Monday, May 6, 2013

Nation building

Is Juan de la Cruz committed to pursue nation-building? This blog has constantly raised our hierarchical culture because having done business in many parts of the world, I wonder if our respect for hierarchy is more deep-seated than most? And if our leadership is not exactly forward-looking, the ship that is PHL will simply be adrift without the sense of purpose and direction? The world has been moving at warp speed and we are still dealing with challenges that are pre-21st century? And it is a reality that we have to come to grips with – like power, basic infrastructure and industrialization, among others?

On the other hand we are good at dissecting our challenges and it is probably because of our “kuro-kuro” culture? But given that the elite class is happy where they are in the hierarchy, are we all the more distant from the pursuit of nation-building? Take charity-giving: it is good but it also reinforces our place in the hierarchy without making a dent on poverty. Because only through nation-building – and thus building the economy – could we in fact address widespread poverty like the world saw in the Asian tigers, and China that is now poised to be the biggest economy and overtake the US?

What do we hold in high esteem, for example? Oligarchy, oligopoly, political dynasty and the church, among others – and all are command and control structures? And not surprisingly bureaucracy and corruption would rear their ugly heads? And which explains why PHL is not characterized by the rule of law? Progressive nations, on the other hand, aspire to be egalitarian – and it is how a nation or an economy becomes inclusive? It is also what nation-building is about? And hence the question: given our acceptance of hierarchy as the norm, could we in fact pursue nation-building?

Outside the Philippines, I have witnessed countless times when ideas didn’t simply come from the top. And that would explain why there is an Apple, a Google or a Facebook, among others. Even in Eastern Europe, despite being under autocratic rule for decades, I have seen ideas coming from below. For example, I was recently so taken by a product idea that at the end of a presentation asked if a patent was being considered only to be told that it was already in the process. And on another occasion I was disappointed with the level of competitiveness of a product category in the portfolio and so I simply asked the group: “how are we going to fix this problem that is staring us in the face?” And a passionate discussion ensued in a language I don’t even speak, and after which one guy said in English: “OK, here is the fix.” And he outlined what they were going to do over what period of time. And he was not even one of the two bosses that were there – the marketing and sales managers. Then a young woman – even lower in the hierarchy – elaborated on what they called “the fix.”

Ten years ago these people were just playing copycats. And so they had to be trained – and they would have more questions than answers. Many of them have heard the story – to encourage them to speak their minds – that in my old MNC employer I was able to move the budget drill from a principally financial exercise to a goal-alignment process; and the president while indeed tough-minded, possessed the greatest listening skills I would ever know. And the bigger story was that at the annual shareholders meeting in New York we would fly the ten employees and their partners that owned the best ideas from around the world as special guests for an entire week. And the shareholders simply loved them.

Institutions and organizations ought to be the market place of ideas – openly and without regard to hierarchy. It ought to be the same for nation-building. And even more amazing is people in an egalitarian environment can come together when there is leadership and a shared purpose.

No comments:

Post a Comment