Saturday, December 09, 2006

NEXT> The Principles - by Patrick Moore

Each day, there is more evidence I find that suggests that the world's sensibility is changing in the face of the multiple crises that humanity faces. Finally, blame and responsibility can't be shifted or shipped & packed to the lesser/more privileged. It is time that individuals admit to individual responsibility - regardless of their time, region, situation.

This, I believe, is a strong movement that will shape the way global society develops in the next few years.

Consider a mainstream Yahoo! article postulating these "principles", described by Patrick Moore through his project, The Principles.

  1. Surrender
  2. Hope
  3. Faith
  4. Responsibility
  5. Honesty
  6. Reflection
  7. Humility
  8. Willingness
  9. Forgiveness
  10. Perseverance
  11. Spiritual Seeking
  12. Service
Apparantly, a list of taboo words - words that suggested a subservient state of mind. But now, a good body of research proves the healthand social benefits of these concepts which we thought had gone out of fashion, nay, out of the code of human society forever.

From Yahoo!: "The Principles" is a project of 12th STREET JAM. Patrick Moore is a co-founder, along with David Jensen, of 12th STREET JAM, a new media production company that uses technology to produce content that brings people together and allows them to create self-discovery communities.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Rich kid" robber Junaid: But will we re-think crime, punishment, and society?

News story: Rich 19-year-old Karachi kid, son of a billionaire, mill-owner - Junaid Abbas - arrested for 100+ robberies carried by him & his gang. Believes "crime is an art."

A Karachiite blogger comments:

If asked the reason for crime, the gut reaction is poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, etc. But proving all of those wrong, the scion of a wealthy industrialist was finally caught after embarking on an orgy of theft and looting. The reason? "Crime is an art". I'm just glad that Karachi has one less teenager drunk on his family's power to worry about.
From: Karachi Metroblog, Nov 2006 archives

The general consensus of the blog readers, and citizens otherwise, is: "Spoilt brat. Must be killed/ shot/ hanged/ severely punished." It is feared, almost "expected" actually, that his wealth will finally set him free.

My family was severely hit by an armed robbery a few years ago, when we lost most of our possessions. The incident prompted us to think about the nature and reasons of crime. What I am going to share now is not based on abstract ideas, but personal experience.

These are my comments on the blog post above, edited slightly:


The "privilege" of being rich exists only in our head. It seems to most of us, and admittedly to myself still, that being rich is some kind of ticket to elimination of all problems. To cut a very long theory short, I believe there is a "critical point" for material resources and the social status that comes with it. If one is below that critical point, they are really in need of help and their actions are driven by pathological problems. Hunger, disease, illiteracy, and no access to freedom of opinion are the hallmarks of being below that threshold. These are people who truly are exempt from the usual explanations and therefore, punishments. For them, the law must bend because they are the result of the society's neglect.

Above that threshold, a person may still be not very rich, or very rich... but they all have problems according to their own situation. They all equal in the eyes of law.

BUT WHAT I WANT TO SAY IS THIS: Just like we give no excuse to the rich for such desperate crime, we can give no excuse to the poor. Social scientists and workers and thinkers would, as Cy mentions, quickly see causes such as poverty and desperation as triggers of crime. But that's a no-brainer.

How about the rich? How about a kid who had no choice to be born in a rich household - just like no one chose to be born poor?


Ethics and corrections and the support of the society must be awarded to all its members. I feel very deeply that we are not, as a society, helping any of our members. And we readily award the "You are evil" decree to anyone.

Look at ourselves - mostly middle-class readers of this site [Karachi Metroblog]. Do we take any account of the gross negligence, social non-participation, and outright wrongs that we commit? Many of us regularly disrespect the law.

...[Crime is] a human trait, and little to do with the amount of money people have. To see this man's problem as only an issue of wealth is wrong. In fact, I believe his problem is just what is the problem of poor kids: TOO MANY RESOURCES, AND NOTHING TO DO. Rich people have money, poor people have time. And we all burn it.

No human society anywhere will progress unless ALL its members are actively involved in its development. How many of us, when we meet a rich person, invite them to do something productive or good, and not instead worry about "how can I get a car like theirs?"

I invite us all to pause and reflect for a few moments. The human society will keep on suffering if it doesn't realize the relative importance of all its constituents.

In simpler words: everyone - rich, poor, man, woman, artist, scientist, critic, designer, philosopher, businessperson, idle thinker, sweeper, beautician, policeman, doctor, teacher, religious scholar, child, youth, adult, disabled, sportsperson, insects, reptiles, plants, worms, sun, moon - HAVE THEIR OWN PART TO PLAY. We cannot survive without any of those. Which logically means that all and any of these are USEFUL.

