In de kantine van onze camping in Frankrijk was er gratis wifi, tot groot genoegen van
het gros van de overwegend Nederlandse campinggasten die elke dag wel ergens hun
momentje pakten om de mail te checken. De iPad heeft in sneltreinvaart een plaatsje
veroverd op het lijstje ‘all that you can’t leave behind’.
Maar ook laptops en natuurlijk bosjes smartphones, overal om me heen. Er was één
avond dat ik me heb zitten vergapen aan een gezin van vier aan een rond tafeltje.
Vader en moeder tegenover elkaar, elk druk met hun eigen laptop, geflankeerd door
twee kinderen die naar buiten keken en wachtten tot het zou ophouden met regenen.
Op enig moment heb ik de stopwatch op mijn smartphone maar eens ingedrukt. Daarna
duurde het nog 11 minuten en 32 seconden voordat iemand in het gezin iets zei.
Bij navraag bleek dat de meeste mensen vooral bezig waren met de online
weersvoorspellingen om te zien of het ergens anders beter was en ze mailden met
vrienden om te vragen of die misschien wel veel zonneschijn hadden. En okee, ook
meteen de mail en facebook checken.
En ik? Ik had in een vlaag van verstandsverbijstering mijn iPad thuisgelaten maar
uiteraard niet mijn smartphone. Echter, wat ik ook probeerde, ik had geen bereik.
Geen internet voor mij, geen sms, geen telefoontjes. Alleen mijn gezin, mijn boeken,
mijn buren, uitzicht op de bomen en af en toe een wandelingetje naar het sanitairgebouw.
Alleen het hier en nu. Ik was offline.
Twee weken heb ik dat volgehouden. Maar wel met resultaat. Want ik had weliswaar geen
bereik, ik had wel contact. Met mezelf. Verbinding. Ik heb veel bereikt in die dagen, om
het zo maar te zeggen.
Het was een dubbele confrontatie; allereerst het besef dat ik falende techniek nodig had om
echt even pas op de plaats te maken en vervolgens de aanblik van al die blauw wit verlichte
gezichten in de kantine waar ik ongetwijfeld ook tussen had gezeten als mijn apparatuur
gewoon had gewerkt.
Bij thuiskomst was ik zo scherp als een mes en stortte me met hernieuwde energie op
alle online en offline informatie die ik twee weken lang had moeten missen. Ik werkte me in
no time door de stapel oude kranten heen, las de zomersoap van News of the World in
omgekeerde volgorde, kreeg hoofdpijn van Anders Breivik en buikpijn van Amy Winehouse.
En toen las ik in een artikel over authenticiteit het volgende zinnetje: ‘Hoe doe je dat,
authentiek zijn? Volgens de respondenten heeft het te maken met back to basics en echt
in gesprek zijn.’
En af en toe even geen bereik hebben?!
Estoril 2011 – Who do we need more to survive the (financial) crisis in the Eurozone: Roubini or Houdini?
By Salem Samhoud
The Eurozone needs real connection now the countries are put to the ultimate test of financial decline. There is no painless solution to end the financial crisis. The different state of economic health between core countries like Germany and countries in the periphery like Greece, Portugal and Ireland directs the Eurozone into an unstable disequilibrium. You have to be very positive and energetic to not get carried away by the analysis of Nouriel Roubini, famous predicting economist.
Ever since my days at University I haven’t had a lecture like yesterday, when Nouriel Roubini took the stage at the Estoril Conference 2011 and bulldozered information with very high density into the audience. Roubini is Professor of Economics at the Stern School of Business and founder of the consulting group ‘Roubini Global Economics’. Fortune magazine named him in the list of 10 gurus you should know. He earned that title because of his accurate predictions about the current global financial crisis.
Roubini started his lecture to point out that globalization actually started 500 years ago in Portugal, when new worlds were discovered. But today, here in Estoril, the buzzword is “IMF”. Will Portugal get the help they need to recover their economy?
The crisis started with too much debt and leverage in the private sector. But the private debt turned into a public debt and that had resulted in a supernational debt. This crisis has several causes and components. Firstly there is a budget deficit and secondly we face the aging of population which has two sides: raise of costs due to social security, pensions and health care on one side and a demographic disadvantage of the workforce on the other side. Thirdly there is a growing gap between the countries in the core of the Eurozone, featuring Germany versus the countries in the periphery such as Greece, Portugal, Ireland and also Spain.
Looking at the so called periphery these countries have their own particular gravity of problems but there are similarities. They face budget deficits and a big public debt. And the banks have had their negative influence on private money. Besides, the banks are still unstable. A credit crunch takes place: to grow you need money but since there is less and less money, recovery is out of sight.
On top of that come foreign debt of the private sector, lack of structural reforms and loss of competitiveness. About ten years ago wages started to raise harder than productivity. That resulted in a boomerang effect; the new reality is that other countries produce a lot cheaper, especially Eastern Europe and Asia.
Now, how do we solve this. Or, to quote Roubini: ‘How do you square a circle?’ He gives four options to recover. One is by economic growth, one is by saving money, one is by monetizing and one is by restructuring the economy.
