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[The Hieno! Suomi 100 series] Interview with Professor Alf Rehn, an accomplished academic and internationally ranked thought-leader in innovation and creativity.

The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme:What is “Finnish-ness”? endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Today we have Professor Alf Rehn with us to discuss about this topic. Professor Rehn is an accomplished academic and an internationally ranked thought-leader in innovation and creativity, and active all over the globe as a keynote speaker and a strategic advisor. He is also a ginthusiast and a lover of trashy popular culture.

For more information on Professor Rehn, please visit his website. Enjoy the interview!

TH: Hello Professor Rehn! Can you tell us more about yourself?

Alf: Well hello there. Now, you should know better than asking an academic to say more about themselves – we never shut up when given that kind of a chance!

But if you want the capsule bio: I’m an academic, more precisely an organizational theorist who is also the chair of management and organisation at Åbo Akademi University. That’s the bit most people find boring.

However, in addition to this I’m a strategic advisor, a relatively popular speaker, and a board professional who works globally and spends a lot of time writing and commenting on stuff on social media. I also really like coffee, rap music and gin, but not necessarily in that order. You can follow me online at places like my website or on twitter.

TH: In your book “dangerous ideas”, you defined a “dangerous idea” as one that challenges the very identity of the context within it emerges.”

What is the one idea you would consider as “dangerous” to Finland today–and is that good or bad?

Alf: That’s a good question.

I think one of the things we may need to challenge, and one of the things that would be a “dangerous idea” in Finland, is our attachment to getting things right. For whatever reason – our love of technology, our culture of honor, our protestant ethic – we Finns have a tendency towards perfectionism.

We don’t really like experiments, but instead want to create big, safe systems. We’re also very uncomfortable when forced to try out something new which hasn’t really gotten properly standardized yet – which makes us slow to adopt new things.

So in a sense, “the experimental” and “the emerging” are dangerous ideas in Finnish culture, and this can have negative consequences. For instance, Finnish companies have a tendency to turn to new ways of working when they’ve been properly tested elsewhere, at which point they’re no longer as valuable…

TH: In one of your TED talks, you mentioned that “to lead is to have a vision, yet love change”. Do you think this applies to Finnish politics today?

Alf: Well, it applies in the negative sense, insofar as I really cannot see what the vision would be in most Finnish politics today, and at the same time politicians show a great aversion to change.

I don’t see us having much in the way of leadership in Finnish politics today. There are exceptions, of course, but a scary amount of our political discourse is one of protecting existing structures and maintaining the status quo.

TH: I am puzzled by Finnish politicans who can blatantly promise “no cuts to education”, be photographed with signs saying that, and then eat their words once they are elected into power.

You have been vocal about your stand against funding cuts to universities in Finland. Do you think the protests by key opinion leaders like yourself and the student unions have actual power to impact current and future university funding, or can the politicians simply do whatever they want?

Alf: I have voiced my opinion, yes, and I guess the thing you’re referring to is an impromptu speech I gave at a student event and which oddly became something of a viral video (it even made some news programs).

However, I don’t really think it had any impact at all, unless you count the fact that other people who were against the cuts seemed happy I’d spoken out. We often over-estimate the influence of “opinion leaders”, and I think it’s very rare that a single individual can really affect the decision-making processes of the government.

Still, if enough people make enough noise, even politicians will listen!

TH: What are the 3 things/ traits you would consider as uniquely “Finnish”, and why?

Alf: I’m not all that comfortable declaring anything uniquely Finnish, but if pressed I can list a few things:

  • Makkaraperunat. This is a grill delicacy, consisting of awful French fries combined with low-grade sausage, dripping in fat and condiments. Finland extolls this, as it is basic, simple, and unashamedly awful.
  • Cheerfully bad comedy. Finland desperately wants to prove that it can outdo Germany in clumsy, hackneyed, slapdash comedy. So we glorify repeated catch-phrases, men dressing up as women (badly), and cheap double entendres. Kummeli, Turhapuro, and Putous are prime examples of how Finland glorifies just how tacky and tawdry we can be.
  • Pride and honor. Although we rarely talk about this, Finns are an immensely proud people. We cannot stand being talked down to, or questioned, or challenged. Also, we are the only people in the world who are allowed to say bad things about our comedy and our makkaraperunat. We don’t want much, but we demand respect, and the right to not be patronized.

