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This blog has been designed most for the benefits of my students. I am interested in spiritual intelligence because I believe it leads to happiness and resilience. If you want copies of my published research (conference papers or articles in journals), feel free to contact me.

Ridhwan (fontaine008@gmail.com)

My other blog is: http://happyinislam.blogspot.com/

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Feedback on the assignment of al qadar

Generally, everybody did this assignment well. Many of you learnt how to flip problems and seem to enjoy the process. Believe me, when you do it for the first time, you can only manage to flip small problems. When a really big problem hits you, you go back to a state of anger and frustration. However, if you practice flipping small problems, you become better and better. I had one of my master students flip a really big problem. Her mother had died of cancer some years back and she found that very difficult to closure. After doing the assignment on al qadar, she was able to see the good side of what happened and complete the grieving process.

I was quite interested in your ratios of good things to bad things that happen to you. I didn't have time to count but the majority of the class (maybe 80%) had ratios that were 2 to 1, 3 to 1 and 10 to 1. Some students had 15 to 1. Other students had 1,000 to 1. I need to do some more research in this area but I assume that people who have a ratio of 15 to 1 will be much better at flipping problems that students who have a ratio of 2 to 1. I like one student who said, "We only have one problem in life, that is perception". Another student said that they could only count the material things but not the spiritual ones ..... but aren't the spiritual things more important.
Consider this. Each and every one of you is luckier than Bill gates..... That is amazing, isn't it?

Feedback on the Happiness assignment

Generally, the class seemed to have enjoyed doing the assignment (although everybody said it was hard work). About 90% said that they benefited from the assignment and 10% said that it made no difference.

I spotted 4 assignments that were copied. Unfortunately, these people will have to face the consequences of their actions.

When I started this assignment, my assumption was that Muslims needed to seek knowledge all the time. I have changed that assumption. Even I get bored listening to Islamic talks every week. I think that when things are good, you don't need to do this kind of activity too often. However, when things get bad (break-up with a friend, car accident, divorce, somebody in the family dies ,....), I believe you do need a spiritual boost to avoid falling into depression. Now, I believe that people should be able to monitor their physical / psychological / spiritual well-being. When things start to get bad, that is when it is time to boost your eeman.

Two comments:
a) Some people said that they felt frustrated because they were still unsure about their direction in life. According to Erik Erikson, people go through 8 stages in their life. In their youth, it is normal for people to be still exploring their identity of their own self. Their identity only becomes complete after they complete their studies and start working. So don't worry.
b) Some people said that they felt guilty because by doing this assignment they realised that they committed a lot of sins in the past. My comment is that you should not feel guilty for being a human being. Only angels never make sins. The nature of a human-being is that we make sins every day (whether small sins or major sins). But a human-being who is aware of his mistakes returns sincerely to Allah on a daily basis. He realises that Allah's Love and Mercy is without limits so as long as we are trying our best, we hope for the best.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Leadership training

This is an open invitation to all my students. I am interested in putting together a leadership porgramme for students at the end of the semester. This is the process I propose we follow:
a) Students sign up for the programme
b) We brainstorm the specific aims of the programme (skills, knowledge, building attitude,...) & discuss constraints (time, financial,....)
c) I will then develop the details of the programme
d) Students who are no longer interested can pull out. Students who are interested commit themselves fully.
e) We do the programme
f) At the end of the programme, I issue every participant with a certificate issued by HC Solutions Sdn Bhd [my wife's company]. This will go towards building your CVs as per our discussion in class.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Visit by Mr. Adam Said

Mr. Adam Said, CEO of Irshad (www.irshad.com.my) will visit us either on Tuesdat 18th October (main plan) or on Thursday 20th October (back-up plan). This session is compolsary for students taking MGT2010 and it is open to students taking MGT6600. The details are

Venue: LT 1
Time: 10am to 11.20am (Tuesday)

Mr. Adam Said is a multimillionaire, owner of 3 companies and rubb shoulders with top people in the corporate world and the government. More importantly, his approach is 100% Islamic, which shows that you can be a good Muslim and very rich because of your brains and your hrad work. He has kindly agree to talk about how HR managers recruit new graduates. He plans to talk for about 20 minutes. The rest will be Q&A

