Sunday, June 28, 2015

“Fundamental and unpredictable changes”

“At a time when four powerful forces are disrupting the global economy, upending most of our assumptions, such pronouncements on the future, shaped by intuitions based on the past, are even more likely to be wrong. Each of these four ‘great disruptions’ is transformational on its own, and all are amplifying the effects of the others, producing fundamental and unpredictable changes on a scale the world has never seen -- and that will prove our intuitions wrong.” [The four powerful forces are: (a) the shift of economic activity to emerging-market cities; (b) the acceleration of technological change; © demographic; (d) the world’s increasing interconnectedness, with goods, capital, people and information flowing ever more easily across borders; Managing the age of disruption, Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel, are directors of the McKinsey Global Institute, Project Syndicate, Business World, 18th Jun 2015]

Sadly, we Pinoys are stuck in our own little world? “Hijacked justice; delayed justice; selective justice (the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program) and ignored justice (SAF44 and Malampaya) are inimical to our national interest. Reversing this shattering condition calls for a long-term makeover of the system.” [A shattered justice system, Rafael M. Alunan III, To Take A Stand, Business World, 22nd Jun 2015]

“We need to break free if we are to survive in the long run. Reflating patriotic fervor, regaining our ethical and moral moorings; and restoring meritocracy are prescribed solutions to end the battering. We must instill a culture of doing the right things and doing things the right way to bring our ship of state headed in the right direction at full speed.”

“Remember that Salim acquired PLDT in 1998 for $749 million, while Meralco was captured – as these series will explain – with the Indonesian bringing very little new capital into the country . . . So much for the argument that foreign investments bring in much needed funds to a capital-deficit country. In the case of Salim’s operations, it has resulted in capital outflow – $2.7 billion in 14 years or $200 million yearly, or nearly fourth of the average foreign equity inflow over the same period.” [The Indonesian billionaires behind the ‘MVP Group’: UNMASKING AN EMPIRE, RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO, The Manila Times, 2nd Jun 2015; First of a series]

“And as this series will also explain, Salim’s companies have always used local borrowings for much of its operations and acquisitions, even managing to borrow billions of pesos from government banks such as the Development of the Philippines and the Land Bank.”

We’re neither here nor there? How can a foreign interest be able to walk in like that, if not walk all over us? Yet we lag the region in FDIs! See above re “the world’s increasing interconnectedness, with goods, capital, people and information flowing ever more easily across borders.” But are we still hedging on the imperatives of FDI? Salim may not define its positives for us but that doesn’t change the reality that Lee Kuan Yew, Mahathir Mohamad and Deng Xiaoping were more prescient that we are! How much more do we expect to sink in the abyss of parochialism?

“The proposal to amend the Constitution—despite enjoying the support of the business community and was among the main legislative agenda of the previous administrations—has been rejected repeatedly by no other than President Aquino. The 1987 Constitution was ratified during the term of his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.” [Another administration, another failure for economic Cha-cha ‘choreographers,’ Catherine N. Pillas & Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz, Business Mirror, 22nd Jun 2015]

“President Aquino asserts that investments are coming in despite existing restrictions limiting ownership by foreign investors in certain sectors. The President also announced his stance against Charter change (Cha-cha) until 2016, saying Congress is wasting time on it . . . Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma Jr. said he has yet to see a signal that the President had relented on his firm belief that there is no need to amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

“Besides Mr. Aquino, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is also opposing the proposal changing the so-called highest law of the land. CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the proposed amendments should first undergo in-depth analysis.”

“Also, according to the survey by Pulse Asia, about three of five Filipinos do not want the 1987 Constitution amended at this time, though nearly half of them are open to having it amended sometime in the future.”

If we Pinoys think that we can be an island unto ourselves and at the same time fight poverty and have an inclusive economy, aren’t we in fact turning back the hands of time to a different world, even more primitive than that of our ancestors?

“Trade between China and the Philippines probably started centuries before the advent of the Sung Dynasty. The "A Collection of Data in Chinese Classical Books Regarding the Philippines" was published by the Institute of Southeast Asian History of Zhongsan (Sun Yat Sen) University, Guangzhou (1900). It states: “During the T’ang (Thang) dynasty China (in the 7th to the 9th century AD) the two peoples of China and the Philippines already had relatively close relations and material as well as cultural exchanges.