It is strange how we spend the best of our time and energy blaming and ridiculing those who are not who we are.
And even those who are like ourselves! It's like the foot blaming the nose for not walking, and the nose sulking at the knee for not sneezing out the germs.

Look again at all the above types of humans and things I have listed, and you can recall how each and everyone of these have been blamed for all ailments.

Men are bad. Women are bad. Children are stupid. Youth are careless. Artists are losers. Thinkers are useless. Businesspeople are wicked. Sweepers are lowly. Disabled are burdensome. Active people are aggressive. Religious scholars are mad. Reptiles are creepy. The sun is too hot. The winter is too cold. Poor people are criminals. Rich people are carefree...

Only "I" am right.


BTW, I don't [advocate that] this man should be left off the hook. The crimes have been done. Junaid Abbas must face the consequences and I sincerely hope that his wealth does not change law's mind. That he has been caught and that someone dared report him, and the police held him are positive signs. Given the misery, fear, and poverty in which many of our law-enforcing police officers live themselves, this is a very courageous deed.

What I have written above is our "food for thought" in general and for future.

I also hope, for the good of the society, that given that this young man has indeed a lot of resources and obvious "talent" put to an ill use, that he is counselled. Unless he has killed someone, he is going to live. He should not carry on as a criminal, but a reformed man. He must be given that chance.

His mind may be sick, but those with healthy minds must seek healthy solutions.

Thank you for thinking.

Feedback: nextbyramla (aht) gmail

Edit: I realized on second thought that it was gratuitous to use the term "rich kid" without inverted commasin the title earlier. The derogatory term itself has to be re-thought. That's why, I now have it as a quote. Until a better concept is found...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

To be is the answer!

Having said that, there is a quote that has often inspired me:

Near the end of life, it's not what we have done that we regret, but that which we have not done.


Only one life to love!

A job that I took up - a mere act of chance - demanded indirectly that I get involved in career counselling. Actually, it was a role that I got myself into as I counselled myself and felt basically distraught at the side of humanity that revealed itself to me during the many interviews I took and trainings I gave.

In two words: sad people.

I decided to travel a little back up the value chain and educate. There, too, I met sad people. Which was a bit shocking since I thought disillusionment only comes with job searches or unhappy careers.

There is a solution. It's very simple, yet cunningly elusive. It's called, "Do what you love."

Problem is, in the process of growing up, many of us have forgotten precisely that: what do we love?

I taught Entrepreneurship in a class last year. In one of the session where I brought up the subject of love - myself trying to understand my own love those days - I had an astounding experience. The students didn't remember what they loved as a child. A few gave a very forced out opinion. They loved music and friends. But mostly, they were all quiet. It was shocking. Why, at least, one must know what one loves?

My habit is to always examine myself in the light of advice that I (have to) give others. It's actually a rather painful experience sometimes when someone asks me a question, and I realize, before giving them an advice, that I myeslf am in need of that advice. Now I do generally give the advice and lately, I have picked up the habit of maintaining silence at the question for as long as I don't find a personal answer. That can stretch for months, and perhaps will explain to some the "absences." Back I come to the topic...

I finally got some advice for myself in the last one year. I can't yet say I can truly define myself in terms of what I love or who I am (the endless exploration!) - but I know what really dawned on me is something that misses the most practical and open-eyed of us. The following quote is from - which has a fairly neat battery of career-related (and love-related!) tests. It sums up one critical idea that can drive us to find meaning and love in life.

Are you delaying reality?
Many people take temporary or unsatisfying jobs to make money before pursuing their dream job. This is a reasonable strategy. But have you ever met people who are in the same job five or ten years down the road, even though it isn't what they really want to do? The challenge is that pursuing your dreams may require a sacrifice in lifestyle, time, or money. Unfortunately, too many people get used to a certain lifestyle and aren't willing to make the necessary changes. As a result it can be difficult to give up what a person is accustomed to, even if it's not ultimately fulfilling. It can also be tempting to some people to hold on to a dream and not pursue it in order to avoid failing. Remind yourself: There are no dress rehearsals in life. Everyday you don't work towards pursuing your goals is another day you're delaying the fulfillment of your dreams. Go for what you really want today; you don't want to look back on your life with regret.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What is creativity?

CreativityWhat is creativity?

