a little bit of rebel ~reprise~ (Part 3)

This is the third part of my little bit of rebel series. If you missed out the previous two articles, you can find them here and here.

In this article, I would like explore the final quality which I felt was important: Collaboration.

I must first make a disclaimer that collaboration is not one of my strengths. However more and more, I found it a very interesting aspect to learn about and the importance of it. If you have any opinions to share on this, please share! In the meanwhile, below are my personal thoughts about collaboration…

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If I were to write a formula about what collaboration is, I would put it this way:

Collaboration = Win-Win + Common Ground + Soft-Skills

Win-Win

In order for collaboration to happen, the very first prerequisite would be to have a win-win mentality. We might have different visions and different missions in life, however, we value the fact that we might have something to offer at the table to each other. Over here, I just want to make a note that the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R Covey probably has one of the most comprehensive explanation of what the win-win mentality is about.

In my opinion, win-win would also encompasses openness, the willingness to learn from others and the willingness to share what we know. I put the willingness to learn from others before the willingness to share for an exact purpose. For this, I would like to point to Brene Brown’s research that in order for a person to give something, they must learn how to receive first. Similarly, I think it is easy for everyone to talk about ourselves and what we know to feed our ego. However, we must also humble ourselves and learn to listen to what others have to offer.

Common Ground

In the world out there, a big part of collaboration is actually to co-create something. You might be thinking that isn’t this a conflict to the “different visions and missions” I was talking about above?

There is no contradiction here. I thought that the two actually goes hand in hand. During the collaboration period, collaborators would need to find a common goal to achieve:

A friend of mine was Whatsapp-ing me regarding an idea to create iPhone and Android applications for a business. Meanwhile, I’ve recently learned how to develop Android applications and I am interested to further my skills in this area. At this current moment, his vision was to start a business and my vision was to further my skills in developing Android application.

Our common ground, developing an Android application for his business.

Soft-Skills

Common ground deals with much with the values of each of the collaborators. There actually isn’t too much we could do about if common grounds cannot be met although we could search for middle grounds.

However, the ability to communicate your thoughts effectively to your collaborators would be something that you could actually learn. Getting yourself into a presentation course could be useful. I want to share with you something which I thought was more powerful, something which I learned from Lusi Group, and that is soft skills.

We might have heard it too many times and I heard it from my coach, Lusi Lim. It is not important to win an argument. The bottomline is, so long the job gets done. Not her exact words, but something to that effect.

In the process of collaboration and sharing, it is unavoidable that our ideals will get challenged and shaped. Having the win-win mentality to accept criticism gracefully is one thing, but what if we are able to soften our delivery of an observation or an opinion so that our collaborators can assess what you have to say more objectively?

In collaboration, we do not keep quiet if we see something we disagree. It is usually more productive to be more open about our different views but because we are all talking about things we are so passionate about, words may hurt others easily and it may get them on the defensive, rather than the open and cordial environment needed for collaboration to take place.

Communication skills anchoring on logic will not be sufficient in this case. Soft-skills to engage and connect with our collaborators would be far more effective. 

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Critical Thinking, Innovation and Collaboration. The three important qualities of a rebel a person should possess in today’s context in my humble opinion.

How about the rest of the world, what do they think? I think have some clues to this but I guess I better save this topic for another post before this post becomes a TL;DR. Thank you for reading up till the end of this post~!

a little bit of rebel ~reprise~ (Part 2)

In my previous article, I tried to put into perspective why it is important for students to learn critical thinking. Today, I would like to talk more about the importance of innovation.

First of all, let me define innovate:

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According to the Oxford dictionary, to innovate means to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.

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Note the fundamental difference between being innovative and being creative.

When we talk about innovation, we are building on something which has already been established. We do so by adding something new. However, when it comes to creation, we are bringing something that did not exist before into existence.

Hence, if I were to define it, being innovative encompasses creativity. The creativity portion in an innovation is fitted into a pre-existing framework. Innovation is applied creativity.

