Book review | ?Leap: A Sustainability Fable? by Dennis Posadas

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By Ike Suarez

?Leap: A Sustainability Fable? is the fourth book authored by Dennis Posadas, an alumnus of the College of Engineering of the University of the Philippines Diliman, who now also has acquired a writing career.

Leap

That he passionately advocates further development of the high-tech economy is a given to those who know him. So also is his passion for projects that involve development of clean energy solutions.

And why not? He is an electrical engineer who spent a number of years in the semiconductor and chip industry, principally with Intel Corp. As such, he was into industrial automation and robotics.

He has also worked in the tech incubation sector, specifically the UP Ayala TBI in Diliman.

Not only is he a UP Maroon. He also has had fellowships at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Climate Institute in Washington D.C. Aside from writing, he today is a Philippine-based consultant involved in low-carbon development projects.

As is his second and third books, his latest opus is a business fable. This time around, the message he wishes to impart is that research and development (R&D) must be a constant in the goods and services a high-tech company offers. It also cannot rest on its laurels, content to harvest the fruits of its market entry due to its initial R&D efforts.

Focus on the bottom-line alone — without serious effort at further innovation — just won’t cut it in the long run.

The products and services offered must also be environmentally friendly. If not, there will be market forces to pay — forces that will put the company out of business.

An environmentally green for green’s sake approach — without concern for the costs of its doing business — will also not do the company good. Such environmentally friendly and responsible approach must likewise be designed from the start with financial viability in mind.

Such approaches must be done in a company culture that fosters creativity and innovation. Included here would be enabling employees to engage in product development efforts at their own initiative using company time and resources.

Sounds like a rehash of what most management gurus such as Tom Peters have been preaching since the 1990s? Not if written by Posadas.

The book has not been written in textbook fashion. Rather, this slim novel of his has been lucidly written and reads like a best-selling novel. It has the elements of corporate espionage, detective work, a love angle, and of course, a technology angle.

The fourth centers on the heroic and secret efforts by company engineers to kick-start anew the technopreneurial spirit that made it a market leader.

Its now-middle aged founder has already lost his initial passion for R&D and is now relentlessly focused on constantly pushing his sales force to market the product that has made it a success, no further innovations notwithstanding.

The engineers though know that there are tech challengers out to eat the company’s lunch. Thus, their secret undertaking to meet this tech challenge.

The book targets international and Filipino readers. Published by Pearson Singapore, its setting vaguely suggests Silicon Valley. Its characters are American, but they could represent anyone in the world working in a high-tech company.

The company’s high-tech product is a microprocessor-based engine control system enabling motor vehicle drivers to save on fuel with little trade-offs in engine power. Thus, it was in great demand in the world’s car and truck manufacturing industries.

Being an engineer, Posadas’ writing style has turned out to be a pleasant surprise. He may be a techie, but his book does not read at all like a technical manual only a fellow techie would understand. Rather, anyone interested in the social implications of high-technology would be able to digest what he has written.

The book will be out in the Philippine market this November. As such, its contents and message are relevant to a country whose economy must now be globally competitive.

If the Philippines wishes to revive its manufacturing sector, it can no longer do so on the basis of cheap and unskilled labor. Other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam, can easily offer much lower-priced industrial labor.

Rather, smart manufacturing that makes Philippine labor cost effective with the quality of its products would have to be the path the country must take. Such will require industrial workers who are skilled and comfortable with computers and robots.

Philippine manufacturing concerns must also be administered with 21st-century management methods. Workers must now be viewed as intelligent, creative, and productive individuals. Command and control methods of an earlier Industrial Age will no longer do.

Posadas’ book can be read at several levels, among these reading it for the sheer pleasure of doing so. In other words, reading it as if one were on the beach during one’s summer vacation.

However, it can be read also as a guide for managers and policy makers in both the private and public sectors.

Reading Dennis Posadas’ latest opus was worth the time and effort. Engineers can write in simple and lucid language after all. Now, that’s an interesting lesson learned by this reviewer, who partially makes his living by editing press releases sent out by technology companies.

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