Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Discipline of Creativity

By Erik Wahl

I have written a great deal about the whimsical-childlike process of dreaming up a new idea. I have shared far less about the lonely work I do to foster innovation. My personal dogged approach to grinding through resistance to discover unchartered territory.

I have found some of my greatest creative breakthroughs occur when…… (are you ready for this)…… I am laser focused and militaristically disciplined.

The paradox of creativity is that structure creates freedom. I am a naturally creative spirit who has built my business with extreme orderliness and attention to detail. The strength of this structure gives me greater confidence and freedom to create.

In studying the masters;

- Beethoven sat down everyday at daybreak, regardless of season, and composed until 3:00pm.

- Kafka started writing at 11:30pm each night.

- Mozart taught lessons by day and composed only in the evenings.

- Picasso ate lunch each day with his family in silence and only allowed visitors one day per week.

- Mark Twain awoke at 5:30 am, ate a hearty breakfast, and wrote until 5:00 pm.

When fanatical discipline is combined with empirical creativity, the challenges of mental fatigue and mind-blocks are no match in the pursuit of excellence.

The only things these individuals have in common is the rigidity of their daily routines, carving out the pockets of quietude to listen to their inner creative voice.

Until you and I build up the capacity to focus like the masters, let us begin by adhering to the cheeky mindset of Peter De Vries…..“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”



Erik Wahl 2014 sizzle reel from The Art of Vision on Vimeo.
Greetings ART DROP treasure hunters – how well do you know downtown San Francisco? The artwork is hidden in plain sight within 100 feet of this iconic stop. good luck UNlock, UNleash and UNthink your creative genius.


if you find it first – be sure to post a pic.
next clue to gain additional perspective is in my blog history on this site titled “Mystery Adds Meaning”.


























Erik Wahl is an internationally recognized graffiti artist, number one best-selling author and entrepreneur. Erik redefines the term "keynote speaker." Pulling from his history as both a businessman and an artist, he has grown to become one of the most sought-after corporate speakers available today. The responses he receives have been nothing short of incredible, with standing ovations to prove it. To learn more about Erik or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Erik Wahl's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

BigSpeak E-News: August 2014









Be sure to check out the latest issue of our newsletter, BigNews. In this month's issue we talk Leadership, China, new books by our speakers and other notable announcements.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Can You Re-Brand A Disease?


By Daymond John


Everything can be branded. Whether you are controlling the message or not, every person, organization, business, trend etc. has a brand image. While it’s hard enough to create a solid image for your product/company/artist etc., changing that brand image can be almost impossible. A disease can’t possibly be “branded” though right? Of course it can. Look at what Susan G. Komen and her organization did for breast cancer. They made the pink ribbon synonymous with breast cancer and helped increase awareness not only during October, but year-round. In addition, they made something that was once a female-centric issue relevant across the genders. Even the NFL gets involved in the cause yearly. This wildly successful re-brand has helped millions. The problem that causes often have when they try to rebrand themselves is they can come off too preachy or rely on confusing statistics. Finding a way around this is the key for effective fundraising.

Enter ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” as it ended the career of the legendary Yankee player in 1939. Now, while Lou Gehrig is a sports legend and one of the greatest baseball players of all time, he retired 75 years ago and does not resonate strongly with the younger generations. ALS was in need of re-branding.

By now, everyone has seen a dozen (if not hundreds) of Ice Bucket Challenges. You pour a bucket of ice water on your head, and nominate one to three other people to do the same. They then have 24 hours to complete the challenge and nominate people or they have to donate $100 to the ALSA. When I first started seeing these challenges being posted on social media, I didn’t get it. I thought they were pretty silly. I really didn’t see the value in people pouring water and a few pieces of ice over their heads. So I started to see these challenges on my social media timelines and sure enough, people began to nominate me. Now, at first I was very skeptical of celebrities doing the challenge. People will take any opportunity to get some press, and I didn’t want to feel like I was exploiting people’s suffering for a few thousand Facebook likes. Then I looked into what ALS is. I learned about the disease and saw that it impacts people in the same way that cancer, lupus, Lyme disease, and others have severely impacted people that I know and love. According to the ALSA’s website, “as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time.” That’s when it really hit me. As silly as pouring ice water on your head may seem, it made me educate myself about the disease. l. I hadn’t participated in the challenge or donated a penny yet, and the re-brand had already worked on me.


