I was appalled to read a summary of a recent report that nearly 50 metropolitan regions in the USA- or more than one in seven- are unlikely to bring back their regions to job levels lost in the recession until after 2020. Yes you read it right- 2020, nearly nine further years, well beyond this Presidents further term of office, if he gets re-elected.
The report commissioned by the U.S Conference of Mayors are equally predicting 363 metropolitan areas would not generate enough jobs to get back to pre-recession peaks until 2014, based on current world economics. When you add in that metropolitan regions account for 86 per cent of all jobs you realize how stark this is. So we are entering that twilight zone for millions that have a number of lost years ahead of them to face a difficult, uncertain future.
The issue is not just the economic job loss but the types of job lost are just not easily going to be replaced. Many are simply gone, moved somewhere else in the world or just vanished forever. The level of re-skilling that needs to take place to move old-line factory jobs into technology related, advanced manufacturing for protecting added value areas or service sectors is simply massive.
Can innovation as is often suggested simply take up the slack? I think it is uinlikely. We need to think different, we need to think radically and innovation plays its delivery part in this.
Across the pond in the UK and much of Europe I suspect it is no different
Over in the UK, there was a recent talk by Sir Howard Davies, former director of the London School of Economics and inaugural chairman of the Financial Services Authority. He painted a picture of the UK, that has come crashing down from riding the wave of financialization, indulged in unsustainable public spending and is facing the painful adjustments needed to rebalance. There is other talk of ‘seven lean years of rebalancing between investment and consumption”. He also pointed out that only one third of the UK’s current manufacturing base was ‘promisingly defensible’. Again I repeat just one third, this is the one third that is too hard to shift overseas, but clearly two thirds is vunerable!
It is times like these that Politicians reach for those magic, inspiring words like “we are world class in this or that”, “world famous for open flexible economies”, “we are structuring more for flexible labour markets”, “look at us how politically stable we are” and “come invest here as we have robust legal systems to protect tyour IP”. Quite frankly these well used statements are simply not enough. Many countries are increasingly standing there, naked, and not sure what or with what to hide behind. “Ummm, Innovation sounds good to suggest as our pathway out of this mess,”can you hear this, I can?
Enter the time of increased focus of service innovation
The area that simply enters our thinking more and more comes from reinvention into a ‘service centric entrepot’ but there are so many glaring infrastructures, technology and financing problems to overcome to storm up the service success ladder for many to overcome. Service has sadly not been as recognized in our economic planning as it should have been, many were looking elsewhere or simply looking away when ‘service’ was running away with itself (i.e Banks)
For anchoring service it seems to follow the same habit of ‘clustering’ in certain regions where education, infrastructure and skill to name a few are available. This continues to unbalance what we know today, further disruption and uncertainty for many who don’t fit the knowledge based demands required to be in the service sectors.
Chasing new investment there is a certain cold light reality. We know we all can’t be leaders in the same field that we all would like to be, and we are seeing granularity of leading definitions pop up to attract across regions hungrey for investment. Innovation really does needs not just some creative thinking but some really hard thinking through, to change the lack of prospects found in many places in the developed world.
Asia is also seeing service as its next growth wave as its solution
Over in Asia they have their problems too. Demand from the West is softening, big surprise that, and the growth levels that have been expected by nations alike are beginning to stall and that is not meeting person aspirational levels, spelling more trouble ahead unless growth can be sustained. Increasingly this is going to be at someone elses expense and we, in the West, will bare much of this unless we can find some different consumption patterns and values that need to be closer to home to deliver.
There is a growing argument that the present overdependence on manufacturing that does give growing economic volatility as global companies are constantly on the hunt for cheaper cost bases is an unsustainable model. The inflows of unskilled labour and the distortions of subsidies, land and tax holidays needs shifting Asian Government policies to, wait for it, yes services. A growing consensus is suggesting taking a view to move rapidly through technology-intensive industries to more value-intensive to knowledge-based economies as the need to plan and execute even more.
So the very place the West is realizing it needs to focus upon, services, the East is also planning to attack with vim and vigour, and I bet you, greater tax and trained labour incentives than the West can currently offer.
The absolute need is for a really careful thoughtful analysis
If innovation is our vehicle of growth and services increasingly taking up a larger part of our wealth creating activities those responsible will really need to understand the two- innovation and services. I’m not sure Government’s understand either, nor metropolitan areas or the different regions in the UK or Europe. Equally many of the C-level executives that were brought up in tangible industry thinking. Many involved in leading us out of this series of economic crisises needs a deep, rapid dive into service and innovation.
Also if we truely don’t know our competitive advantage, our true competitive advantages valued by others- customers, competitors, countries- we are going to stay increasingly vulnerable and not capable to re-grow our economies.
There is a certain time we need to make a set of fundamental shifts. Growth has been the main mantra of countries, business and societies. We need to do a radical rethink. We need to make ‘real things’ age, to stop the disposing of ‘older’ items because a newer version has come out, we need to shift our values back to fit the times we are in. We need to shift the innovation focus. We need to bring it back to within our community that has its higher value components necessary to be local. Perhaps we need to reverse innovate the global economy?
Conspicuous consumption needs a different innovation approach
Conspicuous consumption requires different innovation thinking. Products, services and experience that are built to last become more vital to think about. Making a product with a decent set of services, providing services with such a positive set of sustaining experiences and not simply expecting each to stand alone is the order of the past, the order of the future needs us to think about innovation differently; to combine in new ways . This will be in the ways we learn to exchange, how we value in a rapidly changing economic order and how we create a different ‘value set’ from our innovation analysis and how we set about organizing it. It will actually be less entrepreneurial in “I have an idea” to “I have a well thought through innovative business model” that understands all the connected parts. It is the ability to work out how to bundle up all the different aspects where innovation can play its part, less so perhaps for those huge growth leaps but for sustaining economies based on clear values of worth, not just simply wealth related. Innovation is just going to get harder so know your innovation fitness capabilities and capacities to seek new valued avenues of worth.
Innovation needs to become deeply collaborative, deeply connected in all its related parts to help solve our real social problems and allow new ‘prospects’ to lift us out of this tough, certain innovation bleakness, we are still facing for some time to come. We need to enter the age of societal innovation, close to you so you can share and gain from and personally grow your worth.