You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want”.  Zig Ziglar

On the 28th November 2012 a great man passed away. His name was Zig Ziglar, and he had left a lasting impression on me as a result of his knowledge in sales, his wisdom on success and his inspiration in life.

It was 1996 when I first met Zig Ziglar at a Jim Rohn event in Brisbane, Australia. I was a fledgling in sales just having acquired the role of Business Development Manager for a Medical Diagnostics company where I was responsible for establishing international markets in Europe, Asia and North America. Since Zig Ziglar had an excellent reputation in sales knowledge and experience I was looking forward to learning some of the skills that would differentiate me in the market.

After listening to one of the most inspiring and influential presentations from Jim Rohn, including a number of goal-setting and personal development activities that changed my life, it was time for Zig Ziglar’s presentation. His unique southern US drawl with a preaching style voice hit my senses immediately. The words and ideas that were delivered captured the attention of everyone in the room and became influential and motivational for me in decades to come.

Following ia a summary of the notes I took on how to be a top performer:

  1. Regardless of the past, tomorrow is a clean start
  2. The choices you make today will determine what you will be, do and have in the tomorrows of your life
  3. Top performers learn to make the right choices – There is something you can do right now to change your future and it is your choice!
  4. Don’t waste time blaming others; fix the causes – You are the only one who can solve your problems
  5. You can change what you are and where you are by changing what goes into your mind – It is what happens inside of you that matters.
  6. Top performers learn every day by seeking new ideas – Establish an “automobile university” and listen to audio CDs on the road
  7. The most important conversation you will ever have is with yourself
  8. Develop a wall of gratitude that highlights the people who have made a difference in your life
  9. What you send out is what you get back – Improve your conversations and your attitude
  10. Serving others is the foundation for relationships

Dr John Kapeleris


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Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.” – Sandra Carey

According to Russell Ackoff, knowledge is defined as the acquisition of data and information that provides the ability to answer (How?) questions, while wisdom is defined as the practical application and use of the knowledge to create value.

Wisdom is gained through learning and practical experience, not just memorisation, however, to practically apply knowledge learnt, a deep understanding of the knowledge is required. “Understanding” is what allows knowledge to be converted into wisdom through cognitive, experiential and analytical processes. Wisdom gives people the ability to make the right judgements and correct decisions, but can also synthesize new knowledge.

For example, memorising data and information allows you to acquire knowledge which can be used to answer questions (such as in an exam), however, when posed with a problem to solve, then a deep understanding of the knowledge is required to successfully solve the problem. One of the challenges in our educational system is that deep understanding of knowledge through cognitive and analytical processes is not taught in-depth. Curricula require the inclusion of education programs on how to analyse knowledge and synthesise new knowledge. To achieve a deep understanding of knowledge, additional “thinking about thinking” or cognitive techniques are required to be added to the curriculum. For example, in 1998 the University of the Sunshine Coast introduced a core compulsory first year interdisciplinary course called “Thought and Communication” intended to encourage students to think deeply, in addition to learn the importance of communication.

Beyond wisdom is enlightenment. Enlightenment can be defined as a higher form of understanding and wisdom that enables clarity of perception and awareness. It is a state of being that provides insight through reasoning and self-awareness.

The following table provides a summary of the Knowledge Hierarchy:

I have also represented the Knowledge Hierarchy in a pyramid format below:

Dr John Kapeleris

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Achieving Personal Excellence

October 11th, 2012 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Success - (1 Comments)

While I was reading Brian Tracy’s book, “No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline” I came across an interesting section, which in summary stated that if you want to join “The Top 20 Percent” in a given field or profession then you need to achieve personal excellence in the specific skills required for that field or profession. You need to identify the key leaders or dominant players in the given field or profession and emulate their skills and behaviours. Brian Tracy also mentions that if you want to be successful identify a successful person and find out what they do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. You need to know what they do when they wake up in the morning, their exercise program, what they eat and drink, their daily routine, what they read and write, what they are thinking, and what they do in the evening before they go to sleep.

For example, to become a football (soccer) superstar you need to identify the skills and behaviours of the leading players and develop those skills and behaviours through learning and significant practice to achieve personal excellence in the game. If we take the example of the football star then the key skills required to achieve excellence include: fitness/endurance, ball skills (passing, receiving, dribbling, defensive, attacking, kicking, finishing), running speed, awareness and anticipation (position), decision-making, and most importantly, discipline, attitude and mindset.

