Anheuser-Busch Briefing Center, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
1615 H St NW, Washington, D.C.
Registration and Breakfast: 8:00 a.m.-8:30 a.m.
“In a dynamic world, there is no single way to approach an issue, and we must learn from one another in the process of trying to move the debate forward.” – Margaret Spellings, President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
The Business Horizon Quarterly (BHQ) is the Forum for Innovation's signature publication. Its purpose is to share informed insights on emerging issues facing the American business community. By asking questions like “what is growth?” and “what is innovation?”, the Forum aims to inform and to spur debate.
Read it, share it, discuss it, and subscribe!
The rapid rise of emerging countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and others means new challenges and new opportunities for the United States. So how will America fare in this latest wave of global competition?
In many ways, the United States is exceptionally well-positioned to compete as the wealthiest, most advanced power in history.
What’s more, America boasts abundant natural resources and other advantages—expanses of arable farmland; huge supplies of oil, coal, and natural gas; the greatest technical colleges and universities in the world; an entrepreneurial culture; and a large and growing population.
No other country today possesses all of these endowments at the scale of our continental nation.
Nevertheless, to maximize these advantages—and to make sure the United States doesn’t lose a step—it would be wise for policymakers and the business community to focus attention on America’s human capital. Human capital includes an individual’s skills, education, talents, habits, personal networks, and more that enable him or her to produce income.
While America’s natural and physical capital—its forest and factories, farms and chip fabs—are critical to its success, ensuring a deep stock of human capital is what will separate the country from its rivals.
The Human Capital Revolution
Earlier this year, we celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the landmark education reform law, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). That milestone provides the opportunity for us to look at the role the business community must play to improve education. We will not have businesses that thrive and grow in this global knowledge economy if we do not have an educated, skilled, and able workforce. We have the opportunity to look at where we are making progress in educating our nation’s students, where we need to go, and how we stack up to other countries.
So where are we now? Despite the sobering statistics and the long way we have to go, we are making progress, much of which has occurred since the late 1990s. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, our nation’s education report card, African-American and Hispanic 9- and 13-year-olds in 2008 were performing at least a full grade level ahead of where they had been in 1999. The exception was Hispanic 9-year-olds, who were two grades ahead of where they had been.
A perfect storm of risks to global corporations is forming. It is a new risk environment that has already begun to dramatically impact major corporations in numerous incidents around the world. These impacts will only continue to grow. This new risk environment compels new approaches to risk if the global firms are to survive and succeed. Active collaboration by businesses against common threats is now an imperative for survival. A proactive as opposed to reactive stance towards risk must be taken, one that embraces an increasingly dynamic environment and which necessitates active alliances with other corporations and governments.
With threats and interdependencies growing, leading firms have begun to recognize that they don’t have the internal resources necessary to adequately address these risks on their own. They are looking to jointly address shared risks and leverage the force multiplier of collaboration. Increasingly, efforts are being undertaken to combine risk intelligence, insights, strategies, and capabilities to address common threats, realize cost economies, and identify potential opportunities that they could not achieve individually. One effort involves the establishment of a new Global Risk Network integrating global corporations with key international and national governmental agencies, NGOs, and critical infrastructure in targeted nations across the globe.
In October 1910, The New York Times published an analysis of a perplexing new question in transportation technology. The article’s title was “Auto vs. Horse.” The crucial inputs in this comparison were oil, gasoline, hay, and oats, and the output was passenger miles per dollar. What was its verdict? “Six-Day Test Shows Motor Car Cheaper and More Efficient Than Animal.” At 1.57 cents per passenger mile versus 1.84 cents, the auto beat the equine – by a nose.
If economic growth is a central objective in our American project, then technology is the engine that must power our way. The automobile was an engine of “the American Century.” There is a great debate, however, about whether American innovation is as potent as it once was. A supplementary question is whether the technological advances we are making are creating jobs. The skeptics acknowledge one arena of substantial innovation is the Internet. One of the most thoughtful doubters, economist Tyler Cowen of George Mason University, however, thinks the Internet is mostly “cheap fun” that isn’t driving job and income growth.
Just a century ago it was not unusual for people to live out their entire lives within a 30 mile radius from where they were born. The automobile and airplane were in their infancy and pretty much everything that people might need to sustain life and commerce was around them. It could be argued that life was indeed simpler then, but that world and existence is now something relegated to the history book.
A century later it's not unusual for people to travel 30 miles to work or shop, or travel another 300 miles for a vacation. The miles we travel and borders we cross have become practically transparent. For as much as technology has exponentially sped up our lives, it is commerce that has been the fuel that has made the engines roar.
The truth is when people have the right incentives, they get creative and change starts to happen. All you have to do is look at your phone to see that reality. What was once a corded object fastened to the kitchen wall that family passed to one another to say hello to relatives on holidays is now the mobile tool that records your child's soccer game, monitors your retirement portfolio, and helps order the pizza. Phone calls are almost an afterthought. Alexander Graham Bell could have never imagined these possibilities when he yelled the first telephonic words, "Mr. Watson—Come here—I want to see you"