“During the Sung (960-1127 AD), Arab traders brought Philippine goods to southwestern China through the port of Canton. Chinese posts were established in coastal towns of the Philippines with the import of Chinese goods. The trade culminated when Chao Ju-Kua wrote of the barter trade between the Chinese and the natives of Mayi (Mindoro). The Chinese exchanged silk, porcelain, colored glass, beads and iron ware for hemp cloth, tortoise shells, pearls and yellow wax of the Filipinos.” []

And being anachronistic by definition puts us on the wrong side of the rule of law? “In the month in which we celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, it is perhaps timely to reflect upon some of the fundamental legal principles that the UK, the Philippines, the United States and many other countries around the world share.” [Why agreements must be kept, Iain Mansfield, Business World, 23rd Jun 2015; he is the director of trade and investment at the British Embassy]

“One of the most important of these is the avoidance of retroactivity. While any government has the right to pass what laws it chooses to, it should not make these laws apply retrospectively. The government may, if it so wishes, pass a law that imposes a tax on me for wearing a purple hat, or for riding on a jeepney, but it is deeply unfair to make that law apply retrospectively and thence to demand 10 years of back taxes. In the Philippines, this fundamental principle is enshrined in the Constitution, where Article III, Section 22 specifically states: ‘No ex post facto law or bill of attainder shall be enacted.’”

“Related to this principle is the equally important maxim of Pacta Sunt Servanda, or ‘agreements must be kept.’ Quite simply, two parties should be free to enter into a binding contract with one another and that this contract will then be as law between them. Once entered into in good faith, such an agreement must be kept.”

Why are we all over the place – “sabog”? This blog has discussed the imperative of developing a sense of purpose as a nation. Can the Church help us to define who we are? We like to invoke Francis who he is so far out in front in governance, being the number one critic of the Curia. Yet recognizes a higher purpose and a higher being?

But we Pinoys have always confused faith and governance? Because of our hierarchical system and structure? Not surprisingly, we lag in innovation and competitiveness when we must be equipping ourselves to thrive in the 21st century – where “fundamental and unpredictable changes” are the constant? Sadly, without a sense of purpose, we will always have vested interests and the elite class pulling us in different directions – “super sabog”?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Reality, Reality, Reality

“THE PHILIPPINES slipped for the second time in a row in the latest Fragile States Index that ranks countries on levels of instability and the pressures they face, as its performance worsened in more than half of a dozen measures.” [Annual ranking finds Philippines more ‘fragile’ second year in a row, D. E. D. Saclag, Business World, 19th Jun 2015]

Unfortunately, we have gotten so used to such bad news that we simply laugh them off invoking “Pinoy resiliency”? Or is it fatalism?

“‘It is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown,’ wrote pioneering polar explorer Ernest Shackleton in reflecting on the feat that nearly took his life, adding: ‘The only true failure would be not to explore at all.’ This vitalizing power of exploration applies as much to the exterior world we inhabit as it does to the interior. Upon turning eighty and looking back on his extraordinary life, Henry Miller observed: ‘Perhaps it is curiosity — about anything and everything — that made me the writer I am. It has never left me.’ And yet in the century since Shackleton and the decades since Miller, despite the proliferation of access to knowledge, we seem to have lost our appetite for this singular human faculty that propels us forward. We’ve lulled ourselves into a kind of complacency, where too often we’d rather be right than uncertain or — worse yet — wrong, forgetting that useful ignorance,’ to borrow Thoreau’s beautiful term, is precisely what helps us transcend the limits of our knowledge and stretch our ability.

“That vital force of self-transcendence is what Arts University Bournemouth student and self-taught animator Georgina Venning explores in her immeasurably delightful stop-motion animation of an excerpt from Ian Leslie’s RSA talk, based on his book Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It.” [A Stop-Motion Love Letter to the Power of CuriosityMaria Popova, Brain Pickings, 17th Jun 2015; The mission of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is to enrich society through ideas and action.]

Are we a curious people? “It takes shedding the common inward-looking, defensive posture of many of our firms, in favor of an aggressive outward-looking one, to realize that many of us are creating ghosts where we could otherwise be finding ‘gold mines.’” [Doing business beyond borders, Cielito F. Habito, No Free Lunch, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 23rd Jun 2015]

“Other ideologies bend but rarely break. A libertarian nominated by a major party is more likely to break than bend. The good news is that if Paul were to win the Republican nomination, libertarianism’s unfitness for the modern world would be revealed for all to see. The bad news is that the poison of its extremism would enter into the body politic, perhaps never to be fully ejected.” [What do libertarians and Stalin have in common? Plenty, Alan Wolfe, REUTERS, Business World, 21st Jun 2015; he is a professor of political science at Boston College and also director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life]

“You see, I study traditional culture. More specifically, I study the ways in which today’s culture manufactures and reinforces traditions through mass media. Folklorists have a unique disciplinary perspective for this sort of analysis because there was this period of time when the field was mired in ‘romantic nationalism.’ The ‘true character’ of a people was said to be rooted in the culture of the volk and was glorified and incorporated into more modern political movements. Like Nazism. So folklorists have a keen interest in serving as the sort-of keepers of cultural authenticity, if you will. If anyone should be highlighting the ways in which ‘traditions’ are being manufactured, distorted, and consumed, it is us… me.” [Yes, you’re a racist… and a traitor, John E. Price: In the immortal words of Jean-Paul Sartre, “Au revoir, gopher,”, 19th Jun 2015]

Extremism can be a slippery slope. And not surprisingly, Francis would ask, “Who are we to judge”? “The leader of a rightwing group that Dylann Roof allegedly credits with helping to radicalize him against black people before the Charleston church massacre has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans such as presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum.

