The driving dynamic in today’s fiercely competitive global economy is neither cheap labor nor hard work. It is smart labor: Smart labor integrates hard work with state-of-the-art knowledge
According to an old Chinese proverb ‘If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want ten years of grow trees. If you want one hundred years of prosperity grow people”. Bob Burnett was the Chairman of the board of Meredith Corporation, the parent company of the Better Homes and Gardens, Ladies Homes Journal and numerous other excellent magazines. Bob enjoyed a very long and successful career at Meredith. When asked “What the biggest difference between Meredith Corporation you joined as a young man and Meredith today?” “Two things,” Bob replied, “First is the tremendous amount of change that we face every day. And second, because of the change I felt like I am running as much of an educational institution as a business.”
Traditionally, we have separated the world of learning from the world of work. Professors refer to life outside the ivory tower as life in “the real world”. But today business and education need each other more than ever. The school cooked you until you were done and then you went to work. But like many other ideas, this has lost all relevance. Today you have to be continuously cooking. Any business, work group, or individual that isn’t continuously learning new and better ways to do the job is going to get steamrolled by competition. The old adage says “if you think education is expensive try ignorance.” It is truer today than ever. Ignorance is bankruptcy.
The good news about learning is that it is in high demand and it pays better than ever. Business Week magazine paints an accurate picture of the new economy that affects us all: “Competitive advantage no longer belongs to the biggest or those blessed with abundant natural resources, but nations that excel in creating new knowledge, transforming it into technologies and products in years to come. In the global economy, knowledge is king.”
Unfortunately, woefully unprepared people are looking for work in a knowledge-intensive, information-oriented, rapidly changing global economy. There is a big problem for people who need work and for businesses that need skilled people.