Thursday, December 22, 2016

A sense of purpose

Beyond the upbeat news about remittances that we can’t help but celebrate – being the driver of PHL’s economy – must be a higher purpose? “The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) sees a sustained four percent growth in cash remittances next year amid strong demand for skilled Filipino workers abroad . . . Cash remittances would hit $27.7 billion in 2017 or $1.1 billion higher than the projected record level of $26.6 billion this year.” [Remittances to hit record $27.7 B next year, Lawrence Agcaoili, The Philippine Star, 8th Dec 2016]

And beyond the war on drugs . . . “P. Digong: Wage peace, not war, save lives,” Fidel V. RamosFormer Philippine President, Manila Bulletin, 17th Dec 2016. “This was the first time our President/Chief Executive/Commander-in-Chief/Team Leader of our huge and talented (but diverse and divided) national society of 102 million sounded truly loud, clear, strong, and sincere about unity and peace. In that message, which was well applauded throughout the land, he did not speak of killing – for a change.

“This was P. Duterte’s earnest appeal in the presence of young Filipinos during the lighting of the Christmas tree at Malacañang last 10 December, which was also the eve of International Human Rights Day.”

“[H]igher purpose can be framed as a hypothesis, and that evidence for or against the hypothesis can be marshaled. But I will say that the evidence I see for purpose includes not just the direction of biological evolution, but the direction of technological evolution and of the broader social and cultural evolution it drives — the evolution that has carried us from hunter-gatherer bands to the brink of a cohesive global community. And if the purpose involves sustaining this direction — becoming a true global community — then it would seem to include moral progress. In particular, our purpose would involve transcending the psychology of tribalism that can otherwise divide people along ethnic, national, religious and ideological lines.” [Can Evolution Have a ‘Higher Purpose’ (?), Robert Wright,  THE STONE, The New York Times, 12th Dec 2016]

Transcending tribalism and division equates to moral progress – an imperative in the pursuit of national prosperity? No different from the rule of law being an imperative in the pursuit of freedom and democracy? Do we need to pause and think that through? Think Rizal and our love for tyranny that it has defined us?

“National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value, as classical economics insists. [Translation: A nation may have the requisite factors of production but if its products and services aren’t marketable they’re for naught.]

“A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade. Companies gain advantage against the world’s best competitors because of pressure and challenge. They benefit from having strong domestic rivals, aggressive home-based suppliers, and demanding local customers.

“In a world of increasingly global competition, nations have become more, not less, important. As the basis of competition has shifted more and more to the creation and assimilation of knowledge, the role of the nation has grown. Competitive advantage is created and sustained through a highly localized process. Differences in national values, culture, economic structures, institutions, and histories all contribute to competitive success. There are striking differences in the patterns of competitiveness in every country; no nation can or will be competitive in every or even most industries. Ultimately, nations succeed in particular industries because their home environment is the most forward-looking, dynamic, and challenging.

“These conclusions, the product of a four-year study of the patterns of competitive success in ten leading trading nations, contradict the conventional wisdom that guides the thinking of many companies and national governments—and that is pervasive today in the United States.” [The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990]

Forward-looking. Dynamic. Challenging. Are they right up our alley? Is Juan de la Cruz predisposed to be forward-looking or dynamic or embrace a challenge? Try “Pwede na ‘yan”? How do we square Metro Manila’s infrastructure deficits with what we call Imperial Manila? Imperial Manila has a nice ring to it but that can’t hide the truth of PHL underdevelopment – against the enviable Asian tigers on the other hand?

