Reflection on Coursera Course – Design for Innovation

Example Reflection – Storytelling

Storytelling is a tool I use all the time, one of the most useful skill sets that I use all the time and intend to improve over time. As a business analyst cum consultant, I often use this technique to get people to open up and tell me their thoughts, ideas and concerns. I usually do this over a cup of coffee, outside of the office, so they feel more comfortable to open up. Once this is over, I use the information I got and transformed them into ideas to improve or develop the functionalities of the software tools we developed for our clients.

Application – From What to Why

I have numerous stories about storytelling in my short career of five years. A common example would be driving the adoption of technology of all of the software that fall under my care. Usually, I would have regular one to one catch up over coffee or have a conference call with each one of them regularly if they are not based in the same country as me.

There was an incident where our stakeholders in South East Asia (SEA) were not embracing the analytics tool that we have developed for them. So I arranged a video conference with the main stakeholder in each of the countries in SEA to understand their concerns. Turned out that there was a lack of adoption because of lack of training and lack of follow up to understand their future concerns.

Approach and Insight

So during most of the conference calls or what I call ‘catch ups’, I would listen to their thought process and concerns. Turned out that our stakeholders or rather users of our tools are worried about their job security. The analytics applications that we developed will at least shorten their job tasks by 50% while numerous tasks will be automated, such as email scheduling and running reports based on the filters they want.

This was an eye opener although I was not that surprised.  Upon understanding this major concern, I had to reassure them that their jobs are still secured while their main job tasks may have shifted towards providing insights to the sales and marketing teams.  This also means that we had to create additional materials on how they can provide insights to their respective sales and marketing teams such as using color codes and understanding the nature and purpose of the reports. At the same time, we developed a self-service component of the tools to encourage users to explore ways they can further contribute to their teams. As such, we were able to drive adoption of the applications and improve the working lifestyle of our users and stakeholders. The long term benefits, everyone makes better use of their time and fully contribute at work and grow their skill sets.

I never thought that storytelling will allow me to not just deliver my work duties, but it is a truly great feeling when you improve the quality of life for others. Indeed, Albert Camus was right when he said ‘There is no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do’.

Speech for my lovely cousin wedding..

Ladies & Gentlemen,

I am Farah, Fizah’s cousin and one of the bridesmaids. I have been asked to speak a few words for this joyous occasion of the wedding of Fizah and Tkt.

Having grown together naturally we become more like close sisters. We share stories, secrets, ups and downs on top of our usual monthly brunches. 11 years ago, Fizah told us a few times about the man standing next to her now, but we never really meet him until we sent her off at the airport, at that time I think she was on her way to Chiang Mai for a voluntary trip. God, he was so shy, hiding in some corner, refusing to meet the anxious cousins.

11years on, look at you now. From someone so shy, you have grown to be so mature, patient and chubbier, ready to take on the world. I think I can see that from the way you took care of Fizah when she was hospitalized and how patient you were with her when we travelled together, in fact, even with the antics that our crazy family often had on you! One advice though, do not ever question her decision, because one of them is you!

My dear Fizah, such a beautiful bride you are today. I couldn’t wish for a better cousin and words can’t describe how much you mean to us. The whole family is proud of you and we are excited for today. Sometimes, I wondered who is getting married you or our mothers. I love the both of you and look forward to our lives together.

Marriage is not about finding a person you can live with, it’s about finding the person you can’t live without. You have both found that person. You guys have been through so much together and we know you will do whatever it takes to make it work. May your love always find its way back to each other. May you both be garments of one another, protecting and shielding each other today, tomorrow and in the hereafter.

TKT, today, we officially welcome you to our family. From your in laws, to my family and on behalf of Aunty, Uncle and Cik Ajak, our homes are yours, our hearts are yours.

May Allah, the Al-Malik raise your home. May He make your marriage the best thing that ever happened to you. Happy married life.

Evaluation for Pathways Project 3: Dynamic Leadership: ‘Sell Yourself’ by Brand

I did my Pathways Level 1 Project 3 on the 20th April 2018. I was a lot more calm when it came to delivery. However, I  forgot most of lines and thus, the structure of the speech was messed up when I started speaking. I think I will need to practice more and improve on techniques to remember the lines better.

