Thursday, December 1, 2016

Book Launch

Book Launch
HB Academy
Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur
1stDecember 2016


Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured to be here and to be among the best of the best in the incredible discipline of Human Behaviour, the business of this Academy. I must admit I am not familiar with the Academy. But from what I have heard and read, I am thoroughly impressed. HB Academy founders, I found out, were psychologists, counsellors and behaviourists. Strange people this flock, but they represent the “humane” in humanity, I reckon!

And I am even more impressed with the vision and mission carved as the Academy’s guiding principles.

I like the phrase “Being Humane, Humane Being” adopted as the mantra for the Academy.

Behavioural psychology is a discipline little known and least understood. Perhaps even under-rated in the realm of knowledge. Human behavioural psychology is even more daunting to most people. It is a subject meant for the so-called obscure experts. To most people, it is as exotic as a study on metaphysical or transcendence.

Charles Dickens
Trying to understand ourselves by our actions and assessing how we outwardly behave isn’t easy. ‘Knowing thyself’ is always a challenge. Little wonder that Charles Dickens once said, “A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” 

Dramatist Samuel Beckett, one of the propagators of absurd theater, once said about himself, “The danger is always in the neatness of identification.” He was talking about all of us, in fact.

Samuel Beckett
Behavioural psychologists have been trying to unveil the mystery of the human mind and to seek insights on how the mind operates. I am sure it is a fascinating discipline. Perhaps there is more to it than psychology as it involves the academic disciplines of psychiatry, social studies, sociology, and even anthropology.

This is your area of expertise, not mine. But like all things around us, nothing stands alone. I have also been intrigued by human behaviour in my years in the world of culture and the arts, literature, journalism, the corporate world.

As a journalist I covered conflict areas, went to war zones, met not just victims of wars but the perpetrators too!

I met some of the worst despots and dictators. Some of them have no remorse about causing miseries to others.

I have met great statesmen and women such as Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, JP Kalam and Vaclav Havel,to name a few. And I have interviewed Saddam Hussein and Gulbuddin Hekmateyar. Who are these people? Why are they so successful and in some cases so brutal? I have no answer to those questions. You do! 

Margaret Thatcher
I have had many experiences working with people – from being an officer in a government outfit to chairman of various companies and institutions. I have even set up my own companies. I subscribe to the idea of the need for a “platform for synergy”, as the Academy succinctly puts it, and in doing so, positioning key values appropriate for the eco-system.

I was in theater for many years – an accomplished actor during my days. I have acted in plays by Shakespeare, Hendrik Ibsen, WS Renda, as well as by our local greats including Shahrom Hussein, A Samad Said, Hatta Azad Khan, and Zakaria Ariffin.

I learned a lot from my involvement in culture and the arts over the last many decades. I learned about discipline, about the need to be adaptive, about engagement and, more importantly, about having the right mindset. Delivery matters on stage as much as it is in companies and institutions.

I am proud to announce that the memoir of my 50-year foray into the world of theater is to be published soon by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), entitled Jejak Seni: Dari Pentas Bangsawan ke Media Prima Berhad. I started when I was a kid awed by the fantasy and grandeur of the world of Bangsawan performed by a troupe on an open field next to my house. I ended up as the Chairman of Media Prima Berhad, the largest and the only integrated media company in the country. What a journey it has been for me.

I was the editor of a powerful newspaper group for some years (1992 – 1998). Journalists are a different breed of people altogether. I was famously fired in 1998 for my association with someone. They say good soldiers don’t die, they just fade away. On the other hand, good editors don’t fade away, they get fired. And I started a private school soon after. For many years, I was on my own until I was appointed Chairman of DBP and later Media Prima Berhad.

I learned a valuable lesson along the way, on stage, as editor, as chairman, as a businessman: People need to be motivated!

Had I engaged an academy like this to help me all those years, life would have been a lot easier for me. Take an example of my position as chairman of a company that employed 4,700 people at one time. And I knew then that we had a 4,700 people-problem.

I believe companies must take advantage of the good services offered by the Academy. I can say this, from my experience, you are needed, more so now than ever before. The dynamics in society have changed. Things have changed on the corporate front. Creativity and innovation matter now. We need creative and innovative people. Companies that are involved in the creative content industry or related industries need a new breed of people altogether. Not just those with impressive paper qualifications, but those who can adjust, adapt and, more importantly, understand the notion of street-smartness.

I believe strongly that we are far behind in the behavioural sciences. We are a nation that believes in getting people to do things. We drive. We want productivity. We lecture on the need to develop proper work ethics. We want to emulate others in their work culture. We expect workers to perform miracles. But we fail to understand the very core issue that is being encompassed as your mission: Improving productivity through human attitudes and behaviour.

Let me repeat: Human attitudes and behaviour.

That I believe is the Holy Grail of human resource. The very construct that makes up a successful workforce.

My question is: Are we paying enough attention to these?