To add insult to injury, ours is a narco-state – with a drug problem that is pervasive, controlled by drug lords at various levels of the bureaucracy? How many would know about Albuera? “Albuera is a third class municipality in the province of LeytePhilippines. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 40,553 people.” [Wikipedia]

And so we have Imperial Manila with a Third-World infrastructure at one end and local drug lords at the other – and underdevelopment across the board? How do we square that again? Are we forward-looking and dynamic – when for decades missed to address the challenge of growth and development? And can’t “transcend the psychology of tribalism that can otherwise divide people…”? And Federalism is the silver bullet – when we could have more not less Albueras? – like OFW remittances and the BPO industry were to be? Ergo: development like any major undertakings isn’t one-dimensional?

“National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labor pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value . . .” [Think about our reliance on OFW remittances?]

Consider: “A new theory must move beyond comparative advantage to the competitive advantage of a nation . . . We need a new perspective and new tools—an approach to competitiveness that grows directly out of an analysis of internationally successful industries, without regard for traditional ideology or current intellectual fashion. We need to know, very simply, what works and why. Then we need to apply it.” [Porter, op. cit.]

Look outward not inward. Benchmark. Benchmark. Benchmark.

In other words, “Pinoy abilidad” – the outcome of our being parochial, insular, hierarchical and paternalistic, if not political patronage and dynasties, oligarchy and culture of impunity – hasn’t worked, but does it in more ways than one override our values, culture, economic structures, institutions and history? How can Juan de la Cruz free himself from this vicious circle?

Recall Marcos couldn’t get off the back of the tiger and had to be disgraced? Now, how does Du30 get off the back of his own tiger when he has to offer excuses for the EJKs? Does he have an endgame? Is giving fat bonuses to police bosses – of killer cops – the endgame because we’ve won the war? Did he “begin with the end in mind,” a critical element in the effective and successful pursuit of ambitious undertakings? Or did he start off on the wrong foot? 

But let’s get back to the essence of Porter’s treatise. And here’s what it could be like within the walls of a private enterprise. “Yuchun Lee of Allego: The Value of a Daily Mistake,” Adam Bryant, Corner Office, The New York Times, 16th Dec 2016. [Yuchun Lee is C.E.O. and co-founder of Allego, a Boston-area start-up focused on sales education]

“I’ve developed a few core philosophies about how to run a company. The first is the ability of the company to know what is true, what is not true, and what’s real and what’s not real. That grounds everything. You can have a group of supersmart people, but if they have the wrong view of the world, they can waste a lot of energy going down the wrong track. So I tell every employee, if something’s fishy, question it. The foundation is all about truth.

“The second is how you behave as a team to solve problems. A lot of energy can be wasted, because in an unchecked environment, 80 percent of what’s being said is posturing, and it’s got nothing to do with the problem . . . they’re solving a problem that’s completely different than what’s on the table.

“The third is about mistakes . . . So we try to train and tell every employee that if you can truly embrace your mistake, and not feel this visceral defensive reaction when someone tells you that you did something wrong, you’re going to go so much further than anybody else. You need to see mistakes as opportunities to improve.”

The writer can relate the above article to the real world: his career in an MNC and his current commitments in Eastern Europe. Why do enterprises commit mistakes time and time again? In both these experiences, the writer would fix problem businesses – that brought the need to develop a proactive approach to the exercise. And Mr. Lee is spot on: “You can have a group of supersmart people, but if they have the wrong view of the world, they can waste a lot of energy going down the wrong track. So I tell every employee, if something’s fishy, question it. The foundation is all about truth.”

It is about the sense of purpose. Which to a practitioner can be translated into the GPS model: Where are we; Where do we want to be; How do we get there. In other words, it is beyond knowledge. “The value of education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think,” so says Einstein.

And that is very evident from the experience of US industry where they had to call out the educational system for its shortcomings in three skill areas: communication, teamwork and critical thinking. Communication is best defined by an enterprise’s ability or inability to articulate its reason for being.

And it’s no different from nation building. Nation building is about development – not the war on drugs or poverty. The evidence? The Asian tigers! Let’s get real – and toss “Pinoy abilidad”?

“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]

My family joins me in wishing one and all a blessed Christmas!

No comments:

Post a Comment