“Earl Holt has given $65,000 to Republican campaign funds in recent years while inflammatory remarks – including that black people were ‘the laziest, stupidest and most criminally-inclined race in the history of the world’ – were posted online in his name.” [Leader of group cited in 'Dylann Roof manifesto' donated to top Republicans, Jon Swaine, The Guardian, 22nd Jun 2015]

“With technology, classroom teachers will be unnecessary and even obsolete. Teachers even impede learning because they spoon-feed students, promote rote learning, and teach to test. You don’t actually need to know anything, you can find out at the point when you need to know it. It’s the teacher’s job to point young minds toward the right kind of question. A teacher doesn’t need to give any answers because answers are everywhere.

“Students will learn from each other using resources and mentoring, not necessarily in the same room but even from far away. [It is called] Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE). Children need to be taught to think and study for themselves. It’s quite fashionable to say that the education system’s broken—it’s not broken, it’s wonderfully constructed. It’s just that we don’t need it anymore. It’s outdated. We need to look at learning as the product of educational self-organization. It’s not about making learning happen; it’s about letting it happen.” [The future of learning, Moje Ramos-Aquino, Fpm, The Manila Times, 19th Jun 2015]

The opposite of extremism is curiosity? “Against conventional wisdom . . . Constant learning and adaptation . . . Bold experimentation . . . Iterative customer involvement . . . Excellence in execution . . . Beyond fashion . . . Simplicity in design and use.” In other words, “Think Different” . . . [Design thinking and innovation at Apple, Stefan Thomke and Barbara Feinberg, Harvard Business School, 4th Mar 2010]

“Curiosity is a muscle — use it or lose it. It’s something that we consciously have to nurture in ourselves, in our families, in classrooms, at work.” [Popova, op. cit.]

“Sometimes I hear that curiosity and creativity are killed by too many facts — but, actually, the opposite is true: The more you know, the more you want to know. Not only that, but the more you know, the more connections you can make between the different bits of knowledge that you have in your head and therefore the more ideas you have, which is why curiosity is really the wellspring of creativity.

“Technology is replacing routine work — and that’s what technology replaces first and has done throughout history. So intellectually curious people — people who are capable of learning throughout their career, of asking questions (good questions), of adapting and collaborating with others from different disciplines; people who are capable of really thriving in this world of non-routine work, in other words — are the people who are going to do better.”

Where are we? “Business will operate in an increasingly unpredictable environment where we will see the rise of the ‘emerging,’ the development of the ‘underdeveloped,’ and the retreating of the ‘developed.’ In this disruptive landscape, there is no tempo, no even rhythm, no predictable ending in organizational stories.

“Such developments will trigger massive shifts in mind-sets. Those who have invested in capability will now have to invest in imagination; move from an independent economy to a collaborative economy; from evolving to continuously disrupting. The expanded opportunity will spread progress, but the balance can tilt anytime. It can be volatile yet vibrant; uncertain yet unlimited in potential, complex yet connected and ambiguous. Organizations will be in a continual state of tension to stay in place.” [Innovation is not optional, Alma Rita R. Jimenez, M.A.P. Insights, Business World, 22nd Jun 2015]

We don’t want to touch fragile state with a ten-foot pole. But that means we have to learn to “think different”!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Standing on our own two feet

That would presuppose that we are indeed “independent” like we celebrate every year? “And now, what will her future be? Rizal goes on to examine different scenarios and their varying conditions of possibility. At some points, he writes, the impulse for freedom may be strong, but the people are not ready. There might be too much dissension at the top, and general apathy below.” [If Rizal had been a Moro, Randy David, Public Lives, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 18th Jun 2015]

“Political dynasties are the modern resurrections of the discredited monarchs, kings and queens of the Medieval Age. These political dynasties, like the kings and queens of the Dark Ages, believe that political power comes from the bloodline, that political power is inherited, and that political power does not come from the ballot box.” [(SPEECH) Ex-Chief Justice Puno makes a call for ‘bagong sistema, bagong pag-asa,’ Manila Bulletin, 18th Jun 2015; Full transcript of speech made by former Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno at the launch of  Bagong Sistema, Bagong Pag-asa: A Call for System Change’ on June 6, 2015 at San Andres Sports Complex, Manila]

“We will never attain true democracy until and unless we eliminate these political dynasties, for in a true democracy political power cannot be the monopoly of a few but should be in the hands of the many. And we cannot eliminate political dynasties by relying on Congress to pass the necessary law. Because Congress is controlled by political dynasties.”

“The only way to eliminate political dynasties is through the Constitution—by providing a self-executing ban on political dynasties, a ban that does not need any implementing law from Congress.

“Elections in a democracy should be the means by which we can throw out the scalawags in government, the means by which we can encourage the saints to participate in governance. If we cannot do this, our elections will just result in the rigodon of the undeserving, the reign after reign of the incompetent, and the rule after rule of the underachiever. We must put an end to this political insanity. 