Having said that, I would like to clarify that I am not discounting the importance of pure creativity. There must be some people out there to do pure creation in order to bring in new stimuli, an important ingredient to advance the world.

However, I feel that to empower anyone to contribute better to the society, we have to exercise a bit more creativity in the applied form.  The creation has got to connect with the people. The creation has to be workable. If the creation is also revolutionary, we may even get to make a quantum leap. And this is innovation.

Being a rebel is definitely not just about pure creativity and freedom of expression as most of us might have stereotyped them as at one point or another. If much of the creativity are applied in nature, rebels too can make a big contribution to the society. Rebels are not there to challenge for the sake of challenging. Rebels are there to make a difference, to make the world better.

Just look at Lady Gaga.

a little bit of rebel ~reprise~ (Part 1)

I wrote a Japanese journal entitled “a little bit of rebel” (Literal translation: “The Importance of the Rebel”) back on 28 Mar 2010 on Lang8. The translated version of it goes something like this:

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In school, we are taught to write our essays from the top to bottom.

In school, we are taught Mathematics, but we were not told how we can use them.

In school, we studied hard for our examinations, memorising endless number of formulas, remembering to write our answers the way our teachers expected us to.

There is no lee-way for creativity.

After that, we grew up to become lawyers, politicians, engineers, managers, researchers, doctors, teachers and soldiers to fit into the machinery known as a country. We continue to work hard but most of us without an aim. After all, money is needed to survive and who cares about the rest anyway.

However, let’s look at the those who have made it big. Bill Gates never completed his school. Thomas Edison can’t study at all. They are also the rebels of society.

This society frowns on the rebels who disrupt their usual way of life. These rebels are the same people who exhibited their bravery to overcome the norm of the society in innovative and creative ways to improve the society as a whole.

This makes me wonder if the education system of Singapore who have been so successful in creating scholars, has also created people who are too indulge in their own lives. I don’t even feel a simple thing such as patriotism in most of them.

This makes me worry about our future. Have we created a society of uncaring obedient people?

How about a little bit of rebel in everyone?

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I reflected once again on what I have written three years ago. What were the qualities that a modern rebel possess that the school doesn’t seem to be teaching and is important for our next generation?

Now that I am a lecturer teaching 16 to 19 year-olds, I felt that there were three qualities that stands out more than any other: critical thinking, innovation and collaboration. In other words, we are talking about the left brain, the right brain and the brain that belongs to someone else other than you.

Wikipedia defines Critical Thinking as reflective reasoning about beliefs and actions, and, a way of deciding whether a claim is always true, sometimes true, partly true, or false.

I often challenge my students:

  • Why such a design?
  • Was it inspired from a famous design?
  • Who inspired your design?
  • Who is this person?
  • Did you get this design from a credible person or credible source?

On the surface, critical thinking seems like a life skill where logical reasoning are used to justify for doing what you did, a survival tool in the strict Singapore society. However, I think there are more far reaching implications to this. I feel that we need to challenge students to think about everything that they are learning, listening and reading.

  • Are your teachers teaching you the right stuff?
  • Is the media telling me everything I need to know about a certain situation?
  • Is the Wikipedia article I’m reading now telling me the right stuff? (I know it’s an irony to choose the Wikipedia definition for Critical Thinking but this is done on purpose)

In order to empower the next generation to do lifelong learning, I feel that these are difficult questions that students must learn to ask and try to answer as they approach adulthood. As the knowledge landscape we are in continues to be shaped by the flood of information coming through the media and the Internet, critical thinking will be the filtration pump and the flood gate that keeps the knowledge reservoir fresh. Unlearning and relearning becomes a non-negotiable process of effective lifelong learning.

Being a rebel means we question the norm in a meaningful manner. Please do not scold or ostracise a person if he is asking questions that challenges the norm because he wants to make sense of things. Instead, just analyse and answer, and ask more questions from his point of view so that everyone gets to learn together.