Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Dragon is Thirsty

With my usual gung-ho spirit, I innocently accepted the assignment early this year to speak to different key personnels of various enterprises in Hong Kong and China. Before I left, I told Joshua and Joanna that daddy is only gonna be away for 5 very short days, yet deep down, this verbal assurance left me wondering if that was really so.

A very humbling learning experience indeed, a friend commented that I was flying in aeroplanes and taking trains as if I was taking a cab ride from Buona Vista to Punggol. Indeed, I arrived Hong Kong by noon on the 16th March and delivered my maiden presentation on 'Innovation and Creativity: Unlock the Creative Potential of your Company to Overcome Economic Challenges' by 2pm. The challenge of addressing a group of senior executives from companies like 3M, China Aeronautical, Sky Technology, Fujikon International, etc, was simply mind-boggling. That said, in my opinion, it was a good start basing on the responses and feedback of the participants. The other comfort, it was delivered in English. By 7pm, I was rushed to the Hong Hum train station for a 3 hours journey up to Guangzhou. The journey continued with rushing from airport to airport on a daily basis from Chongqin then to Beijing and Tianjin (both cities in one day) and then to Shenzhen before rushing through customs back in Hong Kong 5 days later.

That said, I must admit, it was a good stretch, in more ways than one. Not least of which, it has at least afforded this wide eyed 34 year-old a ringside view of China's rapid changes. Compared to my previous trips to China, the landscape has very much changed in a short span of 5 years. It was no longer so much a culture shock as a business shock, particularly in their strong business models and quality management matters. Today, the business environment in the cities I spoke in has advanced so rapidly, it left me wondering how long would it take for the whole of China to advance beyond what Singapore has accomplished in the past 40 years.

The biggest (and most horrific) challenge is to speak fluently in Mandarin. Thank the good Lord that ACS had kept C in the Anglo-CHINESE School, despite how ACS-ians are infamously known for our competency (or lack of) in our mother tongue. Thank God for a wife who knows my every weakness and thus got me a Bestas electronic handheld dictionary on the birthday this year. Everywhere I went, I felt like it was the most precious 武功密集. I was religiously translating and rehearsing my talking points every waking hour, especially after some vehement feedback. With all honesty, I value 'honest' evaluations like "老师有时用中文不能完全表达意思", or some even more blunt 'request' to "改善语言表达能力". Apart from the fact that the Chinese speak speak Putonghua, I struggled constantly to un-learn translating words from English phrases.

The consultancy firm that hired me assured me that the task would be an easy one since we Singaporeans are highly regarded for our "law-abiding-ness" and our strategic East meets West approaches. I was shortlisted for the task primarily because of my Masters from US as well as my other business ventures and experiences. Yet, during my in-depth discussions with the participants, it was obvious that the knowledge I had may not be directly applicable when dealing with the mainland businesses (less resistance though from HK). The 'stretch' here takes on a new level where I need to constantly adapt and adjust to meet the local needs and their expectations. In addition, acceptance did not come automatically even after "boasting" about my credentials and experiences in businesses. Some outrightly pointed out that my my young and boyish looks (o Lord... do preserve my youth) was an instant disadvantage and one even jokingly commented that I ought to dye my hair white the next time I return.

Jokes aside, I thank the good Lord for the opportunity to witness how Singaporean needs to open our eyes and be less complacent of our achievements. What we achieved in the past decade, in my opinion can be easily superseded by a double or even triple jump with how fast the China's gates are opening up to the rest of the world. I have not ready solutions to how we can even try to 'catch up'... new innovative programmes/models? Education as a fast way to build capacity? Government to take the lead to make bolder political moves for further partnerships? A friend I confided in even suggested that it may even come a day where we are imported as 'foreign talents' to be chauffeurs, tutors, nannies to the Dragon babies.

For now, I thank God for the an overall positive feedback considering my many fears and weaknesses. On a scale of 1 to 10, the report card says it all for the following seminars. (Shenzhen had a different feedback form)

Course applicability 内容适用性
Hong Kong- 8.09
Guangzhou- 7.47
Chongqin- 7.5
Beijing- 8.63
Tianjin- 8.00

Content organization 内容编排
Hong Kong- 8.27
Guangzhou- 7.31
Chongqin- 7.94
Beijing- 8.75
Tianjin- 7.71

Activities, Discussion, Practice & Case Study 活动、讨论、练习及案例
Hong Kong- 8.55
Guangzhou- 7.5
Chongqin- 8
Beijing- 8.75
Tianjin- 8.41
Further Comprehension 对内容有深入认识
Hong Kong- 7.91
Guangzhou- 7.06
Chongqin- 8.38
Beijing- 9.00
Tianjin- 7.35

Presentation Skill 表达技巧
Hong Kong- 8.81
Guangzhou- 7.83
Chongqin- 8.00
Beijing- 9.00
Tianjin- 8.06

Ability To Simulate Participants' Involvement / Interactivity 促进学员参与
Hong Kong- 8.45
Guangzhou- 8.25
Chongqin- 8.19
Beijing- 9.25
Tianjin- 8.94

Applicability to Business Needs课程适合工作需要
Hong Kong- 8.09
Guangzhou- 6.97
Chongqin- 7.06
Beijing - 8.00
Tianjin- 8.53

And since it was a seminar conducted in Chinese, the following feedback were really very heartening....

- 觉新颖但广告意识强

- 创新的灵感来自于身边的任何细节,善于思考

- 很适合目前创新型发展的理念,建设细致的工具和技巧

- 通过互动引出结论,道理应让人留下银翔

As my good old school motto says it best...The best is yet to be

(just wondering when I will ever be able to start blogging in chinese.... LOL)

Friday, April 03, 2009

My EQ... on Facebook? QUite accurate indeed

Facebook has a certain magnetic appeal in getting people to respond online... the frightening thing about it- to share (or more explicitly-to make public) private personal information. Yet, highly intrigued to find out whats my EQ- its an easy trap to 'play along' ????

You usually have it going on emotionally, but roadblocks tend to land you on
your butt.On an average day, you're quite happy, together, and content. You live
your life well.Your emotions aren't always stable, but you can go along with the
ups and downs pretty well.You tend to be motivated, energetic, focused, and
level headed.You see the world pretty rationally, and you don't tend to over
dramatize things. When things are bad, you know they eventually have to get