Are you unique? Why are you unique?

How has the digital era, accomplished by the development of information and communication technology breakthrough, been changing our life? What kind of changes do happen to our life? Can we more vividly feel the differences if our life spans from the analog era to the digital one? The people who are not familiar with the innovative digital devices and software or reject them may feel differently about the width and depth of the changes.

In particular, in a social network era represented by Facebook and Twitter, we may be classified as a group half-willingly and half not. Maybe each of us will be stored in one record(row) in a computer database. However, compared to the past, more attributes or fields in the computer database will be needed to explain our own identity, and more long-term data will be accumulated.

As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, each of us may be classified into a social graph. We may be classified into certain groups by external factors, rather than our true self. Companies or organizations with specific objectives will attempt to use that constantly. They will intend to precisely analyze and take advantage of our behaviors. Particularly, even though they claim to support a win-win game, they may focus on our addictive behaviors and their commercial values, and develop business concept and model based on them. 

As a result, they monitor and analyze and use our behaviors. The websites related to our human behaviors are summarized as the following chart. Of course, all websites are not included. They may provide us with some useful tools. Some of them would be very useful to the public in terms of the public interest. 

Tools are only tools.

Before using them, we must ask ourselves the following questions.

What would you like to become?

Are you unique, not just a record(row) in a database? 

Why are you unique?

Are you one of the unique worlds?

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What would the true output of a consulting project be?

If we carry out a management consulting project, what would its output be? If we think about it more specifically, the following three types of outputs can be considered.

Among them, the first and most important output is to deliver some valuable messages to the corresponding client, which move the client’s mind and let the client implement the suggestions based on the consulting output.

The second type of output is the report for presentation, which is produced by using Power Point in order to maximize the visual impact of graphics capabilities, rather than by writing out the output in as much detail as possible.

The third type of output is to produce as much thick report as possible. For people who like to read this kind of report, it may be preferable. But if the report is thick, generally speaking, most people want to escape from that. In this case, the summary report would be strongly demanded.

If so, what do you think the best output would be?

That would fill the client’s mind with valuable and touching messages, and enable such mind to be continuously supported. Without fully understanding this respect, if we simply think about how much the consulting budget is, based on the thickness of a report, there would be much to be missed.

Of course, I as a management consultant felt conflicted about that when I met a client who wanted to accomplish their hidden goal through the consulting project without thinking about the true picture of the consulting project.

When I carried out a consulting project for a university, I had time to present the final report to the president of the university. At that time, I said to him, ” The most important thing to do now in order to reform your university is that you need to be determined to leave your soul for your university.”

The keyword of the consulting project was “Soul.”  If such prerequisite was not fully met, all the outputs would do the university no good.

Thus, the true output should surpass a mere and showy solution based on techniques and methodologies. The output will be the true outcome when it includes some touching messages to be delivered to the client’s mind


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What kind of journey do you want to have for your own life?

When I ask you what your self’s life would look like, what do you think about this question?

You can think out the various answers about my question. One of your possible answers might be that life would be a journey.

How about your life journey?

I hope your life journey to be happy and successful. If not or you want to have a more successful and happier life journey, please refer to the following steps for that.

-Step 1: Think about what the most important and uncertain factors to affect your own life would be.

-Step 2: Create your life’s vision and goals based upon them.

-Step 3: Imagine the last scene of your life when you leave this world.

 -Step 4: Do your daily activities tuned to that.

In my case, the last scene of my life can be described as three words such as Peaceful, Thankful and Full. It would be a little possible to imagine what my life’s vision and goals might be backwards from that.

Whatever my life journey would be, I believe I could be peaceful, thankful for everything and full with my purpose when I leave this world.

Question: Could you describe the last scene of your life in terms of core keywords?

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Have you ever gained an insight into life through The Invisible Gorilla?

If you google the words brain and mind, how many search results can you see? Those results might show us how much we are interested in them.

The Invisible Gorilla, coauthored by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, let me have an opportunity to rethink about life, so that I asked Professor Daniel Simons a few questions about that as follows. I’m once again grateful to him for his kind answers.

Daniel Simons is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois. Simons received his B.A. in Psychology and Cognitive Science from Carleton College and his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Cornell University. He then spent five years on the faculty at Harvard University before moving to Illinois in 2002. His scholarly research focuses on the limits of human perception, memory, and awareness, and he is best known for his research showing that people are far less aware of their visual surroundings than they think. His work is published in top scientific journals and is discussed regularly in the popular media. His studies and demonstrations have been exhibited in more than a dozen science museums worldwide. In his spare time, he enjoys juggling, bridge, and chess.


