Sunday, May 10, 2009

The POWER of FEEDBACK @35 Principles (I)

by Joe Folkman, John H. Zenger (Sharing by Ching Ya on 22 April 2009, EXCO meeting)

Click HERE to preview book
Broad areas are outlined in the Content Titles.

1. Reacting to Feedback
2. Why Did I Get that Feedback
3. Improving Your ability to Accept Feedback
4. Why Change?
5. Deciding What to Change
6. Fixing Weaknesses or Building Strengths?
7. Making Change Happen
8. Making Change Stick
9. Working Harder or Working Smarter?

Take a second look at these content titles, it's not difficult to see that it follows the approach - WHY? WHAT? HOW? It's a very systematic approach of getting one to self-aware what's exactly happening, the reasons behind it and its impact, before one is convinced to do the carry out the next step - "what can I do to improve my weakness". After telling one "what to improve on", next will show one "how" to improve, i.e. into the operational part - to make it happen. Otherwise, it's talking/writing in the air. The next time is sustainability (assuming these are good practices). Hey, think about it. Isn't this the way we approach things? In fact, it's the guiding principle of how to get things done! Seems like, most of the self-help book goes for this approach too!
Quick Reflections...

0. Introduction

Feedback is powerful: The book says, "Those who look for and accept it position themselves to be more competent and capable." "Those who resist, reject, or avoid it doom themselves to the limitations of their own personal insights - which may be right or wrong, but they will never know." "Without feedback, we are flying blind."

  • Among these 3 sentences, I can't agree more than the last one, "Without feedback, we are flying blind". Feedback is a response to what we do, how people perceive it, be it from their personal or professional perspectives. It raises our awareness on how things are like from another perspective, which might have an impact on the outcomes.
  • When one provides feedback, certainly, it does not pay to just say a yes or no, good or bad. But what's the reason behind that particular feedback is important. It must be back-up with some prior experience/observations or known consequence/impact, or even anticipation. This would be helpful.
  • As the first sentence say, "Those who look for and accept it position themselves to be more competent or capable." is really a yes and no answer (from my perspective). Yes, Those who look for feedback are certainly clever - because they know by doing so, they are tapping on more brains to cover more ground, and prevent possible pitfalls. On the other hand, it doesn't mean that one has to accept every single feedback that comes in. Then in the first place, something must be very wrong in the initial plans! One has to analyse the feedback for its relevance. Sometimes feedback come from those who has the relevant forms of exposure, experience and expertise; somethings feedback come from those with "biased" exposure. So, it's a 'skill' to filter the relevant kinds of feedback to be taken into account. In other words, the one who asks for feedback has to 'process' the inputs too. His/Her role is not as a coordinator of inputs!
  • Of course, I agree totally with the 2nd sentence. Never shut the doors. Don't gather feedback for the sake of being part of the bigger exercise - I mean, for the motion. It should be genuine. Afterall, uphold true spirit of gathering feedback!

As it elaborated the benefits of getting feedback from the various perspectives, it also pointed out "Although people are receiving more feedback, changes in their behaviour do not seem to be taking place."

  • True, true... I guess, it goes back to how genuine are we when asking for feedback - why do we ask for feedback? How are we to receiving (especially) negative feedback? Are we open to hear the not-so-good side of ourselves or are we trying to hear what others don't agree with (our own perspectives) and start to become defensive? This is pretty obvious through face-to-face interaction. One's tone and body language tell - no matter how one masks his/her body language with any reasons (or excuses!).

Another point is, "People who receive an abundance of helpful feedback early in their careers often find, later in their careers when they become managers, the feedback seems less open, honest and straightforward, and more politically loaded."

  • This is true. When one is new to the job, new to the environment, one would normally receive feedback to help him/her to integrate into the environment. Where do these feedback come from? Well, the "seniors" (aka peers) or the supervisors! However, when one climbs up the career ladder, there are lesser of such people around. Moreover, it's also an expectation that one, at this level, would possess higher degree of self-awareness and maturity and of course, sensitivity when dealing with issues or work! Of course, competition kicks in. Healthy competition is desirable! Nevertheless, who knows what's behind each others' agenda? Sigh...


1. Reacting to Feedback

Principle 1: Asking others for input increases their expectation that you will change in a positive way

  • This is dangerous! This reminds us, what's the purpose of asking feedback? If it's something we are going to act on (for improvement of processes or ourselves), by all means, go ahead. However, the follow-up has to be clear and obvious - what aspects of feedback is accepted and what changes/improvements are going to be made, and the change should be observable (if not soon, would be effected in the next similar activity).

Principle 2: If you receive feedback but do not change for the better, you will be perceived more negatively than if you had not received feedback.

  • Fully agree! Then why waste other people's time and effort to provide feedback? Of course, as said early, one would not expect all feedback to be accepted - because we recognise that there are information gaps that the person who provides feedback not aware of. Nevertheless, it's good to let others know the feedback is not considered or the suggestion is not feasible. I guess, it's basic courtesy to close the loop.

Principle 3: You will not change what you do not believe needs to be changed.

  • Then what's the point of getting feedback if one is so confident and sure that things go the way one believes? Aren't you inviting trouble when it's likely to hear opposing views or suggestions? Worst still, it deepens others' impression that one is just doing lipservice... Oh! one term to describe them - the High & Mighty ones! So, who bother to ask!

Principle 4: Rather than accept criticism, we tend to denounce not only what is said, but those who say it.

  • True... psychologically... we 'switch off' automatically - obvious through body language and tone. As pointed out in the paragraph, "Minimal denial" presents itself as rationalisation. One either rationalises that the feedback is not important to change or one believes that things are not so bad. In "Moderate denial", confrontation comes in to those who provide negative feedback to minimise the importance of the feedback. People in "Advance denial" would act as experts and denies the existance of problems (hm... to the extent of ignoring the problem).