The first solution, economic growth, is no option on the short term. As we have seen before there is no capital, no productivity, no restructuring and the population is aging. Growth on the short term simply cannot be expected.
The second solution, saving money, is no option on the short term either. Saving money rapidly leads to the Paradox of Thrift: economy will drop further and unemployment will raise. Saving should be done gradually. Germany did that for instance, in combination with other measures, but it took them 10 years.
The third solution, monetizing, is not an option at all since these countries are stuck to the euro and its high currency. UK and USA for instance can use the means of depreciating their currency to improve their competitiveness; their goods can be traded more easily on the international market once they are cheaper. The euro today is at USD 1.50. Another challenge appears because this currency rate is good for a strong country like Germany but it’s killing for the countries in the periphery. So we are talking about conflicting interests here.
If economic growth is not to be expected, if saving money is not an option on the short term and if monetizing can’t be done at all then there is only one option left: accelerate the restructuring of the economy. That means shrinking the economy by lowering wages for instance, and start all over. If you do it fast and thoroughly, you still will be working very hard the next five years before growth will be on the horizon.
So, private debt turned into public debt and that ultimately resulted in supernational debt. It has become a matter of all countries in the Eurozone and nobody can be quiet anymore. The current situation in the Eurozone puts a lot of pressure on the members and their politicians. Solidarity is needed and help has to come from the inside, as Roubini states: ‘Nobody is coming from Mars to help.’ Growing together or sinking together is a fork in the road ahead but the car is standing still. Some say that a country like Germany could help by stimulating their economy. With higher wages and lower taxes the spending of Germany could be good for the countries in the periphery. But at the same time we all have to admit that Germany has done a very good job in fifteen years time. Do they now have to pay for their success?
Right now Germany and Finland for instance are refusing to help. They want to wait until 2013 before they take the next steps. If this unstable disequilibrium goes on it might be the end of the Eurozone. I already knew Roubini wasn’t famous for his optimism and listening to his story I wondered who we need more at this moment: Roubini or Houdini?
By Salem Samhoud
The Estoril Conference 2011 entitled Global Challenges, Local Answers has taken off. The first few hours consist of a warming up by the Academy parallel sessions. Erasmus University Rotterdam gives insights on ethical leadership and servant leadership. Then the CEO of The Africa Intstitute of South Africa, Dr Matlotleng Patrick Matlou, shakes the tree. He is in the audience and asks two questions. The first question is why the speaker from Rotterdam hasn’t mentioned any female examples of servant leadership. The second question is more to be seen as a remark. Dr Matlou says: “I don’t find your presentation very ‘global’.” These questions pinpoint the complexity of the conference theme; what is global and according to who and how do we track down these local answers?
The global challenges we face aren’t very new, we have this big topics going on for years now: growth of population, climate change, diseases, scarcity of food and water. Companies and governments are not going to respond fiercely because first they are dealing with a relatively new and profound challenge, the financial crisis. And politics, well, you know what politicians say according to one of the speakers, Pauline van der Meer-Mohr: ‘We know what we have to change but we don’t know how to get re-elected.’
What is interesting about Dr Matlou’s words is that although the earth has become a global village we still look at it too much from a western point of view. We invite him to have lunch with us and ask him to explain some more of what he meant with his questions. ‘We have to change our mindset and really exchange ideas on a global scale. If you ask me things can be made quite simple. Servant leadership is a good example. The most local interpretation of an organization is your family. And when you look at your family and consider the concept of servant leadership the best example is the mother in a home. That’s a leader with all characteristics mentioned and she delivers value through her children. To find solutions we have to look further than our own backyard. That is global thinking. Because, when you broaden your scope you will find all kinds of local answers, all over the world. The global challenges we face go beyond country borders and thanks to modern technology we can think off limits. We are global citizens tied to ideas, not to geography. Your passport is not the only thing you have. Your network allows you to become part of a different community, a community of ideas.’
Later that day speaker Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont and former President of the National Democratic Committee, backs up this idea: ‘Globalization shows results. Young people in the United States don’t make distinctions between race, religion or sexual preferences. They just run the world together. Barack Obama is a representative of these young Americans.’
Hillary Clinton once said ‘it takes a village to find solutions’. She must have meant the global village that hides the local answers. But, with a good network we can find them. And thanks to social media we can dig a lot faster.
On Tuesday afternoon, the 26th of January 2010, a big gathering takes place on a football field in Soweto. On the pitch the final of a Dreamfields football tournament has just ended. The winning team is about to collect their prize. Salem Samhoud takes the microphone: ‘Dear children, Thank you very much for sharing this day with us. I just have a short message for you. Over the years I have become pretty successful by following a clear vision, discipline and by working hard. I believe in a brighter future for everyone. I strive after that. I wish you all a lot of success and happiness as well. And to achieve that please cherish your dreams, be disciplined and keep your feet firmly on the ground.’
After these words the winning team steps forward. But looking at the big group of spectators around them, it becomes clear that this whole crowd is a winning team. Today.
Progress High School is part of this winning team. There, children and teachers opened their hearts and minds for more education and sports. The teachers also expressed their dreams and vision in paintings, which added up to a beautiful dreamwall in the school.
