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“Let’s gear up for the era of Sustainable Productivity”

2018 New Year message from the APO Secretary-General Santhi Kanoktanaporn

It is often said that while life can only be understood backward, it must be lived forward. The dynamic digital economy makes this truer than ever. While it is always easy to look back and analyze what led to success or failure, it is more important for organizations and economies to anticipate and identify opportunities and threats to prepare for the future. This was one of the two challenges faced at the Secretariat during 2017. The other was to find newer approaches to strengthen the engagement of NPOs and other key stakeholders.

During the year, we attempted to identify ways to develop future-proof smart initiatives that could help APO member economies better manage the technology-driven socioeconomic shifts in the global environment and market conditions. We also worked to fulfill the needs and expectations of member countries by engaging with them more intensively at various levels. In this, we adopted the contextual awareness approach by setting up the APO Future Team. The team connected with external experts and used AI-enabled online tools to build the strategic foresight capacity of the Secretariat and member countries, supporting strategic intelligence scanning of our contextual (social, technological, economic, environmental, and political, or STEEP) environment.

With digital technologies massively disrupting workplaces, shopfloors, and even personal space, there is an urgent need for member countries to abandon standard economic and business models and explore innovative approaches to shape their futures. This requires strategic foresight capability, and the Secretariat introduced this concept during the Strategic Planning Workshop in July. It also means that, at the macro level, governments can use foresight capability to navigate through uncertainties and prepare for plausible and, most importantly, desired futures. At the micro level, the key lies in the ability of organizations and economies to shape their own competitive landscapes.

To achieve the APO Vision 2020, in 2018 the Secretariat will develop both innovative and low-cost initiatives that can create more impact, steer member economies to become more competitive, and help them improve productivity following the Roadmap to Achieve the APO Vision 2020. Another important aspect is enhancing the APO brand and increasing cooperation with global partners to provide member countries with best-in-class policy advisory and domain knowledge.

During 2018, the Secretariat also plans to explore digital platforms for new business models. The year ahead will also see the eAPO our digital- and mobile-learning platform evolve into a full-fledged MOOC platform. However, as George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” A mindset change is needed to achieve the desired transformation. We have therefore started to promote the culture of intraprenuership to encourage innovation within the Secretariat, while inculcating design thinking and adopting multidisciplinary approaches to develop and execute programs for our member economies. Cooperative research with economists from Asia, Europe, and the USA will identify new Sustainable Productivity measures and create frameworks more suited to productivity in a world beset by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA).

The tasks ahead are a tall order, but I am certain that together we can shape a better future.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, productive 2018.

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