TH: Finland has always ranked high globally on innovation and press freedom. Do you think there is a positive correlation between “innovation” and “press freedom”?

Alf: I’m a little uncomfortable with this question, as we often confuse correlation and causation.

Is there a correlation? Sure, absolutely. Countries with a lot of freedom, including freedom of the press, tend to be more innovative than more restricted countries.

But that doesn’t automatically mean that one leads to the other. Sure, freedom of the press may be part of the general innovation culture of the country, but at the same time innovative countries are more likely to grant freedom of expression.

The two are, to me, intertwined and reinforcing.

TH: Finland seems to be a society where people don’t really like to stick out of the crowd, or say things that invite controversy and strong opposition. Yet, you seem to be both “dangerous” and “popular” at the same time. How do you do it?

Alf: Well, to begin, one has to realize that whilst Finnish society appreciates discretion, humility and not making a fuss, it is also a culture that appreciates straight talk and which has always celebrated its oddballs.

Throughout the years, Finland has always celebrated the ones who walk their own path, as long as they do it in a self-assured way. Armi Ratia was adored, and Jörn Donner has always been celebrated. Everyone loved Spede Pasanen, and noted weirdo Esa Saarinen is cherished.

So I think it’s a myth that Finland doesn’t appreciate people sticking out. The thing, though, is that Finns demand that you stick out properly, and put yourself on the line.

If you’re seen as fake or half-ass, Finns won’t stand for this. If you go full-on, apeshit crazy, like a Jouko Turkka, a Juice Leskinen, or a Jorma Uotinen, Finns will consider you a legend.

TH: In Finland, Swedish is a mandatory school subject for Finnish-speaking students from grades 7 to 9. Do you think Swedish should continue to be a compulsory language for these students in Finland today, even if they show no interest?

Alf: Ah, language politics, one of my least favourite subjects… I don’t have a strong position with regards to this. Finland has always had two official languages, and I don’t really see the justification to change this. But does this mean that both need to be taught in school, and to what extent? I don’t know.

On the one hand I’m very much in favour of freedom of choice. On the other, I think that Finnish should be taught at least to some extent in Finnish schools – for your question contains an error! [TH: Opps!]

Sure, we may go for a system in which you do not need to study both the official languages in school, but that then means that Finnish wouldn’t be a compulsory language either. I guess what this means is that I’m open to ideas.

Maybe we should have more freedom, but keep some kind of “Finnish/Swedish basics” in the curriculum, i.e. a system like today but with a cut-down compulsory bit. Maybe there should be total freedom. Maybe things are pretty OK as they are.

Overall I don’t think this is the most pressing issue we have, even in the education system… It’s more of a populist issue, easy to parade out for some less than surprising outrage. It’s Trumpism, avant la lettre…

TH: Against the context of globalisation, who do you think can and should define “Finnish-ness”?

Alf: I have nothing very intelligent to say here, as I don’t think there’s any one group who should be allowed to define Finnishness – including the Finns.

I think we need a more diverse conversation, one that accepts that there are many ways of understanding Finland and the Finns, and which is mindful of the fact that any one such will always be limited.

So I don’t think Finnishness should be defined. It should be a topic of conversation, but never enshrined in a definition.

TH: What is the one popular misconception about Finland/ Finns that you would consider as far from the truth?

Alf: Now this is a question I love! I think a key problem in Finland is the manner in which we work so hard to keep a series of myths about ourselves.

It’s tricky to pick one of these misconceptions, but I’ll go with a classic. Finns are said to be a quiet lot, who don’t really like to talk that much, and who can sit silent for hours.

Now this is just bullshit. Sure, Finns can be careful about not speaking out of turn, but the fact is that Finns can be quite garrulous. I’ve sometimes jokingly said that Finns are defined as being the one nationality on Earth that uses the greatest number of words to explain that they are very quiet.

Finns yammer on endlessly in social media, will talk for hours as long as they feel they’re in a safe place, and smalltalk incessantly about how Finns can’t small talk.

TH: I’d heard a popular perception about Finns being “jealous” whenever a peer is successful. How do you feel about your success and being looked up to by so many? Are there downsides to being successful in Finland, and how do you cope with it?

