Thursday, July 30, 2015

Problem-solving: what it is, what it is not

Problem-solving isn’t prescribing solutions per se. For example, a pendulum swinging the opposite direction may or may not be the answer. But water seeking its own level is a fundamental given. And shooting from the hip may fulfill an urge but miss the mark. Yet to procrastinate is not the prescription either. But what about distinguishing the need from a want to begin with? Is that among the principles we ought to embrace?

The science of medicine is a model in problem-solving – and cause and effect. The human body may be a most complex system yet to be a patient one would marvel at “the magic” of medicine. How could looking into a select few vital signs [akin to Pareto's principle] be the key to the magic? In this day and age of computing and communications, there is a parallel universe in “big data” and analytics. And the select few vital signs would be arrayed in a “dashboard.” It’s no different from the dashboard in our cars. And we can take the different monitors for granted until we get an alert: “slow down” or “low gas”.

We were recently orienting a new sales manager in New York that we hired with my Eastern European friends. “It is always pleasant to hear something positive. Yet we want to hear it too when there is something unpleasant. For example, to pick up speed, we're not about slowing down.” And over the course of a few weeks, the new person understood what it meant. “I needed that,” she would exclaim, after hearing “that is terrific.” 

The moral of the story. There is a wide abyss between problem-solving and problem-solution. For instance, “ideology” could undermine the problem-solving process. Because pursuing a want can be adrenaline-pumping even when we missed defining the need.

And what we call the familiar could in fact ignore the select few vital signs – and make us cut corners. Which is not to discount the sense of urgency. Urgent or deliberate, the model doesn't change as George Clooney demonstrated in “ER.”

Do we want to or do we need to be a parliamentary system? A structure like a parliamentary system is a means – or an option that we want – not necessarily the need of PHL? What PHL needs is to be a developed economy, a First-World nation?

There may indeed be more success stories around a parliamentary system but just like in people, not everyone needs a heart transplant, for example. If indeed we need a heart transplant then we better get it.

Do we need direct democracy? Did the party-list system add/not add to our chaos (owing to crab mentality)?

Every discipline if not interest group has been throwing their two cents; does it mean we want to do brain surgery and a heart transplant and then some? Juan de la Cruz is the patient, not PHL.

PHL has been blessed with so much except that Juan de la Cruz messed her up? He is the cause; and an underdeveloped, poor and a more fragile Philippines is the effect. Yet we are all pointing fingers and washing hands, no one is owning up? 

The private sector may need big data, for example, but that’s just one side of the coin. There is the imperative of analytics. And it starts with defining the select few vital signs.

Translating that to PHL, to be inclusive doesn’t equate to crab mentality. To be inclusive is to commit: (a) to be egalitarian, not hierarchical; (b) to good governance, not political patronage; and (c) to be competitive, not oligarchic. But we’re not predisposed to stepping up to the plate because that would go against the grain – of our culture?

If the church is throwing her two cents on our “inclusiveness dilemma,” should we as the faithful pause and figure out if it is Caesar that we face? It is not necessarily God although we may need a Higher Being to: (a) dismantle hierarchy and become egalitarian; (b) slay political patronage and promote good governance; and (c) undo an oligarchic for a competitive economy. In other words, “inclusive” demands hard work even when prayers help – e.g., “to die to one’s self” as those in Christian communities would express it?

A people that is committed to true inclusiveness by definition would elect the right leaders. Because they are value- or principle-driven. And a developed, First-World nation is not characterized by ‘learned helpless’?

“Learned helplessness occurs when an animal is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape. Eventually, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation. Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness will prevent any action. While the concept is strongly tied to animal psychology and behavior, it can also apply to many situations involving human beings.” []

And so we don’t want Imperial Manila and will “redistribute the national budget, 80 percent of which should go to LGUs, and only 20 percent to be spent by Manila”? That may be what LGUs want – and swing the pendulum to the opposite direction – but what is the true need? ‘Water seeks its own level’ is true even in the US – as in the east and west coasts – as it is in China – represented by Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. And it’s consistent with Pareto’s principle.

The need is to be a developed economy. And it demands visionary and strategic leadership, which we can appreciate if we peel off our parochial bias and benchmark against the Asian Tigers. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel but internalize the imperatives of: (a) infrastructure; (b) a strategic industry base; (c) investment (beyond local, i.e., including FDI); and (d) technology and (e) innovation; and (f) people, (g) product, (h) supply chain and (i) market development.

A developed or First-World nation or economy would have the requisite revenue streams, and not be reliant on manna from heaven. Such revenue streams are imperative to pay for education and health services and fund social programs like CCT, among others, without resorting to more debts; and, as importantly, to feed the cycle of investment and sustain continued growth and development.

Consider: “Annual ranking finds Philippines more ‘fragile’ second year in a row,” D. E. D. Saclag, Business World, 19th Jun 2015. “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. The country placed 48th out of 187 countries in The Fund for Peace’s annual ranking after scoring 86.3 out of a possible 120. Swaziland occupied the same spot . . .”

“The Philippines’ performance this year put it in ‘high warning’ category along with 26 other countries like Russia (65th with a score of 80.0), Laos (55th, 84.5), as well as Angola, Cambodia and Lebanon (tied in 41st spot with scores of 88.1, 87.9 and 88.1, respectively).”

Problem-solving isn’t prescribing solutions per se. It is first distinguishing what we need from what we want. And then discriminating between cause and effect.

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