Nov 5, 2016

Dex's Book Review:Crisis Tales

Lanny Davis is a lawyer,crisis manager,consultant,author, and television commentator who counsels individuals,corporations, and others on crisis management and legal issues.Larry served as special counsel to President Bill Clinton and was a spokesperson for the President and the White House matters concerning campaign finance.He graduated from Yale Law School,where he won the prestigious Thurman Arnold Moot Court prize and served on the Yale Law Journal.

In today's wired world,a small piece of information,whether it is rumor or the truth,can go viral at an instant making scandals being tried in the court of public opinion.

In Crisis Tales,Lanny takes us through his guidelines of crisis management: Tell it all,Tell it Early,Tell it yourself.He tells us his real stories behind famous clients' very public scandals and how his creation of five rules manages to diffuse the scandals.

When the Watergate scandal broke out,the management team of President Richard Nixon made the fundamental mistake in crisis management-deny,deny and deny.These denials gave the journalists plenty of time to dig more into the scandal and the more they dug,more truths surfaced.Ultimately,President Richard Nixon had no choice but to resign.

In each chapter of the book,Lanny details to us his handling of the crisis of his clients under different circumstances,like in the case of Martha Stewart, who was accused of insider trading.In Macy's shoplifting case,it was accused of being bias against minority shoppers,the blacks.And in the case of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship,a newly married man was found dead while on honeymoon.Royal Caribbean was accused of trying to cover-up the tragic news.

In his five rules of crisis management,Lanny advises the need to get the facts out and put it into simple messages and to get ahead of the story.He also advocates the need to fight for the truth by using,and politics.And lastly,never represent yourself in a crisis which Lanny got himself embroiled during the Ivory Coast election in 2000.He was accused of being a lobbyist for Laurent Gbagbo who was defeated in the presidency election which Gbago claimed was rigged.And by defending himself against the accusation,to his chagrin,he had broken the same rules which he advocated in crisis management.And it was a lesson well learnt for Lanny.

Crisis Tales provide a wealth of sensible advice for handling crises,whether it is businesses,institutions,politicians or personal life.

I have two politicians in mind to recommend to read this book.One is a Chief Minister who is accused of corruption in millions by purchasing a bungalow below market price.And the other is a Prime Minister, who is accused of corruption in billions by siphoning the nation's investment fund into his personal account.

Or should I advise them to give Lanny a call?

Rating: 8/10

Oct 19, 2016

Reading books leads to long life

Wow!I did not know this!
Reading can prolong life!

There are several websites on this topic and I will provide just one link for your reference and which I would like to quote the following extract:

“Cognitive engagement may explain why vocabulary, reasoning, concentration, and critical thinking skills are improved by exposure to books,” they write. Second, books “can promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival”, they say.

In Carl Honore's book's In Praise of Slow which I have reviewed in this blog, he advocates us to go slow in the way we do things as the world is moving too fast to the extend that our quality of life has been compromised. Reading books is one of the recommendations by Carl for us to relax our stressful lives. Not only does reading gives us a sense of relaxation but also calmness.In other words,it is a good way to destress ourselves.

In another book by Paul J Zack which I have also reviewed,he believes that oxytocin in our body plays an important role in our bonding with society through the building of trust and empathy. Since reading relaxes our mind which improves our cognitive functions,I believe it can also increases the oxytocin level in our body as proven in the many tests presented in the book.

As a tip for your reading,it is always better to read in a quiet room,without television and radio.This will gives you a better concentration and makes your reading much more enjoyable.Choose a book that is of interest to you and once you managed to click with the book's contents,you would feel a sense of joy and satisfaction in your reading.

I have been reading quite alot lately and I usually read just before dinner and bedtime.Frankly speaking,reading does makes me sleep well and feel fresh the next morning. Furthermore,with a better cognitive function,it is indeed a great way to start the day.

As an icing on the cake,many people do not believe I am already 60 years old!

Oct 18, 2016

Dex's Book Review:Chocolate Fortunes

Lawrence L Allen is a former senior executive for both Hershey and Nestle and was deeply involved in both companies' effort in China.He has spent more than twenty years building consumer brands for multinational companies in China.

