Thursday, September 11, 2014

It's about problem-solving and connecting the dots

Not prescribing solutions? We finally realized we need the next Mark Zuckerberg that we launched a contest to find him or her? But are we missing something? It is like the pursuit of quality or efficiency or productivity or profitability and even success, it has to be built into the DNA of the system or undertaking. In other words, in order to reap the fruit that we aspire requires more than an activity like a contest. It needs more than a tactic. It needs an ecosystem which by definition does not spring out of a vacuum. Even more, the design of an ecosystem demands an overarching element like a vision or an end goal. And we won't be able to connect those dots if we focus on prescribing solutions instead of engaging in problem-solving?

If we look back in time, one of the biggest challenges we'd faced was freeing ourselves from the Spaniards and that took more than 300 hundred years. Many revolts were led by different individuals that today we honor as our heroes. And the debate if Bonifacio or Rizal ought to be the national hero seems evergreen? For example, Bonifacio took up arms and was identified for his courage as a warrior and fighting with the “common tao”. And Rizal was the intellectual and took his pen instead and was identified with the learned. Was Rizal already focused on crafting the ecosystem for PHL? “Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow?”

Similar to the Vatican culture, Rizal saw how a hierarchical system and structure would undermine efforts to free us from tyranny. And over the course of a century we proved him right – consistently, several times over?

Like any major undertaking, we need both tactical and strategic components. For example, Pope Francis wanted to care for the least of our brethren and to get there he needed to build quality, efficiency, productivity, profitability and success into the Vatican ecosystem. And that meant getting rid of the leadership of the Vatican Bank as well as reconstituting the Curia – and in both cases he wanted openness and transparency as well as diversity. He understood how an inward- and backward-looking culture would not generate forward and progressive thinking that will sustain the Vatican's ability to care for the needy.

We have a similar challenge in PHL, how do we sustain a continually growing economy that will generate First-World, not Third-World, economic output? Many of us are scandalized by the harshness of Francis in breaking the tradition of the Vatican because we measure the world against our beliefs and values, i.e., our proud culture especially the respect for tradition? That is no different from the reaction of the old guard and why the rumors of the pope retiring like Benedict and even worse, the speculation that he could be poisoned.

In the meantime we continue to look for solutions to our challenges forgetting that we are prescribing tactical initiatives yet glossing over the strategic component? But we may not in fact have the means to address that imperative simply because we don't have a track record in nation-building? Nation-building demands far more than we've demonstrated over the last century?

In the case of the Vatican, Francis realized that it was not up to the task and so he tapped experts in various fields – not just cardinals and theologians – to get the Vatican ecosystem in proper order. And not surprisingly, the private sector would see Francis as an exceptional manager and CEO. But Pope Francis didn't even prescribe a solution: he defined the problem to a group of experts against an overarching end goal.

In PHL our overarching goal is to be a developed, First-World economy. And we need more than a well-oiled “Vatican Bank,” we need a well-oiled economy. But just like the Vatican that needs a forward- and progressive-thinking Curia, PHL needs forward- and progressive-thinking institutions – the family, church, education, public and private sectors. And a well-oiled economy needs a solid platform, i.e., basic infrastructure and a strategic and competitive industrial base, for example. Of course we need the next Mark Zuckerberg too, but that comes not from a hierarchical system and structure but from one that is egalitarian in character. And that is why in the West industry wants the educational system fixed, because its graduates lack the basics of critical thinking, communication, and teamwork.

If President Aquino is no Pope Francis, is Binay it or Roxas? The bishops want to lead a transformation effort and hopefully like Francis they’re not looking at manna from heaven? What we need is to restructure our institutions – and it starts in the mind [with the innocence of a child, so says the Bible; or in secular lingo, to unfreeze our mind of our biases, if we are serious about reform] that must then come down to the heart and into the gut, and become a habit. Contrast that to a culture of impunity and a nation so corrupt – because of the values of political patronage and paternalism that come hand in glove with oligarchy and tyranny?

Even the next Mark Zuckerberg can’t fix that? What about Binay burnishing his reputation and springing the Pangilinan trial balloon as his running mate? But does the latter represent questions raised by various quarters re our incongruous if not messed up psyche, i.e., political patronage and foreign interest that we said we abhor even if it meant preserving and protecting our cacique masters? Is Binay resorting to Pinoy abilidad, but spelling no end goal or vision for PHL? Is Indonesia, for example, no longer fertile ground for political patronage, but PHL is? What about connecting the dots? And so the trial balloon fizzled as quickly?

Here's a bit of good news. Philippine competitiveness gains further, Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag, Business World, 3rd Sept 2014: “THE PHILIPPINES has continued its advance in competitiveness in the latest annual report of the World Economic Forum, riding on the impact of reforms that have enabled the country to make the biggest gains among economies tracked since 2010. The country ranked 52nd out of 144 economies this year -- up from 59th out of 148 in the previous survey -- in the Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015, which assessed markets against 12 ‘pillars of competitiveness’ that drive productivity.”

“In Southeast Asia, the Philippines ranked behind Singapore, Malaysia (20th), Thailand (31st), and Indonesia (34th). Behind the Philippines were Vietnam (68th), Laos (93rd), Cambodia (95th), and Myanmar (134th. . . The Philippines, however, still lagged behind in terms of infrastructure at 91st, albeit an improvement from last year’s 96th. This is especially true in terms of airports and seaports in which the country placed 108th and 101st, respectively. Similarly, the country placed a ‘mediocre’ 91st in terms of labor market efficiency, with the Forum noting that ‘almost no progress has been made since 2010. Lastly, security in the Philippines was still a cause for concern (89th), particularly in terms of costs that the threat of terrorism imposes on businesses (110th).’”

The mirror that the rest of the world put in front of us confirmed that we can’t celebrate yet: “[The] FDI (foreign direct investment) Regulatory Restrictiveness Index show[ed] the Philippines . . . as the most restrictive among 64 developed and developing countries. The index measures restrictiveness of FDI rules across 22 sectors, including agriculture, mining, electricity, manufacturing, as well as ‘main services’ like transport, construction, distribution, communications, real estate, financial and professional services.” [Philippines found among most restrictive, Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag, Business World, 4th Sept 2014]

Question: When will Juan de la Cruz ever open his eyes to the power of investment?

Still, it's not about prescribing solutions but engaging in problem-solving and connecting the dots – and not just among experts but a diverse group, those that have solved complex problems in other and entirely different milieus, are open and transparent, and no qualms about rank and privilege nor beholden to our parochial values and hierarchical cacique system and structure . . . And it’s beyond looking backward and inward and, that is, looking forward and outward?

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