“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”
– Henry David Thoreau in Walden, or Life in the Woods
Bamboos bend, not break, even in the most terrifying storm or devastating earthquake that would snapped the mighty resisting oak tree. It survives, therefore it conquers.
Disruptive storms and punctuated black-swan crises have become a permanent fixture not only in today’s marketplace but also in my decade-plus journey as a value investor and fund manager/analyst in the Asian capital markets where I have traveled across Asia interacting with entrepreneurs and top management in different industries, gaining interesting insights on the (elusive and painful) process of value creation.
How nice it would be if one can seek sanctuary in a raging storm in the tiny hut by the small Massachusetts pond that reflected the careful mind and sometimes sassy Yankee spirit of Henry David Thoreau. The work Walden, written in the humble cabin by the Walden Pond, is part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, satire, and manual for self-reliance. Henry’s hut is perhaps the most mindfully constructed and recorded event of American architecture. The humility of its scale makes it a feasible norm for everyone and reminds us that the greatness of a person or country is not measured by meters but by motive, not by capacity to dominate but by capacity to meet. Such a hut in Asian culture would be a bamboo grove; the Buddha chose a bamboo grove as one of his most constant homes after his enlightenment.
How wonderful it would be if countries, companies and individuals can stay self-reliant and resilient amidst the disruptive upheavals and unorthodox challenges – like the bamboo. The search for these companies with bamboo-like resilient qualities would be the Holy Grail in investing. Yet, resilience is rare in companies, even among successful ones. Studies rife with survivorship-bias abound in examining – and extrapolating – the multiple factors behind the “long-term” performance of firms. Just as character is ultimately tested in periods of crisis and in the inevitable traumatic knocks of life, past contributing success factors may prove fragile and fleeting especially in disruptive upheavals and previously successful firms are unable to bounce back to scale greater heights. Instead, they remain in a state of protracted consolidation or even decline, whereby the very optimization that made it so successful is now maladaptive, confounding conventional rigorous analysis. There is much more to resilience than simplistic oak-like strength, which is achieved typically by efficiency in the hardening of assets of a system.
This site is about the study of resiliency, exemplified by the “Bamboo Innovators” who outperform in the face of dramatically changed circumstances. The key objectives are three-fold: one is to propagate the core ideas in my findings accumulated over the years as a value investor in companies to enable them to be productive innovators in order to surpass stall points in tumultuous periods, particularly among SMEs aspiring to scale up to be regional or global champions; the other is to use this powerful lens to view the value creation process afresh and make predictions to continually find emerging evergreen Bamboo Innovators; the third is to adapt the timeless principles in us all to become a more emotionally engaged innovator-leader, Bamboo-style.
R.E.S.-ilience framework in value creation
A checklist approach in examining “successful” companies might overlook the resilient Bamboo Innovators. After all, there are much larger impressive trees in the forest. By comparison a bamboo looks smaller, thinner, and fragile. The list of Bamboo Innovators is a surprising one; many of them are not the typical ones that one would come across. While the details are always different, I find that certain features of the Bamboo Innovators are remarkably similar to those that resulted in the astonishing vitality in bamboo: the R.E.S.-ilience factors in value creation.
- R stands for “Rootedness” in cultivating a culture of kindness, trust and cooperation to contend with and heal creative dissent and incentivize innovative experimentations.
- E for “Emptiness” like the empty hollow center of a bamboo in having (1) “indestructible intangibles” which in turn derives its strength from either a certain know-how or trust and support in the community; (2) a “core-periphery” network; and (3) an “open-innovation” business model in which both internal and external partners co-develop new products and creations.
- S for “Sheath” in leadership to create the context, adaptive-govern, coordinate, synthesize and weave diverse networks and groups who might otherwise be excluded into a coherent whole, rather than the typical command-and-control “positional/title-based” leadership .
More about top Bamboo Innovators around the world in why and how they are able to create massive value can be found in this page: https://bambooinnovator.com/category/bamboo-innovator-series.
