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Fear of the Unknown, the Art of War, and Competitiveness

Written By: Claudia Gomez
Published On: September 15 2006

"A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war, wide awake, with fear, with respect and with absolute assurance. Going to knowledge or going to war in any other manner is a mistake, and whoever makes it, will live to regret his steps."
The Teachings of Don Juan, Carlos Castaneda

It is a natural human reaction to fear the unknown. Perhaps these feelings are a self-protecting mechanism, and necessary to maintain the status quo, to preserve feelings of an artificial security. Nevertheless, this act of negating a changing reality is a far cry from providing real feelings of security. On the contrary, it makes those who are afraid to investigate the cause of this feeling more uncertain. If we think of fear in another way (or with other "lenses"), we can come to think of it as an ally—it is a sort of defense system that alerts to certain weakness, and the consequent necessity to identify them, understand them, and handle them. For this process to occur, it is necessary to admit—a verb which is underused these days—that what we are doing in the present is not necessarily the best thing, although rationally, we believe it is. Admitting weakness is not easy, as it is the psychological equivalent of naked exposure. But although this feeling may be uncomfortable, it will allow us to take action.

With imminent necessities come urgent decisions, meaning that it is vital for many Latin American entrepreneurs in growth markets to be constantly alert, almost with a degree of fear, to all the variations in the market. Also imperative is a perpetual search for the best way to carry out the business objectives, within all resources—whether potential or actual. This is analogous to the foundation of the legal system, whereby ignorance of the law is no defense: civil responsibility is the overriding necessity.

Here we are addressing an important point referring to the necessity of the consumer to enquire for trustworthy sources (here we define the consumer as the entrepreneur who makes the decisions). The second point we're raising relates to the "war" of the marketplace—the competitiveness that must face any actor in this space.

Microsiga and the Weapon of Knowledge

Once it has identified the problem, as Microsiga has done, a competitive company cannot do more than to use the best weapons it can to defend itself appropriately. The weapon of choice in this war has been knowledge. In an interview with Jorge Buitrn of Microsiga, he shared the idea that one of the greater challenges faced by the company is to educate potential software users (in other words, to present in a practical manner) concerning the advantages of integrating the various enterprise departments for a company in growth, by means of applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) or any other software solution that has been designed to address requirements in a specific atmosphere of production. It is difficult to think of a significant production system for any market that does not require software products at some point in its functional system. Microsiga decided to share its many years of experience in the implementation and design of solutions such as ERP, human resources (HR), and others, in a book that explains the purposes and benefits of these software applications to production processes, from an objective point of view. Written by Ernesto Mario Haberkorn , the book's title translates as "Enterprise Management with ERP."

It is general knowledge that in today's economic world, access to near real-time information is fundamental to making the correct decision. Haberkorn writes: "The catch-phrase for companies that are dealing with this demand is Keep moving'. To this phrase, there is also an addendum: But fast'. While before, it was possible to advance, to retreat, to halt, and to advance again, now the movement must be constant and continuous: advance, advance more, advance more rapidly" (from page 18 of the Spanish version).

In this manner, these software applications allow decision makers to access information from any of the company's departments in real time, with the possibility even of generating all types of fundamental reports for decision making, and of allowing direct communication between the different production processes. Thus, for example, accounting and finances can have access to the different inventories within the production process, and to make real-time observations of the state of all the factors of their process—and thereby to make different plans from the short, medium, and long term perspectives.

According to Buitrn, Microsiga has spent a great deal of time and resources in a process that is fundamental in the heat of competition. Across all processes, they noticed the fundamental need to educate their main potential software user: the government.

Sowing the Seeds of Competition

With the objective of supporting the "in-house" development of software, some Latin American governments have promoted programs to give information and economic support to those who wish to integrate enterprise solutions into their companies. For instance, this is the case in Mexico, where the "Fondo Prosoft" (Program for the Development of the Software Industry) governmental initiative has tried to stimulate investment in the sector, and also to contribute through the education and training of personnel, the development of protectionist policies, and the promotion of the local market, in addition to financial contributions. Thus, the government plays an extremely important role for the company which develops software, as with the user of this technology.

In addition to being one of the main consumers in the market, the government also mediates between the companies that constitute the demand for software, and the companies that produce it. After all, it is the government who, by means of software use, contributes to education and the assimilation of these technologies in small to medium businesses (SMBs). In addition, the government implements future policies through the governmental departments of education and of trade, among others. It also contributes by shaping the qualifications and skills of the workforce that the market requires. Although the citizen must know the law, as we mentioned previously, it is the government who must facilitate the means to acquire this knowledge.

In order to contribute to industry growth and to generate a competitive atmosphere, the government must implement—in addition to certain protectionist policies—political measures that generate the appropriate atmosphere and conditions. The final mission must always be to bear in mind the necessity not to lose sight of goals in the multiple decisions that must be taken day by day, and to be able to develop the competitive advantages that have been visualized in the market. There will always be problems, and to solve them is part of the daily existence of companies and individuals. For that reason, entrepreneurs must motivate themselves to look for new solutions to their problems, instead of maintaining—or wishing to maintain—the status quo. This is a high priority, as much for the government as for software vendors and the value-added resellers (VARs) that wish to compete.

Endgame

History has demonstrated that the concept of competitive advantage is in constant flux. Although numerous attempts have been made to list a certain number of characteristics (such as the service, product differentiation, and so on), the Spanish version of Wikipedia gives a good definition, along the following lines: "The list of potential competitive advantages is very long. Nevertheless, it is thought that for a market in constant flux, a competitive advantage does not really exist that can be sustained over a long period of time. It is said that the only long-term competitive requirement is that a company must be as alert and agile as necessary to be in a position to always find advantage "

Of course, this includes the ability to leverage advantage to maximum benefit during the time that it lasts. When finding an advantage or weapon that serves us to fight certain problems or to reach certain goals, we must not lower our guard by thinking that the problem has been solved. On the contrary, one has an obligation to be more alert to face the next one. In life, in war, and in business, there will be always problems to solve, and realities to face. By means of these confrontations, we can grow on a personal level—or on an enterprise scale.

 
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