Wednesday, April 15, 2009


As you may already know, I am not a prolific blogger. Nevertheless, I came across an interesting adapted fable, reputedly Portuguese, by one PR Obrigado Mario that prompted me to post on my organization's e-mail. The responses that came back indicated that there was some degree of transferability. People could relate to the fable. For example, one said "Interesting, very familiar. Seems like a lived experience". Another remarked, “Sounds like an innuendo. There are some truths in it, perhaps”.

Apart from the translatability, one person inquired, "So who are the ants in our organization"? Now this question set me thinking. Are there really ants in an organization? More often than not, perhaps people in organizations are more like the cockroaches and cicadas in the fable. For that matter, does the lion really exist?

Now let’s see what you think about the fable.

Everyday a small ant arrives at work very early and starts work immediately. The ant produces a lot and it was happy. The Chief, a lion was surprised to see that the ant was working without a supervisor. Wouldn’t the ant produce even more if it had a supervisor?

So the lion recruited a cockroach who had extensive experience as a supervisor and who was well known for writing excellent reports. The cockroach’s first decision was to set up a clocking-in attendance system. The cockroach also needed a secretary to type up its reports and thus recruited a spider, who managed the archives and monitored all phone calls.

The lion was delighted with the cockroach’s reports and asked the cockroach to produce graphs to describe production rates and to analyze trends, so that the lion can use them for presentations at the Board’s meetings. So the cockroach had to buy a computer and a laser printer, and recruited a fly to manage the IT department.

The ant who had once been so productive and relaxed, hated the new plethora of paper work and meetings which used up most of the ant’s time. Then, the lion came to a conclusion it was high time to nominate a person in charge of the department where the ant worked. The position was given to a cicada, whose first decision was to buy a carpet and an ergonomic chair for its office.

The new person in charge, the cicada, also needed a computer and a personal assistant who it brought from its previous department, to help prepare a Work and Budget Control Strategic Optimism Plan. The department where the ant worked is now a sad place, where nobody laughs anymore and everybody has become upset. It was that time that the cicada convinced the boss, the lion, of the absolute necessity to start a climatic study of the environment.

Having reviewed the costs of running the department, the lion found out that the production was much less than before. So the lion recruited the owl, a prestigious and renowned consultant to carry out an audit and suggest solutions. The owl spent three months in the department and came up with an enormous report in several volumes, that concluded “The department is overstaffed”.

Guess who the lion fires first? The ant of course, “because it showed lack of motivation and had a negative attitude”.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Characteristics of a good teacher

My good friend and above all beloved teacher, Azahari Ismail shared this piece of work with me that I thought I'd post for everyone to enjoy. The piece entitled “13 Semi-visible and invisible desirable characteristics of a good teacher” was an assignment submitted for a Testing and Evaluation class and carried the date December 12, 1975. For posterity, the piece is rewritten in its originality without any amendments and is posted with permission from the author.

……. Class distraction …………. 7121975
_____ _______________________________________

13 Semi-visible and invisible desirable characteristics of a good teacher*

1. Has the minimum functional desire to teach.

2. Has a thorough knowledge of the subject matter taught and likes it.

3. Has the ability to shift the students’ state of learning at least from
negative to neutral and knows the difference between the two.

4. Has the ability to disengage the students’ yawning mechanism at least for a one hour period.

5. Has the ability to maintain the behavior of a complete human being
while in the classroom.

6. Has the ability to communicate in different but proper wave-lengths.

7. Has the ability to lead and remains in front while leading.

8. Has the ability to maintain the mirror image of oneself while engaged in a
personal conversation in front of a mirror.

9. Has the ability to translate imaginations into proper actions.

10. Has the courage to accept the fact that the world is unstructured.

11. An observant, interested and dedicated learner.

12. A product of the college of education out of choice but not circumstances.

13. Has the ability to continue teaching while other job offers are pouring in.

-Azahari Ismail-


*Lack of any or all these characetristics does not necessarily deprive anybody from being a marginal teacher regardless of sex.

az/july '75

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Here is a light-hearted portrayal of human performance that I enjoyed. The tongue-in-cheek assessment of five human abilities was rated as outstanding, excellent, average, fair and poor. The rating was attributed to a certain Dave Barret and his group at the University of Florida in 1974. The rating was then reproduced by Azahari Ismail in 1978. I hope you find the appraisal as entertaining and enlightening as I did when I first encountered it.