Alf: This is a notion that Finns seem quite fond of, that Finland would have a particularly envious culture.

I think it’s a flawed assumption. Every time a Finn has the tiniest success, papers write it up as a massive achievement, and I’ve often found Finns to be quite supportive of each other’s successes.

Sure, there might be envy directed at neighbours, and villages where you’re not supposed to have dreams above your station, but this is true in many, if not most cultures.

As for me, I really don’t think I’m all that looked up to – I hope I’m not! Sure, I have people who say they appreciate my writings or liking my little rants in the media, and that’s nice. An author writes to be read, after all. But I’m not that famous, nor that successful, that I feel it has impacted my life greatly.

As for downsides, there have been very few. Sure, I’ve gotten the occasional threatening letter, email and internet comment, as well as having been accosted in the street by people with delusions, but nothing major or too aggravating.

Overall I feel I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of support in Finland, and far, far more positive feedback than ever negative. The fact that there are a few people who think it is unfair that I get more attention than they do is part of the game, and true everywhere in the world.

TH: What is the happiest moment of your life in Finland?

Alf: I guess I’m supposed to answer something simple along the lines of “the birth of my children” or “the day I got my professorship”. That’d be a lie, though. They were days filled with joy, but also days filled with apprehension and confusion.

Looking back, one of the happiest moments of my life was celebrating my son finishing what goes for high school in Finland. A big party, lots of his friends in attendance, I stayed out far too late and missed my flight to London the following day. Not my proudest hour, but a happy time celebrating a child of mine.

TH: Who inspires you in Finland, and why?

Alf: There’s quite a few people, actually.

I love the way Nina Ignatius fights for her dream. I love the way Matti Lievonen at Neste runs a “boring” business whilst changing the world. I love the way Anna Pylkkänen fight for pride in old age. I love the energy with which Saku Tuominen wants to revolutionize schools. I love how we have engaged chefs and designers and advertising agencies.

Oh, and my kids of course – big love to Line and Sean.

TH: What are your personal dreams and vision for the future?

Alf: These are things I prefer to keep private. Not least because I have literally no idea about them. I don’t know where I’ll be in five days, let alone in five years.

TH: I am sure some young people in Finland regard you as a role model, since you are so confident, charismatic, vocal and sometimes provocative! How do you feel about this?

Alf: Well, I am Finnish enough for that question to be more than a little uncomfortable… I don’t always feel very confident, and I damn sure do not think of myself as charismatic!

But sure, I guess that there are those who think I have a pretty cool job, and who appreciate having the freedom to speak ones mind and the position to make ones voice heard.

Lord knows if anyone sees me as a role model, but I do hope that I’ve at least shown some young person that you do not need to conform to get ahead, that you can keep dressing in sneakers and still be listened to.

Too many young people in Finland learn to not speak their minds, to be in a specific way, and to aim for conformity rather than creativity. That’s pretty sad.

TH: What is the one advice you have for aspiring young Finns who want to become a “dangerous” academic and skilled practitioner like yourself?

Alf: Well, that one is easy, and I can just copy the great advice of Steve Martin: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Work smart at building your foundation, and once you’ve reached a position from where you can start hitting harder, use the opportunity. I worked hard at academic things when I was quite young, and I got my chair (i.e. tenured professorship) when I was 31.

I realized then and there that I’d been given one of the most valuable things in the world – freedom. I no longer had a direct boss, and I was free to speak out, write about things I thought were important, and do what I felt meaningful.

I also realized that having been given this freedom was a great responsibility.

TH: What is the one 100 year-old birthday wish you would make for Finland, since 2017 is Finland’s 100 years of independence?

Alf: If there’s one wish I have for Finland 100, it is that it won’t be about the last 100 years, but the 100 years to come.

That is, I appreciate that we celebrate our history, and we should look at our achievements with pride, but we can’t just look backwards.

I prefer thinking about the future rather than obsessing about the past.

TH: On a parting note, do you have anything else to add?

Alf: I’ll just end with a quote from Quentin Crisp: “Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level.”

We hope you have enjoyed Professor Alf Rehn’s interview! The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme: What is “Finnish-ness”? endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Feel free to follow Professor Alf on twitter @alfrehn or visit his website. Cover photo courtesy of Professor Alf Rehn’s strikingly page.

