Can we use strategy to deal with change?
What comes to mind when you think of Latin America? I think “diversity” of: languages and dialects, geography, ethnicity, religion, music and festivities. A sub continent comprised of more than 22 countries and territories that is rich and dynamic.
Latin America needs leaders who are critical thinkers, culturally aware, agile thinkers and who can succeed in this dynamic environment. Latin America also shares a great number of challenges, such as bureaucratic procedures, insecurity, high dependence on foreign investment and foreign exchange rates.
Increasing competitiveness in a dynamic economy
How many of you are passionate about Latin America, but frustrated on how things work or don’t work? If you have lived or traveled outside of Latin America, you usually marvel at things such as efficient public transportation, how people are punctual and how it is safe to walk almost anywhere. And then you wonder why we can’t have this at home. BUT. But Latin America has its charm: culture, people, young people who are willing to work for their countries and not to mention, landscapes. We need to take further advantage of our dynamism and transform it into growth. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, growth rates in Latin America are outperforming other regions (See Figure 1).
Figure 1. Competiveness in Latin America
Using education as an economic driver.
It is easy to say, but how can we, as a region, become more competitive? In the long run, there is no doubt that growth is promoted by education. As Nelson Mandela once said, education is one of the most effective means to create social mobilization. Higher education has also high potential to guide growth in a healthy, sustainable manner.
Where should our efforts be focused if we want to increase growth?
According to Figure 1, we should focus on innovation, technological readiness and training to increase competitiveness. In my perspective, a solid academic experience is one that will prepare students to break down cultural and conceptual barriers on Latin America. That includes adopting a holistic approach that incorporates learning about business, politics, economics and ethics.
Dr. Eduardo Montiel believes that students should not only focus on theory but also on how to apply and interpret it. Education is not only in the books, it needs to be practical, up to date and relatable. For example, in Latin America, although we share the same language (for the most part), the region has polarized political ideologies. Understanding politics and its influence on the economy is key to promote growth.
Moreover, education needs to be strategic. Planning according to the region’s needs and virtues strengthens competitiveness. For example, Dr. Niels Ketelhohn, who teaches Strategy at INCAE and is an Associate at Harvard’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, has focused on the role of clusters in regional development and growth. According to Dr. Ketelhohn understanding factors pertaining to the region, such as consumer behavior, family businesses, presidential approval ratings and women leadership, contribute towards the improvement in competitiveness in the region.
Practical education methods and strategy are only a couple of factors that will encourage strong-minded leaders to generate positive impact in Latin America. It is essential to compliment these with other factors such as: values, environmental awareness, cultural sensitivity, collaboration and transparency to promote a sustained regional growth.