Archive for the ‘Activity’ Category

The Straits Times: 6 in 10 S’porean households recycle weekly, though misconceptions about the process remain: Surveys

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Slide1Household recycling is still an immature process – meaning plenty of confusion, indifference and emotional un-intelligence. This The Straits Times article by Ng Huiwen published on April 29, 2019 titled “6 in 10 S’porean households recycle weekly, though misconceptions about the process remain: Surveys” reminds me of my own household’s behavior with respect to recycling as well as how government policies keep getting in the way of creating sustainable recycling behavior (eg, the plastic bag ban). Thus with the condition of wanting so much more out of a good cause, we can possibly take on this problem scope for the YCISL workshop team projects.


Purpose: To design solutions utilizing YCISL strengths that enable optimizable recycling behavior in homes.

How: For this pilot-level project, team projects will be required to include fast-thinking conditioning, instrinsic motivation leveraging, and emotional intelligence smart-ness.

Methodology: Team products could be service-oriented, educational (various media or channels), interfacial (eg, using HCI), interactive (eg, with feedback), gadget (something to install or carry) or programmatic (crowd-sourced or information campaign). To optimize, make it simple AND easy.

Rules (who needs rules?): No financial aspect will be considered.

Workshop Group Introductions

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

In the early YCISL workshops, we used to have the usual self-introductions at the start with a random question thrown in such as “What is your favorite [something]?” Then we also played the action-name game for many years where each student pairs their name with a word and act out an action related to that word.

I am also now thinking of adding an exercise where we look at our same-ness and differences. At a simple level (depending on available time), I would have pairs of students confer with each other and come up with three things they have in common, and three things which are different. This could extended into a speed dating format where pairs switch partners and create a same/different list for each person they meet. In the end, we would tally the number of similarities and differences, and maybe even categorize them. This would give a good snapshot (with a quantitative element) of the group.

As is the usual YCISL style, the instructions will be kept simple: identify three similarities and three differences. The categories will be up to each pair to choose – by asking divergent thinking questions, exchanging through active listening, and converging on their list. The quantitative part would establish connectedness as well as individual and group identities.

It would be interesting to get some of this information up on the screen using Mentimeter.

Paper Airplanes & A Reveal of Our Problem-Solving Mindset

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

I re-watched Tim Brown’s Tales of Creativity & Play this morning, and the part with the Finger Blaster had me wanting to incorporate something similar into the YCISL workshops. I also had just watched a TED video “How To Make Applying For Jobs Less Painful” by Priyanka Jain in which she showed a clapping test to reveal a thinking trait. This has me again wanting to demonstrate the spectrum of approaches any given group naturally takes to tackle a problem (and how education, let’s say a typical classroom, is herded to take just one approach). So here is an idea for a workshop exercise using paper to make paper airplanes.


I am assuming that for any given group that paper airplane-making skills are widely spread. Some may already know how to make a paper airplane. A few may know how to make sophisticated ones that fly far or can do acrobatics. Most will likely know how to make the simple paper airplane that fly a relatively short distance compared to the current record of 220′ 10″!

For this exercise, we provide one sheet of paper to each participant. They start by writing their name on the paper for post-flight identification. The participants are then simply instructed to build a paper airplane with their sheet of paper and we will see whose flies the farthest. No other instructions.

They will be given 10 minutes to do this. After that, it will be time to fly their creations.

I hope to observe a wide range of approaches to this task such as:

  • folding using their existing knowledge about paper airplanes, if any
  • doing some independent research such as checking the WWW
  • asking someone for help or advice
  • just watching someone else and copying
  • forming a collaboration and working together

Then we fly and see whose flies the farthest. Just as we do with the Spaghetti Tower Marshmallow exercise, we could do multiple rounds of this and look for learning through iteration. Will they change folding technique or will they take a different approach?

Each of the approaches reveals how one’s mindset is currently geared to problem-solving. The three main lessons (phrased as questions) are:

  • Does your leadership worldview include other people (collaborator, advisor, teacher, etc)?
  • Do you have a trusted growth mindset that takes you out of your comfort zone? Or do you tend to play it safe?
  • Are you comfortable learning more about yourself (self-awareness) and how you approach problem-solving (self-management)? Are there any issues that can be addressed?

YCISL Team Project: Disrupting Human Behavior

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

One of the challenges that we have discussed in the YCISL workshops is changing human behavior. From ideas of the growth mindset (Dweck) to Simple, But Not Easy (Robbins), we know that changing human behavior like a disruptor requires a high level of mindful and persuasive creativity. We would need to leverage the sense of “new” (linked to the Try Something New workshop idea) and a worldview-framed story.

