Saturday, June 21, 2014

Thinking big and executing

They are daunting challenges even for progressive enterprises – and developed nations. And it wouldn’t be any less for us Pinoys – and in almost every facet of the life of Juan de la Cruz? Take education, for instance:“Mourshed, Farrell and Barton studied over 100 education-to-employment approaches in 25 countries to see what the successful ones have in common. The short answer lies in a key education reform concept: There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The system has to be designed collaboratively by the major stakeholders—the employers, the education providers, and the youth themselves.” [Educated, unemployed, Butch Hernandez,Philippine Daily Inquirer, 14th June 2014]

“Education is not just a means to an end; the acquisition of competencies and job-readiness is just one aspect of its complexity. Education is a public value, which means that the measure of its true worth to society rests on how well, or how poorly, it enables educated individuals to perform their various tasks as citizens. In that sense, education—or, more accurately, education of the right quality—is a moving target.”

The challenge to us Pinoys can be more basic though? For example, why can’t we put up a modern airport in this day and age? Why can’t we have something as basic as power or energy? Why despite “Imperial Manila” the infrastructure of Metro Manila is archaic? Not surprisingly, we can’t even get new registration plates for new cars? Our inability to get things done is beyond the pale? “For the first time, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of Japan has made known its position official even as it warned that unless the Philippine government takes strong policies quickly on the automotive industry cheaper imported cars will continue to flood the market making local production to continue to fall in spite of growth in the local market for cars.” [Japan urges Philippines to make strong auto industry policy soonest, Bernie Magkilat, Manila Bulletin, 16th June 2014]

No wonder reform-minded folks especially outside Manila are asking themselves if reform will suffice or if unrest is called for – “because we Pinoys are spineless, and why EDSA failed”? That is a quote from a journalist from the Visayas; and it reminded me of my late maternal grandfather. The reality is, as we’ve seen with the Arab Spring, unless people learn to commit to the common good vested interests would be at odds, in conflict between and among themselves and chaos would rule not reform.

The problem with smart people is that they are used to seeking and finding the right answer; unfortunately, in strategy there is no single right answer to find. Strategy requires making choices about an uncertain future. It is not possible, no matter how much of the ocean you boil, to discover the one right answer. There isn’t one. In fact, even after the fact, there is no way to determine that one’s strategy choice was ‘right,’ because there is no way to judge the relative quality of any path against all the paths not actually chosen. There are no double-blind experiments in strategy.” [Why Smart People Struggle with Strategy, Roger Martin, Harvard Business Review, 12th June 2014]

“To be a great strategist, we have to step back from the need to find a right answer and to get accolades for identifying it. The best strategists aren’t intimidated or paralyzed by uncertainty and ambiguity; they are creative enough to imagine possibilities that may or may not actually exist and are willing to try a course of action knowing full well that it will have to be tweaked or even overhauled entirely as events unfold . . . The essential qualities for this type of person are flexibility, imagination, and resilience. But there is no evidence that these qualities are correlated with pure intelligence. In fact . . . smart people tend to be more brittle. They need both to feel right and to have that correctness be validated by others. When either or both fail to occur, smart people become defensive and rigidly so.”

“. . . [S]trategy should not be a monoculture . . . Great strategy is aided by diversity of thought and attitude. It needs people who have experienced failure as well as success. It needs people who have a great imagination. It needs people who have built their resilience in the past. And most importantly, it needs people who respect one another for their range of qualities, something that is often going to be most difficult for the proverbial smartest person in the room.”

“All over the world, formal education systematically suppresses creative thinking and flexibility. National strategies to raise standards in education are making matters worse because they’re rooted in an old model of economic development and a narrow view of intelligence. For economic, cultural and political reasons, creativity should be promoted systematically at all levels of education, alongside literacy and numeracy. . . . Companies now face an unusual crisis in graduate recruitment. It’s not that there aren’t enough graduates to go around, it’s that too many of them can’t communicate, work in teams or think creatively.” [Jim Burke, Reimagining English: The seven personae of the future; English Journal 99.2 (2009), pp 12-15, The National Council of Teachers of English]

In the Philippines we’ve had calls for reform as far back if we’d care to remember? Yet sadly, where we are today, whether we count it as 116 years or 68 years since independence, we’ve been stuck in neutral? On the other hand, given our penchant for “kuro-kuro,” we offer loads of ideas and solutions. The reality is while everything starts in the mind and what man can think he can create, the success of the creation is no guarantee. For example, how many theses in business schools – or even economic development plans – ever saw the light of day?

Or how many times did we predict boom times for PHL economy? But if we’d dissect those predictions and unrealized development plans, could it be that the predictions lacked the requisite legs while the development plans would be too complex to execute – i.e., because of public response or lack thereof or politics, if not corruption?

Posing such questions could make us get defensive and/or claim that the world is more complicated than that? Indeed for a nation that has not developed R&D, for example, or manufacturing, the world is more complex than that? [“Practice makes perfect” is more than an adage. Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, a professor of Psychology at Florida State University, has been a pioneer in researching deliberate practice and what it means . . . The differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.” Wikipedia]

And would it boil down to our success model – or that of our cacique masters? In other words, we haven’t cultivated in our psyche a success model like Tatang Sy, for example, i.e., he is a Chinoy? And so we’d always infer that we as a people needed government to provide the crutch? Of course successive PHL administrations have failed but self-sufficiency starts with Juan de la Cruz?

“The question is why the Filipino people allow this to happen . . .?” [A failing state, Jose V. Romero Jr., PhD, The Manila Times, 12th June 2014]

 Can we think big and execute?

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