Exercising Importance of Interfaith-Intercultural Understanding (for work and personal)


As part of my Community Solutions Program Fellowship follow-on project, a speech highlighting importance of Interfaith-Intercultural Understanding at Singapore Polytechnic to graduating students of Diploma in International Business.

If you are interested to have an Interfaith-Intercultural Understanding Program workshop for your school/organizations, email me abdillah@bydefinition.net

Other workshops available:
- Positive Bystander Intervention
- Successful Events Management
- Personal Leadership Planning
- and many more!

Follow me on twitter @AbdillahZamzuri

The New Marketing Mix


Business schools would traditionally teach you The Marketing Mix comprising of the 4Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. However, in this new world of business, it encompasses of 3 more Ps for a complete Marketing Mix but before we get into that, lets go through the first 4Ps that we have all learnt.

Product

Essentially what you are selling. The item or service. It doesn’t have to be the best in the market, it just needs to be better than what is already available in the market currently.

Price & Place

To put the right price to your product. You need a bit of economics (this is why you learn the crazy econs in business school) as well as the next P, Place.

In a place where your product is not in demand, it may not even sell or even if it sells, it has to be sold at a really low price to attract people to buy.

In a place where your product is high in demand, you can price the product a bit better by controlling your supply. Like in Singapore, housing prices are high because it is high in demand but low in supply. But in bigger countries with more land and the proportion of people to space is larger, housing prices are low because demand is low but it has a huge surplus of land/houses.

Promotion

Last but not least, the last P.

Working on this last P is where the 3 new Ps also come into place and here’s what they are: Psychology, People and Passion.

To develop a good Promotion, the company needs to understand the Psychology of the consumers. This is where the research team comes in to perform a Quantitative and Qualitative data research and analysis, to find out what are the needs of the people, what do they watch, what do they read, where do they get their information from and what are their motivations to make a purchase.

Then, to promote, the company needs to hire the right People with the Passion to connect with other people and sell using Psychology. This can come in two key forms; Advertising and Sales Team.

In Advertising, the team would need to establish the best outreach method to get the product out to as many people as possible. Having an awesome product in the right country with a major need for it still won’t sell because no one knows. So, the job of the advertising team is to develop content strategy based on the needs of the people, their habits of receiving information and motivations to buy and eventually come up with a Newspaper Advert, Radio Advert, TV Advert or Billboard or whatever that fits best into the Place.

In Sales, the team needs to bring in people who are good at interpersonal relationships to do the same thing as what the advertisers and research team has done – to assess the needs, motivations of the potential buyers and to suggest/recommend  the product and to position the product in the capacity that would best meet those needs shared earlier.

And of course, Passion is important because without it, how is it to sustain?

So, there you have it, the New Marketing Mix:

Product, Price, Place, Promotion, Psychology, People and Passion

Beliefs and Values in Decisions/Choices


Life hands us different cards when we were born, one which we have no control over and if you are a Muslim like me, you’d also believe that your entire life has already been chartered – Qada’ and ‘Qadar, but this does not mean that we are limited by what we can pursue in life because we still have the freedom to choose and this is where the challenge lies for each and every single one of us given the circumstances that we begin with.

Some of us were born with the best of cards and some of us were born with the least of the good cards and these are the cards that we can never change and will remain with us throughout our entire life. It forms part of who we are, our history and are the building blocks of our foundation and life story. 

Through the choices that our family make for us when we were younger, we were handed some tools in life. These are the tools that would essentially be one of the many guiding tools that we would use throughout our life – our beliefs and values. 

For some of us, our beliefs and values are guided by religion and for some of us, by the cultures that we were born into, but for most of us, our beliefs and values are a combination of religion and our cultural heritage. These tools, they continue to grow as we learn more about our religion, culture as well as information that we read and experience through different sources that we come across either by our own choice or coincidence (though if you are Muslim, nothing is ever coincidental since it’s already been pre-determined).

