The global business and financial issues are requiring deep introspection and, hopefully, ingenuity to help get us collectively to the other side. As we see with Greece and their ponderance of returning to their native currency from the Euro, the temptation to revert to thinking locally just doesn’t work. On NPR’s All Things Considered the other day, there was an interview with Thomas Friedman about his book with Michael Mandelbaum, That Used to Be Us: How America Fell behind in the World it Invented and How We Can Come Back. It was striking amidst these global concerns to focus so much on the strength of America – as whether we like it or not, we are all affected by global issues.
Granted, I have only had the opportunity to hear and read the NPR item above and read The Christian Scientist Monitor’s review – so this is absolutely an oversimplification – but perhaps the strongest part of the interview and the book itself is Friedman and Mandelbaum’s optimism. When challenged about that optimism at the end of a book that clearly details America’s challenges and mis-steps, Friedman says that:
We end on a long discussion about what makes us optimists. It’s because this country is full of people today who just didn’t get the word. They just didn’t get the word that we’re down and out. They just didn’t get the word that Washington is paralyzed. And they go out and start stuff and invent stuff and fix stuff and make stuff, no matter what’s going on in Washington.
It is key that innovations and development – and the funding for those things – continue. Whatever mess we’re in globally, there isn’t a heap of optimism if we can’t move on from the way we’ve been doing things. There certainly are challenges ahead and it requires a little naiveté (or more simply a little selective blindness about those challenges) to forge ahead to make that change.
What at first was off-putting by focusing on one country might not hold fast as the old adage goes that change begins with the individual. In this case, it is a stretch to think of America as being simply an individual making change – we seen what bone-headed situations the world has gotten into with America thinking it can do that. But, the caveat is that we have to truly start thinking globally while acting locally from business and financial perspectives. If big business truly runs the world, its time to be responsible as nothing will sell if people have nothing to buy them with. Robert Siegel brings up the point about technology and the changes therein during his conversation with Friedman. Because of those advances, the opportunities to grow are there – we just have to not be blind enough to miss them.