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A sobering take on Mexico’s relative productivity was recently discussed in the World Economic Forum (WEF), summarizing some recent findings by the OECD. [1] Mexicans work 2,255 hours a year vs. Germany’s 1363 and the OECD average of 1760. Assuming a standard workweek of 40 hours, Mexicans have zero weeks of relative downtime a year (3/4 of a week if we assume an UPAEP workweek of 44 hours, and 5 weeks if we assume Mexican law’s maximum of 48). By comparison, Germans have nearly 18 weeks of relative downtime at the 40-hour week range and up to 23 weeks at a 48-hour week comparison). Mexicans are working 65% more hours than their German counterparts. Sadly, there is no significant economic indicator in which we are performing better or obtaining a commensurate measure of productivity or GDP gains.

 

This difficult work environment and relatively low productivity achievements is also translated into other disappointing measures. In a recent article, Gray [2] summarizes the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) which ranks the ability of a country and its major cities to attract, develop and retain talent. Of the 100 countries ranked, Mexico was at #71. We ranked far behind plenty of Latin American counterparts like Chile (33), Costa Rica (35), Uruguay (44), and Argentina (49), and only slightly ahead of others such as Brazil (73) and Peru (74). When it comes to individual cities, Mexico ranks better, coming in at 60th.

 

While teasing out the intricacies of macroeconomic complexities are not the purpose of this series of articles, this information must lead us into self-reflection about our place in changing these numbers. The Gray article summarized that the best performers in the GTCI have four key traits in common, which I quote directly:

 

“an education system that looks ahead to the needs of employers and adapts accordingly; a business and regulatory landscape that is flexible; a working environment where employees enjoy flexible working and receive social protection; and governments that foster openness.” [2]

 

However, it identified weaknesses even in these high performing countries such as lower diversity and inclusion, gender disparities, attraction of foreign talent, and multicultural society.

 

One of the important pillars of strengths among the top performers identified in the GTCI report is education which can look ahead to future needs and adapts. Education is the main purpose of our work here at UPAEP, making it flexibly and adaptable is our ongoing task. The leaders we foster here can then go forth and work on the other three identified strengths and battle the weaknesses in society. At the WEF Annual Meeting in 2018, the interim president of Carnegie Mellon University shared the four ways in which universities drive innovation. [3] Dr. Jahanian pointed out that a mere dozen technologies will drive $14-33 trillion dollars a year in economic output by 2025, constituting up to a full third of global GDP.

 

Identifying future technologies that will absolutely have a given impact is not as possible as many would believe, however. In 2006, few people would have predicted the market penetration and life-changing technologies that would be associated with the smartphone, whose current evolution had a major inflection point with the introduction of the first Apple-branded phone in 2007. However, these predictions are worth at least the study in current estimates of tendencies. The 12 technologies identified as major drivers of future economic growth are, in order: mobile internet, automation of knowledge work, the internet of things, cloud technology, advanced robotics, autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles, next-generation genomics, energy storage, 3D printing, advanced materials, advanced oil and gas exploration, renewable energy. My personal knowledge of all research work being done at UPAEP is not universal, but within the scope of my personal interactions with researchers, I know at UPAEP has significant talent in at least the areas I have underlined, with much more talent I have not yet personally met in many of the other fields, I’m sure. It is heartening to see UPAEP so strongly positioned to make a lasting impact in this near-future development, if we give ourselves the opportunities to do so.

 

Having made the effort to recruit such great talents in so many of the fields that will have major technological impacts in the next ten years, we must redouble our efforts to set the stage for those talents to be productive and successful. Dr. Jahanian distilled four recommendations for institutions who want to foster this success:

 

1.    Foster innovation. From 2011-2016, Carnegie Mellon faculty and students created 173 start-up companies, raising more than $1 billion in investment.

2.    Encourage collaboration with the private sector. In the USA and Europe, private company investment in university R&D has grown at a steady rate for years.

3.    Promote diversity and inclusion.  Half of the recommendations come with intense social work and focus. This first recommendation has both a social and practical purpose. Building a more inclusive, diverse society is not only healthy from a sociological perspective, but it also vastly improves the pool of candidates available for demanding jobs.

4.    Explore the nexus of society and technology. This second socially-minded injunction is more important every day. As technological disruption accelerates, so must our serious study of the effects of this technology upon our own society. A recent example is the potential detrimental effects of intense social media use. [4] The positive effects of technology can be amazing – but we must dedicate ourselves to understanding the true pitfalls before any of our advances.

 

These strategic imperatives gel well with our prior discussion on overall university strategy. [5] Knowledge transfer is related well to all four points expressed by Dr. Jahanian, while the social aspects of the active attrition of mediocrity are more strongly associated with the two social imperatives mentioned here. A culture of transformational leadership is required to foster Dr. Jahanian’ s university imperatives, and self-study remains an excellent tool to granularize these results to the individual department.

 

Be they Dr. Jahanian’ s imperatives, or Dr. Lopez’s, or both, or even more, we are left with no alternative but to examine our institutional priorities vs. the future we seek to build and take active steps to align ourselves with our desired strategic outcomes. At your own department or leadership level, what’s your first logical step towards this goal?

References

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[1]

Whitney Leach, "This is where people work the longest hours," in World Economic Forum Global Agenda, 2018. [Online]. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/01/the-countries-where-people-work-the-longest-hours

[2]

Alex Gray, "These are the best countries and cities for attracting and developing talentG," , 2018. [Online]. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/02/these-are-the-best-countries-and-cities-for-attracting-and-developing-talent

[3]

Farnam Jahanian, "4 ways universities are driving innovation," in World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Davos, 2018. [Online]. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/01/4-ways-universities-are-driving-innovation/

[4]

Holly B Shakya and Nicholas A Christakis, "A New, More Rigorous Study Confirms: The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel," Harvard Business Review, Apr. 2017. [Online]. https://hbr.org/2017/04/a-new-more-rigorous-study-confirms-the-more-you-use-facebook-the-worse-you-feel

[5]

Juan Manuel Lopez-Oglesby, "Science, Strategy, and SWOT," UPAEP Graduate School, Puebla, Science Strategy Position Paper 2018. [Online]. https://upress.mx/index.php/opinion/editoriales/innovacion-y-tecnologia/2212-science-strategy-and-swot

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Dr. Juan Manuel López Oglesby, Director, Graduate Biomedical Engineering Sciences UPAEP

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