Idealog has a definition:

Creativity is making something new from two old things.
I endorse that we do not create something out of nothing. Another closer definition of creativity – my personal belief – is:

Creativity is seeing the connection between things, and putting those connections together in novel and useful ways.

I have made this definition up as an extraction of various thoughts. Leonardo da Vinci had a name for seeing the connection between things: connessione.

Notice the word “useful” in my definition. A creation is not creative if it's irrelevant, doesn't solve a problem or create an opportunity, or serve a purpose - whatever that purpose may be.

E-mail: nextbyramla AT

Friday, June 09, 2006

"Nothing is as fast as the speed of trust"

Tom Peters quotes the obvious from The Speed of Trust – a book by Stephen M. R. Covey, son of the legendary Stephen Covey who wrote 7 Habits of the Highly Effective People. The quote is:

"Nothing is as fast as the speed of trust."
Stephen M. R. Covey

Anna Farmery broods:

I find Nothing is as fast as the speed of MIStrust! builds over time and I have never equated it with speed. Branding being a product or Brand You, depends on building trust over time. Now Mistrust can be instant and can spread like wild fire! It is a great quote but in what context?

Tom Peters laments that it is a “good point.”

Since I love finding context for truths, I don’t think I will give up on this one. Here is what I think solves the conundrum:

There is a (philosophical) context for "nothing is as fast as the speed of trust."

As I see it, there are 2 kinds of activities in the world: create something, or idle. Those who create something are the ones with a purpose. Those who idle have to follow the law: "there is no such thing as a vaccum." Over time, they also get a purpose: which is to take down or destroy or waste things. This is what is known as the "negative mindset" - the reactive mindset - the reactive group of people.

So we end up with basically two broad classes of people: the purpose-driven, action-oriented people, and those who do everything else. There are then two "worlds:" the reative, positive world where good, beneficial, interesting things are being created. And the other world, which is busy with everything else, often the sum of their activities being (self-)destructive.

In the first world, "nothing is as fast as the speed of trust." Because mistrust or lack of trust means that the creative process in that world is slowing down and time is being spent on getting things right rather than getting things done.

In the second world, things depend on whatever is influencing that world at any given time. Generally, mistrust would pervade. Mistrust can travel faster than the speed of light - but it is serving any purpose?

So what do you think? Does trust emerge a winner?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Internet: true human government, and how!

When I asserted that the Internet is the global government of, by and for the people, I added:

To The Internet we listen, to The Internet we ask our questions, to The Internet we turn for convergence in our human divergence. (un-typo version)

Reader Temporal has a question:
You’re sure? Internet is only the medium…it is neither the message nor the messenger. What thrives here is the open and accessible communication between far-flung human beings.

My answer:

Exactly. What is government but a facilitator of the activities of humankind... a servant that administrates the complex function? That is why we say, "like people, like government." By itself, the government is nothing.

Whatever the book definition of the government may be, pragmatically, every government acts as if it is an exogenous agent. Governments are not representing the people – rather they are forming the minds of the people.

The Internet is truly the government of the people, by the people, for the people. It does not exist to rule. It does not exist to create absurd laws. It is a collaborative space. It is inclusive, responsive, self-organizing, and evolving. It is a powerful source towards which the modern human is turning to share and to listen.
With the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, everyone is invited. Those who manage or control collaborative spaces – say collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia – are people from all over the world themselves The Wikipeda administrators chosen by the people on a set of criteria of the people for the benefit of the people.

In fact, never before in the history of humankind has the democratic, the human-centric definition of government been seen in practice. Internet is not just any people’s government; Internet is the first truly human government.

NEXT> by Ramla is now shifting to a new home: Keep hopping between the two, until I figure out Wordpress. If you post comments here, don’t worry, they’ll go over to their new home automatically.

New home:

NEXT> By Ramla is going to a new home: For a while, we’ll hop between both the homes – until everything is shifted out with the people.

So now. We can have tags, read more-ability, RSS feeds, geeky hotness, and very good looks. I’ve chosen a theme that reflects my love for green, humanity, and reality.

Lots of WordPress goodies! What else?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Internet: government of the people!

If “government” means the “act of exercising authority,” then I must report that I believe my official government may not be my official government.

Wikipedia has this definition:

A government (from the Greek Κυβερνήτης kubernites - steersman, governor, pilot, or rudder) is an organization that has the power to make and enforce laws for a certain territory. There are several definitions on what exactly constitutes a government. In its broadest sense, "govern" means the power to administrate, whether over an area of land, a set group of people, or an association.

