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Loving Living

Loving Living Landscapes

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Loving Living Landscapes

Written by: Ayodhya Ouditt        Updated: Jan, 2020      3 min read

Whether it’s a classic painting in a gallery, an oversaturated image on a calendar, or the view through one’s window on a drive or train ride, a landscape holds a powerful place in our mind’s eye.

Landscapes are popular items in art and photography, and while there’s tremendous diversity in terms of natural habitats on earth, we do seem to favour some over others. This doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the destitution of a desert of lava flow, but it does mean that I would probably not want to live there. Most people do seem to favour certain scenes based on very specific features.

In his book The Art Instinct, Denis Dutton expounds on these thoughts, building an extraordinary case for instinctive (genetically predetermined) aesthetic preferences. He opens the book with reference to the People’s Choice experiment, a global art project overseen by the Soviet Artists, Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid. It was a massive survey of viewer preferences of paintings, across 14 countries, that overwhelmingly showed striking similarities across cultures and continents.

“People in very different cultures across the world gravitate toward the same general type of pictorial representation: a landscape with trees and open areas, water, human figures, and animals. What’s more remarkable still was the fact that people across the globe preferred landscapes of a fairly uniform type…”

Loving Living

Of course, this would probably upset the avant-garde and postmodern sensibilities of many contemporary gallerists; landscapes are accused of being boring, philosophically unsophisticated, and even colonial in nature. But regardless of whether or not these accusations are fair, the fact remains that we love landscapes. As a species, there’s a good reason for this, the ongoing evolutionary explanation being that they represent idyllic environments for the survival of wild ancestral humans.

In a recent conversation with Dr. Stefan Uddenberg, a cognitive psychologist at Princeton University, he reflected on the findings of the People’s Choice project that “Our preferences for landscapes are quite likely baked into us, over the course of millions of years of evolution, from the Pleistocene. We love landscapes that are rich in resources that we can take advantage of… It makes sense — if you’ve got greenery you’ve got fruit. If you’ve got forests there’s going to be wild game that you can hunt. If you’ve got water there’s a huge plus there. These features are there because they provide a huge plus to our survivability.”

 
Loving Living

In this light, in the same way in which we might universally favour a smooth, rosy, untarnished mango over one which is discoloured, bruised, or green, we might favour images of these archetypal semi-wooded sceneries over dark forests or lava flows or glacial tundra, all of which we innately know might be too perilous or too extreme in heat or cold. Again, we can certainly appreciate the beauty of those places as well, but there’s a distinctly calm, almost idyllic feeling we get when we look at the right kind of landscape.

Loving Living - Asher B. Durand (1796-1886)

Asher B. Durand (1796-1886) View toward the Hudson Valley, 1851 Oil on canvas 33 1/8 x 48 1/8 in. (84.1 x 122.2 cm) The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1948.119

The preponderance of direct neuroscientific evidence for the way that these pictures and sceneries affect our brains suggests that we are wired to find beauty in certain scenes and images, and to appreciate beauty on the whole. In his TED Talk “The Neurobiology of Beauty”, Semir Zeki, Professor of Neuroesthetics at University College London goes so far as to say that beauty “originates in the brain, not in the works of art.”

If beauty is so central to the human experience, and these pictures of semi-wooded grasslands can have some a universal effect on us, then what might actual landscapes and urban green-spaces do for us? The health benefits are well noted,

especially when considering depression and other mental health issues. It’s worth noting too that one of the things that makes prison so unbearable is its sterility and lack of landscape entirely. The denial of a window to the world, is not just social isolation, it’s scenic and sensory isolation as well.

In a place as biodiverse and naturally green as Trinidad and Tobago, we benefit from a tremendous range of ecosystem services, which if not abused and destroyed are largely unappreciated. In many parts of the country, green is seen as a handicap and a liability. But if we leverage this ecological bounty, beyond the level of agriculture or even habitat preservation, we might be able to tap into a national stress reduction reservoir, that could help insulate us from the stresses of modern urban life. At the level of preventative medicine then, if we make healthy, mindful use of parks, green yards, forest reserves, and beaches, they might help us fight cancer, diabetes, and suicide, just as well as any pill, prescription, or vaccine.

Update: Shortly after this article was posted, the National Health Service Shetland implemented “nature prescriptions” to help treat high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and other issues.

