Monday, June 30, 2014

“Where is the grand design?”

“Show me the product . . . Show me the ingenuity.” Tough questions . . . that were hurled at Tim Cook: “Tim Cook, Making Apple His Own,” Matt Richtel and Brian X. Chen, The New York Times, 15th June 2014. And they apply to major undertakings, be it an enterprise or an economy or a nation? In the case of PHL, how many times did we say we had the grand design for our economic development? And we even would proudly claim ingenuity? But “Show me the product” – it is beyond a 7% GDP growth, it has to be sustainable over many years, i.e., it will take us at least a generation to attain developed economy status? But where is the product or products? Where is the grand design?

There won’t be? Read Philippines instead of Ukraine and there is the answer: “Corruption in Ukraine did not begin with Mr. Yanukovych—nor will it end with him. Weak institutions, low morale, and an underdeveloped sense of public service have made everyone from judges to traffic police liable to corruption over Ukraine’s entire post-Soviet history. Murky privatization . . . in the mid-1990s created a class of oligarchs who came to exercise outsized influence on politics and business.” [The curse of corruption in Ukraine, The Economist, 14th June 2014]

Why haven’t we developed R&D or ST&I (Science, Technology and Innovation), for example? Who needs them when we abdicate and cede the playing field to oligarchy and our cacique masters? “The fact that there is nobody in the Philippines who regulates urban planning has been great for Ayala Land because we are probably the only company there that has the scale financially to take on large plots of land . . . By developing big tracts of land, we become the government; we control and manage everything. We are the mayors and the governors of the communities that we develop and we do not relinquish this responsibility to the government.” [Ayala rules, Jojo Robles, Manila Standard Today, 13th June 2014]

Why can’t we be a free market or eliminate the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution? Because we won’t develop the 21st century culture if we remain beholden to and proud of our archaic model, as in “Ayala rules”? One of the values of things I learned absolutely directly from Steve was the whole issue of focus. What are we focusing on: focus on product. I wish I could do a better job in communicating this truth here, which is when you really are focused on the product, that’s not a platitude. When that truly is your reason for coming into the studio, is just to try to make the very best product you can, when that is exclusive of everything else, it’s remarkable how insignificant or unimportant a lot of other stuff becomes. Titles or organizational structures, that’s not the lens through which we see our peers.” [Jonathan Ive on Apple’s Design Process and Product Philosophy, Brian X. Chen and Matt Richtel, The New York Times, 16th June 2014]

“Fifty years ago there was a revolution in psychology which changed the way we think about the mind. The ‘cognitive revolution’ inspired psychologists to start thinking of the mind as a kind of organic computer, rather than as an impenetrable black box which would never be understood. This metaphor has motivated psychologists to investigate the software central to our everyday functioning, opening the way to insights into how we think, reason, learn, remember and produce language.”How Thinking Works: 10 Brilliant Cognitive Psychology Studies Everyone Should Know, PsyBlog, 27th Jan 2014]

“Without experts the human race would be sunk. But what is it about how experts think which lets them achieve breakthroughs which we can all enjoy? The answer is in how experts think about problems, compared with novices. That’s what Chi et al. (1981) found when they compared how experts and novices represented physics problems. Novices tended to get stuck thinking about the surface details of the problem whereas experts saw the underlying principles that were operating.”

“There are no rules only principles,” I reminded the young marketing manager that my Eastern European friends assigned to North America. And we were in Montreal and had meetings with our partners and the advertising agency and visited countless stores. The fellow is a quant [and was the brand manager of and played a major role in growing the company’s biggest brand; and negotiated media deals in different countries] and as a student he represented their country twice in the math world competition. And he continues to be a “card-bearing communist” – he keeps the ID he had as a kid and I would tell him John Paul II must also have had his as a young boy. I was explaining the principle of partnership – and its inherent character, transparency – referencing our Canadian representatives, to respond to the question he posed: “Should they know how much we’re investing in developing this market?” Born and raised under Communist rule, it wasn't a surprise where he was coming from.

And in the Philippines are we: (a) “stuck thinking about the surface details of . . . problems [instead of] . . . the underlying principles that [are] operating” and (b) do we carry the instincts of distrust given our culture of impunity and political patronage? And they have undermined our efforts to move the country forward? And so we have all the right to ask, if indeed we have a grand design for PHL, “Where is it?”

“We like to think we're rational human beings. In fact, we are prone to hundreds of proven biases that cause us to think and act irrationally, and even thinking we're rational despite evidence of irrationality in others is known as blind spot bias.” [58 Cognitive biases that screw up everything we do, Drake Baer and Gus Lubin, Business Insider, 18th June 2014]

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