Entries in Leadership (3)

Wednesday
Nov302011

Spreading Seeds of Happiness to the World 

The secret to being happy is to help make other people happy. Geshe Michael Roach shares with Qi his thoughts on achieving real success in both personal life and business.

By Wang Lin

Qi: You play so many roles: teacher, author, businessman and textual scholar. Which role would you associate yourself with most and why?

Geshe Michael: My teachers for 25 years in the Tibetan monastery used to tell me that I should try to learn as many different roles as I could, because each role allows me to reach more people and to help them. Playing so many roles is most difficult, when I need to pay extra fees for my check-in baggage on flights, since I have to bring many sets of clothes: businessman, monk, yoga teacher, musician, and so on. So for me, your question is very good and insightful.

The one role I associate myself most with is as a student of my own Heart Teacher. In the Tibetan tradition, we believe that it is very important to have one person in the world who you treasure above all of your teachers: someone who really brings you the best things in your life. So when I think of who I am most, it is as a student still, even after over 40 years of training. And my favorite occupation is to take care of my Heart Teacher, whether it is by cooking, gardening, or running simple errands for him.

Qi: What is one memorable little story in teaching Diamond Cutter Principles around the world?

Geshe Michael: I spend a lot of time travelling the world and explaining the Diamond Cutter Principles to people--principles that I used to help found Andin International, which has reached US$250 million in annual sales and was recently sold to super investor Warren Buffett. My funds went to help refugees and poor people around the world.

"What makes me most happy is to see other people happy, and to help make them happy. I think this is true for all of us, whether we are aware of it or not. We are most happy when we have been able to make someone else happy."

Buddhist monks spend many years trying to reach a special state of meditation called bodhichitta, a kind of love and concern for the whole world, and a vision of what the world can become if we all try. I had never really seen how the principles could trigger this kind of compassion in people until one day I gave a talk to a large group of local factory owners in Guangzhou, China.

That day, we had talked a lot about how the seeds to be successful in business are planted by helping other business people to succeed in their own business. I felt that we reached a point where everybody understood this idea and was ready to try it.

And then I asked, very simply: "What do you all think would happen in the world, if everybody really believed that the only way to make money was to help other people make money?"

Suddenly the entire room was completely quiet, and I could see all these tough, hard businesspeople closing their eyes and imagining how the world would be...I could almost see them imagining all the people in the world who have money handing it to all the people in the world who need money, and the great wealth that would come back to every giver.

One of them raised his hand and said quietly, "Well....that would be a perfect world, a world of perfect harmony between all people."

At that very moment, I felt a wave of strong emotion, love and inspiration wiping through the whole room. It was bodhichitta, real ultimate love for every other living being. I have found that business people are often more hardworking and intelligent than many monks in a monastery, and I felt that at that moment they had understood real love in a way that few monks ever do. That was one of the most special moments in my life.

Qi: What makes you most happy?

Geshe Michael: What makes me most happy is to see other people happy, and to help make them happy. I think this is true of all of us, whether we really are aware of it or not. We are most happy when we have been able to make someone else happy. If we really understand the ancient Diamond Cutter Principles, then we really have something to offer to others that will make them extremely happy and successful.

Qi: What projects are you working on now?

Geshe Michael: I am working on about 200 projects and organizations with a lot of really talented and beautiful people. Here are three of my favorite ones at this moment:

1) A project to build an investment fund with the goal of providing one million free solar panels to poor people on each side of the Mexican-American border in the next six years with the help of Asian friends, and teaching Mexican young people Chinese language to help them continue solar business in Asia.

2) A book about how to apply the principles in my bestselling business book, The Diamond Cutter, to find and keep a successful relationship with that special person in your life (Doubleday/Random House Publishers in New York have already agreed to publish this, so have Oaktree Publishers, for the Chinese language version, for all Chinese speakers in Asia). This book will be called The Karma of Love. Watch for it!

3) An upcoming program for the scientific community at Princeton University where we will discuss how the ancient wisdom of Asia can be applied to solve the most famous problems of modern science, such as Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, one of the cornerstones of quantum mechanics. That is, if we really understand how the world is coming from seeds in our own mind, and that these seeds come from how well we take care of others, then we can actually solve some of the most difficult scientific questions about the nature of the universe around us.

"I plan to spend exactly half of the year in 2012 working on the world outside. I want to go to as many places as I can, helping people achieve their own financial success, perfect relationship, good personal health and working towards a world without pollution, war, or hunger."

Qi: What is your plan for next year?

Geshe Michael: I plan to spend exactly half of the year in 2012 working on the world outside. We have received invitations to teach Diamond Cutter Principles in over 50 cities around the world. I want to go to as many places as I can, helping people achieve their own financial success, perfect relationship, good personal health and working towards a world without pollution, war, or hunger. And then in my inner world, I plan to spend exactly half of the year with my Teacher, learning more about how to become a better person: more joyful, more calm and more focused. So I could be better equipped inside to help people outside.