While the specific application and context changes, the enduring R.E.S.-ilence principles in value creation at these Bamboo Innovators remain relevant and evergreen no matter how the world around us changes.
The sage Confucius was reputedly so absorbed in his investigation of bamboos that he forgot to taste meat for three months. He remarked to a friend, “People get thin without meat, but without bamboo they get vulgar”!As with all serious quests, the sought turns out to be the seeker. I hope that the ideas in Bamboo Innovators will come alive not when we “taste” them but when we feel them from inside of us and discover contextually-relevant forms for ourselves.
“Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I’ll move the world,” says Archimedes. The long lever we choose to innovate in the world is hopefully the Bamboo; the place where we stand is Emptiness – when we empty our heart of prejudices, pride and fear, we become open to the possibilities to innovate – and Emptiness is rooted in Kindness and Trust.
I hope this site will be the Bamboo Grove that belong to the Innovators in us; I belong, therefore I am.
KEE Koon Boon
24 February 2013
Published Articles & Research:
- The Chinese Emperor and His Number Two: Xi-Li Power Shift, What It Means for Value Investors and the Story of Hangzhou Robam, Jan 13, 2014 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- New Year’s Greetings by Asian Patriarchs: Implications for Value Investors, Jan 6, 2014 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- Impatient Optimists Vs Value Investors in the New Year 2014: The Billion Dollar Stories of Bill-Melinda and Lupin, Dec 27, 2013 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- Keepers of the Flame: Revisit Into the Origins of Compounders in India and Asia, Dec 23, 2013 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- How to Live In a Grey World with Black-and-White Values? Musings on the Indian Accounting Standards 18, “Willful Defaulters”, Frugal Innovations and Avalokiteśvara, Dec 2, 2013 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- Mockingjay and IFRS 10/FRS 110 in Asia 2014: Changing Balance Sheet and The Rebellion Year for Accounting Frauds? Nov 25, 2013 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- Are You Crafty Enough? Yellen’s Non-Bubble, Henry Ford’s Art Book Present and Korea’s Com2Us-Gamevil, Nov 18, 2013 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- Dairy Compounders Ignore Macro Noises: Bega Cheese +130%, PT Ultrajaya Milk +230% YTD, Nov 11, 2013 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- The Inner Light of Asian Compounders: The Reborn of India’s Hero Motocorp, Nov 4, 2013 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- Tired Asian Businessmen, Assessing Management Quality and the $15 Billion Oshin Retail Stock in China, Oct 28, 2013 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- The Technology in Domino’s Pizza: How Asian Firms Can Have Enduring Pizzazz, Oct 21, 2013 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- Can Asia Produce a Precision Castparts (PCP), a 1,000X Compounder? Oct 14, 2013 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- Value Investing and the Two Wolves in Asia, Oct 7, 2013 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- Why Market Leadership ≠ Wide Moat? Insights from Down Under, Sep 30, 2013 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- “All-in-the-Family” Earnings Management and Misgovernance in Asia, Sep 23, 2013 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- Detecting Accounting Frauds in Asia (Part 2), Sep 16, 2013 (Moat Report Asia, BeyondProxy)
- Detecting Accounting Frauds in Asia (Part 1), Sep 11, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Opportunities in Event-Driven Investing and Spinoffs in Asia, Sep 9, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Political Incentives to Suppress Negative Financial Information in China? Sep 4, 2013 (BeyondProxy, Moat Report Asia)