Here are the feedback given by the evaluator.

  1. You excelled at: Good delivery and good command of English
  2. You may want to work on: Practice more as there were many pause filters. Work on structure of the speech to have a bit more opening, body and conclusion.
  3.  To challenge yourself: Suppose to incorporate previous feedback. You should have mentioned previous feedback at the start of the speech.

 

Pathways Project 3: Feedback: Dynamic Leadership: ‘Sell Yourself’ by Brand

Good evening, fellow Toastmasters, guests and friends, I have a miracle pill to sell you. It will help you win more, earn more, be happier, have more fulfilling relationships and most importantly, be you. It’s a revolutionary new pharmaceutical product called ‘Sell yourself’ by Brand. Just one dose a day, will allow you to change your life and maybe open up more doors for you to change the lives of others.

All jokes aside, every one of us in this room has been judged before. It is human nature, after all, to judge those who naturally do not do what we do, or do not compile to our way of thinking. Many times in my life, I have been judged by people whom I hardly know – not good enough, not confident enough, not assertive enough, they say. In the past, it used to hurt me. Or even make me feel angry. Who are they to judge me? What do they know about me? I would scream in my head, lots of noise, lots of neural activity, lots of clutter in my head.

But isn’t that where the problem lies? They hardly know me. And so, I decided to change things – and the way I decided to do it is by creating a personal brand – an image that I would want the outside world to carry of me. I am not talking about money, number of followers, qualifications. The whole world has achieved more than me. I am talking about making an impact, having a reputation that is in your good name. What people would say about you when you are not there. That’s your share price on the stock market of life.

Often enough, early in the morning, when it is still dark outside around 5.30am, I would think about my plans for the day and think about how I want to tell my compelling story. Once I am done, I would get ready. For some people, they put one their powerful suits, makeup, shoes or have a cup of coffee. For me, I prefer to get to office early to gauge the room, audience  and body language. If need be, change the delivery.

What about me? I like solving problems. I love interacting with people. I am not talking about getting things done. I am talking about knowing each one of them as a person, understanding their concerns and problems. Then, I will try to deliver a little bit more than expected, at least, whenever your timeline allows it. That’s probably the reason why I am a consultant.

What about you? Have you thought about who you really are ? What are you good at?

How do you live by design not by default? How do you get started?

  1. Feel -Be self-aware of your emotions, where you want to be, who you want to be
    • Take ownership of your thoughts, goals, problems
  2. Say – Tell your story with your life..
    • Get their attention
    • Make sure it is memorable
  3. Think & Do – Think of how you can benefit others and be relevant to them

Know the weapons that you have. Don’t just talk about talents and qualifications. That’s putting in a grey box where it is difficult to stand out. Fight a different battle, using your unique DNA that is your own expertise, your knowledge that I don’t even dream of.

Your personal brand is actually your website, the way you deal with people, the way you talk, your dress code. Its all the messages that people gather about you when they interacted with you. That’s your red box.

Lastly, you should always work on expanding your network,. Let more people know more about you. Share your ideas and expertise with the world. Don’t be the world’s best kept secret. Focus on being the authentic you for everyone else is taken. Focus on that red box and hopefully we all continue to touch other lives in every phase of our lives and someday be the number one to go person for what you do.

You all have a piece of paper and a pen with you? Write down your chief aim and everything else in your head. Put it in your wallet or hang it on your wall. Remind yourselves to live that way now. You can change it later. But do it consciously and deliberately.

Thank you.

 

Review on Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson

I finished Rework on my first leg of flight on the way to Munich. That means seven hours in flight. That was how easy the book was written by Jason Fried and David Hansson.

Technology has disrupted the way we work. We all know that. We moved from industrial economy to informational and perhaps gig economy. However, the expectations on how we should work, where and when have not changed with the times.

2017 was a challenging year for me. If it was not for God’s grace, encouragement and support from parents and close friends, I probably would not have the courage to pull through. I have learnt a lot of lessons from this year, I would say the most by far. The vacation I took to Munich was not just a much needed one, but I would like to think that I was reborn if not a changed person. I have learnt to trust the process and let the universe to do its thing – that is after all effort has been put. However, at the same time, we need to learn to adapt in the ever changing environment – it can be country or a new company. Simply because there is no one size fits all box and people change over time. Learning to deal with such factors not only make us more confident but more empathic as well.