Awareness is the key. Has the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge been a successful fundraising tactic? Absolutely. I can’t believe I’m seeing people who most consider buttoned-up business-types like Tim Cook, Bill Gates, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dumping buckets of ice on themselves! People are utilizing their massive networks and it’s paying off! In less than a month, the ALSA has collected $31.9 million donations, compared to $1.9 million in the same time span last year. These numbers are nothing to scoff at. Still, the awareness is what matters. After that budget is spent, the awareness will still be there. People are talking about it, and that means they will ask their doctors about it, and that means more people will get the treatment they need sooner. We’ve all seen it happen, a disease that someone didn’t know anything about, didn’t even know existed, changes their lives forever. This type of increased awareness will put people on alert for the symptoms, and save lives.

In conclusion, I’d like to make one final point: I have read several derisive articles, and heard many people talking about the Ice Bucket Challenge in a negative manner. These people are saying that people are doing the challenge for the wrong reasons (social media validation etc.), and that more people should just donate. While I agree that anyone who has the means to donate should do so, regardless of whether or not they complete the challenge, I can’t help but feel like these detractors are missing the point. Great branding is about tapping into something in people’s consciousness, whether it’s fear, nostalgia etc., and exploiting it. In this case, the ALSA, albeit accidentally, played on people’s vanity. People are far more likely to latch on to a silly social media campaign than they are to read a pamphlet, or sign a petition, or watch a documentary. It’s brilliant organic marketing, and it should be celebrated, and mimicked, not criticized. I encourage all of my friends and followers to get involved, donate money and spread the word about this and any other cause by any means necessary.

To make a donation, please visit: http://www.alsa.org/donate/





Daymond John is the personification of the American Dream. From his humble beginning on the streetsof New York, to a self-made multimillionaire with over $4 billion in global product sales, and a starring role on the ABC business reality TV show Shark Tank, Daymond John continues to set standards of excellence while expanding his interests in fashion, branding, marketing, consulting, entertainment and beyond. An industry leader, best-selling author and ground breaking entrepreneur, he has evolved into a highly sought after business and motivational speaker. To learn more about Daymond or to book him for your next event, follow this link to   Daymond John's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Leaders: Do These 3 Simple Things To Make Every Interaction Count

By Doug Conant 





The modern workplace is demanding. Between relentless meetings, emails, text messages, questions to answer, problems to solve, fires to put out – it can begin to feel like you are drowning in an immeasurably vast sea of responsibilities. Once you check something off your to-do list, 5 items appear in its place. One moment you’re ending a phone call. The next second, a ringtone bleats mercilessly through your brief minute of silence, requiring you to hop right back on the phone. Let’s face it: sometimes it seems this exasperating litany of interruptions is preventing you from getting any “real work” done.

But there’s hope! One of the most powerful and enduring lessons I have learned in my over thirty five years of leadership is that these thousands of little interruptions aren’t necessarily keeping you from the work, they are the work. I’ve talked and written about this at length in interviews and blogs, as well as in the book I co-authored with Mette Norgaard, TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments. The notion of re-imagining these moments in an empowering way is one I feel compelled to reiterate. Why? Because by adopting this approach to “interruptions” we can dramatically increase our opportunities to lead effectively, clarify strategy, build trust, and forge meaningful relationships in each moment. In short, we can be more helpful and get more done. All we have to do is remember that each interaction, or “TouchPoint”, is spring-loaded with profound possibilities.

So, how do we make each moment count? Practically and tactically – what do we do?

There are three components to each TouchPoint. Combined, they form what I call the “TouchPoint Triad.” When you use all three in concert with one another, they can produce a powerfully productive symphony. Simply remember these three steps in each interaction: Listen, Frame, Advance.



1. Listen Intently: Effective listening is oft hailed as the holy grail of exemplary leadership. But few people get it right. That’s because it takes meaningful practice and focus to connect with others, detect nuances, figure out whose issue it is, and determine what kind of help people need to do their best. When you master being truly present in an interaction, you can become an “aerobic listener.” This means that even though you aren’t speaking, you are fully engaged, inhabiting the moment and paying attention to the other party with laser focus. Remember, giving the other person the space to be heard does not mean being complacent or docile. Dig deep. Be radically curious. Get to the bottom of it! They came to you for help after all. Ask for the evidence and take the time you need to fully grasp the issue. When you feel confident that you’ve wrapped your head around what’s going on, take a moment to briefly summarize to ensure you have it right.