Dress code: formal (i.e. no slippers, no jeans, no T short - slacks and proper shoes for the guys)

Take notes during his talk

Everybody has to have a least one question prepared. If there are not enough questions to sustain the 1h Q&A, I will be very upset! It is VERY difficult to get a speaker like this. To give you some ideas on the type of questions, I am listing some of the questions that I have,

1. What are the expectations of industry when it comes to fresh graduates?
2. How do HR staff identify good candidates?
3. What do people look for when it comes reviewing a CV / resume?
4. Are there clubs / societies that recruiters really like on a students' CV / resume?
5. How important is the CGPA for recruiters?
6. Which are the industries in which corruption is a major problem?
7. Which are the industries in which corruption is not a problem?
8. What are the common mistakes graduates make when preparing a CV?
9. What are the common mistakes garduates make when they attend an interview?
10. Should you lie during an interview?
11. Should you negotiate for a higher salary during the interview?
12. Some companies offer less salary but more learning opportunities. Would you recommend such companies?

The questions above are related to HR issues but you are allowed to widen the scope - if you want to know what it is like to start a company, feel free to ask.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Harvard Business School videos on You Tube

Everybody wants to score right? Yet many students seem to believe that their job is limited to attending classes and reading the textbook. Although these activities are very important, the truth is that there are hundreds of good videos on You Tube that relate to management. You want to know about leadership? Teamwork? motivation? Strategy. It's all there for you to watch. In many cases, they add insights that are not in the textbook. Here is a video from Michael Porter. Watch it carefully and compare it with the explanation in the textbook. It is the same but it is different........


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Surfing Islamic web sites

Well, Ramadhan is coming to a close and the semester will start in a few weeks. My students will thus start their assignments that will require them to surf Islamic websites. But how to choose which website is the best?

For people wanting simple and more entertaining material, the Deen Show is pretty good.

For people wanting a variety of speakers on different topics, Audio Islam, Islaam.com, Islam way and Islam web are good

For good explanations of the meaning of the Qur'an, Bilal Philips site is good. The talks are short enough not be a burden but with enough detail to make you appreciate the meaning.

For a more detailed explanation, Yasir Qahdi's explanation of Surah Yusuf on Sunnah on Line is excellent ... but it is in 8 parts!

Currently, the most detailed and comprehensive explanation of Qur'an, Hadith and many other aspects of Islam is on Understand Islam. For example, there is a very detailed tafsir of surah Ya Sin. However, he talks for 1h just about two or three ayat. That level of detail is not suitable for everybody.

In short, different people are interested in different things. Once you have found the Islamic web site for you, make the most of it!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Psychological Capital

Based on the work in the field of positive Organizational Behaviour (POB), Psychological Capital (PsyCap) are all the positive factors that influences people's perception of happiness. Again, PsyCap is composed of four inter-related constructs. This has been supported by research over the last 20 years or so. These are:

Hope: Not simply the hope for a better future but hope creates a very strong will (willpower) and there is a clear idea of how to achieve that goal (way-power).

Optimism: Based on the work of Seligman, we know that optimism is how we deal with negative events. Specifically, we see such events as temporary and specific.

Resilience: This is the ability to bounce back.

Self-efficacy: This is the belief that we can do specific things (like drive a car or manage people). Self-efficacy often occurs because in the past, we have done something before or we have watched other people do something before.

From an Islamic perspective, my understanding is that a correct understanding of Islam precedes PsyCap. The Islamic belief system and the correct knowledge of Islam allows Muslims to be hopeful, optimistic, resilient and able to get things done. Specific skills (like goals setting, time management, ABCD,....) can help but the core has to be Islamic. That would mean that a correct Islamic core belief systems leads to PsyCap which in turn leads to happiness.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

How to become more intelligent

I have finished reading two books related to strengthening our brain. The first book is by Norman Doidge and is called "The Brain that changes itself". The second book is called "Brain school" by Howard Eaton.