Leaps tall buildings in a single bound
Must take a running start to leap over tall buildings
Can leap over short buildings only
Crashes into building when attempting to leap
Cannot recognize building at all

Is faster than a speeding bullet
Is as fast as a speeding bullet
Not quite as fast as a speeding bullet
Would you believe a slow bullet
Wounds self with bullet when attempting to shoot

Is stronger than a locomotive
Is stronger than a bull elephant
Is stronger than a bull
Shoots the bull
Smells like a bull

Walks on water consistently
Walks on water in emergencies
Washes with water
Drinks water
Passes water in emergencies

Talks with god
Talks with the angels
Talks to himself
Argues with himself
Loses arguments with himself

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Our lives to change

In life, we can either change or be changed. Perhaps, being the actor in changing your life is probably more meaningful than being a passive recipient of change. Having a resemblance of control over change is more satisfying. However, too many things in life change and things change too quickly for us to always be an active change agent. Sometimes we have to welcome change or at least accept it and just move along in life. We have to understand the changes that are going on in our lives. Then change becomes less painful and even enjoyable.

“Ignorance is always afraid of change” says Jawaharlal Nehru. Things that are familiar to us give us comfort, but change introduces us to new and strange things. The uncertainty of change and its effect on us is probably the source of our fears for change. Hence, we have to learn – learn about the world around us, learn how things work, learn about actions and consequences, learn about people and their responses to their environment, and learn about life in general. Carl Rogers, the psychologist noted for his contributions towards the Humanistic approach sees people and change as “The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.”

If change is difficult enough for us, then it is probably much more difficult to change others. Leadership is about change. Probably, there has never been a leader acclaimed for maintaining a status quo. If learning and understanding makes change easier for us, then the same applies to changing others. According to Mandela “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. People need to understand what they need to do, why they need to change, how the change will affect them, and how they can play a role in the change process. People will accept change better if they know what the change is about. Knowing gives them the resemblance of control over their lives and the changes associated with their lives. Sharon Stone, the actress provides a perspective on change and people “People don't change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.”

Changes make a difference, and hopefully those changes improve our lives and those of others. Leaders want change probably because they believe that the present situation is not good – for them and their followers. Hopefully the changes that leaders bring about can benefit more people and indeed bring an improvement to their livelihoods. Nevertheless, if we want change, then preferably we have to lead the change. It is better than just wait for change to happen. As Barack Obama puts it “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Therefore, do what you need to do. Lead that change.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A successful operation

The operation was successful, but the patient died. The adapted phrase originally attributed to Mr Mak Tian Kuan in 1970 describes the achievement of the implementation or the process in disregard to the intended outcome. The outcome doesn't really matter. The important thing is that the plans have been perfectly executed.

Applied to a teaching and learning excercise, most teachers may be interested in conducting the class according to the lesson plan, but then neglect to consider if the student has indeed learned anything. Perhaps, this is a common phenomenon, especially in this age of applying standard procedures such as ISO9001 to education.

Or you may have had a brilliant sales pitch, but no one bought your product. Organizations are not spared from this phenomena. The change intiative may have been spot on in increasing productivity in the short term at the expense of the employees' health and morale.

What can be worse than a dead patient? Maybe, a dead surgeon. The operation was successful, but the surgeon died. This situation can be argued in many ways and perhaps it may not be a bad situation at all. After all, an organization that has attained its mission has thus outlived its usefulneess. Simply put, albeit far-fetched, if an organization tasked with eradicating poverty has achieved its goal, then its existence becomes irrelevant.

Is this why organizations conciously or subconciously sabotage themselves?

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Welcome to Kidin's Inquiry and Dialogue. This blog is generally used as an online teaching and learning tool for my classes at the Department of Professional Development and Continuing Education, Universiti Putra Malaysia. However, I do welcome posts on matters that may not be directly related to the classes I instruct. Informality is encouraged and above all sincerity is valued. Sila masuk.