With such growing tools that we have in our repertoire, we begin to use them in our decision making skills, each and every single time we are dealt with options. We begin to dig deep into our repertoire of knowledge and understanding, analyze the options, weigh the emotions and then we make our choice.

At times, the options or decisions or choices that we have to make in life questions or goes against our beliefs and values that we have learnt from our religion and the cultures that we were raised in but the information and additional knowledge that we come across over the years provides us with an alternative option that would perhaps seem to be something new that we could carve out, a new path that we could take as opposed to the traditional paths and for those courageous enough, they take this new path.

And whilst there is no study on understanding of the psychology of how people make their decisions on, it could be due to how strong the individual feels grounded by it’s religious and cultural beliefs and values. Religion as we know it, not only provide guidance on beliefs and values, but also on the type of decisions or choices to take. Culture on the other hand, is decided by a group of people living together.

With each decision or choice to be taken, there is always a consequence that comes with it – a sin or a good deed and frowned or liked upon. Some sins are considered small sins, which could be easily forgiven and some are big sins, whose consequence is so huge, the type of punishment meted out could even mean death. That said, even some small sins though easily forgiven, may never be forgiven because when it is a sin committed on a person, forgiveness can only come from the one who had been sinned. 

Regardless of the degree of the sin, all sins can be forgiven, provided there is repentance and sincere effort made to never again repeat those sins – making a different choice when faced with the same decision making process. 

Of course, some choices made as a result of our strong religious and cultural beliefs and values, leaves us feeling dissatisfied and unhappy, and that is perhaps the challenge for every human being – to be able to resist making choices that makes us happy all the time for the ‘greater good’ of the larger society and for some of us, for the afterlife.

Surely, the struggles we face in our decision making process because of how strongly we feel or are grounded by our beliefs and values is not one that is easy for anyone to make but the choices made must be respected, because it is the choice of the individual making it, not the onlooker.

How to spot your friend(s) in a Multi-Level Marketing company.


Most of us have heard of Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) or Network Marketing or Pyramid Marketing. It’s very commonly heard and it’s been around for quite some time. Even ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ author, Robert Kiyosaki speaks about it in his book and says that MLM will be business in the future or so it seems.

So, this post is dedicated to all those who are wondering how to spot if your friend(s) is involved in one!

  1. It starts with a pitch by the ‘agent’ on the possibility or opportunity to make more money without revealing what or how it’s done OR asking you if you wanted to be their business partner. (No one becomes a business partner easier than MLM)
  2. To learn or know more about it, you’d have to attend a specific function.
  3. At the event, you will see highly enthusiastic people with so much positive energy. Not that it’s bad, it creates the ‘culture shock’ effect for the new faces. For those unfamiliar with such environments, it is a fresh one for them since most of the time in their life, they would have been pretty miserable.
  4. The products, in the past 10 – 15 years have remained fairly consistent, health and wellness products. In the past, they said it’s to serve the baby boom who have since grown old. Now, it’s about you wanting to give a better life to your family.
  5. Once you’ve attended the ‘seminar’, your friend will pull you to the side, sit you down and ask you a few questions…..
  • “What do you think about it?”
  • “Do you think it’s something that will benefit you/your family?”

If you answered ‘POSITIVELY’ to both, you’re an easy kill.

If you didn’t, a bit more probing will be done through some careful leading questioning techniques which you will eventually find yourself convincing yourself that it’s good, regardless how sceptical you are about it.

Once that’s done, depending on prior information that your friend has supplied to his ‘upline’, seating positions takes place. If you’re right handed, the upline will seat on your right and your friend will take his place on your left. It’s actually a really good sales strategy, ‘cornering’.

Then the closing techniques will take place.

“Why?”

“Why not?”