 
Thinking Slow

“Thinking Slow”About Fast Food

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“Thinking Slow”About Fast Food

Written by: Ayodhya Ouditt        Updated: Jan, 2020    3 min read

A friend of mine recently got some good news regarding a job and wanted to celebrate, so we went down to the strip of food stalls near Grand Bazaar for some street food and then later headed to a bar for a drink.

While I’m certainly not trying to come across as one of those people who complains about everything, it’s also a requirement that a designer be ready to exercise critical thinking at all times. In particular, if one’s concern is social good, and human, animal and environmental wellbeing, paying attention to one’s surroundings is vital.

So with that said it’s always disheartening to me when we go out to lime and I see parents feeding their children cheese-steaks and ‘hoagies’ drowned in sauces, and watering them with coke, pepsi, or some other soft drink. These all come in styrofoam boxes and plastic bottles, which (if one is lucky) are thrown into a bin, but far too often end up in a canal.

This is a bleak situation, for the animals consumed and the human consumers, as well as for the urban and natural environment. But we see this — and even participate in it — everyday, to the point of numbness.

As I heard the lady behind me call to the gyro man for “more mayonnaise” on her burger, I wondered… “What is the reason for this? Why did she feel like she needed more?”

While there are of course many different factors leading to our poor health decisions, if I had to pick just one thing, I thought, it would have to be an overdose of System 1 Thinking, and a deficiency of System 2 Thinking.

Systems 1 and 2 refer to different paradigms of thinking, both of which operate in very different ways. I first saw the terms used in behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow”, but they were actually coined by psychologists Keith Stanovich and Richard West. In Kahneman’s tome, he writes about them like characters in a drama, outlining in particular the ways in which System 1, which comprises our brain’s most ancient survival mechanisms, often betrays us in modern life. Within the title, ‘thinking fast’ refers to System 1, and ‘thinking slow(ly)’ refers to System 2.

Thinking Slow

“System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.

System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.”

So System 1 handles things like detecting hostility in the voice of another, driving a car on an empty road, and of course thirsting after those calorie dense burgers, double-meat gyros, and sugary soft drinks.

System 2 on the other hand allows us to consider that the above mentioned person might have just been stressed, allows us to drive on a crowded road, and enables us to think about making a healthier dinner choice.

The problem is that System 1 works faster, and System 2 requires more mental resources. So if we’re pressed for time, stressed, or just not making a conscious effort to think and act critically, we’re going to be much more susceptible to our instincts when making decisions.

And that’s why that lady asked for more mayonnaise on her burger. It’s simply faster and easier for her brain to think about mayo tasting good. But perhaps if this information were more widely available, and we all understood that this is how we make decisions, we would all be able to double-check our first instincts.

It’s very important for us to think this way, using metacognition — thinking about one’s own thoughts — to reflect on our choices. If we know that we’re susceptible to System 1 thinking all day long, we can engineer better ways around it, by reducing the cognitive load in our daily lives.

When public health campaigns fail, usually it’s because they human beings are expected to absorb information rationally, then execute the desired behaviour perfectly. But we all know that this simply isn’t our nature. You can’t outrun System 1. You can only work around it. That’s why policymakers, public health experts, and designers for behaviour change need to think slow, and not fast, when it comes to improving population health.

 
Thinking Slow
Encediscene

The Encediscene: Health Choices in the Time of Your Life

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The Encediscene: Health Choices in the Time of Your Life

Written by: Steve Ouditt        Updated: Jan, 2020     3 min read

In July 2017 our team at Vessel downloaded and read the ‘National Strategic Plan for the prevention and Control of Non Communicable Diseases: Trinidad and Tobago 2017 – 2021’, from the Ministry of Health’s website. We studied this plan from cover to cover, to understand how people are coping with NCDs [non communicable diseases] and to see what’s in store for us. We were alarmed at the danger we’re in.

NCDs are killing us and soaking up billions of dollars every year. Take a look at these stats published in the Strategic Plan. For 2015 – 62% of deaths annually were from NCDs; 25% died from heart disease; 14% died from diabetes; 13% died from cancer and 10% died from cerebrovascular disease. There are approximately 39,400 undiagnosed cases of diabetes. 50% of diabetes deaths occur before the age of 65. There are over 500 amputations a year. On page 5 of the report it tells us that there is an increase in NCD onset in people under 45 years of age. Also, compared to other Caribbean countries, our life expectancy in Trinidad and Tobago is way down the list at number 19 out of 21. We’re just above Guyana, with Haiti last.