“Our country is full of problems, and empty of solutions. Our people are full of questions but without answers. Let us not be part of the problems, let us be part of the solutions. Let us not be part of the questions, let us be part of the answers.”

Recently this blog discussed the elements of autonomy, mastery and sense of purpose as key to successful change. As a practitioner the writer lives with them in the private sector and would confirm the works of social scientists. Daniel H. Pink in his book “Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us” (Riverhead Books, New York, 1995), for instance, referenced Harry F. Harlow and Edward L. Deci. “Deci’s work uncovered the powerful and significant difference between extrinsic motivation, the kind that comes from outside sources, and intrinsic motivation, the kind that comes from within yourself.” [Janet Choi, The Motivation Trifecta: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose; she’s the Chief Creative Officer at iDoneThis]

How does intrinsic motivation figure in a soft culture like the Philippines especially where we value compassion and by extension paternalism and populism? And contrast that to Singapore: “Among modern states, it was Singapore, a city-state in the East, which adopted meritocracy as a major principle of governance. As Lee Kuan Yew himself said the progress and success of his country comes from this principle. The same principle of meritocracy is behind the rise of China as an economic power . . . Not so in the Philippines . . . We neither practice nor understand meritocracy. That is what is wrong with the Philippines and it pervades our entire lives whether it is in politics or government or even in ordinary activities. We do not strive for excellence . . .” [Meritocracy or corruption (?), Carmen N. Pedrosa, FROM A DISTANCE, The Philippine Star, 13th Jun 2015]

Not surprisingly we would read: “ANY government official with a sense of propriety would have resigned by now in shame. But Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, one of President Aquino’s golden boys, has clung to his office for more than two years, even as the transportation system that he is supposed to manage goes to hell in a hand basket. Where do we begin?” [Secretary Abaya, have you no shame (?), The Standard, Editorial, 17th Jun 2015]

Mediocrity, to be sure, is in abundance in this world. Which in fact should be inspiring for a country like the Philippines – that we can be better than others. Indeed we must celebrate the progress we are making in the various global metrics of human and economic development and competitiveness. But there is much more work to do.

And we must have our feet planted on the ground. “I have always welcomed our 1991 Local Government Code for rightly giving due power and authority to the units of government closest to the people and most intimately familiar with development challenges and resources on the ground. I believe that subsidiarity, devolution and decentralization are critical principles of good governance. But the authority to make whimsical rules in defiance of basic and instinctive principles of ethics and good economics is certainly not part of the intent of the law.”[Wanted: enabling government, Cielito F. Habito, No Free Lunch, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16th Jun 2015]

“While much positive change has already been happening and there are indeed many ‘islands of good governance’ out there, one wonders why too many local government officials still can’t seem to get it. I would have thought that local officials could readily understand that promoting and encouraging vibrant job-creating local enterprises would be the best way to uplift the living conditions of their constituents. But from . . . countless . . . accounts I’ve heard through the years, the actuations of many local governments toward small businesses have been all but encouraging. Is it any wonder that our unemployment rate has consistently been much higher than in most of our neighbors?”

The 1991 Local Government Code was meant to give LGUs autonomy, and if we go by the science, is the foundation of intrinsic motivation. Yet time and again what we hear are efforts to perpetuate political power. Standing on our own two feet as a people and pulling our weight is what autonomy is. In short, it is about taking personal responsibility for the common good. It is not about family and political dynasty. “Family is not license to kill”! What is missing? This blog has discussed the imperative of “shared purpose.”

If indeed we cherish freedom and democracy, we must learn and embrace personal responsibility and the overarching imperative of moving forward as a people and nation. And they demand a shared purpose which comes from an egalitarian ethos. We have to unlearn the value we placed in a hierarchical system and structure.

Is there a role for the Philippine church? It's the 21st century and royalty can't be associated with the church, for instance? Is that why Francis came about – to fight “leprosy”? In industry it has been established that assertiveness is not inherent in everyone; and is a skill that ought to be developed – for both men and women. And if innovative enterprises have a common thread, it is that openness and assertiveness would characterize them – which, not surprisingly, engender creativity.

The third element of successful change – beyond autonomy and shared purpose – is mastery. But first we need to develop a growth mindset so that we can overcome the fixed mindset that we may not be even aware we manifest? A growth mindset lends itself to open-mindedness – the door to curiosity, critical thinking, foresight, lofty goals, among others – as well as mastery, excellence and meritocracy. And when demonstrated by their people is how countries develop from Third- to First-World.

We need visionary – not populist – leadership that can stand above self and vested interests and awaken Juan de la Cruz to be a success, the next Asian Tiger and beyond. To think big, not to think small. We need a sense of purpose that the leadership can articulate. And make Juan de la Cruz embrace personal responsibility and develop the autonomy and mastery to pull his weight. No one can paddle our canoe but us. It is stout-hearted men and women that build a nation! Because they can stand on their own two feet.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

We're neither here nor there?