Rework shows us an easier, faster if not a better way to be more productive. In fact, we don’t need a lot to achieve what we want to achieve. Planning is good, but plans are useless if you don’t start working. I would think this is useful not only for entrepreneurs but for typical employees like me.

Having a strong faith in our ambitions, products is the fundamental of the business or core value. Others may think that competitors can deliver better, but we should not always comply to clients’ requests if they are unreasonable and cannot be delivered within an agreed time frame. Having a strong belief that the business will succeed starts from living it!

In any case, the authors broke down some critical concepts that I think we should follow. You can refer to the mind map below.

Evaluation for Pathways Project 2: Dynamic Leadership: How travelling shapes and transforms you

I did my second Pathway speech on the 19th January 2018. It was a week after I got back from my vacation and I was still recovering from cold and sore throat. Thankfully I did not exceed the time limit of seven minutes and was not coughing too much during that duration.

In general, I heard laughter in between my speech so that is good. It means that the audience are engaged as the topic is very much relevant. A senior toastmaster told me to stick to conversational type of speeches as they suit me well. I believe I will need to rehearse a little more before my presentation to ensure smooth transition of the speech. I would also need to work on linking the points together.

Here are the comments by the evaluator:

I excelled at: 

  • Choice of topic: Travel as the audience can relate to it easily
  • Painted a vivid picture even without the slides

You may want to work on:

  • Rehearsing the speech because there are many pause fillers. Refer to evaluation criteria in the next page

To challenge yourself:

  • Record and playback the video to spot the errors for improvements
  • Overall a good job on the speech

Notes from evaluation form:

  1. Clarity: Spoken language is clear and is easily understood:
    • Exemplary
    • Vivid and colourful language
  2. Vocal Variety: Uses tone, speed and volume as tools
    • Excels
    • Could have added more excitement
  3. Eye Contact: Effectively uses eye contact to engage audience
    • Excels
    • Could have moved across the stage
  4. Audience Awareness: Demonstrates awareness of audience engagement and needs
    • Exemplary
  5. Comfort Level: Appears comfortable with the audience
    • Exemplary
  6. Interest: Engages audience with interesting, well – constructed content
    • Exemplary

 

Pathways Project 2: Dynamic Leadership: Evaluation: How travelling shapes and transforms you

Unplugged – How traveling shapes and transforms you

Happy New Year, my friends, fellow toastmasters and guests! It’s that time of the year again, where we all recover from vacations. Criteo, a performance marketing company, reported that Singaporeans took an average of 5.2 trips in the past 12 months. That translates to an average of one trip every two to three months. Despite the high number, do we all know the real value of traveling? Or are we just traveling because we need time off, and hence we make plans to travel to the touristy places in the selected country?

Ever since I decided to start traveling solo, since about four years ago, I have learnt countless lessons. For a start, traveling exposes you to various communications styles. I am not talking about verbal communications but all forms of communications as well. I have been in Germany where I had to practice my German and made a cuckoo out of myself.

Thankfully, the locals were patient enough as I had to juggle between my dictionary and maps. That’s the good thing about spontaneous traveling, you get to focus on select ideas and also be flexible enough to change according to the various circumstances or factors. In this case, time, weather and personal interests. I can’t be visiting all 16 states in Germany in two weeks, so I decided to focus on the Bavarian region with priority given to nature.

In my humble opinion, travelling makes one modest. Humble in a sense, you have to remain curious and ask questions of people who may understand or know the city better than you do. In my recent trip, I took a train from Munich to Salzburg and made new local friends along the way. I asked for recommendations for local attractions. As I am such an avid trekker, I was urged to trek an untouched mountain 30 minutes away from the city centre.

I was told it was an easy walk. When I got to the destination, I was all alone, and the whole forest felt like mine. The land was really untouched. I was trekking all on my own till I met a local person along the way, when I was almost reaching the top. So yes, I trekked on my own by accident. But that aside, I don’t just gain freedom, but also new friendships plus knowledge about the city, Salzburg without the need of a tour guide! Am I lucky or what?

