Thursday, October 30, 2014

Let’s get real

That’s probably what Pope Francis was saying to the cardinals: “God is not afraid of new things.” Of course, we Pinoys would lean to the conservatives? But we know the adage, “necessity is the mother of invention.” And it holds true in the 21st century – i.e., what people generally label as innovation is the outcome of problem-solving. For example, Steve Jobs was figuring out how to develop a gadget that would hold more songs than a Walkman: why a hundred songs, why not a thousand songs? And came the iPod.

Recall the Bible story when Christ said it was okay to work on the Sabbath? Wasn’t he into problem-solving? Not surprisingly, Pope Francis told the cardinals, “God is not afraid of new things.” Disclosure: over the last 11 years I've been training my Eastern European friends in product-development modeling and product innovation beyond developing new markets and aggressively growing the company. I could have used the word innovation a few times but my focus has been on problem-solving. And that’s not different from the focus of this blog: to consistently talk about problem-solving. And the Harvard Business Review has this to say: Successful innovators care about solving interesting and important problems — innovation is merely a byproduct.” [Successful Innovators Don’t Care About Innovating, Doug Sundheim, Harvard Business Review, 22nd Oct 2014]

A synod is beyond our league but what PHL has faced for decades is something we ought to figure out? But we would instinctively indulge in ‘Pinoy abilidad’ while taking problem-solving for granted? It was something that I also noticed when I first arrived in Eastern Europe. And as I explained to them then, if there was something to learn from the developed world, it is that problem-solving is inherent in their way of life.

We can grant that even in the West, there’s more than enough incoherence to go around: The Obama administration if not the US in general has been fumbling. And so is the EU, with the “French and Italian economies considered being too big to fail and too big to bail out.” But having lived and worked in different continents, I would guess that while none is perfect, somehow they would want to chip away at these challenges. For example, even Greece, despite its near-death experience or economic collapse, appears to be climbing out of the abyss.

But let’s get back to PHL. “[There is the] frequent incidence of conflict between national policies and the authority asserted by local governments, and the lack of a definitive arbiter to settle such inconsistencies when they arise. Name the issue—port congestion, streets that get flooded at the slightest downpour, lousy international airport terminal facilities and services, breakdown-prone mass transit systems, and so on—lack of coordination among government entities invariably lies behind them.” [CSW, coordination and coherence, Cielito F. HabitoNo Free LunchPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 21st Oct 2014]

“The central bank earlier this month reported that the FDI—or investments placed by global investors in the Philippines with long-term prospects—breached the $4-billion mark to hit $4.008 billion in the first seven months of the year . . . While the deputy governor admitted that the amount of FDI remains comparatively small compared to counterparts in the region, [he] remained confident of bigger FDI inflows in the years ahead.” [BSP exec sees stronger FDI flow if investors look at fundamentals, Bianca Cuaresma, Business Mirror, 17th Oct 2014]

Of course, that is what we call “the glass is half full” – inherent in our faith and culture? But what does the science say about the “hardy mindset” that is common to successful endeavors? “To believe that if something is not working or is ineffective in our personal and professional lives we must ask, ‘What is it that I can do differently to change the situation?’ rather than wait for others to change first.” [Robert Brooks, faculty of Harvard Medical School.] Will we ever buy into the idea that it is us that must do the change rather than wait for others?

“By year-end, Philippine companies would take as long as a record four years to repay debt using operating earnings . . . By comparison, the figure is one year or less for Indonesian businesses, and about two years for Malaysian ones. Philippine corporate exposure to foreign debt climbed to 26 percent of total debt last year, from 15 percent in 2011 . . . citing a study of 100 Southeast Asian firms.” [PHL business ‘vulnerable,’ Bloomberg News, Business Mirror, 17th Oct 2014]

Juan de la Cruz can’t do anything about that given our hierarchical system and structure. In other words, if change has to occur, it has to come from our cacique masters? But that is anathema where ‘rank has its privileges’? “Debt held by the 17 Philippine companies included in the study nearly trebled to $40.7 billion in the first quarter of this year from end-2008, S&P estimated . . . San Miguel, the biggest Philippine company, saw its debt surge more than fivefold to P631.9 billion ($14 billion) in the second quarter from end-2008 . . . according to data compiled by Bloomberg.” [ibid.]

Not surprisingly, “Back in November of 2010, President BS Aquino 3rd made a comment in connection with one of the first of his many fool-headed administrative decisions to which, in hindsight, we all should have paid closer attention. In explaining his arbitrary cancellation of the planned Laguna Lake flood control project Aquino declared that, ‘Even a Grade 5 student will easily see that this project is illogical.’ ” [A fifth-grader’s approach to management,, The Manila Times, 17th Oct 2014]

“While most of the public at the time simply thought he was trying (and failing) to demonstrate that he had a sense of humor, what we didn’t realize is that the statement was actually a formal articulation of the Aquino Administration’s policy approach: Management issues would be addressed at the level of complexity and in the same terms as a fifth-grader. Anyone who has had a fifth-grader in the house knows exactly what I’m talking about. Kids that age have only three answers for everything: ‘This is stupid,’ ‘This is too hard,’ and ‘It wasn’t me.’”

And as night follows day: “Despite some progress, the report noted that corruption remains endemic and recent concerns about presidential overreach in by-passing Congress, disputes over fiscal powers, judicial independence, and selective justice have all had an impact.” [PH global competitiveness ‘most improved’ – UKTI, Edu Lopez, Manila Bulletin, 21st Oct 2014]

“Infrastructure is rightly flagged as a weak point in the WEF rankings – at 91st, it is the pillar on which the Philippines ranks lowest in the index. Huge under-capacity in transport infrastructure has made Manila’s traffic jams notorious and the current government, like most of those before, has not taken the necessary action.”

And the incoherence marches on: An American electronics manufacturing company has shut down its Philippine operation while a Cebu-based furniture maker has moved out to Indonesia following hemorrhaging losses due to the prolonged port congestion. Philexport president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. revealed . . .” [Port congestion forces 2 export companies to shut down operations, Bernie Magkilat, Manila Bulletin, 21st Oct 2014]

“The port congestion has cost up to $1 million a day for an electronics firm that had to shut down,” said Ortiz-Luis, who refused to identify the company. Another Philexport official also revealed that a Cebu-based furniture manufacturer for the export market has relocated its operations to Indonesia.”

Is there someone minding the store? “THE PHILIPPINE ECONOMY is without doubt losing steam . . . Growth targets unchanged: Are government economic managers in denial (?),” Benjamin E. Diokno, Core, Business World, 21st Oct 2014.

Will Juan de la Cruz ever get real? It's not about ‘Pinoy abilidad,’ it's about problem-solving. A very close family friend, a student of theology, shared the lecture of a Filipino theologian, Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, C.M. of St. Vincent School of Theology, Adamson University. “These three questions are crucial: (1) What is our situation; (2) What does God tell us about our situation; and (3) What do we need to do to transform our situation?”

“What does this mean for theology? Let me mention two concrete repercussions: (a) the theological reflexivity; and (a) the role of praxis in theological method . . . I would like to argue that the voices, sentiments, reflections and praxis from the rough grounds are necessary to develop, change, modify or subvert the way we have formulated our doctrines, dogmas and beliefs. This is not a new thing. The Church has always recognized the sensus fidelium. But when a doctrine is challenged by voices from the ground, the Magisterium and theologians alike close their doors and say, the Church is not "a democracy" or doctrine is not about statistics, etc.”

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