The same approach applies to business and personal life. If you truly desire to be the best in your given field or profession (that is, the top 20 percent) you need to identify the skills and behaviours of the top performers, and develop and practice those skills and behaviours. For example, in my current role as General Manager, what I need to do is focus on leadership skills. As a summary from a previous blog, “A New Profile for Future Leaders“, the key skills and attributes of a future leader include:

  • Key leadership skills
  • Ability to create and articulate a vision for the future
  • Define and establish clear goals and objectives
  • Mentor and develop staff
  • Team dynamics
  • Ability to solve problems
  • Ability to generate new ideas and identify new opportunities
  • A high level of written and verbal communication skills
  • Negotiation and persuasive selling skills
  • Operational and project management skills
  • Financial management
  • Change management

Once you have identified these specific skills you then need to evaluate your level of competency for each skill by developing a Personal Skills Matrix. A skills matrix consists of a list of the required skills for your field or profession and a rating for each skill against the level of competency required.  The skills matrix will determine the gaps that exist and this will provide the basis for your personal development action plan that will encourage you to focus on the specific skills required for your development.

Dr John Kapeleris

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The Power of Knowledge

September 25th, 2012 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Knowledge - (2 Comments)

“Knowledge is only potential power” Napoleon Hill

One of the keys to success is attaining the knowledge that can be applied in a given situation or in our daily lives, and to convert that knowledge into value for ourselves or the organisation in which we work. Knowledge is attained through a number of avenues, including formal education and schooling, through parents and mentors, on-the-job training, and through self-education and personal experience.

The unfortunate situation is that our schooling system, although it provides general knowledge for many topics, it fails to provide specialized knowledge for developing life skills. Specialised knowledge for developing life skills usually comes from our parents and mentors, on-the-job training and through self-education and personal experience. More importantly educational institutes do not specifically teach people how to organise and use the knowledge after it is acquired. Knowledge becomes power when it is organised and intelligently directed through practical plans of action and to a definite end. In other words, practically applying the knowledge to develop skills in a particular activity, business or profession.

To successfully run a business or undertake a specific profession you need to acquire specialized knowledge. The first step is to determine the sort of specialized knowledge you require, and the purpose for which it is needed. To a large extent your major purpose in life and the goals toward which you are working, will help determine what knowledge you need. Once you have achieved the first step, the next step will involve identifying dependable sources of specialized knowledge, including the following:

  • Formal education and training e.g. universities and colleges
  • On-the-job training
  • Using a mentor and/or mastermind group
  • Self-education courses e.g. seminars, books, DVDs/CDs, online courses

I have found that self-education courses through books, DVDs/CDs and online courses have provided me with the best specialised knowledge to develop life skills and specialized business skills. Reading books at least one hour per day in a specific topic can provide a significant source of specialized knowledge. Furthermore, I try to listen to CDs in the car when I drive to work or visit clients taking advantage of the time available. As Zig Ziglar states, “Turn your car into an automobile university of success“.

Once the specialized knowledge is attained, the final step is to put the knowledge into use through plans of action. The translation of knowledge into practical application will achieve successful outcomes (John Kapeleris). Many people make the mistake of continually sourcing and accessing knowledge but they do not apply the knowledge to their definite purpose, business or profession. It is important to develop practical action plans that have a defined objective, and to work towards the objective on a daily basis.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Beyond Mediocrity

September 10th, 2012 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Innovation | Personal Development - (0 Comments)

Having grown up in Australia and being exposed to its unique culture and beautiful environment one of the disappointing aspects has been the “fair go” mentality. From a legal and human rights perspective giving people a fair and safe environment to live in is extremely relevant and important. However, when we as Australians use the “fair go” or the “she’ll be right mate” mentality it unfortunately reduces our competitiveness to a playing field that is well below some international standards, thereby negatively influencing our attitudes and productivity. We begin to blame the system or someone else, instead of taking responsibility and massive action to change the current situation.