Living out of a suitcase, is worth the time and money. Traveling opens up the wonders of our world. I love the idea of how traveling connects us with culture. When in Australia, people go crazy over beef steak, animal sanctuaries. In Europe, we go crazy over cheese, how they solve socio economic problems and most importantly, chocolates. In Asia, we talk about exquisite food with their strong flavours.

What we don’t realize is, how traveling to explore far places actually brings us closer to who we really are. When we are born, we don’t have any social perceptions or stereotypes. We accept everything by heart. Then there are social actors such as families, schools, environments and governments that dictate our perception of life. But they forgot that we all have personalities and identities. For instance, we are proud Singaporeans. We are proud of our chilli crab, skyscrapers and strict regulations. Germans are proud of their beer. The French are always saying their country is better than any other in Europe.

It is only when we step into their country, that we put ourselves in their shoes, we start to see how close we actually are and how we share the same joys about similar things in life. We cannot change our nationality or languages. But we can always open our eyes and minds to understand the various historical, geographical, social and cultural effects of their different lifestyle practices.

Thomas Paine travelled and said “my country is my world, and my religion is to do good”. 1400 years ago, Muhammad said “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled”.

My dear friends, I have travelled, you have travelled. Travel has inspired me to know countries, culture, languages and build communities. Most importantly, to do what I can to make a difference. In Germany, I was impressed at how the country does their best in terms of recycling. I try to recycle my things much more often than I used to before. In other words, it has helped me to become a better world citizen and hopefully a better person when I reconnect with myself and all of you. And I hope it can do the same for you.

Thank you.

 

 

Evaluation for Pathways Project 1: Dynamic Leadership: Starting at Ground Zero

I did my very first Pathways Project on 15th Sept. Here is the feedback from the evaluator. I took a two months break from Toastmasters and just got back on my feet. Hopefully, I will not forget whatever I have learnt. I still have a lot to master! Trying my best not to move around too much, giving eye contact and maintaining confidence. I also realized that I don’t perform well when I have a stressful week and suffered from lack of sleep. Got to bear those in mind!

General Comments:

  • Showing vulnerability.
  • Every speech you deliver is authentic and from the heart.

You may want to work on:

  • Greater eye contact and your physical movements.
  • There was some pacing around – try to remain in a certain area especially when emphasizing serious/ sad points

To challenge yourself:

  • Be more assertive and share confidently.
  • The lessons you learnt when you lost your job is a moment of opportunity to grow personally.
  • Embrace the chance to start at ground zero

Notes from the evaluation form. 

  1. Clarity: Spoken language is clear and is easily understood:
    • Excels at communicating using spoken word
    • Comments: Great visual metaphors such as ‘redeemed myself’
  1. Vocal Variety: Uses tone, speed and volume as tools:
    • Accomplished
    • Comments: Could have used lower tone to show sadness
  1. Eye Contact: Effectively uses eye contact to engage audience:
    • Excels at using eye contact to gauge audience reaction and response
    • Comments: Eye contact could have improved
  1. Gestures: Uses physical gestures effectively:
    • Excels at using physical gestures as a tool to enhance speech
    • Comments: Try to reduce pacing
  1. Audience Awareness: Demonstrates awareness of audience engagement and needs:
    • Fully aware of audience engagement/ needs and responds effectively
    • Comments: You are highly aware of the audience listening to you
  1. Comfort level: Appears comfortable with the audience:
    • Appears completely self-assured with the audience
    • Comments: Very comfortable with the audience
  1. Interest: Engages audience with interesting, well-constructed content:

Engages audience with interest with highly compelling, well-constructed

Pathways Project 1: Dynamic Leadership: Icebreaker: Starting at Ground Zero

Starting at Ground Zero

 

Tim Karsliyev once said, never chase what you want. Elevate your game until what you want pursues you.

This quote is one of the quotes that I live by daily and I try to live my life by it. I try to be consistent at my efforts and do my best to be 1% better every day.

My fellow toastmasters and friends, a year ago, I decided to join this club. Through the ten speeches in the CC module back then, I have laid my life before you in this very stage, sharing with you my life experiences and dreams. You know that my name is Farah Saleh and I am not named after a Charlie’s angel. Most of you know that I enjoy running, writing and travelling.