- 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Redux? Aug 28, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Berkshire Embracing Media? An Asian Perspective, Aug 21, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- “Worthless, Impossible, And Stupid” Investing in Media Companies in Asia and Europe, Aug 14, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Fruit of the Loom vs. Gildan, or How to Avoid Value Traps in Low-Cost Businesses, Aug 7, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Snapped By Regulatory Storms? Braving Through Berkshire’s Former Iron Mountain to Asia, July 31, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- From Buffett’s Scott Fetzer to Asia, Are Oddballs Odious or Opportunities? July 24, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Are Boring Businesses Resilient or Risky? Pitfalls and Opportunities in Europe and Asia, July 17, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Supply- and Demand-side Moat Economics in Europe and Asia, July 10, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- “Must-Have” vs “Nice-To-Have”: Exploiting the Sector-Company Gap in Asia, July 3, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Institutional Imperative and Differentiating Between the Tech Innovators, the Imitators and the Swarming Incompetents in Asia, June 27, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- BNSF + JB Hunt = Buffett + Munger = Lollapalooza! How About Asia? June 19, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Why Berkshire Hathaway’s McLane Has a Moat, and Are There Similar Companies In Asia? June 12, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Investing in Korea: Staying Rational Despite Samsung’s Halo Effect, June 5, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Education 2.0 In Indonesia: Inspiring Bamboo Innovators, May 11, 2013 (Jakarta Post)
- Any Benjamin Franklins in Asia? May 9, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Berkshire Hathaway 2013: Takeaways and Impressions from the Annual Meeting, May 7, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Pilgrimage to Omaha + Entrepreneurship, Asian-style! May 1, 2013 (BeyondProxy.com)
- Who’s the Buffett CEO in Asia? Part 1 on China’s Great Wall Motor, April 23, 2016 (BeyondProxy)
- Who’s the Buffett CEO in Asia? Part 2 on Australia’s ARB Corporation, April 26, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Kewpie: Japan’s Heinz and R.E.S.-ilient Bamboo Innovator, April 20, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Value Investors in Asia: Making Sense of the Micro Vs. Macro Dilemma, April 16, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- Detecting Fraud by Scrutinizing the “How” Rather than the “What” of Management Disclosures, March 22, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- “Be like the bamboo, not the oak tree”, TODAY, 8 April 2013
- “Creating ‘bamboo innovators’ in S’pore”, Straits Times, 1 April 2013
- “Why ‘Democracy’ and ‘Drifter’ Firms Can Have Abnormal Returns: The Joint Importance of Corporate Governance and Abnormal Accruals in Separating Winners from Losers”, Special Issue of Istanbul Stock Exchange 25th Year Anniversary Best Paper Competition of the Boğaziçi Journal, Review of Social, Economic and Administrative Studies, Vol. 25(1): 3-55
- “Lion Infrastructure is the way to go” with TAN Seng Hock, Business Times, 30 December 2010
- “Reforming Corporate Governance”, Business Times, 25 November 2010
- “管理狮城的狮子企业家” with TAN Seng Hock, Lianhe Zaobao, 9 August 2010
- “Lion Infrastructure and Value Investing” with TAN Seng Hock, Business Times, 10 June 2010
- “The Power of Vision” with TAN Seng Hock, Business Times, 15 May 2010
- Mental Models: Bamboo Innovator, April 4, 2013 (BeyondProxy)
- The Bamboo Innovator Approach to Investing in Asia, April 4, 2013 (Youtube uploaded by BeyondProxy.com)