I am therefore considering the design of a YCISL team project with the theme “Disrupting Human Behavior” whereby teams have to realize a product that opens a new and competitively compelling path towards a sustainable objective.

The project would require a clear path and powerful messaging. Competitive advantage (just like in our Elevator Pitch exercise) would need to be awesome – as would ask and promise.

To be ultimately challenging, the teams would have to make (influence) other participants in the workshop willing to try the new path and consider sticking with it. It would have to be something workshop participants are actually doing at the start of the workshop – and would change their behavior by the end of the workshop.

How hard would that be?

YCISL Team Project: The _________ Guide for _________

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Had an idea for a team project theme.

The general idea is for project teams to ideate, develop and launch a guide. The users will be defined as part of the problem-setting stage and will help define the EQ part of this project work. Hopefully, a project like this would bring in each of the EQ quadrants we introduce in the workshops.

I got this idea after spending quite some time on Yelp! today. Yelp! is just too general and pitted with low quality information from un-calibrated sources with uncertain biases.

So the initial idea was “The Dining Guide for Stanford Visitors” whereby teams would visit various eateries at Stanford and pull together a guide whilst developing content suitable for the intended audience.

But the same approach can be applied to other areas such as:

  • The Quad
  • The Stanford Bookstore
  • Transportation
  • Sports & Recreation
  • Entertainment
  • Cantor Museum
  • and so on

Teams will prototype the guide on up to 3 platforms then proceed to complete the project on just one. Platforms could be a phone/tablet app, a web site, a brochure, a book, a video, a podcast, a news article, and more…

YouTube Video: this $90 water bottle has a Hi Def Video Camera

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 10.14.05 AMThis morning (Tuesday May 1, 2018), Casey Neistat (actually I am finding several of his videos quite relevant to YCISL) posted a YouTube video review of a water bottle with a mini video camera built-in. The three main features (there are more, but you have to click on “Show more”) of this product as posted on the B&H web site are:

  • 1920 x 1080 Resolution
  • Motion-Activated Recording
  • Built-in Rechargeable Battery

The product name, although wordy, adds to the draw: BrickHouse Security Water Bottle with 1080p Covert Camera. For interesting contrast, the BrickHouse Security web site calls the product “HD 1080P Water Bottle Hidden Camera” and the three main features are:

  • Motion Detection Recording
  • Supports Up to 64GB Memory
  • Food Grade PET Plastic

We’ve visited the idea of a video camera in a water bottle in our workshop with teams that are assigned a GoPro Hero Session as their convergence inspiration for their water bottle design. While the GoPro is an action camera and less so (although capable) a surveillance/spy camera, it’s cool to see a company realizing such a product.

Beyond the convergence part of our exercise, positioning and framing could be factors considered for the presentation (an exercise in storytelling, perhaps). Framing would be the attempt to have prospective users imagine a scene in which the product is present, and positioning is messaging where exactly that product may appear within that frame. Framing and positioning are generally singular in messaging (lest you risk contradiction, confusion and dilution), but combining with the other elements of our elevator pitch exercise (eg, opportunity, ask and promise) should give rise to a compelling story. I feel the compelling story is missing which is why Neistat had both positive and negative recommendations in his review conclusion.


Reflection: The Recommendation Letter

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

This is just a short reflection on the thoughts that jump up whenever someone asks me for a recommendation letter.

I usually have a limit of writing one recommendation letter per year. It’s hard to be original and genuine in composing the letter.

There is an exception to this rule, and that’s if a requestor has a long and memorable history of interaction (for example, my TA from 2010 who became a regular participant in my YCISL program). But most requestors have interacted with me on the order of days to weeks. It is from among these requestors that I am very selective in agreeing to a recommendation letter and my purpose needs to be strong and clear.

I am quite particular about the traits I need to have observed (and remembered). The three traits that I typically recall and draw upon are project accomplishment, personal and effectual energy, and sense of purpose. These contribute to the story that I would tell with the requestor and I as main characters.

If I feel an imbalance between these two characters of the story, I would be uneasy about being a recommender.

Thinking in terms of a bell curve (as I oft do), if the requestor is not at the very top end, then there is probably something negative on my mind. I would not want to be a recommender in this case either. There is a chance to turn this around though – by informing me of a plan to get to the top end.

I believe in the 3-parts of the Your Personal Story that we craft in our YCISL workshops. The Past element is what I am usually provided (resume, for example). The Who am I? Present element is typically the main driver in getting me motivated (this comes from our recent interactions). And the Future Self is where I take a guess at fit and determine how excited I get about the potential outcome.

