Monday, August 25, 2008

Why BN fail to see when they're about to fail

As usual, I've modified the title to an interesting article in Forbes entitled, Why We Fail To See When We're About To Fail which describes a business phenomenon that psychologists may term as denial.

The analysis, I think, holds many parallels in the political sphere. It is particularly relevant to the current political market leader, BN and, more specifically, UMNO.

Let's get back to the business setting first. The article tells the story of the mobile phone manufacturers. It starts with U.S. giant, Motorola which was the outright market leader of the mobile phone market until 1993. It's phones used analogue technology. Motorola did not see beyond trying to improve on the analogue technology. It did not see any significance in digital technology.

Then came the Finnish company, Nokia which chose to use digital telephony. Think about it. In 1992 98% of Nokia's revenues came from forestry and manufacturing rubber boots!

By 1998, Nokia was the outright world leader in mobile phones. That was when the Korean white goods manufacturer, Samsung started getting into the market. It's unique feature was having a camera in the phone. Nokia didn't see what the big deal was with having a camera. The customers thought otherwise. By 2005, Nokia woke up to the Samsung threat.

Blinded by the Light
It is no brilliant statement to say that if you do not see the need to change, you will not change. Everyone knows this. But if everyone knows this, why do so many change initiatives fail to break through this first barrier? Stated simply, we fail at breaking through this first barrier of change not because we don't know it is there but because we underestimate its strength. We underestimate its strength because we fail to take the time or effort to understand fully its nature.

So why don't we see the truck racing toward us, or the treasure of gold beneath our feet? Why could Motorola not see the threat of Nokia? Why did Nokia miss the rise of Samsung? Were these just invisible events? Were they simply impossible for anyone to see?

These might seem like silly questions, but if a particular demand for change were invisible, then we could hardly blame ourselves or someone else for not seeing it. But in most cases, the need for change is visible--if only we would see it. Again, why do we fail to see the need for change? Fundamentally, we fail to see because we are blinded by the light of what we already see.

The denial syndrome
So why do we deny? When we see evidence that a strategy, structure, technology, or product was right in the past but now is wrong, why do we ignore and deny the evidence?

Remember, we fail to see the need for change because we are blinded by the light of what we already see. Virtually every major personal or company change rarely occurs in isolation but contains a context, a history. In virtually every case, individuals or companies were doing the right thing and doing it well before something in the environment changed.

Just as the previous right thing did not come from out of the blue, neither did our ability to do it well. Our ability to do the old right thing well developed over time. Likewise, the maps we used to guide our actions were developed and reinforced by success over time. With success, these mental maps came to guide our behaviors as concretely as physical maps guide the steps we take on a wilderness trek. Our mental maps tell us where to go and how to get there.

The context of UMNO and BN
So, here we are on the eve of the Battle of Permatang Pauh. This Battle comes in the wake of the tectonic shift in the Malaysian political landscape in the General Elections of March 8.

How did the overwhelming results of the 2004 General Elections, which gave such a historic endorsement of UMNO-BN lead to the debacle of the 2008 General Elections? What changed in the brief 4-year interregnum?

Suffice to say that like Motorola at one point in time and, Nokia at another point in time, UMNO-BN went into a comfort zone that many saw as the insolence of office (a phrase used in Hamlet). The keris-kissing episode is symbolic of that attitude. Another phenomenon was the constant lip-service about engendering institutional reforms that never took place. It was as if UMNO-BN expected the rakyat to suffer from amnesia, forgetting the promises made.

I, for one, implicitly subscribe to Lim Guan Eng and DAP's view that favours the evolution of a 2-coalition political system in Malaysia. Such a development will nudge Malaysia's democracy inexorably towards a systemic restoration of constitutional institutions that separate the powers of the Yang di Pertuan Agong, Conference of Rulers, Cabinet, Parliament, Judiciary and States into discrete sets that assert countervailing pressures upon each other. It is this tension, this natural check and balance and, audit process that is the surest guarantee for all Malaysians and our beloved Malaysia.

That is why UMNO-BN needs to seriously reform by constantly changing leaders instead of choosing "no-contest" approaches (this means you, UMNO and MIC!).


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

good piece..if only the umno ppl understand and see the writing on the wall.

CT Choo said...

do they even read and analyse blogs?

Anonymous said...

If they do...

UMN0-BN wont ended up like today!

Patricia said...

I enjoyed this post, CT. It makes so much good sense.