It’s throwing the curve ball back at you basically if your response initially was positive but turned negative since you decided that you needed a bit more time to think about signing up. (Good to keep your wallet elsewhere when you attend their events or to request time to do more research on it. These days, with a smart phone, just Google ‘Company XYZ Scam’. You should get a few hits if it’s not legitimate)

But here’s THE BEST PART ABOUT KNOWING that your friend is in an MLM company.

MONEY SHOT!

Your friend will take photo of him/herself with a stack of money and pose with it with some very positive and energetic words! Now, who doesn’t love and want more money right?

So, how does MLM work?

The sales and recruitment strategies have remained the same, get a few downlines to form your own pyramid and receive overriding commission based on sales by your downline. It’s a multiplier effect and to such point whereby you no longer have to recruit or sell, because it then becomes passive income and that’s the keyword that every single person wants to hear.

Some companies require a ‘membership’ fee and if they’ve got products, some will require that you buy these products as your inventory to sell. Whether or not you can move your products will depend on how desperate you are to recover your ‘invested’ money and to make a commission. For those that don’t require product sales, it’s all purely based on recruitment fees. So, once the recruitment stops, that’s when the whole thing fails.

Product training is provided but for what I’ve seen and observed before, the products/services are never registered or legally approved by the local government and therefore, it is often sold as a revolutionary product that is currently seeking its credentials in the market and you don’t want to miss out on it or miss out on benefitting your loved ones. Or they’ll tell you that it’s a really popular brand in some XYZ country and trying to open a new market here but doesn’t want to go over the counter, prefers personal sales touch.

I’m not doubting on the products but if the company really has confidence in the product, shouldn’t it be registered and checked by the governing bodies to certify it safe for use.

I’ve always enjoyed attending to such MLM seminars or attend the trainings provided because they do provide pretty good sales training strategies and you will get the energy boost you are looking for!

In some cases, you might get a cult-like feeling with some cool and fancy handshakes or cheers!

Total Defence Day – A Preventive-Reactive Measure Towards Peace & Harmony


For the past 30 years since 1984, Singapore has been celebrating Total Defence Day. A day where we attempt outline the importance of maintaining peace and harmony that we have enjoyed in Singapore, having overcome what was considered the most tumulous period of Singapore’s history in the early 60′s through to the early 80′s.

Over the course of the time that I’ve been a student, I’ve watched, listened and even participated in Total Defence Day proudly, pledging my allegiance to defend Singapore. 

But alas, in recent years, I’ve come to noticed that Total Defence Day is all but a mere celebration of peace and harmony. The structures and policies that we have been accustomed to, have not been adjusted to manage the changing times. Singaporeans have continued to be told over the years to toe the line and not to fall over onto the other side, but the truth is, many have and many want to.

The sudden boom of the internet in the late 90′s and the way people have been able to connect to one another since 2006 with the advent of Facebook has seen the world take to the internet, and to people differently.

  1. Human to Human connection is at best, defined through social media connections – however best you define it.
  2. Individuals are the best source and worst source of news – but they still provide better insight and perspective than mainstream media.
  3. Individuals are creating news through their own social media outlets – some good, some bad.

And all these connections on the internet play a big role in Social Defence.

If the Singapore government considers manpower our biggest asset in nation building, Social Defence is no doubt the biggest and most important from the rest (Military, Civil, Economic and Psychological) in this current day and age. 

Our Social Defence is weak and here are my reasons why:

  1. Quite a number of Singaporeans are a bunch of racists, when it comes to foreigners. Have you read the online chatter every single time a news about a foreigner committing a crime? One of the few things you can expect to read is “Send them back home” or “Must be from (country)”.
  2. Singaporeans lack an understanding of the different cultures and faiths. We are no longer just a majority Chinese, Malay and Indian nation with a very small minority of Others. Singapore has a diverse population of Others and this needs to be acknowledged and accepted by all Singaporeans.
  3. Singaporeans lack in compassion. No need to talk much, just look at the kind of things people post up on STOMP.
  4. Community Programmes are focused on how to react, rather than how to prevent. Think about all the community programmes that you have attended? How many actually teach us how to prevent things from happening. Most are a reaction to something that happens. It’s what I’d describe as a Preventive-Reactive Measure, the act of prevention in response to something that might happen again.

