Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Stagnation and Entrepreneurial Energy

Yesterday, David Brooks wrote in the New York Times about a new book which explains why our economy and nation are stagnating, while at the same time people feel happier (February 15, 2011, Opinion). Wealth building and living standards have diverged. He makes a case that all the high tech gadgets and online services we have make people feel like they have a lot, but they don't employ a lot of people to create or manage the goods and services. People aren't conflating wealth building with hard work on real things. It made me think of the interview I heard with Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) in which he talked proudly of how few people he employed to manage so many users (half a billion and counting). Brooks says this sort of thing is leading to stagnation. But it made me wonder what opportunities there are for other people with entrepreneurial energy.

There are still plenty of men and women out there who want to create new and exciting things. They want to put energy and hard work into building something great -- something that fills a gap in the marketplace or meets a real need. And needs are evolving. Call me an optimist, but I believe the entrepreneurs will continue to innovate and build. Excellent brains will be put to work, unless they are taught that hard work does not pay off. The problem is, as Brooks points out, many of the new innovations don't employ many people to make them.

The column also made me think of all the moms I know who just want their kids to be happy. They don't want to teach their kids the value of hard work or sacrifice or producing for the common good . (These are obviously not your "Chinese Tiger Mothers".) They don't seem to care what kids are learning in school, as long as they're happy. That frightens me. It's this kind of mindset that does lead to stagnation and does not create entrepreneurs.

Read the article and decide what you think. It really is a great piece of food for thought.

The Experience Economy
Published: February 14, 2011
What happens when wealth and living standards diverge?

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