Why I write genYchina.com

Posted: May 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: My Reflections On... | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

I’ve been fortunate to have gained a small audience for my blog posts, and as I meet more people who have become familiar with genYchina.com through the blogosphere and twitterverse, inevitably people ask me why I decided to write a blog.  So here are my the four reasons why genYchina exists:

Reason 1: I hate repeating myself

I often times find that I repeat the same opinions, conclusions or analysis in more than one conversation to more than one person.  It dawned on me that if I was indeed repeating the same topics, then most likely those topics were of interest to a larger group of people.  So in the interest of saving myself time in future conversations when similar topics would arise, I decided it would be a good idea to have a dedicated place where my thoughts could be read and referred to.  That way, next time I can say “that’s an interesting topic, I actually wrote a blog post on that, you can check it out for more details.” So next time, when someone asks me why I write a blog, I can refer them to this posting…

Reason 2: My eternal Independent Study Project
istock_000002528990smallI find blogging a wonderful exercise in gathering & focusing your thoughts, and allowing you to nurture an idea from premonition to full-fledge argument.  As a product of the business school system, I feel dangerously inadequate if I put forth a premise without proper research supporting my assumptions.  To that end, blogging has become a way for me to feed the research monster within me that was awaken and never fully satisfied through 20 years of school.  Through blogging, I have widened my sphere of knowledge and expertise, hopefully making me a more value-added person.

Maintaining a blog is like having a ticking countdown clock for your next intelligent idea.  Part of my mind is always searching for the next potential blog topic.  I keep e-Post-it Notes on my computer and on my iPhone so I can immediate record my thoughts when inspiration strikes. A blog beckons me to continually ask questions and be critical of myself and the world around me, and that is a good practice to have whether you write a blog or not.

Reason 3: Diary & Legacy 2.0

chp_civil_war_diaryMy father never forgets to remind me one lesson he learned from his greatest teachers: “In the end, people will know you from are the books you’ve read, the pictures you’ve taken, and the diary that you keep.” To that end, my library grows each year, whether in paper or electronic form, and my photo albums continue to amass with the help of iPhoto and photo tagging through the various social networks.

Keeping a diary I found, also needed to transition in the information age.  While my blog is not a place where I write my most personal thoughts and secrets, I feel it is a chronicle of my thoughts and opinions from a certain place & time.  I look forward in the years to come, to read through my past blog posts and re-evaluate my own thoughts and perspectives.  I believe it will be essential in my personal critique and growth into the leader and man that I aspire to be.

A public blog like genYchina still leaves room for a personal private diary that keeps more intimate thoughts.  I still keep mine in paper form.  But I have been contemplating moving my personal private diary online onto a secure, password-enabled private blog.  While I know many would advise against such moves because of the fear of hackers and information leaks, I am more concerned with the risk of losing my private diary to an accident.  Keeping a paper diary is highly at risk of being lost in a fire, flood, misplaced, or moths & termites.  Even keeping a diary on your personal computer’s hard drive, or an external drive, or burned onto a CD are all still at risk to fires, floods, being stolen, or digital degrade.  Storing information on the Internet offers infinitely greater redundancies, and you can still keep a copy on your own personal hard drive.

Reason 4: Resume 2.0

dilbertmsinterview1As my career progresses and I find myself pursuing more specialized and strategic positions, I have found that keeping a blog has become a major benefit to the job-hunting process.

A blog is not necessary for all industries and positions, but for those in the creative industries, where what you have done before is not as important as what new things you can do for a company in the future, a simple CV and cover letter will not suffice.  Smart recruiters (and smart companies) will take the time to read an applicant’s blog to get a deeper sense of how this person’s mind works, and what kind of lenses they use to analyze an issue.

It is also a signal to applicants if a company doesn’t take the time or care to read their blog.  What does not reading an applicants blog say about the company’s culture and focus when it comes to human resources?  A blog is to a strategic manager as a portfolio is to a creative.

In my personal experiences, those companies who have read my blog before I walk in to the interview ultimately have infinitely more questions and a deeper fascination with my interests.  It makes the interview all the more vibrant, interesting, and pleasurable for both parties.  It also gives each side a much clearer sense if working together would be a good fit.

In my own hiring practices I will take the time to read applicant blogs where blogs are available, and I must admit reading blogs does highly influence my decision-making behaviour.

In our faster, more networked world, with LinkedIn and Facebook serving as instant access to all our basic career and educational information, it is our blogs that will grow in eminence as an essential component of our job prospecting.


Many people say blogs are being taken over by Twitter, or that blog conversations are changing as a consequence of people moving over to Twitter.  While I will agree to the latter observation, I do not think that Twitter is the end of blogs.  Just like how newspapers are different than magazines, so too is Twitter ultimately a different creature, and serves different purposes than blogs.  The fact that you can retweet links I believe has increased the traffic and cross-blog activity.  Blogs will continue to be the place for longer-form personal exposition.