On point 4, I really don’t know if it’s fair or not to pin the blame on the government. Probably our government just doesn’t have the social foresight or simply refuses to listen to its people who share or practice selective listening, because most of the recent issues we see today could have been predicted years ago.

From the recent Little India riots to Anton Casey to Amy Cheong to our ‘Liltte Terrorists’, these were all incidents that could have been avoided but our sights were set on Military, Civil and Economic Defence. Little attention had been paid to Psychological and Social Defence, not until the recent General Elections.

As how most of us know, we are a nanny state and in a nanny state like Singapore, Peace & Harmony is determined by a set of rules and guidelines, one of the best being ‘no speaking or discussion on topics related to race or religion publicly’. Not unless it is done with full government support and under government purview, which would likely only end up in something surface value and celebratory, like how your mother would ‘hush’ you when you tried to say something she prefers not to hear but is extremely important to you, and if word does get out, she pinches you to silence you.

She hopes that the pinch will give you enough pain to remind you not to speak of it again, ever. If you slip it out, you’re getting a slap next until the pain is delayed to when you get home and receive a good caning. Throughout all that pain and suffering you go through, your mother still loves you and you still remain dependent on your mom.

And that’s exactly how I see the Singaporeans relationship with the Singapore government.

Singaporeans are over-reliant on the government to do the things for them and when the government does something wrong, Singaporeans whine and then the government corrects it and hands over goodies for us to suck on. When Singaporeans do wrong, the authorities acting on behalf of the government punishes us, with hopes that we learn to correct our mistake and never commit them again.

“Spare the rod, spoil the child”

But things have changed, when I was in the States, I was introduced to the concept of Restorative Justice and I loved it. It defines what peacebuiling is all about, separating the sin from the sinner, and giving the sinner an opportunity to contribute meaningfully back to society.

Unfortunately, this is probably something both the Singaporean government and its people will have trouble adjusting to because it would mean that for every person sentenced to prison, we are putting them back into society to perform ‘community service’ as part of their prison rehabilitation. They are given the opportunity to learn how to rebuild the trust that has been lost not just to the victim, but also to the community and society they have hurt, vice-versa.

I found this to be extremely empowering and serves to be a very humane tool of rehabilitation, opposed to our current jail time and caning system and this is what I would consider as a pretty good form of Social Defence since it works on Singapore’s favourite preventive-reactive measure.

Economically, it’s also been proven to reduce cost. USD$150,000/year to put someone in jail as opposed to USD$10,000/year for such a programme.

Pretty good?

I SAY IT’S DAMN GOOD!

MediaCorp’s Countdown a Social Disaster


Dear MediaCorp,

I was an employee of yours a few years ago and whilst I had big visions of changing the entertainment industry back then (and now), as a small fry, there was absolutely no way I could have done it.

I’m not sure who decided on the concept of Countdown 2013 but it certainly didn’t impress me, neither did it impress a lot of people. As THE national broadcaster and THE biggest media company in Singapore, the countdown was a social disaster.

In fact, it showed a lack of cultural sensitivity of the leadership of whoever was in charge and whoever was involved in the planning and conceptualization of the countdown itself. Perhaps, this was the intended direction of the leadership – to move Singapore towards a more China-based or Chinese-speaking audience. Yes? No?

As someone of mixed heritage who is heavily involved in the education sector, local community and the global world, I find your lack of sensitivity towards the diverse culture that live and work in Singapore to be extremely disappointing and your possible ignorance to the trends of the conflicts that has been happening in Singapore, shameful.

The leadership involved in the planning and conceptualization may have had the best idea on how to entertain, but they certainly didn’t know who they were trying to entertain.