Spreading seeds of happiness to the world

About Geshe Michael Roach
Born December 17, 1952, Michael is the first American who has been awarded the degree of Geshe, or Master of Buddhism, after more than 20 years of study in Tibetan monasteries. He has used this training to become a prominent international teacher, businessman, philanthropist, author, educator, public speaker, textual scholar, and musician. Geshe Michael graduated with honors from Princeton University and has received the Presidential Scholar Medal from the President of the United States at the White House.

In 1981 he helped found Andin International Diamond Corporation and bring it to annual sales of over $100 million, donating his profits to international aid projects. His book about achieving business and personal success through generosity, The Diamond Cutter, has become a global bestseller in 20 languages. He is the founder of the Asian Classics Institute, Diamond Mountain University, the Asian Classics Input Project, Worldview, the Yoga Studies Institute, Star in the East, Global Family Refugee Aid, Three Jewels Community Outreach Centers, and the Diamond Cutter Institute. Find out more at http://geshemichaelroach.com

About Qi GLOBAL
Qi is a global network of innovators. We provide members a platform for cross-industry networking and collaboration. Innovation happens with the cross-pollination of knowledge from a range of industries. Based on this principle, Qi works to bring together corporate, community and creative sectors to generate new ideas for sustainable development in the following areas: Architecture & Urban Planning; Conservation & Wildlife; Energy & Technology; Fashion, Art & Design; Food, Health & Leisure; Leadership & Innovation; Impact Investment; Policy & Nation Development; Women’s Empowerment; and Youth Ambition & Education.

Every October, Qi hosts an annual meeting in Singapore, gathering business and community leaders from around the world. Contributors demonstrate how social innovation can impact and change lives and communities in Asia. Qi Global Pte. Ltd. is a Singapore-based social enterprise founded in 2009 whose vision is to create human progress in harmony with nature. Find out more at www.qi-global.com/conference

Tuesday
Nov292011

Qi Contributor Blog Series 4: The Business of Development (Part Two)

Chandran Nair, CEO of Global Institute For Tomorrow (GIFT) talks about his revolutionary executive education programme called the Global Young Leaders Programme, which equips business leaders with a sophisticated and honest understanding of socio-economic development and a new mindset to look at previously neglected market.

By Chandran Nair, and includes contributions from Ho Yeung Liu and Nina Jatana, both from GIFT.

Since 2006 when GIFT ran its first YLP, we have based our methodology on the importance of key soft skills business leaders must acquire to succeed in today’s world. Intimate knowledge of both the local market and the political economy, together with a nuanced understanding of its cultural context are requirements and not luxuries. Communication and empathy, both personal and cross-cultural, are also paramount. Without the flexibility and skills to be able to communicate with people from different backgrounds, it would be impossible for business people to acquire the knowledge that enables them to create new goods and services catering to local consumers. This is especially important in the context of operating in Asia where numerous cultures intermingle often in messy ways, and have to work with each other despite language barriers and dramatic differences in working styles.

Each YLP involves 20 to 25 young executives (usually between 29 and 35 years old) from both Asian and non-Asian companies. GIFT facilitates a process whereby they work to create commercially viable outcomes for social-oriented projects with strong project partners, which range from NGOs, social enterprises, SMEs to governmental organisations. The YLPs are held in a growing number of developing countries in Asia, from the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to the rural areas of Mongolia. Participants work in a variety of environments, from classroom sessions to conducting market research at project sites. They are encouraged to use their own business acumen to work with each other to create or expand on plans for the partner. Their output is typically in the form of a business or an action plan, and is presented in a final conference to locally invited stakeholders and potential investors.

"The Global Young Leaders are held in a growing number of developing countries in Asia, from the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to the rural areas of Mongolia. Participants work in a variety of environments, from classroom sessions to conducting market research at project sites."
YLP participants working together to produce a business plan for the project partner, Integrated Farmer’s Association of Heshuiping region (IFAH), in Hubei, China

 

In return, the project partners are given the opportunity to acquire much needed external advice from professional business talents. It is common for many of these organisations to have little to no access to this. Many NGOs rely heavily on donor contributions and thus may not have the comprehensive set of business skills that the participants offer. The YLP gives these partners a fresh perspective on their project whilst at the same time providing participants with a wholly new insight into a variety of alternative business models, such as cooperatives, community of interest companies (CIC) and social investment funds. More importantly the YLPs provide a continuous platform for executives to learn about new opportunities in socio-economic development.

Improving Public Health through Commercialisation GIFT recently conducted a YLP on Vietnam’s public health issues in November 2010. Participants worked with international NGO IDE and USAID’s WaterSHED initiative to find a solution to the persistent challenge of increasing rates of hand washing with soap in rural parts of the country. This is sorely needed in a country where less than one-tenth of people wash their hands with soap before eating. According to the World Bank, the economic costs incurred due to poor sanitation amount to 1.8% of Vietnam’s GDP. Setting an enabling environment for people to wash hands fulfils a tangible social need, yet there was no market demand for a product. It was decided that a low-cost hand washing device would be the most ideal solution.