Truth, Meaning, Image and Reality.

  • Truth= Complete information of something and having all causations and effects in place. This is the definition by Yizhe haha and I do subscribe to it! This is why lawsuits take so damn long, and at the end of it you will still not get the truth.
  • Meaning= Whatever you make out of something. Layers and layers of interpretation emerging from group consensus.
  • Image= Because it is impossible to have “truth”, we rely on image and consistency.
  • Reality= What one thinks and feels and perceive is reality to that person, and perhaps it is wise to always be aware of logical fallacies and cognitive dissonances.
  • Intention= Stemming from the desire to belong (From the Yizhe’s ebook).

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 10.31.28 PM.png


  • Since you will not get the truth, image is everything. At the most, you can only frame the reality you want to portray.
  • Since meaning is defined by the group, to set meaning you have to influence the group. Usually people do this with tools that influences the herd.
  • Image is all about consistency.
  • It is possible to reprogramme yourself.
  • I spoke about “reality” to Niko today. “Should you respond to a person in accordance to their cognitive biases?” Niko said something wise: “Do you talk in the same way to a kid and an adult?” It all depends on end-goal. 

I used to think this was being inauthentic–however, I was wrong. This is because seeing the person’s reality might be something deeply appreciated by the person. However, this incurs time costs to yourself and might not have any benefit to you.

  • If intention stems from a desire to belong to a certain group, then this is how propaganda truly works. Propaganda targets the certain group and targets it very deeply.

People like to say “It is important not to hurt someone”. I used to think that sounds very nice, until I realised at the core it is back to self-interest.

For perhaps more importantly, the situation is “it is DANGEROUS to hurt someone even if what you are saying is verifiable and true.”

Because people who has their core values/ personal branding challenged will retaliate based on their reality and cognitive biases with all their might.

And they will do whatever it takes to harm the informer because they don’t want their bubbles to burst.

Just look at CHC folks who are even paying for the SGD10million-15million lawsuit fees of the very people who misused their money! Look at the letter penned by a so-called “deluded” CHC church-goer.

And this is something I need to constantly remind myself. Don’t tell people truths they don’t want to hear unless there is a significant benefit to you. And unless you are sure that you can influence them to change.

Will the City Harvest Saga finally end today?

This afternoon, I was discussing with a really Smart Insider in The SG Music Industry about the City Harvest Case. I am unsure if my friend wants to be named publicly so I shall keep him anonymous in this post.

I’d previously written about City Harvest Church here and here and have received really strong comments from some readers. Judging from current online discourse, it does seem way more unpopular to speak FOR the various accused in this City Harvest Church court case rather than against.

Anyway, this friend voiced the following opinion that I found intriguing:

“Lying is not a crime, you know.”


This was against the context of how Kong Hee lied publicly that none of the money they raised for the Crossover project was used for Sun Ho’s career.

The lying part is clearly verifiable.
So why might Kong Hee lie? There are at least three possibilities:

  • Possibility #1: As leader of City Harvest Church, he did not want his decisions to be challenged. He also did not want seeds of doubts to be planted in the minds of followers. He might have also thought that how the church raises and uses funds is an internal church affair and not for the public to question;
  • Possibility #2: Kong Hee really did intend for church money to be used for Sun Ho’s career;
  • Possibility #3: When Roland Poon raised the doubt about money being used for Sun Ho’s career, he might have done it in an accusatory tone and frame. Kong Hee and his team responded by lying because it was too complicated to explain their unconventional stance to a non-Christian public. The CHC management did not want to kill the idea behind the Crossover Project (thought to be potentially big at that time) even before it started.

Correspondingly, assuming good intentions from the perspective of the CHC management, the act of lying and subsequent lying raised a few questions:

  • If Kong Hee and his team did lie with good intentions and proper accounting, should they still go to jail? 
  • How about if they lie with good intentions and accounting is somewhat sloppy? Should they then go to jail for long?
  • How about if they lie with good intentions and accounting is “made creative” to accomodate the lie? Should they then go to jail for long?
  • How about if they lie with good intentions, accounting is somewhat sloppy, AND people who give them money insist that they forgive them? Then, should they still go to jail for long?

