Saturday, June 25, 2011

‘New York state of mind’

The wife would pity the Eastern Europeans for rapidly learning and mirroring the New York state of mind: “They’re too young to be so serious with life!” The writer is with a very smart fellow who as a student represented his country in math competitions – and would probably run rings around American kids and be a good match against the Singaporeans or Koreans? They are discussing product development, and how to step back and approach lateral thinking – and not be held hostage by linear thinking. [He had heard the writer challenged two others to think big and leverage their growing businesses; and guided them back to the drawing board, i.e., incremental thinking must be out the window.] The object of the young man’s new assignment is to move up the value chain and it requires ‘discontinuity’, short of ‘creative destruction’. [A simple example is moving to liquid detergents from powder detergents.]

And he gets back at the writer discussing “quantum mechanics and the power (of thoughts) that comes with it; and explains he will manage the new business as though he’s in a chess match, an ancient battle – being disciplined and strategic, always anchored in the fundamentals”. The guy is a quant – and with his talent the expectations of the writer would, once again, be exceeded? The world is moving at warp speed!

Finally warm weather arrives in this part of Eastern Europe! Many years ago the family was in Paris and the writer wondered how Europeans could be lousing around in an outdoor café as though time stood still? It was his New York state of mind that was robbing him of the moment. Before stepping out of the hotel to explore Paris he had to make a phone call to New York – and the only thing he remembers today: “Please wear your thinking cap if you haven’t done so yet”!

How liberating . . . to be lousing in an outdoor café in Sofia – in jeans and driving shoes! And in his favorite tees from the daughter, which reads: ‘Retired – you’ll be charged a consulting fee if you want to talk to me’! With iPad in hand the writer breaks into a smile reading the piece of Dick Cavett. His wit is why the NY Times on a weekend brings the New York state of mind even to once communist Eastern Europe. Busy with his iPad the writer isn’t responding to the waitress until Andrea Bocelli comes to the sound system with a signature song and so he says: “a bruschetta please”.

When the writer first arrived in Eastern Europe he immediately noted that to be frugal was second nature. While wasteful Americans could learn a lot from them, there was a tendency to tolerate poor quality in more ways than one. And thus to move up the value chain is an uphill climb – especially when making-do is valued?

Is there an element of making-do in ‘Filipino abilidad’? Should we recognize that the 21st century demands much more, at warp speed? Says Robert Sears, AmCham director for external affairs: “The Philippines is moving too slow. This country reformed slowly than most Asian countries. Many of its laws and regulations are no longer in tune to the present setup,” reports Business Mirror, June 18th.

And it starts with wanting to do business beyond our shores – because it will mean, even force, investing in technology and pursuing discontinuity? Cebu Pacific comes to mind; and they probably are managing their international expansion as though it’s a chess match, an ancient battle – disciplined and strategic, always anchored in the fundamentals?

The writer again wears a grin as he reads: Secretary Gates looks forward to driving to a Burger King once he steps down as secretary of defense. What would his t-shirt say? Hierarchy is something we value but others don’t? And the iPad pops a message, “A bomb explodes in Southern Philippines”. Do we have more than an image problem?

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