To be continued... in another post when I get hold of the handout :D

Wordle: Feedback

Wordle: sst.common

Friday, May 01, 2009

Singapore’s Toponymics: Revelations about History and Cultural Change

Talk at the National Museum on 29 April 2009 (Thursday), by Dr Victor Savage
Came across this talk at the National Museum Website while surfing for some arts event in May/June. Didn't expect such a big crowd to turn up... I was early, arrived at 6.30 pm. There were no more than 10 boys in white school uniform, a few 'arty-looking' people. To my surrpise, the entire gallery, that could fill up about 300 people was almost completely filled up when the talk began at 7.15! Wow!
The title, "Singapore’s Toponymics: Revelations about History and Cultural Change" sounds a bit chim. "Toponymics" - what is it? Well, Dr Victor Savage explained, it's about names of places (Topos = place; Onomia = name). Indeed, the slightly more than an hour talk was very captivating! Apart from it's being something that the layman could easily understand (there's no jargon at all!), it's about Singapore, about our History that's brought across in a pretty humorous way! I enjoyed a lot!
Here are some "enlightenments":

Names derived from cartography (historical maps), myths and legends, poems, flok songs, literature, etc
It's the first time I see those 19th century maps with the Singapore island already littered with some familiar names like Changi and Tampines (Tampenus)!

(1a) Indigenous naming processes: Malay names
This includes Pasir Panjang, Serangoon. Ah! But don't know to believe it or not, the name, St John, was actually a Malay name 'misheard' by the British!

(1b) Indigenous names tied to sea gypies, sea nomads (e.g. Tanah Merah) in the 19th century.
From the 19th century map, we find familiar names with lots of Tanjong (e.g. Tanjoing Rhu and Tanjong Changi) - something to do with the sea nomads!
Interesting, Changi was known as Franklin Point. Nevertheless, the location is no longer there as it's 'covered' (er.. extended?) by the reclaimed land!

(2) Impact of Indianisation in the region
Revisited the fact that Singapore’s name was changed from Tumasik Singapura. It started off as Temasek!

(3) Western Colonialism: pin-prick colonisalism, port, forts, cities
- Western names: Batavia (Jakarta)
- Philippines after Philip of Spain
- Local names: Batu Putih to white rocks (Pedra Branca) – because of the waves that brushed against the rock like a white frog – that’s why it’s named after white rocks.

(4) Independent Singapore: Somehow, the way the places were named evolved as Singapore went through 3 historical phases: 1959 Internal self governace; 1963-1965: Malaysia; post 1965: independence as Republic.
- Numbered Streets (street 1, lorong 2) are introduced
- Pinyinised Chinese Street names: Yishun (from Nee Soon); Bishan; Zhujiao (from Tek Kah); Zhenghua (from Bukit Panjang)
- Same names used over again: Ang Mo Kio Town has 46 roads named after it.

Street names in Singapore - What do street names reflect in Singapore
(a) Myths and Legends
1. Sumatran Prince seeing a animal and being told it is a lion. There came "Singapura"
2. Bukit Merah where blood spilled on hill? Bukit Larangan (reverence to Royal area) was red laterite soil said to run with the blood of Javanese raiders;
3. Radin Mas was named after Radin Mas Ayu, a princess of the Javanese Royal Court. Her name literally translates to Princess of Golden Beauty. (Read more here)
4. Others include Sisters’ Islands; Pulau Brani (Island of the Brave); Blakang Mati (now Sentosa) 5. Learnt that prior to become Islamic (i.e. before the arrival the sumatran prince) – Port of Singapura was previously a Buddhist port.
6. “Fusion” religion – Kusu island – Tortoise island – Islamic (karmat) + Chinese’s 九皇爷

(b) Physical Geographical terms/cardinal directions
1. Bt Timah (Tin Hill), North & South Bridge Road
2. Singapore island was known as Alam Melayu as “Pulau Ujong” – island at extreme of Peninsula.
3. Temasek according to Wikinson refers to sea or lake – from tasek (Sungei – river; kang is river) Toa Payoh (Swamp)
4. Singapore river flows along the east-west axis. Therefore what’s above is North (e.g north bridge road). Everything the south is the Asian district; North are the Europeans. Religious temples, etc. are in the north. Chinese, Malay, including Jews.
5. Singapore River is the first port of Singapore

(c) Vegetation
a. Kampong Glam
b. Tampines

How yellow comes about as a royal colour for the malays?
- Introduced by Zhenghe to the Sultan.
- Learn that it's current practice that yellow is avoided among the attendees of any royal functions in Malaysia as only royals will don in yellow.

(e) Ethnic/religious communites
1. Muscat Street (Arab)
2. Sultan Gate
3. Chinatown (Kreta Ayer) 牛车水
4. Water came from the spring (Spring Street)
5. Duckling place – labourers only rent the beds.

(f) Names of People resident in Singapore
1. Europeans: Captain Pearl from Indiana
2. Raffles Place
3. Maxwell house
4. Read bridge
5. Rodyk Street (a lawyer)
6. Keong Saik Road (Chinese businessman)
7. Tan Tye Place
8. Haw Par villa (Burmese Chinese)
9. Dickenson Hill Road (named after the pastor)

(g) Names of Aesthetic landscapes
1. Lavender Street
2. Orchard Road

(h) Names after other people's houses
During the colonial times, houses are named! In some places, the roads/streets are named after these houses too!

Thinking aloud... a History Trail where students look at the street directory of Singapore and look out for names that are related to the characters or events in Singapore. That's all over Singapore island, where they could go to those places to learn the history of those places and trace the changes of these places over time! Of course, they could also surface legendary stories or interview seniors of the stories revolving those places!