Banker to the Poor

I presented to my friend a book, “Banker to the Poor” by the Nobel laureate, Prof Mohammad Yunus.

Prof Mohammad Yunus who is known as the “banker to the poor” for making small loans in impoverished countries, is now doing business in the center of capitalism — New York City. In the past year the first U.S. branch of his Grameen Bank has lent $1.5 million, ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, to nearly 600 women with small business plans in the city’s borough of Queens. Grameen America says its loan repayment rate is more than 99 percent. In fact, U.S. President Barack Obama recently announced the creation of a $100 million microfinance growth fund for small lenders in the Western Hemisphere to allow poor people to continue making loans despite the global recession (1).

It is interesting to note the emerging of new subject in economy called Social Business. It is based on Prof Yunus work, complimented by a statements made by The President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development Bjorn Stigson, “Business cannot survive in societies that fail.” As Yunus noted, “Half of the world’s population lives on two dollars a day. Over one billion people live on less than a dollar a day.” (2)

Does it means a failure to capitalism as socialism has miserably failed in the Eastern and Central Europe? Does it means the West is learning some wisdom from the East? Leave it to time to tell us the answer.

(1) Reuters

Know the problem member

Let me continue some of the discussions on meeting by introducing different types of problem members.

1. The Latecomer always come to the meeting late, making a big commotion, stopping the meeting and wanting to be caught up.

2. The Early leaver drains the energy of the meeting by leaving before it it ends. There is nothing worst than continuing the meeting with people slowly drifting out.

3. The Broken-record keeps bringing up the same point over and over again. Use the group memory to remind such members.

4. The Doubting Thomas constantly puts down everything, is always negatives and assumes you are wrog until you proves yourself right.

5. The Dropout sits at the back of the room. does not do anything or he read a book or iPod. He tends to be quite disturbing to the chairperson. You’re trying to run an energetic creative meeting and there he sits yawning or reading the newspapers.

6. The Whisperer is constantly whispering to a neighbour, and can be very irritating. It is difficult to concentrate with people whispering and gigling near you.

7. The Loudmouth talks too much and too loud, dominayes the meeting and is seemingly impossible to shut up.

8. The Attacker launches pesonal attacks on another member or the chairperson.

9. The Interpreter always speak for other people.

10. The Gossiper introduces hearsay and gossip into the meeting.

11. The know-it-all uses credentials, age, legth of service or status to argue point.

12. The Backseat driver keeps telling the chairperson what he should be doing.

13. The Interrupter starts talking before others are finished. Often he does not mean to be rude but becomes impatient and overly excited

Islam and the US

I read with great interest Obama called for new effort for 2-state solution on 4 June 2009. Before that in Turkey and Cairo Obama had called for new beginning between US and Muslims. “America and Islam are not exclusive,” he said, “and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

To start with, there has been a long love-hate relationship between Islam and the West. Muslims in the early days saw modern world with skepticism and prejudice. Maryam Jameelah wrote in Islam and Modernization, 1966, “Modernism is a militant revolt against religion and all the spiritual values it represents. From its birth place in the West, this malignant cancer has invaded virtually every country in the world destroying the indigenous cultures of the East, so much so that it has become the prevailing universal faith”.

Samuel J. Huntington in The Clash of Civilization, Journal of Foreign Affairs, 2003 asserted that world politics is entering a new phase, in which the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of international conflict will be cultural. Civilizations-the highest cultural groupings of people-are differentiated from each other by religion, history, language and tradition. These divisions are deep and increasing in importance. From Yugoslavia to the Middle East to Central Asia, the fault lines of civilizations are the battle lines of the future. In this emerging era of cultural conflict the United States must forge alliances with similar cultures and spread its values wherever possible. With alien civilizations the West must be accommodating if possible, but confrontational if necessary. In the final analysis, however, all civilizations will have to learn to tolerate each other. He hypothesized that the fundamental source of conflict that will occur between nations and groups is based on the clash of civilization.

Despite the fact that some people believe that conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq is due to ‘oil politics’, it is hard to deny the fact that the events that lead to 9/11, the Gaza massacre (at the end of Bush administration) proved significantly that the Bush administration is very much go against Islam, the belief that is shared by majority of Muslims worldwide.