Dear Professor Daniel Simons,

I’m grateful to you for letting me have a good opportunity to rethink about life through your book, The Invisible Gorilla. I’d like to ask you a question: what do you think about writing and drawing of self’s future life scenario in order to overcome the everyday illusions and create self’s unique life through that?

I think self’s future life scenario enables us to comprehensively reflect on life from different perspectives. If so, that would decrease the possibility of the failure to notice unusual and salient events in life.

I would really appreciate your opinion.

Michael Chang

Dear Mr. Chang,

Thank you for your email, and I’m glad to hear that The Invisible Gorilla was thought provoking for you.  I’m not quite sure I understand your question about future self, though.  Are you asking whether it’s possible to eliminate the illusions?  That might be hard to do, but by being more aware of them, you can try to counter them. What we can’t easily change are the cognitive limits themselves.  There is no way to change yourself so that you can notice everything around you, remember the world like a video camera, etc.

Those limits are more structural limits on how the brain and mind function, and they are often consequences of how the mind works. What we can do is learn better how the mind works so that we won’t make the wrong assumptions about what we notice and remember.  I hope that addresses your question.  If not, let me know.



Professor Daniel J. Simons

Dear Professor Daniel Simons,

Thank you for your kind reply.

My question is about how to improve the illusions and the cognitive limits, and how to apply the finite capacity to life, even though our humans can’t perfectly see everything owing to them.

As you mentioned, what we can’t easily change are the cognitive limits themselves. In this respect, the invisible gorilla might teach us to be more humble and forgiving, and furthermore to focus the finite capacity on what deserves our careful and continuous attention in life.

In consideration of aforementioned facts, the best way to use the brain and mind in our life is to focus the finite capacity on a few things that deserve our careful and continuous attention in life.

As you know, there would be a lot of things to affect our life. They could be health, money, work, friends, spouse, kids, etc. Even though we can’t perfectly see all of them, if we have an insight on life and find out the most important and uncertain things to affect life, we could live a more successful and happier life by focusing the finite capacity on them and envisioning the future based on life scenarios created by them.

Maybe, as spiritual leaders devote their whole lifetime to reflecting on only a couple of questions about life, if we unload unnecessary things from our brain and mind, and focus on more valuable things, we might not need more capacity of the brain and mind.

I would really appreciate your opinion.

With best wishes

Michael Chang

Dear Mr. Chang,

You might well be right that prioritizing larger life goals and avoiding distractions could lead to a better life. I cann’t argue with that philosophy in general.  The sorts of limits we discuss apply at a more local, moment-to-moment level too, and those immediate effects might be harder to counter through deliberate prioritization of life goals. Being aware of them can’t hurt, though, even at that level.



Professor Daniel J. Simons

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Can more people around the world live their happier and more successful lives based upon their future scenarios?

Dear Michael:

Thank you for your kind e-mail.

Yes, I think scenario planning could help many people in their personal lives. For example, if people would just think more about the top three uncertainties we all face in life – regarding health, wealth and social harmony – we might make better decisions. I fear, however, that few people have the mental discipline or skill set to follow such a disciplined approach as scenario planning.

In my books Decision Traps and Winning Decisions – both coauthored with Prof Russo from Cornell University – we address the case of individual decision making in more detail, but again within the context of professional decision making rather than personal. The style, skills and advice needed for a good book about personal decision making are not our comparative advantage I feel.

Best wishes in your path toward brilliant decisions. Paul

Paul J.H. Schoemaker, Ph.D.
Tel: (610) 525 0495 (Fax 0864)

Executive Chairman, Decision Strategies International, Inc. Research Director, Mack Center for Technological Innovation
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania————————————————–

PS. Please check out the following new publications of ours:The Wisdom of Making Deliberate Mistakes, Harvard Business Review, June 2006.
Peripheral Vision: Detecting the Weak Signals That Will Make or Break your Company, Harvard Business School Press, 2006.
Are You a ‘Vigilant Leader’? Sloan Management Review, Spring 2008.

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Is it possible to apply your scenario planning method to a personal life’s scenario writing?

Dear Michael

Thank you for your kind comments – I am glad you found my articles interesting.