In the end, writing genYchina is first and foremost for me.  Even if I was my blog’s only audience, that would be perfectly fine, but I am evermore grateful that I have the chance to share my thoughts and ideas with other like-minded people as yourself.  So thank you for spending part of your precious time reading these thoughts.  I hope you will continue to return and share with me your comments.

Personal content selection strategy is just as important as graduating from school.

Posted: February 18th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On..., My Reflections On... | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

technology-overload2As media channels get ever-more factionalized and content creation and publishing flattens to encompass more individuals, the strategy we utilize to select our personal content becomes paramount.

Personal content selection is the 21st Century’s adaptation to the age-old adage of “You are what you eat”, or “You are what you read”. Over-time, prolonged exposure to certain themes, genres, and forms of content will shape your perspective.

Currently we marvel at how we can increasingly ‘multi-task’ and consume more than one form of media/content at one time. But just like how machines and technology — which was supposed to ease our burdens and free our time — have instead sped up our lives and reduced our free time, so too will the increase in media/content selection & availability make our choice of which media to consume that much more important.

In a hyper-inflated media world (hyper in comparison to the media environment of the past) we will be pressed to streamline and make efficient our media consumption.

cell-phones_50And that is why I think it will become essential for schools to start teaching children not just how to search for information or how to interpret it, but also how to control the flow of information and be critical in the selection of content flow one chooses. There is a strategy involved. Its a life skill that, unfortunately people do not and will not learn before its too late.

You are the media you consume.  Whether you’re a political-junky, a YouTube-surfer, part of the Twitterati, or just a basic couch-potato.  You are the media you consume.

So be smart about it.  Actively think about your own consumption strategy.  Be critical of sources.  Diversify your consumption like a stock portfolio manager.  History, Politics, Economics, Drama, Art, Sports, Comedy, Documentaries, Cartoons, Mini-series, Full-length movies, podcasts, magazines, blogs, and hard-bound books.

And always leave space and time for your own thoughts.

Kev’s Reflections On… the 2008 Beijing Olympics that was, and was not

Posted: September 15th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On..., My Reflections On... | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Well, its come and gone.  The great expectation that all of us have been waiting for the past 8 years has come to pass, and for better or worse, without any incident.  What do we make of it all? Here are some of my thoughts:

The time leading up to the Olympics went by much too fast, with most of us saying at least once every day something like “can you believe its only 1 week before the Olympics?” It was oddly quiet in and around Beijing, and understandably so, with all the foreigners being booted out of China because of renewing visa issues.  Most of us thought secretly to ourselves “things will pick up once the Olympics roll around and droves of tourists make their way to the city.  Our predictions of hordes of uncontrollable tourists will hold up.” And so everyone waited, and watched, as the news cycle grew ever-increasingly centered around the city we’ve adopted as our home.

Those lucky enough to have secured a proper visa to stay in Beijing witnessed the last few weeks leading up to the Olympics a huge amount of last-minute effort by the Chinese government to beautify and spruce up the town.  To name a few noticeable changes:

1)    The Beijing government instilled a even-odd license plate driving law: where even-numbered license plated cars can drive on even numbered days, and vice versa for odd number plated cars.  Essentially halving the number of cars on the streets

2)    The Olympic Volunteer stations started popping up everywhere; and more than just a few of us watched in wonderment as countless Chinese retirees lined the sidewalks sitting on stools or falling asleep beside their blaring radios, while wearing their official ‘Volunteer’ shirts.

3)    Overnight, every hutong and mom & pop shop had a Chinese flag hanging on a pre-installed flag-stand just over every shop entrance.  To this day I still don’t know how they did that, given my colleagues went out looking for Chinese flags to buy, and had difficulty locating a good dealer.

4)    The government also commandeered every available outdoor billboard, and also made wholly-new outdoor advertising space by draping all unfinished buildings (and many fully operational ones as well) with Olympic posters.  Lots of commercial buildings put up Olympic-themed sculptures, and I wouldn’t assume they did it out of their own Olympic spirit.

5)    A whole new army of VW cars hit the roads during this time.  As VW was the official automobile sponsor of the Olympics, it is logical.  But it was still astounding to see how many VWs were on the road, all of them with Olympic-decorated side panels.

6)    Hybrid-Electric taxis were seen cruising the streets, just a token amount, to be picked up by news agencies of Beijing’s ‘Green’ Olympics, but they were present. And, surprisingly, they’re still on the streets now, a few weeks after the close of the Olympics.

7)    The Olympics had an official Dumpling brand too. Can you believe that? I just wanted to add that in because I found it ridiculously hilarious.

Yet while all of these great, noticeable improvements were taking place, China’s dealing with foreigner visas and also the immense scrutiny by foreign media on China’s numerous shortcomings made me think again about China’s conduct leading up and during the Olympics.

