Archive for the ‘Globalization’ Category

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2030

December 11, 2012

Repeatedly, we are reading yearend predictions for the future – often projecting to 2030 which sees ever so far away.  But think about it:  9-11 happened eleven years ago and it seems like yesterday.  Add just six years to that time span and we realize 2030 is not a far-away “future” time; it is tomorrow!

Here are today’s latest projections for 2030 as published by the US National Intelligence Council:

  • China becomes the leading economic power; but US remains a significant world leader due to its energy independence.

 

  • On the upside, there will be growing affluence with a larger global middle class…better educated, wider access to healthcare, and communications technologies.

 

  • Presented as a Teutonic shift,  “for the first time, a majority of the world’s population will not be impoverished and the middle class will be the most important social and economic sector…around the world.”

 

  • On the downside, half of the world’s population most likely will be living in areas that suffer from severe shortage of fresh water.

 

  • More radicalized groups; more violent, than current terrorists organizations

 

  • Greater use of lethal, disruptive technologies such as biological weapons and cyber-weapons

 

  • “State Failure” predicted for countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Uganda, Yemen

 

  • The “best-case” scenario is a political partnership between the US and China which may have been initiated by a crisis such as nuclear standoff between Pakistan and India

 

  • The “worst-case” scenario could be the stalling of economic globalization due to perhaps an outbreak of a health pandemic.

 

In short, they found the health of the global economy increasingly will be linked to how well the developing world does – more so than the traditional West.  Those countries include Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa and Turkey.

2030 is just around the corner.  Another way of looking at that time span is to recall one of similar length from 1929 to 1945…from Crash to Great Depression to World War II to emerging on the precipice of a world dominated by the United States.

 

As I listen to the news pundits filling time with no election pending and nothing but the fiscal cliff and how to reform the Republican party to speculate about, it makes me wonder….

If the changes in the last eleven years cannot be accepted by the Republicans of today, how in the world are they going to adapt when not only they, but also the country need to move past the good old days  and focus on what is before us.  Can we all, as Americans, meet this challenge and that of a multi-cultural population without putting aside these great divides and relearning  how to work collaboratively for the good of the whole again?  How will we adjust and move forward as a global leader? 

 

 

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The Millennials

October 27, 2012

Yesterday, the STRIB Business Section featured Coco as the “office” of the future. The accompanying photo caught its “visual” essence superbly; but only if you stop in for a visit, does one catch the positive vibe! I’ve mentioned in the past how much I admire the concept and rennovated space; in fact, if I was not sitting in my home office (read: free space) only 3-4 blocks away, I’d like to think I’d be composing this from there!

However, I think the article focus conveyed a more important message:…the Millennial workforce and the changes they are bringing to the business world.

I have aired some thoughts on this in my August 30 blog, and again last week, I mentioned an inspiring “breakfast with a Preservationist” meeting led by a panel of the “Under 30s”.

Nevertheless, I think Don Jacobson nailed it in his article featuring Coco and why it is appealing to the Millennials. It is because, these Millennials, like the transitional early Boomers, have a very different view ofthe world in which they find themselves…and are clamouring for change. No one my age can honestly say they cannot relate, so my suggestion is we hang on, listen and learn!!

Ponder on these comments by Jacobson and the message from Thomas Fisher, Dean of UM College of Design to a gathering of commercial building owners :

That highly covered corner office may just be more passe than powerful.

Thanks to profound social and economic changes brought on by the Internet, millennials are reshaping the so-called office. They want to do away with the hierarchiacal layouts of the past and build collaborative spaces where they can rub elbows with clients and colleagues.

Millennials…see privacy as a negative…by 2025, “the office” as we know it will probably be gone.

How they use space flips what we have today: Most of an office will be open, flexible and fluid in its use, with only occasional need for private space.

The transformative power of the the Internet on how young workers will do their jobs, has, if anything, been underestimated.

…millennials preferences for live-work hybrid spaces that combine not only apartments and offices, but also small manufacturing functions….

Yes, this paradigm shift poses challenges and threatens city zoning codes, but we cannot rigidly hold on to the past if we want to succeed as a country in present times.

For the millenials, the office space isn’t necessarily a place to do work, it’s a place to network. It’s a place to be with other people and generate as much creative activity as possible.

The audience was also cautioned that places of work within 15 years will need to be accessible by bicycle and mass transit. Firsher cautioned the audience that “If you’re only accessible by car, you’re going to find people starting to look elsewhere.”