As China opens its door to the world for business,a huge market of  more than one billion people emerges which offers a huge market  potential for the multinationals to capture and establish their products in the market.

And Lawrence with his vast marketing experience in China,details in this book how the world's  five biggest iconic chocolate players,Hershey,Cardbury,Mars,Ferrero and Nestle compete in this market and how they overcome a smorgasbord of marketing complexities.

China is a vast country and while its population seems homogeneous, culinary taste preference and even the national regulatory laws can be different among the many provinces.

The first major challenge was finding the right leaders for their China organizations.With the marketing environment at its infancy stage,to train them on the 4Ps (or 5Ps) of marketing can be a daunting task.And with a xenophobic society and cultural differences between the west and the east,it is indeed challenging to win the hearts and minds of the Chinese consumers.

As soon as the container ships arrive,logistic problems begin.The insufficient  supply of cold chain transport hampers the efficiency of the distribution channels.

Marketeers of each organization compete aggressively-from price war,packaging and retail distributions.Furthermore, they have to adapt marketing strategies according to some Chinese customs and also the belief in the Yin and Yang.
 Not only do they have to compete among themselves,copycats from the local manufacturers seep in slowly into the market which the consumers have become accustomed to,thus making the war for the chocolate fortune even more crowded.

While some of the Big Five profiled in Chocolate Fortune has its own identity and strategic vision to become the Chocolate Emperor of China,not all will win the crown and it will be interesting for you to find out who is/are the successful one.

By devoting one chapter to each organization,Lawrence is able to detail not only the marketing strategies but also the history background of each organization.Written in easy to understand conversational prose,Chocolate Fortune provides a wealth of sensible advice on marketing strategies for doing business-big or small,national or international.


Oct 13, 2016

Dex's Book Review: in praise of SLOW

Carl Honore is a journalist (and a speedaholic) who has written for the Economist,Observer,National Post and Houston Chronicle. And while researching this book in Italy,he was slapped with a speeding ticket.

The first thing you would normally do in the morning is to check the time to make sure you are not late for work.You try to rush to office but is caught in a traffic jam.And there are work assignments to complete which you cannot finish but to bring it home.Instead of cooking for dinner,you buy some fast food for the family to save time so that you can finish your company's work at home.While you do your work,you children and husband will be on Facebook and emails.You most probably will worked till late night and get tired and stressed up the next morning.As this routine keeps repeating, your body cannot take it anymore and you fall sick.If this scenario sounds familiar to you,then this book is recommended for you.

For the past hundred years,we have been obsessed with speed.Our culture  teaches us faster is better.But in the race to keep up everything suffer-our work,diet,health,our relationships and sex lives.

Now there is revolution known as "the slow movement" which guide people to instill a sense of slowness that can enhance relationships with others either at home or at the workplace.
Carl explores several slow movements through some interviews with the gurus,such as the practice of Slow Sex(Tantric sex where Sting is quoted as a practitioner) Slow Medicine,Slow Food,Slow Cities,He also stressed on the importance of the benefits of working less and the importance of being at rest and the need to raise children unhurriedly.

Carl will do better with his interviews if the lower income groups are involved to get a better perspective instead on concentrating on the rich and white collar workers.I find that some of the examples given are over exaggerated,like the boy who after slowing down his life style,is able to play better football.

This book in not about doing things at a snail pace but at striking a balance between fast and slow. As Carl suggests,read this book one chapter a day to allow its subversive message to sink slowly in so it has a chance of changing your life.


Oct 11, 2016

Dex's Book Review:Unfinished Business

Lee Kravitz is an award-winning journalist and was editor-in-chief of Parade magazine.He attended Tale and Columbia universities.

What would you do if you have lost your job?
Maybe you can go for a holiday to take a break,find a job immediately or do something meaningful for your life,like Lee Kravitz who at age 56 is a workaholic.

Lee Kravitz was fired as editor-in-chief of Parade magazine and he soon realized that there were many things which he had long wanted to embark on but was unable to due to his wok load.

Now that he had lost his job and instead of looking for a job immediately,he had committed an entire year to embark on a journey to do the most important things in his life.And he had listed ten transformational journeys in this book which he aptly titled Unfinished Business.

