Global Observations

Want to Learn About Resilience? Immerse Yourself in the Philippines!

“Give me ten thousand Filipino soldiers and I will conquer the world,” said General Douglas MacArthur, Commander of US Army Forces in the Far East during the Second World War. Today, over 70 years later, the Filipino people are not at war; they’re in the aftermath of Yolanda, the worst typhoon ever to hit their country. But spend a few days in the Philippines witnessing the resilience of these people, and you begin to see what MacArthur meant. This was the backdrop for our In-Market Action Learning® program in December, and it changed participants’ thinking in the most profound way.  
In early December, The Immersion Lab spent three days in the Philippines with high-potential, future enterprise leaders of one of the world’s leading healthcare organizations. Our intention, as always, was to immerse them into the realities of both healthcare delivery and business in this fascinating and dynamic market.  
Lessons from a local innovator  
Manila, like many high-growth Asian cities, is crazy – crowded, polluted and full of traffic. Adding to the excitement is its unique public transport system, much loved by the thousands of commuters who are collected and dropped off at places of their choice for a nominal fee. ‘Jeepneys’, a cross between old-style American jeeps and a mini-bus, are however ageing and increasingly contributing to the rise in pollution and traffic chaos. But a local company, Global Electric Transportation (GET), aims to change all that with the COMET, a fully electric city-optimized shuttle. With zero carbon emissions and a cashless payment system, COMET is poised as the best public transport alternative for Manila.  
We knew GET would be a perfect host company for our In-Market immersion. What we didn’t know was how our visit would be impacted by the very problem GET aims to solve.  Leaving nothing to chance in the heavy morning traffic, our group arrived with plenty of time to spare for our meeting with the GET executives. Unbeknownst to us, another group from Malaysia was stuck in traffic and late for their earlier morning meeting with the same team. The Malaysians were late; we were early …..  What to do?  The fast thinking GET team simply combined the two sessions. So there we were – a first in the history of Immersion Lab – having a rich discussion with not only GET on their innovation but serendipitously learning how another country is assessing innovation of its own transportation system! It’s the kind of thing that only happens on an In-Market Immersion.  Lessons learned, new friendships forged, great insights gained on building a culture of innovation, and most importantly a glimpse into the passion and drive of a truly inspirational company.  
Lessons from the street  
Carefully crafted immersions also provide a unique opportunity to boost leaders’ appreciation for their role in the communities in which they live and operate. We chose the Virlanie Foundation, which cares for street children in Manila, as the perfect setting in which to build that holistic type of leadership in our team. And did it ever.  
Words almost can’t describe watching senior executives on their hands and knees, singing and play-acting with these small kids from the street. How heartwarming it was for these leaders, some of whom have children of their own, to bridge the gap between themselves and these little people even for just one afternoon. Most of the kids are orphaned, and are fighting tuberculosis or HIV. But the truth is, they are inspirational. It is their joy and resilience that is infectious, not the health issues they grapple with. For the leaders on our team, their visit to Virlanie was the most visceral and moving experience of the entire immersion.  
The aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda brought the Philippines and the world into partnership with a shared sense of “pulling together” to rebuild and move forward. That attitude permeated our In-Market experience and made a deep impact on our participants. Innovation, optimism, resilience were strong take-outs we will all carry forward in our leadership roles.  Thank you to all those who met with us and inspired us in Manila!