These comments so reinforce what I have been observing and commenting on. My regret? I won’t live long enough to see where this generation ultimately steers our world-and I know that will be a bold new world led by Americans fueled by innovation and collaboration and not restricted by the rules and regs we Boomers have adjusted to…that created the stalled and divisive state in which Americans live today.

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THE DECIDING DEBATE…or just more blather?

October 22, 2012

For weeks we have heard the debates don’t matter. Opps…poll numbers started shifting during the first three, and now this final debate is the MOST IMPORTANT thing of the campaign. Who knows what the truth is? All I really know is that we should expect posturing and not truthful thought-out responses.
Yesterday I started a blog that outlined what I would like to hear discussed in the last debate tonight. No, Benghazi was not on the list…contrary to neo-con manipulation of Romney’s impression, Benghazi’s greatest importance was the unexpected loss of American lives-especially one who may have emerged as a knowledgeable and informed leader in 21st century foreign policy-someone who understands the Middle East; someone that could have helped the United States make needed transitions from “War is the Answer” to peaceful co-existence. And, its second most important role was as a demonstration for the American people of just how complex-even murky-an incident like this is. Such an incident calls for patience and level heads, no finger pointing until everyone has the facts, and no posturing for political advantage…especially from a neophyte whose total foreign policy is wrapped up in a father born in Mexico for religious reasons, and time spent as a missionary in France – a country that was then just emerging from post-WWII recovery! While I applaud Romney for his time and compassion, I do not think he emerged a qualified 21st century diplomat based on that experience! And frankly, I shudder to think his neo-con advisors are the very same men and women that manipulated Bush and tricked the world into the wrongful war in Iraq!
But I digress. What I was in the midst of outlining yesterday was my own questions/issues I hope to hear discussed tonight.
• Japan is about to take China’s place as the US largest creditor. What do you see as positive/negative impacts, if  any, on the United States?
• With China’s low profit margins on production of goods, combined with extremely low worker wages, what do you see as impact in the US, of as the Chinese “Boom” recedes? Will there be economic consequences from the many US companies with facilities there? Are the US corporate investments in China significant enough that a collapse there would impact us domestically?
NOTE: This morning STRIB had article in Business Insider Page 1 raising similar question of what will happen as US Corporations ramp up there, expecting China to replace slow markets in the US and Europe.
• What impact to US do you see as the Chinese population growth controls (one child; preferably male) starts impacting the Chinese economy?
I’ve read that traditionally, this male head of family takes on responsibility of support for parents AND parents of spouse. That support of three families on low wages seems challenging; as does the question of whom do these favored sons marry with so few Chinese women in their generation?
The Strib OPINION PAGE added significant “food for thought” this morning by pointing out that the most serious security challenges confronting the US –which come from the Mideast and South Asia- are “so complex and fluid” it is hard to provide clear answers…so at best we can expect posturing by Romney and over-simplification by Obama.
Uggh.
Before the debate, take the time to check out the article “What to hope for tonight at the debate”. The questions raised about the Arab Spring, Syria, Iran, will make your head spin, but every one of them is valid and raises significant issues…just reviewing the questions makes one realize how daunting the situation is.
The author’s last paragraph says it all.
Whatever the weaknesses of Obama on these issues, I’ve heard no clear alternatives from Romney and no recognition of the global changes of the last decade. I hope Schieffer will press both candidates for real, not canned answers. But my expectations aren’t high.
Amen to that….by now, most of you know, my biggest issue with Romney is that he is NOT prepared or even cognizant that we do not live today in a world in which his experience and success in a past century will make any difference. If he does not understand the implications and relationships in the world today, he will not be effective; nor will he be able to lead us successfully into the future. I say again, tomorrow is NOT more of the same. The world has changed.

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MORE BUSINESS, LESS TROUBLE

September 10, 2012

Most of my friends and family have converted.  They no longer subscribe to a printed newspaper,  but rely on news input totally from TV and digital sources.  I understand that; it is just one more thing to pay for and fit into a daily busy schedule.  I too, rely heavily on the digital feed – particularly of MNPOST – which I cannot praise enough – for its quickness in letting me know what is going on; for its candor; for its format that allows immediate comment and feedback – as oppose to the STRIB that only allows x number of access per month to their on-line version.

Nevertheless, I love the paper;   it is a resource I count on, as well as a lifelong habit that I cannot imagine living without.  I joke that I HAVE to read the paper before I leave my house in the morning…after all, the world may have ended and I would not know it if I did not read the paper.

(And yes, that reveals another habit.  “Peace and Quiet” in the morning.  No TV, No radio, No phone visiting.  My TV is on only in the evenings – and often only from 5:30 to 6:30 when I get the local and national UPDATE of the news. I need the quiet time to THINK and form my own opinions on issues-not parrot thoses of some news commentator.)

