Creating Management and HRD Strategic Challenges for Performance, Results and Prosperity

Article excerpt

Leadership leap into the 21st century

Creating management and HRD strategic challenges for performance, results and prosperity

(Keynote address on the 27th ARTDO International Management and Human Resource Development Conference, ARTDO Asian Regional Training and Development Organization, Penang, Malaysia, September 28, 2000)

PENANG has always been one of my favorite Southeast Asian places - and one of my unfulfilled dreams is to retire somewhere between hill and sea on this lovely island. And I know even retirement on Penang would not be sinking into lassitude on some lotusland. No-retirement here would be an active one for both mind and body - because Penang keeps up with the world in every way.

Although I have not visited here for sometime, I keep tabs on Georgetown - in whom I delight - as a microcosm of East Asian culture. And I know Georgetown has become an icon of information technology in East Asia.

So let me begin by thanking Dr. Thomas Chee of ARTDO and the distinguished Patron of this Conference, the Chief Minister of Penang State, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon for their gracious invitation, which I'm afraid I may have been too quick to accept.

Apart from the anticipated pleasure of visiting Penang again, my eagerness stems from my interest in ARTDO's work of regional training, which developed during my time as East Asia's longest-serving Labor Minister.

And I subscribe wholeheartedly to your Conference theme.

Over these next few years, the ARTDO countries must indeed make a "Leadership leap into the twenty first century."

Over these next few years, our countries must learn to cope with the "new economy" being created by the new information and communication technologies.

Over these next few years, our national communities must convert themselves into "Knowledge Societies." They must position themselves strategically on the right side of the "digital divide" threatening to split the globe.

You and I recognize the world has always been divided into the haves and have-nots. This time around it is splitting into the world of the skilled and the unskilled - the world of the knows and know-nots.

If our countries are to survive - and prevail - in such a competitive world, they must produce worldclass workforces. Only by doing so can all of Asia transit finally to developedcountry status.

On this theme, let me elaborate briefly.

Coping with the new economy

At the start of a new century and a new millennium, new scientific and technological knowledge is challenging our conventional wisdom.

Most of what we assume - axiomatically - no longer fits our reality.

The continuous process by which emerging technologies are pushing out the old has become so relentless it objectifies Schumpeter's theory of "creative destruction."

And not since Marx has capitalism displayed such "brutal vigor" - battering down "all Chinese walls" of the old order, and compelling all nations to adopt the new modes of production.

Specifically, the new communications and information technologies - working in synergy - are generating an "information revolution."

By their ability to transit data instantaneously - across time zones, frontiers, and cultures - they are annihilating distance and creating a virtual borderless world.

This information revolution has also generated unprecedented interdependence - "globalization" - among individual countries. And it has created a "new economy" characterized by the widespread use of information and knowledge in business and the economy.

Increasingly for countries, corporations and individuals alike, the ability to compete in a world where all the barriers are falling will mean the difference between survival and extinction.

This new era will be different from every other, in the possibilities it holds for everyone of us; and in the demands it makes on our creativity, intelligence, and adaptability. …