If this is really what government is – a body of influence, whose rules and laws I form, obey and own my government is The Internet.

To The Internet we listen, to The Internet we ask our question, to The Internet we turn for converge in our human divergence. The Internet is the government of the commons, which has leveled social and class and racial and other barriers like no other power in the history of humankind.

I think for the first time in history, humans across the globe have created a government that is truly a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Needed: Future Ready Thinkers - are the schools ready?

Image: Elisha Otis's Elevator Patent Drawing, 01/15/1861.

From my personal notebook

There are two persistent problems with education anywhere today:
  1. What they teach at any school is backward-looking. The textbooks are old, based on even older material, based on even older events and analysis.

  2. Most institutes do not teach a human child or adult to use their own mind. In fact, thinking with one’s own mind is believed to be a dangerous and reckless tendency viewed suspiciously. It is “liable to punishment.”

This is my dream for the overhaul of education: To rally schools (anywhere, all age groups, all social groups) around two things they must have in order to be compatible with the needs of life and the modern man:

All schools must have a dedicated “future studies” course. This course must cover the study of, at least, changes in the STEEPLE factors in the next 5-10 years. STEEPLE is an amazing model for analysis of environment of life. It is simply an acronym for Society + Technology + Economy + Environment + Politics + Law + Ethics. It is a framework to study the environment in which we exist.

Ecology as a Basis to Understand the System of Life
A note: I’d rather replace the word “environment” in the framework with the more apt “ecology.” In any institute of future studies… ecological studies, to me, is a must. I imagine that each school gives compulsory education to students of all levels about ecology and the dynamics of life. So that we may finally develop human children into sensitive beings with a personal responsibility for the biosphere. I also imagine that a school’s negligence in teaching ecological studies is “liable to punishment” by law…. Hmmm. I can sense the theme of my next campaign…

STEEPLE-S, with Spirituality
Another idea is to add spirituality as a separate factor in the analysis model. It’s a possibility I want to dedicate more thought to.

Own Vision, Own Future
In the future studies course, students will not only learn from futurists, but mostly form their own extrapolative pictures of the future. After all those who imagine the future shape it. There will be no forced conclusion – it’s not history but future so all cannot agree – instead broad areas of future concerns will give the universal framework within which to excite imagination and generate solutions.

All schools must have a course dedicated to thinking. World’s leading thinker Edward de Bono is the main champion of that cause, and not without reason. If people are not taught how to think, we are being taught how not to think. If we are not thinking ourselves, who is thinking for us? And how, pray, are they superior in some way so as to take upon their shoulder a head that can think for others?

Why Won't Schools Let Us Think?
The educational practice of not letting people is rooted deep in the bias that some people are genetically or socially superior. These are the ones with the "right" to teach the rst what to think and what to do.

To bypass this utterly stupid bias, humans of all classes and races have tried to devise theories that would fit their own race and social system. So sometimes it’s the rich and the white that rule supreme. For a while then, being socially equal was in fashion – and now we are feeling that the racial favorability in tilting on the Asian side.

Whoever is the leading force locally or globally at any given time, it does not mean they are divinely superior in any way. This is proven by the history of humankind where one group of people has displaced another. There is no universal superiority except the superiority of Man over all kinds of life – and all humans can think for themselves.

It’s time that the education system of humanity aligns itself with this reality – so poignantly clear in the age of the Internet where all people are like all other people.

Think to Change
Thinking will help the children learn how to deal with change and devise new strategies for ever new situations. It is the tool one needs to be equipped with to deal with the chaos of life.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Misfit and the System

Speaking of misfits

It’s indeed not the people who are misfits. It’s the system that misfits the humans and their needs. As my inspiring friend Shoaib Khalil reminded me once in my search for the truth about my situation: “Rules are made for people. People are not made for rules.”

How to Choose the Right Career? - The Designer, The Executive, the Judge*

Why do so many people who fail in school succeed in life, and vice versa?,” asked Sternberg.

The four worst years of my life were spent in one of the (supposedly) best universities of Pakistan. A begrudging student, I managed to remain in the top tier of class – and always wondered why I felt I was underscoring my own potential? The best MBA school – a dream for many – so why was I unhappy?

Admittedly, my end of university years would only have been through some unpleasant accident (my fantasies involve ill-treating The System in several unsavory ways) had it not been that I wriggled my way and charmed the teachers into allowing me to undertake “unusual assignments.” So I focused on service management in the Product Management class (service = wedding consultant) and toted weapons and missiles as a dramatized sales person in the Personal Selling class presentation. Yes, I wore a leather jacket, and jeans, and did the whole James Bond thing.  

