Four Steps To Reignite Innovation And Secure The Future Of Work In America7 June, 2018 / Articles
The greatest threat to the American workforce is not automation. It is not the digital revolution. It is the stagnation of innovation. If the U.S. continues on its current trajectory it will be surpassed by China and Russia before the next generation. As of now, this is a threat, but if we do not act soon, it will mark the extinction of the American workforce as we know it.
The U.S. is ruled by a government bureaucracy that I think is bogged down by divisiveness and a lack of oversight in every branch of government. We tend to be preoccupied with domestic politics, socializing, digital media and creating an easy lifestyle instead of cultivating entrepreneurship and innovation.
If that wasn’t enough, we’ve allowed Chinese ventures to be dominant in the U.S., costing the country tens of billions in manufacturing. Countries like China have a national agenda for innovation and entrepreneurship and infuse huge amounts of capital to innovation initiatives with an emphasis on artificial intelligence (AI). I think America and the Trump administration need a national AI program to spur innovation and strengthen our competitive agenda.
Even small countries like Israel and Singapore are deeply focused on startup innovation, beginning in primary schools and continuing through their military industry. Major players such as France are pushing innovation and AI, while in the U.S. we have all the ingredients for an innovation explosion, but no focus.
How We Reignite American Technological Innovation
Appoint An Innovation Czar
The first step for America’s reignition of innovation is the appointment of an Innovation Czar to converge all sections of the government at federal, state and local levels. All levels of government must share information, ideas and funds. Close collaboration with the private sector, including ventures and corporations, needs to be fostered because as of now there are not enough appropriations for government core research. I think we should close the gap and match the $279 billion China is spending on research and development.
Top CEOs Must Engage The Government
I believe we must create a policy to incentivize the CEOs of leading U.S. corporations to make innovation their top priority — not only internal innovation but external innovation, focusing on an external ecosystem to fund and acquire startups. We have growing corporate venture capital, but we need to do more, especially to encourage startups from all parts of the country, not just Silicon Valley, Boston or New York. Innovation clusters are good, but only if there are many, not just three in a country the size of the U.S. This can be accomplished through the creation of a task force with the sole purpose of advising and growing connections between CEOs across all industries.
The U.S. Council on Competitiveness, of which I am a member, has been working for over thirty years to drive U.S. innovation, productivity and prosperity. It is the bridge between policy, academia, labor and national research industry CEOs and chief technology officers (CTOs). I think more funding is necessary for this council and others like it, in order to improve and maintain our competitive position.
We Must Embrace The Gig Economy
57.3 million Americans — or 36% of the nation’s workforce are now freelancing. I think we need to provide tools and a framework for gig economy nomads so they can innovate and function in a productive manner, pushing the country and the economy forward. These nomads are taking risks by not simply looking for a cushy job at a tech corporation. The U.S. must reward this risk. We then must change the stagnant mindset that the success of an innovative idea and technological development is based on quarterly earnings statements and instead emphasize long-sighted innovation and technological advancements.
Call On Private Sector Giants To Create More Private Sector Giants
It is true that Elon Musk is stretching us to the limit of innovation and creation. His innovations are varied — hyperloop trains on the west coast and from New York to Washington, D.C., self driving vehicles, faster transportation from one city to another using special rocket technology. The problem is that he is the exception, not the rule.
I would call on leading American philanthropists like Bill Gates to start investing in future American dreamers and American entrepreneurs instead of investing abroad. Let’s fix our country and get our philanthropists to help spur American innovation instead of diverting funds overseas.
It Takes Everyone
A nationwide embrace of full robotic innovation in our advanced manufacturing will allow America to be competitive at all levels by increasing our productivity and efficiency. We will see the expansion of white-collar automation in many industries including advertising, healthcare, financial services, asset management, telecommunications and the hotel and airline industries.
Blackrock and its Aladdin projects are a powerful business use case and return on investment example due to their cognitive technologies that create greater returns for customers. Because of this white collar automation, we will see new jobs being created in countless areas. This will allow humans to spend their time making creative decisions instead of doing routine tasks
Other examples include Jeff Bezos, who is continually transforming digital retail with Amazon. I think big box retail will become a vestige of the 20th century, barely clinging to existence in the next 25 years. It will take true visionary American innovation to ensure these jobs are not lost, but repurposed.
How We Win The Future
I recently attended The Summit on Technology and Jobs in Washington, D.C. I was engaged in productive discussions about supporting the future of work and new roles. The goal of the summit is to unite industry, academia and government to advance computing research and to change the world. If, as a country, we can follow the steps I laid out above, I believe that not only will we accomplish those goals, but we will win the 21st century and beyond.
The American innovative spirit is not dead, but it needs a new spark through the digital economy in order to reignite and push America to its greatest heights.