I found it amusingly similar (although I don’t know why it was surprising to me), that the way the Chinese government went around preparing and executing the Olympics is much like how any normal Chinese business negotiates and delivers on a business deal.

In essence (and I’m sure those of you who do business in China will agree with me), the Chinese are overly willing to promise the moon when it comes to the opening deal negotiation and what is ‘possible’.  Very rarely will you hear a ‘no’ from a Chinese counterpart during a deal-making discussion.  “You want this to be done then? No problem.” “You want there to be this many widgets in that many sprockets? Absolutely, we can do that.”  But, as many of us have experienced before, when it comes time for the goods to be delivered, the project to be complete, the event to be executed, you find that they’ve done their job, but maybe only 75% to your expectations.  And when you ask them whats up with the other 25%, your Chinese counterparts answer something like this: “Sorry, that’s all we could do in this time frame.  Give us more time and we can get it done to the way you like it.” Or “We’ll use some other material. Its almost the same as what you wanted, give us another week and we can do it.” Or “Yeah, we’ll give you a discount cause you’re not happy with it.”

The Beijing Olympics were alarmingly similar.  Those of us living here were constantly wondering if the Bird’s Nest and the Watercube would be done in time, and most critically, whether we would see blue skies.  The new subway lines promised for the Olympics just barely got up and running, just weeks and days before the Opening Ceremonies, and you could see it was a rush job, as Line 10 and the Olympic Line 8 had completely bare white walls, something I am sure was not originally planned.  And then there are the two other elephants in the room, the ‘Green’ Olympics and the promise of a free press.

Eight years ago the Beijing Olympic Organizing committee promised China would change to the Olympic selection committee and by proxy the free world.  But eight years later the same excuses that you’ve heard from Chinese business people were expressed (albeit intrinsically) by the Chinese government at the state of the Olympics: “Sorry, our economy has been uncontrollably strong, we couldn’t wean our heavy industry off of coal in time, so it’ll be ‘Green’ because we’re just going to shut down our factories for the period during the Olympics.” And “Yeah, sorry, our society isn’t yet ready for the onslaught of free press, so we’re going to have it ‘free’ by allowing the press free access to designated zones, and then follow you around everywhere else you go.” And “yeah, sorry we did mention freedom of speech to our citizens by the time of the Olympics, but we just couldn’t make it happen, so we’re going to create ‘protest zones’ for any legitimate protestors, and all they’ll need to do is apply to protest, and those that get through our application process (although none will) will be able to protest, and those that don’t make it through will be tracked, and then kicked out of China.”

It’s all very Chinese. But when this comparison first entered my mind I thought “huh, yeah, makes sense.”

Another perspective and another example that came to mind that characterizes China’s actions during the Olympics is like a Chinese family welcoming you to visit their home.  If you have a Chinese mother, or know a Chinese family, you may be familiar with the type of mindset that rules any occasion when company is coming over: Everything must be PERFECT.  Dusted, vacuumed, tidied up, the best silverware, and mom’s most accomplished dishes prepared for the guest.  What cannot be fixed or cleaned up must be hidden away, or put out of sight for fear of embarrassing the host.
I don’t think it’s a far stretch to see this is exactly how the Chinese reacted to the Olympics.  Foreigners who didn’t have a clear and productive purpose for being in China were deemed a ‘risk’ and sent home; migrant workers, while the backbone of the development of China, were all sent home for fear of tarnishing China’s ‘developed’ image.

But before some of you think to yourself “yeah that was wrong, the Chinese were overly cautious”, let me ask you, what would you do if you had guests coming over to your house? What happens if you have a very important guest coming over and you have a very unhappy brother who you know will try to make it his mission to cause a scene? Would you not make sure that he isn’t there during the visit?

Or more interestingly, what would you do if you had an important visitor coming to your house, but you knew he had a strong tendency to poke through all of your rooms, closets, and dressers, in search of something to condemn you on? Wouldn’t you lock some of your doors too?

I’m sure these are some of the feelings shared by the Chinese officials as they planned on what they would and wouldn’t permit during the Olympics.  Can you blame them? In the name of rights & freedoms, maybe.  But if the tables were turned and there was press coming to dig deep into what you have stashed away in your closet, under your bed or in your dresser, wouldn’t you do the same thing?
For the Chinese, the fact that the Olympics were met with no real terrorist attack or major protest, must be a huge sigh of relief.  A lot of patting on the backs I am sure.  They must be feeling that the important guest has finally left, and no real debacle has made them lose irreparable face.

For the rest of us, the Olympics have come and gone.  The actual games were a blast and yet a blur, and a little dissapointingly quiet and orderly.   Now that its all over, we here living in China are in a post-Olympic disillusionment.  What do we look forward to now? Just 10% Year over year GDP growth? That’s it? Nothing else?

Great expectations have come and gone.  And now we’re just trying to make sense of what is next.