But I never really understood my own behavior and the whole misfit thing until I read this article by Robert J. Sternberg on

This article, How to Choose the Right Career?, shows that people are basically of three types:

  1. the legislative – the designers, the creative, the dreamers

  2. the executive – the action-oriented, the quick, the result-oriented, the practical

  3. and the judicial – the critics, the judges

The education system is designed solely around the behavior and the needs of the executive – these are people who do not question the system. They fit in, and they perform. The System, sadly, is biased against the creative and the critical – who are deemed rebellious or simply eccentric.

We all know of the variety of humiliations that such gifted children face, because as a child, many of us had a creative and a critical part in us that was “educated out.”

It was around four years ago that I read this article. I understood that as a person concerned with the question of design and criticism, I was on both the unattended ends of the educational spectrum. No wonder I felt “the gap.”

Sternberg’s theory opened a whole door of educational theory and the reality of the beautiful diversity life on my mind. It asks us to embrace the inherent diversity of existence, and respect the human nature – which as much if not more varied than the nature of flora and fauna.

I owe, in part, the development of the People-Centered Model of Business to this theory, which allowed me to respect myself as a “different” individual, and respect other misfits.

* Updated/ Tweaked

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Blurb-blurb-blurb! (Sounds like it too!)

I get a near panic attack when confronted with business or academic lingo. And this is coming from a long-time fan of bombastic vocabulary so it must mean something.

Consider this case: I have developed a new research interest: alternative education. While researching books on the subject, I found these two blurbs:

  1. “A comprehensive book with nearly 90 proven instructional strategies for all students, especially those who are at risk of academic failure. Features specific teacher-tested methods for increasing achievement in reading, writing, mathematics, and oral communication. Explore several ways to involve students actively in lessons; use thematic, interdisciplinary curriculums; and accommodate students' individual learning styles. Included are nearly 20 teaching strategies for culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse students.”

  2. “This text presents practicing teachers and teacher trainees with a wide variety of well-developed, research-based models of teaching, from which to select for particular purposes and for assembling into high quality curriculum. New features in the seventh edition include stronger coverage of constructivism, meta-cognition, and the proximal principle; the addition of the Picture Word Inductive Model; incorporation of 150 new research references; new scenarios, research, and applications; and new descriptions of multi-model curricula and studies of their effects.”

Given that I am interested in human-friendly education that does not chuck the creative and the rebellious out of the system and favors the madly academic, can you suggest, based on the blurbs, which book?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

New! Subscribe to get fresh posts via e-mail!

So that you don’t miss out on the latest post on NEXT> by Ramla, now you can receive it in email. Simply go here (, put in your email address, and bingo! You’re all set to receive new posts to the blog (this website) in your inbox! Or, put it in the little box in the right column of the blog where it says, “Subscribe me!” You can always opt out, of course.

This makes sure you never miss another post, and also does away with the BotherSpot that BlogSpot has been since its errant, partial blocking in Pakistan. Subscribe now!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Madrissah Calls – 3: Eager to Change

My gracious hosts and I had already exchanged some ideas about modern educational theories over the phone. I brought up the needs for an open-minded educational reform.

I particularly emphasize experiential education to the point that I resent it not being a part of the education of Pakistani children. Also, in response to the People-Centered Model of Business, I had been notified by Abhinibesh of India of a child-centric education system. It had got me thinking about the many ways in which the PC MOB can be applied.

I found the madrissah admin very open and progressive to the ideas. They want change. They just don’t know how, and who will help them? There was a quick go-ahead to the ideas that I presented. I like working this way. But I know this is beginner’s luck. My major challenge will be to bring fundamental changes not just in the curriculum, but in the educational philosophy. Curriculum is tactical. Educational philosophy is strategic. They have so far agreed with all things I said, and we are going to look at creating an overall map of education that their enterprise will impart.

During the course of the visit, I visited the female madrissah which honestly locked my heart in a way that I had to come home and lie down to feel better. It’s after a long time anyway that I have visited any school, and I just realized how I completely disagree with the educational philosophy in most places. Educational is completely book-oriented and mono-directional. Feed more and more info into the brain, and reproduce through the mouth and the hand at astonishing speed and accuracy = summary of all education.