So you see, this case is not simple. If you really believed with your heart and soul in the Crossover Project, would you lie to prevent the possibility of negative perception of the public? Remember that it is THEY you want to convert. SO, you have to have a neutral or positive impression of yourself in front of them first. (If not how to convert?)

Back to my conversation with the smart friend. We disagreed on some points but mainly agreed on one important thing: Kong Hee and co simply chose the wrong region/ wrong timing to do their crossover project.

Which goes back to the point–

If the investment in “music-artise-cum-evangelist” Sun Ho had been successful, would Kong Hee and co be charged in court? Even if zero cent of the ROI goes into the churchgoers’ pockets?

How do you measure the ROI of “souls converted to Christ”, and over what time period?

I think the whole case is just illogical, because it started from an illogical premise, a so-called abstract “faith”.

In addition, here are some hard figures to illustrate how much a music album can cost, and investment in the music industry is generally seen to be one with relatively high risk. Even prominent musicians can generate loss-making albums at times. Likewise, even initial nobodies can spring to fame with relatively low promotional costs:

So you see, it is not cheap to be in the Music Industry. Would you consider USD50 million to fund some years for Sun Ho in Hollywood to be a huge amount, considering that any musical production in the Music Industry is a risky investment?

Then the next question is–

“Is Sun Ho the ‘best fit’ for the Crossover Project?”

Well, since the Crossover Project is a “religion + secular pop music” sort of project, then she could well be argued as “the best fit” even though she’s not considered very talented or pretty by any musical industry’s standards. Furthermore, she is the female face of the church and higher management does trust her.

Frankly, I am really curious about the case’s outcome in a few hours. Personally, I am interested in this appeal outcome because this case really highlighted how people perceive the world via their unique bubbles/ lens/ delusions/ cognitive biases.

So if “this” is their reality, who is anyone to say that it is not real? Or is the fault mainly with improper accounting since there are legal (secular) restrictions placed on huge organizations like megachurches in Singapore , worsened by blatant evidences of various parties of City Harvest Church lying?

Interesting case, yes? Well, my view is that they will definitely go to jail–it is simply a question now of how long. Let’s see in a few hours.

Is the Finns Party REALLY against immigrants?

Last week, Yle News ran a debate in English involving political candidates across Finnish political parties.

I applaud the mainstream media’s initiative to conduct a debate in English with the intention of increasing the accessibility and inclusivity of politics to immigrants.

Having said that however, it does come across as a surprise as to how current debate has relegated to such a low level of intellectual discourse, evidenced by how Yle anchored the following topic:

Word-by-word QUOTE from the YLE video caption:

“Finns Party candidate Erlin Yang says that it’s “totally wrong” to say that his party is anti-immigrant.”


Of course The Finns Party–represented by an immigrant Erlin Yang himself– is “totally not” against immigration. Why is there a need to delegate such precious debate time to addressing such a silly anchor?

What The Finns Party is against is uncontrolled immigration.

Because I personally am tired of the Finns Party being misprepresented, I have taken the liberty to translate Mr. Erlin Yang’s stance into English. Also, translation does not mean endorsement. I am personally voting for the Greens Party.

Here is what Mr. Erlin Yang said, which I felt is an accurate official position of The Finns Party:

“The Finns Party is a political party which aims to serve and represent the working class in Finland. It officially espouses the following values:

1. To increase the employment rate in Finland;

2. To foster a healthy start-up scene and to promote entrepreneurship in Finland;

3. To advocate for the development of Finnish culture;

4. To secure the economic security of Finland and therefore enhance the well-being of every resident;

5. To insist on fair wages;

6. To protect the interests of minority and vulnerable groups in Finland;

7. To promote the health of children and ensure safety in schools;

8. To guarantee a high quality and accessibility of basic services to elder citizens and retirees, so that they can enjoy their retirement with dignity.

Related to immigration, the Finns Party is FOR immigration into Finland under one or more of the following reasonable conditions:

1. For the purposes of professional work;

2. For the purposes of studies;

3. For the purposes of reunion with family.

The Finns Party is against immigrants who are insistent on coming to Finland to exploit the Finnish welfare system. In particular, it is staunchly against immigrants who are involved with human trafficking, drugs dealing and “refugees” who insist on staying in Finland illegally.

