By Dave Smith
March 19, 2009
I need not tell anyone that times are changing. Once a global leader in manufacturing, our country is in the process of transforming itself into the world’s technology and idea incubator. Education, once a privilege, has become a necessity if individuals expect to find work within this changing environment. Life-long learning has become a necessity for one to advance in (or even retain) his or her job. No longer able to thrive by servicing a local market, business must now compete on an international stage.
Organizations thinking about change are probably a bit late in their transformation, having been left behind by more proactive peers. Unless we intentionally move forward towards new opportunity we will be relegated to picking up the pieces of “life as we knew it!”
Lost in the call for change is the definition of reality. What is ahead for business in Michigan? Is the light at the end of the tunnel one of Hope or is it one of impending Disaster? Is the best way to prepare for the future to dwell in what didn’t work or to seek what hasn’t yet been tried? Personally, I prefer to look back just long enough to acknowledge shortcomings, analyze why an action may not have resulted in a desirable reaction, then move forward towards a brighter tomorrow. Understanding yesterday’s mistakes helps them become tomorrow’s memories (rather than a predictor of future action).
The only way a community will thrive is by learning to accept the previously unacceptable – to innovate rather than finding comfort in what always was (because it may never again be)! We once sought knowledge so we could perform a job by applying our “learning” to known, well-defined situations. We must now learn to think (rather than simply thinking that we can “do as expected”) in an ever-changing world. Our educational institutions must reinvent themselves to meet this expectation, making sure that students grasp core concepts and how they are applied rather than memorizing answers to questions that may never be asked. We must move away from rewarding effort towards recognizing accomplishment. We must strengthen teams BUT insure that there is competent leadership within each group, driving it towards a common goal, motivating its members towards a common conclusion. Everyone is not equal. We all have different gifts and must be provided with the opportunity to embrace how our diverse individual perspectives can contribute to the accomplishments of the whole.
Michigan is transforming itself into a globally competitive leader by doing what we always do: innovating, creating, and recognizing opportunity. Embracing the opportunities that an uncertain future offers is much more productive than worrying about things we cannot control or obsessing over change that will happen with or without us! Don’t be left behind as your peers become embroiled within a global revolution. Knowledge is power, its application being wisdom. Without knowledge, or at least foresight into what is happening in our region, even the “best and brightest” of us will fall by the wayside.
Dave Smith is President & CEO of The Employers’ Association and can be reached at [email protected].