Alvin Ng is the regional VP & General Manager of Johnson Control, responsible for JCI’s Digital Solution across Asia Pacific & Japan. Prior to JCI, he was the General Manager of GE Digital chartered to lead GE Digital’s industrial software solutions and services. In 2016, he was a participant of the inaugural ASEAN Leaders Programme. Fast forward to today, Alvin is part of the Board of Trustees for Common Purpose Student Experiences.
A partnership between private, public and not-for-profit is becoming more and more critical, not just in the ASEAN context, but in our globalized world. Surprisingly, each sector does not entirely comprehend that it takes the collective to make any real impact in society. It takes a bottom-up approach, rather than a top-down one, to help produce a change in perspective.
The ASEAN Leaders Programme allows this sort of grassroots perspective to happen between leaders of each sector.
Looking through different leadership lens
In my day to day work life, I drive a lot of commercial activities and businesses for the company. You don’t get a lot of chance to look at leadership from any other lens in this setting. The ASEAN Leaders Programme brought together senior leaders from across the region and from across different sectors. What this allowed was the opportunity to look at leadership from different lenses through close interactions and connections with other participants.
Being able to look at leadership from the lens of someone coming from an emerging country gives you a different view, a different perspective. That perspective will change if viewed from the leadership lens of another participant from the not-for-profit sector.
This ability to view leadership through different lenses was, to me, a most powerful experience.
Viewing each sector as part of an ecosystem
At GE Digital, when we decide to start doing business in a new country, we encounter different set of challenges and barriers especially in adapting to a new set of culture, people and politics. As a multi-national organization, it is necessary that we are cognizant of the nuances of each culture, that we develop a deep understanding of their government, people and what builds the community.
In essence, the organization needed to have Cultural Intelligence.
From the programme, I gained high respect and appreciation of the different sectors. It gave me that lens to view them as essential partners if we are to expand in the region. It was then I realized that other sectors are becoming more integrated, thereby more important, to the business world.
Gaining this perspective – realizing the value of all sectors – helps to lessen the barrier and accelerate the value that we bring to the community as an organization.
Zooming out of a country-focus lens to the ASEAN lens
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) aims to promote active collaboration on matters of common interest across its ten member states. The ASEAN Leaders Programme allows this collaboration to happen, not necessarily at a state level, but at a grassroots level.
I believe the programme underlines and builds a foundation for the appreciation that ASEAN is one rather than ten different countries.
It eliminates the barriers between countries. So you take the culture, country, nationality away and what you’re left with is a collective group of Southeast Asians that want to make a difference in their region.
The programme then helps the leaders build strong connections, share knowledge and develop leadership skills in its participants to be able thrive in the region. It allows them to learn from each other on a common platform. As a result, the whole group realizes that openness, collaboration and helping one another are what is needed in order to lift and build the ASEAN economy.
Becoming a contributor on the programme
When I came back from the ASEAN Leaders Programme, I realized that although GE already plays a huge role in shaping Smart Cities around ASEAN, it had the potential to play an even bigger role in bridging the gap between sectors.
This is why I seized the chance for GE to become a contributor on the programme. I saw this as an excellent opportunity for leaders across all sectors to come together and realize that we all needed to create an ecosystem to collectively solve the enormous problem of building smart cities. Being contributor also allowed GE to show its openness and willingness to partner with not-for-profits and the public sector in order to build this ecosystem.
Committing to helping Common Purpose develop the next generation of leaders
Two years ago, I decided to join as a board member for Common Purpose Student Experiences. My vision has always been to be a teacher and a coach. Therefore, it made sense to be part of an organization that enables and impacts youth in a significant way, allowing them to become future shapers of the world. By joining the Board, it has helped to fuel my vision and has given me the opportunity to add value to the groundwork that Common Purpose is doing.
I believe in how Common Purpose looks at the world – it is devoted to helping leaders transform the disconnected nature of the world into a collective ecosystem. In this ecosystem, public, not-for-profit and private sectors work together to address and meet the challenges they’re facing.
Only when these leaders cross boundaries do they solve interconnected problems and produce real change.