Encediscene

These stats on paper are terrible as is, but in the lives of real humans living with NCDs, the situation is unbearable. Even if you’re rich and powerful in Trinidad and Tobago, but have a history of making bad health choices, your money and power won’t save you. It might buy you a little more time, but that’s all.

For many years in rich Trinidad and Tobago, lavish living set the scene that made it easy for people to be extravagant and careless about health choices. There were plenty easy opportunities for rich and poor to become lazier; fatter; greedier; to party harder, and to drive big pick-ups and SUVs. It became easy too, to set such bad lifestyle examples for their children. Right now Caribbean Public Health Agency [CARPHA] has a document on its website on NCDs and childhood obesity, with the hopeful title, ‘Safeguarding our Future Development’. People need to read this.

Encediscene

Our National Strategic Plan for NCDs says that the economic burden on Trinidad and Tobago, from diabetes, cancer and hypertension is about TT$8.7 billion annually. That’s more than US$ one billion per year, and almost one billion Euro a year. To put things into perspective, compared to our annual NCD spend, the rapper Drake’s worth looks like real small money, at a paltry $US100 million. Any state of our size that spends TT$8.7 billion every year on NCDs must admit that it’s losing the battle.

Here is an excerpt from page 14 of the document “Investment in prevention interventions are urgently needed to decrease the incidence and reduce the substantial economic burden. Diabetes and hypertension are due to highly modifiable behavioural factors and prevention interventions can reap huge benefits”.

Another way to say this, and how Vessel interpreted it, is like this, “We urgently need interventions to prevent these NCDs and save billions of dollars. We believe if people change their behaviour and learn better health habits, this will go a long way in reducing diabetes and hypertension.”

Encediscene
Encediscene

It’s not rocket science to understand. To put it quite simply if the state and all health agencies created brilliant interventions to prevent people from smoking too much, from abusing alcohol, from eating unhealthily, from getting obese, from raising their cholesterol and blood sugar, they would save lives and money.

Right now we’re living in the era that scientists refer to as the Anthropocene. It’s the age of heavy human domination and impact on all our ecosystems. This human domination of everything has made it easy and convenient to make bad health choices in all aspects of our lives. We’re now facing the massive and dangerous backlash that we at Vessel have named the Encediscene [NCDscene]. We imagine we’re living in the era of the NCD. Just read the plan.

Encediscene

Vessel has designed a behaviour change interactive exhibition tentatively titled ‘The Encediscene: Health Choices in the Time of Your Life.’ In upcoming posts we’ll be put up some drawings of our idea. Look out for them.

Steve.

Why is it a GREAT IDEA to pursue a Business Degree?

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Selecting a degree can be difficult, hence, you want to select something that can be valuable in the long-term as well as flexible in an instance where you want to switch fields. Check out five reasons why a degree in business is the best route of study below:
 
  1. It is a Practical Choice

Business majors have more job security than other majors because they are needed in virtually all industries. Whether in banking, manufacturing or, energy sector, all industries need people with business acumen to function and prosper. This will always keep the demand for business majors relatively high, even in tough economic times. 

  1. Learn Transferrable Skills

Business programs place a huge focus on teaching students the ability to think critically, problem solve in innovative ways, and manage their time logically, skills that you can apply in any job, business and even in your everyday life. 

  1. Combine your passions

Even if you don’t see yourself working as an accountant or finance manager, a degree in business can help you broaden your horizons and pursue your passions successfully. If you want to be your own boss and manage a successful business, you’ll need to know how to write a detailed and viable business plan, obtain financing for your business, track your profits and losses, and be comfortable with many other aspects of business management in order to keep your business profitable. This is, yet again, where experience in studying business can really come in handy in a practical way. 

4.Higher chances of landing a job  

Did you know that the average business student lands a job within six months of graduatingThat’s because there’s a huge demand for business graduates in today’s economy, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon and the opportunities are widespread.

