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Saving the World Business Love Affair

One of my favourite discoveries in Yorkshire

One of my favourite discoveries in Yorkshire

Eye rolls, grins and that typical look I get whenever someone ask me about what I intend to do.

I have to admit, whatever I end up saying or plan to do will most likely sound like I’m trying to save the world. So I get why I get those looks from people most of the time. I really do.

Because, if I was them, I’d do the same too.

I don’t know what is it with me and the idea of doing something that resonates with this superhero complexity I have. Maybe, a part of me wants to undo the past, of what I didn’t have the power or wisdom to do anything then but today, given the knowledge and experience, perhaps I can right the wrong somehow. Give other people the opportunity to live in better state of mind.

I have roughly 9 days before my adventure with Hyper Island in Manchester comes to an end. Yesterday marked our sixth month residency in this city that I’ve come to find comfort in and I realised that being in HI has elevated my determination to do whatever I want because they allow us to do what we want. Therein lies a crux for some of us, well more for me really. I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, what is it about HI that made me be the way I am today? How is it different from the rest? Am I looking at the rose-tinted glasses that I’m potentially setting myself for some kind of down fall once the bubble burst?

To be honest, I don’t know.

It could be a long love affair with my life of fighting against the current since the day I was born. There is always something I had to pull out of the hat to prove that I’m here, alive and relevant. It was also part of the 10 year love affair with the black hole I spent spiralling through my growing up years.

So yes, being in Hyper Island wiped off all that history of breaking walls and burning bridges with society back home. I may be one of the weirdest alien in Malaysia but over here, HI forces us to go deeper and embrace our differences. That, my weirdness is not weird enough to be called weird.

Wait, does that even make sense?

Essentially, that freedom to explore all corners of my interests, fascinations and weirdness have made me felt like I’m normal. So normal, I need to kick myself to push harder. I don’t know where Be Autistic, my industry research project will be taking me to..because I’m setting myself so freaking high, I’m hanging onto anything at this point.

I wonder if one day I’ll wake up feeling “Yes, I’ve conquered my confidence!” and be done with all the insecurities. Then, I remember, confidence is a work in progress, it’s not something we can overcome once and for all and move on from there. There’s always something to shake it up, to make things even.

For now though, I’m done feeling inferior with myself. I’m ending this turmoil about feeling like I’m so different that I’m never gonna figure this life out because.. as Tash once told me at a party we were at (not sure if she even remembered), I’m not that different as I thought.

Seriously, coming here really opened my eyes about myself. I may have been fighting an endless battle all my life because back home, whoever I’m suppose to be is not yet an “accepted” concept but over here, you have to fight harder to stay true to who you are.

Fuh, that’s a lot of battles but without them, I don’t think living is worth it at all. We just have to pick the right battles that will enrich our mind and soul. If anything, it should empower us to do things differently (in a good way, of course). And if it doesn’t, there’s always tomorrow to change that.

I’m not looking forward to moving out of my apartment in Manchester. Not even sure if I’m ready to leave Manchester yet. I hope somebody from some company will see a potential to bring me in somewhere. This adventure is only the beginning, I have so much more to learn! Argh! The agony.

And strangely, while walking back to my place earlier, I don’t have that “homesick” feeling for as long as I’ve been here. I don’t know why (there’s so many don’t knows in this post, it’s driving my mad). I know I’ve always felt more home away from home. Over here, I just feel like I’m free from my inhabits that I am able to just be me. That and I have so many amazing people all over the continent, they make me feel like part of this giant extended family network too.

I just don’t want to see this end without a proper conclusion. At least not anytime soon.

5

The Future of Autism Spectrum

I know at some point I will have to write about this. At some point I will dedicate a whole blog entirely to my Industry Research Project (IRP). At some point was suppose to be in January 2015. However, writing about this makes me realised that I need to make this happen a lot sooner than I anticipated.

I need to pour out my thoughts into structured sentences for things to make sense because being analysis paralysis about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is drowning me.

While it’s not exactly a surprise, it still create that “Seriously?” look on people’s face when I told them that my IRP is based on How to Harness Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Individuals’ Special Abilities in Today’s World.

A subject I’m too familiar with.

