Author, Consultant, Executive Coach - Helping people and organizations grow into desired results

Friday, 17 April 2009

Formula for success: good news and a global century

Over the past two weeks in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore I've spoken to locals about topics ranging from Asia's place in the world, expat life, starting and sustaining businesses and, inevitably, the global financial crisis. The result is an Asia-based comment I want to share, but first let me address this last item.

Where's the good news?

A recurring theme I heard is the people are fatigued by the gloom-and-doom media coverage of the GFC (yes, it's even got its own acronym now) with ceaseless bad news and warnings of worse yet to come.

It's a prime example of the media's primary business model and, coincidentally, an answer to the age-old question of why we don't see more good-news stories: the media broadcasts bad news to drive people into an alarmed limbic state - because fearful people crave more information to develop their survival strategies and thereby become regular consumers of more and more (bad) news. It's an endless cycle.

So I want to counter this and encourage you to do so as well.

For my part, I've taken to posting feel-good news snippets and stories via the twitter micro-blogging platform (you'll see some examples in the top left-hand side of my main blog page). If you're interested, tweet yourself to some free "feel-goods".

What can you do? Turn off the news and go talk to people (like I've been doing). My hunch is that you'll enjoy a much more nuanced, detailed and interactive picture of what's really happening "out there" and you'll have made a genuine human contact as well. We're social, tribal creatures - I suggest we can all benefit from getting informed of what's happening with real people and tone down our consumption of the media's abstract and incessant stream of global bad news.

In other Asian news...

With this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix race the F1 returns to Asia. How appropriate, really. During my travels I observed that the GFC-besotted world right now is a lot like an F1 race.

The ceaseless quest to go ever-faster has produced a multi-car pileup on the track. When this happens the yellow flag is shown, all cars must slow down and no passing is allowed - in other words, it's a holding pattern. Eventually, the carnage and debris are removed and the race resumes as the green flag is shown.

As I see it, when the global green flag flies again and the race resumes, the cars at the front of the pack will all be Asian. Following behind are the rest of the global contenders (some Europeans, Canada looking peppy with its conservative fiscal practices, and a host of others).

And what of America? Well, well with its shaken confidence, and its balance of trade and spending deficeits, it's a bit like a car running on low-grade fuel with borrowed tires. With President Obama now heading up the pit crew, it'll be interesting to see if the performance can be tweaked before the green flag is out again.

The Asian Century

A running debate has existed since the mid-80's about the ascendancy of Asia and whether the 21st will be the Asian Century. Whether viewed in economic or demographic terms, a shift is undoubtedly taking place.

The 19th century has been called the British Century, followed by the 20th, American Century...but it's not as though a changing of the guard happened in the year 1900. Rather, a complicated dance has taken place between these two empires and continues to do so (witness, for example, the pre-GFC ascendency of London to replace New York as the world financial capital). So it will be with Asia as this century unfolds.

That said, you could say that Asia's current advantage in the "global financial Formula One" stems from having done this sort of thing before: in 1997 there was the Asian financial crisis and in 2003 the SARS outbreak. Experience counts a lot in fostering resilience (the London bombings of 2005 were only the latest in a series of assaults on the British capital, and did not have the same deep psychological impact as did 9/11 on the US) and coping strategies.

What about a "Global Century"?

Taking a wider holistic view, there are many signs that humans are getting things pretty spectacularly (and unsustainably) wrong - not just financially but environmentally, interpersonally, and in our development as individuals.

Success in this global F1, I would argue, will require more than just pole position and ever-faster innovations to increase the speed of business-as-usual. Increasingly compelling global events show that we need to apply our energies to something different. I would argue that instead of an F1-style contest in which countries endlessly chase each other on a circular track that is actually a road to nowhere, a useful shift in focus would be to move beyond shifting regional hegemonies represented by the British/American/Asian Centuries and foster an integrated view - the Global Century.

In this way we would be much better placed to have integral and holistic global solutions to the ceaseless stream of global bad news that the media deliver for our consumption - which would put us all in a more cheerful frame of mind. A formula for success indeed.

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