5. Broader options of specialization areas  

As a business student, if you enter into a business studies programme, you will have plenty of options for specialization. For example, you could specialize in management, marketing, human resources, accounting, or business finance. You could also choose to specialize in a specific industry such as the fashion industry or in the humanitarian non-profit sector. In general, business careers offer more opportunity for career advancement than other careers. With advancement comes salary increases, professional respect, an opportunity to challenge yourself, and many other perks as well. 

Check out the Bachelor of International and Sustainable Business 

International Guest Lecturers for Self-Awareness and Leadership course for Bachelor of International and Sustainable Business

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Students of the Bachelor of International and Sustainable Business Cohort 2 got the opportunity to gain insights and engage with guests lecturers; Dr. Jo-Ann Flett, Organizational Consultant at Partners Worldwide,  Wayne, Pennsylvania, Fulbright Visiting Faculty and      Ms. Maria C Horning, Program Director, Geneva Global, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They covered content on Self-awareness and Leadership.

Learn more on BISB here: https://bit.ly/39Zcv7Q

 

 

Bachelor of International and Sustainable Business Service-Learning Project at Edinburgh Special Needs Centre

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As part of the curriculum for the Bachelor of International and Sustainable Business programme, students have to partake in socially responsible activities. Cohort one had the opportunity to interact with members of the Edinburgh Special Needs Centre. 

They got a chance to engage with the students through games and certain subject areas. One of the students who volunteered stated: “Whether someone is disabled or not, each child has a purpose in life and also a talent in this school such as Terence, who is a great singer or my brother who enjoys football and cricket. Each person develops a certain skill and ability that gives them a purpose to lead a happy life.”

Another student’s feedback was, “this created leadership development for the community. I would always remember teaching this young boy, Terrance, an amazing singer and great at Maths. I taught him how to read, understand and then attempt fractions and number questions.”

Stay tuned for more insights on the Bachelor of International and Sustainable Business. 

Convergence of ERM, Future Credit ratings and the Corona Virus

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Ken Hackshaw, Enterprise Risk Management lecturer would like to proffer a prediction of sorts:

Given the Covid-19 outbreak and its impact on the global stock market, the global supply chain, health industry, airline industry etc. The role and value of Enterprise Risk Management will see a significant increase in use and applicability. Regulators therefore, will also increase its oversight, relevance and dependence on ERM. Additionally, international credit rating agencies, as part of its international rating criteria/methodology will put greater emphasis on the effectiveness of ERM at private and government agencies.

This prediction is predicated on the following:

  • post the financial crisis of 2008/2009, we saw a ramping up of the use and importance of risk management disciplines across the financial services industry.
  • The value of risk culture building and disaster preparedness after the Deepwater Horizon oil spills and other major disasters.
  • The role of Business Continuity planning after the Fukushima volcano and subsequent tsunami

That being said, we at the Trinidad and Tobago Risk Management Institute (TTRMI) have been preaching from the mountain tops about being proactive and anticipatory: about future proofing your business: about doing Horizon scanning to identify emerging risk and about improving the risk culture of your organization and yes about Business Continuity planning.

One may argue that Covid-19 outbreak is like a black swan, no one anticipated this risk event, and that maybe true but we  would have said many times: Risk management is a force multiplier and can be viewed as being similar to the the airbag in your vehicle, it will not prevent the accident from occurring but it will reduce the impact WHEN, not if, accidents occur.  I therefore agree that this risk of Covid-19 could not be planned for but I submit that institutions that had/have a robust and integrated ERM program will fear better than those who had nothing.

Currently many organizations in Trinidad and Tobago and elsewhere, are scrambling to put “things in place” as a result of the covid-19 outbreak, when they should have been “implementing contingency plans.” This would have been accomplished as part of the business impact analysis they would have conducted many moons ago, and as part of the risk assessments they would recently conducted or updated.

 

While strong risk management practises can’t stop the spread of Covid-19 or prevent other pandemic risk events, enterprise risk management processes can help organizations anticipate the impact of these kinds of unforeseen, extraordinary events.   

Note the following:

While ERM is not a new concept, its increasing influence on ratings and regulations cannot be ignored. As the methodologies employed by rating agencies and the reporting requirements set by regulators become more prospective in nature, ERM analysis as a leading indicator of a firm’s ability to operate within a controlled risk/reward framework becomes that much more influential on how a company is rated or regulated. 