“BBL won’t be forced down our throats – Bongbong; Sereno’s 2014 SALN silent on P37-M fees; Not enough; There’s more fantasy in the Philippines; PPP executive sees sluggish infrastructure development; A battle lost, a war to win; Still a lot of work to achieve inclusive growth; Fix MRT, traffic woes; Foreign investments to decline sans ‘economic Cha-cha’ – business groups; Meritocracy or corruption?; Needed: ‘Daang matino’; Belmonte gives up on economic Cha-cha.”

The writer is back in New York and on the train to Manhattan to be with Eastern European friends and their American teammates, there was plenty of time to browse through news reports and opinion pieces from the Philippines, and all the foregoing would give one a sense of where we are?

For example, visionary leadership is something we have yet to have? Proactive isn't the definition of who we are? A sense of purpose is one we have yet to share? Principled we would argue we are? Parochial no doubt we are? Arguably and sadly, we're neither here nor there?

“To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.” Yet just like the US, we aren’t wanting of lawyers! The point was driven home years ago when corporate America benchmarked against Japan Inc., where they had more engineers – and had a thing or two to teach Americans about quality.

The Magna Carta is 800 years old and the Western press acknowledged its history and relevance, and debated its mythology. As far as we Pinoys are concerned, granted we're a young nation, we appear to have taken the rule of law message for granted? We’re no longer outraged by the selling, denying and delaying of justice? For instance, NAIA 3 is back in the news. And it is a grand example of justice delayed and, as sadly, how we can be at home with underdevelopment as an economy, as a nation and as a people? And in the meantime, we get dribs and drabs of news on the pork barrel saga. And they are a grand example of how plunder and pillage have become our normal.

What is our moral compass? Like the barons of old England, we could come together to protest against a Marcos or Estrada of Arroyo? But what about foreseeing a future for Juan de la Cruz? He who is mired in poverty or consigned as an OFW, away from family and keeps our economy going with his remittances, now running at over $25 billion? But who is laughing their way to the bank? And who is celebrating with them?

And we believe that by invoking Filipino first, we can craft an economic model that will lift Juan de la Cruz? But we need benchmarking in our bag of tricks if we are to replicate the feats of the Asian Tigers? Not surprisingly, we’re paying the price for underdevelopment that comes from a pre-21st century economic model, i.e., it is oligarchic and inward-looking and non-inclusive and uncompetitive. The evidence? Inadequate infrastructure and a portfolio (of products and services) that is skewed to services while deficient in agribusiness and industry. Sadly, fighting poverty can’t be the answer to this state of affairs? Not even prayers! As a priest-columnist has said, God helps those who help themselves!

“If, Lee Kuan Yew described Singapore’s success in one word – meritocracy – the Philippines’ failure is for the lack of it. We neither practice nor understand meritocracy. That is what is wrong with the Philippines and it pervades our entire lives whether it is in politics or government or even in ordinary activities. We do not strive for excellence because excellence is shunned and unrewarded.” [Meritocracy or corruption (?), Carmen N. Pedrosa, FROM A DISTANCE, The Philippine Star, 13th Jun 2015]

And so beyond saying we are for peace, how do we propose moving forward in Mindanao? For example, that the MILF has it supporters and detractors shouldn’t surprise us! In a given universe the bell-curve phenomenon will present itself. In other words, that we must think in absolutes in a place that is war-ravaged especially is a myth. Precisely why we fall prey to crab mentality! Rizal had to create Padre Damaso to dramatize absolute reign and more recently, why Francis has been beating up the Curia? It’s not funny when we witness how absoluteness could have such a backlash: “2 Bishops Resign in Minnesota Over Sexual Abuse Scandal,” reports The New York Times, 15th Jun 2015.

Consider: The Japanese invaded us but today we need them on our side – against China? On the other hand, how have we treated Mindanao? Not long ago we even declared total war!   

Does the Irish conflict come to mind? “Between 1969 and 1999, almost 3,500 people died as a result of political violence in Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom (UK). The conflict, which has its origins in the 1921 division of Ireland and is often referred to as “the Troubles,” has reflected a struggle between different national, cultural, and religious identities. Protestants in Northern Ireland (48%) largely define themselves as British and support continued incorporation in the UK (unionists). Most Catholics in Northern Ireland (45%) consider themselves Irish, and many desire a united Ireland (nationalists).” [Kristin Archick, Northern Ireland: The peace process, Congressional Research Service Report; 11 Mar 2015; prepared for members and committees of the US Congress]

In other words, what may seem intractable can in fact be resolved. It’s like the challenge inherent in problem-solving and innovation. But they demand: (a) foresight and the setting of lofty goals; (b) critical thinking and the questioning of our assumptions; and (c) the pursuit of excellence. Does our fixed mindset explain our inability to move forward? Do we need to develop a growth mindset? What about our heart? Do we have the heart to overcome seemingly insurmountable barriers?