We talk about bringing the country up to the next level. We talk endlessly about training, retraining, and providing impetus to nurture a sustainable and productive workforce. We spend millions on training. We get motivators, even celebrity preachers, to inspire. But memories are short, interests and commitments are shorter. We don’t even understand why we need to train people. Values are not changing. Productivity suffers.

I believe the workforce is the most valuable asset of any company. Yet it is easier said than done. We are dealing with a workforce that covers people of my generation, those of Gen X and Y, and the Millennials too. You can’t cut and paste to please everyone. They have their wants, needs and demands. No such thing as one-size-fits-all.

Where lies the difference? The Academy knows better. We are talking mindsets here, attitudes and values – things that HR departments can only scrape the surface in understanding the real issues. They need help.

Taking the cue from the company I was with. Being a content creation company, Media Prima Berhad has to harp not just on content and materials but CURATION, LOCATION and DIFFERENTIATION. Old ways have long gone. Even in a company like that, age-old wisdom about managing people has become less applicable.

Nicco Mele’s book,The End of Big: How the Digital Revolution Makes David the New Goliath, gives me the jitters. It is as thought-provoking as it is scary. Small is Big now. Big is in danger. The companies worth billions are run by a handful of people. There are, however, companies that employ thousands, yet making less profit each year. 

Productivity sucks and bureaucracy is killing whatever is left of the chances to be better. Understanding the new dynamics of business today is critical.
This is a book that will change our perception of how we use technology. We will never look at technological advancement in the same way again. Mele asks whether it is now the end of ‘Big’. 

He makes a very compelling argument on how our new-found connectivity is affecting the media, governments and politics, but more so businesses.

But it is his argument that “the thumb drive is mightier than the sword” today that warrants attention. Mele wants us to think hard how radical connectivity is pushing power to individuals and away from established institutions at an alarming pace. Yes, there are promises and hope. He admits that he wrote the book with a dark view of the future. He sees trends that are both powerful and dangerous, of which many current leaders are oblivious. But he believes the power that technology has given us can create something new, something different.

We must take heed of Mele’s warning about not allowing ourselves to be cowed by technology but to embrace it to build a better future. However, those are things that make sense when we look at the big picture. What about the effect on the human mind? How is technological advancement today creating deeply conflicting moral impulses on human beings? And how are people corrupted by power, wealth and such?

We must understand that our actions are not based on impulses alone but are affected by factors such as genetics, social norms, core faith, attitudes, the environment, and people around us. I read somewhere that behaviour is impacted by certain traits each individual has. In short, it is a complex realm.

The Academy must look for new opportunities to help businesses, institutions and governments. The sky is the limit. Make the Academy relevant especially to industry. You will fly. 

I must congratulate the Academy for the good work so far. And for coming out with three more publications. I am sure that, other than in book form, they are also to be available online – as part of the Academy’s move to promote itself digitally. Having these publications online is a smart move to encourage “converts” to the discipline that you are in.

I shall refrain myself from talking about the books for they have been introduced earlier. I have found out that the Academy has published books about issues other than training and helping companies to get the best from their employees. You can’t go too far wrong when you have publications with catchy titles such as Trapping the Cunning Fox or I See, I Hear and I Conquer!

And the three books today – I must say that you have bought me over. The titles are incredibly sale able: To Eat or To Be Eaten, The Flintstones Management (wow!), and Ordinary People, Extraordinary Leadership: Humane Being, Being Humane. They are written by people who know what they are talking about. Some of them are legends in their own right.

During my years in the media, one thing that annoyed me most was the inability of my people to tell stories effectively in not too many words. Headings matter in a newspaper business. Titles matter in a drama or film. Great movies are best remembered when their titles are catchy, crisp and cool. Casablanca, Star Wars, Forest Gump, Antara Dua Darjat, Penarik Beca, to name a few.

Half the battle is won if you have books with titles like I See, I Hear and I Conquer or To Eat or To Be Eaten.  Guys, whoever came out with those titles, he or she is not only a marvelous copywriter but an incredibly clever marketer.

With a little nudge, a bit of re-branding and clever PR, I am sure the Academy will be better known to the public and particularly its target market and stake-holders. You have great stories to tell. Make behavioural science hip, classy and sexy. Companies need that. The country needs you. Learn from David Beckham. He is not even the best midfielder in the history of English football. He hung his boots some years ago. But today he is iconic. We remember him while other football greats have become mere footnotes in the history of football.

Learn branding from him. Brand well. Branding is everything today.
Moving forward, the Academy needs re-branding. That is my area of expertise. 

Again, I commend the publication of these books by the Academy.

With the lafaz, Bismillah…, I hereby officially soft-launch the publication of Flintstone Management by Prof Tan Sri Amrin Buang and Prof Leow Chee Seng; To Eat Or To be Eaten: Managing Y Generation by Prof Dato Wira Awang Kechik Hj Abdul Rahman, Mohd YusairyJamil and Prof Dr Leow Che Seng;and Ordinary People, Extraordinary Leadership  by Tan Sri Mohd Shukor Hj Mahfar and Prof Dr Leow Chee Seng.

Thank you.