So what does a prospective requestor need to do to get me to agree? The first is being confident that I would present only strengths and not in any significance about weaknesses. The second is to approach me with the request in a timely and informative manner – last minute or vague requests are a big turn-off. Third is to meet with me, and make sure I like Your Personal Story.

Activity: YCISL Photo Essays – Focus on Gratitude

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 8.40.24 AMOne of the YCISL agenda topics that has evolved over the past 6 years is emotional intelligence. Early on in this program, my colleague Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu shared with me and my students the idea of four emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) domains. Soon after, he chose to focus on Mindfulness as a practical discipline in exploring EI and I formulated the expression

KI + EI = LeaderI

to position how our workshop activity in EI helps achieve our sustainable leadership objective.

In one of the Mindfulness-focused workshops, Stephen played the video “A Good Day” With Brother David Steindl-Rast which called my attention to the topic of gratefulness. Steindl-Rast also has a great TED Talk titled “Want to be happy? Be grateful” that provides an actionable promise-ask. This resoundingly connected with the Happiness and Positive Mindset topics I had brought into the YCISL program via the ideas of Shawn Achor (see his 2011 TEDx Talk “The happy secret to better work”).

In 2016, I found the 2013 TEDx Talk “Getting stuck in the negatives (and how to get unstuck)” by Alison Ledgerwood in which she discusses the benefits of practicing gratefulness. This reminded me that Shawn Achor (in his TEDx Talk mentioned above) had also suggested a gratefulness training routine to increase optimism and focus on positives among the thatch of negatives. These ideas – and more – had led me to start an iOS app project called the GratitudeApp (that’s another story) in late 2016.

The final piece that has converged on this YCISL activity is the 2014 opening of the Windhover Contemplation Center at Stanford which demonstrated that the university considered mindful behavior of having merit and value in its academic setting. This has become the place we bring our YCISL workshop students so that they can focus on the Your Personal Story mid-series question of “Who am I?” and appreciate the present.

All this has led to the refinement of our Visit-Experience Photo Essay into a Visit-Experience-Gratitude Photo Essay where the emotional component is focused on the daily training of grateful reflection. Students in our most recent workshop were first introduced to the practice of being grateful in the present, then tasked with building a gratitude photo essay through daily reflection on that day’s events and experiences. We set up our Photo Essay Gallery on the last workshop day as usual. This was a great example of simple, but not easy. The idea of building this photo essay is a simple idea, but the emotionally positive portraits were powerful and lent great insight into the leadership confidence that gratitude enables.

We have a keeper.

LinkedIn: Positivity Test

Monday, August 22nd, 2016


This entry is about a LinkedIn posting attributed to Pravin Shiv (sorry, I did not save the URL ). Since I am not sure of the copyright behind the graphic that was posted, I will just paraphrase here instead of inserting the graphic.

The graphic is of a “positivity test” and asks you to think of words that start with the letter “P” and end with the letter “E” – and it gives you 10 seconds.

This fits well with the Positive Mindset topic in our YCISL workshops.

It is interesting for several reasons:

  • the word “positive” can readily be derived from the word “positivity” on the slide.
  • there are actually a quite a few positive words that fit these rules.
  • there are relatively few negative words that fit these rules.
  • there are several neutral/non-emotional and bi-polar words too.

So it would be interesting to try this positivity test in the YCISL workshops and reflect on the results.

Exercise: Turning the Donkey

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Many of the activities in the YCISL program are derived from existing games – and we connect our topics to them. An example is the Spaghetti Tower-Marshmallow exercise where we demonstrate prototyping and “fail early, fail fast” as well as collaborative teamwork.

Today, I was searching the internet for a puzzle and came across a web site with a collection of matchstick puzzles ( I was looking for something that would require divergent thinking. I didn’t have matchsticks, so I tried the puzzle with some pens. I confess I am bad at these types of puzzles and in the end, snuck a peek at the posted solution. But more importantly, I found that doing such a puzzle connects many of the topics we touch on in the YCISL workshops.

So I created a “Lessons” document which describes the puzzle and asks questions to reflect on. I have posted a link to this document in our LinkedIn Group Discussion and will likely incorporate it or something similar into the workshops.

Found on

turnthedonkey_rMove 1 pen to turn the donkey.


  • Did you see the solution on your first pass? WOW! – if you did.
  • Did you sense creative energy well up in you?
  • Did you feel (instrinsic) motivation?
  • Did you experience divergent fast thinking (iterating over many possible solutions)?
  • Did you apply logical deductive reasoning (eliminating non-solutions)?
  • Did you experience optimism?
  • Did you notice frustration or self-doubt?
  • Did you think about giving up?
  • Did you second guess what the problem was asking?
  • Do you think you accomplished something?