R A Heinlien: "The right to figure things out for yourself is the only true freedom that every person shares."
Max Boisot: "In the knowledge ecomony people are their own tools."
Bob Garratt in The Learning Organization said "Constant economic pressure has decimated managerial jobs over the last two decades. ... When the rate of learning drops below the rate of environmental change ... the organization goes belly up."
Bob Garratt: "Directors are ultimately accountable for ensuring a sufficient rate of learning throughout their organization ... (but) many do not even recognise that there is a challenge."
In Canada time use studies show that adult people are strongly engaged in informal learning. Canadians at least, do live in a learning economy. The internet is raising the stakes. Most people have not yet worked out what the internet is good for. They are on-line but the "Ah-ha" moment has not happened yet. When you become a skilled user, newspaper reading and television watching decline. Many people are educating and re-educating themselves on the Internet. Do you need to be one of them?
There is a silent and unheralded revolution happening now. In 10 years time, those who are successful, will be informed about a much wider world than has previously been possible. Their knowledge will be grounded by the fact that you and I can talk person to person with people who have experience and knowledge and who live in places far away. People far way have this advantage, they are independent, are not afraid to ask the hard questions I'm avoiding. They can point out the obvious that I choose not to see. They may also have new ideas that stimulate my own creative thinking. Discussion with these "strangers" opens my mind to language and culture and to needs that I was previously unaware of. Developing trust across traditional borders makes possible future business negotiation.
This wider knowledge will help people to rise to the top of the heap. They will be the ones who always seem to "know" what to do, and who are best able to cope with the new changing environment. At least that is my prediction. To reinforce my own position I'm active on several networks.
Employment for the rest of us may be largely dependent on what this elite group can achieve. World wages are heading to a broad but single level. Labour is cheap, and that will be the general experience. In the lifetime of most of us, oil will become expensive. Environmental problems may mean that some risks like flood and storm or specific infections are beyond insurance in many areas of the world. The rapid changes will destroy a lot of seemingly strong companies. There will be no "high wage economies", but there will be higher income segments of each economy and there will be highly successful firms in every economy. This will be a world of globalised communication. It will become a world with enforceable international rules for trade and money movement and people movement. We might get there by agreement or by warfare, either way we have to adjust, or we'll be "adjusted". There is no place to hide.
There is no better protection from this tidal wave of change than to know that it's coming. Nation states are losing their power to isolate their economies from changes world wide. It will in future be unthinkable, that leaders elected as national leaders like Prime Ministers and Presidents, will also represent their nations as world leaders. The USA will lose its pre-eminent position as a world leader, both economically and politically. There will be new ways to choose international leaders, probably in most countries by special elections. International law will become much more important, and critically, enforceable. World wide banking will be opened to examination and tax havens, will be outlawed. Politicians, especially senior politicians and senior business leaders cannot be above and beyond the law. Some much more effective and powerful body will replace the United Nations. Globalisation, like it or not, forces us to engage with each other. No nation and no person can be given "special cheating rights". The need for transparency will win the day.
The message is clear, and those who understand what's happening know they have to be forearmed with knowledge. Each of us has to take responsibility for our own learning and our own future. Hopefully the firms we work for will recognise our developing knowledge and use our skills. Alternatively, the firm we work for might fail to adapt. In that case, you might be facing a quite different future. Will you have the skills some other firm needs? Will you be able to start on your own if you need too?
John Stephen Veitch