Optimal Performance and Thinking In OrgaNizations - The OPTION for the world of chaos in management and leadership today.
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It is about the amazing capabilities and speed of the human mind and its host of functions that are important for the survival and advancement of Man and his community. These include learning, thinking, memorizing, communicating, balancing, stabilizing, creating, visualizing, decision making, problem solving and many more. Undoubtedly the mind plays such an important role in our lives that many are preoccupied with its proper development and care. Besides parents who are the first to influence and teach the minds of their children, we have teachers, tutors and counselors assisting them in the field of education. In the field of science, we have specialists involved with the study, improvement and even the repair of the mind such as psychologists, psychiatrists and a host of other specialists divided into sub-branches of science that include neuroscience, anthropology, biology, metaphysics, computer science, linguistics, sociology, genetics, mathematics and many others.
I started off as a beneficiary of an educated mind from a young age due to the belief of my father in educating all his children. Having raised 6 children with my wife in our own family in a similar but more 'innovative' way, I feel confident of sharing my understanding of the workings of the human mind to help others improve their own. It was 'innovative' due to greater exposure to technology that I had in my era compared to my father plus my life from adolescence onwards took quite a different path. Air travel was more accessible and I have had the opportunity to visit over 30 countries in my lifetime. I also had opportunities for work in multidisciplinary industries as well as for service at Church and other non-profit organizations. All that further opened up my mind. Despite the many achievements in my life, I still regard myself as an ordinary man with extraordinary accomplishments. I have always felt my achievements were not due to inborn gifts that I was endowed with but were due to learned mastery of many ordinary daily processes of life that anyone could achieve but did not due to lack of self awareness in how the mind works and its powerful potential.
It was only much later in my life that I started to do more serious research about it by reading latest writings and discoveries on the mind and the brain. With the advent of the internet, I could glean much information and could participate in online courses and discussions with leading researchers in the field I was interested in. In my Creative Support Centre office in Kuala Lumpur in July 2004, I worked with a team to help me start off an on-going research focused on Optimal Performance and Thinking with the objective of helping Organizations to become more effective. This is the OPTION offered to organizations facing unprecedented challenges in the fast changing world today ie. Optimal Performance & Thinking In OrgaNizations.
The optimal performance of any organization rests on the synergy of its people. Inevitably increasing the effectiveness of an organization involves improving the effectiveness of each individual besides looking at the organization as a whole. Whether they are leaders, supporters or followers, each individual has a complex mind where increased awareness of oneself and the relationship with others is necessary to increase the ability of the organization as a whole to futurize itself for greater success. The optimization of the capabilities of the human mind to cope and excel in an environment that is fast changing is therefore an underlying strategy of the fastlane initiative on working with individuals where the OPTION stands for Optimal Performance & Thinking In ONeself.
Personal thoughts of this initiative were kept in my mind from the moment a decision was made to start the focus research in 2004. In 2005 was the beginning of recording my personal experiences in the blog that became a useful process to extricate volumes of useful information from my mind to be documented online. You can read in this early post how the idea of the existence of the Body Mind and Spirit was mentioned with no further elaboration. This concept was probably kept in my sub conscious mind that helped create an alignment of thoughts which lead to a realization event that occurred thousands of miles away from home a year later.
In Oct 2005, I was in a cafe in New York City where a French born Chinese lady shared with me about her interest in the Eastern philosophy of Taoism. There on a piece of paper napkin, I wrote descriptive single words to create a 3 column word list under the heading of Body Mind and Spirit that ultimately relates to the preoccupation of man with Family, Money and God. She was elated with what I had produced and asked to keep the paper napkin that had my illustration. Frankly speaking, I myself was elated that I could come out with the illustration with a mere play of words. It was one of those 'Aha' experiences where I was suddenly enlightened to understand why my life and hence my blogs and eventual websites were always centered around the 3 main themes. When I went home, I refined my illustration to produce an introductory page of a series of writings that I have entitled, My Heart and Mind meant for PC view only. (The 3 column word list, with some additions, is now mobile friendly to view here.)
This fastlane blog is therefore representative of the Mind theme which has played a central role in my work or professional life. Much of the researched information will be shared here focusing on how from one optimal mind connecting to another, a whole organization or community can transform to achieve best results which I have termed as Optimal Performance with best thinking or Optimal Thinking.
At the Taoist center in New York City
A charming old cafe at the busy street in NYC
From simplicity to complexity is what the mind is capable of and for a blog intended to focus on MIND matters it will use the aid of highlighted hyperlinks as in the above paragraphs to allow the reader to click for more complex details or explanations while keeping the blog simple and fast to read.
There has been continuing research on the human brain to better understand how it works and its relationship with the human mind. Advanced knowledge is obtainable with the use of neuroimaging techniques such as CAT, SPECT, PET or MRI to allow brain scans.This allows scientists to identify which parts of the brains work to provide different functions of the mind and body. Individuals with partially damaged brains due to an accident resulting in observable loss of certain mind body functions gives clues to the relationship of these functions to the different parts of the brain. Much can still be discovered with on-going research and it is no wonder that many universities in the world today, especially in the US, have a brain or cognitive science department.
