Friday, March 17, 2017

“Pwede na ‘yan” must not prevail

Where does it come from? Not from winners but from losers? Or from an “island mentality”? “The term, ‘island mentality’ may be connected with being an island, but it means far more than just geography. Here is one dictionary definition (

‘An island mentality is a psychological state more than a geographic state of a person: a belief in a community's or culture's superiority, correctness, or specialness compared to other communities or cultures. Inspired by positive-minded well-meaning groupthink, increasing homogeneity over time, isolation-induced ignorance of other cultures or communities, fear of the unknown or being outnumbered (and a desire to compensate for their smallness amid the world), and lack of conflict with/lack of destruction by other communities (improving relative progress and social harmony and giving some credence to their feelings of superiority).’

“There are two countries that come up on search engines when you look up ‘island mentality’. One is the UK; the other is Japan.” [Historical Perspectives on an Island Mentality, Lucille Turner,, 28th Jun 2016]

Beyond these countries is also Trump country? “Throughout history, American presidents have declared it their job to protect and advance the interests of the United States and its citizens. President Trump has shoehorned that wholesome, uncontroversial idea into a narrow-minded, exclusionary governing platform that’s likely to alienate much of the world while hurting the very people whose cause he claims to uphold.” [President Trump’s Island Mentality, The Editorial Board, Sunday Review, The New York Times, 4th Mar 2017]

Writing about Trump in a December (2016) posting, the blog said “Entrepreneurs will go for it – to the hilt. Including leader of the free world in the case of Trump. At the end of the day, they learn from their mistakes. The Trump-Bannon team will make mistakes – and learn from them? To get to their North Star – beyond campaigning into governing – they will have to. They must learn from their mistakes!”

Or is that a big “if”? Is Trump simply full of himself? Lyin Ted and crooked Hillary? Or is this guy a fraud as Bloomberg pointed out?

If in the Philippines Du30 must look over his shoulders, in the US there is the “Impeach Trump Now” website led by the Free Speech For People. And its Legal Advisory Board reads like a who is who – like Lawrence Lessig, the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership, Harvard Law School and Steven Shiffrin, Professor of Law, Cornell University Law School to name just two.

But let’s get back to island mentality which also connotes groupthink. [And the blog recently had a post on groupthink; this one is to build on that.] 

Groupthink is a dynamic wherein members of a team see the world through a biased, narrow lens, reach premature conclusions, and make bad decisions. In 1973, Yale psychologist Irving Janis began exploring the concept of Groupthink by researching the chain of events involved in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, where U.S.-trained and equipped soldiers attempted to overthrow Fidel Castro's Cubangovernment.

“As Janis put it, ‘Groupthink refers to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.’ Kennedy wanted to overthrow Castro and his subordinates knew it – which meant that they, as a group, were not acting and thinking as intelligently as they could be . . . By directly involving himself in the decision making, Kennedy caused his subordinates to come up with a plan that pleased him rather than one that made the most strategic sense. The result, as history shows us, was a disaster and quickly put the U.S. on a course to go to war with Russia.” [Preventing “Groupthink”: Take your team off autopilot, Ben Dattner, PhD, Psychology Today, 20th Apr 2011]

But Kennedy learned from his mistake. And that is the hope with Trump. Will he, or won’t he? “Fortunately, President Kennedy proved capable of learning from his mistakes as his actions in the wake of the next major crisis that occurred – The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 – prove . . . Kennedy, unlike what he did the year before, decided to try and get as much information and to identify as many different courses of action as possible. So, he convened an Executive Committee . . . composed of Vice President Lyndon Johnson, his brother Robert Kennedy, then Attorney General, and other members of his cabinet. He gave [them] time to explore and present various courses of action, then recused himself from the process so as not to bias it . . .

“Robert Kennedy took on the role of Devil's Advocate, and was tasked with vigorously arguing against contemplated courses of action . . . The end result, thankfully, was good group process lead to successful outcomes. By making well-considered moves, President Kennedy influenced his Russian counterpart, Premier Nikita Khrushchev to tone down the crisis. Together, they took steps to improve relations between the two countries such as by establishing the direct telephone connection or hotline where the leaders of the two countries could get in immediate contact with each other. 

“Leaders at any level of any kind of organization can learn from this case study. Sometimes, the best thing a leader can do to prevent Groupthink is to take a step back from his or her team, and allow the group to reach its own independent consensus before making a final decision. Leaders can also be helpful by encouraging the members of the group to speak their minds openly so that different perspectives are discussed and debated.” [Dattner, op. cit.]

Have our leaders learned from their mistakes? Have we learned from our mistakes?

How do we turn from losers to winners? From regional laggard to the next Asian tiger – the fastest developing country in the region? How come it is the Vietnamese that are showing us the way?

We may be too proud to want to learn from our neighbors. But neither can we let “pwede na ‘yan” prevail. It will but confirm that we’re neither here nor there. 

Consider our state-of-affairs: ‘EU doesn’t understand PH problems’ – Palace; Robrero prods Duterte: Focus on ‘war on poverty’; Federal system is the best – Duterte; Cusi wants more investments in merchant power plants; Export growth target to be revised upward;Benchmarking Asean export drivers: How is PH faring?

And what can we learn from a body of knowledge that is out there? For example, here is an online course offered by Oxford University. “From Poverty to Prosperity: Understanding Economic Development. Learn about the role of government and the key political, social, and economic processes that elevate any society from poverty to prosperity. 

“How can poor societies become prosperous and overcome obstacles to do so? Professor Sir Paul Collier is one of the world’s leading scholars on this question, and in this economics course you will have the opportunity to learn from him directly.

“This course will discuss and examine: The role of government and the key political, social and economic processes that affect development; Why societies need polities that are both centralised and inclusive, and the process by which these polities develop; The social factors that are necessary for development, including the importance of identities, norms, and narratives; The impact of economic processes on development, including discussion about how government policies can either promote or inhibit the exploitation of scale and specialisation; The external conditions for development, including trade flows, capital flows, labour flows and international rules for governance.

“Enroll in this course to understand the factors that influence economic development and the different development paths that countries across the world have taken. By the end of the course, you will be able to: Identify internal political, social, and economic factors that influence development; Understand how external influences can impact the internal political, social, and economic processes; Understand the varied paths of development that different countries have taken; Apply the concepts learned by completing a final assignment that allows learners to practice the analysis of development challenges using the concepts of the course.”

‘Alam ko na ‘yan.’ The test of the pudding is in the eating. Are we the representation of the “Poverty” not the “Prosperity” the above course speaks to?

“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]

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” [William Pollard, 1911-1989, physicist-priest, Manhattan Project]

“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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