The Future Economy: A Flat, Interconnected World. Are You Ready?
Anyone worried about the future of American industry would do well to read Just Doing It, Thomas Friedman’s latest New York Times column. Ostensibly an examination of a single start-up venture—a medical device manufacturer by the name of EndoStim—the piece serves as a blueprint for the future of the economy. Its core message: that the future of business will bear strikingly little resemblance to the past.
To wit, Friedman seeks to replace the maxim “As General Motors goes, so goes America” with “As EndoStim goes […]” His point: that “[w]hile rescuing General Motors will save some old jobs, only by spawning thousands of EndoStims—thousands—will we generate the kind of good new jobs to keep raising our standard of living.”
Friedman is at his most prescient when discussing how technology can be leveraged to create global work communities—even if said community is only comprised of two or three people with laptops, each emailing and videoconferencing their way to product launches rather than having to travel to far-flung locations to get things done.
Above all else, two things become apparent reading Friedman’s piece, and they’re both messages that we should all bear in mind, and ideally draw some hope from. First, he’s clearly an optimist: he believes that the U.S. will recover, and that it has a major role to play in the global effort to innovate our way into the future. Or, in his own words:
“What’s in it for America? As long as the venture money, core innovation and the key management comes from here — a lot. If EndoStim works out, its tiny headquarters in St. Louis will grow much larger. St. Louis is where the best jobs — top management, marketing, design — and shareholders will be, said Hogg. Where innovation is sparked and capital is raised still matters.”
His second point probably has more in the way of concrete career ramifications for the average worker: nothing will be the same going forward. Depending on your outlook, that can be either invigorating or terrifying. The reason: it requires a commitment to ongoing learning and a degree of expertise and technological understanding that was hitherto unnecessary outside of the IT department. In times of reduced budgets and increased reliance on technology and global supply chains, however, it stands to reason that those who are comfortable with emerging technologies and paradigms will have more to offer and, therefore, more to gain, whether they’re working for a traditional employer or striking out on a solo venture.
It’s clear, then, that Friedman believes we’re not just standing on the brink of a brave new world, but actively morphing our way into one. In light of that, the challenge for the modern careerist is keeping your skills and knowledge current enough to allow you to participate fully in it.