Tuesday, March 19, 2013


To "start with the end in view" isn't instinctive. And which is why those aspiring to be creative- and/or forward-thinkers look up to Edison or Jobs or Gates. It is also why despite their inherent creativity, Europeans are measuring themselves against the commercial success rate posted by the US (as The Economist reported in its technology series.) It is also not surprising because education as we know it is linear. Yet we recognize "the vision thing" – and the greater its clarity the sharper the identification of "the vital few." Unfortunately, while we can quote Pareto we have yet to internalize the 80-20 rule – because our instinct "to be holistic" unnerves us if we’d miss crossing the "t's" and doting the "i's"? The evidence: The 1987 Constitution that we now want to revisit? Other examples: the land reform program, the party-list system, etc. But Juan de la Cruz wanted to write a "holistic" constitution full of infinite wisdom? Infinite wisdom is not of this world, problem-solving is? But it demands political will and, then again, "starting with the end in view"! [And the Brits have been figuring out how to craft a constitution similar to the US, where “the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness” seems to attract people from most every nation and the most FDIs.]

But can Juan de la Cruz be dispassionate? How long did it take us to accept that OFW remittances and consumption can’t replace investment and technology – i.e., being a poor nation we assumed “low-pricing” was the “be-all and end-all” but it practically killed PHL inquisitiveness, innovation and global competitiveness a la Nokia? We’ve also recognized that ours is a "personalistic" [recently on display in the august halls of the Senate] or “informal” as opposed to a "formal" culture. And precisely because "the personal" is not dispassionate, getting to the bottom or defining a problem can be elusive? Because we value compassion, for example, to make "efficiency and productivity" a guiding principle is thus a no-no? Not surprisingly PHL is not known for efficiency and productivity and our competitiveness rankings would only confirm that sad reality? [A garment industry veteran explained how low productivity, radical unions and export quota restrictions to the US conspired to undo the industry. What we need instead is to move from a low-value to a higher value-added undertaking?]

In progressive MNCs, even in their subsidiaries with supposedly intractable conflicts with their unions, adhering to a guiding principle that is credible and designed to seek the common good would bring unanimity. And in truly challenging circumstances that would require "educating the parties involved.” And it also applies in Communist China. Even if in the communist system production is centrally planned as well as distribution – i.e., what is missing is sustaining a virtuous cycle like establishing pricing levels according to market forces and managing accounts receivables, among others. [A manufacturer in China, when they first opened their economy, would assume his responsibility ends after he has produced and delivered his products according to centrally planned levels. And so accounts receivables or unpaid bills of even over 365 days didn't raise a red flag – despite the risk of being unable to sustain the economic activity or why the Soviet system came to a halt. To unlearn this practice demanded educating people on a credible guiding principle. One MNC learned the lesson the hard way. Because the company's credit policy disqualified numerous key distributors, they effectively lost precious time in building their trade infrastructure. The moral of the story: it is about problem-solving. And in this particular MNC's case the company policy had "the halo effect" that undermined the problem-solving.]

Every problem is an opportunity, but the converse also holds true: every opportunity is a problem. That is, if we don’t recognize that Juan de la Cruz ought to “subject himself to fairly merciless self-examination [to] prompt reinvention of [his] goals and the methods by which [he] endeavors to achieve them”? (Which Chris Argyris, professor emeritus, Harvard Business School, called double-loop learning, i.e., question every aspect of our approach, our methodology, biases and deeply held assumptions; “Secret Ingredient for Success,” by Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield, NY Times, 29th Jan 2013.)

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