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Declining middle-class - symptoms of larger issuesI received a LOT of feedback on the item about the "super-rich" in the last issue of eNews (27 July 07). Some thought it was just a "class-envy" rant, which it was not. Others thought it was yet another protest about the excesses of the super-rich, which it wasn't either.
It WAS a commentary on a country that is controlled by the media/industrial/military complex. The government subscribes to outdated "trickle-down economics" theories, the result of which is accumulation of huge gains at the top, at the expense of the middle class which is rapidly sinking into third-world status.
My European friends pointed out that some Europeans are not even doing as well as their American counterparts. Indeed, Europe is struggling between its two souls, Capitalism and Socialism, which at some level are incompatible. This doesn't minimize my point that America is pandering to the first, and ignoring the second.
The gross inequities are the visible "cracks" in the structure which no one wants to notice. The metaphor comes from the recent bridge catastrophe in Minneapolis. The deficiency was flagged in 1993, but ignored. One out of every eight bridges in the US are deemed to have structural problems. Yet this is not "news" till there was a death-toll. The cost to fix all the unsafe bridges is estimated at $65 billion - just one year of direct US military operating costs in Iraq. Sadly, this "wake-up call" on the bridges will remain a political football for only a few days, and will then sink into Katrina-like oblivion.
There are more "cracks" in the structure that are noticeable:
The caterpillar pillarThere's another point I'd like to make, related to my mention of people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Many people develop wisdom at some time in their life, while others never quite "get" it.
My point is best explained through the "caterpillar pillar" parable which was told to me many years ago. Through the power of web search, I found the story. You can read the long version using the weblink below. Here's the Pinto summary:
As he continued to crawl upwards, he noticed some caterpillars crawling down. "Don't bother," they said, "there's nothing up there". It turns out that they were simply climbing up a pillar which was nothing but other caterpillars.
The story ends with our caterpillar coming back down to the bottom and learning how to become a butterfly.
Well, apparently Warren Buffet has climbed that pillar. Here's his advice to all the caterpillars struggling to get to the top.
Tour of the Future - 2057How would YOU like to take a tour 50 years in the future?
Discovery Channel has a 3-episode series: "2057 - The Body, The City, and The World". Each episode is about 45 minutes. This may be the first broadly disseminated video series to look out so far into the future. It was brought to my attention by fellow Futurist John Smart (yes, that's his name, and he's one of the smartest people I've met).
Here's a quick summary of what you'll see on the videos:
"To compete with oil or coal, solar panels need an efficiency of 50% or more."
"It is 10 times lighter, and 100 times stronger than steel. It is called a carbon nanotube."
Keys to successful innovationIn the new, fast-moving global environment Innovation is the key to generating continued growth and success.
Clearly, for the vast majority of companies, innovation is not just limited to disruptive technology changes. It includes improvements of all products, services and support mechanisms, infrastructure, manufacturing and production, marketing & sales channels, and delivery logistics.
Innovation is not just the occasional "eureka" flash - it includes the PROCESS of making improvements: generating new ideas, methods, devices procedures that yield major cost or value shifts. In the organizational context, innovation is linked to performance and growth through improvements in efficiency, productivity, quality, competitive positioning, market share, etc.
Innovation may also have a negative or destructive effect as new developments change old organizational structures and practices. The innovation process often stems from completely new thinking which many people cannot embrace.
Organizations that do not innovate effectively will be destroyed by those that do. Consider what happened to yesteryear's giants like Westinghouse, RCA and Western Union; they fizzled and withered away with antiquated products and services.
More than ever, an organization's success depends on its ability to remain a global innovation leader. The global race to develop cheaper-faster-better products and services demands sustained innovation. Serious decline will result for those who base their plans on yesterday's paradigms.
Study your own company's innovation processes and you'll get clues about your own future growth and success.
Book: The Strategy ParadoxEveryone knows the old saying "risk vs. reward". But how many businesses really manage their risks to generate rewards?
Executives and managers know that success depends on choices based on assumptions about the future which cannot be predicted. The "collision between commitment and uncertainty" creates THE STRATEGY PARADOX. This is the title of the new book by Michael Raynor, coauthor of bestselling "Innovator's Solution".
Ambitious, bold managers take big risks, for greater rewards. Conservative managers hope that the future will bring more clues about which direction to take, and they wait - usually till it's too late. Most managers shy away from bold commitments, sacrificing the possibilities for greatness, for a chance of mere survival.
Michael Raynor, explains how leaders can beat this tradeoff. Here are some of his suggestions:
Business leaders at all levels - this is a good book to read.
eFeedbackMike Marullo [MAM@oncfari.com] thinks that consumerism should not be blamed totally for the shift to Chinese products:
"There's a big difference between the current situation with Chinese imports, and the last time we headed down this path in the 1950s when the US started importing cheap products from Japan. Japanese goods (then) were deservedly considered junk. (Younger people might find that hard to believe!) The difference between then and now is that there was still a choice. You could either buy cheap Japanese products (which broke easily or never worked), OR, you could buy American, which at that time still stood for innovation, quality and value.
"But, that was then and this is now. I sometimes buy cheap when it doesn't matter. But for important purchases, I look for quality. There's a difference between being thrifty and simply not having a choice.
"Sam Walton must be turning in his grave to see what his successors have done to his hallmark practice of selling American products whenever and wherever practicable. Sadly, the choices at Sam's and Wal-Mart have turned into no choice at all. Today, it's all about low price.
"Don't get me wrong; I'm not an isolationist - just a realist. My point here is that I wouldn't be too quick to draw sweeping conclusions about consumer behavior, or exactly whose greed is responsible.
"The largest retailers wield enormous and unprecedented market power that should not be discounted (no pun intended). Indeed, consumer behavior is greatly influenced by choices. Lately, we don't seem to have many when it comes to shopping for value rather than price. I'm afraid that our children and grandchildren are in for some hard lessons about the value of diversity."
"Twenty years ago professionals had a professional secretary to keep them looking 'literate' in their correspondence. Then along came the PC on everyone's desk and the elimination of the secretary, followed by the replacement of 'real' correspondence with e-mail. Today many younger professionals can hardly write a complete sentence without sinking into the e-mail mode of sloppy writing and bad grammar. Now we have text-messaging, reducing the two-finger mode to one thumb and even less structure. Coupled with the fact that we have replaced telephone and office conversations with the endless string of e-mails, it is a wonder that anyone gets anything of substance done in today's typical office environment.
"Is anyone doing anything about the productivity of office/knowledge workers? We can access information at the speed of light. But we read it at the speed of a slow stroll through the park, and we reply and react to it at the speed of two fingers or one thumb. Where are we headed? Will technology come to the rescue yet again?
"There are times when I've thought I was the only one who could see disaster ahead. But, for sure, it's waiting and ready to pounce while we, as a nation, continue with our reckless ways. And how does one, as an individual citizen, without millions to throw into the political mess, help to change the course? Can we possibly help, before it's too late?"
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