The world has entered a new epoch characterized by intensifying international competition, continuously improving technology, a blizzard of information, and trans-national capital flows, making every company, technology, product, service, market and job vulnerable to worldwide competition. To compete, businesses must change their modus operandi. They must dismantle hierarchies and organize into smaller and smaller units that can respond quickly to growing competition for fast-changing, specialty, niche markets worldwide.
These dynamics are changing the very nature of economic production as we have known it for the past 100 years. In this fast-changing global information economy, ideas are capital. More important than technology, machines, or money are people: well educated, multi-skilled, creative, adaptable, innovative people who can respond quickly to rapid change to seize opportunities and solve problems. People are the most competitive factor in the global economy.
The product design/creation/marketing/distribution/service/quality process now happens simultaneously. To continually make incremental improvements in products and services requires new leadership styles, empowered employees, state-of-the-art technology, a common vision, and continuously adapting to and mastering change.
Organizations now require workers who are able to work on autonomous teams, solve problems, take risks, are resilient, co-accountable, will make decisions and collaborate with associates, adding value, improved quality and achieving customer loyalty.
Change will likely continue to accelerate. It is estimated that scientific and technological information now doubles every three years. Sometime in the first decades of the 21st century, the world information will double every year. Those who have learned how to use information effectively are dominating and inventing the future.
The most essential skill that workers (and that includes all of us) need, is to learn how to learn—to become critical thinkers, able to analyze and synthesize information, make connections, evaluate, estimate outcomes, communicate clearly and join with our associates in a continuous search for solutions and opportunities.
Workers need to perform not as robots as in the industrial era, nor as technocrats (although technical skills are necessary), but as thinkers, challenging assumptions, searching for better, faster, less expensive ways to do everything. Competition is now a global race with no finish line, for new enterprises, jobs and wreath creation.
Economic Development is the best tool communities, regions, states and countries have to create competitive businesses, good jobs, new wealth and diversified tax base.
As Jim Clifton, CEO of the Gallup Group, has pointed out in his book The Coming Jobs War, those places in the world which figure out how to create and grow new enterprises and good jobs will dominate the 21st century and beyond.