Futures thinking is just as applicable for individuals as for organizations (although most of my work has been with organizations). I have heard it said that successful people are more likely to have written down an explicit statement of their goals. This is plausible even in the simple sense that if you know exactly what you want to achieve you are more likely to get there than if you haven’t really thought it through.

But I would also say that personal visioning is probably more immediately useful than personal scenarios (assuming we are talking about scenarios in the usual sense). What I mean by visioning is imagining, in general terms at first, and then in increasingly greater detail, exactly what you personally want and aspire to achieve, and writing it down. You might also think about why you want those things, and whether they are good for the world as well as simply for yourself. You could then backcast from the goals to see what potential action pathways there are that could take you there.

If everyone did this the world might indeed be a happier place. And yes, I do think about the future of my own life, and I do write down my own goals!

Very best wishes


– Hardin is CEO of Synthesys Strategic Consulting Ltd. in London, and he is an Associate Fellow at the Saïd Business School, Oxford University, where he co-teaches the executive education Scenarios Programme.

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Scenario Thinking and Possible Selves

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your e-mail.  I had not heard of Scenario Thinking theory
so I looked it up and found it is used in business to enhance future
outcomes.  So creating scenarios can be used to envision possible
demands a company’s products will need to address in the future.  It
can help a company have more flexible expectations for the future which
then can lead to better strategies for meeting needs in the future.
When engaging in Scenario Thinking, multiple scenarios with varied
alternative futures can be constructed.  The scenarios often are useful
for making long term projections.  Once scenarios are constructed they
can be evaluated in terms of how they might actually play out.

I can see why you noted the similarity between scenario thinking and
possible selves as they do have conceptual overlap.  Given that the
business world and the human development world both are engaged in
“social science,” it is not surprising that some of our theories have
common ideas.  Scenario Thinking appears to have been developed in and
for business, and is focused on business-related goals and processes.
The concept of Possible Selves stems from social psychological theory
and was designed to enhance understanding of the “self” (the nature
of the individual person).  Possible selves are hopes, fears and
expectations about who one might become in the future.  In the words of
Markus and Nurius:

“Possible selves are the ideal selves that we would very much like to
become.  They are also the selves that we could become and are afraid of
becoming. The possible selves that are hoped for might include the
successful self, the creative self, the rich self, the thin self, or the
loved and admired self, whereas, the dreaded possible selves could be
the alone self, the depressed self, the incompetent self, the alcoholic
self, the unemployed self, or the bag lady self.” (Markus and Nurius,
1986, p. 954)

Many researchers and practitioners have applied the concept of Possible
Selves to the academic domain and focus on how possible selves foster
achievement.  For example, Carey and Martin (2007), Center for School
Counseling Outcome Research, University of Massachusettes suggest that
possible selves theory and research offer a useful foundation for school
counseling interventions that facilitate student achievement. They
present the following principles for possible-selves based

1.  “Interventions that help students develop vivid, compelling
visions of their “hoped for”  “feared”, and “expected”
possible selves can be expected to promote achievement by enhancing
students’ motivation.”
2.  “Students are more likely to translate enhanced motivation into
actual achievement if the intervention is designed to help them: (a) see
the connection between their current
behavior and the attainment of desired future selves and/or the
avoidance of undesired
future selves; (b) establish goals that regulate and direct needed
learning; and (c) identify specific skills and/or strategies that they
have or need to learn to achieve their goals.”

3.  “Many students will benefit from interventions that expand their
range of “hoped for”
possible selves, especially when factors such as poverty,
discrimination, media, and the
absence of role models have resulted in an artificial constriction of
possible futures.

4.  “Interventions that help students envision a positive academic
self that is strongly
connected to attaining a desirable, or avoiding an undesirable future
self, are more likely
to promote achievement motivation and enhance school performance.”

5.  “Many students could benefit from interventions that integrate an
achievement-oriented academic identity with a positive social group
identity and harmonize those identities with achievement oriented

A well-established researcher who has conducted basic research on
possible selves and used the concept in academic interventions is Daphna
Oyserman.  You can access her work at:
Possible selves also have been applied to other areas in people’s
lives, such as career, weight loss, relationships, delinquency, etc.

Again, thanks for your e-mail.  It is always interesting to learn about
common concepts being used in different disciplines.  Jennifer


Jennifer L. Kerpelman, Ph.D.
Professor and Extension Specialist
Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies
203 Spidle Hall
Auburn University, AL 36849
334-844-4149 (phone)
334-844-4515 (fax)

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