“The best innovations — both socially and economically — come from the pursuit of ideals that are noble and timeless: joy, wisdom, beauty, truth, equality, community, sustainability and, most of all, love. These are the things we live for, and the innovations that really make a difference are the ones that are life-enhancing. And that’s why the heart of innovation is a desire to re-enchant the world.” [Innovation Starts with the Heart, Not the Head, Gary Hamel, Harvard Business Review, 12th Jun 2015]

“In one of his last presentations as Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs said his company lived at the intersection of ‘technology’ and ‘liberal arts.’ If he had been the CEO of a different company, Jobs might have talked about the intersection of construction and liberal arts, or airlines and liberal arts, or banking and liberal arts, or energy and liberal arts. To Jobs ‘liberal arts’ was another name for ‘the humanities’ — the encapsulation, in poetry, prose, art and music, of what the ancient Greek philosophers called the just, the beautiful and the good.”

Where are we? Are we seemingly at home with underdevelopment – plus the Mindanao conflict to boot? God helps those who help themselves?

Monday, June 15, 2015

“Our next leader will need a much broader skills set . . .”

“. . . [G]iven the opportunities and threats brought by the fast-paced, multi-skilled, inter-disciplinary 21st century world.” [Our next president, Gemma Cruz Araneta, Manila Bulletin, 6th Jun 2015] Indeed with our hands full, we need such a leader. But have we ever paused to ask: where are we going really? With the two branches, the Executive and the Legislative, for example, we have an abundance of skills.

“It was silly of us to expect an Annapolis graduate, with an engineering degree from an American Ivy League school, to deliver on his mandate. It was the same expectation we had of his predecessor who had a Wharton business degree and worked in Wall Street.” [DOTC: A shameful failure, Boo Chanco, DEMAND AND SUPPLY, The Philippine Star, 12th Jun 2015]

Indeed skills alone don’t get the job done. Beyond incompetence, we would blame it on “crab mentality” whenever we see government – or we, the people – unable to move forward? We’ve heard it before: “trapo” or traditional politicians versus reform (or is it celebrity?) politicians, the elite class versus “the masa”, party-lists versus political parties, INC-backed or CBCP pastoral letter-influenced, etc. But if there is a common denominator, is it vested interest? There are more: BBL or no BBL, Cha-cha or no Cha-cha, FDI or Filipino-first (or is it oligarchy first?), etc.

Is our sorry state stemming from our hierarchical instincts and values? The Church, oligarchy, the education community, professional groups, and similar societal elements would claim to be “the chosen few” implicitly? And would it explain crab mentality that has held as hostage, with very little sense and vision of the future, if any?

Could we Pinoys pull together behind an overarching purpose even when rank has spoiled us of its privileges? When there is no unifying object, who can say which principles must rule? Precisely why Francis is shifting the focus away from holier-than-thou, for example? If a “good thief” can be heaven-bound, “who are we to judge”? Is there is a higher purpose? But because we’re a big fish in our small pond, does the parochialism undermine our worldview – and relevance? Even a US with a lame duck president can’t convince the world of its relevance?

But we judge our neighbors against our yardsticks, i.e., we're not only God-fearing but truly democratic and patriotic . . . and even smarter? And not surprisingly, we have a senator who saw it fit to assume omnipotence that he is throwing out the window the work of many years by various groups, both local and foreign, that want to help us in Mindanao?

One of the fundamentals of change management is to start with the familiar. And recently this blog discussed sense of purpose, principles, bayanihan and Titanic, among others. Having lived in the West for almost 3 decades and experienced their progress and setbacks, this writer wonders if we Pinoys can be different.

For example: (a) two Nobel Prize winners brought about a financial disaster a decade before the Great Recession; (b) the Western educational system has recognized its shortcomings; and (c) different disciplines have considered that they were the center of the universe – from manufacturing (after WWII when factories shifted from military to commercial goods) to marketing to quality to finance to information technology, etc. And not surprisingly, even the top-tier companies in Fortune 500 have been unable to keep their rankings through the years.

“Mr. Aquino, like all human beings, is a prisoner of his own limitations.” [Prisoner of his own limitations, BS Aquino a great success in Japan, Rene Q. Blas, Publisher/Editor, The Manila Times, 6th Jun 2015]

Indeed, we are all prisoners of our own limitations. Thus, “THE GOVERNMENT has kept virtually unchanged its list of domestic activities and sectors restricted to foreign participation, prompting one business leader to cite anew the need to make the list ‘less negative’. Malacañang on Friday published Executive Order No. (EO) 184, dated May 29, that provides the 10th Regular Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL), keeping largely intact provisions of the preceding order: EO 98 of Oct. 29, 2012.” [Restrictions retained in 2015 ‘negative list’, Business World, 5th Jun 2015]

And as night follows day, “Foreign ownership limits hinder Phl growth potential,” Danessa O. Rivera, The Philippine Star, 3rd Jun 2015. “Restrictions in foreign ownership of land and uneven investments in public infrastructure continue to prevent the country from realizing its full economic potential, according to a former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief.”