2. Frame The Issue: Once you’ve extracted the essence of the issue, you’re ready to frame it in a way that will provide clarity. When you frame things superbly, people will be able to pass the information along in a way that is clear and compelling. This requires some finesse. You need to be your most agile and adaptable self. First, determine whether the other party needs greater clarity, confidence, or commitment and adjust your approach accordingly. If it’s clarity they need – you may have to roll up your sleeves and dig into some data with them, or you might have to provide some context to explain the competitive landscape. The key is to provide whatever is missing for them to wholly grasp next steps. If it’s confidence or commitment that is required – connect their purpose and passion to the project. Show them how their strengths make them uniquely suited to handle it. Anchor the issue in whatever drives them. Whatever the situation, frame the issue candidly and speak from your heart. Let people know why their contribution matters.

3. Advance the Agenda: In the third and final part of the triad you must show a bias for action. People came to you to make tangible progress. Help them do it! You listened. You framed the issue. Now you know what is needed to push the problem or issue forward. Maybe you need to help them make a decision. Maybe you need to take the reins and make a call. If you need to connect the people involved with a crucial third party – do it. Make a phone call, send an email, write a memo. Get things moving in whichever way is necessary. This is your chance to provide people with the tools and/or insights necessary to help people meet and exceed their goals. As a leader, advancing the agenda is deeply fulfilling because it allows you to contribute meaningfully to the people in your organization.

As you work your way through the triad, some people will be tentative or fearful of making the wrong call. Dissolve their apprehension. Gently remind them of the risk in not acting and reassure them that nobody makes the perfect call every time. At the end of the day, all any of us can do is consider the information available to us at the moment, make the best decision we can, and resolve to do a little bit better each time. This triad provides a framework for you to build relationships and make and support decisions. In every moment. And, the more you do it, the better and more efficient you will become. I encourage you to try the TouchPoint Triad in the next “interruption” you encounter – you may find you are one step closer to being your most exquisitely constructive self.


An advocate for ethical practices and corporate responsibility, Doug Conant is the current Chairman of CECP (formerly known as the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy). He is an active member of the boards of the National Organization on Disabilities (NOD), the Partnership for Public Service (PPS), Enactus, the Families and Work Institute (FWI), and the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF). He is also a former chairman of both the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and The Conference Board (TCB), where he remains a Global Counselor, and he is a former board member of Catalyst. To learn more about Doug or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Doug Conant's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Innovation: There Is No Final Destination



Innovations don’t stay innovations. There’s that drawer in all of our houses with the electronics, gadgets, and devices that were the it-thing in their own time and now have outgrown their usefulness and creativity. The challenge is not to become innovative but to stayinnovative.

How do you stay competitive and drive growth on a long-term horizon?

Change your mind. In almost all other forms of thinking, consistency is a good thing. But in the unconventional realm of innovation, consistency is overrated. All of these larger forces outside of your control are constantly changing—political climates, economic realities, technological developments, medical discoveries, and countless others. You need to be flexible in adapting to these forces and making them work for you. Keep experimenting and looking for better ways of doing things. Remember that your first idea is almost never your best idea.

Seek out incongruities. Conflicting data and trends can become great inspiration for unexpected innovations, because most people simply ignore these incongruities. For example, even as digital publishing and e-books dominate the literary marketplace, there is still a powerful segment of the population that wants and values print books. Over time, an innovation often reverses into its opposite. Anticipating these incongruities will put you ahead of the game and help you stay innovative.

Look for outliers and wildcards. These are things that others normally don’t look at. A wildcard is something that most people don’t incorporate into their long-term planning even though it actually happens on a regular basis: meteorological disasters, disease outbreaks, work stoppages. Being prepared for wildcards will give you the first-mover’s advantage.

In 2012, IBM conducted a study of over 1,700 CEOs around the world, and found that the biggest quality executives are looking for is creativity. What do these managers and leaders mean by creativity? They’re looking for people who are hungry for change, who can be innovative beyond customer imagination. They want thinkers who are globally integrated in their approaches. They seek out individuals who are genuine; not just generous. And, finally, they want experimenters who are disruptive by nature. We value conformity in so many aspects of our everyday lives, but when it comes to innovation, conformity is something to avoid. Innovation is a form of deviation, and so innovators must be deviants.

In the early twentieth century, William McKnight came up with the now-famous 3M strategy test—a set of three questions to ask about an idea initiative. Now, almost a century later, they are still the best questions: Is it real? Can we win? Is it worth doing?