The first book talks about 'neuroplasticity'. This complicated word simply means that the brain has got the ability to re-organize itself. Scientists know that certain parts of the brain relate to specific skills and abilities. One part of the brain is for speech, another part of the brain is for thinking and so forth. The assumption was that if that part of the brain was damage, the damage was permanent and the skill / ability would be lost forever. By using MRIs and studying patients with a damaged brain but WHO RECOVERED their skills and abilities, scientists realised that the specific skills and abilities were being processed by different (and unexpected) parts of the brain. In other words, to overcome the damage to one part of the brain, the functions of the brain were re-organized.

At first, scientists did not understand why this happened. Now, researchers know how to stimulate specific parts of the brain with specific exercises. They can use these exercises to 'change' the area of the brain that processes skills and abilities. If an area of the brain is not damage but is simply weak, they can strengthen these areas. It should be noted that these exercises takes a lot of time and a lot of concentration. I am talking about one or two hours everyday for several months. However, they do work.

The second book talks about how this new knowledge about the brain has helped educators in Canada develop a whole range of exercises to help children with learning disabilities and even social problems. Children that are considered "slow learners" can become normal or above average after extensive coaching for several years. It should be noted that there is a difference between 'cognition' (the brain) and 'achievement' (the academic result). Traditional approaches to help 'slow learners' means that they get coaching to achieve better academic results. But their 'weak' cognition is not developed. Now, the approach is to strengthen the cognition first so that academic achievement improves without any need for special tutoring.

But why should we use these 'brain exercises' only with children with learning disabilities. Why not help 'normal' children become better by allowing them to practice on their own. One interesting website is called "www.luminosity.com'. I am thinking of subscribing to it for my own children. Generally though, we can be pro=active in life or we can be reactive. Obviously, the whole philosophy of this blog is to empower my students and my readers. Before you try anything, do some reading and figure things out for yourself :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Human Capital

A few days ago, I was listening to BFM 89.90, which is a radio station that focuses on business. Every morning at 8am, they have interviews with Malaysian and non-Malaysian CEOs. This particular day, they interviewed the CEO of Booz & Co, a leading US consultant.

One part of the interview attracted me. They were discussing what Malaysia needs to do to be competitive in the global economy. This CEO replied that the only way forward in the medium term is to develop Human Capital. Only 28% of Malaysians continue their education after SPM. It is only by continuously developing their knowledge and skills that Malaysians can hope to compete. If not, Vision 2020 will stay a dream.

This CEO explained that Malaysia is now in what is known as the "middle income trap". That is to say that the Malaysian economy is more sophisticated that poor countries like Vietnam or the Philippines. But it cannot compete yet with more successful countries like Taiwan, South Korea or Singapore. The only way for Malaysia to get out of this middle-of-the-road situation is to embrace high-value added business models. This means that Malaysians have to compete based on knowledge and creativity, not simply low salaries and hard-work.

This brings me to the purpose of the internet-assignments that I give. There is so much information on the Net that nobody has any excuse anymore. The only thing is that you need to feel that updating yourself is your personal responsibility and you allocate some time every week to do just that. If you are not willing to discipline yourself....well, that is your problem.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

PORNOGRAPHY

I am currently reading a book called "The Brain that Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge. This book talks about the recent discoveries regarding the brain and how it functions. In the old days, the assumption was that the brain did not change after it childhood. Any brain damage was permanent. Recent discoveries shows that, on the contrary, the brain can and does re-organize itself. The book describes the experiences of various people who suffered personal tragedies - such as brain damage - and how they have been able to overcome their tragedies by exploiting the brain's ability to re-organize itself. One of the most interesting chapters concerns the damage of watching pornography on the Internet. To understand the paragraph below (which I took from the book), you simply need to know that "neuroplasticity" refers to the brain's ability to re-organize itself.

"During the 1990s, when the Internet was growing quickly and pornography was exploding, I treated a number of men who had acquired a taste of a kind of pornography that troubled and disgusted them. These were normal men that simply started watching pornography on the Internet. They soon became addicted. This addiction not only meant that they were spending more time watching pornography on the internet - 5 hours a day was normal - but the sites they watched became more and more obscene. They started with 'normal pornography' and then progressed to 'abnormal pornography'. An addict experiences desires because his plastic brain has become sensitive to the experience. Putting it another way, the brain re-organized itself first around pornography and then when that was not enough, it reorganized itself around abnormal pornography" (pp. 102 to 110 - I edited the quote to make it shorter and easier to understand).