 

We are living in a new VUCA world, of which Volatility and Uncertainty (V&U) will bring the most risks.

For more information on Enterprise Risk Management, Contact Umesh Sookoo at 299-0218 ext. 367 or email: u.sookoo@lokjackgsb.edu.tt

Strategic Alignment

Is There Alignment in Your Organisation or Chaos?

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Alignment refers to strategic alignment, that is, the degree to which the organisation’s people and resources are focused on the strategy. The opposite of alignment is “chaos”, where managers, programs and projects are aiming at different goals and there is lack of a common vision, leading to wasted energy, delays, conflict and confusion.

Features of the organisation that can be aligned include:

  • Values
  • Vision
  • Mission
  • Strategic plans
  • Budgets
  • Policies
  • Procedures
  • Functions
  • Themes,
  • Objectives,
  • Information standards 
  • Organisation structure. 

Alignment measures the degree to which:

  • People at all levels are motivated by a common vision and strategy
  • People understand that supporting the strategy is their job
  • People are self-motivated, not merely by compliance to rules
Strategic Alignment

Get actionable steps that can be implemented to achieve #strategicalignment within your organisation by registering for the Balanced Scorecard Associate Certificate Programme carded for March 25th, 26th & 27th, 2020 at the Lok Jack GSB, Campus.

To learn more about becoming an internationally certified Balanced Scorecard Associate click HERE

For further information:
📞 (868) 310-3031 (Trinidad) or +592-673-5980 (Guyana)
📧 odac@lokjackgsb.edu.tt

Strategic Thinking

9 Traits of a Strategic Thinker

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“I think and think for months and years. Ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right.” (Einstein).

Strategy development is not a “cookbook” process. It is a challenging, heuristic task that requires strategic thinking. Strategic thinking involves several traits:

  1. The ability to use consistent definitions of planning terms and to understand their distinctions;
  2. Awareness of the distinctions between project planning and strategic planning;
  3. The ability to discuss and describe items in plans at the appropriate “strategic altitude”;
  4. Awareness of the dynamic system effects in organizations, such as delays and feedback;
  5. The openness to new ideas and encouragement of creativity and innovation;
  6. The openness of the planning process to a team of employees of various ranks and functions;
  7. The degree to which alternative strategies and scenarios are considered;
  8. The linkage of strategic planning to budgeting;
  9. The ability to write and speak with clarity and simplicity.

Evidence for the degree of strategic thinking can be found in the organization’s strategic planning documents.

Strategic Thinking

Enhance your #strategicthinking and #strategicdevelopment skills by registering for the Balanced Scorecard Associate Certificate Programme carded for March 25th, 26th & 27th, 2020 at the Lok Jack GSB, Campus.

To learn more about becoming an internationally certified Balanced Scorecard Associate click HERE

For further information:
📞 (868) 310-3031 (Trinidad) or +592-673-5980 (Guyana)
📧 odac@lokjackgsb.edu.tt

Corporate Culture, Values and Leadership

6 Ways To Assess Your Organisation’s Culture and Values

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Corporate Culture, Values and Leadership

“A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not.” (Author unknown).

This dimension refers to the culture and values inside the organization, and it addresses leaders’ and employees’ shared understanding and agreement with stated values. Most organizations post a values statement with a list of virtuous words. What distinguishes maturity is the degree to which those values are communicated, understood, and practised – by the leader as well as by all employees. Evidence of mature workforce culture and values include:

  1. Thoughtful applications of change management principles and practices by the leadership
  2. The degree of ownership that employees feel for the vision and values of the organization
  3. The degree of participation in shaping the organization’s culture and ways of working
  4. The level of trust, transparency and freedom to communicate with candor, as opposed to a culture of fear and denial
  5. The degree of flexibility and willingness to change to align to new strategic priorities
  6. The level of awareness and consistency of adherence to stated values and policies.
Leadership, Workplace Culture and Values

Examine strategies to enhance your workplace #culture and #values at the Balanced Scorecard Associate Certificate Programme carded for March 25th, 26th & 27th, 2020 at the Lok Jack GSB, Campus.

To learn more about becoming an internationally certified Balanced Scorecard Associate click HERE

For further information:
📞 (868) 310-3031 (Trinidad) or +592-673-5980 (Guyana)
📧 odac@lokjackgsb.edu.tt

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