It is interesting that a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine had asked over time a hundred thousand other mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social worker etc from all over the world if they have attended a lecture where they have been given a definition of the mind. Surprisingly he found out that only a low 2 to 5% responded yes. He had gathered a group of 40 scientists from a wide range of fields and came out with a definition of the mind that all could agree upon which states, "The human mind is a relational and embodied process that regulates the flow of energy and information." Now this is something so modern and abstract sounding but still has good logical sense that everyone could be united to agree and accept it. You can hear his talk at Google Tech Talks on video here.
Throughout history, there has been differing opinions and philosophies about what the mind is or whether it has unity or is separated from the body etc. I wasn't caught in the complexity of various opinions of philosophers or scientists as from young I took the simple path of turning to my own observations which came from a 'turning of the camera' on to myself as well as to others and making notes during my life time. This was simply a natural process for me of thinking about my own thinking as I observed myself which has a term known as Critical thinking that generally refers to high-order thinking that questions assumptions.
To me, the mind is the central processing unit of our human system just as the CPU is in a computer system. I appreciate my mind like how I appreciate the computer. I don't have to understand totally how it works inside! My approach is to treat the Mind as a black box where much can already be learnt by observing the inputs to the mind and how it relates to the output. From such personal observations, I began forming many of my own hypothesis or theories about the human mind, not just of my own mind but of others too that I have had the privilege to associate with over my lifetime. This I have done through active engagement in networks of the family, business and several non-profit social organizations. I get a kick later in life by the readings, as part of the research I started, on what the scientists and professors have to say from their scientific discoveries as I find there is close correlation of these discoveries with my own discoveries from experiences and experiments of my life time.
How do the messages in the photos relate to what this fastlane blog is about and what's in my mind?
A reporter after a Nobel Prize award ceremony went up to the Jewish laureate to ask, "Can you tell me why is it that a significant number of Jews have won the Nobel Prize in the past years?" The Laureate simply explained, "Well, when we were young, our fathers taught us to always ask questions." The reporter paused for a moment and responded looking perplexed, ".. but why?" The laureate quickly replied, "Why not?"
“Only the one who does not question is safe from making a mistake.”
—Albert Einstein --- From a letter to Gustav Bucky, 1945. AEA 037-462
Following the novel definition of the Mind, ie. It is a process that regulates the flow of energy and information, we see that it plays a predominant role in our ability to perform well in any situation that requires an optimal flow of information and energy. Performance is the act to fulfill tasks or roles given to us and just about any task given to us will require the energy to do it as well as the information as to what to do, how to do or when to do it. The philosophical ones may even ask why do it but whatever our traits may be, if we do not get the information we need or have the energy to do it, little or poor performance will be the result.
When we talk about Information, we think about Learning. It has always been my belief that anyone can learn anything if he or she has been born normal without any brain damage. From the moment of birth, the baby begins absorbing much information very quickly and naturally without any teachers teaching the principles of the subject. I am always fascinated with the learning of a language and recalling that I first learned the English language by simply listening to both my parents who spoke to me in English. From little babbles, I soon progressed to a level where I could talk in sentences that had clear meanings using the words consisting of nouns, verbs or adjectives arranged in the right places or sequence. I did that quite naturally without anyone teaching me the principles of the English language and had greater difficulty trying to understand the rules of English grammar when taught to me at school. I just felt more comfortable by using the method of how it sounded to me than needing to apply grammatical rules and I was fine doing that for the rest of my life speaking or writing near perfect English. I say near perfect as I do make mistakes and often spell "then" instead of "than" due to typing what I hear rather than applying what I know. Another example is in using the apostrophe "s" and misspell "its owner" with "it's owner" due to not understanding or remembering the principles of using the apostrophe.(You can click apostrophe for the hyperlink explanation)
Yes, we are natural learners and can learn anything but the mind can learn something more perfectly if it concentrated on learning the rules or laws governing the thing we are learning about. That is the sophistication and complexity that the mind is capable of achieving without which exact mathematical formulas cannot be derived nor can a man be able to travel to the moon and back safely. The reason being that just half a degree off in calculation of the flight direction can lead to the rocket to miss the moon by thousands of kilometres as the distance to travel between the moon and the earth is over 350,000 km which will magnify any error in a directional setting. (Yes you can click distance to see the hyperlink for how the distance is determined)
To summarize, we all can learn naturally but the degree of sophistication or complexity of the information desired will depend on the task or role given to us to be fulfilled. Thus the amount or depth of information on music in playing the piano for instance will vary depending on whether we are to perform at a Church meeting or at a Concert for classical pianists. What we will later discuss is how our minds can be trained to be at different states of learning suitable for different types of information needs. Let's now touch on regulating the flow of energy.
