Monday, January 23, 2017

Our fixed mindset

“WHEN education fails to keep pace with technology, the result is inequality. Without the skills to stay useful as innovations arrive, workers suffer—and if enough of them fall behind, society starts to fall apart.” [“Equipping people to stay ahead of technological change,” The Economist, 14th Jan 2017]

Society starts to fall apart. Can we Pinoys relate to that? “When Satya Nadella took over as boss of Microsoft in 2014, he drew on the work of Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, to push the firm’s culture in a new direction. Ms. Dweck divides students into two camps: those who think that ability is innate and fixed (dampening motivation to learn) and those who believe that abilities can be improved through learning.

“This ‘growth mindset’ is what the firm is trying to encourage. It has amended its performance-review criteria to include an appraisal of how employees have learned from others and then applied that knowledge . . . We want people who are intellectually curious . . . It is better to train and have them leave than not to train and have them stay.” [“What employers can do to encourage their workers to retrain, The Economist, 14th Jan 2017]

“The composition of new jobs is also changing rapidly. Over the past five years, demand for data analysts has grown by 372%; within that segment, demand for data-visualization skills has shot up by 2,574%.” [Lifelong learning is becoming an economic imperative, The Economist, 12th Jan 2017]

Data analysis and data visualization. Those are big words which in this day and age we associate with Big Data and analytics . . . that the blog has discussed before.

Likewise, the blog has talked about Carol Dweck and the ‘growth mindset’ as distinguished from the ‘fixed mindset.’ And the question we Pinoys have to ask is: Does it explain why PHL isn’t synonymous to innovation and competitiveness? And why the writer constantly raises what he considers the elements of our culture: Parochial. Insular. Hierarchical. Paternalistic. Political patronage and dynasties. Oligarchic. Culture of impunity.

But that won’t register with Juan de la Cruz precisely because of our fixed mindset? Where does it come from? Respect for elders and our religion would be the most logical influence? The writer has lived and worked in both developed and underdeveloped worlds and there is no reason for those in poor countries to feel inferior. Which is why he constantly brings up the shortcomings of the US educational system: communication, teamwork and critical thinking. And it is the same message he shares and repeats with his Eastern European friends.

And while not that long ago – 14 years to be precise – they were an MSME, today they are a respected competition to the biggest and the best Western industry behemoths. Of course, the writer has an easier task, working with a private enterprise instead of over a hundred million Filipinos. But he is hopeful that the scores of people he shares this blog would become receptive; and given they belong to our chattering classes if not the elite class, the effort can simulate the NAMFREL mantra: “It is better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness.”

And so in a recent posting, the blog offered for Juan de la Cruz to consider the opposite instincts: Open. Egalitarian. Free market. Rule of law. “We must value transparency and embrace an open economy, an egalitarian culture, the free enterprise system and the rule of law. Because there is no free lunch.”

Of course it is not a walk in the park. Take transparency. Between respect for elders and the Catholic hierarchy, we grew up taking transparency – and paternalism – for granted? When adults are talking the children are expected to disappear. When we say we want to read the Bible, we’re told we aren’t equipped to even open it. And Marcos and Duterte would play on our supposed “ignorance” . . . that when we hear “jump” . . . we ask “how high”?

That is not to say we must be disrespectful of elders. Far from it, but we must discriminate between a fixed mindset and a growth-mindset – and be committed to intellectual curiosity, if you will.

How can we be predisposed to the demands of the 21st-century world like innovation and global competition when we are constantly second-guessing a superior image? 

The writer took many years [looking from the outside as he visited the Philippine subsidiary of his old MNC company, a visiting fireman from headquarters] before he was able to recognize how we’re held hostage by these instincts. And it also explains that while we’re big in talent export, we don’t have a representation in the rarified field of Fortune 500 CEOs to the extent India has. And back home it’s the Chinoys that have come to dominate Philippine industry and by extension the economy. Put another way, we take it for granted that we are a “poor small country” – even when we resent any reference to living in trees? And like a self-fulfilling prophecy, we are?

In other words, we are not even in the game. How can we be expected to lead and talk beyond innovation, like data analysis and data visualization too?

Meanwhile, the writer is witness to how mindful his Eastern European friends are to learn the ropes of these 21st century imperatives. Consider: once held captive by Soviet autocratic rule, it hasn’t been easy for them to discard a fixed- and develop a growth-mindset.

And in our case, what is the national conversation about? The drug war. Federalism. The Marcos resurrection and/or martial law. Fast-tracking key infrastructure projects. Five-six.

Do they reflect intellectual curiosity? Do they consider that we can learn from others – take the Asian tigers, for example? And how do we discard a fixed- and develop a growth-mindset?

When does society start to fall apart? Try: When it is the regional laggard and despite putting together several quarters of 7% growth it still cannot figure if it is coming or going? And so it is clutching at straws like EJKs?

EJKs? Even the writer's Eastern European friends who lived through the gulag era under Soviet rule can’t hide their sensitivities – but to Juan de la Cruz it is leadership to be proud of?

“What did we do to deserve this?”

That's from an editorial of a major paper, quoting “the wife of the South Korean businessman that was kidnapped and killed just steps away from the office of the PNP chief . . . and his official residence, inside the police headquarters.” Should it have instead asked, “Are we in the press or media in our heart of hearts doing our job?” 

In fairness, we all need education: Does Juan de la Cruz know who and what we are? Parochial. Insular. Hierarchical. Paternalistic. Political patronage and dynasties. Oligarchic. Culture of impunity.

Translation: one Marcos is too much; Marcos plus Duterte equals disaster; add another Marcos is cataclysmic?
Consider the parallel: “There had been no process of purification, no trials for the butchers, and no destruction of the KGB machine . . . Jump forward to the beginning of 2015 and Putin is still in the Kremlin . . . I was one of those who thought at the time that sacrificing some of the integrity of the democratic process was the lesser evil . . . Such trade-offs are nearly always a mistake, and it was in this case, as it paved the way for a more ruthless individual to exploit the weakened system.” [Winter is coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the enemies of the free world must be stopped; Introduction, Garry Kasparov, Public Affairs, New York, 2015]

To our religious and the faithful, it is not about our faith (or isms.) It is “Giving to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God which are God’s.” And to our elders and oligarchy, it is about community and the common good. The Titanic being a good example.

Why do we have ISIS in Mindanao and the rebels before that? It has nothing to do with another ism like Federalism. It was Deng who was able to square it: “We need Western money and technology if we are to lift our people from poverty.” “It’s the economy, stupid!” What about politics? It is the problem, not the solution!

Finally, if we cannot “give and take” truth to power, then we can talk destiny, that is, PHL being like a South American banana republic!

“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]

“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 . . . A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade.” [The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Harvard Business Review, March–April 1990]

“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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