Get the Powers to Act from Fresh Ideas

April 9, 2013

Real Fun Begins -- The Customers -- Part 1

Learning is easy, you are just window-shopping what others are up to and consuming what you fancy.  Producing is different, there you have to make some effort and what you produce may not have any taker. Endowed with an almost inexhaustible amount of laziness, our team never suffers from solutions that then need to go looking for problems.

Maybe Relentless, maybe some other books on Japanese marketing. It says that a small market segment you've found in your locale, most likely exist in other parts of the Globe as well.

Guy Kawaski, maybe in The Art of the Start,  keeps saying that the customer of One is a lot better than 100 market research reports!

Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank, a Nobel Peace Prize winning microfinance organization and community development bank, was once asked in an entrepreneurial program by an aspiring social entrepreneur, about where to begin with her rather ambitious project. He replied that his gradually-big project began with just "one woman who was trying to escape from loan sharks"!

I, by instincts and by hard-won experience, know  that if one person truly enjoys your snacks, they stand a very good chance of doing well town-wide, then region-wide and so on.

This is exciting and fun! I've got more than one customer!

Of course, I won't be able to satisfy even this one customer completely, right now. ( My resources will have to grow in response. They will.)

But, who, which company  has satisfied you completely? Google? Apple?

This is exciting and fun!

April 6, 2013

We're Having Fun -- The Competitions

We are having fun despite the numerous competitions. Conventional wisdom has it that when you are small, you choose what others can but will not do, and when your have grown big, you do what others cannot do. We are blurred about what others will or will not do. We are only clear that so many teams can easily do whatever we are planning to do. Encouraging?

We think so and we are having fun, right now.

A few 4 or 5 years back, I met a skinny, nerd-looking kid browsing the Computer book shelves in the Jurong East library, holding a big red book (Wrox Professional series) on PHP in his chest. I chatted up with him and learned that he's been doing some programming for his CCA, sort of hobby/club-like thing in primary and secondary schools in Singapore. Since then, I cannot count how many school kids I've seen with iPad programming,  iPhone programming, C, C++, Java, javascript, HTML5, Python etc.

A few 4 or 5 years back, I read in the newspapers about an app that an ITE team had done to win a competition. That app integrated so many different mobile technologies! To give a big picture for those outside Singapore, the pecking order of Education here in Singapore is like:

secondary schools -> ITE -> junior college or polytechnic --> university and so on
secondary schools ----------> junior college or polytechnic --> university and so on

The kids are a lot savvier than me about tech!!!

The same holds true for kids in Myanmar! Malaysia! Vietnam! Indonesia! Huh ...

They can easily do whatever we are planning to do. Encouraging?

Let's Consider Another "Friendlier" Competition

My son's English seems a lot better than mine in many aspects. He's a funny kid with interest in lots of things --- time machine, time travels included. His dad, I am funny in my own ways and with my own funny interests --- thought experiments included.

So let's put my son in our English major honors class about 20 years back. 20 years back, my English must have been really poor, my "cultural deficit"(one of our teachers' remark on my lack of knowledge about English songs and movies!) was about 99.99%, listening and speaking may be about 25% and so on.

So, what will be his total scores? I am a bit harsh, I gave him F+p9.

Our teachers, Professor Daw EJ Kangyi,  , Professor U Han Tin, , Professor U Thi Ha, Professor Daw Khin Lay Myint, and other lecturers are all noted for their "generosity of spirit". Still with their personal and professional integrity, they wouldn't give him more than F+p3 or F+p5.

"F+p5" means "Fail but with potential to pass in 5 years' time."

His English is good. But he won't understand why Othello was so prone to jealousy, why Mrs Bennett was so eager to marry off her girls to rich gents, why Milton lost and regained paradise, how so easily Mark Antony could turn a population against Caesar's assassins, why Lamb dreamed of "Dream Children," why langauge policy cannot be decided with Chomsky and Halliday and science alone, and so on.

In techno field too, we have apps to sort one's necktie collection, games where one tries to unroll a toilet roll faster than another player, apps which help you count how many pets you have and so on.

Just last month, we read in Harvard Business Review about Big Bang Disruption. Hey, this is in HBR, written and vetted mostly by business profs.

Are such disruptions so fast and furious?

At least Peter Drucker, Steve Jobs, and Amazon disagree. According to these bumpkins and simpletons and ignoramus, we have about 20 to 30 to wait till such disruptions catch up with us!

So, we are having fun. If we chose, we could even wait. We won't wait though ;-)

Even primary kids can do what we do better than us. To feel it really, take a foreign language class, and see that all native pree-teens and early teens talk far better than you do. But don't stretch your conversational topics beyond Girls Generation, Psy, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Halo, Crysis, Transformers etc. 

Mastery of a language means a lot more than fluency. Are all English men and women and girls and boys Shakespeare or Jane Austen or Arthur Conan Doyle or Bernard Shaw?

You get it now.

So, we are having fun.

April 5, 2013

We're Having Fun -- Talented Human Resources

We are having fun. Previously we had problems in this area. But once we stopped blaming and instead took responsibility, owned the problem and planted ourselves in the driver's seat, the problem seemed to downsize itself and almost solved itself. Then we started having fun.

