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Economic recovery, sustainable growth, a world view
By Scott Rickert
A successful global economic recovery is a puzzle with hundreds of millions of pieces that need to be put in place. Nanotechnology is certainly one of them. That's why I jumped at the opportunity to be with one hundred extraordinarily experienced and committed global leaders at the Horasis Annual Meeting this January in Zurich, Switzerland. Horasis is a visioning organization that brings together business and government thought leaders from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas for a two-day summit on ideas to help shape sustainable economic growth.
Here are some trends we discussed that affect my business and yours.
First, there is great optimism about the global economic recovery. We're not over the pain yet, but my colleagues are refocusing their efforts. As the situation stabilizes, they're returning their attention to regional development and their respective businesses. No one is talking protectionism. Globalism is a genie no one wants to put back in the bottle.
So what is the action plan? Balance. It starts between realigning the balance between government and the private sector. No one disputes the importance of government's early intervention in the economic crisis, but it's time for a new model. Business needs to be run by businesses.
Balance is a key emerging principal for businesses, too. When greed and ego drive business, they create an unsustainable economy built on profit-at-any-cost decisions. These leaders I met say they're walking away from the hyped-up venture capital promise of 70% return - and the exploitative practices that it can drive - for a more reasonable and sustainable goal in single digits. They will seek financing from local or regional banks for slower, steadier growth and community relationships that bring more transparency, "handshake honor" and the equitable sharing of profits. Justice, efficiency and social solidarity are integral to the vision.
From leaders on every continent, I heard that demographics are a key factor in the global turmoil we see, both in business and in politics. There's a sense that young people have been silenced too long in a world still run by Baby Boomers. Young people are demanding a voice, and they're using it in the political arena and the marketplace. It's time for us to open our eyes and minds to a transition.
What about technology? Members of the younger generation were practically born with a smart phone in their hands and their hunger for technology is not going to abate. In fact, some of my Horasis associates noted a cause-and-effect between technology and political unrest. When YouTube and Facebook show youth what they're missing, it triggers political activism. As young leaders take political power, their demand for technology will fuel continuing growth.
Technology roundtables triggered the discussion of balance again. As one person put it, "We are too much in love with technology that flashes in front of us, not the technology we have and the innovation within it." This group preaches development of the platforms we have before jackrabbit-ing on to what's next.
That mandate applies to nanotechnology, too. It's an accepted, sought-after solution worldwide in a broad spectrum of applications. In fact, we were at the top of the list of industries they believe need to exploit more of our potential to fuel the next phase of business and global economic growth.
All of us left Zurich with both a broader view and a sharpened focus on the global economy and our role in it. It's shaping my business plans. It should do the same for yours.
(originally appeared in IndustryWeek; reprinted with permission)
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