The device holds enough clean water to support a family of four for 24 hours, and is meant to serve as a reminder to encourage adequate hand washing at various crucial points, such as after feeding livestock or handling waste. It is made from durable material and most importantly has a tray underneath to store soap and drain wastewater.

Participants agreed that a different approach to promotion and distribution would be required in order to deliver the device at an affordable price. Through a week of in-depth field investigations, including site visits to rural villages and interviews conducted with front-line supply chain members such as factory owners and small-scale shop owners, the participants concluded that a social enterprise had to be set up to oversee management and distribution of the product. The atypical aim of this enterprise was not to satisfy an existing demand, but to create a new demand for something that at the time no one had even heard of.A member of the Vietnam Women’s Union trying the hand washing device prototype, October 2010

Based on findings the group decided to enlist the support of the 13 million strong nation-wide network of the Vietnam Women’s Union. These women are opinion leaders in their respective villages and have strong personal ties with many of the end customers. As well as providing legitimacy to the project, members of the Union would also assist in selling and delivering the hand washing devices directly to rural families.

This programme also illustrates how large companies can help in societal development by leveraging existing projects, instead of creating their own from the ground up. In the months leading to this YLP, GIFT approached Unilever Vietnam to support the project partner and subsequent action plans produced by the YLP participants. Unilever pledged to fund the production of the first batch of hand washing devices, as well as providing in-kind support such as soap, staff training and market insights.

Conclusion: Business’ Role in Creating Fair Shares Prosperity It is clear companies are capable of playing a more strategic role in tackling developmental issues in Asia. We at GIFT would go as far to say that the development process would never be complete without the widespread involvement of commercial interests, but that which is not driven simply by profit maximisation. To enable this, current mainstream executive education needs a radical re-think in order to further business leaders’ understanding of the nuances of development and their role in influencing it. For the past five years during which GIFT has run 21 YLPs, an alumni with over 500 members has learnt and recognised the many complexities that exist within Asia’s social framework. Companies are beginning to invest time and resources to better understand underserved markets and discover new customers. GIFT’s goal is to raise awareness of what local people need, and how businesses can adapt and create opportunities that complement their existing resources. Above all, the aim is to advocate a more equitable development within Asia, an Asia where the majority of people can access a fair share of the prosperity that is currently, and perhaps unfairly, enjoyed by a minority.

"GIFT’s goal is to raise awareness of what local people need, and how businesses can adapt and create opportunities that complement their existing resources. Above all, the aim is to advocate a more equitable development within Asia, an Asia where the majority of people can access a fair share of the prosperity that is currently, and perhaps unfairly, enjoyed by a minority."

About Chandran Nair
Chandran Nair is the founder of the Global Institute For Tomorrow (GIFT), an independent social venture think tank dedicated to advancing an understanding of the impacts of globalisation through thought leadership and positive action to effect change. Chandran was chairman of Environmental Resources Management (ERM) in Asia Pacific until 2004, establishing the company as Asia’s leading environmental consultancy.

About Qi GLOBAL
Qi is a global network of innovators. We provide members a platform for cross-industry networking and collaboration. Innovation happens with the cross-pollination of knowledge from a range of industries. Based on this principle, Qi works to bring together corporate, community and creative sectors to generate new ideas for sustainable development in the following areas: Architecture & Urban Planning; Conservation & Wildlife; Energy & Technology; Fashion, Art & Design; Food, Health & Leisure; Leadership & Innovation; Impact Investment; Policy & Nation Development; Women’s Empowerment; and Youth Ambition & Education.

Every October, Qi hosts an annual meeting in Singapore, gathering business and community leaders from around the world. Contributors demonstrate how social innovation can impact and change lives and communities in Asia. Qi Global Pte. Ltd. is a Singapore-based social enterprise founded in 2009 whose vision is to create human progress in harmony with nature. Find out more at www.qi-global.com/conference

Thursday
Aug042011

Consumptionomics

By Lira Low Roberts


Kristine recently attended the launch of Qi 2010 speaker Chandran Nair's ground-breaking book Consumptionomics: Asia's Role in Reshaping Capitalism and Saving the Planet in Singapore at the National Library's Pod space.  

 

The book launch was organised by Chandran Nair's Global Institute for Tomorrow (GIFT) and IMC's East West Leaning Centre. Consumptionomics sets out a new conceptual framework for both governments and businesses in Asia. It proposes that the conventional wisdom of demand and supply frameworks need to be radically overhauled to include the true cost of externalities. Consumptionomics also challenges business leaders, politicians and academics to address Asia's dilemma, which Nair proposes is the relentless promotion of a consumption-led economic growth model in the world's most populous region, at a time when resource constraints are too obvious to deny. He purports that our current economic system is built on a colonial world view of free resources and slavery. Some interesting ideas that came out of the event was the proposition that in the future it will be illegal to turn one's air-conditioning down to 20 degs! 

IMC's new learning arm, the East West Learning Centre also shared its vision of inspiring business and community leaders to create sustainable development. Its model is premised on the needs for individuals and corporations to transform themselves in order to create social, environmental and economic impact. 

Need to get my hands on that book!