Obama’s speech was perceived with a mixture of goodwill and skepticism. Iran warned that “beautiful” words alone could not remove the distrust the Middle East feels toward Washington. To date, significant rifts remain between the peoples of the United States and the Muslim and Arab worlds. New data from the U.S.-based Pew Center show Arab approval ratings of the U.S. president have improved, generally, since Obama took office, but are still low in most Arab countries

What more Obama can do?

Obama needs to address the Israeli-Palestinian issue thoroughly. He has to indicate a willingness to reestablish sustained dialogue between Israel and Palestine. Muslims believe this is the root of the problem as Muslims worldwide feel the pain and suffering of their brothers in the Palestine. He has to emphasize the necessity of mutual trust and he should firmly express his confidence in that dialogue process. Obama should indicate his broad policy goals which include detailing the road map to independent state for the Palestinians. To my mind, in general, US shouldn’t seek any territory any more. US shouldn’t seek to capture any resources or whatsoever, which might be seen as arm twist tactic of the world superpower.

Muslim people needs to be better educated. Muslim world needs to liberate its people from bullheadedness, poverty and diseases. Muslim countries especially in the Middle East must practice total democracy. Reform is needed in politic, social and economy. Terrorism must be condemned. Last but not least, the faith must be upheld.


One of the interesting phenomenon that often creeps up in meetings is group thinking. Often we see members are quick to agree on any topic of discussion. This is the weakness of having meetings more than 2 hours or near the lunch time.

The etiology of group-think.

1. Time pressure (I got to beat the traffic jam..I got to fetch my children from school)
2. Lack of free expression especially when the chairperson is too autocratic.
3. When the decisions are already been decided by the chairman.
4. When members are too careful to speak-up, they are afraid to make any comments. Often because they scare that their ideas are going to be shut down by the chair person. At he end, they choose to shut up.
5. When members look at the problem just from one paradigm. Hence, they already close their mind to another options. As a result they see just a single solution.
6. Sometimes it become a taboo that if someone asks a lot of question and presents a lot of view, the meeting process would be too long and decisions become more difficult to reach consensus. Some people would argue on the process and the decision making procedure.
7. Anxiety to speak-up and argue is common. Social phobia is a condition when people feel anxious to speak in public and subject to feeling of being scrutinized in public.

Signs to watch out for group-think.

1. When everybody start to nod their head on every suggestions then the time may be right to stop the meeting.
2. When people are tired of constructive ideas and criticism they go to the extend of downgrading “the opposition”.
3. When somebody try to speak but stop as to censor himself from further talking, he may be doing self-censorship. As a result, others may do the same too.
4. When everybody rationalize on the same point.
5. Many a times members will say, “let’s just agree”

Group-think is highly undesirable as it decreases objectivity and openness to new and diverse viewpoints.

Few steps to improve the meeting process.

1. Encourage diversity of viewpoint.
2. Legitimize disagreement.
3. Generate new ideas instead of evaluating ideas.
4. Discuss the pros and cons of each ideas.
5. Don’t just brush off new ideas, instead, think through it more than once.
6. Examine the group process.

Hedonistic Culture and Anhedonia

Hedonism is the Greek work. Originally called hedone, which means sweetness. Understandably, sweetness is the feeling that has to be appreciated by taste. Gradually, the concept was generalized to feeling of pleasure related to smell and hearing. By and large, now hedonism does not apparently apply to taste and feeling any more. It is generally a metaphor to describe any pleasant feeling, sensation or emotion.

Hedonistic culture refers to culture which seek pleasure as the only ultimate goal, and the cultural doctrine believes that everyone should live with the ultimate goal to seek pleasure. Pleasure can be derived from many sources. Most common to lay persons that I observe in many part of the country especially the place which I reside is either procession of wealth like having jewelery for ladies and having many modified or luxurious cars for men, The rich man would love to collect few branded cars and big bungalows as a show of affluence and good fortune. To my mind, I believe, it is under their subconscious as consciously, they are well-thought and religious.