It’s no longer enough to be innovative. You need to stay innovative in an ever-changing world where innovation has a shelf life. There is no “there” in innovation. If you’ve developed the miracle drug, there’s always another miracle drug to make. If you’ve opened the great restaurant, there’s always a second restaurant. We’ve never fully arrived: whenever we get where we think we wanted to get, there’s a new place to reach. It’s not about the destination—it’s about the destination after the destination.


Jeff DeGraff is a professor, author, speaker and advisor to hundreds of the top organizations in the world. He is called the Dean of Innovation because of his influence on the field. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffDeGraff and LinkedIn. To learn more about Jeff or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Jeff DeGraff bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Preparing U.S. Leadership For The Cultural Demographic Shift

By Glen Llopis

Hispanics along with African Americans and Asian Pacific Islanders surpassed one third of the U.S. population in 2010.  As their numbers continue to rise, they are on track to reach 54% of the population by 2050 – making them the minority-majority.

I have addressed the issue of the cultural demographic shift in many of my articles (e.g., America’s Demographic Shift And 7 Ways Leaders Can Leverage It) and the importance of being culturally intelligent (e.g., The Lack of Cultural Intelligence is Damaging Our Enterprises and Our Economy).

When I do, leaders often ask me:

Where do we start? What is the new conversation that I must start having with leadership to make this a strategic priority for our business and competitive requirements?  How do we prepare for it and “operationalize” it by moving to tangible solutions? 
Source: blogs-images.forbes.com/glennllopis
The days of simply implementing a traditional diversity strategy and calling it a day are over. So is the current employee resource group model with its business case that has historically been mismanaged, misunderstood and not properly defined.  As a result, good intentions have only created more internal employee fragmentation (silos), rather than integration and a deep understanding of the benefits that diverse thought can bring to strengthen business intelligence and know-how.

Efforts to date have proven to be inconsistent and insufficient to say the least. Leveraging the cultural demographic shift calls for a business model and full-scale strategy that fully prepares an organization to leverage today’s reality of a rapidly growing diverse workforce and diverse consumer groups – and the previously unseen opportunities associated with them.

As such, it’s no longer just about “diversity” per se and it’s no longer just a numbers/representation game.  It’s about a tidal demographic shift – with Hispanics at the forefront as the fastest growing minority group – that will impact business strategies and enable growth, innovation and opportunities as companies across all industries strengthen their talent and consumer engagement.

As Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas PR North America – and a fellow Forbes contributor – recently noted, “Some 52 million Americans today identify as Hispanic, and 50,000 of them will turn 18 each month for the next two decades. These millennials have real clout, both for their spending power now and for their ability to influence what comes next. Marketers especially should start paying attention.”
The fact that most businesses have been slow to act on this demographic shift has made a huge opportunity even greater. Those that take the lead now will find themselves with an unprecedented competitive advantage and a highly loyal consumer base – particularly with Hispanics – that others will find difficult if not impossible to dislodge.

But first, change management efforts demand intelligence of the demographic shift at its core. Those that keep it at a distance and do not prepare themselves rightly will remain vulnerable to the continuously changing marketplace and their unique and growing needs. Preparing leadership rightly for the demographic shift means embracing all of its strategic implications, whether you are talking about cultural intelligence, marketing strategies, global competition, or the new requirements for talent acquisition, innovative team building and consumer engagement.

There’s no denying that the demographic shift puts today’s business leaders at a crossroads. They can continue on their current path of least resistance, one full of traps being set as they unknowingly create more tension points with the talent and the consumers on which their businesses depend. Or they can forge a new path by adopting a forward-thinking mindset that allows them to connect with and earn relationships with their diverse workforce and consumer groups.

This is what happened in Houston, where 20% of the citizenry was born outside the United States. Yet this city was the first and most successful in many ways to rebound from the 2008 recession, according to a report on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS: “Where America Works.” As Houston Mayor Annise Parker explains, jobs were created and filled by attracting “some of the best and the brightest from around the world.”

So what role does the cultural demographic shift play in your own successful change management strategy? It’s not a wholesale change but a required enhancement layered on top of existing strategies to ensure that the demographic shift plays a key role in all change management requirements.

Where once it was thought that hiring diverse talent was enough, companies now must ask: how do we engage and mobilize our diversity of talent to build strong relationships with these new and diverse consumer groups?  The situation demands that all companies rethink how they communicate both internally and externally, how they operate across departments and functional areas, where they fit in their industry and how they can be leaders in growth, innovation and opportunity.