When one of my children states, “It isn’t fair Dad!”, I reply with, “Yes you are right, because life and business is not fair, but highly competitive”. If our sporting heroes and teams adopted a “fair go” or “she’ll be right mate” mentality, Australia would not have been so successful in many of its sporting achievements. Business and work life is no different, therefore we need to have the passion and the desire to succeed in a very competitive global arena.

One of the drivers of productivity is innovation and I don’t mean just research and development, although this is a very important component of the innovation ecosystem. Innovation in the sense of the practical application of new and creative ideas to generate value in the market, either through, new products and services, processes, organisational systems or novel business models, can provide competitive advantage for an organisation and stimulate increased productivity. A good example is reflected in traditional manufacturing firms that adopt innovative practices through design integration, business model transformation or simply adopting advanced manufacturing concepts, such as additive manufacturing or systems integration, that can differentiate themselves in the market place, increase productivity and transform into a high performance organisation.

Australia’s recent productivity metrics have been well below international levels, continuing to deteriorate despite the mining boom. The deteriorating trends can be confirmed in the recent article “Australia’s Productivity Performance and Real Incomes“. Many sectors, in particular retail and manufacturing have been suffering in the current economic environment.

It is important to note that the majority of productivity improvements can only be made as a result of management decisions and strategies implemented in firms. Public policy can also play an important role in improving Australia’s productivity, particularly in areas of regulation reform, taxation reform, public spending and skills development. Australia is already the third highest cost environment for businesses in the world and with diminishing productivity this can only get worse for Australian businesses.

I believe innovation is the key to improving productivity in Australia. Innovation can create higher value products and services, improve production process efficiency, design new business models, and differentiate firms in the global market. There is no doubt we have to work harder, but more importantly work smarter to improve productivity efficiency. Having a “fair go” or a “she’ll be right mate” attitude is not going to help Australian businesses become more competitive on the global arena.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Thinking on Your Feet

August 28th, 2012 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Thinking - (0 Comments)

I recall numerous occasions when I was asked to respond to an issue or provide an update on a project without having been asked to prepare any material. I found myself in an awkward situation since I had the background knowledge on the project or issue but no structure to how I would respond. You may have also experienced the situation of being put on the spot during a meeting, after delivering a presentation or presenting a proposal to a client or colleague. Having attended sessions and workshops with my local Speaking Club and Toastmasters International events, one of the key learnings was the ability to think on your feet when a question or topic was posed to you in an unexpected situation. The ability to think on your feet, to quickly articulate a response that is assertive, persuasive and credible, is a highly sought and respected skill, particularly in negotiations and in persuasive communication.

The basic concept of thinking on your feet involves thinking in “twos” or “threes”. What I mean by thinking in “threes”, for example, is simply breaking down your response into an introduction, body and conclusion. By also believing in the philosophy that part of any answer is already contained in the question, I can easily begin my introduction by restating the question, which would then lead me to the body of my response and finally my conclusion. A more advanced approach to thinking in “threes” involves breaking down your response into the past, present and future. For example, on a particular project you could state what was already done in the past, where the project was at the present and what the future actions or tasks are required to complete the project. Another “threes” concept that can be used relates to points of view. For example, you could state one point of view, then state the opposite point of view and conclude with a response describing the middle ground. A good example of thinking in “twos” is to describe the problem and then present a solution.

Other techniques that can improve your ability to think on your feet include:

  1. Read widely. Reading books and articles on topics of interest, and then recording summaries in a journal will provide you with a valuable repository of knowledge and facts that can be accessed on demand.
  2. Learn to relax. Relaxation techniques transition your mind into a state of higher performance allowing you to find your flow.
  3. Practice active listening. Active listening provides clarity of focus so that you can better understand the question and any related information.
  4. Ask for the question to be repeated. Asking for the question to be repeated is an excellent stalling technique that allows your mind to take the time to think about the question and conceive a response.
  5. The power of the pause. A strategically timed pause allows your mind to reflect and prepare an appropriate response. A pause also exudes confidence in a speaker and gains respect from the audience.
  6. Practice delivering in “twos” and “threes”. An excellent way to practice is to write down specific topics on pieces of paper that are placed in a container and then randomly selected to deliver presentations using the concept of “twos” and “threes”, for example: introduction, body and conclusion; past, present and future; global, national and local; negative, positive and optimal; past and present; problem and solution.
  7. Learn to conclude. A conclusion that is compelling creates a lasting impression and encourages a call to action, if required.