Some of his journeys seemed emotional like a reconciliation with his long lost aunt and the re-bonding of brotherly love between his father and uncle and the making of a condolence call to his friend which he did not do during the death of his friend's daughter. Lee Kravitz's journey also took us to Kenya where he visited the UN for refugees to keep his promise to a boy thirteen years ago.And there is a debt of thirty years that he needs to pay his friend.

 However,there is a lack of strong empathy in the story to draw sympathy from the reader. Maybe it could be due to the fact that this book is written from Lee Kravitz personal account.

We all have unfinished business.

Lee Kravitz managed to show us there is love,humility and patience if we cast our heart,anger and hatred aside.As we follow his transformational journey,it makes us realize that there are indeed many things that we would like to do but have many excuses of not doing.

So,start listing the things that you want to do now to reconnect your life before it is too late.


Oct 9, 2016

Dex's Book Review: Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things

Gary Geddes is an award winning poet,writer,editor and critic.He has written and edited more than thirty books,including the best selling Sailing Home.Most recently,he was distinguished Professor of Canadian Culture at Western Washington University in Bellingham.

This book is about the journey of Gary Geddes quest to follow the trail of Huishen,a Buddhist monk,who escaped  from Kabul to China to avoid persecution and was reputed to have traveled from Afghanistan, across China,and on to the Americas in the 5th century before Columbus.

To retrace the voyage of Huishen,Geddes's journey seems almost impossible: from war torn Kabul,through the Himalayas and across the Taklamakan desert,to China and on to the Central America.

In his 18 months journey,Gary detailed the difficulties and the adventure of his travel,from jets,buses,taxis,ferries,a container ship and even donkeys and camels!

And along the many cities and temples he visited,Gary made it a point to try to uncover the historical records of Huishen .However, almost all of his inquiries drew a blank and to add to his disappointment, of the many people he had  interviewed,from Buddhist scholars to Tibetan monks,most do not seemed to know the existence of Huishen's journey.

I am surprise that not much of information is being written on Huishen's background,beside knowing him as a monk,after all he is the star in this book.

As there were no official records of Huishen's journey, many a times Gary made assumptions of "Huishen could be here" as he traveled  through his journey.What this book lack is the thriller instinct for the reader to stay engrossed.

With his "half-way around the world" journey,this book will make an interesting read for those who enjoy travelogue,discovery and adventure  channels.

Rating: 6/10

Oct 5, 2016

Dex's Book Review:So you've been publicly shamed

Jon Ronson is s British journalist and an award-winning writer and documentary maker

Public shaming had been part of the  judicial punishment during the 18th century in UK and the US. It was phased out during the 19th century amidst calls for compassion.

Public shaming is back! And through the advent of social media like twitter and facebook,it can strikes anyone,anywhere and anytime.

Jon Ronson has interviewed some recipients of high profile public shaming like Jonah Lehrer,Justin Sacco and Lindsey Stone.

Jonah Lehrer is an American journalist whose works had been exposed to be plagiarized and quotes fabricated. And during his apology speech which was carried live together with twitter, a big screen was placed behind him and a small tv in front on the podium stand.As the speech was read,criticisms were streaming in and shown live on the screen.The way he was pilloried, I could feel the trauma Jonah went through. His career was destroyed beyond redemption.

In the case of Justin Sacco,she twittered  she was on her way to Africa and that she would not get Aids as she was white. A couple of hours later as she disembarked from the plane,her twitter account was bombarded with criticisms of racism and her integrity as a PR employee was questioned. She was fired subsequently.

Lindsey Stone, a caregiver was with a group of adults with learning difficulties during an organized trip to Washington DC. At the Arlington National Cemetery,she posted a photo of  her showing the middle finger with a shouting posture beside the Silence and Respect sign.What happened next in the social media, is anybody's guess.

In the many other cases presented by  Ron Jonson, it made us aware how public shaming can have a profound impact on our lives.

Is public shaming necessary?

If Justin Sacco or Lindsey Stone were from the east,will they be condemned and pilloried as  seriously as the west ? In my opinion, I do not think so. They will survive simply because the eastern culture has much more compassion.

