Innovation and Location: They Go Together!

After years of sending manfuacturing to offshore facilities, America has realized that it’s damaged our economy. As US factories close, millions of jobs were lost and many workers were not able to find other sources of work. The trade deficit ballooned and it may have reduced our innovative edge. Indeed, President Trump campaigned on a platform to bring jobs back to America and won the election.

Gary Pisano  and Willy Shich, in “Producing Prosperity: Why American Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance”,  suggest that another key benefit of moving some manufacturing back to the United States is to revitalize innovation.

Theses Harvard businness professors, argue that when a company loses it’s capability to manufacture, it also loses the ability to innovate and compete. “ Instead of job creation, we believe that the central objective of a national manufacturing strategy should be keeping America’s innovation capabilities healthy, because innovation drives productivity and productivity drives wages.”

Pisano notes that the trend to deindustrialize the US started with the globablization of supply chains. Companies thought they could move manufacturing elsewhere to be cost-competitive, yet keep design (innovation) here.  Solar power technologies offer an example. While solar cells (Photovoltaic (PV) cells) were first invented in the United States in 2012, only 3% of PV production was based in the US and Canada; 81% is Asia, with China and Taiwan leading the market.  “Once you lose the capabilities, you can bring them back, but the level of investment, activation energy to bring back is higher”, says Pisano.

Indeed, Shih discovered this first hand while working with Kodak. “ Because of earlier decisions to outsource camera manufacturing and consumer electronics assembly to Asia, the innovative capability no longer existed in the United States.” Today’s “endangered species” of American industries include semiconductors and rechargeable batteries.

Andrew Liveris, Chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical, notes “without a vibrant manufacturing secor, R&D will be done not by the US but by its major competitors. Over time, that will leave America dependent on intellectual property that’s created by other countries; American’s ability to generate its own growth will atrophy.” (Make it in America: the Case for Re-Investing the Economy by Liveris.)

Two companies that appear to be aware of this great risk include Intel, which controls the manufacturing of its proprietary process for making chips, and Corning, which maintains leadership in all its business, including Gorilla Glass, a very thin, damage-resistance glass display for mobile devices.

The authors make a second important point: that distance matters in certain industries. For example, biotechnology and life sciences are mainly clustered in Boston, San Francisco and San Diego. Semiconductor manufacturing is amassed in Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Shanghai and Beijing. High-end shoe producers are located in the south of Venice, Italy. Hi-tech and Venture Capital grew in Silicon Valley; the auto industry grew in Detroit, Michigan. Why?  Because these industries form “industrial commons” that operate within an “ecosystem” and share know-how and capabilities. To stay innovate, they stay close to one-another, so there are frequent interactions between workers, companies, suppliers, universities, etc. This also permit these companies to cultivate a workforce to meet expanding workforce demands in these industries, through apprenticeship and internships.

In sum, innovation is fueled by close contact and communication – not by distributing parts of the process to the four corners of the world. We must facilitate the development of ecosystems for design, innovation, teaching , manufacturing, etc. of critical industries so jobs which will enable people to stay creative and innovate new solutions for delivering superior products.

What do you think?  Share examples!

The Customer is the Hero, Not You!

Years ago , when I founded Brilliant Image, a computer presentation graphics company, I trained my sales people to understand our mission:  to help our customers (who make presentations to win over the audience) become heros.  It was a key part of our culture for 15 years, till we sold the company.  In Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer, identify the same approach in sales by noting the need to “keep the customer the hero of the story”.

Their concern is about the language we use. All too often a salesperson shows up, analyzes the situation proposes a solution, and then the customer adopts it and is a success.  The issue is whether “I/we” found the solution (meaning the salesperson is a hero) or the customer found the solution. Smart salespeople keep the buyer focused on their ability to execute great solutions so they can feel like heroes.
Great sales presentations focus on the customer and make him/her the hero directly. Good people in the company are trapped by a system or process in a world that changed and now isn’t meeting the needs of its people, and the customer is looking for a solution, found it and adopts it.  By saying “I/we are introducing this new element to you”, you’re stealing some of the thunder and that diminishes their role as the hero solving the problem.

For instance, a sales person would say “Since the world changed (e.g., entry of a new competitor, new regulations, new technology, etc. that interfere with the system that was working well), changes are needed. You need a new system that takes into account these changes. Companies come to us for the ways to succeed in the new environment, and when they do they’re able to identify the competitive advantage they need.”

As they note, you’ll still get the credit for helping them, but now they do so as a generous hero, rather than an obliging customer.

How do you help focus the customer on being the hero?  Share your approach with us!

Analyzing a Powerful Commercial

You’re probably familiar with the Geico tagline – “Fifteen minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance” commercial.  Have you ever thought of why it’s so effective?

Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer, in Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, make an interesting observation about it:

  • It talks to you, not at you.
  • It first addresses your emotional need – minimum time commitment – to increase acceptability
  • It focuses on your objective need – people know that insurance is a necessary evil, so why overpay, as you probably would if there’s a middleman who has to spend more time
  • It uses specific numbers (e.g., 15) which are more believable than generalizations
  • By using the number 15, twice, it increases memorability.
  • It simultaneously addresses two needs, not just one: the ability to make your life better (save money) and less stressful (15 minutes)

Think about some of the commercial company taglines – what makes them powerful?  Share it with us.

The Elongated Life: Life-Long Learning

Many people who read our first blog on the elongated life, noticed that if people are going to plan to live to 100, then the implications are different depending on your current age. For people over a certain age, say 40, the recognition that they may work for as many as 35 years after turning 65 means they need to change expectations and that’s the challenge. They’re not retiring and need to use those extra years well. (That’s the current focus of AgeBrilliantly.org). But what about younger people, say teenagers, who are just beginning to take charge of their careers?

For the younger generations who have not bought into the stereotype that people around 60 should be thinking of retiring, their focus should be on “life-long learning”.  They have the ability, starting now, to rethink and plan their trajectory. Instead of going from high school to college, and college to graduate school(s) and then getting full-time careers/jobs for the next 40 years of life before retiring from work, they can envision a new scenario which some people already are adopting. They can go to schools (physical and onlines) and get the degrees (certifications) they want to pursue a career and when they want to change they can go back and get new credentials for new careers. And they may do this several times, with time off for family, travel and other things. In other words, raher than thinking about having few careers during the 40 years between college and retirement, they can think of life as consisting of 70-80 years after high school, when they can intersperse education, travel, family, careers, sabbaticals etc.

Fundamental to this new lifestyle, is good health and fitness, financial security, social relations—all backed by a commitment to life-long learning. The learning – whether in buildings or online – should be able to help them address all the issues that arise.

How do we stay a life-long learner? Here are some tips:

  • Stay curious, ask questions, and maintain a thirst for knowledge. Never be content with what you know already – always strive for more.
  • Don’t stop growing. Commit to personal growth and continued education. Be on the lookout for new opportunities and possibilities. And then try them. Take time to think and reflect on your needs, the needs of your (current/future) professional and society.
  • Don’t stop connecting. Life is what you learn from media, experiences and people. Align with other life-long learners for maximum opportunities. Constantly expand your network of positive influence, find communities of practice and build a network of mentors, friends and supporters.

If you’re starting the 70-80 year life – what are your thoughts? What challenges worry you? What hopes excite you?  If you’re older, what advice can you give the younger person who, as a life-long learner, has the ability to live a truly fulfilling life to 100+?

Dual Purposing

Thanks for your feedback on our blog on life-work integration as an alternative to the work-life balance model that most people adopt. Several people have asked how those of us achieve it, and that’s the point of this article.

The key issue, obviously, is time management. In the Balance model, you block off certain times of each day, week, month, etc. to focus on different aspects of the life, so that at the end of the time period you’ve achieved the balance you want. (Example: no work at home so I can spend time with the family; only making an exception if everyone else is in bed. Or work 5-6 days a week and on the remaining days refuse to work on “office issues.”  The challenge is one of leakage:  How to avoid work from interesting with non-work time.  Once you’ve cracked the door open the invader (usually work) takes more and more time – which means you’re no longer in “balance”.

In the Integration model, you’re also conscious of time, but the key element is built around “dual-purpose” time: how to I engage in an activity in which I actually accomplish more than one thing?

Dual purpose time is NOT multi-tasking. Most research shows multi-tasking is not an effective way to increase productivity. Dual-purpose time is the creation of an activity which, allows you to achieve two or more goals at the same time.

Imagine you want to learn about Chinese culture and language, and also want to take a vacation. Taking a course in China allows you to study in school and immerse yourself in the culture when not in class.

Imagine you want to help people in a third-world country, do a research project (for school credit) and  keep costs to a minimum. Taking a job as a teacher or other service provider in the village allows you to earn money or reduce expenses, and allows you to conduct the research when not actually working.

Another scenario: Imagine you’re a parent and want to write a book or play for a few hours each night. You also want to help your kids get their homework done and also supervise their use of the internet.   In dual-purposing, the solution lies in creating a room in which all of you can work on computers at the same time, and create culture in which people do their work, and also get a change to take a break when needed. In this way, you do your writing, the kids do their homework – and can ask permission to interrupt you to help them with the problem. One parent who did this shared this approach with other parents – who were worried about supervising their kids who worked alone in their rooms at night supposedly doing homework and possibly going to undesirable sites. The parent explained that he never had a fear with his children, because working in the public area also provided a disincentive to meander from acceptable websites to those who weren’t.

As the examples make clear, work-life Integration allows you to accomplish more than one goal during the same time interval, thus increasing your productivity. It does take a little extra time to design the dual-purpose activity, but the rewards of accomplishing both activities at the same time, make it an excellent investment.

What do you think? Have you ever tried it? If so, share your experiences! If not, do so now and then share them with us!

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