Sunday, 31 August 2008

Selamat berpuasa di bulan Ramadhan 1429H

Semoga amalan kita lebih baik daripada Ramadhan-Ramadhan terdahulu, dapat bertemu Lailatul Qadar dan diterima Allah SWT. Amin.

In a Sunburned Country

Australia memang sebuah negara yang unik, kerana banyak sebab. Salah satunya ialah Harold Holt.

Harold Holt?

Beliau merupakan bekas Perdana Menteri negara pulau tersebut. Yang pernah hilang. Maaf, yang masih hilang. Beliau menjadi PM pada tahun 1966, memerintah Australia untuk kira-kira setahun, sebelum pada penghujung tahun 1967 beliau pergi berenang di sebuah kawasan perairan bernama Portsea di mana tidak lama selepas itu beliau dilaporkan hilang. Gerakan mencari dan menyelamat yang terbesar dalam sejarah Australia gagal menjumpai walaupun mayat Holt. Dua hari selepas pengumuman tentang kehilangan Holt, kerajaan melantik John McEwen sebagai penggantinya.

Apa yang menarik tentang kisah Holt ialah bagaimana ianya hampir-hampir dilupakan oleh rakyat Australia dan hampir-hampir tidak diketahui oleh dunia luar. Inilah antara perkara yang menarik Bill Bryson untuk menulis In a Sunburned Country.

Buku ini membawa pembaca pengembara ke hampir serata Australia, dari outback yang luas terbentang ke bandar-bandar moden seperti Canberra dan Melbourne hingga ke tarikan semulajadi seperti Uluru (nama asal Ayers Rock.) Bryson menulis berdasarkan pembacaan beliau mengenai sejarah Australia dan pengalaman beliau sendiri.

Antara perkara yang sering kali diingatkan oleh Bryson dalam buku ini ialah banyaknya haiwan-haiwan berbahaya yang ada di Australia, sama ada di darat atau di air. Buaya air masin Australia memang antara yang pemangsa akuatik yang paling buas, kebuasannya sukar ditandingi spesis-spesis buaya lain. Sebilangan besar ular-ular yang paling berbisa di dunia berasal dari sini, tak termasuk haiwan berbisa lain seperi labah-labah, kala jengking dan obor-obor kotak (box jellyfish). Namun rakyat Australia seakan lali dengan segala bahaya dan ancaman di sekeliling mereka, pada pengamatan Bryson. (Bryson yang nampaknya lebih risau.)

Tarikan Bryson ialah pada penulisannya yang bersifat humor dan agak sinis, diseimbangi fakta-fakta dan petikan daripada buku-buku terdahulu tentang Australia. Beliau juga turut menulis tentang sudut-sudut gelap Australia seperti ketibaan warga Eropah dan menyingkiran rakyat pribuminya yang dijalankan secara sistematik dan kejam.

Gabungan aspek positif dan negatif ini menjadikan In a Sunburned Country bacaan yang mengasyikkan. Buku ini diterbitkan pada tahun yang sama dengan berlansungnya sukan Olimpik di Sydney.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Business cards: a way of looking at KM

Back in grad school I had the option of either doing a thesis or take up 2 elective courses. At first I decided to do a thesis, and one of my teachers suggested I look into knowledge management (KM). I read up on the subject, hoping to find an area to narrow down to as the thesis's topic. I even went to an architectural firm to see if my ideas were researchable.

But the thesis never materialised. Time was limited and decided to just take the safe route. I signed up for two elective courses, business law and organisational change. I did not do well in either courses, but I did learn a lot.

At about the same time the school decided to introduce KM as a compulsory course. We were the first batch of students to take it. When the final results came, it seems that KM is not a very easy course after all. I was one of the lucky few who did well, and I owe to God because He pointed towards KM long before the others had even had any idea about it. The failed-to-materialised thesis was a blessing in disguise. I had a head start compared to the rest of the class. (I did felt like I was cheating a bit.)

So what is KM anyway? The textbook we used lists down at least a dozen definitions given by various experts.