I would highly suggest that you send your leadership and staff for diversity training, so they have a better understanding of the different cultures that live in Singapore. So that your Channel 5 programmes will see better diversity and is a reflection of the cultures that live and work in Singapore, not the culture that you wish to create.

If you don’t have an idea on how to do it, let me know. I spent time in the US to researching on these issues and developed a programme for it. You could really use the programme.

And OH! In case you forget, “To engage, entertain and enrich audiences by harnessing the power of creativity.”

That’s your mission statement. FAIL.

Cheers.

Your Ex-Employee

Why Little India riot won’t be the last one


When I first heard the news of the Little India riot, I hadn’t turned on my TV set yet since arriving back from my fellowship in the United States. I haven’t watched the local news for months and had only kept myself abreast of Singapore news through Facebook updates I read on my timeline because I really didn’t have time to surf news websites.

So, the Little India riot came to me as like a premonition that I’d second guessed throughout my entire fellowship.

I had gone on this fellowship to take a break from the day to day work that I do in Singapore, as a social entrepreneur and as a grassroots volunteer to look at the issues facing Singapore and the challenge that lies ahead in times of globalization. Throughout my entire fellowship, I had met and spoken to many leaders involved in diversity and peace education programmes and was under tutelage from one of the world’s best conflict negotiators.

In my research and development of a project under the theme of Tolerance and Conflict Resolution, I had been tracking the trend of major incidences that had shaken Singapore’s fragile social structure from the years Singapore was known as a state till today and my observations showed that there was a lot to be worried about. In other words, it was just a matter of time before something as huge a scale as the riot or bigger, would happen.

In fact, I don’t think the Little India riot is the last that we will see in the coming years to come. 

If structured programmes focused on encouraging understanding between faiths and cultures and integration are not implemented and institutionalized, I’m afraid that Singapore will be heading for disaster, not only politically but also economically and socially. The problems in Singapore are deep rooted and have almost always been swept under the rug, the policies implemented do not reflect the social needs of society but only serve to improve economical needs of the country.

Having undergone diversity and conflict resolution training aside from attending countless seminars in the US, it all boils down to two key things:

  • Conversation
  • Structure

Conversation, as a form of communication to build trust and understanding of one another.

Even my mentor, Eboo Patel, one of many advisers to President Obama’s interfaith relations speaks about it in his speeches and implements it in his programmes. Unfortunately, having open conversations to discuss race and religion is not encouraged in Singapore. 

This is policy failure number 1.

Structure, to institutionalize trust and understanding between one another.

The HDB may have been intended to encourage social interaction (aside from better use of land resources) and People’s Association, to build social cohesion between communities (aside from helping society understand government policies) but unfortunately, living in HDB has caused more people to live in seclusion because of a lack of available common space and People’s Association hasn’t been as effective as it should because its activities simply lack the very element it needed, understanding.

The MOE also fails in its ability to engage and encourage students to build trust and understanding of one another through its Social Studies programme. With a focus on achieving academic excellence, teachers are spending time to rush through the curriculum than to build positive relationships between students (some do).

In short, the entire structure wasn’t build for success at building trust and understanding and positive relationships between individuals and communities. Evaluation indicators were probably measuring or monitoring the wrong markers, partly due to how statisticians like to play with numbers and statistics to ‘look good’ rather than to reflect the overall situation.

This is policy failure number 2, 3, 4 and 5.

The latest news that I read recently was on how MND was considering to house foreign workers on offshore islands. This is the biggest failure in integration that Singapore can make if it does go through. It’s bad enough that foreign workers are placed in dormitories, away from the cultural norms of Singapore, making it hard for them to understand the subtle nuances that we all need to learn to live peacefully and harmoniously.

In words that I can describe from a conversation with a Californian friend who came to Singapore with hopes of settling down here, Singapore is a sad country to live in. You don’t see happy faces on the streets, Singaporeans are pessimists and will probably live their whole lives never to experience life fully beyond going to work to earn a living.