This is a paradigm shift where it’s becoming less about the business defining the individual and more about the individual defining the business.

An EY article titled, Demographic shifts transform the global workforce, described what this paradigm shift means to business: “as the market turns, skilled employees will want a better understanding of their employment options and a greater say in how work is assigned, assessed and rewarded. The employer will no longer define the workplace; rather, employees’ priorities and preferences will dictate what the future workplace will look like.”

It went on to say that: “Companies will have to craft methods to engage or re-engage the experienced base of talent. Companies that fail to respond to this change and do not succeed in redefining their employee value proposition will fail to attract, retain or develop talent effectively.”

This means that the way a business operates – its processes and systems and best practices – must integrate the growing diverse population and understand how these operations impact them. The demographic shift requires it as it affects business on all fronts – the people that work for companies and are responsible for their brands; the owners of other businesses (vendors/suppliers) that companies work with externally; and the different consumer groups they must serve if they want to grow and compete.

If you know where to look for it, most companies will find that significant intellectual capital already exists in-house – but it’s disconnected when most departments and functional areas operate in silos. Harnessing it means stitching all of that intellectual capital into one strategy that interconnects each functional area together, which in turn will enable the combined intellectual capital of the business to support a business model that can best serve the shift, strengthen each functional area and  produce better outcomes all around.

Similarly, the same intelligence and data that exists out in the marketplace with respect to the cultural demographic shift is adrift because no one is operationalizing it. Few are taking advantage of this intelligence to improve how they lead and manage their functional areas of responsibility.

Instead, it’s business as usual – unknowingly creating tension points, not culturally connecting with the demographic shift, not authentically communicating with these groups or capturing the intelligence embedded within them. Yet it’s this intelligence that businesses need for successful change management – to change everything from the way they operate, manage supply chain activities, design their strategies, brand their products, develop their leadership and their talent pool of future leaders, and enter into external vendor relationships and strategic alliances. In other words, it impacts every aspect of how a business is run.

But if you don’t have the intelligence about the demographic shift and can’t articulate how the unique qualities of say, the Hispanic culture, impacts business, it will be very difficult to get buy-in to the opportunity. This is why so many companies continue to try – and inevitably fail to authentically engage and sustain a two-way dialogue with their employees and consumers/clients to feed the right kind of cultural intelligence into the business model –   instead lumping the demographic shift into their total market strategy.

And this is why companies are so at risk of losing top diverse talent and consumers/clients, especially to emerging small businesses and mid-market companies owned by Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans and other groups that have the innate cultural know-how to more easily foster relationships with their counterparts among the demographic shift. With a value proposition based on intelligence derived from the demographic shift, companies could instead be serving these diverse business owners with a platform to help them build their businesses – partnering with them instead of losing business to them.

Partnership implies coming together as equals; it means the end of assimilation that perceives culture as a barrier to advancement, instead of a natural source of strength when one is free to express their authentic identity. Through the acceptance of our differences and knowing how these differences can solve problems and create new types of opportunities, we will also solve the economic chaos and identity crisis that exists across America.

A new enlightened form of leadership must emerge that rewards individuality and has the wisdom and cultural acumen and insight to most effectively leverage our differences so that together we can support common goals and values.  The 21st century leader knows that assimilation is being replaced with accountability to understand the impact culture plays in strengthening human capital and business strategy.  The right kind of thought-leadership will position brands to leverage diversity of thought as a tangible enabler of opportunities previously unseen.   The cultural demographic shift must be translated into intelligence and resources to create new revenue streams, strengthen an organization’s overall value proposition, and elevate engagement to secure top talent and earn trust and loyalty from emerging consumer groups that will commit to a brand   once the brand commits to them.

Like many opportunities sitting right in front of us previously unseen, this is one that can no longer be ignored. Start preparing your leadership for the demographic shift with a full-scale cultural intelligence strategy with the mindset of the operational and marketplace value and competitive advantage it can bring – and with a change management approach that no longer settles for losing top talent and ignoring new market opportunities.


Glen LlopisGlenn Llopis is the Founder of the Center for Hispanic Leadership, a nationally recognized thought-leader and author who develops talent and leadership that create sustainable business outcomes through his Immigrant Perspective Framework. To learn more about Glenn or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Glenn Llopis' bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We’re heading into a jobless future, no matter what the government does



In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers revived a debate I’d had with futurist Ray Kurzweil in 2012 about the jobless future.