The Ipelegeng Community Center is part of this winning team. The future for them has become more colourful because of a fresh lick of paint on the walls. These new walls symbolise the beginning of a more independent future for the community center that is now ready to welcome the visitors of the 2010 World Football Championship.
John Perlman’s organization Dreamfields is part of this winning team. John organized a tournament for children of 8 primary schools from Pimville, Soweto.
Matchboxology is part of this winning team. They contributed their knowledge and experience on business in South Africa. Furthermore they invited several famous ex-professional football players who work now in a programme called ‘Footballers 4 Life’ that aims at instructing children to resist the negative influences in South African society.
Meropa is part of this winning team. Their help in matters of public relations contributed to the awareness of this event.
Phaphama is part of this winning team. Their organization helped us to connect to the community of Pimville, Soweto. Phaphama taught us a lot about the South African spirit. And they organized our ‘homestays’.
The homestay families are part of this winning team. Not only did they invite us in their homes, they also fed us and shared their thoughts with us. And they offered us a place to sleep. This afternoon, on the playing fields, they cook meals for everybody.
And then &samhoud is part of this winning team. This trip back to the roots of our company was also a journey to our own personal roots. Consciousness, connection, knowledge, ratio and emotion go hand in hand and it forms us once more.
If this winning team today provides everybody with only a little bit of hope, than undoubtedly there will be a winning team tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. That’s what South Africa needs and what this country deserves, being a connected winning team.
An interesting fact that resulted from our World-wide research on connection, was the surprisingly low score of Japan. With a world-average of 76, the Japanese people scored an average of only 64.
Of course, when these results were coming in, discussion broke loose on how to explain this. Some of us are big fans of Japanese culture and had visited the country quite a lot. Based on their experiences, we actually expected that Japan would devastate the scores of the other countries and would be the unchallenged leader of the global connection index. So what happened? Why these disappointing results?
The first possible explanation that came into mind was that the Japanese people tend to score more conservative. Where we in the West tend to extremes to express our feelings (ten out of ten when something is “OK” and zero out of ten when we encounter some minor problems), Japanese culture prescribes modesty and balance. Therefore, scores tend to be lower, especially in comparison with other countries. However, we had already taken this into account. Based on other statistical research in Japan, we already compensated the figures with regard to the custom of conservative scoring. It might still be of some influence on the final score, but not as extreme as this:
So, does this mean that we may conclude that the Japanese people are just not so well connected? Just to be sure, we sent a small team to Tokyo to find out. They interviewed a lot of people to find out the Japanese stance towards connection and how it is being applied in their daily lives and routines.
Luckily, the conclusions that could be derived out of these interviews were not so disappointing as the cold numbers. People explained to us that, generally speaking, Japanese people consider themselves highly connected. However, the connection tends to be of a different quality then our own. For us, connection between people is something essential – something very fundamental. It takes a very prominent role in our society and is considered very important. In Japan, connection is equally regarded as something fundamental, but it is exercised with much more caution. For Japanese people, it is extremely important to respect the privacy and integrity of other people. Therefore, for them, the acts of connection are much more subtle and exercised with much more care. It seems that in Japan there is a larger gap between the experience of connection (which is quite high, according to the interviews) and the external acts that we (Western people) consider to be expressions of connection.
Could this be a plausible explanation for the low score of Japan? Feel free to share your thoughts with us!
A global research has been conducted into connection. In 14 counties ‘&intoconnection’ researched what it means to people to be strongly or weakly connected. This research proves a.o. that connection has a positive influence on the lives of people.
If we look at the figures and ask if women are better connected then men, we can safely say: “Yes, a little”. In most countries women are a little bit better connected then their male companions. Closer studies show that men are slightly better connected with themselves: especially when they are young they seem to know better what they want in life and how they can get it. However, it seems that for women, wisdom comes with age. By the time they reach their 40’s, they have taken over the men and score about the same on these topics.
So far these results seem to match our prejudiced stereotyping of men and women. Men – especially the young and ambitious ones – are mainly focused on themselves and attaining a successful career and see others as competition rather then intimate companionship. Women, being more softer and social are much better connected to others, which suits with a more ‘domestic’ choice of career. “Hey, isn’t that our nature?!” And again, these very political incorrect assumptions seem to be correct when we look at the results. When we examine the figures, the big difference that make women better connected is indeed being made when we include the results of connection with others. Women score significantly higher then man.
For all men who think they finally have some statistic to prove their superior role; I’m sorry to disappoint you. The connection with others that is measured here goes much deeper than superficial blabbering.
So this is the moment where we should abandon our stereotypes (if you hadn’t already; welcome to the 21st century). The connection that we have measured, is closely related with personal success. Being well connected means that you will be more successful. It enables people to engage in better and more valuable relationships in which it is much easier to realise your personal goals. So if connection is the key to success, and men regards themselves as competitive strivers for success, then it appears that they are being beaten by the women!
So men should not shove the importance of connection aside because they are too busy with their successful career. They should not dismiss the concept as “soft”. If you want to achieve success in life, perhaps it is a good idea to have a few meetings with your female colleagues and learn something from their abilities to connect!