Why do I think this is an important problem to solved? (At this point, it sounds like I’m trying to save the world..and in a bonkers kinda way, secretly..that’s what I want to do or attempt to at least)

Apart from a personal interest, I have been observing the pool of talents available out there from people on the autism spectrum and a majority of the talents are wasted because most people don’t have enough understanding about autism or don’t know how to communicate with them. It appears that as of 2009, only 15% of adults with autism in the UK are employed full-time. Whether it’s the right profession is another question altogether.

How is this even relevant to the real world, you ask?

Autism Spectrum Disorder individuals have unique ways of processing information compared to the rest of the people in this world. They just function differently from other people but it doesn’t mean that they are incapable of understanding what goes around the world. One of the most amazing people on this earth who happens to have autism, Temple Grandin (a professor, innovator, author, PETA and autism activists) explained it best in Jill Mullin’s remarkable book Drawing Autism that changed my life:

Photo Credit: Dabid Dabid

Photo Credit: Dabid Dabid

” Many individuals on the autism spectrum often excel at one thing, while struggling with something else. There are three types of specialised autistic mind – visual thinker, pattern thinker and word specialist.”

Because their minds are so defined, they are capable of interpreting facts and complex data in ways that normal people can’t. I find the idea of collaborating with their minds exciting because if there’s anyone who is able to be innovative in a world filled with noise, it’s them.

Yet, we are not. Why is that so? Are they so alien to us that we exist in different reality?

Naturally, as a self-professed grave digger (a term I call myself ever since I got into Hyper Island), I dig deeper into why is autism a mystery in the 21st century. It didn’t occur to me at first but I found out that for the last few decades, many assumed autism can be cured but recently, researchers have slowly moved their mindset from being a disease to a way of life.

If more people adopt the concept of autism being all about functioning and thinking differently, perhaps we’re able to break the stigma around autism spectrum.

But for this to happen, we have to first have a universal understanding or definition as to what autism spectrum is truly about because every other year or so, the definition, characteristics or symptoms keep on changing. That itself creates a big confusion for the public to take in.

This is the current definition of Autism Spectrum Disorder by NHS:

ASD is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. It includes Asperger syndrome and childhood autism.

In essence, it doesn’t say much but in reality, the spectrum for autism is so wide! It ranges from very mild to classic autism where ASD individuals might not even know they have it unless they get diagnosed because they found ways to cope (this indirectly make people think autism can be “cured”).

Credit to Cornwall Council

Credit to Cornwall Council

It’s apparent that autism spectrum needs an overhaul. A rebranding from being a disability to a capability.

How is it that, it’s normal for people to say “I’m feeling depressed” in a conversation and not take it too seriously but at the same can’t be applied when someone say “I’m feeling autistic”?

This thought only popped up in my mind when I was trying to talk to people on the autism spectrum. I was so afraid of offending them with my words that I was mentally “paralysed”.

It’s this stigma that’s hindering us from making that connection with autism spectrum individuals and utilise their analytical/technical thinking.

Just imagine what industries like engineering, creative, R&D or business could benefit from their gifts? The moment any one of these industry is able to tap into their skills, they are able to push the envelope to innovate something new and force everyone else to be on their level, or at the very least enable the rest to apply critical thinking in a different way.

Photo Credit: Brandon JP Scott

Photo Credit: Brandon JP Scott

Hey, Tim Burton is believed to be in the spectrum (so was Einstein, Newton, Mozart and Warhol). Look what they achieved with their special abilities?

This correlates to what Google has been doing since late October 2012 when they started Autism Daily Newscast. Their objective is to be the Reuters in ASD and it’s interesting to think why Google is dedicating a whole division for ASD if it’s not to help them identify the talents they can acquire for the company, simultaneously transforming Google to the next level.

Photo Credit: Sesame Street

Photo Credit: Sesame Street

The same can be said about Sesame Street’s See Amazing in All Children Autism Initiative campaign that’s happening in United States. In one glance, you can see who their partners are and it’s no surprise that they come from various background. It’s also interesting to note that BAE Systems (a British multinational defence, security and aerospace company) is one of the funders and imagine what they can do with the data regarding children in the autism spectrum in the future.

Fact that Groupon has joined the bandwagon with Sesame Street to support the initiative through a sweepstakes three days ago made me think about what companies are currently getting by supporting such programs. Altruistically of course it’s a good thing but there’s a bigger goal here that we’re not seeing, at least not with naked eyes. Strategically, having Sesame Street marching in the forefront is the most brilliant move not only because they have a diverse audience, they have a strong voice in this world to command any kind of movement in any community. People will listen.

