I’m generally pessimistic about the quality of life that I see for most Americans in the foreseeable future. There are so many general reasons for this: lack of American competitiveness in the global marketplace, our failures in education, declining work-ethic, dogged adherence to clearly unsustainable business practices, over-consumption, under-saving, and corruption, resulting in the failure of our elected officials to lead us in directions that are truly good for us in the long-term.
But along with those general reasons, here’s a specific one, along with an anecdote to illustrate my point. The people working in the trenches of Corporate America – most of the specialists, managers, directors, vice presidents, etc. – are terrified of losing their jobs, and are not taking any actions whatsoever that might endanger the tenuous hold they have on their careers – even if such actions are clear winners for the corporation that issues their paycheck.
As to the anecdote, I have to keep this totally anonymous, so forgive my lack of detail. I just got off the phone with an old friend, whose old-line Fortune 500 company had two successful engagements with Mueller/Shields, the marketing services firm of which I was managing partner for 15 years. Over the past few months, my friend has made numerous attempts to bring me in for a third campaign, each of which was rebuffed. I called him just now in an effort to see if he wanted to take a new tack, or otherwise make another run at this.
“I’m leaving the company, Craig. It’s dying, as I’m sure you can believe. We’re unable to get our act together, and we’re pulled apart by business unit managers who do not and will not work together to refashion the company into something that could be relevant to today’s world. I can’t stand being here, watching masses of people, all frightened to get whacked in the next round of lay-offs, covering their asses, afraid to do something that could get them fired, even though those are the very actions that could save the company. I’ve been hired by a start-up with a brand new product delivery model, and they want me to take that vision into the marketplace.”
I hate to sound like an alarmist, but we appear to be facing the “end of an era” for the American Empire in so many ways – and the extinction of the corporate dinosaurs whose culture doesn’t fit the ways of the modern world is perhaps the most obvious example. But, as they say, “everything’s good for somebody,” and let’s recall that the extinction of the literal dinosaurs 65 million years ago paved the way for the life forms that culminated with homo sapiens. Similarly, the demise of our institutions that are evolutionarily unfit will give rise to a new epoch.
But what will it look like? Here’s where “new energy” – meaning a combination of renewables and efficiency — comes into the picture. If we in the U.S. can embrace this bold new arena, it will go a long way towards creating the prosperity and sustainability that could change the course of all this. Hope you’ll enjoy my next book, insofar as it’s an attempt to unpack all of this.