The justification is because this latter group is considered net-takers to the Finnish welfare state. Furthermore, this group threatens the very social fabric of Finnish society.

Erlin Yang agrees with the basic tenets that underlie the vision and mission of the Finns party.

As a Chinese immigrant to Finland himself, he greatly respects the Finnish way of life and values. Erlin Yang considers it his personal calling to contribute to the betterment of Finnish society by encouraging more meaningful interactions between legal immigrants and natives. He strongly believes that immigrants and natives can work together to achieve a more prosperous, cohesive and harmonious Finnish society.

Erlin Yang admits that there might have been some members of the Finns Party who previously made controversial and provocative statements targeted at immigrants, in particular refugees. He stresses however, that this is not the official stance of the Finns Party and that these members are in the rare minority.

Here, Erlin Yang attests to the fact that he has never once faced discrimination within his party. On the contrary, he has received overwhelming support from fellow party members who wish for immigrants to be represented.

Against this context, The Finns Party does not necessarily encourage “multiculturalism”—undoubtedly a sensitive term in Europe these days.

As one viable alternative to “multiculturalism”, he stresses that the will to integrate is key to maintaining a harmonious society. From the current situation, Erlin observes that not all immigrants have demonstrated this desire to integrate.

All in all, Erlin Yang concludes by purporting the view that it is only logical, humane and essential that a country accepts new immigrants along principles of common values.
These values include the pursuit of freedom, the desire for progress, principled virtues of loyalty and integrity, and the willingness to work hard.

Erlin emphasized that it is ideal for immigrants to adapt proactively to the ways of the locals and respect local traditions, people and cultures.”

So please agree and disagree to official positions, not what you THINK the official position is. -.- And please do not sensationalise political topics unnecessarily.

The (Mis)Guided Stories We Tell Ourselves

This morning a gentleman shared this article on Cognitive Biases in our Whatsapp Group. I felt that this was an excellent summary:


Human beings are really strange creatures.

If you read Freud, you’ll realise that humans love stories. Especially heroic stories. This is how the mass media captures your attention and make tons and tons of money out of your desire for stories involving heroes. In fact, you will go out of your way to live out heroic storylines in others and yourselves.

Is the knowledge of this profitable? Extremely! Look at how huge an industry is spun out of K-pop, which all started with the Kdrama sob storylines.

And…after knowing all these cognitive biases, wouldn’t you want to forgive more and be kinder–because who knows, you could be wrong?

And wouldn’t you see the further need to consciously brand yourself?


How to own a piece of “common knowledge”.

Once a unique positioning is set, the brutal PR war starts.

If you are competing with someone else for an already-existing positioning, then the brutal PR war + actual business war escalates.

  • If you set a unique positioning, then use all the powerful distribution channels within your means to make your unique positioning known to the public.
  • Even if you set a unique positioning– there is a possibility that your competitor or someone can “steal” it. If you have a weaker PR distribution network, your competitor will own YOUR original idea even though it is theft.
  • If your positioning is not unique and you are competing for an existing positioning, then be prepared for a brutal and bloody market war. From pricing to undercutting to wanting to eliminate your competitor to investing even more money into PR wars.

The idea however is that the person who first uses strong PR distribution networks to spread his or her unique ONE SPOT positioning will have a clear advantage. Because once that space in the minds of the masses is “owned”, it is close to impossible to replace it. Unless you position yourself as “XZY’s competitor”, which then suggests that you are not original.

So the idea is to go for option #1: To set a unique positioning, then use all powerful distribution channels within your means to broadcast the news to the public. QED!

Do it so well and fast that people don’t even try to compete for the exact same space.

Why do people usually not do this?

My guess is that they simply they spread themselves too thin, or simply that they don’t know branding. 

The 4th Black Swan: Common Knowledge and the limits of memory.

This post is a summary of the PR section to 逻辑思维.

Well the video was rather heavy in content–so let’s go point by point.

#1. In the past, authorities accorded legitimacy to a person who has shown remarkable results. They did this through providing awards, promotion, public recognition.

In today’s world however, there is no need for authorities to accord such legitimacy–we can all create our own legitimacy with the internet. People who have succeeded in creating such legitimacy are known as “Internet influencers”.