“We did it again: Sent President Aquino a list of critical reforms requiring executive action as well as a list of legislative measures that Malacañang can certify as priority legislation . . . After its first letter was received in 2013, the PBG-JFC was encouraged to work with the economic cluster of the Cabinet by joining some of its meetings to ensure continuing dialogue and joint monitoring of recommendations and agreed priorities. Unfortunately, the dialogue did not continue, and the joint monitoring never became reality. The PBG-JFC then pursued direct dialogues with agencies after its 2014 letter, but these also did not transform into continuing partnerships. Yet, there continues to be recognition of the importance of public-private partnership.” [Inclusively and competitively yours, PBG-JFC, Peter Angelo V. Perfecto, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 6th Jun 2015]

“Let us pray . . . that BS Aquino learns to apply what he admires in Japan to his own way of doing things.” [Blas, op. cit.] And this is what President Aquino had to say: “…It is no wonder, then, that for the latter half of the 20th century, companies from all over the world lined up to learn of the ‘Japanese method.’ Many asked: What sort of processes allowed such quality and efficiency to blossom?”

“I respectfully submit, your honors, that the Japanese method is first and foremost not static. It is founded on the necessity for adaptation and innovation; it incorporates a thirst for knowledge and a passionate desire to achieve positive change. This constant polishing, this constant refinement, reflects your quest for perfection in everything that you do. This, in turn, has allowed your country to collectively overcome the challenges it has had to face in its history. Your kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement, which your country has been applying in production lines and supply chains, has been applied to the highest echelons of government.

“Truth be told, this process has been a hallmark of the Japanese spirit for generations. We only need to look back to the opening of Japan during the 19th century, which ushered in the transformation of your society. Up until that time, Japan was way behind in terms of technology; I would say that you did not only start from zero, but from the negative, given the advancements that everyone else had access to at that point.

“As Japan pursued a collective national effort toward ‘Civilization and Enlightenment,’ it was able to transform itself: Feudalism was shed, allowing for the formation of this very Diet; a once-cloistered nation began to welcome outside knowledge, and in fact sent its sons far and wide to acquire new insights; railroads, telegraph systems, and banks rose across your nation; backyard furnaces soon turned into state of the art factories, and within a few generations, Japan became among the most advanced nations of that age.

“Even after that, when new realities came about after the war, you again decided to change the status quo, directing your energies towards rebuilding, and thus becoming an economic powerhouse that has lent and continues to lend its support to so many nations. . . Time and again, when confronted with extreme challenges to society, you have adapted; you met and overcame them to rise to even greater heights. The anxiety you have faced in recent years is another such challenge.”

Indeed, “Let us pray . . . that BS Aquino learns to apply what he admires in Japan to his own way of doing things.” But what about us? Do we believe that we are exempt from the imperative to learn and apply what we admire in others to our own way of doing things?

Beyond the next leader, we need Juan de la Cruz to figure out why and how the world is leaving us behind? Because if we accept that as our normal, it will get worse before it gets better?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Building the ecosystem of a nation

An ecosystem is a complex network or interconnected system. Yet it can start with “bayanihan” with individuals drawn together by a common purpose. On a much bigger scale, the success of bayanihan comes from autonomy (self-propelled and pulling one’s weight), self-mastery (a growth mindset) and a shared purpose (the antithesis of crab mentality). I am writing this as my Eastern European friends completed a couple of weeks of business reviews. Which in our case typically start with a big group meeting where a common denominator and shared purpose is arrived at – and to be geared to address challenges but with a distinct difference, by turning things on their head and thinking outside the box.

But then I should altogether drop “Eastern European”. Because I chatted with a Brit, Dutch, Spaniard, Jordanian, Lebanese beyond Bulgarians, Romanians, Ukrainians, etc. And holding the fort in New York, Montreal and Singapore were our new teams of Americans, Canadians and Asians. Twelve years ago we were building the ecosystem of a $100-million enterprise, and today we’re building the ecosystem of a Fortune 500 company. And both times the vision would appear farfetched.

In the case of PHL, are we building the ecosystem of a First-World nation? Or are we bogged down by an oligarchic economy, where the few will continue to prosper with a little help from the rest of us while Juan de la Cruz slogs as an OFW? The sad irony is he is the one propping up the economy with over $25 billion in remittances and making the elite precisely that – and then some. An economic model that is so yesterday that we lag in competitiveness: (a) the status quo is the enemy of the good; and (b) growth and development is the law of nature. What to do?

“The Aquino Administration has already awarded nine PPP projects worth a total of P133.49 billion. There are 60 other PPP projects in the pipeline with a total indicative cost of P1.226 trillion or $27.257 billion.” [PPP to withstand leadership transitions, Kris Bayos, Manila Bulletin, 7th Jun 2015]

That is a good starting point, we’re looking at $27.257 billion in PPP projects. But then the article continues: Before a new administration takes over the government next year, the Aquino Administration is pushing for the legislation of a PPP Act to institutionalize the policy, process, and reforms it has implemented. This will also pave the way for a long-term PPP agenda that can withstand transitions, and facilitate sustainable and inclusive economic growth,” the PPP Center added.”

