Archive for August, 2011

Optimism in a time of Economic Gloom

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

I read an itneresting article in the Associated Press about the economic doldrums affecting the United States. There is a lot of cause for pessimism. Employment is sky high with almost 20% of real unemployment/ underemployment, people are not shopping and families are struggling. What I found really interesting was this quote:

To some economists, the United States is starting to look eerily like Japan. The Japanese economy fell into a recession in the early `90s. It has never fully returned to health, largely because of policy mistakes. The government raised taxes after declaring victory over the downturn prematurely. And U.S. economists, including current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, criticized the Japanese central bank, the Bank of Japan, for being too passive to turn the economy around.

Economists are trained to look at numbers. When I was an economics major at the University of Illinois I spent a lot of time analyzing graphs and charts. That is probably why I ended up switching over to become a theater major at New York University! I agree that sound policies do have a positive impact on the economy. However, the economists miss one difference between the North American economy and the Japanese. In both Canada and the U.S. economic success is based on innovation. It is innovation that is the key element of growth. The Japanese are very good at process improvement such as Kaizan and creating well built products (i.e. Honda). What they lack, however, is the diversity and entrepreneurial spirit that has built North America into the world’s leading economy for over 75 years. Advances in software, the internet, biomedical technology and telecom have mainly come from North America. The succes of its economy is people having new ideas and then have the freedom to implement them.

What is hurting the U.S. more than anything is regulation that stops entrepreneurship. You see it in Europe where it is very hard to start a business because of all the regulations and bureaucracy that a person has to go through to start one. Yes, many of those regulations are necessary but many are not. If we want to kickstart the economy, the best way is to streamline regulations and bureaucracy and invest in small businesses and new ideas.

Americans and Canadian have always been creative problem solvers and it is for this reason that I believe that the economic gloom we are facing is temporary and I am optimistic that our creativity will ultimately create an economic turnaround.

Models of Appreciative Inquiry and Problem Solving

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Appreciative Inquiry is a wonderful organizational development model developed by David Cooperrider at Case Western University that is very applicable to what is happening in today’s economy. When dealing with problem solving and change, many times how we ask the question and what vision we create has a direct impact on how we solve the problem. For instance, instead of asking ‘what are our problems?’ or ‘what are we weak at?’, we can instead ask ‘what are our are strengths and how can we make them stronger?’. In Appreciative Inquiry there are four phases:
1.DISCOVER: The identification of organizational processes that work well.
2.DREAM: The envisioning of processes that would work well in the future.
3.DESIGN: Planning and prioritizing processes that would work well.
4.DESTINY (or DELIVER): The implementation (execution) of the proposed design

It is a strong addition to what I originally wrote in Flexible Thinker For our economic woes, if we look at phase 1 and ask ourselves what are our processes that work well. For instance, we are good at entrepreneurship and creativity. There is a reason companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple. Blackberry and Intel were founded in North America. Because we are free and are measured not by our lineage but by our accomplishments.

In process 2, we can dream of ways to make it easier to be create. These include less and more streamlined regulations to allow businesses to start. Investment in small business to help people have the capital to make their visions a reality.

In Phase 3 we can start to brainstorm ways to implement that vision. It could be discarding unnecessary paperwork and out-of-date process or finding ways to directly invest in various businesses and ideas.

Finally in Phase 4, we build SMART plans (Specific, Measurable, Actions, Realistic, Timeframe) to make those plans a reality.

By looking positively at what is the best of us, no matter your political persuasion, you build on the strengths we have. In other words, by focusing on the positive we achieve positive results.