The explanation I often use nowadays is that KM is about three main things: acquiring knowledge, sharing knowledge and using the knowledge. KM is a fascinating field because it is widely talked about while its actual definition is still being debated.

Some definitions tend to be more of IT-centric, suggesting the use of intranets, e-learning and content management system as KM approaches. Another school sees KM as technologically-independent, meaning KM can be applied without the use of high technology. Some even argue that companies do KM, but they just don't call it KM or even realise that it is KM. The discussion goes on.

One of the reasons why is a sticky subject is the way knowledge itself is defined. Here I'm referring to knowledge in the business context, knowledge in the workplace. The textbook I used describes knowledge as, "understanding gained through experience or study."

Another reason why KM isn't appealing for some people is because it proposes the notion that knowledge has a life cycle. Just the like bread and other food in our kitchen, knowledge will become obsolete at some point. Of course, let's remind ourselves that we're talking knowledge in the workplace and not knowledge in the general sense.

I find myself struggling with this too. We Muslims see knowledge as something that is divine and tawheedic. It is something that guides Man in his journey to the realm of the Hereafter. Picturing knowledge with expiration dates stamped on them doesn't seem right to me somehow.

However, recently I manage to see this point when I went through my collection of business cards given to me by friends and associates over the years. KM talks about knowledge that can useful for business. Not everything we know is useful. Here's what I discovered:
  • a trading company that my former classmate once set up. Today it's no longer in business
  • a friend's old business card, an employee of a medical supplies company. Since 2006, he's working somewhere else
  • another old friend. Still with the same company, but already promoted to a higher position.
At least 3 of the business cards need to be discarded. They are no longer useful. (I can still keep them if I want to make my wallet look thick.)

This may not be the greatest example, but it helps show why KM matters. Businesses need to look into their so-called knowledge stock, and see what's useful and what's not. This is more related the knowledge use part of KM, but KM is far wider than knowledge use. KM itself is broad and emerging (i.e. still developing) field that is both interesting and confounding at the same time.

How many business cards you need to discard from your wallet or purse?

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Kids = sponges

I just came back from seeing one of favourite people, my 1-year-old niece Mizzy. She's just invented a new way of pronouncing my name. Clever gal.

Mizzy's such a fast learner. She'll pick up anything. I heard from somewhere that kids this age are like sponges so we ought to be careful what we show and teach them. And they're always eager to share with others what they've learned. It's probably us who are not quite prepared for it.

All this reminds me very much of a story told by Australian writer Catherine Veitch to her friend US travel writer Bill Bryson. This one is from Bryson's book on Australia, In A Sunburned Country.
In the 1950s a friend of Catherine's moved with her young family into the a house next door to a vacant lot. One day a construction crew turned up to build a house on the lot. Catherine's friend had a four-year-old daughter who naturally took an interest in all the activity going on next door. She hung around on the margins and eventually the construction workers adopted her as a kind of mascot. They chatted to her and gave her little jobs to do and at the end of the week presented her with a packet containing a shiny new half crown.

She took this home to her mother, who made all the appropriate cooings of admiration and suggested they take it to the bank the next morning to deposit it in her account. When they went to the bank, the teller was equally impressed and asked the little girl how she come by her own pay packet.

"I've been building a house this week," she replied proudly.

"Goodness!" said the teller. "And will you be building a house next week too?"

"I will if we ever get the f***ing bricks," answered the little girl.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Al-Fatihah buat S. Othman Kelantan

Minggu lepas, salah seorang daripada penerima anugerah Sasterawan Negara, S. Othman Kelantan (novelnya Juara telah difilemkan oleh U-Wei Saari sebagai Jogho), telah kembali ke rahmatullah. Al-Fatihah.

Saya dapat tahu tentang pemergian beliau daripada seorang teman sekerja, yang juga anak saudara beliau. Kata teman saya masa dia kecil dulu dia dan adik-beradik sering menyerbu rumah allahyarham yang penuh dengan buku. Sampai ke siling.

(Saya pun ada pak saudara yang macam tu, tapi dia garang... Tengok ja, tak berani usik. Tapi sejak saya jadi 'tua', saya pun faham perasaan pakcik saya... sikit-sikit.)
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