Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Jobs Machine

The iPad has hit shelves this month, and looks to be leaving them just as fast. A Steve Jobs’ quote I relate to is “real artists ship”. It goes to the heart of making things happen. We’re seeing some encouraging signs in the global economy, (including bellwethers like Swiss watch sales) but an overall recovery will be slow and bumpy. At Davos in late January, Obama's chief economist, Larry Summers, said: “We are in a statistical recovery but a human recession." The social shock waves caused by downturns roll out devastation. Take downunder at end of 2009, New Zealand unemployment was the highest in a decade. A major 2009 spike in violent crime was fueled by family violence, up 18.6%.

I see creativity and innovation as the two powerful engines that will deliver a sustainable recovery. We need a recovery that delivers real jobs within a frame of sustainable living, and we have to breed attitude that delivers this. Reasonable people see a lot of doom and gloom, but, luckily, our fate is not in the hands of reasonable people. George Bernard Shaw said this: “Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.”

Unreasonable people have a fantastic record of innovating and cooperating to help get the world out of seemingly intractable places. We have faced huge challenges and prevailed over and over again. I am enough of a radical optimist to believe we will continue to do so.

One example: in the 1970’s and 80’s, bookshelves brimmed with bestsellers predicting that the world would run out of food by 1990. Given the limitations of our knowledge and imagination at the time, it was a reasonable proposition. Well, that’s not how it played out. The Green Revolution allowed us to double food production, thereby eradicating famine in many parts of the world. There are still stubborn pockets where failed states can’t feed their people, but agriscientists and innovators have brought about huge advances.

There is no short-cut to prosperity. We are in reset mode. Every business owner and leader needs to steer their organization in ways that add value to the world, not just to shareholders. Every field of enterprise needs to harvest courage and unleash the unreasonable power of creativity. We need bigger ideas, delivered. Here’s to the crazy ones, and more jobs.