We live in unstable times…

Living in unstable times means that the benchmarks that define success can become irrelevant almost overnight.

Congratulations on finally reaching that corner office!  Enjoy it while you can. Next year, you may be operating a business out of your garage.

Tom Peters opines that ninety percent of white-collar jobs as we know them will be disemboweled in the next 15 years. Done. Gone. kaput. This is just one of the fascinating topics dealt with in his new book, Project04: Snapshots of Excellence in Unstable Times.

I happen to think that Tom is right on the percentage, but his time scale is way off. I see the  change happening in the next five to seven years. I don’t take this change as doom, gloom, and disaster, it is change, as in obsolescence, renewal and growth. It is a natural process, just speeded up by the internet. Like it or not, we are all living on internet time now, which is generally 5x faster than conventional, pre-internet time.

New jobs will replace the old jobs and you will need a new set of skills to succeed in the new, distributed workplace.

I happen to agree with Tom Peters that outsourcing is a natural
result of the free market at work. Jobs go to those who can do them for
less, like water runs downhill. If goods/services of excellent quality
can be produced elsewhere for lower prices, they will eventually be
outsourced, at the expense of lost jobs. "…Layoffs and firings will
always sting, as if the invisible hand of free enterprise has slapped
workers in the face." (Joseph Shumpeter)

The one thing that can’t be easily outsourced is creativity and
talent. Innovation creates new jobs and entire industries, but it is
fueled by well-educated workers and a business climate that rewards
entrepreneurship and risk-taking.

There are millions of bright, well-educated people in other
countries who now have the power of the internet at their fingertips.
Many come from cultures where achieving a higher education is the
primary focus of a child’s life. These children, with their drive for
success and excellent study habits, may overtake our pampered children
of privilege in the quest for a place at the conference tables of

In this current global market economy, there is no guarantee that
any job will remain in America for long. "There are billions of highly
educated workers in India, China, and Russia who can do just about any
job in the world." (Craig Barrett, CEO, Intel)

If America is to remain prosperous, we must respond to global
competition as a a winning corporation responds to any rival, by
getting smarter and working smarter. We must invest in an educational
system that works and provide every possible tax incentive for research
and new business development.

On a more personal note, it is increasingly important that we all
develop skills that will enable us to generate income as we reach the
age that used to mark retirement. There is no "retirement" for many of
us to look forward to. Working for a living at seventy is no longer the
exception. Many who expected a gentle transition to non-working status
found that barred by the meltdown of stock values when the internet
bubble collapsed.

Those of us who are operating business on the internet and out of
our garages need to keep sharpening our skills to keep abreast of
changes in demand and advances in technology. Work hard, but expect
that changes will continue to occur and keep your eye out for new
skills that you can acquire.

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0 Responses to We live in unstable times…

  1. Tom Minderson says:

    You seem to think that education or “keeping abreast of the latest” is the way to out-compete $2 per hour foreign PhD’s? They can do that same thing we can. They can work out of their garage, chase tech fads, etc. The price difference is too much. We need a better answer to “comparative advantage”. Maybe the US is in for a long painful decline. Perhaps we can kiss fat SUV’s and giant TV’s goodbye, but eventually we may get our jobs back as our standard of living slips back to 3rd-world prices.
    TITLE: Writing, change and paying the bills
    URL: http://writelife.typepad.com/blog/2004/12/writing_change_.html
    BLOG NAME: writelife
    DATE: 12/09/2004 01:31:05 PM
    In We life in unstable times David riffs on the latest Tom Peters book and it’s a topic I find intriguing. The subject is vanishing white-collar jobs – largely middle-managers, I would think. I recall coming across this idea a

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