Work For All?

On a bizzy Monday, I thought I would re-reun this piece from four years ago with no edits.  I think it’s even more accurate now.

Is technology a net creator or destroyer of jobs? The question is as old as the Industrial Revolution, when workers in mills found themselves put out of work by large industrial looms. In France, they threw their shoes (sabots) into the weaving machines to destroy them – the origin of the term “sabotage”. The protests didn’t stop the machines, however, and the workers had to find something else to do in an ever-changing economy where machines did more and more work.

Today, the pace of technological change is faster than ever, with new gadgets coming into our lives constantly. Automation is also transforming our lives, with new robots and artificial intelligence replacing workers constantly. Are today’s productivity gains tomorrow’s unemployment? Increasingly those who study technology in our lives and the popular media are coming to the conclusion that yes, workers are net losers in the race against tech. And this is not a partisan issue.

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A Good Neighbor

Fifty one years ago, the United States was in turmoil. Dr King was slaughtered, and later Bobby Kennedy. Protests against the Vietnam War turned violent. So did the Democratic convention. It was the year America fell apart, possibly never to be put back together quite right.

But that year a guiding light came into American homes, flickering with the cool glow of a television. Fifty years ago Mister Rogers achieved national syndication from PBS and quickly became the pastor, the psychologist, and sometimes even parent for a generation.

Today, we may need Mister Rogers more than ever.

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Debate

A day after the State of the Union address has the internet lit up. Everyone has an opinion, and many of them want to state it. Topics range from the substance of the address to how it was presented and ultimately how it is received in the nation given a varying degree of relevance.

It’s entirely possible to go through this point by point and make some kind of alternative statement about the state of the union as I see it. But that seems to miss the main point. Our nation is fractured and unfocused. Why? Before we debate this topic, it seems reasonable to go back to the main purpose of debate in the first place, a fundamental skill necessary for an open, free, and democratic society.

The purpose of debate is to learn.

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Walk the Talk

I have been revisiting some of my earlier work on strategy.  This piece from nine years ago is about implementation of it and making it stronger with a transparent organization.  While this is about organizng, the principles are the same in a company – where the organizing principle is the job.

Organizations that thrive in a changing world all have one thing in common – a strong strategic focus.  They know their objectives and strategy very well and communicate them effectively.  What is less obvious is that a good strategic plan comes from individual people.  It takes a lot of skill and a little planning to work it up into a real plan, but there is never any substitute for the old “walk and talk” – getting to know the clients, customers, employees, citizens, or any other way you want to define the people of an operation.

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Lift Every Voice and Sing

A celebration of Black History Month

Our third grade class filed under the concrete breezeways that loosely connected the classrooms of Coral Reef Elementary, past the Seagrape tree at the end of the open courtyard, and into the big cafeteria.  It was the only space large enough to hold all the energy of so many kids, cooled only by tall jalousie windows that caught the breezes off Biscayne Bay.  The air inside was heavy and anxious, and just like nearly everything in Florida it could be oppressive if you let it get to you.  But we kids just took it in and made it exciting.  This was our music class, the time when we could bubble our energy in a new song taught to us on the tired piano by Mr. Michaels.

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;

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Strategy & Leadership

Leadership.  There has been a lot of talk about it lately, or more to the point the lack of it.  In common talk it is defined as “Doing or standing for the things I like” far more often than is useful.

There is a horrible lack of leadership everywhere in the developed world right now.  Can anyone name a powerful nation with good leadership?  Perhaps you can name a few businesses that have it, but not many.  How about social leadership? Religious leadership?  Are there more than a few people in rich nations anywhere who have a strong following that is capable of getting done what they want or need to?

Then again, the lack of leadership is hardly surprising.  It is not about a charismatic figure that molds the masses to action – it’s about getting things done.  That requires strategic thinking, and strategy is something horribly under-appreciated.  I might chalk that up to excessive selfishness or a failure of moral character in our world, both of which are issues.  But upon reflection, it seems to come down to a lack of understanding of what Strategy is and why it is important.

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Geoeconomics

In a world connecting in new ways, it logically follows that some nations are working with great clarity and unity to make use of these connections for political goals. It is also reasonable that new tools for connecting the methods and message of these tools can be found to increase understanding and transparency for this process.

The book War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft by Robert D. Blackwill is important for many reasons, primarily in how it describes how economics can be used to move forward the political goals of developing nations. It is, however, very dense and at times difficult to follow. It is also, as its title suggests, centered on the Industrial National model of a previous generation.

Thank goodness the most relevant parts of this have been brought forward in a fabulous youtube production that is less of a TED talk and more of a quick graduate class.

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