This was at least a madrissah. I have been in madly stringent and anti-human mainstream schools that were high on fees and absurd rules, and low on really changing human children for better. This is why, I told my open-minded hosts, we will be walking a thin line balancing the social, political, religious aspects of this school. In addition to that, I invited them to consider alternative educational theories that will present a real-life solution to real-life problems. The age of the copy & paste solution is over. We need new solutions. Using the People-Centered Model of Business, in addition to exciting education theories for the 21st century, I hope to develop an educational roadmap that will change the way of education in madrissahs for good.

Note: Madrissah is term popularly used to refer to an Islamic school. In Urdu, it just means, “school.” In this series of blogs, it refers to a major Islamic school that I visited.

Madrissah Calls – 2: Suspension of Judgment. A Time for Facts.

The important part in seeing something that you are not familiar with – and wish to get familiar with – is to suspend judgment. I had been given a rather realistic idea of what I should expect, but even then it took me years back in time in a way that I felt uncomfortable. Still, I suspended judgment, and took a factual, realistic view of the situation with the trust that I am going to work with people who want to change. When you have work to do and people to lead, you can’t afford to wish. Who could you wish to but yourself?

I realized how far my image of education has developed and how deeply have I come to not-like the way education is in the world today. Not just Islamic, but modern education. If the Islamic education primarily prepares Man for the Mosque, the modern education anywhere in the world prepares the Child for the Factory. I had trouble thinking that I would likely be putting the two together: Mosque + Factory.

We have to have a modified Urdu idiom for this: mullah ki daur factory tak. The Mullah sees not beyond the factory. That replaces the age-old idiom: The Mullah goes not beyond the Mosque.

Note: Madrissah is term popularly used to refer to an Islamic school. In Urdu, it just means, “school.” In this series of blogs, it refers to a major Islamic school that I visited.

Madrissah Calls – 1: PC MOB – a Madrissah Responds to the Paper

Today I had one of the strangest experiences in a long time. It clearly showed me how much have I changed, how far have I come.

One really bizarre wish came true: I was invited to visit an Islamic madrissah by its owners/ administrators. I had told the universe that I wish to take my work in consultancy further, and that I wished to visit a major Islamic school. Both wishes came bundled (it’s happened before when “Wisdom!” + “God, how about a fresh set of shinier teeth?” came back as “wisdom tooth” – it ached!).

I got an SOS from what is more than a madrissah, but I wish to protect their identity. The owners had read my paper on the People-Centered Model of Business. And they are interested in a progressive curriculum design for their schools. Among other things.

Gladly I went this morning. Curious. Calm. Very sure. I already knew in many ways what they will be looking for. I know I have some answers, and need to search newer solutions. With this knowledge, I sat writing my diary in the backseat as the madrissah driver raced on the very long roads. I wrote about Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, and his search for the Truth. How he thought that the stars, the moon, and the sun were his God, and realized each time that none of them were if they all eventually set. How he kept looking for God and said after these observations, “My God is the one who created them all, for they all set, and He does not!”

I noted in my diary how that story has been inspiring me lately to 1/ not be deceived by false gods, and 2/ to keep persisting when my heart doesn’t feel right with anything.

Note: Madrissah is term popularly used to refer to an Islamic school. In Urdu, it just means, “school.” In this series of blogs, it refers to a major Islamic school that I visited.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Why Do We Do Business?

What comes first when a person passionate about an idea wants to build a business around it: the idea, or money?

In a class where I was teaching entrepreneurship, we came across this question again and again. What really is entrepreneurship and why do people start businesses? Since the class was an academic route to entrepreneurship, I also had to figure in another angle: why would my students want to start businesses, given that they weren't "naturally" doing it?

I feel that in order to work out any idea, you need a vision. Vision is seeing a context for the idea (or an idea in the context). That makes an idea relevant to its use. Having an idea in itself may be quite worthless. You can get three ideas per second just searching the Net. I call these "ideas from the outer space."

The beauty lies in the vision of the person driving an idea. They can read the past, present, and future - find the gaps - and fill them in. Or they can see things that never were, and say, "why not?"

There is no text book on what does or should the vision hold. Life is amazingly dynamic, and every instance there is a new world, new circumstances. There will always be work to do for humans and not calendars and computers around for simply this one reason: only a human can deal with the amazing chaos of life. So there is a new vision for each time and its unique circumstances.

In this era, the global society is rapidly becoming aware of long-forgotten Responsibility/Response-ability. Responsibility to ourselves, our families, our communities, our environment. This is one wave that will just not turn back without changing the landscape. Nay, this isn't just a wave. It's the Tsunami of Change.