So far so good. But will the next president be one that has been indicted for plunder? Or will it be one that was deposed, and was it because of plunder too? How will PHL have a chance against pillage if men and women of good will would look the other way? We may disagree with President Aquino’s definition of “daang matuwid” yet it was his fight against corruption that gave us our newfound credibility. But he lacks the smarts? We all do, look at where we are compared to our neighbors? Titanic doesn't discriminate!

In the meantime we like to say that we’re a rich country pretending to be poor? Is that because – thanks to 10.5 million OFWs – there is indeed much to plunder? Do we need a reality check? Our poverty and average income both say we’re in fact a Third-World country, overtaken by the rest of the region?

And how do we build the ecosystem of a First-World nation? NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan put up a brave front declaring that government is not abandoning its seven to eight percent growth target. To pull it off, the economy would need to expand by at least 7.5 percent in the next three quarters.” [Cracks in the economy, and who to blame for rising power costs, Andrew James Masigan, Manila Bulletin, 7th Jun 2015]

“It is unlikely that consumer demand and government spending can support the growth we need. At some point, investments must start contributing to drive the economy . . . Government claims that foreign direct investments (FDI) are on an upswing, what with its 66 percent jump last year to $6.2 billion. However, a closer look at the breakdown reveals that only $209 million were actually invested towards new manufacturing plants. The lion’s share was attributed to inter-company debts, reinvested earning, and a foreign investor’s purchase of equity in a local bank.

“The next administration must get serious about attracting more quality investments, particularly to build up the industrial sector. The economy needs sustained growth of between six to seven percent if it is to have an impact on poverty, especially since population growth is still north of two percent.

“[I]f you compute the per capita productivity of our labor force, you will find that those involved in agriculture contribute the least at $1,255 per head. Those in services contribute $7,421 each while those in industry contribute $20,484. The latter is at par with the per capita productivity of first world nations. If we are to foster faster growth with the most bang for each member of the workforce, we must focus on developing the industrial sector.

“The power sector’s dirty little secret. High power cost is one of the three-headed monsters scaring investors away—the other two being logistic bottlenecks (insufficient infrastructure) and the restrictive economic laws of the Constitution.”
“Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima puts it quite frankly: ‘We in the government must listen.’ All of us, whether in the public or private sector, must listen and work together. People in the government cannot disregard the professional expertise and experience of those in the private sector. The same way those of us in the private sector cannot leave the government doing the job all by themselves. Reform is difficult, but it is possible. Collaboration is key.” [Ease of doing business, Mon Abrea, Manila Bulletin, 7th Jun 2015]

And where does collaboration start? “Palace black hole,” Editorial, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8th June 2015. “EVEN SOME of President Aquino’s most influential allies and most vocal supporters are complaining about the black hole in the middle of Malacañang: important contracts have been held up, decisions have been inexplicably delayed, nominations to fill high-profile, much-talked-about vacancies in key positions have taken months to process. The controversy over the delay in the appointment of a new chief of the Philippine National Police is depressingly familiar, entirely avoidable—and very second-Aquino-administration . . . Malacañang, controlled by the black hole at its center, cannot even muster the will to simulate a sense of urgency.”

And, of course, there is Mindanao. “A lot has been written about the Mindanao peace process and the Bangsamoro Basic Law that is needed to implement the agreement that came about after years of negotiation. My engagement and that of the UK government in the Philippine quest for a settlement began seven years ago. Alongside the negotiators, politicians and opinion formers, we have pored over the details. But, while this is important, sometimes details hide fundamental and essential truths.” [Essential truths from inspiring people, Asif Ahmad, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 5th Jun 2015; Asif Ahmad is the British ambassador to the Philippines]

“One essential truth is that all previous attempts to find a solution in Muslim Mindanao and in turn deliver stability and security to the Philippines have failed. People in authority have not universally accepted the fundamental responsibility that they have to deliver peace. Instead, some have pointed to inadequacies of others, more often than not blaming the community as a whole for its predicament. Now more than ever, it is essential that inspiration replace pessimism . . . In the minutiae of the law, justice can often be overlooked. Those who benefit from the status quo mask their true intent with obfuscation. People who fear change point to problems rather than solutions. It is easy to say what they think is wrong but few have ideas as to what would make it right or better.”

Sadly, we Pinoys would rather standstill? We can’t be without the sense of urgency on top of giving a wink and a nod to plunder and pillage? They can't be what we stand for? Nation building stems from institution building where a shared purpose is a must if it is to be principle-driven. Not surprisingly, it's what makes institutions and nations competitive . . . and thrive in the 21st century world.

What about putting our minds and our hearts to building the ecosystem of PHL? We like to dream, and we can dream to become a First-World nation? And it starts with bayanihan – that is exceptionally scaled up.