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Is Innovation Bad For Americans--Especially Engineers and Graphic Designers?

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on March 28, 2007

Don’be surprised by the question because outsourcing, free trade and jobs will be a huge issue in the coming election and it all revolves around the question of whether or not a networked world is good or bad for average Americans. And don’t assume that the quick answer is “yes,” because it is a lot more complicated than that.

The WSJ has a great piece today on Alan Blinder, a preeminent liberal economist who is now warning that up to 30 million jobs will go in the US as a result of technology and the spread of digital networks around the world. Unless we revamp our education system and the way we retrain, Blinder warns that this will hurt many Americans deeply and have serious political consquences.

Corporate managers see the world as a single entity these days, with free flowing goods, services and technology moving seamlessly—or with little economic friction. At the very top, there is a global class of people who flow effortlessly as well around the world.

But for most folks, this isn’t true. And I don’t mean assembly line workers, I mean engineers, accountants, lawyers, designers and lots of white-collar people. The chart in the WSJ showing “most vulnerable” starts with computer programmers and moves to data entry keyers, actuaries, film and video editors, mathematicians, medical transciptionists, interpreters, economists and then graphic designers. Hmm.. no wonder graphic designers get angry when I talk about open sourcing design.

As their work gets commoditized and shipped to China and India, what are people to do? Where do they go to get retraining? How do they decide what to study? And what are the public schools teaching kids to compete in this world?

All the innovation that is taking place today may in fact be very threatening to millions of people and we ignore it at our peril. We need a national policy to upscale our skills and focus them. This should be part of the political conversation that takes place during the presidential race.

So a new effort to promote service innovation by a consortium of universities, corporations and professional associations comes at a good time. IBM, Oracle, Cisco, Accenture, HP, Microsoft, Xerox, EMC and other companies are involved. It is called the Service Research Innovation Initiative and its goal is to promote what it calls “service science.” I prefer service innovation but call it a banana if you like, it is a major move in the right direction. It will hold its first symposium on May 30 in Santa Clara, CA.

Reader Comments

Ken Sherman

March 28, 2007 4:56 PM

Rethinking Globalization
The powers that be are starting to rethink the wisdom of globalization. Alan Binder thinks maybe 30 to 40 million white-collar jobs could be exported in the next decade or two, and thinks the government needs to "retool America's education system so it trains young people for jobs likely to remain in the U.S." and that "changes to the tax code should encourage employers to create jobs that are harder to perform overseas." How about instead less government micromanaging, and more individual freedom? Can't people think for themselves anymore? How about, for starters, getting rid of the income tax? That would do more than anything to boost enterprise in the U.S. Imagine the huge flow of investment into America resulting from that. Americans would breath a collective sigh of relief, and gain employgment too. Also, this would eliminate the unfair advantage that imported goods enjoy. After all, no income tax is paid on profits earned from selling imported goods here. But then, we wouldn't need so many economists like Alan Binder to tell the government what it should do. Legions of elitists would need to be retrained. Maybe a government program could be established to retrain them for more productive work.


March 31, 2007 4:00 PM

I honestly believe that if you are high end design firm that creates significant value for your clients and a real impact on their bottom line, you will always have businesses beating down your door. However, if your work is "pretty" but does nothing for the bottom line, you may want to start getting scared.

Dan Wodarcyk

April 1, 2007 7:58 PM

Quality of work is key, I believe. Graphic designers are a dime a dozen, as are industrial designers, architects, etc. So sure, this leads directly back to education as the foundation for quality work.


June 13, 2010 12:27 PM

может у кого нить есть ещё информация по этому поводу??

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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