These new times demand a radical re-thinking of why we do business. To my mind, the days of the gold-diggers and king-makers are over. Not their reign, but their kind of mindset. The new generation of people is generally not dreaming on individual level - they feel responsible for change around them. At the very least, we know we can't keep escaping.

In these times, entrepreneurs won't think old-style: to madly pursue an idea and grow rich at any cost. The modern entrepreneur is doing a balancing act.

And for those entrepreneurs who are looking for a new kind of vision, a new thinking, a new mindset, a balance - I present the PC MOB: the People-Centered Model of Business. This model says, "We do business for the people." What? How? Why? The paper (PDF; 540K) answers the questions.

It's a first draft, and I can already see a ton of things to add and change. I'm excited. Get it here (PDF; 540K), read it, distribute it, link to this blog entry. Share with friends, use the ideas and send me your comments. Agree. Disagree. Let's talk!

E-mail: nextbyramla AT


OK. Small news. Big ooh-factor! I noticed that NEXT> byRamla has been listed in Tom Peters' blog roll. Go to the site. Check the blog roll on the left.

In the world of change agents and "seriously cool people," Tom Peters is one of my top heroes - right there along with Stephen Covey, Edward do Bono, and Steve Jobs. To have NEXT> noticed by Tom or Co. is a sweet little thing.

More so, because it's always been a dream of mine to put a Muslim, Pakistani name somewhere on the map of positive change agents. Ooh-la-la!

I love tiny experiences and little gifts!

E-mail: nextbyramla AT

Friday, March 24, 2006

Brands seek "alternative" cure

For many brands, the search for the alternative to the TV ad continues, while some may have found answers of their own. Read more to find out…

The study of the decline of the 30-second TV commercial – that goes by the cutesy nick “the 30” – has been the cause of concern to advertisers in developed advertising and media industries for some time. If the good old ad doesn’t work, what does?

For some time, the industry has been looking to alternatives such as “branded entertainment.” Brands are looking to engage consumers in new ways. And in this quest for the Holy Grail of New Ways of Consumer Engagement, the phenomena called “branded entertainment” seems to be having a lot of promise.

In my opinion, branded entertainment, which has become the fashionable catchphrase in even underdeveloped markets such as that of Pakistan for no reason but fashion & following, is the of the ad & media industries: it is not quite understood, it is pursued in search of delivering results, and it is built around concept as flaky as the era was built around.

There is often little understanding that branded entertainment and/or possible alternatives to the 30 are not the answer to a quest for making ads more creative, they are based on economic needs of societies that are saturated with products, media, and ideas. And just as a does not make an average brick & mortar business a Google-like success, jazzy alternatives to the 30 do not solve “the problem.”

And so, for those like BMW who understand the perils of considering branded entertainment a cure-all, the search for the alternative to the TV ad continues. There are some lucky ones, though, who have found much needed new rules for consumer engagement – at least for now.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

You are young/ You are old

It cannot be said when and if linguists will deliver on this, but at least there is a smaller but perhaps no less important bridge built by Dr. Tannen to gap the mother-daughter divide. Built in part with memories of her personal experience, her book in an insight in to a classical conflict (I see 6, you 9 – no puns!) in an everyday household situation.

Personally, my second thought is that I don’t know if this kind of curative approach to language and relationship does achieve anything useful for everyday life. As in, does one need academic knowledge or a “study” of linguistics to solve everyday life issues?

I think in a situation with a pure point-of-view conflict, nothing works best than praise, openness to listen to another, and validating their situation. Change can follow. Change is a process, no matter how fast.

Yet these are techniques remain conflict-specific. And I sense there is a bit of reactivity (I prefer “reactiveness”) to applying techniques to appease someone. But it comes down to this: the only one who we can truly motivate to be “active” is ourselves.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Will Robert Langdons of linguistics save the world?

I believe that in coming times, it will be linguists, and especially experts on semantics and syntax – in this order – who will change the world for better. As the world conflict increases because of misunderstandings of language, and the purpose behind language, linguists will be spurred into action. They will examine human language more closely; and during this study they will discover amazing similarity of patterns, tones, and themes in the language of humans.

Not only will pure language (?) reveal interesting relations among world languages, but the themes in global stories and folklore will also appear to have amazing commonalities.

This knowledge will travel down from the academic world to the general public. For the first time, the population of the world will be surprised – and shocked – that they all may have been saying the same thing, differently.

Which way to Hellfire? Gehinom, and Jahannum

For me, the realization was accidental. Thanks to the company of learned family, educators and friends, I have known for a long time about the etymology (origins) of many Urdu words, and have had some idea about the derivation of the language Urdu itself. But I had no idea of similar concepts…sounding alike…in Urdu and… Hebrew!

