Sunday, October 5, 2014

“Commitment, challenge and control”

Or how PHL can become competitive. They are the “characteristics, or the 3 Cs, of a hardy mindset” and are in quotation marks to acknowledge the source, Robert Brooks of Harvard University (faculty of Harvard Medical School; he has served as Director of the Department of Psychology at McLean Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital.) They are from notes I took at the “One-Day University” my wife and I attended recently, in Manhattan (while last year we joined the one at Tanglewood, Massachusetts.) Dr. Brooks talked about the power of mindsets (not PHL competitiveness), an area of interest that I acquired from my private-sector experience and a hands-down choice from the menu of lectures available to us.

More from my notes: Commitment. To be involved with others and to experience a sense of purpose and meaning; how ordinary people are able to do extraordinary things. Challenge. To appreciate that change rather than stability is the norm; new or difficult situations are perceived as opportunities for learning; the importance of thinking outside the box.Control. Focus on situations where we have influence over not where we have little if any control; you have control only over yourself, you must be the one to change. Develop a problem-solving attitude; why are you unable to succeed in your efforts?

How do the above relate to PHL competitiveness? Or more to the point, why is PHL not competitive?

News items: Exporters seek increased gov’t support to attract more foreign clients, Bjorn Biel M. Beltran, Business World, 26th Sept 2014. “The Export Development Council (EDC) has set an export goal of $100 billion for 2016 . . . Filipino exporters are unable to participate in international trade fairs, disallowing them from attracting new clients, PhilExport President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr. told reporters at the sidelines of a press briefing for the Philippine Business Conference. Filipino exporters cannot afford to go to international trade fairs, like the upcoming one to be held in Milan, Italy in October, to promote their products, he said.”

And: Business to Aquino: Focus on infra deliverables, Bernie Magkilat, Manila Bulletin, 28th Sept 2014. Businessmen have asked the Aquino administration to focus on infrastructure deliverables for its remaining two years in office and not to be distracted by political wrangling stressing it has no more time to dilly-dally.”

“‘The Aquino administration has only two more years left so we are looking forward for government to deliver the hard and soft infrastructure by focusing on the deliverables. It should not be sidetracked by politics, the Priority Development Assistance Fund, the Disbursement Acceleration Program and the elections coming in 2016,’ said George T. Barcelon, chairman of the 40th Philippine Business Conference slated on October 22-24 this year.”

“PCCI ANNUAL CONFERENCE – The Philippine Business Conference provides the forum for the government and the business community to pursue strategic actions that sustain economic growth characterized by expanded competitive opportunities and dispersed benefits to more people. Through this year’s PBC, businessmen have pinned their hopes that government will take heed to put more attention on the pressing issue of infrastructure to improve competitiveness of the country’s domestic industries.”

“‘In particular, the small and medium enterprises which comprised the majority of PCCI would like government to focus its efforts on addressing infrastructure issues on logistics, labor and power . . . But these have been ignored, the government denied the impending power crisis,’ Ortiz-Luis lamented . . . PCCI energy committee chairman Jose Alejandro also noted that PCCI in 2012 had pushed for the creation of a country’s power roadmap. ‘Finally, we have now a roadmap but nobody is in charge,’ Alejandro said. In 2010, he said, Mindanao suffered a power crisis. Today, the crisis is affecting Luzon. ‘At least this time, we are getting the full attention of the entire country,’ he said sarcastically.”

“After the seaport congestion, Barcelon also warned that it will soon be the airport congestion. This has not been properly highlighted but we have only one runway at the NAIA and it is already congested. We should have addressed this long time ago,” he said.

“‘PCCI vice-president Donald Dee said that whether the second international gateway is Clark or Cavite or wherever, government should have an implementation plan now. We want implementing plans for port, logistics and power,’ Dee urged. Finally, Dee pointed that government has to address education stressing that the K to 12 program does not have a thorough planning. ‘We don’t even know how to implement it,’ he said.”

Is either the government or the private sector measuring up to the characteristics, or the 3 Cs, of a hardy mindset – commitment, challenge and control? Should we be surprised why PHL isn’t competitive? For example, exporters have no control over government but they have control over themselves; why are they looking at government when they should first be looking at and even changing themselves? If they believe they could not afford to participate in international trade fairs, then they have a problem-solving challenge. They should ask themselves the question “why”?

If – and that’s probably the big if – we as a people and nation are committed to democracy and free enterprise, then it follows that there is no free lunch? And enterprises would have as a vision to attain sustainable profitable growth? But is our sheltered upbringing getting in the way and thus our assumption that even entrepreneurs need Big Brother? What is an enterprise? That it has products and/or services that will compete in the free market. The operative word being compete. To be an entrepreneur is not a right, it is a challenge and a responsibility!

On the other hand, government has the challenge and responsibility to pursue good governance. It is not about alms-giving. It is to provide a level playing field by erecting the platform for economic growth and development, not indulge in political patronage and crony capitalism. That is what it means to be inclusive! In short, government must be committed and respond to the challenge and take control of the imperatives of democracy and free enterprise!

But do we think we're incapable of change? As recently as 20 years ago, neuroplasticity “replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and that the brain changes throughout life.” And do we believe our culture would explain our static way of life? The brain has many parts that represent different body parts yet even these maps change depending on the demands on the brain. And thus in a period of 3-4 months, following rigorous training, for example, humans are able to attain a higher level of skill because of the brain's capacity to expand. Those are also from my notes, from another lecture at the “One-Day University” and also an area of personal interest, maximizing our cognitive powers, courtesy of Professor Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University, a world leader in the fields of cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychiatry.

And why this blog often talks about my Eastern European friends. Very recently, my wife invited a couple of them who were visiting New York from Bulgaria to the house, and the young lady who we first met 11 years ago with the owner of the company, then in his 30s, related how they had to draw up an organization chart for the first time because I asked for it before the meeting. “We were a very small company and the few of us had to share everything that had to be done, we had no clue that we needed an organization chart.”

Earlier in the day, the Bulgarian president who was in town for the UN General Assembly meeting had visited our New York office, being the Bulgarian company that they're proud about as a representation of Bulgarian global competitiveness. If it isn't obvious, behind this once very small company just 11 years ago are people born and raised as socialists, and how much they had to turn their brains upside down?

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