Often  I hear complaints – about the Wall Street Journal insert  or the lack of “breaking news” on Monday.  To me, that is logical.  Most of our business are open Monday-Friday….so Saturday and Sunday, they are not making a big splash to give reporters fodder to feed on – so add the little extra “The Wall Street Journal” – if nothing else, it humors those anxious to be identified as “in the know” as they can walk around bragging that they “read it in the Wall Street Journal”.  As for Monday, yup – there is not much breaking news in the “business insider”, but it has become one of my most valuable resources for new companies, new services and potential vendors that I or my client may need – I like the emphasis on small business and success stories.

Take this morning, for instance. 

I learned that, two war-weary Israelis, both political independents and moderates seeking better relations through cultural, educational and commercial initiatives turned their attention to peaceful initiatives to transcend the political and religious hostilities in the Middle East through a fellowship program at Hamline University called the Middle East Fellowship Exchange.

Each year about 20 Jordanians, Israelis, Palestinians, Lebanese-Jews, Christians, Muslims, liberal and conservative-  recruited by the  Zmoras- now both Israeli and US citizens- come to study Minnesota business and non-profits for five weeks.   Many have never fraternized with people from neighboring countries or other faiths, but with program focus on business, it enables the participants to be “Just people-not representatives of their respective communities.”

And as a result, they become friends; they share a respect and love for one another that inspires them to find ways to remain friends and resources for one another when they return home.  They have a better perspective on what the United States is- imperfect, but using commercial and cultural ties to bridge differences.  They do not fear each other, but become multipliers with new and valuable ideas for their community.  The Strib reports these like-minded moderates and entrepreneurs believe they can collaboratively build a stronger economy in the Jordan-Israel-West Bank-Lebanon neighborhood.

I concur, “Without efforts such as theirs, the Middle East will remain hobbled by the religious and political walls that bar a more prosperous future.

That’s the hope I experienced myself and among the people I grew to know in my travels in/out of Israel in the 1980s; it is so encouraging to hear that it still is there and being fed by a program right here in Minnesota.

“I am a big believer in collaboration with our neighboring countries, “ said Nir Hindi, a Hamline Fellow and marketing executive with NegevCo…an incubator for Israel’s alternative-energy and low-water agricultureal industries.  “We can contribute to each other knowledge and experience.  We start with small steps.”

What an encouraging perspective…..perhaps the STRIB should share it with Mr. Romney.

 

 

 

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THE OPPORTUNITY OF THE CENTURY

August 10, 2012

Yesterday, as I wrestled with “unemployment” and why the law of supply & demand were not working to meet the needs on both sides of the issue, the review of Friedman’s  “The World is Flat” reminded me  of that key concept “Our Job is to invent the future while everyone else does what we’ve already invented.”

So many applications in today’s world could (and should) reflect that, but top of mind is an article I read this week in THIRTY TWO, written by Guy Eggers entitled “The Opportunity of the Century: China hits the Great Wall and the Midwest looks ahead”.  To do justice to the thinking behind this piece, one should read it in its entirety at www.thirtytwomag.com , but essentially the world (and specifically China) is following the US lead in economic development and will need to eventually reset, just as we are now doing.

He reminds us of movies and news pundits of the 1980s that depicted scenarios of the Japanese running the world and future space wars with the Soviet Union in the 2000s.  In other words, don’t get caught up in the scare tactics – Just like Japan and the Soviet Union, China will not overtake and conquer the US.

He reminds us that our economy is at least twice the size of China, our closest competitor; our military is “light years” ahead of all others and our navy is larger than all the world’s navies combined, which puts us in control of global sea commerce; and are uniquely positioned at the center of the world’s largest trade routes and we have a stable and growing population.   In short, “it is easy to forget that we currently live in a world that has been shaped by American ingenuity and ideas.”

And with that, he builds his case. 

Eggers carefully reveals some basic cracks in the China façade. …too many people who are too poor to buy any of the goods they produce so cheaply…If the state cannot offer increased prosperity, the whole system could be put into question….the nightmare created by one-child policy of 1979, with an emphasis on male children will create a massive gender imbalance with 30 million more men than women by 2020.  Not only will this upset societal norms towards women, and may lead to males fleeing China in search of wives, but familial culture is heading towards one single male responsible for 4 grandparents and 2 parents dependent for care and support upon that one single pampered male, who at the same time has incredible pressure to succeed, and very little disposable income.  In short, the inexhaustible supply of cheap labor that supported China’s  growth, will soon come to an end – leaving economic distress and political unrest…and there’s more.