Please remember to think carefully before you press the Send button because beside your friends,there are many millions of others whom you do not even known will receive your postings as well.

So be forewarned.

Rating: 7/10

Oct 1, 2016

Dex's Book Review:The Undercover Economist

Tim Harford is a senior columnist at the Financial Times.He is a visiting fellow at Nuffield College,Oxford,and was the winner of the 2006 Bastiat Prize for economic journalism.

This book is recommended for people who do not have a degree in Economics.

In this book,Tim Harford introduces us the principles of economics which includes supply and demand interactions,globalization,GDP,
GNP,micro and macro economics and many other topics which are written in a Q & A format, with the questions being directed for a specific topic,easy to understand and yet can be witty.

Most topics of discussions are explain in non-technical terms like why poor countries remain poor  while China is prospering with continuous growth and why some countries are badly managed.

When a country is in financial constraints,is printing more money the solution?

  Is inflation good for the country's economy?

 What are the fiscal stimulus policies that are good for the country?

What are the benefits of introducing new currencies?

Let Tim Harford answer your questions and with some humor thrown in,this book will certainly enlighten you through the principles of economics in an entertaining way.

Some interesting quotes:

"An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics." Plutarch
(Chapter 14: Inequality)

"Supply creates its own demand." Jean-Baptiste Say {Chapter 6: The prison camp recession)

"The average man won't really do day's work unless he is caught and cannot get out of it.There is plenty of work to do, if people would do it."  Henry Ford ( Chapter 8: Invention of unemployment}

"The most powerful force is compound interest."  Albert Einstein (Chapter 13: Can growth continue
 for ever)

"Let some people get rich first." Deng Xiaoping (Chapter 14: Inequality)

Rating: 8/10

Sep 30, 2016

Dex's Book Review:The Moral Molecule

Paul J Zack has a Ph.D in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and postgraduate training in Neuroscience from Harvard University.He is now Professor of Economics,Psychology and Management and Claremont,and Clinical Professor of Neurology and Loma Linda University Medical Center in California.

Imagined that you were at a railway station with your son. All of a sudden you saw a man fell onto the railway track.Without hesitation, you asked the man standing beside you to look after your son and then you jumped onto to track to save the man who has fallen.

Why would you risk your life to save a stranger? How can you trust a stranger to look after your son?

Why do we get cheated by con men?

How can we be happier?

The answer lies with the presence of oxytocin in our body system and this is what this book is all about, oxytocin.It is a hormone and acts as a brain transmitter and plays an important role in human bonding and which Zack has a lifelong fascination. He calls it the moral molecule.

In this book,Zack has shown the role of oxytocin in human behavior through his many experiments.

In the first part of the book,he was invited to a friend's wedding to conduct an experiment to determine the level of oxytocin of the bride and the guests.Blood samples were taken just before the wedding ceremony to get a base line level and after the wedding to make a comparison.It was shown that the level of most of them showed a higher level of oxytocin after the wedding ceremony.

The second experiment is what Zack called the Trust Game.
The participants were divided into group A and B and one group was given a certain sum of money and were told to give the other group any amount of money as they wish and the amount will doubled when received by the receiver.The receivers of the money were told to reciprocate any amount of money to the giver.When the game was over,it was found that for those who gave and reciprocated generously,their oxytocin level seemed to be higher.Similarly,Zack did a test in Papua New Guinea during a ritual tribal dance to determine the oxytocin level before and after the dance.And the result was as expected by Zack.

When oxytocin surges,people behave that are kinder,more generous and caring.And oxytocin surges when people are shown a sign of trust.

.It will be more interesting if Zack could elaborate in greater details the methodology of the many tests that he conducted.Was it just as simple as "before and after" test comparison or were the results skewed towards his expectations?

Is oxytocin in our body the only factor that affects our social bonding?
What about the external factor,like money?

As Zack said,"This book book is going to show you why this oxytocin effect happens,when it happens,and how we can make it happen more often."

Read this book with an open mind and along the way, I hope it can guide you to develop trust and empathy among our fellow humans in a different way.