What most of you didn’t know was that this past one year has changed me. I am not who I thought I was back then. In fact, if it weren’t for the little bit I’ve learned over the past year, I wouldn’t have a clue. Fortunately, I do have a clue. Thanks to an open mind and the support of others, I’ve been able to wake up to a wonderful life, one in which I choose who I am, and what I do.

Not all of my days and nights are smooth and peaceful. I can still get emotionally overwhelmed over insignificant things. I can still spend sleepless nights with a chattering mind, feeling guilty and blaming myself for all the mistakes that I had made, forgetting that self- love is important to get you to your goals. Last year, the biggest turning point in my life was when I lost my job.  That very night, I laid in my bed and just let my thoughts flow freely.  The good, the bad, the ugly. I decided to not be happy. Happiness comes and go. But when life is really good and when things are really bad, having meaning is something that I can hold on to.

I decided to return to the core values that my parents have taught me.

  1. Belonging:
    1. Most essential source of meaning (bonds between families and friends)
  2. Purpose:
    1. Not a job but rather using your strengths to serve others. For most of us, it is through work. That is how we contribute and feel needed. But what happens if you lose your job? How do you find strength to rise up after you fall and move forward?
  3. Transcendence:
    1. Stepping beyond yourself, but in a completely different way, transcendence (States where you are lifted beyond the hustle and bustle of life), your sense of self fades away and you feel connected to a higher reality. For some of us, it can be through writing or religion or bringing up your family
  4. Story telling:
    1. Story you tell others about yourself
    2. Creating a narrative of your life events and then change the way we are telling them. After all, we are the authors of our life (reflect and change)

At this point in my life, I have redempted myself and started a new job in the field that I am most passionate about with new challenges and responsibilities. I have decided to create another chapter of my life by learning German.  Hence, I am starting over at ground zero, with hope to lead meaningful life and tell stories about my life defined by redemption, growth and love.

Danke fürs Zuhören und Guten Nacht which means thank you for listening and good night in German.

Exerting Influence Without Authority

I am not the boss. How can I lead? I am not a full-time employee, just a temporary one. Why would they want to talk to me? I am just a small fry, unlike those big fishes right there in the centre of the room. Perhaps I should skip the meeting.

It is said that we should not aim to achieve triumph in every situation, but rather building bridges and winning hearts over. Communication skills is not easy to master, especially when it comes to dealing with diverse cultures. But at least, with practice and time, we will get used to it and achieve the end goal. It is about identifying the opportunities and stepping in then demonstrate leadership through adding value to the initiative you are in.

One of the articles written by Lauren Keller Johnson suggested lateral leadership. Leadership does not apply to titles or positions. It is the natural inclination of an individual to get things done. The objective is to get things done and not the various ancillary issues that come along with it.

Here are some interconnected strategies that can be used as guidance to help us achieve that.

  1. Networking:
    • Build a network of relationships in and outside your organization
    • Know the people who can connect you to bigger networks
    • Be genuine and associate with all
  1. Constructive persuasion and negotiation
    • Try to achieve a win win situation
    • See your ‘targets’ as peers and learn to listen to understand rather than respond
    • Put yourself in their shoes
  1. Consultation
    • Take the time to visit the people whom you need to be on your side
    • Ask their opinions about the efforts that you are championing
    • Get their ideas and reactions to your ideas
    • Involve the people to participate in defining the process for achieving the outcome
    • Make sure everyone feels part of the journey and not feel left out
  1. Coalition building
    • Gather influential people together to form “a single body of authority
    • Get to know the people before the kickoff of a project
    • Clarify the destination point
    • Strategic and ‘BIG’ picture thought leadership comes effective at this stage
  1. Acknowledgement and feed forward
    • Acknowledge people’s views and thank them for it
    • Celebrate success and always be forward thinking
    • Review areas of improvements at every stage

Often enough, we get so engrossed in our silo roles that we dont really know who should be included in the networking or coalition building effort. To counter this, one should take time to know who are the stakeholders, who are the advisors. For instance, setting aside a day to have lunch with a different person each week.

The next time you want to get more proactive when it comes to driving projects, initiatives, you should say, let’s work things out and make it happen!