taste or success. But as we progress in life, the need to create an impression dissipates.

I like this interesting story about dressing and change in a CEO interview. To change the work culture and have people take pride in their work, the new CEO initiated a “dress like you are attending a wedding” campaign as his first project.

His message was simple. Be bothered to dress up for work because it is important. Let your dressing be a reflection of your professional attitude. When you are a slob, you will be sloppy.

Have you noticed the ladies selling snacks on the Shinkansen? Their hair tied up neatly and makeup immaculate. Uniform is neat, tidy and clean. They wear black cord shoes with heels. They might be pushing a trolley and selling snacks but they are professional and polite. They have their processes. Before they leave the compartment, they bow and say goodbye.

Have you seen the lady who welcomes you as you drive into the shopping centre in Seoul? She is in a black formal looking suit, looking immaculate and welcoming you as you drive into the car park. She does this with pride, like welcoming a VIP. I thought it was too much.

We did try once to dress with the times. During the initial dot-com days, we thought we could dress casual and carry a backpack. After the dot-com craze fizzled out, so did our dressing. It was very difficult to go into a boardroom looking like you are better suited for a different place. You can dress what you like at your office but when you are with clients or in their office, you need to dress suitably so that clothes are not the distraction or the talking point.

As a consultant, I always felt the need to dress well enough to look professional and carry the right demeanour to inspire confidence. Somehow, in the early days of a client relationship, casual just don’t cut it.

It is not right to judge someone by their dressing. However there are many studies that show the impact that dressing and appearance has on the first impression.

Coming back to Peng Liyuan. She impressed on the world stage with good taste, projecting a unique personal style. Let’s hope she is able to sustain the excellent dress sense by not having to wear chunky and expensive branded items.


Joan Hoi is the author of Take on Change. She is hoping that the trend for “no brand” high fashion has been sparked!

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Wife of China next president Xi Jinping

Enterprise SEO Strategies for 2013

Can you believe it’s almost 2013 already?  That means looking at the future of your marketing plan and the new elements at play.  In the world of Online Search, the impact is real and immediate.  A well planned SEO strategy and digital marketing campaign can make sure your organization remains viable against competitors and increases business margins. Investing in advertising with no distinguishable ROI is a thing of the past for most brands.

The problem with Enterprise SEO Strategy is that it can sometimes overwhelm marketing executives. Executives wear multiple hats and don’t have the time or energy to delve into the nuances of technical implementation or stay on the cutting edge of Search Engine algorithm updates and results enhancements.

In order to help large brands and marketing executives make educated decisions in prioritizing search, we have provided a list of the top 3 strategies enterprise SEO campaigns need.

  1. Business Unit & Organizational Alignment – Is your marketing team setting one KPI after another?  Do they live in silos that don’t cross promote sales opportunities? Do you have a clear understanding of where you want to send visitors for particular keywords? Stop the madness!  It’s time to take a step back and really start to integrate across your own teams (whether they be internal, agencies, or both).  Set up a keyword governance strategy so that each business unit understands what their targeted keywords are, why they are targeting them, and how those differ from other business units.  The very nature of this priority alignment and the communication of KPIs allows for strategies that will drive visitors to the appropriate web pages and other digital assets. This also allows business groups to promote each other instead of diluting focus by competing for similar or identical goals.
  2. Technology Changes & Implementation – For those of you operating internationally, do you struggle to manage site content across multiple country code top-level domains?  Do you know if your Content Management System is creating parameters that are causing duplicate content or auto-generating pages in an attempt to provide scalable development? You must have an understanding of how your enterprise technology systems are going to play into your SEO strategy. SEO implementation has to be prioritized in the enterprise marketing plan.  IT departments are notoriously resistant to change, an increase in workload, and being assigned tasks where they can’t see the direct value. The Search Engines change rapidly and developers need to be willing and able to adapt.  SEOs also need to do a better job at explaining why the work is important and what the outcome of the work will be to improve buy-in.  When considering your enterprise search strategy, ask yourself these questions: (1) Do you have a large e-commerce system that generates dynamic URLs that vary based on the entry path? (2) Do you have a translation management system that translates all of your content to all regions? (3) Have you updated your translation glossaries to reflect your localized keyword priorities? If you haven’t thought of these questions yet, you probably need to revisit your global search strategy.
  3. Understanding The Changing Search Landscape – Search changes fast. There were over 20 major updates in 2012 and many minor adjustments. According to Google’s Matt Cutts at SES San Francisco 2012, their engineers are continually working on new updates. Google algorithm updates, like the Panda & Penguin updates, have real search engine impact and have negatively affected the bottom line revenue for many businesses due to lost rankings.  It’s not enough to mitigate risk; brands need to be forward thinking and stretch their boundaries so they aren’t outpaced by competitors.

“You can never avoid people thinking that SEO is an effort to game the system or Google. Many tricks worked in the past, but as Google tries to continuously improve the quality of search results, many tricks do not work anymore. Being successful in SEO these days involves thinking along the lines of great customer service, offering great products and services, being a thought leader, and building brand advocacy online. Eventually this all helps out in building rankings as you gain more natural links that would not be affected by the Panda and Penguin updates.”  – Benj Arriola

Businesses have an opportunity to expand their organic search footprint by getting up to speed with the new enhancements.  Consider the following areas:

  • A renewed focus on thought leadership, content marketing, and social media
  • Managing your Google+ brand page and Google+ Places pages for multiple locations
  • Determine how your organization will use Authorship tags
  • Determine how your audience can engage with your brand on a Google Hangout

If you haven’t at least begun to investigate these strategies, you’re falling behind the curve.  Start to embrace the Google+ world. It’s not going anywhere and users are beginning to adopt it.  Even more importantly your search visibility can be enhanced by rolling out a strategy that makes sense for your brand and locations.

Search will continue to drive traffic for enterprise organizations.  How much traffic really depends on the organization’s alignment, grasp of technology, and flexibility to adapt to the changing environment. 2013 is sure to be exciting, are you ready?

Brent GleesonBrent Gleeson, Forbes Contributor

I write about entrepreneurship, leadership, and digital marketing.

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