Dr John Kapeleris


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Mind Management

August 14th, 2012 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Mind - (2 Comments)

“It is not always easy for a man to trace the inward path by which he reaches his own conclusions; so much of the working of the mind is subconscious” Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary (1905-1916)

Our past thoughts, feelings, behaviours and actions establish certain patterns that we often repeat time after time because they seem quite natural. If these patterns are grounded in negative attitudes, fears, anxieties and doubts, then we are held back by these invisible chains that we have built for ourselves. They have the effect of limiting our beliefs, behaviours and actions, even though we don’t realise they are there. Conversely, patterns that lead us to positive attitudes, to enjoy life’s challenges and to believe in our own abilities, encourage beliefs, behaviours and actions that propel us to winning and successful outcomes in the future. For example, the self-disciplined individual focusses on the 20% of the high value activities that yield 80% of the desired outcomes.

A self-doubting person who focuses on negative thoughts and emotions will retreat in life and be influenced by external factors and people. To overcome negative thoughts you need to look fearlessly at your own emotions and face up to negative thoughts. You can then establish new and better systems of thought that will become habitual after you practice them each day for at least 20 days.

Following are some simple action steps you can take today to overcome negative thoughts and emotions:

  1. Take responsibility for your own life – You are the master of your own destiny. Take control of your own life and become proactive in designing your future.
  2. Surround yourself with positive people – There too many people around who are always negative (Black Hat thinkers). Take a moment to observe their lives, which are full of doom and gloom, and they always blame someone or something else for their situation. Seek out people who are positive, passionate, optimistic and successful. Take note that you generally become the average of the four to five people you associate with the most.
  3. Challenge your negative thoughts – Confront your negative thoughts by taking a piece of blank paper, writing down your negative thoughts, asking why you have those thoughts, and if you don’t have a valid answer tear up the sheet of paper and physically throw the negative thoughts in the bin. The physical action of capturing the negative thoughts on paper and then disposing of those thoughts can be very relieving.
  4. Change your thoughts from negative to positive – It is easy to think of everything in a positive tone. For example, instead of thinking to yourself, “Today I will make sure I do not feel negative”, turn the tone into a positive thought, “Today I will be positive and optimistic and take control of my life”.
  5. Use positive affirmations to change your state of being and your mindset – You can create a list of positive affirmations that you read daily or you can read positive quotes on your computer, mobile phone or from a list you post on the wall.
  6. Daily gratitude – Be thankful for what you have received and what you have achieved in life. List five things that you are grateful in life and read them every day when you wake up in the morning. It’s amazing what effect this activity can have on your life.
  7. Positive visualisation – Every evening before you go to sleep or early in the morning when you wake up, breathe deeply, relax your body, remove all thoughts from your mind (achieving a meditative state), and then concentrate hard on visualising your desired positive state. Picture yourself achieving the outcomes you desire in your work or personal life.

Make it a positive focus!

Dr John Kapeleris

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Design integration is defined as the concept of creating breakthrough innovations in business by applying design thinking to corporate strategy and business processes in a coordinated way. Design thinking applied to business is a methodology utilising a creative, solutions-based approach to solving business problems and capitalising on market opportunities.

Design integration has the potential to drive product, service and business model innovation in an organisation, and redefine the way the business interacts with customers and the market to create competitive advantage. Design integration creates value (Bucolo, 2008) through:

  1. A deeper understanding of customer insights, needs and experiences
  2. Expanding the business vision and purpose with customers and stakeholders
  3. Mapping insights to all aspects of the business
  4. Challenging and redefining business models and processes
  5. Design driven, innovation oriented people

If applied as an integrated strategy, design can provide a number of advantages to an organisation including:

  • Products and services aligned with the needs of customers
  • A differentiated market position
  • Increased market share
  • A more compelling brand awareness
  • Creating new market segments
  • Reduced production costs
  • A sustainable competitive advantage

For example, Apple uses design thinking in an integrated way across all aspects of their business model to differentiate its product and service offering. Apple has focused on creating a compelling and seamless user experience through design integration by utilising a user interface that transcends traditional hardware and software models. The following video extract provides insights into Apple’s business design:

 To learn how design integration can increase growth and productivity to transform your business a number of Design Integration Workshops are being delivered by the AIC in partnership with QUT. For more details refer to the link Design Integration or register online.

