Since I wrote The Hollow American Economy - with quite a bit of help from a number of Evolving Excellence readers – I have been put in touch with a pleasantly surprising high number of fellow travelers – people out there with similar concerns and similar ideas. I have also heard from a few movers and shakers who read the article.
My across the board slamming of the Ivy League was proven to be misguided. I was directed to some of the things written by James Quinn, Senior Director of Strategic Planning at Dartmouth. Among other things, he wrote, "The decades of allowing our economy to be hollowed out and shipped to China is coming home to roost. Our financial geniuses have essentially brought down the worldwide financial system by selling foreign countries an alphabet soup of MBSs, CDOs and ARMs. Manufactured economics–not manufactured goods–has been our contribution to the world in the last eight years." Pretty good for a Dartmouth man, huh? Now we can only hope that he rubs off on a few others.
I was sent a copy of The Puritan Gift: Reclaiming the American Dream Amidst Global Financial Chaos, written by a couple of Scottish guys – one of whom spent much of his career in this country – named Ken and Will Hopper. I am not finished with it yet, but it is an outstanding book. In tracing the origins of the greatest manufacturing economy the world has ever known, they wrote, "From the outset there was an emphasis on the importance of both mechanical and managerial skills, as well as a willingness on the part of individuals to subordinate their personal interests to a concept of greater good." They point out that, quite obviously we have strayed more than a little from those early principles. I highly recommend the book to everyone.
I had a private meeting with the governor of a pretty major state who asked that the meeting be kept confidential, a request I will honor, of course. One of you had sent him a copy of the article and he was wrestling with what his state can do to set a long term manufacturing strategy in place. He agreed with the principles and decried the 'fad culture' within government when it comes to economic development.
Then there were the amazing comments Jeffrey Immelt made at a conference earlier this week. He said "he sees the economy moving back toward building real things for real people rather than creating complicated financial products." No reason to think he read the article – more likely he finally grasped the obvious. There is also no reason to think that he understands that the management culture he helped create at GE is the real problem. He seems to think that the key to manufacturing lies in innovation and manufacturing technology, rather than effective – lean – management, but at least he is starting to think in the right direction.
So there is reason for optimism; and there are plenty of allies. I hope everyone continues to promote the article as far and wide as you can. If you sent it to the politicians once, send it again. If we keep the buzz going we might just have an impact.
Have a great weekend.