Previous Thinking

A PhD in tree studies, a PhD in vine studies, a PhD in flower studies, a PhD in soil studies, a PhD in water studies, a PhD in weather studies, a PhD in sun and wind studies, a PhD in rain studies --- all just to decorate the Headquarter? But before Facebook became Facebook, even if we gave them a tree for free, they may not have room to plant it in their Harvard dorm.

A PhD in food sciences, Five-Star Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean chefs, a PhD in diet studies, a PhD in hygiene studies --- all just for the company canteen? But before Google became Google, the two co-founders may not be able to eat all that these cooks can whip up everyday.

Current Thinking

We may not be able to architect our HQ, but we may be able rent a nice room in a nice neighborhood.

We may not be able to provide international cuisines at our canteen, but we may  be able take buses and cabs to a nice restaurant once in a while.

Honda may now be making Honda Jets but when they started their Engineering Dept was more or less a bicycle shed.

After this pivot in our thinking, we started having fun!

We're Having Fun -- Cruising Levels

We are having fun at cruising altitudes. What we are doing is fun-easy for us and for our customers as well. Join us! We have an exciting journey ahead.

Aviation Analogy

Don't let turbulence freak you out says

Airplanes pass through turbulence all day, every day, and how often have you heard of an airplane actually crashing because of it? At cruising altitude, it just doesn't happen. And in other stages of flight it's, at most, very, very rare. It takes a lot more than bumps along the way to down a plane.

When you're in a turbulence, you get out of it by getting to your cruising altitude. To get there, you may go up or down.

We're now at our realistic, pragmatic altitude, and therefore having fun making meaning.

Investment Analogy

J.P. Morgan’s “The Sleeping Point” says:

A worried investor asked J. P. Morgan this question in the early days of the Depression: “What should I do about my stocks. I can’t sleep nights.”

Morgan replied: “I’d sell down to the sleeping point.”

That doesn't mean we are reducing our stake. We have just reduced our unnecessary emotional baggage. As cognitive psychologists like to say, when emotional involvement becomes balanced, when you become relaxed and loose, your cognitive immersion can go up and so can your creativity.

We're now at our realistic, pragmatic "point", and therefore having fun making meaning.

Please join us!

It's fun --- useful meaningful profitable fun!

We're Having Fun --- Meaningfully

We are having fun meaningfully. We are doing meaningful stuffs: meaningful for ourselves and meaningful for our customers. Please join us!

Millions of kids in the developing world (or the so-called emerging markets) do not use English well. They may not need English for literary, cultural, moral/character development purposes since their mother tongues can serve those purposes really well.

But they do need English to learn science, technology, business and to expand their social world.

We help them learn English better, faster, more cheaply --- online.

After English, when we have "earned" the right for expansion, we'll expand to other subjects crucial for their livelihood.

Isn't it noble to share or give away "tickets out of poverty" to these kids?

To those cynical folks, the book Succeeding When You're Supposed to Fail: The 6 Enduring Principles of High Achievement  has confirmed my long-held suspicion that working without a purpose or meaning gives us a higher chance of developing Alzheimer's in our brains when we grow really old.

  1. A brain with a meaning,
  2. A life with a purpose,
  3. A heart with a vision,
  4. A spirit with generosity
... that's what we endow our co-workers with at our team!

April 3, 2013

We're Having Fun In Spite of and Because Of Serious Problems

We are having fun. We are doing fun stuffs: fun for us and fun for our customers. Join us!

You wonder: Why can you have so much fun? Don't you have serious problems? Are you geniuses?

We do and we still have fun. No, we are just plain normal average common folks!

You wonder: How much programming do you need to write a useful software?

Basically, we don't know.

We'd like to pose our own question: How much English do you need to win a war?

We just have a clue. According some published documents, maybe for the Six Day War, the Egyptian command needed about 18 pages for instructions to their forces while the Israeli command needed about 3 pages. Actually, the Israeli command did not give instructions, they just talked about some "intent" which is about 6 or 10 words in English.

We'd like to pose our own question: How much English do you need to win wars?

Maybe more than the Egyptian command and the Israeli command needed together.

We'd like to pose our own question: How much English do you need to write about war?

Sun Tzu wrote on a bamboo scroll as shown below. The English translations, without commentaries, are all very short. So, the answer is, "It cannot be very much."


Deep thoughts or conscientious domain knowledge or customer insights do not need purple prose and complex language to express.

So we're having fun. With honesty, with confidence, with lots of love for our customers!

April 2, 2013

Education Software, Meaning and Cry Babies

Yesterday, a kid's mother asked me to help his son with Math.

My son solved them all, I solved them all, both in many different ways. ... Then we wonder, "Will the kid get it?"
  1. Millions of people can solve such problems, faster and better than our father and son team.
  2. And thousands of websites.
None of these people, none of these websites ... become really helpful to this kid. If they are, I'll tell his mother about such sites. Maybe they did not know Gandhi's Lucky Charm.

In one of his last letters, he told Indian politicians to visualize the most pitiful face in India, and to ask themselves how what they are going to do will help that face.

My website, if I do one, will be world best, not because I am clever. Because I am kind and honestly want to help.

Birds never find food in riverbeds. Crocs never find food in mountain tops. It's not about brains, it's about desires.

I desire to help. So I find helpful solutions. I have stumbled upon hundreds of such solutions.

Thus, I cannot and will not relax. I must stay the course; to drive away misery of such nice kids, like Levine, which is his name.