Generation-defining issues make for powerful experiential learning

Increasing inequality and the world’s most unaffordable housing market are rapidly becoming the defining issues of a generation in Hong Kong.
Housing is arguably Hong Kong’s most important policy concern today.

Because leaders thrive on challenges to make a difference, we’ve made access to affordable housing the focal point of this year’s Hong Kong Young Leaders Programme (YLP).

Against a backdrop of polarisation and divisiveness, we are giving a cross-sectoral cohort of Hong Kong’s best and brightest the chance to test their problem-solving skills on a topic that matters to them and the wider society. Through GIFT’s proprietary experiential learning methodology, this original and timely field project provides the platform for aspiring leaders’ professional development and self-realisation.

We believe it has the potential to be the most powerful action learning opportunity in Asia, (if not the world) because it addressess one of the most intractable challenges in modern societies.

The world’s most unaffordable housing market at a glance:

 It would take 18.5 years for a skilled worker to afford a 60 square metre flat near the city centre.

Hong Kong’s median home price is 18.1 times higher than the gross annual median income. Despite being skewed upwards by the fact that over 40% of the population live in public housing, any figure exceeding 5.1 is classified as “exceedingly unaffordable”. In comparison, London (8.5) and San Francisco (9.8) are considered “severely unaffordable”.

In February 2017, two Chinese developers paid a record HK$16.86 billion (US$2.16 billion) for a 11,700 square metre plot of residential land in Ap Lei Chau, topping market valuations by almost 50 per cent and making it Hong Kong’s most expensive lump-sum sale to date.

19.2% (1.3 million) of Hong Kong people live in circumstances of poverty. Some 200,000 people live in sub-divided homes with a median area of just 10 square metres.

Like land, constructive platforms are in short supply

Platforms for objective and constructive discussion are crucial to developing a holistic solution to Hong Kong’s housing crisis, yet such platforms are in short supply.

Potential solutions are often one-sided, with facts and complexities frequently misunderstood. For government policies and private sector developments to be successful, we must rethink how the public is informed and engaged.

The debate on housing in Hong Kong is fragmented and politicised and often narrowly focused on questions such as:

  • How to effectively unlock private land supply?
  • How to support those waiting for public housing?
  • How to balance development and conservation?

Critically examining these and other questions through open, candid discussion and debate is central to the learning journey that YLP participants will soon embark upon.

Rather than sugar-coating the issues to avoid discomfort, our approach has always been to ask the hard questions, encourage critical thinking and bold ideas, while working on messy real life issues instead of well manicured case studies.

In the process participants invariably grow not just as leaders, but as human beings as well.

A Leadership Litmus Test

The upcoming YLP invites Hong Kong’s future leaders to work within a collaborative framework on the creation of fresh solutions, free of political and ideological constraints.

The cohort will produce a robust report including recommendations to increase access to affordable housing alongside a proposed roadmap for implementation, which will be delivered to the new Chief Executive and her administration.

Motivated by real-world ramifications and the potential for massive social impact, the experience will confer significant learning benefits.
Here are the top ten:

1. Empathy in problem-solving – Learning to consider solutions that will benefit private companies, government stakeholders and concerned public-interest groups, by seeking to put themselves “in the shoes of others” and going far beyond their familiar experiences and points of reference.

2. Understanding externalities – Analysing and identifying costs which have been externalised from business activities and instead borne by society; Framing new approaches to internalising such costs and anticipating how business models must adapt to stay relevant within changing societal conditions; Embracing and seeking to apply such thinking within their own companies and organisations.

3. Unpacking conventional wisdom – Developing an ability and willingness to take a bold approach that will challenge existing biases and frameworks. This requires for example a critical consideration of what a desirable standard of living should be in a modern urban environment within the current constraints (population, space, costs, etc). Is Hong Kong's trend toward "micro-flats" desireable or acceptable? (Article: What is is like to live in a flat smaller than a standard parking space,  and pay US$500,000 for it?)

4. Communicating across backgrounds – Listening, being open and asking the right questions when amongst key stakeholders, including policymakers and community members, many of whom come from very different circumstances and are faced with very different constraints.

5. Boldness in thinking & acting – Cultivating the skills to challenge conventional wisdom, think independently and act with conviction, even in the face of existing or expected resistance; Overcoming tendencies toward passivity and / or negativity and seeking to inspire others to do the same.

6. Embracing a broad view of society – Understanding marginalised populations who have not benefitted from the economic growth they witness all around them (think of the 200,000 Hong Kongers living in “caged homes” for example). Gaining practical experience in seeking to understand and formulate solutions that will meet the needs of less fortunate members of society thus contributing to greater social stability and giving greater meaning to work.

7. Strengthening conceptual thinking – Surveying, analysing and proposing how solutions from other regions can be adapted and applied effectively in the context of a certain market’s particular challenges – in this case, how the housing issue has been addressed in other countries.

8. Reframing problem-solving – Practicing an ability to move beyond the accepted problem-orientation and thinking afresh about opportunities that have not yet been considered. Challenging oneself and teammates to break down existing frames of reference as a basis for developing breakthrough ideas; Applying this process for uncovering new business opportunities within their own companies.

9. Overcoming “Siloed thinking” – Working to drive constructive outcomes by leveraging expertise and insights from different fields and functional backgrounds. Learning to leverage the best skills of team members and decoupling from their typical or familiar roles and responsibilities.

10. Embodying Purposeful Leadership – Becoming empowered to challenge the status quo and take a stand based on what one determines to be the critical needs in a situation rather than simply defaulting to the way things are. Assigning personal meaning to the idea of “leadership” and gaining clarity on direction, before expecting others to follow.

As in all of GIFT’s experiential leadership programmes the YLP learning methodology confers benefits associated with the mindset shifts and behavioural dynamics required for effective leadership in a global context. Companies and business units benefit when their top talents are empowered and supported to apply what they have learned back in their teams.

This very ambitious project on Housing Affordability carries the added benefit of producing original and robust proposals toward solving this increasingly critical issue.

Contact us to learn more about the Hong Kong Young Leaders Programme, 4-9 & 24-29 Sep 2017!

+852 3571 8103

enquiry@global-inst.com