Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Other Mark

See, last time, when I said Mark, I meant this Mark, my favourite contact/friend of all time. I met him just before the financial crisis hit or we may have been partway through it by that time, interviewed him on boring things like the need for restructuring of the financial sector, and somehow, despite this, became friends, good friends.

This is the only personality profile I did of Mark and it was in conjunction with his book, World of Risk, which was published in time for the millennium. I liked the story, so here it is, one of the last few on this happy blog. Thank you Addy, for making this possible.

TRANSCENDENTALIST philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote in his essay "Circles": "Beware when the great god lets loose a thinker on this earth. Then all systems are at risk. It is as if a conflagration has broken out and no one knows what is safe or where it will end...."

He might have well been talking about Bain & Company (Asia), Inc managing director and "World of Risk" author Mark Haynes Daniell, who grew up in New England, home to the Transcendentalist movement in the mid- to late-1800s, and himself a thinker set loose to shake the foundations of the systems in place.

Daniell can't help himself. As a strategic consultant, it is in his blood to constantly seek a better, more efficient way of doing things. He has been living in Singapore for the past three years with his Italian ex-ballerina wife Ivana and two sons, Vinci, 14 and Christian, 6, having arrived in Asia two weeks after the July 2 1997 baht devaluation.

It was to him the most interesting point in Asian history, from a strategic consultant's point of view at least, and planted the seeds for his book "World of Risk".

"The book really came about as a result of the Asian experience starting in 1997 up until my writing the book. Until the crisis hit Asia I had never done a lot of writing or public presentations."

He said the book was built up from a series of articles he did for the Asian Wall Street Journal and an in-depth article in the Singapore Economic Bulletin on the crisis.

Publishers John Wiley and Sons, having heard Daniell speak and seen some of his articles told him that if he would like to write a book, they would be happy to publish it."And so with no manuscript and a one-page table of contents, I signed a contract to deliver a book in six months, not something I would recommend anyone with a full-time job and family."

He began writing in early 1999 and as he read up on such things as the "global architecture" and the management of challenges and crises, he began to see that although there was a lot of thoughtful analyses out there, there were no clear answers.

"I sat back and thought about what is happening. We live in a global world, we now have global crises. The economy is global, the Internet is global, crime is global, environmental crises are global, the poverty gap is global, cultural risk is global.

"Despite this, we don't have global solutions. We don't have institutions that function effectively, we don't have collaborations between institutions that function effectively and the Asian crisis in particular struck me as being an archetypical example of a larger problem.

"As President Clinton says, we have gaps in the global architecture. The nation state is too small to solve problems on its own while the international institutions like Asean are very weak in their ability to create bold strategies and implement them and the international institutions like the IMF (International Monetary Fund)
clearly don't get it right all the time and are often underfunded and too narrowly chartered to solve the problems."

His 20-year background in strategic consultancy came into play here. "It was clear that there was a need for a better approach and a clearer plan to drive change, to drive response to problems and to create a better global architecture to allow us to put our best resources into play in the best possible way to achieve the biggest
possible result.

"To create change in the dynamic global systems that have acquired a lot of momentum in the wrong direction is going to take a lot more effort, a lot more alignment, a lot more coordination, a lot more focus, a lot more vision and a lot better leadership than we are currently getting today."

"World of Risk" describes the problems, offers a state-of-the-art model of a global strategy and then applies it to existing social challenges. These are the economy, disease, crime, terrorism, the environment, cultural risk, the cyber world and the
poverty gap.

"What we see in the literature is identification of fault lines between civilisations but no prescription as to how to build bridges over the chasms or buffers between colliding continents.

"So what I've done in the third part of the book, in the applications, is to specifically set out alternative visions in these eight areas and to propose some specific initiatives that we could pursue to build a better and safer world for the next generation.

"It's really a very high level global strategy in the broader sense of the word, it is about global affairs, about restructuring what we have to make it work better in a very practical way," Daniell said.

And how has the book, which has only been out a couple of months, been received? Daniell said other than making various bestseller lists in Asia and the UK, it has also been picked up by some state leaders and actually sold out at the participants' section in Davos, Switzerland, this year.

"There are now two prime ministers and two deputy prime ministers who have actually had conversations about what it (the book) means," he said.

One of the most popular parts of the book has been the final chapter which contains a "message of hope" for the future. "As I wrote the book, something unexpected emerged from my thinking that was not part of the original outline. It was really that not only do we have what you could call gaps in the global architecture, but also gaps in our personal architecture."

Daniell pointed out that the old institutions of the church, family and state, to use the Western trilogy, have seen a great deal of erosion."The family is breaking down in a lot of areas, the church is playing a far less significant role in the lives of my generation than it did in the past and the state is no longer capable of making people feel safe or even eliciting respect.

"Given the situation, a lot of people have been severed from the notion of real purpose in their lives and you might call that gaps in the personal architecture."

However, despite the grim prognosis, Daniell does believe that people can make a difference in a positive and meaningful way. "By engaging in a process of building a better world, I believe we can not only fill the gaps of the global architecture but also those in our personal architecture and provide a sense of value, meaning, belief and purpose.

"So it's a message of hope that in that effort we will recover a better part of ourselves and find a sense of purpose, of belief and of value which will hopefully really make us better people."

He pointed out that it is important for people not to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of challenges but to pick just one issue and take just one action at a time that will start to create exponential increase in the amount of effort that goes into overcoming these problems.

"Every person can make a difference. It's what George Bush called a thousand points of light. When a thousand points of light come together in a coherent way, you can illuminate a much better path forward. You CAN make this a better world. And that's what the book is really all about."

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