Sep 29, 2016

Dex's Book Review: Outlaws Inc.

Matt Potter is a journalist,editor and broadcaster.He has reported for BBC Radio from Eastern Europe,Afghanistan and South East Asia.

Unlike Robert Ludlum fictional Bourne Identity, Matt Potter goes into real life action, flying with the world's most dangerous smugglers to understand and uncover the dangerous world of smuggling.

The book is about a group of ex-Russian veterans who bought  decommissioned Russian war horse super planes, the Ilushin Il-76 to do what they know best,smuggling any goods to the world's most troubled spots with the right price. Their giant cargo planes have secret compartments which can be filled with drugs,guns,money. With such a high risk job, some pay a heavy price and lost their lives to terrorists,hostile territories, mafias and even alcohol which some cannot live without.

Matt Potter follows their incredible story around the world and in the process has become a good friend to some. He takes us to Afghanistan where he begins his journey and then to Chechnya,Russia where he witness how goods are transported, even when the plane is being overloaded.

In Somalia, where pirates are king of the high seas,he detailed explicitly how the ransom money is being paid from the plane!

From East Africa to Central America and to Iraq, Matt Potter writes his journey in such an absorbing manner that it certainly is a thriller!

And with some elements of James Bond,Jason Bourne and Indiana Jones,this book is an explosive read.

Overall Rating: 8/10

Sep 28, 2016

Dex's Book Review:Speeches that changed the world

Simon Sebag Montefiore is a historian and an international best seller author.

Speeches that changed the world has already sold over three quarter of a million copies.

History is not all about recording dates and events.It allows us the opportunity to analyze why and how the events occurred and ultimately, a chance to learn from it.

Throughout the course of history,great speeches have influenced and changed the direction of our past.

This book contains 48 speeches and it starts with Jesus of Nazareth during his sermon of the Mount and ends with Barack Obama's victory speech after winning the presidential election on 4th Nov.2008.

Just to name a few, this book contains speeches by Abraham Lincoln,George Washington,Napoleon Bonaparte,Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill,John F Kennedy,Martin Luther King Jr and many other great leaders:the  good, the bad and the evil ones.

You do not need to read this book page by page like a novel.You can choose any of the speeches from the content that interest you.Each speech is accompanied by an introduction that explains its historical background and also a biography of each speechmaker, albeit an abridged one.

Although the speeches listed in this book are thought provoking and inspirational, I believe there are also many more which are not listed here.Anyway, this book makes a great collection.

This book is  ideal for reading if you like history and also as you go through the speeches, you will learn how words are used in a powerful manner and how the language is used splendidly:simple,meaningful and inspirational.

Maybe one day, you might need such great oratory skill.

Overall Rating: 8/10

Sep 27, 2016

Dex's Book Review:Blunder

The adage "Do not judge a book by its cover" certainly holds true for this wonderfully well written and researched book by Zachary Shore, an associate professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School and a senior fellow at UC Berkely's Institute of European Studies.

Have we ever wonder why smart and powerful people make bad  decisions and ultimately lead them to commit blunders? Shore demonstrate how rigid thinking can lead us to undermine ourselves. In this book, he has listed several reasons  which we human so readily get caught in these cognition traps. 

This book will certainly makes you reflect on the mistakes that you have made and you begin to understand how these cognition traps affect decisions making.

We all make bad decisions simply because we are human.The resulting mistakes can be valuable but are we ready to learn from them?

The following are the seven cognition traps, insidious yet avoidable mind-sets:

  • Exposure Anxiety: fear of being seen as weak
  • Causefusion: confusing the causes of complex events
  • Flat View: seeing the world in one dimension
  • Cure-Allism: thinking that one size solutions can solve all problems
  • Informania: an obsessive relationship to information
  • Mirror Imaging: thinking the other side thinks like you do
  • Static Cling: the refusal to accept that circumstances have changed

With each cognition trap, examples are drawn from history,politics,business,health care and popular culture to illustrate the profound impact blunders can have.

And as you read and go along with the flow of the examples,one can immerse oneself into thinking how these cognition traps affect our daily lives whether at home or in the work place and how it can help us all make wiser judgments.

Overall rating:9/10