Perceptions without facts cause problems

Poor old Brazil has gone through a torrid time recently. They have been in the news quite a bit of late. When President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva left office in January 2011, Brazil was widely regarded as Latin America’s gold standard for economic development and social progress. At the time, it was a star amongst countries with developing economies and those in the BRICS association. The country successfully bid for the 2014 Football World Cup, which was by all accounts a very successful tournament and, to everyone’s astonishment, were also awarded the 2016 Olympic Games.

But today, with President da Silva’s handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff, facing an impeachment trial, the country is widely viewed as an economic failure. President Rousseff was suspended from the presidency when the Senate voted, 55-22, to try her on the impeachment charges, approved by the lower house, involving alleged budgetary maneuvers (“pedaladas”) designed to obscure the size of public debt. But, according to reports, the problem is not with the objectives, or design, of Lula’s policies. It has been with their management and implementation.

The lead up to the 2016 Olympic Games was similar to the scenario of our very own 2010 World Cup with the media having a field day in bashing Brazil and the country’s readiness to host the Games. The perception was that it would not be ready with stadiums half finished and many other demoralising stories being published. My belief is that the majority of these reports were probably written by authors that had not even visited Brazil. Yet they still managed to create a perception of disaster.

Then the Zika virus emerged and this was like fodder for all the authors of the negative reports to get going again. These reports were taken so seriously that they convinced big names in sport, in particular golf, to withdraw from the games. I am not trying to play down the virus, as I am sure it is a very real problem. Only time will tell if the athletes that decided to participate were foolhardy and lets hope this is not the case.

But as we have seen on our televisions over the last weeks the Games have been a celebration of sport and the way of life in Brazil. However, the Games have been affected by these false perceptions that were created, with attendances down at the various events.

Similarly, manufacturing suffers from its own share of false perception. Contrary to these ideas, manufacturers are more advanced than ever before. There are no shortage of businesses exceeding expectations and driving the metalworking industry with innovation and new technology. The stories in this issue, and many others in the preceding issues, are testament to that.

Yes, I have seen firsthand the struggles of many small businesses, particularly those serving the mining industry, but I have also seen many companies emerge stronger than ever.

What lies at the root of the misconceptions is that these industries are not dying; they are simply changing. With dramatic changes come new demands and threats to companies that cannot rise to meet them. The ones that do, however, never fail to surprise us and pave the way for future growth.