#2. We can conceptualise today’s era as one where there is an increasing rate of explosion of these “internet influencers”. Internet influencers and their fanbase can command extremely high prices because they deliver the value of helping companies grab a space called in the highly competitive, limited land-area of “common knowledge”.

#3. In an era where people can easily “shut out” truth or unpleasant things by blocking, filtering and deleting information on social media etc, there is only one common valuable thing left. And that valuable thing is the ability to make something “common knowledge”.

As long as you have that ability, you are worth a lot financially to the market.

#4. The smartest investors do not buy gold or estate today. They invest in intellectual property (IP). Because there is limited space to “common knowledge”, it is then important to engage in a “common knowledge land grab”.

The logic is as follows: As long as you have a piece of this “common knowledge”, it will be worth a lot of money. Luo Pang argues that this is precisely Trump’s strategy in running for white house– Trump wants to have a common knowledge of himself as “President Donald J. Trump”. After he has it, he will be worth a lot of money.

Therefore, regardless of ability, the logic is to mark that common knowledge spot of President as “his”, first.

#5. Therefore, there emerges such a concept as “the common knowledge tax”. In order to make something “common knowledge”, it is so important to borrow the fanbase of influencers. Therefore, influencers “tax” companies in terms of advertising fees. The larger and more relevant the fanbase to the company in question, the higher this amount of tax. And this tax is getting higher and higher as companies increasingly compete for a piece of “common knowledge”.

#6. If–as a company owner, you do not want to pay this “common knowledge tax”, then the only other alternative is to compete for that particular spot in “common knowledge”. This war with your competitor for that particular spot will definitely be bloody.

#7. Luo Pang defines businesses as “Common knowledge” fundamentally. He quotes this famous sociologist– that apart from basic needs, human beings hang on the web and threads of meaning they have weaved for themselves.

#8. Diamonds, Luo Pang points out, are mere carbon. It has demand because of its meaning. Vitamin C and milk are not really essential items in life–scientists have long argued that every human being can get nutrients from both items from other daily food sources. Yet people still chose to believe that Vitamin C and milk are both “must-have” because these items are reassurances of a higher quality of life.

In other words, “vitamin” and “milk” are common knowledge of a healthy life. Consumers base their purchasing decisions on “common knowledge”, NOT facts.

#9. Correspondingly, if there is no demand, then use meaning to create demand. If there is no market, then use common knowledge to create a market.

#10. So what should we produce in today’s age? How do we produce something such that it becomes “common knowledge” that it is “we” who produce it? How do we create a unique space in the minds of our consumers–defined by us–that becomes common knowledge?

#10b. The human’s memory is incredibly limited. Therefore, once a company A has occupied a piece of “common knowledge”, it will be very difficult for company B to vie for the same piece of common knowledge.

Luo Pang posits that we don’t even read instruction manuals these days whenever we purchase electronic gadgets. Neither can most of us easily recall more than two shampoo brands.

#11. HOWEVER, even if it a company refuses to pay the “common knowledge tax” to establish a new “common knowledge”, after a period of fighting the “common knowledge” war with a competitor (refer to point #6), there will be a new “common knowledge” that “oh, this company B is company A’s competitor”.

The corresponding “common knowledge” will be “oh, they are fighting for the same space in common knowledge”.

#11b. Depending on market size, this “common knowledge” that results from B’s hustling may be valued highly in the capital market, especially if company A is a company as big as Alibaba Inc. It is even better if company B is seen as the only competitor to company A, in spite of being relatively new or extremely small in absolute resources.

This is then strategic because company B does not win in factual terms. It won in the war on “common knowledge”, which is independent of verifiable data.

#12. Example of Xiao Mi is given. The common knowledge of Xiao Mi today is “it’s cheaper, and it’s not bad”.

#13. In today’s big big world, there is a possibility of everyone to have a piece of “common knowledge”.

Building a house and the cost of a weak brand strategy.

Quick post while I wait…

Have you ever pondered about the true cost of doing things without a (good) brand strategy?

In other words: execution without a brand strategy is “arbitary marketing”. This is an extremely expensive pasttime which leads to nowhere and nothing, and incurs huge opportunity costs.

Here, let’s use a metaphor of building a house:

-A brand strategy is like a blueprint to build your ideal house, right down to colour.