Eggers goes on to explain that although China owns 6-8% of our debt, that represents almost 20% of its GDP…all that it has earned in selling goods to us has been reinvested in us, but the numbers show we need not fear them as they have a huge stake in seeing the United States succeed….it is already the most polluted country on the planet with an economy less than half the size of the US.  The total cost of outdoor air and water pollution (respiratory diseases, cancer, shortages of water) represents 6% of China’s total wealth and production… a real estate bubble  is about to crash with almost 40% of  China’s GDP state owned and growing…and finally, Chinese companies operate on profit margins of 1-2% – not the 30-40% of US companies.  It is sustainable only if cheap labor and the right to pollute continues.  If wages increase, the business model will break.

Per Eggers, the problems of our biggest potential rival in the world far exceed our own. The problems we now face are not insurmountable.  The end of China’s dramatic growth also signifies the end of old ways of doing business that no longer make sense.

Having addressed the misperceptions that most of us have regarding China, Eggers then focuses on the future.  “The Midwest with its reputation for ingenuity, hard work and common sense will be a t the helm of the recovery of the American Dream”.

Eggers acknowledges the structural issues still to be addressed in the US, but counters with the idea that we have an opportunity that presents itself only every century or so.  An old system has failed, resistance to change is down, and there is an urgent need to create something new.

He ends by issuing this challenge:

Rather than keep supporting a system that is fundamentally broken, we should harness the collective spirit and creative energies that so define this great nation to create a new business paradigm that truly reflects our values and vision for the world and that will lead to renewed growth and sustainable prosperity…let’s not leave this to the banks, the oil companies and the Chinese to build…Let’s get back to creative, innovative, and smart.  Let’s build the world that we would like to see, together.  We have done it before and we can do it again.

If you ponder the legitimacy of Eggers vision of opportunity, read the August 8 STRIB article entitled “Bubble bursts in China’s shipyards”  and, like me, you may ask the question…could we be seeing the first “crack”?

 

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OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE FUTURE

August 9, 2012

Daily, we find ourselves embroiled in who “knows best” in visualizing the correct path for economic recovery from the Bubble and its collapse during the first eight years of the 21st century.  The Press weigh in; the politicians weigh in; the economists weigh in, and every average American weighs in with finger pointing and theories of their choice; but as I listen I feel like we are missing an important key thought.

Through the posturing and finger-pointing, there is not much discussion about why theories of supply and demand seem suspended in time.   Every day, I see new numbers reflecting growing number of existing but unfilled jobs in corporate America.  Every day, we hear complaints that the supply of available unemployed workers is not diminishing fast enough.

But no one seems to put these two seemingly “opposites” together and asks “why aren’t they attracting one another and moving us forward?”

I believe one reason is the unemployed themselves.

First, the Great Recession has given many people the push to do what Americans do best:  Invent our own future.  Many are resetting their lives; changing their career paths, going back to school or launching a small business based on something they are passionate about.  In the uncertainty of a startup and erratic income common to business in its infancy, these new entrepreneurs hold tightly to the lifeline of Unemployment.  They report income when they have it; get no assistance that period, but the unpaid amount extends the lifeline by a like amount.  And of course, that means they continue to show up as part of the “unemployed” we are talking about.    It buys time for them as they create the NEW NORMAL that is needed from all of us if we expect to recover and grow.

Second, I see the grumbling that yes, there are jobs, but for less than I made before, so I am going to hold out as long as I can.  Despite intellectually knowing that inflated income and spending will not continue, they keep drawing unemployment rather than settle; and thus delay their transition to the NEW NORMAL.  I understand the emotional difficulty of giving in, but the result is that our unemployment rates remain high.

Third, they do not meet the needs of companies that, if they have openings, are moving forward into the future.  Those are the companies that can’t readily FIND workers with skills that meet the needs they have, as these companies also  are reinventing themselves for a NEW NORMAL.  And the reason the unemployed aren’t eligible for hires in that environment lies in another major issue of today- our educational system itself, but I will leave that for another day.

As I ponder that, I keep coming back to the review of Friedman’s  “The World Is Flat “that I watched in this past week.  He talked back in 2006 about the OLD middle class jobs going away, to be replaced by the NEW middle class jobs that fell into eight categories.  Jobs will be available for: great collaborators; great leveragers of technology; great synthesizers; great localizers; passionate personalizers; anyone “green”; great explainers; and great adapters.

Friedman warned it will not be about what you know but about what you can learn so you can adapt.

