If I had to use one word to describe myself, I would choose 'epistemophilic'. If I were to choose a word to describe my vocation, then I am a 'Generalist'. I believe I can do many things. My strongest trait - tenacity. When I'm onto something, I will not give up easily.
I grew up being passionate about math and science. But learning experience wasn't great. Textbooks in schools tell you the way things are but they don’t explain base concepts. Teachers are not adept with first principles. So, we survived by memorising mathematical and scientific rules without really understanding them.
I dreamed of going to MIT to do engineering but my results weren't good enough. JPA offered me two scholarship options instead; biotech in France or accounting in Australia. I turned them down because I was going to find another way to get into an Ivy League. I failed.
My father served in the air force and he retired when I was 13. I didn’t have the luxury to pursue my dreams further. Easing the family burden became top priority. I skipped university and joined Arthur Andersen without any accounting knowledge. I wanted to learn about money and how to make them. Andersen sent me for a CPA course, I had to work and study at the same time.
The working experience in Andersen was life-changing. We had plenty of reading materials that articulated concepts very well. Andersen had their own campus in Chicago. It employed 70 full-time researchers to create models and frameworks on regular basis. They developed a knowledge bank called Global Best Practices. It explained how the best companies in the world manage their business processes. The Americans are serious with knowledge development.
I realised that the problem with our education system was the lack of translation work. Dewan Bahasa and similar institutions could not keep up with the knowledge that was being churned out from around the globe.
When Internet came to Malaysia I wanted to be one of the firsts to get online. I wanted remote access to the Global Best Practices. GBP helped me stay ahead of my colleagues and clients. I became fascinated with systems and processes. Soon, I figured that I was in the business of science and math after all. Only a different kind.
Processes are abstractions of observed phenomena. They are modeled to make success repeatable. They are know-hows that involve the interplay of many disciplines. Economics, environmental science, industrial design, engineering, human psychology, statistics and sociology are stacked up together to create value. There is a terminology for this multidisciplinary science. Its called 'cybernetics'. Norbert Wiener invented the word cybernetics at the first Macy Conference in 1941.
I left Andersen after 5 years and started my own internal audit firm at the age of 25. During that time, Asia was facing a serious financial crisis. I wanted to help clients from the inside. As a pioneer of internal audit, I had the first mover advantage. Internal audit brought me to Hong Kong, Japan, mainland China and Singapore. At one time, I was the chief internal auditor for 30 public listed firms concurrently.
The clients that I was proudest of were Warner-Lambert and Pfizer. I reported to the President of IIA Inc. based in the US. I was still in my 20s. American companies were at least 30 years ahead in management applications. China has the capabilities to meet their technical requirements.
After 5 years in business, I took a one-year Sabbatical to pursue the questions I have in life. They are mostly anthropogenic questions. During this time, I traveled to Europe to appreciate the history and cultural side of life. The experience made be feel that Malaysian culture is ingenuous. I was challenged to make a change. It has to start with developing knowledge that could bring economic value to the public.
I became absorbed in the theory of knowledge. Surely if other nations can do it, Malaysia can. We can lead instead of following. After my Sabbatical, I pursued conceptual modelling and application. I wanted to influence client decisions and effect changes with concepts that I have designed. I started to take experimental engagements in designing manufacturing, technology and logistics sector processes.
After 3 fruitful years, I sought for a more universal method to help clients win their battles. I looked at the balanced scorecard but it was another checklist framework. A gentleman by the name of John Zinkin taught me how not to sell my time but instead, sell my art. An artist starts with a blank piece of canvas, not a long checklist. That led me to a series of interesting projects in public transportation and oil and gas.
Then I discovered risk management. The environment around us is dynamic. Their influence and causalities pose threats to business processes. They are risks that need to be managed.
Risk management has existed for long time in the banking industry. They have become mainstream adoption even outside of the banking industry. There were some problems with these mass adoptions. Banking risk concepts, whether market, credit or operational risk, are meant for capital charge. Capital charge is a way to set aside sums for rainy days for the banks. Though it is useful for other industries, it cannot be applied to treat risks across their operations like quality and product design. Maintain methods cannot predict likelihood of a ramp collapse, for example. It is not able to tell what is the most likely cause, for instance, if pollution in the river occurs.
To address the shortfall, I designed a risk management software application. This is before ISO 31000 came into existence. We used Bayesian statistics to predict causalities and incorporated machine learning. This was artificial intelligence in 2008. I personally funded the development. Despite successful implementation, we did not gain traction because the market wasn't ready. But the most valuable experience was being able to painstakingly complete my invention. The technology is an application that renders an organization to behave and think like a human brain. It is a complete enterprise A.I. system for decision making.
After the software project, I went back to refining risk concepts. Risk management needed to go beyond mere identification and assessment. They need proper and scientific treatment methods. Innovation makes a perfect match. Innovation is an itinerary-based process that can be learned by anyone. It is not confined to tightening controls. Innovation changes existing designs and methods to return greater utility and value.
I delved into design thinking and TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving). Going deep into innovation projects made me realised that Malaysians are actually creative. But they are solving problems that don't sell very well. Hence, they are not innovative enough. Innovation means making creative products that sell.
It dawned upon me that if Malaysians can understand market behaviour, they will be successful innovators. This means we need to understand the way of life and workings of a society before we design solutions. Way of life is defined as culture. Culture influences consumption patterns. If we understand culture, we would be able to design innovative products.
My quests for cultural science led me into the world of arts. Arts and culture is a wide domain. It spans from music, literature, performing and visual arts. I picked fine art because it has more abstract elements. If I can understand how fine art works, I would be able to understand the rest. I interviewed 300 people within a year and ended up writing a 200-page document on how to value artworks.
Art is a medium of expression. The success of the arts is measured by their eventual social acceptance. It is about how successful an artist is able to transform his medium of expression into a media of expression. One can be the most complex and intellectual artist in the world but if no one ever gets it, the artist has failed.
After the arts, I went in search of the sources of inspiration. What inspires people. That was when I learned about social sciences and cultural anthropology. I worked on social innovation projects and civic economy modeling. I became fascinated with the Honing Theory of Creativity and communicated with the founder from Canada.
A few years ago, I figured Malaysia's underlying problem has been income disparity all along. Income disparity created lopsided public policies to address them. It created inequities. Grass root and social innovation are potentially great solutions. They can help increase income level of the B40 households faster than those in the U20 group. Narrowing the income gap would change policy design and restore fairness, justice and equitability.
Recent developments in decentralised computer systems present rare a opportunity to liberate the underprivileged. DApps, smart contracts, cryptography and distributed ledgers can democratize people from institutional dominance. Personal data can be commoditized to uplift the B40.
My current project revolves around the development of this decentralised ecosystem. There are some novel concepts that I wish to exchange with you in the hope that we can make positive changes to the world we live in.