Thursday, June 30, 2011

Common sense….

I am on the last lap of my sojourn in this fast paced Red Dot. Time flies. It seemed only yesterday I sat down in the corner clueless, wondering what had I got myself into. Almost 12 months later, after all the up and down of so many challenges, one question keeps popping up in my mind and in my head. Not an easy question to answer. Not because it is a toughie. More because everything went so fast, it all seemed blurred.

What is the most valuable learning from my time here? I can think of a few. One I have written about earlier, the self-deception. Looking back, the most valuable is something we take for granted in our everyday life. We have been doing it since we became responsible adult, ‘akil baligh’. It’s about how we deal with problems. In facing a problem, the first thing we do is find the reasons for the problems. Then we look for ways to solve the problems. In deciding which solution to choose, we consider the available solutions from many angles. We weigh all the possibilities before coming to a conclusion on the best solution. Common sense isn’t it?

Surprise, surprise, policy analysis which the mere description scares many people is similar. Identify and define the problem. Determine the root causes. Design alternatives to mitigate the problem. Select criteria to assess the alternatives. Project the outcomes of each alternative under all the criteria. Then decide. Sounds familiar? Common sense isn’t it?

If it is common sense and we are so used to doing it, how come in many organisations policy analysis is taken lightly? May be its time for us to be our true self in our work.  Do the normal things we do in facing problems. May be, just may be, we can find better solutions in our policies.

All it takes is common sense…..

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Self Deception…..

A few years ago I was introduced to a book which I never bothered to read. Once I got the book in the mail, to the book shelves it went. Untouched, unread for years. A few months ago,  in a leadership group, the facilitator introduced the same book. Being a forgetful person, I did not even remember I had the same book lying on the boook shelves back home. I went out to buy the same book albeit it’s the new expanded edition. Guess what happened? This book suffered the same fate as the earlier edition. To the shelves it went. Well, this time it was a bit better. A couple of chapters were read. May be I was being influenced by the title ‘Self Deception – Getting out of the Box’ which I took literally to mean get it out of the box and to the shelves and equates it to act of reading the whole book.

A month or so ago, I was fortunate enough to sit in a talk on the same book. All I can say, it was one of the most rivetting talk I had the fortune to sit through.  If my memory serves me right, the trademark ‘yawn every five minutes’ was absent in the talk.

So what is this book all about? To quote the publisher’s website on this, the book is all about:

You often intuitively know what a right action toward another person is.
It's 4 am, my kid is crying...I'll go care for her.

An act contrary to what you feel you should do for another is called an act of "self-betrayal."
I'm tired - let Jill do it.

When you betray yourself, you begin to see the world in a way that justifies your self-betrayal.
I do everything I should do ... work hard, help in the house ... I'm a good husband.

When you see a self-justifying world, your view of reality becomes distorted - you begin to deceive yourself.
Jill is so lazy... insensitive... slacking off...

We call this "entering the box."

Over time, certain boxes become characteristic of you, and you carry them with you.
I'm fine ... all our problems are Jill's fault because she's lazy, insensitive...

By being in the box, you provoke others to be in the box.
(Jill's thoughts about you): He's so cold and dismissive...always blaming me ... what a jerk...

In the box, we invite mutual mistreatment and obtain mutual justification. We collude in giving each other reasons to stay in the box.

It’s all about ‘being in the box’ and the negative impact it brings. How do we get out of the box? Read the book, I guessed, it’s the best way to learn on how to get out of the box. For now, the following steps will be a good start:

  1. Don’t try to be perfect.  Do try to be better.
  2. Don’t use the vocabulary – “the box” and so on – with people who don’t already know it.  Do use the principles in your own life.
  3. Don’t look for others’ boxes.  Do look for your own.
  4. Don’t accuse others of being in the box.  Do try to stay out of the box yourself.
  5. Don’t give up on yourself when you discover you’ve been in the box.  Do keep trying.
  6. Don’t deny you’ve been in the box when you have been.  Do apologize, then just keep marching forward, trying to be more helpful to others in the future.
  7. Don’t focus on what others are doing wrong.  Do focus on what you can do right to help.
  8. Don’t worry whether others are helping you.  Do worry whether you are helping others.

Good luck and stay out of the box……

Nowadays, asking myself the question ‘Am I in the box?’ is a ritual ……..

Monday, June 06, 2011


Without realising it, this blog got its 10,000 hits sometime ago. A major milestone considering periods on ‘inactivity’ in the last few months.. It took a long time to reach. Over three years, if my memory serves me right. This blog went from a totally anonymous one to a semi anonymous. May be it will be a ‘not anonymous’ blog sometime in the future. Being anonymous had its advantages. You can say whatever you like. But then again, people can say you are being irresponsible, not transparent and not accountable, the hallmarks of good governance. It can be like what the Malay ‘peribahasa’ says ‘lontar bantu sembunyi tangan’. 

You can only remain anonymous to certain extend. From time to time, someone will figure out that the person  behind this blog is you, especially if the can add two and two together in the various entries.

A lot of things had happened since the beginning of this blog. Ideas came, ideas went and ideas dried up. It is not easy to get ideas what to write. I have full respect to the bloggers who managed to update their blogs everyday consistently.

Coming back to the ‘a lot of things had happened’ part, Brunei now can play football LEGALLY. Thanks to relentless and dedicated effort of those people who loved the sport, we are now back in the football family. We can now occupy and make full use of the ‘Goal Project’ building across the ICC. Looking beyond the surface of all the happenings in getting our beloved country back in the footballing world, Brunei is indeed a truly blessed country. Blessed in the sense we have perfect timing and able to ride the ‘political environment’ of FIFA. FIFA is at an all time low and it needs all the support it can get. One of the best way to get support is to be seen as ‘fair’ and ‘caring’. Giving the nod for Brunei to be back in the football family is such act. Well, this is just my postulation….

Nevertheless, job well done to the Normalisation Committee. Let’s play ball…….

Now Brunei can look forward to be co-host of the 2030 world cup if ASEAN wins the bid. Quite how 10 host countries takes 10 slots and participate in the world cup is another matter altogether….