While reading up on Jewish eschatology (beliefs about the end of world), I saw the term “Hibbut ha-kever, the pains of the grave.” I like new languages, so I said the word out loud. It sounded familiar. Urdu readers who try this out will not miss. Soon, they will hear something that sounds like, “haibat e-qabar.” Meaning? “The horror/s of the grave.” Then there’s Gehinom (“purgatory” in Hebrew) and Jahannum (“hellfire” in Urdu). With slight difference, the concepts largely refer to the same things. Eureka! *

Robert Langdon: an Intercultural De-mystifier

No, I do not think Dan Brown is a literary genius, only a phenomenon. Both The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons were “putdownable” half way down. But I like character Robert Langdon’s career interests: he is a (religious) symbologist connecting the dots and revealing the hidden links between religious symbols and their history. The most important contribution of the Code, indeed, might be to spark an interest in (religious) art history.

Just as Robert traces links between symbols and weaves a thread across cultures and thus beliefs, the linguists of the near (near, I hope) future will present for the people of the world links between their words, and concepts and constructs. A little help from philosophers, of course, will be needed.

The Talk of Civilizations

While there has been much work on conflict resolution and language already, the issue is making that knowledge a part of the social construct of the societies around the globe. Besides, knowledge alone is often worth not much in itself, but its application is.

Knowledge is like fire; it is the application that makes the difference. Which is why the use of knowledge by the untrained or ill-willed can make knowledge useless or dangerous.

The knowledge is out there, mostly already worked out by the left-brained. With the rise of the creative class and the right-brained, there is higher hope that the connections between bits of knowledge will be made to lead to a wider understanding approaching the universal.

Yours Literally

The most heart-breaking (at first) and heart-warming (later) realization will be that much we each took for “literal” was actually symbolic or analogical. The folklore of the world has been hiding layers of meanings. Most recently, Harry Potter fans, critics, and “analysts” have dedicated sites and written books to discover the layers of meanings in the series. Know what the horrific Dementors personify? I like the one that says they personify Depression. They suck energy out when they’re around, and a dose of chocolate helps after they paid a visit. I tested this one on many die-hard Potter fans. None knew.

Interestingly, we may be missing similar meanings in ancient, older, and foreign texts and taking them too literally.

Grapes or Angoor?

Or we may realize that in many instances, it was merely a difference in our language, which is a form of concepts, that we differed over in substance. A Sufi story saw that a long time ago. In the story, men of various nationalities fought over what they will buy for food. The Pakistani wanted, “angoor.” The Englishmen insisted upon buying “grapes.” The German wanted “trauben.” And the Spaniard demanded, “uvas,” instead.

I have modernized the nationalities, but the story remains the same. For how long will it? We don’t know. For the sake of humanity, it’s hopefully a short period before realization dawns.

* Most references are from Wikipedia, as of February 11, 2006. Wikipedia will provide an excellent starting point for more research on the topic. In itself, Wikipedia is a melting pot – a phenomenon of multi-cultural and multi-linguistic interaction, and the many differences that arise naturally.

- This article has just been edited because I couldn't read it myself.
Hey, I do feel language must get simpler! I promise no more late-night writing. I channel some old spirit when I write late night. Happy reading!

Image credits: Logoi for the Chinese alphabet; and
andrea_j for the letter A. Alphabet "Alif" is a painting by Ali Omer Ermes.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Maker, not taker

There is a reason why I stopped blogging on NEXT> all of a sudden. I asked myself: who am I truly – a future-reader, or a future-maker?

It occurred to me that there are only two kinds of persons in action: makers, and takers. A reader or observer of future is just a glorified role for a taker of a future created by others. If future is what I am interested in, I would rather be the one to create the future than the one to take in the name of reading and anticipating it.

This ends my very long uncertainty of what this blog really is going to be about. It is going to be – nothing. There is no such thing as a going to be but only a being right now which, over the course of time, looks like in the past it was something that was going to be.

If, though, we stand in the past, we can never be sure of what is going to be. The only certainty of future is the future itself.

But the beauty is, if we do the present, we create the future. I do not wish to stand by on the banks of Time and watch it flow by. If I believe in the worth of experience – which I passionately do – I will want to dwell in Time. Make the present, and let the future become from it.

Chances, surprises, and serendipitous experiences are welcome. After all, they say, there is no such thing as a co-incidence.