Confucian dynamism: Arrogance is almost as good as a solution

Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

PICASSO once asked his friend Rodin if Rodin liked Picasso’s latest painting that was yet unsigned. Rodin studied the painting from all angles and directions, and only after careful thinking answered Picasso: “Whatever else you do…sign it with your name, so that we’ll know which way to hold it.”

Whatever you do, sign it…so that we’ll know how to interpret it. Sometimes, it’s bias. You tend to associate something with a person, either negative or positive, without actually understanding its true merit. It’s like making an opinion from inside a cage, where you are being held captive by a benefactor so that you simply can’t be objective.

My dog Molly, a Siberian husky, can do much better than that, even if he’s in a cage. He knows barking can do him good, at least to exercise his lungs. But Molly can’t argue with me if I don’t have the luxury of time to walk him to the park. It’s difficult indeed for Molly, unless you try to soften it with a question – are you ready to accept a devil’s advocate argument?

Seeking a different view is like chemotherapy. It promises cure but at the same time causes pain in some parts of your body. You have no choice. In a democracy, being exposed to a variety of opinions is best done to test one’s reasoning, even in the workplace, and much more in a non-profit organization.

The other day, I gave unsolicited advice to a young man trying to lead a volunteer group because he’s too aggressive playing saliva tennis with his team. He’s pushing for a project that requires a sizeable amount of money to make things happen. He thinks that the past administrations failed to achieve something. And so, a messiah has to do it!

I asked him several questions: “Is there a better option? Can you do it without spending money? How are you going to sustain it given your meager resources? Lastly, how can you guarantee it in the long term?” Those questions are enough to check one’s objectivity.

The key phrase is “long term.” His answers were evasive. Instead, he came in strong like a loose cannon ball bragging to high heavens that he can beat anyone in a debate, even with Atty. Sigfrid Fortun. As a decent person, you know that you don’t try to beat anyone in a debate. Instead, you win him to your side. That’s humility.

I said nothing, except that I can practically see the future of this guy as though he was one of those farm animals emitting huge quantities of methane that contribute to global warming, which has become so bad even a brand-new white shirt that has come straight from the factory already shows underarm stains in them.

I feel like he’s committing suicide by picking a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

So anyway, my question remains the same: “Why do some people prefer short-term gains over the long-term? Geert Hofstede, a Dutch social psychologist and professor emeritus at Maastricht University Netherlands, may have the answer.

Hofstede describes it within the context of Confucian dynamism or long-term orientation. You can imagine it. People value their actions and attitudes that greatly affect the future. Their common characteristics are persistence, being thrifty, with the whole intention of saving the whole group, and avoiding shame.

In a short-term mindset, values are connected to the present and the past with the stakeholders respecting traditions, fulfilling social obligations, spending resources, and protecting the leader’s face rather than the group.

Ask yourself this question: “What if this young man continues to do short-term actions over the long-term?” So you need to get ready. You need to prepare. Do some soul-searching and try to answer another difficult question: “If the world ends tomorrow, could you honestly say that you have done everything to save the group out of its financial and intellectual bankruptcy?”

Give me an idea. Make me think hard enough. And speaking of “hard enough,” you have no idea how hard my sons and daughter are pushing me to buy iPhone 6. Not for them, but for me. The technique they’re using is called “power and prestige,” except that I’m not interested.

After all, life is basic, simple, and full of common sense. Why complicate things?

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.


Please follow our commenting guidelines.

Comments are closed.