That’s a big helping of food for thought! And I think we can all agree, as we chant,” It’s the Economy, stupid”, whichever side we are on, we are the ones not showing much sense.  Neither candidate for President should be held accountable, nor knows how he can fix this problem.  We have all been led astray by the media , I think, who early on decided this should be THE TOPIC of election campaigns-and candidates and public alike, followed blindly along.

So I suppose we all will be “disappointed” in the results when whomever emerges as the victor in this battle cannot wave the magic wand and make it happen.

But those we should be disappointed in are ourselves.   We all know better, if we really think about it. We are missing a great opportunity for the future.

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A CHANGING LANDSCAPE

July 23, 2012

Readers of this blog are aware that over the last seven months, I have become absorbed in a new way of thinking-initially because of my introduction to Charles Landry’s “The Art of City Making”.  Landry did a residency here in Minneapolis/St. Paul in early May which I participated in as part of the Plan-It Hennepin project.

It was an eye-opener for me in many ways…and once that happens, one sees signs and applications everywhere one looks.  And sometimes I forget that everyone in my world does not see it the same way I do.  That was evident earlier this week, when a friend of some thirty years and I had a discussion on immigrants in Minnesota.  Our perspectives, coming from different directions and viewpoints clashed resoundingly.  We survived the discussion of conflicting ideas, and I resolved to keep in mind that not everyone is celebrating the changes I see.

So, as I glanced at the STRIB headline on  Sunday  “A Changing Landscape” and realized it was a story of Somali immigration and impact in outstate towns such as Willmar, Rochester, and Faribault, I reminded myself that friends and family in those three towns might indeed view this very differently than I do. It will be painful to some and encouraging to others, and for all, a bit of a cultural shock.  Not everyone in my world has the benefit of learning and beginning to understand the importance of interculturalism in our 21st century world of globilization as presented by Landry, nor the Richard Florida theory of economic reset we are now experiencing.

Nonetheless, as I took in the message, I thought it should be a welcome change – if understood.  The “reset” after the Great Depression created the move to the suburbs…as we ”recorrected” once again, and the excesses of the late 20th century pushed that migration further and further into the surrounding countryside as exurbs developed.  And with that came suburban malls and big box stores, and more and more super highways…and that left empty buildings and department stores in the core, and eventually, the central city blight so many of our cities have experienced.

The article began by recounting that Main Streets in many smaller Minnesota communities have not fared so well in the last 25-30 years, and the growth of immigrant populations and business are …a shot in the arm…an economic development program.  But for long-time residents, it’s a big change, and the old community they long for will never be again.

It is hard for those residents to see strangers they know nothing about move into their towns…and for the most part, judging from family discussions, I understand they see them as “different”, “troublesome in schools” and a little bit scary.

 It is easy to miss that immigrants of any color most likely have the same qualities our own immigrant forefathers had….otherwise they would not have risked the move.  They are entrepreneurs, they create businesses and therefore jobs; they resurrect stores and services needed in the core;  and over time their businesses include law offices, insurance agencies, and real estate offices…all services needed in a community; they pay taxes;  and yes, they bring a different look and perspective to disrupt our comfort level.  

I was encouraged to read the perspective of Royal Ross, director of a program called Faribault Main Street.   He understands that it is a hard adjustment for residents in a small town….”it is a cultural shock to us a little bit…it’s neither good nor bad.  It’s just different.”

And his example of differences is one that we all can understand.  Large groups of Somali men tend to congregate at day’s end, on Faribault sidewalks, a common way to get together and exchange information.  But they are speaking Somali and not moving out of the way for others walking by.

Ross mentions that the white locals are not used to seeing large groups congregating in public areas like that…and that we need to get used to how each other operate.

 So, of course , I understand:  because it is different, and since the group is “not like us- white and speaking English” –it becomes intimidating.  We forget that through much of our own US history, citizens, like citizens of countries all over the world, did/do that in the Town Square …which disappeared from our own cities in the last 50 years, along with the downtowns.  It is why discussions in city-making in MSP continue to focus on creating “intercultural gathering spaces”. 

 Losing that face-to-face interaction has not been good for our country. Somehow, the staged networking events in a sterile indoor gathering space, complete with speakers and name tags and mixer games and superficial conversation exchanges do not accomplish the same thing.  We should learn from those Somali gathering, not fear them!

So despite the misunderstanding, I will continue to advocate for the move to intercultural planning and understanding, and will view the separate article reporting on racing camels and ostriches at Canterbury  as a little “intercultural creep” as we experiment and try “new” things as a baby step in the right direction!