Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Willful blindness II

“At Brown University, Jonah Kagan had a clever idea of his own: Get his fellow students to name their three favorite courses, and use the results as a guide for people seeking great, unusual electives. Building the website was easy, but he could not persuade Brown to give him enrollment figures, which would have allowed him to control for differences in class size. So the survey died.” [Student-Built Apps Teach Colleges a Thing or Two, Ariel Kaminer, The New York Times, 27th Aug 2014]

“But this culture of innovation has accelerated debates about the flow of information on campus, and forced colleges to reckon with some unexpected results of the programming skills they are imparting . . . ‘Students are always more entrepreneurial and understand needs better than bureaucracies can,’ said Harry R. Lewis, the director of undergraduate studies for Harvard’s computer science department, ‘since bureaucracies tend to have messages they want to spin, and priorities they have to set, and students just want stuff that is useful. I know this well, since students were talking to me about moving the Harvard face books online seven years before Zuckerberg just went and did it without asking permission.’”

That is a most profound way to characterize where the gaps may stem from – i.e., that industry observed in graduates (critical thinking, communication and teamwork) of American universities against the demands of industry. Can we imagine how it is in PHL? Did we think that the answer to the gargantuan problems of Juan de la Cruz is President Aquino staying beyond his term? Is there a gap in that thinking or have we connected the dots, which Steve Jobs demonstrated is what creativity is?

“Nations, institutions, individuals can all be blinded by love, by the need to believe themselves good and worthy and valued. We simply could not function if we believed ourselves to be otherwise. But when we are blind to the flaws and failings of what we love, we aren’t effective either… We make ourselves powerless when we pretend we don’t know. That’s the paradox of blindness: We think it will make us safe even as it puts us in danger.” [The Psychology of Our Willful Blindness and Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, Maria Popova, Brain Pickings, 27th Aug 2014]

“And yet willful blindness . . . isn’t a fatal diagnosis of the human condition — it may be our natural, evolutionarily cultivated tendency, but it is within our capability to diffuse it with the right combination of intention and attention . . . The most crucial learning that has emerged from [cognitive] science is the recognition that we continue to change right up to the moment we die. Every experience and encounter, each piece of new learning, each relationship or reassessment alters how our minds work. And no two experiences are the same. In his work on the human genome, the Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner reminds us that even identical twins will have different experiences in different environments and that that makes them fundamentally different beings. Identical twins develop different immune systems. Mental practice alone can change how our brains operate. The plasticity and responsiveness of our minds is what makes each of us most remarkable… We aren’t automata serving the master computer in our heads, and our capacity for change can never be underestimated.”

“We make ourselves powerless when we choose not to know. But we give ourselves hope when we insist on looking. The very fact that willful blindness is willed, that it is a product of a rich mix of experience, knowledge, thinking, neurons, and neuroses, is what gives us the capacity to change it. Like Lear, we can learn to see better, not just because our brain changes but because we do. As all wisdom does, seeing starts with simple questions: What could I know, should I know, that I don’t know? Just what am I missing here?”

“OUR USUAL WAY OF LEADING people through problem solving is to follow a pattern of brainstorming, looking for evidence, calling in content experts, and dialoguing with other people in health care. Have you ever thought of solving problems by going to the zoo? That’s exactly what Heath and Heath (2009) suggest as a way of finding new answers. Their message to us is to stop looking for experts within our fields and find someone who has already solved the problem in a totally unrelated field.” [Karlene M. Kerfoot, Solving Leadership Problems by Going to the Zoo: The Pull of Diverse Experiences, On leadership, ANNA Update—September/October 2010-Vol. 40/No. 5, Nursing Economics; Karlene M. Kerfoot, PhD, RN, CNAA, FAAN is Vice President/Chief Clinical Officer, Aurora Health System, Milwaukee, WI]

“These authors relate the story of a group at Procter & Gamble who were stuck on a problem and went to the San Diego Zoo to examine their program of biomimicry, which tries to solve problems by imitating solutions found in nature. By the end of the day, they found eight new ideas they could have never imagined by only talking to themselves. It took a totally unrelated setting to break the stereotype thinking impeding their progress. These authors tell us we should look outside our field for patterns that could match our work. For example, patient safety learned from a visit to an airline company, high-reliability processes from a visit to an automobile plant, customer service from a visit to a veterinarian, and the list goes on. These authors note it is counterintuitive for us to look outside our fields when we have invested so much time in learning the specialty of our profession. And, unfortunately, we spend most of our time within the walls of our company or industry. However, being confronted with a diversity of thinking can break up the old models in our head and open new pathways to innovation.”

Translation: We’re ambivalent about FDIs given our professed nationalism yet because we value political patronage and rank oligarchy high in PHL society, foreigners own critical industries as power, telecommunications and media. Ergo: We can't be prosecutor, judge and jury in litigating the mess we created: from the Constitution to infrastructure – i.e., energy, roads and bridges and beyond – to industrialization to their outcomes of underdevelopment and poverty. And collectively they’re reflective of our way of life and culture that is reinforced by our institutions – i.e., family, church, education, public sector – characterized by political patronage and political dynasties – and the private sector that is skewed to oligopoly yet wanting in technology, innovation and global competitiveness. Talking among ourselves in the guise of aid to legislation, for example, will not bring the diverse thinking necessary to break up the old models in our head and open new pathways to a better PHL.

How bad is the prognosis on the enterprise that is PHL – call it economy or nation, if you will? Rizal saw it over a century ago: “Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow?” Before there was such a thing as cognitive science, Rizal already knew the perils of our cacique system and structure. Until our institutions get serious about what Rizal taught us, it will take a miracle before we turn this nation around. It will get worse before it gets better!

News item: Infra projects fail to attract institutional investors, Chino Leyco, Manila Bulletin, 28th Aug 2014. “‘Earlier, the World Bank Group said the Philippines needs to raise its infrastructure spending to 5 percent of its economy, or gross domestic product (GDP). Going forward, the Philippines can sustain high growth by accelerating structural reforms and increasing investments in infrastructure and in the health and education of the Filipino people,’ Karl Kendrick Chua, World Bank senior country economist for the Philippines said.”

“‘The country’s spending on roads, bridges, ports, airports, as well as machines and equipment has generally been declining since the 1970s, and is now well below that of its peers,’ the bank noted. ‘The Philippines spends 30-50 percent less in infrastructure, health and education compared to its fast-growing neighbors,’ the lender added.”

Op-Ed pieces: Agri, train officials bare-faced liars, Jarius Bondoc, GOTCHA, The Philippine Star, 29th Aug 2014.“Duplicity is a habit of high agriculture officials. Under probe . . . for P108-billion overprice in cargo handling of rice imports, their first instinct is to lie. Directly at question for the scam is National Food Authority ex-administrator Orlan Calayag . . . Calayag’s very entry to the NFA was by his and Alcala’s deceit. A one-time congressional aide of Alcala, Calayag had migrated to the US in 2006, where he acquired citizenship and worked odd jobs befitting his low skills.”

And: 30 pieces to sell out PNoy, Cito Beltran, CTALK, The Philippine Star, 29th Aug 2014. “Unless you belong to the rich upper class, have many friends in media, die or suffer an exceptionally brutal death . . . you stand a better chance of getting answered prayers from GOD than answers from PNoy and his government. This is what our peace and order as well as justice system has become.”

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