Dr John Kapeleris

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In a previous blog I introduced Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats technique. The simple approach that encourages parallel thinking within a group or team environment has been useful in solving complex problems but can also increase productivity in meetings where decisions need to be made. Unfortunately, the tool is not used widely because many people don’t feel comfortable in using the technique (could be due to a number of reasons) or they don’t value the tool’s ability to deliver enhanced outcomes.

Having used the tool for over two decades I have seen the power of parallel thinking in a meeting environment. Unfortunately, I have also seen the tool challenged by a number of senior managers who don’t support the use of the tool because they don’t believe in it. The key to experiencing the power of the tool is to start using it and developing a deeper understanding of the power of the Six Thinking Hats. The best approach for applying the tool is to firstly understand the sequence of the coloured hats to use.

When I used the Six Thinking Hats in a workshop to work on the global problem of “Declining supply of petroleum fossil fuels” I used the following sequence of coloured hats and associated questions:

When considering a specific problem or topic it is best to start with the WHITE hat as this allows all the background information to be presented and documented. Once the problem or topic is fully defined then the RED hat is used to ask participants how they feel about the problem or situation. Participants’ feelings are documented. The general tendency for a proportion of people in a meeting, at this stage, is to present the negative aspects of the problem or situation, however in this process I like to encourage the use of the YELLOW hat to capture the positive aspects of the problem or situation from all participants. Sometimes we can identify the positive elements of a problem or issue. This step is then followed with the BLACK hat when everyone considers the negative aspects of the problem or situation. The BLACK hat is then followed by the GREEN hat where everyone is encouraged to use creative thinking to overcome the negative issues but also develop new alternatives to solving the problems or resolving the situation. I then encourage the use of the RED hat again to gauge the feelings of participants after considering the problem or issue. Generally, most participants who were previously concerned about the problem or situation now feel more positive after having gone through the process of using the different hats. Finally, it is always appropriate to use the BLUE hat as this allows participants to develop conclusions or to evaluate and summarise the solutions to move forward on the issue or problem. The BLUE hat also provides process control to ensure the right technique or approach was used by participants. If a solution or resolution was not identified then another approach or process would be suggested as more appropriate in solving the problem.

An example using the six thinking hats to solve the problem “Declining supply of petroleum fossil fuels” can be found below (summary extract of the workshop).

Dr John Kapeleris

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Productivity in our work and personal lives involves focusing on the key goals and objectives, developing a project plan, identifying the key value-adding tasks, and executing the plan by taking action. It may come as a surprise that many people struggle with this basic approach to achieving personal productivity. Many reasons can be identified for losing focus and not taking the appropriate action to achieve the desired outcomes.

The first issue lies within our minds. The human brain, although powerful and complex, if not trained appropriately can only handle a limited number of tasks at any one time (the literature generally states about seven tasks or pieces of information). As the brain becomes overwhelmed and stretched to perform, it begins to forget important items in the process. The brain does not generally think sequentially or in a linear manner. It thinks more in a random or radial manner.

The second issue involves interruptions from colleagues, unscheduled meetings, the telephone, email or the influence of external people. Interruptions should be avoided and removed from your daily work environment. This can be done by closing the office door, finding a quiet place to concentrate, checking emails at specific periods of the day (morning, midday and late afternoon), making all your calls in the morning and late afternoon, and delegating as many tasks as possible.

The last issue involves lack of clarity and focus. Focus can be achieved through concentration and structured thinking. The mind has to be reinforced that focus and action are the key drivers to achieving successful outcomes from a project. In addition, clarity can be achieved by removing the clutter and blocks that exist in our minds.

Following are the key steps that will increase your personal productivity:

  1. Use structured thinking to provide clarity and focus
  2. Focus on the key goals and objectives
  3. Develop a project plan and identify the key value-adding tasks
  4. Assign time limits on each of the tasks
  5. Take immediate action
  6. Maintain the self-discipline

We all struggle to remain productive and achieve optimal outcomes. The key to success involves focus and action.

Dr John Kapeleris

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