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January, 2013
EMERGING ISSUES
Re-thinking Wealth in the 21st-Century Economy

What is the future of wealth and prosperity in the 21st century? Earlier this month, Washington took the country over the so called "fiscal cliff" and back. Despite their retroactive resolution the debate over income inequality, tax revenue, spending cuts, and job growth (all of which deal with our current concepts about wealth, currency, entitlements, and "fairness") rages on. These debates stem from a larger problem that is not being addressed at the highest levels of leadership in our country. That problem is our collective mental model of wealth. We have very specific biases and assumptions about the way the world works, the way our economy works, and what is fair and unfair. The underlying premise of that mental model is unlimited growth, unlimited resources, and unlimited opportunity. However, we live in a finite world with limited resources, limiting growth and opportunity [within our current framework]. The irony here is that our concept of limitations are limited to the framework we place them in. So yes, in today's economic paradigm we are limited in what we can actually do and acquire. As a result, we continue to struggle through a downward economy because we are focusing on yesterday's standards of prosperity, which define wealth by the acquisition of currency, property, power, etc. So how do we shift our mental model to embrace new concepts of wealth?   

 

We must start by understanding that the definition and perception of wealth will almost certainly be different in the future. Imagine your mental models, your biases and assumptions about wealth, as a portfolio of sorts. When we invest in the stock market or put money into retirement plans, the best advice is always to spread the risk among different investments, which in turn creates a diversified portfolio. Just as in nature, diversification helps to insure longevity and resilience in the face of adversity.


The same principle of diversification must be applied to our overall concept of prosperity. By doing so we begin to uncover hidden wealth, new forms of value, and new opportunities to grow and become more fulfilled in business and in our personal lives. Uncovering hidden wealth involves finding monetary value in diverse abstract concepts such as quality, creativity, and sustainability. You may be thinking, "That's great Jared, but quality, creativity, and sustainability, won't pay my mortgage or make payroll this month." I wholeheartedly agree. However, just as we make investments to increase our long-term wealth in our current economic system, we must also begin to invest in the qualities to create a new sustainable economic infrastructure. This is the process of thinking long-term. We must begin to rethink growth, value, and wealth in order to make the right investments today that will ensure a prosperous and valuable future.

FORESIGHT TO INSIGHT
Excerpt from my latest e-book:
Leading the 21st Century: the CEO's guide to thriving in a volatile and uncertain future

 

An Adaptive Culture

All too often great ideas and breakthrough initiatives are declared dead on arrival. There are a couple reasons why this happens. The first is simply because the time and energy was not put into identifying disrupters in peripheral markets. The second is because the organization lacked the capability to identify those disruptors in the first place. You may have experienced this in your own company and in retrospect thought, "If only we had seen (fill in the blank)________ coming, we could have taken measures to be more adaptive and alternately resilient." What does it mean to be an adaptive organization? I am referring to the capability to adapt and thrive in the midst of sudden changes in the external environment. Traditionally speaking, there are three key attributes found in adaptive organizations:

  1. An effective collaborative culture: allowing staff to work in and through existing structures or bypass them altogether if necessary to achieve extraordinary results.
  2. A diversified corporate research philosophy: staff's ability to obtain information, resources, and new concepts from multiple sources both outside and inside of the organization.
  3. A thriving culture of open innovation: an uninhibited environment that encourages employees to actively share new ideas and new solutions to existing and potential obstacles.
IMPLICATIONS AND IMPACT
Impacts and Implications of an Open Source Education Revolution

There have already been several reports around the future of education and the role of open source technology. Rather than focusing on the direct effect that the open source movement may have on the business of education, we'll explore a few possible implications that "free" education and knowledge-share could have on the world at large.

Massive surge in collaboration technology creation:

Although you may be thinking we already have a massive collaboration technology market, the reality is people are simply repurposing social networking tools for project collaboration. In the event that the open source movement in education cripples the current university model, the market demand for deliberate collaborative technology will surge, creating new market opportunities. The acceleration rate of new technologies created through an already open source community is dizzying, to say the least. The business of education will be completely replaced, redefined, and repurposed.

 

The university system loses contextual relevance:

The university system in its current context is quickly approaching irrelevance as more and more college graduates either can't find work or end up taking jobs where a college degree is not a pre-requisite. The purpose of the university system is to prepare graduates for the workforce. Today's university prepares graduates for yesterday's workforce and is therefore becoming contextually irrelevant.

 

University "towns" lose largest revenue stream:

My wife and I moved to Boone, NC several months ago and it wasn't for the bustling economy. We moved here for a lifestyle change and the outstanding community. Outside of Appalachian State University, the job market is sparse and Boone is not unique in this regard. There are a multitude of small towns across the country dependent on revenues created by the local university. It's hard to imagine these institutions falling apart in the wake of an open source revolution. Although, how much longer can the university last when tuitions continue to rise, graduates continue to go unemployed, and the lecture-based method of instruction grows more inapplicable by the week?

 

Citizens of developing nations will have real-time access to information from around the world:

Open source is built on the concept of a global commons. No one owns the IP on developed programs because the work is often created by several members of the community. This creates massive opportunity for anyone with an internet connection to draw on the global community for new information and new ideas. Imagine the possibilities for human advancement in third world countries if education was freely given, freely shared, and freely created?

 

Mobile governance goes global:

If peer-to-peer knowledge-share goes viral, the implications go far beyond education. Education has been the doorway to prosperity throughout history. Those with economic means or status were privileged with an education. An open source platform for education potentially tears down the economic barrier that separates the privileged from the masses. Imagine the global impact when more people are communicating, problem solving, sharing ideas, and connecting despite national and socio-economic differences? Think this is far off in the future somewhere? Think again. In 2011 Canadians began beta testing this process in their federal elections as several homemade websites were created for the purpose of vote swapping and coordination. This could very well be the end of the ballot box as we know it. An educated, highly connected global society could effectively change the power structure that has been established throughout human history.


ON THE FRINGES
Breathing Homes: Smart Bio-metals

Over the past two decades we have seen a dramatic shift toward sustainable building initiatives. As the cost of energy continues to rise, new technology and design innovation have accelerated to match a rapidly changing environment. At the 2012 TEDx USC conference Doris Kim Sung introduced Smart Thermal Bio-metal as the next phase in sustainable design. Smart Thermal Bio-metal takes cues from the human body's ability to regulate temperature and adapt to the external environment. 

 

The Coming Post Labor Era?

Robotics and artificial intelligence are replacing human labor demand in virtually every industry. When we think of robotic replacements, we immediately think, "manufacturing." However, the techno-economy is quickly invading the white and gray collar industries, such as customer support specialists, healthcare workers, transportation, and defense and military personnel.  While much research and work has gone into creating a machine that can think and reason like human beings, there are several initiatives toward an emotionally intelligent machine. We may be innovating our way into a post human-labor era.  

 

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