The moral of the story - don't watch pornography on-line. Apart from the Islamic consideration, if you do watch pornography, you run the risk of becoming addicted and the brain re-organizing itself in such a way that you cannot have a normal relationship anymore.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Purposes of this blog

I have been reviewing the statistics on people accessing my blog. They fall into two groups: my students and 'visitors'. So far, I have had visitors from the USA, India, Singapore, Indonesia, UK, South Korea, France, Latvia, Russia, the Palestinian territories, Netherlands and Saudi Arabia! Welcome to all.

This blog is primarily a resource for my students. Although I will give them hand outs in class, I encourage them to view the following postings:
- Class project: Tips on accessing Islamic websites (12/06/2010)
- Why do we fail to develop ourselves? (7/2/2011)
- Self efficacy (15/1/2011)

I rarely do religious / spiritual postings. The two postings which are the exception are one regarding Palestine (13/10/2010) and one picture from Bandar Aceh in which the whole town is destroyed except the Mosque.

I have linked a couple of management videos (virtual tour of DELL factory and a few videos concerning Deming). I believe these videos help students but they tend to slow down the blog so I don't do that anymore. Generally, if you go to YOU TUBE, you can download anything. Every topic that is taught in class can be found on YOU TUBE. In particular, if you type 'Harvard Business videos', you can find a lot of excellent business / management videos.

A secondary purpose of this blog is to benefit everybody - whether Muslims or non-Muslims - across the world. I believe that too many talk about the facts that Muslims need to be good people. Not enough people explain HOW someone becomes a better person. That's is the thing that interests me. What are the practical steps we need to take into becoming better people.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

MGT4110 photo

One student asked me why I don't put more pictures from UIA students on my blog .... The reason of course is that we keep taking pictures but people forget to email me the softcopy...... so do email them to me :) Here is one exception to the rule....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Welcome to the new batch .....


My wife keeps telling me that my blog is so boring because there are not enough pictures.... This is a picture of me being a manager :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dealing with fear

A few weeks ago, I attended a public seminar given by a leading Malaysian psychologists. We discussed the problem of why people lie and cheat. He argued that people only lie and cheat because they are afraid. They might be afraid of their parents, their teachers, their peers or even of themselves. In a previous posting, I have already discussed why people fail to learn, fail to develop themselves. They are afraid.

The next question is: why are people afraid? Maybe, one of the reasons is that they are busy trying to meet other people's high expectations. Ultimately, Muslims should understand that trying to meet other people's expectations is a waste of them. If meeting your parents' expectations is discouraged if that spoils your pure niat. The only thing worth doing is trying to please Allah SWT. Allah SWT does not expect us to be perfect. He simply wants us to see whether we are trying to improve or whether we have given up and we are only following the crowd ... like the sheep going to the slaughterhouse.

It might seem corny but I have been trying to establish a few principles of life. So far, I have come up with four golden rules. As long as anything you do does not contradict one of these rules, you are okay.

1. To worship Allah to the best of our ability (after all, that is why we were created,...)
2. To be grateful for what Allah has given us and not to complain for what Allah has not given us
3. To make a contribution to the society, if only by smiling to others
4. To have fun

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Coursework marks are out!

