As I was travelling in France a few weeks ago I was repeatedly struck by how Old Industrial Age cliches die hard – and in particular in ‘developed’ countries.
Trade unions claim that the country should be re-industrialized (poster on the right I saw on a building). That would be fine if they did not mean rebuilt large manufacturing complexes.
Authorities and traffic forecasters still believe that people take their leave all together when the factories close (which is of course, less and less true – no wonder traffic predictions are less and less accurate!).
In the midst of the crisis, the government plays with the idea of creating large manufacturing giants, the key to wealth and prosperity. Is it really?
I have two main objections to this:
- First, in the Fourth Revolution, as argued repeatedly in this blog, a nation wealth and prosperity will not come from its manufacturing proficiency, but from its creativity, networking and knowledge enhancement capabilities. There will always be cheaper places to manufacture. There won’t be so many places to create value.
- Second, frankly after I spent as a student a one-month experience in a car manufacturing plant, I don’t see working in a manufacturing environment as the dream of my life where I would encounter the development opportunities I dream of! So I don’t necessarily wish this to be the future of the entire next generation.
Diving into the Fourth Revolution is not easy. It is not easy at a personal level because instead of waiting for someone to give instructions we need to find out how to create value for others. It requires to change one’s mindset.
But it is not by dreaming of rebuilding smoking stacks of large manufacturing plants that the economy of developed countries will be saved. It is by releasing the creativity potential of the people!
One of the best papers I read on that lately was from the Economist, “les Miserables“, or how Europe consistently discourages entrepreneurs (published July 2012).
Do you really release the potential of your people when they get a life sentence when they fail (see the graphic on the average duration of bankruptcy)? Do you think they will take the risk to fail – a risk inherent to any creation?
Stop dreaming about going back in time to the Industrial Age. Step forward into the Fourth Revolution or you’re doomed.
Allow people to fail. Allow people to be flexible with their life. Create the infrastructures and institutions that will free people while giving them a guaranteed minimum safety net at a reasonable price.
The opportunity is now. Crisis are time where things can change, where things will shift. The current crisis might be the one opportunity for developed country to do the transition. Don’t miss it.