Another interesting observation is regarding the gratification for most men and some women derived from polygamous marriage. Men, as many said, are polygamous in nature. Women in some cases shown more relax and less hostile attitude toward polygamy as it is allowed by religion. Combining the two perspectives, in general, the attitude toward liberal marriage is gracious. Could that be some form of subconscious, well-repressed form of hedonistic culture in the Malay dominated, submissive and well-compliance Islamic society.

Anhedonia, on the other hand is the absence of pleasure or lack of ability to experience a normally pleasurable activities. It is one of the key feature for depression, a mood disorder characterized by low mood, loss of energy, loss of weight and lack of interest.

In popular culture, Anhedonia was the title Woody Allen intended to call for his 1977 film, Annie Hall. This romantic comedy revolved around two persons and follows the up and down relationship of two mismatched New York neurotics. This comedy is basically about a Jewish comedy writer , Alvy Singer who used to ponder the modern quest for love and his past romance with a singer, Annie Hall.

The twice-divorced Alvy knows that it’s not easy to find a mate when the options include pretentious New York intellectuals and lifestyle-obsessed writers, but Annie seems different. Along the rocky road of their coupling, Alvy weigh in on such topics as endless therapy, movies, the absurdity of dating rituals and drugs. This film didn’t focus on anhedonia per se, but displayed emotional expression of two neurotics as it blended the slapstick and fantasy from such earlier Woody Allen film’s trade mark.

In conclusion, I believe that we need to check the drive for pleasure as we don’t want to live in a culture which subconsciously derived most gratification based on repressed hedonistic wishes. That would create a dilemma of a counterfeit society. Similarly, anhedonia is the worst feeling to experience as only the depressives experience the complexity of extreme pleasurelessness.


Team Building

It is a vision of all leaders to develop high performance teams.

Team members work together to accomplish the purpose. The team in which an individual team member agrees on who will do a particular job, how schedules will be set and adhered to and how the group make decisions.

Allow me to suggest some common approaches to team building.

1. Leaders have to show direction. This can be done through clear vision and mission of the organization. Leaders must develop some sense of urgency. Otherwise, the organization won’t move to the next level. Teams usually work at their best level in urgent situations.

2. Get capable members based on skill not just personalities. Skills at individual level such as interpersonal and problem solving skills are important in order to have pool of diverse human potentials. Skills at organizational level such as managerial and technical skills would help the team to advance in their work.

3. Concentrate on action. Meeting without action is useless. Attributes like open attitude, flexible and focus on the agenda are needed from the chairman of the meeting. He should allow open discussion to deal with individual concerns at the end of the meeting. More important is the follow-up action to matters that have been discussed.

4. Clear regulations are vital. Rules on certain expected behaviours promote focus and commitment. The team member who violate rules and regulations should be reprimanded and firm action should be taken when necessary.

5. Plan short and long-term strategic tasks. Strategic planning needs to concentrate on SWAT analysis and individual performances have to be measured using KPI.

6. Challenge the team members with new ideas. Regular brainstorming activities should generate new ideas. Like it or not, team leaders have to read extensively in order to generate new way of doing things. Team members have to be receptive to new and innovative ideas.

7. Spent time together. Many high performance organizations allocate some space for their members to interact both formally and informally. Creative organizations even allocate some room for their staff to relax and engage in some kind of recreational activities.

8. Use power of positive reinforcement. This is the skill that need to be learned by all team leaders. Positive reinforcement promotes feeling of appreciation and the need to contribute back to the organization.

Children’s Expression

Drawing is no doubt, a way of expression for children. Children search complexity through drawing. They communicate to the world through drawing. But, unfortunately, adults used to have an idea that children communicate through speech only. Adults often missed visual expression in the form of children drawing. Most of the time, everything that is seen can be translated into visual form.

What do we study when looking at drawings created by children?

1. Pattern
For instance, when there is a problem with the father, the child will put him at different position far away from the rest of family members. Do not forget the fact that boundaries, fences and spaces provide the way of describing differences among patterns especially the relationship patterns in the family.

2. Sequence
Child’s sequence is indeed a guide to the development of his/her strategy; where to start and where to end the drawing.

3. See how equivalents develop
For example, see how children draw a 4-legged creatures with equivalent in the number and position of the legs .

In conclusion, study on drawing by children should invoke a strong sense of respect for inventiveness and creativity.

Do we, adults learn much from them?