Review: Corporate Culture & First Class Mentality Forum

Panel Members: Dato’ Syed Mohamad Syed Murtaza (Exec Chairman, Hunza Consolidation), Dato’ Dr. Mohd Sofi Osman (VP, AMD Export), Datuk David Chua (MD, DC&A Group), Datuk Vinod B. Shekhar (President & CEO, The Petra Group). Chairman: Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.

 11Mar2009, Dewan Budaya, 09:00-12:15.

Congrats to USM for having made this forum possible. At least there is a formal dialog between the private sector (the Corporate Culture) & USM to identify the areas that we can probably work together to develop what we may tacitly understand.

Prof. Lim Koon Ong, the DVC for Bahagian Jaringan Industri & Masyarakat kicked off the event with a keynote speech, highlighting his choice for using the term First Class rather than First World. What it involves is the delivery of a holistic package of knowledge which is also moral and ethical (endorsed by the Ministry of Education). The way that this may be achieved involves a change of mindset; and not holding on to the old (current) ones such as the "Taman Tun Sardon Hangout Culture". Prof Lim quoted Alvin Toffler on the notion of the 21st century illiterates as "those who can't learn, unlearn and relearn" and this we must overcome, more so with the Blue Ocean Strategy which deals with all the tangibles and intangibles.

The VC introduced the speakers, indicating that this is the first time we're working with local SMIs & SMEs as opposed to the multinationals (AMD, Intel, Motorolla) which USM has always had a working relationship. He also reminded all that USM's transformation program is well under way, emphasizing that we are not benchmarking, but defining our own program like MIT did at the beginning of the last century (although we're contextually developing our own).

He then proficiently segmented the forum to allow the panel members to introduce the subject to get their impressions, then raised questions with regard to the idea of transformation for them to answer, followed by opening the panel up to take questions from the floor, got the panel to sum up, and finally concluded the event.

Segment 1: Panel Impressions

Dato Syed Aidid (DSA) aka Syed Mohamad Syed Murtaza,  introduced himself as a product of an Arab father and Chinese mother. Now 61 years of age he has been making money for the last 41 years and is just warming up. He looked up to his father who stopped work at 99 and passed away at 105. "How to perform when we retire at 56?" he asked, "How can man, a born-genius, misuse and/or abuse his ability? Even the VC is on a year-to-year contract?" Whereas he (DSA himself) is just gearing up for the next 41 years of good work.

DSA recalled how Loh Boon Siew himself interviewed him with just a question, "How many hours a day do you sleep." DSA answered 5-6 and he was hired. He keeps himself physically fit by fasting as opposed to what people generally do- feasting themselves to death. Mental fitness is maintained by reading 2-3 books per week, Emotional health is maintained by trust. There is no point worrying about something which is not there. The same with spiritual health.

On the way to this forum on foot, he picked up a seed. He looked at the tree, saw the ground in which the roots are buried. The health of the seed is a reflection of the environment.

Datuk David Chua (DDC) showed 5 Slides, the first one defining the corporate culture, the rest were not shown. Something like "the collective spirit of the corporate individuals" this culture is manifested in what is relevant today, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). "Humans cannot be governed by laws and regulations."  What must be spontaneous is the "desire to do good deeds".

Mentality is that which effects behaviour; the first class being "civility" - of individuals, society, nation. The corporate preoccupation is to try shape that quality, its education, path and direction. It's all in quality education, lifelong learning and  jatidiri, making up the culture and language.

Datuk Vinod Shekar (DVS) felt out of place, outclassed, nevertheless conjured some random thoughts. He claimed that he is a genuine capitalist. The need to make a lot of money would depends on the greed, which however, has to be directed. There is a need for sustainable wealth.  Business of future is where society is part of it. Sympathized with the fact that the recent budget announcement played down the allocation for innovation in education (Malaysia has no money for education).

Datuk Dr Mohd Sofi (DDMS), from AMD Penang mentioned three ingredients of success - Knowledge, Patience and Value/ Moral/ Akhlak. To AMD, USM is customer, vice-versa. Apart from this link, the are also other links (he quoted Peter Drucker), namely  innovation. He also quoted the meaning of success, from Sayidina Ali - Knowledge , Patience, Value.

Segment 2: Relevant Issues

Chairman: Does the corporate culture override academic culture?

DDC: The interest in business would depend on the university.

DVS: Let's not use the labels academic and corporate, Use "transformational" culture which both the the academic and corporate domain may embrace.

DDMS: (equated something to economy).

DSA: Perhaps USM should open its doors to the corporate sector, absorb to make 5-10% of the faculty, businessmen and make. Get them in as professors.

Chairman: USM has just launched a Graduate School of Business quite different from traditional business schools. Our curriculum is a joint academic-corporate effort).


Chairman: We're facing economic downturn?

DDMS: The corpocracy has betrayed our trust. Ivy league schools producing businessmen/ bankers (of Harvard MBA's)who themselves brought the economy down. There are three kinds of corporate individuals, the 3 I's. Innovator, Imitator and Idiot   (manipulators). It is just that there are a lot of the third kind, the greedy ones.

DDC: In light of the above we're just "spiralling in a vicious circle", we're just going back to basic, just being productive.

DSA: 1st Role, 2nd Yourself. 3rd Personal Life.

Chairman: USM is setting up a program that focuses on catchphrases like "market sentiment". This shall be Neuro-Econmics.

Chairman: In the context of the herd mentality we are in, can a university teach value/culture?
Panel: There were similar respones- "Values already formed when people reach the university." There's now the need to just "walk the talk." And DVS related a personal belief passed down from his parent, "Good guys win. Life's a circle. If he is denied, I'll be denied.
Chairman: USM has deployed, as opposed to just the KPI, the KIP which accounts for the intangibles.

Chairman: In light of all the above, how do businesses change to meet the changing situations?
DVS: There's a need to look for a paradigm. Crisis in an opportunity.

DMS: We need to reinforce values. Accept mistakes, clean ourselves.
DDC: Happy to be in USM . USM needs to be practical. Integrate with society to provide "intellectua;l leadership"
DSA: We've to have our bases to make the decisions.

Segment 3: Q&A
Q1. Not happy with the term "greedy" coined by DVS. Panel?
Q2. Academia is not interested in just money. Panel?
Q3: The definition of "corporate culture" made by DDC does not really clarify the term corporate as it is self-referencing (like the constitutional definition of Malay). The class is equally vague if we go by Gandhi's notion of class. That makes the topic of the forum totally nebulous. In this imprecision however, the corporate individuals are spending their valuable time discussing about problems which are all tied up with the old development paradigm dominated by the New World Order. What then would be a "sustainable" business model which we can share? Can we trade in gold rather than using promissory notes?
Q4/ Q5/ Q6 (howto rather than what).
Segment 4: Panel Conclusion
The chairman ended the forum at 12:15pm with a homework passed on to the DVC, that the forum be documented as a monograph.