The wins of change: Thriving in a world of in-betweens | Inquirer Business

The wins of change: Thriving in a world of in-betweens

/ 02:01 AM September 26, 2022

The 20th International CEO Conference on “The wins of change: Thriving in a world of in-betweens” of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) was conducted for the first time in a hybrid platform. The past two years saw many firsts brought about by the pandemic. In 2020, MAP had its first Web CEO Conference, and uncertainties notwithstanding, it turned out to be one of the most successful ones ever. So was in 2021.

The 2022 conference is a foray into another experience, this time blending the virtual and the physical, just one of the many we are now taking to adapt to a changing normal. And with each step taken, there is tacit acceptance that we now live in a world with new realities—and not of the augmented kind.

The year 2022 began with high hopes of finally being able to restore our world order, but this is turning out to be as unsettling too. The Russia-Ukraine war triggered a series of unfortunate events—skyrocketing oil prices, broken supply chain, rising inflation, food insecurity, shifting alliances—all these challenging to a world already on its knees from the effects of the pandemic.


But times do not define the human spirit. In St. Augustine’s words: “Bad times, hard times, this is what people keep saying; but let us live well and times shall be good. Such as we are, such are the times.” We have started walking the streets again, taking off our masks—unless you are senior citizen—the gesture symbolic of taking back our lives. The lessons of the crisis will not be easily forgotten, though, and while we are braving the risks, we still remain observant of all the ways we can ensure our safety and well-being.


Business is also in this situation today. Industries and enterprises are in varying stages of readiness to fully reopen and may need to wait for the important parts of their respective ecosystems to catch up. SYNC Southeast Asia Study, Meta and Bain & Co. reported just this month their take on the emerging trends and rising opportunities shaping the region. They expect Southeast Asia to be relatively less impacted compared with the other regions. They attributed this to the growing working population, the projected real gross domestic product growth and the annual inflation rate forecast, favorable indicators that it will perform better than other markets such as the United States and the European Union

The same report also said that senior executives are facing pressure amid economic uncertainties, with 92 percent of those surveyed saying they are concerned by the short-term and three-year outlook. So, while the region’s long-term prospects are promising given improving structural factors, we are not there yet. We are in between.

Managing these transitions was the central theme of this year’s CEO Conference. The insights reflected the tension points as the pendulum swings. We approached this by balancing the issues and introducing two segments that captured and fused the broad perspectives. First, the Thought Accelerators brought with them inputs that can help shape the way forward in postpandemic times; while the Flashpoints focused on those innovative ideas that may now appear to be just glimmers in the distance, but with signs that they have the potential to explode into disruptive fireballs in the near future.

Physical and digital

The subject experts expounded their views on matters that we are bracing ourselves for, and the panel discussion dissected the issues further and provided wealth of ideas that business leaders can bring to their own planning horizon.

We started with the thought that is in everyone’s minds as digital transformations are accelerating: how do we blend the physical and digital and manage their blurring lines with a hybrid workplace?

Then, we looked at the impact of the global crises, the prospects of recovery and growth, and how leaders could infuse the opportunities and threats into their strategies moving forward.


The financial cost of the crisis is slowly being accounted for; and we expect that raising revenues to mitigate shortfalls in the budgets will drive competition, regulations and structural reforms. Where will the capital markets go? How will the conversations on global tax reforms and widening net of cooperation to plug leakages, affect local and international businesses?

Environment, sustainability and governance are getting increased attention and we expect regulations to provide the teeth to enable implementation. Will the future of business be driven by the blue and green?

Talent will be a major competitive advantage but why is it so difficult to attract and retain them? Understanding their hopes and fears can hopefully provide insights on the whys. Companies can build on these to make compelling cases for their organizations.

The pandemic is a humbling experience. We now know we cannot rely on past successes to see our way through, but neither should we be crushed by failures of the past. The big can go bust and the small has the chance to grow bigger. Even those who thrive because of demands created by the crisis cannot be certain how long the good times will last—because things can change in a New York minute. Like Ukraine can happen.

For those who are into Star Wars, we can find wisdom in the words of revered Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. The threat of Sando Aqua Monster, a most powerful giant underwater predator, was a fight that no one else had won. The wise Qui-Gon thought otherwise and this was where he said his famous line, “There’s always a bigger fish.” At the heart of his statement is the idea that no one can be forever invincible, no matter how big, skilled or strong they may be. Something or someone else can come along and be able to beat it. Indeed, Darth Vader finally did.

In this crisis, we remain confident that the human spirit will overcome. In fact, now might be the time for fresh starts—but let us not be reckless. In rebuilding, we repair what were broken. We add to plug the gaps; we subtract what may no longer work given new realities; we divide not only the responsibilities but also the rewards; and we multiply the benefits so that everyone can partake. The road forward will be arduous and rocky. We have to learn how to change our game plans when we are thrown nasty curveballs along the way.

The 2005 MAP CEO Conference carried the theme “Change or Perish.” Nearly two decades after, and with a sense of déjà vu, we are back to the same dilemma. We know how many perished in this pandemic—those who lost their lives, those who lost their livelihoods and those enterprises that lost their means to live. The experience is bruising. This time, the choice is all too real: we change or we perish.

Our shared vision of a progressive future can only become a reality if we are willing to become pioneers again, and start building a new world where our hopes and aspirations of inclusive development and sustainable progress can be cast in every brick and mortar, in every click and portals of progress that we design and enable. Business leaders have a critical role to play—and that is to lead the way. It is the clarion call. INQ

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The author is chair of the MAP CEO Conference Committee, vice chair of the MAP Health Committee, president and CEO of Health Solutions Corp., and former Undersecretary of the Department of Tourism. Feedback at [email protected] and alma@[email protected].

TAGS: Business, MAPping the Future

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