So, looking back, the tech industry is definitely looking into the future of ASD skills, to prepare companies for future jobs to fill in. Right now though, the focus and message are mainly for families, caretakers, friends of ASD individuals on how to manage their behaviours.

I definitely think autism spectrum in general is the next big thing to disrupt all large industries. Soon, there will be a need for a job agency dedicating to ASD individuals (thanks to Mary, our industry leader for Business Transformation module in Hyper Island, plucking this out among the many information I was hoarding).

A job agency for people in the spectrum is unheard of at the moment and will become my main goal in the Industry Research Project. A purpose I can see that will benefit everyone from the bottom of the chain right up to investors. It will also affect the education sector because this will force the system to re-evaluate and reassess school programs. Indirectly, this will also affect the depression rate among people in the spectrum by identifying and focusing on their strengths. If more people can apply this behaviour strategies, will we be able to create more safe haven places in this world for them? Come to think of it, would the behaviour strategies work on people in general? How will this affect the way we work in the office?

Yes, that grave I speak of is deeper than I can ever imagine but one I’m fired up to do. In the end, if we have to do something that’s going to take a big chunk of our time and energy, it should be towards something we’re passionate about.

But first, a rebranding is needed!

Perhaps the question here is about the way people communicate with individuals on the spectrum.

“Parents, teachers, doctors and everybody who works with individuals on the spectrum need to help these individuals develop their abilities.” – Temple Grandin, Drawing Autism

1

A Matter of Perspective

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Everyone has their own expectations and outcomes from things they want to learn. I came to Hyper Island with no clue what I got myself into.

But everyday, I learn something new, from different people, same people, other people or just myself.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m living in the moment, paying as much attention to the little things that my perspective might be somewhat different when I hear what others thought about their experience being here so far.

Maybe because for all my life, I’ve always been that kid who had to figure out how to do things alone. Have to build a pathway so others can see clearer. Pretty much self-learning since I could remember because that’s how I’ve been brought up.

Working with Tourism Selangor, at a time when digital media was the biggest mystery to Malaysia cemented the fact that with a lot of reading, determination, passion and awareness, I manage to make the most of what I didn’t know I had. I spent countless hours to get my head wrapped around this responsibility that could’ve destroyed my career given the politics that surrounded it.

I even remember YB Elizabeth Wong, then one of Selangor’s Exco who kept telling Fazly, my then manager to ask me to not “work too hard” but for a couple of years, I kept at it because there’s so much I needed to learn and it excites me when I found a breakthrough (some experiments didn’t go as we planned but that’s why it’s called lessons).

So being in Hyper Island is no different to me, except that experience is amplified by infinity more. To me, self-learning is the only way I know best. So when people ask if I had learned anything from a particular module even when it’s so vague and abstract, I would say I have.

Different people have different expectations and outcomes.

To me, it might not be something obvious that we can use but I know in the future I will go back and apply it. I wouldn’t say I know everything, because I don’t. Pushing myself to dig deeper is still something new. A better way of doing things.

I’ve written about this for my Design Thinking Critique paper – using my past experience as a case study. It’s just about looking at things from another point of view, another window to see how I can do better in the future.

Business Transformation begins today. Just the thought of going through a whole new group for the third time does scare me a little. Although, I’m very excited how this module takes off from the last module Digital Technology, which happens to be my favourite.

Life is a work-in-progress when it comes to learning. Altering the way we think can do wonders to ourselves.

4

Play, Rewind, Pause: The HI5 Experience

Northern Quarter

It’s a rather new discovery this part of me I just got to know. Probably a little less than a year and having to move to Manchester just amplified that notion about me being an introvert. My tendencies have kept me questioning about myself more since I’ve moved here. Of the things that I am more comfortable with versus the things I should be doing.

It hasn’t occur to me what culture shock feels like until I removed myself from the environment I’ve built for a lifetime. It is then that I am able to see the other side of myself without trying too hard.

First week at Hyper Island made me feel like I have a mental disorder. Of course, I meant it in a good way.

I liken the first day as my bubble bursting in thin air the moment we were meant to mingle with other people in Hyper Island. As with every other first day, I know how I will be – awkward. I’ve always thought of myself as somewhat socially inept. Not on an extreme level but to a certain degree, I lean towards it.

