America's take on outsourcing

My Dad has been keeping me on my toes, sending me books and book recommendations. I haven't finished my Friedman review yet, but I did take a quick look at the book "A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age" by Daniel Pink. Here are my thoughts after an extremely thorough 15 minute scan at Kepler's:

"And thanks for the blurb on the "A Whole New Mind" book. It's good that Americans are starting to confront the implications of globalization....but I'm not sure this defensive "can my job be outsourced?" attitude is the way to go. Americans have to see where the opportunities are going to be and go there ("how can I create value?"), and they have to think about their responsibilities (environmental, social) to the rest of the world when so much of the global economy is configured for their convenience.

I flipped through the book at a store on Friday, and I can't agree with his argument that numbers work can be outsourced, while creative work can't. The last time I looked, the rest of the world was just as good at creating stories (does America dominate the Nobel literature prize?), play (does America dominate the new world of multi-user online gaming? No, it's Korea) and empathy. Entrepreneurs have to be creative, but they also have to crunch the numbers, and they have to know the science or engineering behind their new products. I see high schools students who are turning away from math, science, biology, and engineering, using these arguments as an excuse. Are they all going to be lawyers and movie execs? The USA is already running a huge services balance of trade surplus, but it doesn't bring us back into balance unless we can also sell some planes, satellites, manufacturing equipment, software, and drugs.

(Interestingly, the icon on the front of the book shows a move from barcodes to piano keys. Playing a piano--well, that's a pretty easy outsource job to a machine. While nothing might top a Berliner Philharmoniker performance, plenty of symphony recordings, and even composing, can be done for cheaper in Eastern Europe. A barcode, by comparison, might seem to be a mechanical thing, but I can guarantee your kids a good job right away if they want to get into logistics, supply chain management, the transition from bar codes to radio-frequency ID tags, or into the analysis of customer data generated by barcodes. Of course, they're going to have to deal with a few numbers and technologies--the horror!)

My advice to kids would be to study something analytic or scientific, while still reading widely. I think the human mind was meant to deal with stories and play - it comes much easier to us, and we can develop those skills throughout our lives. Scientific or engineering oriented work does not come as easily, and it takes some time to really master. If you don't do it when you're young, you probably won't have the time to do it later."

Counterarguments

An essay in the Chronicle of Higher Ed (5/20/05) cited Mill as saying every argument should be at least 75% counterargument - taking on the obvious objections, and dealing with each of them in a cold, dispassionate way.

The author was arguing for an improvement in public discourse (beyond Crossfire). But I thought of my student projects, and wished I had run across this quote sooner. The reason for being so economical in our arguments (i.e., why I only let students have a few pages, or a few minutes) is so that more precious time can be focused on the obvious objections to any change proposal. I'm still young and naive enough to believe that solid, fact-based arguments can win the day in organizations.

The past has been erased...

The old blog, focused on my Fall 2004 MBA Systems class, has been obliterated. If you have a pressing need for any of it, leave a comment and I will get back to you.

The 'relaunch' is more general purpose. It will be my happy space to store ideas as I begin this summer with a few projects on my plate:

Tenure application (including new statements on research plans, teaching philosophy, and service to humanity)
My new MBA elective (focusing on new internet business applications, and getting real business results with only basic tech knowledge)
My new undergrad honors Systems course (a mix of business process, quality, tech, performance measurement, and information management - a fabulously effective retooling of the typical classes known as 'MIS' and 'operations' that we've been doing at USF for some time now)
Research on new gaming and entertainment convergence
Research I hope to get started on information management and performance management for surgeons

Plus the usual fun summer admin projects. No wonder I'm the only person at the office Memorial Day weekend.