Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
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Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Construction of Unemployment

So the census is over. And the temp jobs it created are about to vanish. America's going to have to face up to the fact that its economy is broken, unable to create "jobs".


You know the standard answers: China, evil corporations, low skills.

Here's a very different suggestion. We construct the economy every day with the choices we make. So could it be that this great hollowing out is the equilibrium outcome of our preferences?

Let me explain - and allow to me to over-generalize for a moment. Let's say you want a loaf of bread. How many of us will pay an extra 15-30% for a loaf from the local baker, versus a loaf from the local hypermarket? Yet, because we won't, the bakery - and its jobs - vanish.

After all, why would you pay a slight premium, for goods that are substitutes? Except, of course, they're not - really. Your bakery has radically different incentives than your local hypermarket, and might just offer you a significantly higher level of artisanship, skill, service - and trust. Yet, it's exactly those we don't seem to value.

There are many orthodox explanations for today's great jobs crisis. All certainly play a role.

But I think there's a deeper cause. It's not valuing the human; putting product over people; failing to prefer the stuff that is skilled work in the first place. We don't have better jobs because we don't and won't invest in creating them.

But that's about to change, as naked consumption must become investment. We're on the verge of a tectonic shift in preferences in developed countries - away from meaningless junk, and towards meaningful work, life, and play.

So the question for tomorrow's revolutionaries is: can you create the jobs of the 21st century, instead of hollowing out the jobs of the 20th? Companies, countries, and people that can - well, I have a hunch they will find that advantage flows inexorably their way.

-- umair // 11:56 AM // 0 comments


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