For that, I played along where I could but then Hyper Island one-up their game by getting us all to do a personal presentation about the 3 events or people that had impacted us. Each of us, including HI managers and facilitators did it.

Hyper Island Crew 5_6

“It’s an equal level playground this new school of thought,” I told myself.

Everyone had something to say, something to ask, something to answer yet there I was shutting it all down as fast as I could. Well, I tried to and felt guilty thereafter and what an odd sensation to feel – a deep conscience telling me what I did was wrong and it carried on till the next day.

Hyper Island went on another level and kickstarted a Reflection Session after we “check-in”.

It’s funny that there were two running themes that went on prior to my departure and here I am diving head first into it and unearth the very core of my emotions based on these themes (self awareness and reflection).

Wait, what am I doing in Hyper Island you might ask? Masters in Digital Marketing Management is what I got myself into and what’s better – it’s a super accelerated course. Somehow, I have a knack for getting myself into madness no matter where I go.

Piccadilly Gardens

Hyper Island Crew 5_3

Hyper Island Way Week taught us all to be aware and reflect on our actions individually, small groups and eventually to the entire crew. Imagine how nerve-wrecking that experience had been on the second day itself (and will continue till the end of the program). It’s no wonder I needed 3 days to recover from all that “therapy” when we first started. Yeah, I excused myself from the after-class outings because I was emotionally and mentally exhausted from all that digging and thinking. It doesn’t help that I’m really loving the apartment I’m staying too.

Hyper Island Crew 5_2

Brilliant way to kickstart though. Brilliant indeed to break our walls on our very first week.

Even my past therapy sessions didn’t feel as intense as this.

But, on the upside, it taught me to make improvement every single day. Just one thing at a time. It was what I had got myself to do the last 6 years on a personal level. This time, it’s on professional AND personal level. Oh boy.

I knew everyday that I’m thankful for this diversion He got me to do. What was known as my back up plan is now my primary plan and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I know now that, I had to be here right now at this moment because I’m ready on all level. It might tear me apart and stitch up together but I will not be able to appreciate the greatness that HI delivers if I wasn’t where I am today.

Yeah, this is where I’m suppose to be and I better make sure to do the best I can.

Two weeks ago, Max, our program manager asked us to write a letter to ourselves and sealed it in an envelope. I suspect it’s for time capsule but anyways, one of the things I wrote to myself was about making a deal with the introvert side of me. I may take any one weekday off to recharge and any one weekend for the same reason but the rest, I need to make effort to join the crew for whatever they intend to do, as long as I’m ok with it. Everyday since then, I do my best to push myself from falling back to my comfort zone. To others it may seem almost insignificant but an effort is still an effort.

Hyper Island Crew 5_4

Hyper Island Crew 5_5

I’ve enjoyed my time so far. I really have. The people are fantastic. Crew 5 (that’s what we’re called) are from all sorts of background and countries. It’s amazing to know how other people from other parts of the world think and feel. In such a short time, they have shaped me to be a better person one way or another. Truly an amazing chapter in my life even if I don’t even know what’s ahead of me for the rest of the year but with open mind comes with an open heart.

It’s refreshing to not know what other people’s religions are or races for that matter. Malaysia has been so accustomed to pigeon-hole humans into different sectors and lifestyles – they are either Chinese, Indians, Malay or others who believe in Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam or none of the above. That itself sort of become our crutch in the real world. Everything has to fit into some kind of stereotype and it’s in HI that I learned none of these really mattered.

None whatsoever. Zilch. Nada.

Hyper Island Crew 5

Everyone respected each other. If you happened to say something insensitive, you can be sure that feedback will be given from the horse’s mouth. We’re wired that way in what I would call the Hyper Culture. It makes us more productive, effective and human in so many ways.

We have this space to make mistakes, forgive ourselves and other people for it and make it better. What has been playing on my mind is, now that we’ve created a whole different bubble for ourselves, by the time we get back to real world, that bubble is going to burst and I look forward to see how we can apply all these methods and culture to other people.

To summarise our program, it’s about cultivating some form of leadership qualities in all of us and take ownership of the consequences we are about to cause. I hope you don’t think we’re going do things quietly without any impact..because we will.

Last week was the start of the incredible journey of masters with real clients and mentors from all kinds of industry. I don’t know how to feel but naturally, I’ll give all I have to be better as solo and team player.