I have just posted the coursework marks for MGT2010 and MGT4110 outside my office.
Please note that some students have yet to submit their assignment. You have until Monday 12pm to do so.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What students said about assignment 1

As I mark your assignments, I have seen many comments that are both insightful and touching. Some of the comments are to personal to share but some of my favorite general comments are,

"I learned a lot from the tafsir of the surah. Even I recite the surah in my prayers but I do not even know the meaning. Then I realise that it is so pathetic , as a Muslim, if we don't know the translation in our own language. From now on, I wish to read one page of translation of al quran a day"

"There are certain things that I always wondered before and now, I feel satisfied as if one of the puzzles is placed at its right place and where it is supposed to be"


"There is no doubt that the gaining of greater knowledge has made it easier for me to be a better Muslim. The only difficulty lies in the first step, which is the independent search for knowledge."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Getting ready for the final exam

Well, it's this time of the semester again. My basic tips are:

a) Revise well what has been discussed in class. Know the key definitions and theories for the MCQ. If you don't know it by heart, you can't score.

b) For essay questions and the case study, you can relax a bit more. As long as you understood our discussions in class, you should be OK.

c) By and large, you should feel confident because most of you have got good carry marks.

Lastly, do think about the whole issue of continously adapting your skills in a knowledge based economy. This was a theme that I discussed in presenting the chapter on strategy, motivation and leadership. There must be a reason why I would repeat that point several times......

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tips for the mid-term (MGT2010 and MGT4110)

I know that students always want tips. My general policy is not to give any tips. However, I want to reflect on what I have been doing in class.

I am not simply interested in presenting the "facts" about management (MGT2010) or organizational behaviour (MGT4110). I am interested in "empowering" my students. Empowering students means making them realize that they have control of their lives. For example,
- your personality is not fixed, you can change it
- your attitude towards things is not fixed, you can change it
- if you didn't set goals for yourself in the past, you can start setting goals for yourself now
- if you had no strategy in the past to position yourself in regards to future employers, you can start strategizing now
In many of the essay questions, you can expect something that relates what YOU as individuals can do to use the information I gave you in class to change YOUR lives for the better.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why do we fail to develop ourselves?

An important question. We attended a great session - whether a training session or a lecture -, we valued the input but we don't change. Why? In my experience, there are two fundamental reasons. The first is fear. The second is ego.

Fear is a very important factor that prevents people from changing. People are afraid to change because change requires taking a risk. Very few people realize that they are afraid of change. Generally though, they rationalize their fear by making statements like, "I am being cautious", "I want to be sure this works before I try it out"....

Ego is a second critical factor. Often, there is a clash between the ego of the instructor and the ego of the participants. That clash of egoes is often subconscious. Neither the instructor nor the participants are aware that their respective egoes are in the way....

So what can we do? Ultimately, everybody is responsible for reflecting. If the participants are not changing, the instructor should reflect on his own attitude / ego that he brings to the learning event. If participants do not learn, they need to decide whether it is out of fear or out of ego. Once people becomes conscious of the reason why things are not happening, it is easier to initiate a positive change.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Self-efficacy

Over the last few weeks, I have re-discovered the importance of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the belief that you can do something specific. It should not be confused with self-confidence, which is more general. For example,

1. I can be a very self-confident person but I may have a low self-efficacy when it comes to public presentations. As such, I will avoid making public presentations.

2. As an individual, I may lack self-confidence but I may have self-efficacy in making public presentations. So, if I need to make a public presentation, I will be okay with it.

The key to self-efficacy is to recognize that is entirely a matter of perception. Self-efficacy can be improved by shaping. Let's say that I am coaching somebody who lacks self-efficacy in giving public presentations. That is probably because he or she imagine talking to a large room with 100 strangers for 1 hour or so. So you make the task less frightening by simplifying it:

a) You train the person to give 5 minute talks to a group of 5 people. They may take 6 months to develop that self-efficacy. Once that person feels okay with doing that, you go to the next stage

b) You train the person to give 10 minutes talks to a group of 10 people. That may take another 6 months to develop that (or one month, or a year - you can only move at the pace of the person you are coaching). Once that person has developed that self-efficacy, you go to the next stage.

c) You train the person to give 20 minute talks to a group of 20 people. Here it gets interesting because 20 minutes is the ideal length for a talk. You should train people to NEVER talk for more than 20 minutes.

The first key to develop people is to understand that self-efficacy is a matter of perception and that by making the task less scary, you can use a shaping strategy to improve people's skills. The second key is to recognize that perception is never logical. You need to move at the pace of the person you are coaching, not at a pace you think is logical. That requires patience and sincere appreciation of the facts that everybody is unique.

Another soft skills session