If you don’t do things with a clear brand strategy, or with any form of brand strategy at all, then there will never be such house.

All effort and hard work will be spent on nonsense because there is unclear direction, or a weak unique selling point.

So why don’t people hire brand strategists from the start? Actually, I don’t know. It is silly and a great pity to not do that.

And perhaps a greater sin is to not see the value of doing that, or to think that branding people are nonsense.

Far from the truth, actually. You don’t build a house or any form of appreciating asset without a blueprint, do you?


Wonect’s Final Box!

Wonect sent me their final Wonect Starlet Beauty Box in January, which I’m really happy and thankful about.

It has been a great 6 months!

There are three items in the final box:

  1. Heroine Make Ten-made-todoke Mascara;
  2. Daiso Japan Reusable Silicon Mask Cover;

And here’s my review!

  1. The Heroine Make Ten-made-todoke Mascara.



The “Heroine Make” brand is raved for its eye products–eyeliner and mascara. Established in 2005 under ISEHAN in Japan, this brand has an interesting brand story.

“Heroine” refers to the woman or girl who is the protagonist of a movie or a book, and “make” refers to “make-up”. The idea behind “Heroine Make” is to ensure that every lady will always look like a powerful star even if she cries or get caught in the rain.

Always powerful, beautiful and picture-perfect with Heroine Make!

This mascara features the following benefits:

  • Volumizing;
  • Lengthening– contains 5mm long fibres.
  • Waterproof and smudge proof;
  • Easy to remove.

And yes, it does its job well. I personally have really short and sparse lashes (the beautician always frowns when she does fake eyelash extensions on me for special events)–so this mascara does work for the volumizing and lengthening purposes.

I personally think that the most amazing part to this mascara is that it is easily removable by any form of makeup remover– oil-based, wipes, foam-based. Usually when I get back from work, I feel so brain-drained and mentally exhausted to even do anything. So, I appreciate this feature the most.

And most importantly, it is a black mascara! I don’t really understand why people buy mascara that are non-black (Is it to suit the colour of their iris?). At any rate black is good for work and casual outings. =)

You can get the Heroine Make Ten-made-todoke Mascara here.

2. Daiso Japan Reusable Silicon Mask Cover

Fancy a mask that helps prevent essence evaporation?

Well, we don’t have that mask yet. But we have a mask cover! Daiso Japan Reusable Silicon Mask Cover comes to the rescue here. This mask cover is made of elastic silicon.

It’s very interesting in the way that it can be used–you wear it over an actual sheet mask for 10-20 minutes. This helps reserve the maximum amount of beauty essence in your skin, just like a skin food!

There are two other uses to this mask cover: You can use it to keep your original mask in position, because there are sturdy ear loops! So actually, you can sit upright to read a book or your laptop while mask-ing now if you have this silicon mask cover, without having to worry that your sheet mask will come off.

The last function is that you can use this silicon cover mask as a face steaming mask for relaxation. Simply enter a bubble bath with warm water and relax!

I like this mask because it can be so easily reused after washing. When I don’t have sheet masks, I will use Laneige moisturiser all over my face, and use this silicon cover mask over it.

It really works for locking in hydration to your skin, especially during winter!

3. MILBON Elujuda MO 120ml 

And last but not least, we have this MILBON Elujuda MO 120ml hair product.

Well I did two rounds of bleaching and added 6 colours to my hair recently, so I really do need this product! This MILBON product makes damaged hair more managable and presentable.

Just look at the outcome from the picture above!

After towel drying your hair, just take a 50-cents portion of this and apply directly to the hair roots for the damage repair magic to start! This product smells heavenly as well, so there is an additional rejuvenation function to it.

One really interesting ingredient in this product is the Baobab seed essence. Oils from the Baobab trees in Africa is highly effective in restoring the hair cuticles which can eventually be used to soften the surface of the hair. The other ingredient, Olive Squalane has a function of relaxing the hydrogen connections within the cortex of the hair, which makes it soft and easy to manage.

Something I really liked about this product is also how non-greasy it is, despite being oil-based. The hair essence feels more like nourishment you put on your hair, instead of oil. =) So you don’t have this “yuck” feeling after usage.

I hope you have enjoyed this review! Have a good weekend ahead, and remember to shop often with Wonect!