Last June 14, 2011, I attended the PhilDev Forum entitled Innovation and Entrepreneurship for a Globally Competitive Philippines in Makati.  It was a topic that made me recall the Ideas Economy Forum I also attended at the Haas School of  Business in (UC) Berkeley last March 2011 with a similar theme, Entrepreneurship for a Disruptive World.  These forums seem to validate an observation that if Filipinos were to be globally competitive, we need to direct our already well-know intelligence and creative abilities toward productive pursuits initially through meaningful conversations and then fulfillment through determined collaboration.
 
I first heard about PhilDev when they sent out an invitation to their forum in the US last September 2010.  While I was then totally unfamiliar with the group, I realized how “huge” and influential this group is when I was in the airport lounge that September and saw many who’s who in business and government ready to take the same flight to San Francisco.  I was on my way to attend a service innovation course at UC Berkeley and I knew then that I should have attended the US forum since I was already in the area, not so much to rub elbows with the who’s who but to learn from them.  I am, after all, a perpetual student.  Thus, when I got another invitation to attend the forum in Manila, I did not pass up the chance anymore.
 
I was in awe listening to many bright Filipino minds coming together to talk about what could happen in a big way for the Philippines.  I was overwhelmed not just by the realization that this group is extremely brilliant and successful but more dramatic for me is the clarity of vision and the sincerity that permeate their intentions.
 
Led by its chairman Dado Banatao (a Filipino-American thought leader in the field of technology, engineering and innovation), PhilDev seeks to play “a catalyst role inbuilding an ecosystem of science and technology-based entrepreneurship and innovation for social and economic development in the Philippines”.  The forum brought together leaders in government, education and business to share their ideas and plans for a globally competitive Philippines. 
 
There were many topics discussed that day but there were two things that strongly resonated with me :  1)  the role of research and development and 2)  collaboration.
 
I will leave the topic of research and development for another column and discuss instead the role of conversations in collaboration.
 
In a previous Mansmith Mentors article where I discussed my learnings from the Ideas Economy forum, I shared how Susan Hockfield, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) talked about the important role of universities in providing an environment where “big ideas are amplified through conversations”.  I, however, felt that too many conversations hamper action.  I remember Atty. Lorna Kapunan sharing during one of our meetings in the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines that “we (Filipinos) are a people who like to debate the obvious”.  I have heard of many conversations that usually go nowhere.
 
In the same way, I felt “collaboration” was going to be a challenge.  Filipinos do not hold the distinction of being great team players both literally, in the field of sports (we’re better at individual sports like boxing, bowling or billiards)  and figuratively, in government and business. Many Filipinos are personality-based and would rather seek a hero, or a rainmaker and only then may consider collaborating with him.
 
It was clear to me however,  for innovation and entrepreneurship to work, we need to build an ecosystem.    It is frustrating to have so many ideas and realize they all fall short because a nurturing environment is not in place.  And yet as I exposed myself to various initiatives, I saw that things are happening because of how well-meaning NGOs and other private groups continue to spread their good works through good news and powerful connections.  And this was a perfect example --  of conversations and collaboration.  By coming home (most are US-based) to share their dreams and plans for the Philippines, by bringing together relevant public and private stakeholders, by believing in us more than we believe in ourselves, the people behind PhilDev just showed this in action.
 
Meaningful conversations can make us understand, prioritize, dream and work together.  And lest we forget, conversations are two-way.  Listening is as essential for collaboration to work.  Let’s start those conversations now.
 
 
Chiqui Escareal-Go is the CEO and Chief Service Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc.  She will be conducting the 20thDelivering Outstanding Service program on July 21-22, 2016 in Makati.  For inquiries, please email info@mansmith.netor call (02) 584-5858 or (02) 412-0034.