Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. (Douglas Adams - author of "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy")
How true is that?
Every day we are regaled with stories of people who never seem to learn from the mistakes of others. Accident "black spots" are designated as such because people never heed the warnings even if they hear about them regularly, and they are well signposted. Political crises occur because the lessons learnt from messes made by previous administrations are not remembered, because ultimately it becomes politically expedient to tread the populist route rather than making the tough calls. Financial crises appear periodically despite the politicians and regulators saying "this is never going to happen again!" after the latest one. To which the rejoinder is always "Oh yes it will!". And it does! We do not learn.
Of course the learning process does not have to relate solely to mistakes, as given in the above examples.
The ability to listen and learn "positively" is alive and well. I recall occasions not that many years ago when senior figures from Singapore would arrive in Hong Kong and invite small, select groups of Hong Kong businessmen for lunch. They would compliment the invited guests on their successes and then, with them suitably preened, would dredge out of them the "secrets" of their success. Back in Singapore they would sift through the information, pick out the good bits they could use themselves or suitably adapt, and discard the rest. Sadly, because "we knew it all already", there was never a return match.
Singapore today, as many will tell you, is a transformed city. It has picked up ideas that have suited its development and does not worry too much about the "not invented here" syndrome that hinders growth in other cities. If it works, use it! It isn't important where it came from initially.
And they are doing it again. The Economic Development Board in Singapore is flexible in its attitude to attracting talent to the city. It is prepared to cut deals. It will contribute to the salaries of suitable experts from outside Singapore if it means better talent will arrive in the City, develop business, enhance the prestige of the country, transfer their knowledge and contribute to the continued prosperity of Singapore.
Okay - Singapore may not suit everybody, but it is telling a compelling story, and people are listening. Including people from Hong Kong!
And if Hong Kong needs yet another prod that we may not be looking or listening enough - beware the next issue of the Global Financial Centres Index. After the last report that indicated there was little difference now between London, New York and Hong Kong - this latest issue will indicate that Hong Kong is slipping. London has improved slightly and New York is moribund in the index, but Hong Kong has fallen. In fairness, Singapore and Shanghai have fallen too, and we will need to wait until later this month to understand why, and then perhaps we can learn from others? Improve our standings?
Clearly our drop in ratings is not (hopefully) directly connected to the CE race chaos, but it is yet another indication - as if we really need any more signposts - that Hong Kong should be concerned about its reputation as an IFC, and the mess with Messrs Tsang, Tang & Leung isn't doing the city any good.
There is plenty of good advice available in Hong Kong. Innovative ideas that were once the lifeblood of this city cannot have just disappeared, but perhaps no one is listening.