When we talk about Energy, we think about the strength or force in doing something. That is the simple understanding. The study and explanation of energy can also be more detailed as found in the various branches of science and philosophy but the simple understanding of it will suffice for now. Without energy is without life and we know that in everyday living. The basic source of energy for Man is found in nature from the food, water and air we breathe in not forgetting sunshine. The body system as we understand it obtains energy from food sources that we take in that is broken down through chemical processes in our body which can store and release energy when required. Science has established the brain organ to play a significant role in the regulation of such processes without the need of the mind to think conciously about it. It seems to be self regulating or something that is not dependent on the concious mind. The concious mind however can affect brain functions and thus the self-regulating functions as well. Example if the mind is put in a state of alert due to fear of an external threat, the whole body seems to be put geared up for it by preparing to release more energy making us feel more tensed and reactive. Blood pressure will definitely rise as the heart automatically pumps faster to enable faster blood circulation that carries oxygen and energy sources for the entire body. Calming our mind will reverse the body's reactions to make us feel more relaxed and at ease.
To summarize, Energy levels in our body system are regulated sub-consciously without us thinking about it. However, our state of mind can affect the regulatory processes of the body that regulates energy flow. Hence we will later discuss the various states of mind that change our energy levels to meet appropriate demands of the performance activity desired.
As every modern child today will be put through an education system considered necessary for his or her future success in life, achieving academic success becomes a very important goal for families. Different cultures will have different approaches to helping the child achieve this success. Culture of the parents after all is one of the determining factors of the state of mind of the child ie. whether it will be optimal for learning or not, noting that each culture has its pluses and minuses in their methodology. You can read about the difference between eastern and western education due to differences in philosophies in the following two studies archived here and here.
What is common in the academic world is that examinations are an important part of grading the student that reflects his or her competency in the area studied. The rigidity of exam questions and the subjectivity of the assessment on the other hand by graders due to their varying moods/emotions when marking papers do raise questions if the examinations method of education should be abolished as published here.
The wisdom I employed, when I was old enough to have wisdom, about the time when I transitioned to secondary or middle school, was to do my optimal best in order to keep my parents happy, gain more freedom from parental control which came with good grades and a futuristic thought that getting good grades would maximize my options at the time when I would need to make a choice for my career advancement. So I was determined to succeed academically as the following photos portray :
So how did I achieve a state of mind that would give me the academic results that was desirable?
There were several factors in my personal life that I feel were helpful. Firstly I had a father who believed in education as he raised himself from poverty to become a man of success through education by receiving scholarships from the British government to qualify as a professional surveyor in England. He worked till optional retirement age with the government as the Chief Surveyor and later started his own professional survey company that he closed at about 88 years of age about less than a year before he passed away. He left behind the imprint of the importance of diligence or hard work and shared with me how much he suffered and endured learning advanced mathematics in his land surveying course of even sitting on the toilet bowl memorizing the formulas. From my early years of struggle in mathematics, I soon realized I needed to develop self-discipline to study, practice and apply the theories and formulas I was learning. Soon what was difficult and impossible soon became miraculously easy and I learnt the advantage of the ability to score maximum marks in mathematics as you only need to derive the right answer and you get full marks. It was different with essays and subjective questions where you tend to lose marks for every question you attempt as the grader is reluctant to give you a perfect score. Not so with mathematics.
As a developing country, the government had always emphasized on Science and Technology. This influence together with that of my father in scientific or logical thinking made me focus on these subjects of the academic world. I soon developed the habit of logic and reasoning thus accelerated the development of my analytical and logical left brain. Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Modern and Advanced Mathematics became my pet subjects to score top marks but not without a focus or concentration in understanding every class or lesson that was being taught. I had always made sure that whatever lessons that were being taught to me in a day in school, I would be able to understand it enough to recall it again when it was time to study and memorize for the dreaded examinations. If I missed something or couldn't understand what was being taught, I would readily raise my hand with a question to seek an answer. With good teachers that I had, they were able to help me get the understanding that I sought for. Revision of what you already understand in class is therefore so much easier during the preparatory time for examinations. I therefore rarely needed any additional tuition classes or special tutors for the subjects in school except for mathematics when I wasn't getting it in my early years in secondary or middle school.
With focus attention, exercising my logical and analytical mindset to learn and maintain a self disciplined working style at school and at home, I soon got the habit of learning that helped me to excel in any institution of academic learning. I learnt that repetition helped to strengthen my memory to be able to reproduce the information when questioned in an examination paper. However it is understanding and logic that helped me know how to apply the right theories or formulas to the relevant questions that can sometimes be tricky to intentionally confuse the student who only memorized the answers but did not understand the underlying logic and reasoning behind the question.
In summary, to achieve academic success is nothing more than developing a system of learning in your mind. Self disciplined focus or developing good habits of the learning process therefore becomes crucial to the aspiring student for success in examinations. I must add that positive energy that comes from motivational teachers or mentors from family or friends is an important ingredient to provide an optimal climate for the student to have the initiative to make right choices and follow up on acting on their choices. Without the positive energy or motivation, the foundation necessary for optimal learning may never be built at all in one's mind and the student will find continuous learning a struggle while others will never stop learning with or without examinations.