- Six Common Accounting Pitfalls at Asian Companies, March 20, 2013 (BeyondProxy.com)
- Insights into Accounting Pitfalls at Asian Companies, March 21, 2013 (Greatinvestors.TV and Frequency.com)
- Beware of “Other Receivables” Accounting at Asian Companies, March 26, 2013 (Greatinvestors.TV)
Unpublished Articles & Research:
- “Bamboo Innovators: R.E.S.-ilience in Value Creation“, 23 Feb 2013
- “The Accounting of Words and Value Investing“, 13 Sep 2010
- The Revenge of the Geographical Value Investor & The Year of the Fishball Snake, On the Ground in Asia (Jan-Feb 2013)
- On the Ground in Asia (2012):
- Word of the Year in Asia for 2012 and 2013: “Bloated” and “Value Circle”, On the Ground in Asia (Dec 2012)
- Match: How to Patch the Asian Leadership & Institutional Uncertainty Discount?, On the Ground in Asia (Oct/Nov 2012)
- Resilience Investing with the Batfish and Buddha: Why Things Bounce Back (Or Not), On the Ground in Asia (Sep 2012)
- The Great Asian Infrastructure Stimulus: Network Effect or Redcliff Battle? On the Ground in Asia (Aug 2012)
- Beanie Babies Vs Vendor Financing: Can the ‘Product’ (and Asia) Stand On Its Own? On the Ground in Asia (Jul 2012)
- “I’m Only a Paperboy”; “I Can Still Run After the Bus!” (Special Edition – Berkshire Hathaway AGM 2012 from Omaha Trip), On the Ground in Asia (May/Jun 2012)
- Do Asian Entrepreneurs Desire To Have ‘Black Cats’ To Become Multibagger Stocks? On the Ground in Asia (Apr 2012)
- Is Avoiding Pitfalls in Value Investing in Asia All About Painted Puppets and the Dalang? On the Ground in Asia (Mar 2012)
- Are the Chinese Back to the “Real” Economy with the Invasion of Swabia? On the Ground in Asia (Feb 2012)
- The ASEAN 2015 Bloom: Gathering a Life at $3,000 and the “Second-Generation GKCs”, On the Ground in Asia (Jan 2012
“From the Fund Management Jungle: Value Investing Exposed and Explored” Public Workshop Series:
- “In Search of Compounding Stocks in Uncertain Times” on 13 July (Saturday)
- “Detecting Frauds Ahead of the Investing Curve” on 3 August (Saturday)
- “Tipping Point Analysis in Value Investing” on 31 August (Saturday)
Presentations, Conferences, Seminars, Workshops:
- “Wouldn’t It Be Nice If We Can Invest BEFORE the Economic Moat Is Obvious?” at the Wide Moat Investing Summit 2013 on July 9-10, 2013
- “R.E.S.-ilient Compounders in (the Next) Crisis: Buffett + Bosch + Baiyao = Bamboo Innovators”, at the Emerging Value Summit 2013 on Apr 9-10, 2013
- 《挺经: 中小型公司如何翻倍成跨国企业》, in-house seminar for a listed I.T. company in Beijing on 25 Jan 2013
- “Master Entrepreneur Program: Scaling SMEs into Multibagger MNCs”, in-house seminar for a listed I.T. company in HK in Nov 2012
- “Tech Investing in Asia: (Oxy)Moronic or Multibagger?“ at the 9th Value Investor Conference in Omaha in May 2010
- “Master Entrepreneur Program: Scaling SMEs into Multibagger MNCs”, public seminar for CEOs, entrepreneurs, professional managers and high net-worth individuals in Marina Bay Sands Singapore in Oct 2011
- “Why ‘Democracy’ and ‘Drifter’ Firms Can Have Abnormal Returns: The Joint Importance of Corporate Governance and Abnormal Accruals in Separating Winners from Losers”, at the 23rd Australasian Finance and Banking Conference in Sydney, 15-17th December 2010 and acted as a discussant for one of the papers in the 23rd AFBC.
- “Stock Return Synchronicity and Technical Trading Rules”, at the 2010 Global Development Finance Conference in Cape Town, 24-26 November 2010
- “Adapting the Investment Style of Buffett-Munger to Asia (Part 2)”, at the 7th Value Investor Conference in L.A. in May 2010
- “Attracting Long-Term Foreign Investors”, at the Korea Industrial Technology Association Material & Component Technology (KITIA MCT) Conference in Seoul to the Korean trade & commerce minister and more than 50 Korean CEOs in August 2007
- “On the Prowl for Lollapalooza and Lions in Asia: Adapting the Investment Style of Buffett-Munger to Asia“, at the 3rd Value Investor Conference in L.A. in May 2010