Sunday, March 2, 2014


“The restrictive provisions of the Philippine Constitution on foreign ownership of entities are breeding unlawful foreign investments, an economist said Tuesday.” [Restrictive PH Charter enticing unlawful investments, Manila Times, 18th Feb 2014] “The investors who come here are those who are willing to use dummies and making creative legal maneuvers [to comply with the law].This is like allowing a triad [syndicate] to operate here and invest in strategic industries. Let us face it. Indonesia is behind the capital of PLDT, and Singapore is behind that of Globe,” Calixto Chikiamco, President of the Foundation for Economic Freedom, told the House Constitutional Amendments panel, referring to telecommunications giants Philippine Long Distance Telecom owned by Manny Pangilinan and Globe Telecom owned by Ernest Cu. Pangilinan also owns Smart and Sun Cellular mobile networks.” Did we not coin “balimbing nation” (meaning, two-faced) to describe our reality?

And our hurdles get more complicated and daunting . . . “With a lowly fifth ranking in the Human Capital Index (HCI) category among the five original members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and sixth in Asean global competitiveness, the Philippines may have no other recourse but to unify all its efforts to enable its citizens to be competitive for the Asean Economic Integration in 2015.” [PMAP (People Management Association of the Philippines) reminds gov’t: Unify efforts for 2015 Asean market integration, Business Mirror, 7th Feb 2014.]

“Dr. Wilma G. Magdale, PMAP Cagayan de Oro City Chapter president, said PMAP has identified gaps of skills between academe and industries wherein “graduates are not that competent to assume responsibilities. To bridge the gap, “PMAP is helping academe redesign or modify their curriculum so that it becomes more responsive to the needs of the industries in terms of competencies. . .”

We are in fact confirming what the West has similarly recognized. And they’re focused on addressing critical thinking, and more recently, creative thinking skills. 

“Critical Thinking” may sound like an obnoxious buzzword from liberal arts schools, but it's actually a useful skill. Critical thinking just means absorbing important information and using that to form a decision or opinion of your own . . . This doesn't always come naturally to us, but luckily, it's something you can train yourself to do better.” [Thorin Klosowski, Lifehacker, 6th Feb 2014] “[T]his is similar to something like the Socratic method . . . Regardless of how you approach it, the end goal is to learn to think critically and analyze everything . . . It's important to always ask yourself why something is important and how it connects to things to you already know . . . When we talk about critical thinking it's impossible not to talk about the fact that we're pretty bad at recognizing biases in our own thinking. We're all biased about information whether we realize it or not, and part of critical thinking is cultivating the possibility to see outside those biases.”

Is Juan de la Cruz able to recognize our own biases? For example, it appears our neighbors have embraced pragmatism but have we? “Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the School of public policy at the National University of Singapore and former Singaporean ambassador to the UN, and author argues that: “China (and most of Asia) has finally figured out the 7 pillars of Western wisdom, which enabled the West to succeed . . .” And one of them is pragmatism.

But does crab mentality make us unable to “home in” on the common good – or craft a solution for most things, including major PHL challenges? For example, how would we react to something that reads: “The Art of Crafting a 15-Word Strategy Statement”? That’s from the Harvard Business Review (12th Feb 2014) and many of us read it but are we able to pick and choose which contemporary thinking we would embrace? 

The driving force of the Clinton presidency was a simple strategy – “It's the economy, stupid” – that saw one of the longest post-war expansions of the US economy. And progressive global companies highlighted in the HBR article go by simplicity. And it applies not just to these large enterprises but also to smaller ones like the one of my Eastern European friends. 

For 8 years they embraced a one-word strategy: margins. And they realized that its magic comes from a strong sense of commitment: to investment, technology and innovation as well as product, people and market development. And on the 11th year we expanded the strategy to: “only great products will do; we must “own the store”; there will be no compromises.” [I had talked about this before but chose to reprise because of the HBR article.] That is exactly a 15-word strategy statement. And this once cottage industry from a poor Eastern European country, in a relatively short period, has given Western MNCs a run for their money.

There’s a soft spot in my heart for PMAP having started my career in the Philippines and was active in the PMAP. And during my time, our neighbors recognized that we were ahead in management thinking. And when I read the above article about PMAP, I wondered if in PHL we have maintained that lead we once had.

Writing up plans – and dissertations – is not our problem in PHL. Yet it appears we keep missing the object of a strategy – i.e., the test of the pudding is in the eating – and thus are the regional laggards. A plan is only as good as it is executed. But we can’t even agree on most things? And the key that seems to elude us: to keep it simple as in a simple endpoint that people could buy-in – thus the principle, “start with the end in view.”  [“$18.7-B ‘Yolanda’ plan baffles UK. Huge aid package needs careful thinking, says envoy . . . [I]f the government will build back better then we need to know what would make it better . . . [P]roviding food, shelter and sanitation is a very different phase from restoring the economic and social conditions . . . to their pre-typhoon levels and to a higher level of disaster resilience,” Manila Bulletin, Roy Mabasa, 24th Feb 2014.]

Put another way, beyond laying bricks . . . we are building a cathedral! When there is buy-in there is the least confusion – and people can come together committed to get to the endpoint. Our challenge is to establish an object that is valuable to Juan de la Cruz – e.g., a wealthier economy – that is simple so that everyone would be on the same page exerting their collective efforts.

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