Monday, November 14, 2016

The Buffett Rules – a winning worldview

With the Western world becoming unhinged, what would be the winning worldview for Juan de la Cruz? From the Global Recession of 2008 to the Brexit vote to the trauma of the Trump election, how would the Buffett Rules apply? Buy low, sell high. When everyone is greedy, be scared. When everyone is scared, be greedy.

Buffett is known as the great investor, not as a behavioral economist. But what his rules say is he doesn’t behave against his self-interest. But most everyone does. Including us Pinoys – we have been behaving against our self-interest for decades. For over a century, according to Rizal. “He who submits to tyranny loves it.”

Because there is something very fundamental that we Pinoys have yet to recognize given we take it as a positive element of our culture – i.e., our value of hierarchy. Because we put people and nations in a rank order, we cannot see beyond the horizon?

“You entered the business but uncertain of the way forward? You obviously know that you must win against the Western competition that you admire but fear. It will demand a lot from you. First, you must believe in yourself. That you are not inferior to anyone – not to anyone whether from the East or the West. You can find your place in the sun as much as they do.”

The blog has often said that it was inspired by the writer’s Eastern European friends. When he first arrived, he was amazed by their courage to go up against a Western behemoth. “Now, think Steve Jobs and Apple going up against IBM.” And so Apple became their benchmark and model and inspiration.

Fearful as they were, they asked: What are the rules of the game? And the writer will not tire repeating that it is not about the rules but the principles. And to discover its import, they had to understand what the GPS is about: Where are we? Where do we want to be? How do we get there?

And the most important thing they embraced is: “To be the best in the business” – to come out of their part of the world and put them in good stead against the rest of the world.

And while they look to the writer as their “teacher,” they must discard “hierarchy” from their psyche and transform themselves into a “high-commitment team.” To imagine the organization structure as a wheel: the hub being the leadership that carries the banner of their shared purpose – to be the best in the business – with the rest of the management team making up the spokes, reinforcing the organization as the rubber hits the road.

That at the end of the day they are not a dysfunctional bureaucracy but a wheel that can run as fast as they want – and faster than the competition. And that they must develop the requisite skills to make it happen: from doing the business plans to execution to establishing the reward system to innovation and product development to demonstrating to external partners and constituencies (public and private and the end consumer) what their principles are and how they are translated into their values down to the day-to-day business practices visible to and shared by the outside world – under the banner “to be the best in the business.”

Indeed, there is the bigger community and the common good that as a good corporate citizen they must respect. Business is business is so yesterday because it cannot be the key to innovation that has defined the 21st century. Innovation is relevant so long as they respond to human needs and aspirations. And why even supposedly famous brands would prove unworthy and fall by the wayside. 

But as we would say it in the vernacular, “Hindi ma-gets ni Juan de la Cruz” because of a “triple whammy” [to borrow from Solita Collas-Monsod, Get Real, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12th Nov 2016]. But for purposes of this posting they differ from those of Ms. Monsod and are as follows: (1) Inferiority complex owing to our hierarchical or simply “bossing” culture; (2) Paternalism which we expect from one in authority – like Uncle Sam or the West in general being richer and more developed than PHL; (3) “Transparency quotient” that is underdeveloped, again, owing to our value of hierarchy.

And they explain why we love tyranny? And why ours is a culture of impunity? That is reflected in Du30’s pursuit of the war on drugs and the pivot away from the US and the West and into the arms of China/Russia?

And here’s another example that Juan de la Cruz can relate to: When one of us does something extraordinary at home or abroad, while it makes us proud and rejoice, we take it as an exception.

In other words, to us a level playing field is a notion – not a reality? And it explains our inability to have our finger on the pulse of, say, competition or even development? Because to us there is always something or someone bigger that outranks us? Rank has its privileges. And feeds a culture of impunity – ruled by political patronage and dynasties and oligarchy?

If indeed that is our psyche, how do we thrive in the 21st century that is global and highly competitive? [Brexit and the Trump Wall notwithstanding. As history tells us, empires may fall and others would rise.] And where the age of artificial intelligence appears to be rearing an ugly head?

Will unemployment become an even bigger problem? If indeed we want to stand on our own two feet, how do we get started? And would we be equipped to face the challenges of the post-industrialization era? When we have yet to figure out what industrialization means? For example, how would we develop and harness robotics if we have no industry experience and heritage?

We’re too underdeveloped that we are still debating whether we’re coming or going? That we bought into the idea that the war on drugs is priority no. 1, the rule of law be damned? How long have we been wailing about poverty, about Metro Manila traffic, about the energy crisis, etc., etc.?

Yet we couldn’t come to terms with how we blew it as our neighbors, the Asia tigers, left us in the dust. They demonstrated how it is done – from pulling together the building blocks of an economy to becoming industrialized to being competitive – yet we want to reinvent the wheel?

The one caveat for empires that applies to economic tigers as well is to strive for dynamism – e.g., neither Brexit nor the Trump Wall can undo Darwin? In the same manner that the Tea Party – that brought infamy for shutting down the US government – failed to deliver, these two more recent Western developments likewise go against the grain? Extremism whether from the left or the right has history to open their eyes? On the other hand, why did Einstein believe in a Higher Being? Ergo: creation and evolution are realities of the universe?

How about us, how do we grow up? Giving solutions to a problem we have yet to acknowledge is why we’re in a race to the bottom? We’ve blamed everyone and his uncle except Juan de la Cruz?

“Fr. Edward Dowling, SJ, a friend of Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was convinced that the Spiritual Exercisesinfluenced the 12 Steps of AA (which guide many other 12-step programs). Bill Wilson said he had never heard of Ignatius or theExercises. He said he sat down at his kitchen table one day and wrote out the 12 Steps in about 20 minutes. To this Fr. Dowling said, ‘If it were twenty weeks, you could suspect improvisation. Twenty minutes sounds reasonable under the theory of divine help.’

“I recently ran across an article Fr. Dowling wrote showing the parallels between the Exercises and the 12 Steps. A sample:

“St. Ignatius starts with a presumption that our power of faculties is bound by sinful tendencies and addictions to the wrong things. The Spiritual Exercises, therefore, work on the soul in both a negative and positive way. The first section, the consideration of my sins and of their effects in hell, is the negative part. It aims by self-denial to release our wills from our binding addictions, to enable the will to desire and to choose rationally.

“The second part of the Spiritual Exercises, start in with a consideration of the Incarnation and going through the Passion and Resurrection, is an effort to see how Christ would handle various situations.

“A priest alcoholic, who has written with discernment on the Spiritual Exercises, first pointed out to me the similarity between them and the twelve steps of A.A. Bill, the founder of A.A. recognized that those twelve steps are pretty much the releasing of myself from the things that prevent my will’s choosing God as I understand Him.” []

In other words, the cure for addiction is not EJK and the trampling of the rule of law. Yet we are submitting to tyranny instead of acknowledging who and what we are? And why we behave against our self-interest?

“Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” [We are ruled by Rizal’s ‘tyrants of tomorrow,’ Editorial, The Manila Times, 29th Dec 2015]

“As a major component for the education and reorientation of our people, mainstream media – their reporters, writers, photographers, columnists and editors – have an obligation to this country . . .” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

“Development [is informed by a people’s] worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership . . .” [Frederic Laloux, Reinventing organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014]

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