Like most people, I have one eye on the debt ceiling and unemployment debate. Sorting reality from spin and the juvenile drama reminds me of decades ago university student government meetings. It’s also reminiscent of some management team meetings where one spends enormous energy sorting the facts from all the hooey.
What strikes me as troublesome is the colossal disconnect between the perspectives of government, companies and the general public. Their focus is telling of the disconnect: The next election cycle, next financial earnings report, and when the next set of bills are due. The lack of common ground or shared goals between these three perspectives is undermining our future.
Admittedly I’m not an economist, and am wise enough to not play one on TV, but nowhere in all these discussions is an acknowledgement that the collective “we” are in new territory. Old rules don’t apply – this is not Paul Volker’s 1980s crisis nor is it like post-Great Recession. While the raging debate about Keynes vs. Friedman is always interesting; it doesn’t apply.
Instead of trying to hold on to the ‘normal’ of yesteryear while singing, teary eyed, Barbara Streisand’s ‘The Way We Were’, we should let go and embrace what can be. That doesn’t mean I’m advocating not increasing the debt ceiling. The potential I see, and am focused on, is a unique opportunity we have to shape a new global economy that leverages our collective strengths in new ways.
The strengths as I see them are:
- A highly skilled workforce with fresh thinking on how to deliver value. The generation entering the workforce hold radically different ideas on what defines value and the relationship businesses should have with the environment and society. Partner these workers with baby boomers who are not retiring and you have a marriage of fresh thinking with wisdom.
- Entrepreneurial employment models. The model of hiring scores of full-time employees has proven to hamper company agility and growth. The examples are everywhere – Nokia, RIM, HP. It is like putting blinders on a prize race horse that knows how to run one course – a loop. Companies that hire only key employees in strategic core competencies and employ teams of contract, part-time, consultants, contingent workers for other roles and activities find they are better able to be market-responsive, nimble, and stay on top of emerging trends; the blinders come off.
- Building value based on the community level needs. Whether its social entrepreneur-ism, green energy, water management, new models of agribusiness, travel or healthcare there is tremendous opportunity (and profit) in meeting the needs of the global community. Granted these aren’t easy problems to solve but neither was the invention of the light bulb or the telephone; therein lies the opportunity to innovate and invent the next economic cycle.
- Global communities and tribes. We are as intricately interwoven in the economies of other countries as they are interwoven with us. Customers with needs are everywhere and it doesn’t matter whether they are in Brazil, Russia or in Des Moines. Social media has made the world smaller, more intimate, and customers more accessible. Understand the global customer and deliver meaningful value by serving them with the best resources, regardless of where they are located. There is a lot of opportunity for growth in markets around the world, if we just look at them through different lens.
- Renaissance of leadership and self actualization. The Dark Ages of leadership has led to a Renaissance of the Aware Leader. The rise in coaching – both leadership and life – points to the realization that emotional intelligence and compassionate leadership results in stronger, more profitable companies. Employees, be they permanent and contingent, who are following their bliss are more productive, innovative and efficient. And a new level of leadership is a core requirement to creatively building companies that leverage new business models rooted in new forms of value delivery.
The opportunity I see to drive economic growth is tremendous. Granted it’s scary but the alternative is even more frightful. As my dad used to say, “time to pull up your socks and get moving.”