The Broken windows theory

EVEN before Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s announcement of the new measures that the government would take to curb the rapid spread of Covid-19 in the community, the term “MCO 2.0” (Movement Control Order 2.0) had been trending on social media. 

With some knowledge of what to expect, individuals and businesses alike should seek out the opportunities during this crisis — the proverbial silver lining that comes with solving problems for consumers during challenging times.

In the first few days of MCO 1.0, it was clear that the strategic approach driving the overall thinking was that of “survive first and thrive second”. - NSTP/AIZUDDIN SAAD
In the first few days of MCO 1.0, it was clear that the strategic approach driving the overall thinking was that of “survive first and thrive second”. – NSTP/AIZUDDIN SAAD

Moving forward, what are the strategies that will grow the economy during this critical time of disruption? To understand this there is a need to look at the lessons learnt from “MCO 1.0”, which turned out to be a good teacher.

Hindsight is 20/20 and last year is purpose fit for the task.

In the first few days of MCO 1.0, it was clear that the strategic approach driving the overall thinking was that of “survive first and thrive second”. 

While not an official doctrine, it could be observed that there were three circles forming a critical decision-making framework.

The inner-most circle contained medical, emergency, security, supply of food and government communication. 

The second was critical production and services to keep the economy and supply chains functioning. 

The third was everything else.

As individuals seek comfort in some kind of normalcy, businesses should supply the needs of those consumers or seek to empower those organisations already operating on the two inner circles. 

The question remains: where to start?

Thinking forward

Look for broken windows. The “broken windows theory” was introduced in the early 1980s by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, initially looking at how criminal behaviour would increase in neighbourhoods with visible signs of crime or anti-social behaviour. 

Simply put, one broken window would lead to another and eventually the whole area would see an increase in crime.

As a forward-thinking society, armed with an intelligent and innovative business sector, the approach during MCO 2.0 should be to fix as many windows as possible. 

This metaphor can be extended to all levels and creates a level of urgency to act as problems such as the pandemic will spread if left unchecked. 

Two things that the pandemic has brought into sharp focus are the need for increased e-government services that can operate come rain or shine, and an innovative private sector nimble enough to shift gears.

The first MCO saw many companies in various sectors growing profits, attracting investors and talent, and gaining media spotlight. 

They all had one element in common: they were supplying goods or services in “high-value critical supply chains”, locally or internationally.

For small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the concept of a year or quarter as a business cycle has become obsolete.

Perhaps, it was never a thing to start with for many. For some, it’s now or never. 

As much of the world is still dealing with the challenges of fighting a virus through physical distancing and the shutting down of non-essential economic activities, SMEs that want to grow need to look at what will be critical to consumers, industry and governments now and in the near future.

Finding opportunities

Opportunities for governments at all levels remain: how to develop secure, effective and accessible e-government solutions available to all residents in Malaysia. The demand for government services has only increased since the beginning of the pandemic and will continue to grow with population and demographic shifts. 

Ultimately, e-government is about reducing time spent dealing with low-value processing and allowing citizens to be more productive. That productivity will then be reflected in wage growth and increased happiness.

The digital workspace has become the new reality. Malaysians are very adaptable and have proven productive from home or in some cases, a coffeeshop. 

This success has created perhaps the biggest threat to out-of-office service delivery. Cyber security has become a constant gap and often a broken window.

It’s time to find the broken window to fix. With the extra time not spent travelling to the office, it will give us time to do so. 

This will ensure that Malaysia stays ahead of the development curve in Asean, surviving the pandemic and thriving in the post-Covid-19 economy.

By : Nordin Abdullah (Malaysia Global Business Forum) – NST

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