He echoed the words of Peter Diamandis, who says that we are moving from a history of scarcity to an era of abundance. Then he noted that the technologies that make such abundance possible are allowing production of far more output using far fewer people.

On all this, Summers is right. Within two decades, we will have almost unlimited energy, food, and clean water; advances in medicine will allow us to live longer and healthier lives; robots will drive our cars, manufacture our goods, and do our chores.

There won’t be much work for human beings. Self-driving cars will be commercially available by the end of this decade and will eventually displace human drivers—just as automobiles displaced the horse and buggy—and will eliminate the jobs of taxi, bus, and truck drivers. Drones will take the jobs of postmen and delivery people.

The debates of the next decade will be about whether we should allow human beings to drive at all on public roads. The pesky humans crash into each other, suffer from road rage, rush headlong into traffic jams, and need to be monitored by traffic police. Yes, we won’t need traffic cops either.

Robots are already replacing manufacturing workers. Industrial robots have advanced to the point at which they can do the same physical work as human beings. The operating cost of some robots is now less than the salary of an average Chinese worker. And, unlike human beings, robots don’t complain, join labor unions, or get distracted. They readily work 24 hours a day and require minimal maintenance. Robots will also take the jobs of farmers, pharmacists, and grocery clerks.

Medical sensors in our smartphones, clothing, and bathrooms will soon be monitoring our health on a minute-to-minute basis. Combined with electronic medical records and genetic and lifestyle data, these will provide enough information for physicians to focus on preventing disease rather than on curing it.

If medications are needed, they can be prescribed based on a person’s genome rather than a one-size-fits-all basis as they are today. The problem is that there is now so much information that humans cannot effectively analyze it. But artificial intelligence–based physicians such as IBM Watson can. The role of the doctor becomes to provide comfort and compassion—not to diagnose disease or to prescribe medications. In other words, computers will be also taking over some of the jobs of our doctors, and we won’t need as many human doctors as we have today.

It will be like the future that Autodesk CEO Carl Bass once described to me: “The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

Summers is wrong, however, in his belief that governments can do as they did in the industrial age: create “enough work for all who need work for income, purchasing power and dignity.” They can barely keep up with the advances that are happening in technology, let alone develop economic policies for employment. Even the courts are struggling to understand the legal and ethical issues of advancing technologies.

Neither they nor our policy makers have come to grips with how to protect our data and personal information, control cable and Internet monopolies, regulate advances in genetics and medicine, and tax the sharing economy that companies such as Uber and AirBnb inhabit. How are policy makers going to grapple with entire industries’ disruptions in periods that are shorter than election cycles? The industrial age lasted a century, and its consequent changes have happened over generations. Now we have startups in Silicon Valley shaking up bedrock industries such as cable and broadcasting, hotels, and transportation.

The writing is clearly on the wall about what lies ahead. Yet even the most brilliant economists—and futurists—don’t know what to do about it.

In his debate with me, Kurzweil said: “Automation always eliminates more jobs than it creates if you only look at the circumstances narrowly surrounding the automation. That’s what the Luddites saw in the early 19th century in the textile industry in England. The new jobs came from increased prosperity and new industries that were not seen.” Kurzweil’s key argument was that just as we could not predict that types of jobs that were created, we can’t predict what is to come.

Kurzweil is right, but the problem is that no matter what the jobs of the future are, they will surely require greater skill and education—robots can do all the grunt work. Manufacturers who want to bring production back already complain that they can’t find enough skilled workers in the U.S. for their automated factories. Technology companies that write the software also complain about shortages of workers with the skills that they need. We won’t be able to retrain the majority of the workforce fast enough to take the new jobs in emerging industries. During the industrial revolution, it was the younger generations who were trained—not the older workers.

The only solution that I see is a shrinking work week. We may perhaps be working for 10 to 20 hours a week instead of the 40 for which we do today. And with the prices of necessities and of what we today consider luxury goods dropping exponentially, we may not need the entire population to be working. There is surely a possibility for social unrest because of this; but we could also create the utopian future we have long dreamed of, with a large part of humanity focused on creativity and enlightenment.

Regardless, at best we have another 10 to 15 years in which there is a role for humans. The number of available jobs will actually increase in the U.S. and Europe before it decreases. China is out of time because it has a manufacturing-based economy, and those jobs are already disappearing. Ironically, China is accelerating this demise by embracing robotics and 3D printing. As manufacturing comes back to the U.S., new factories need to be built, robots need to be programmed, and new infrastructure needs to be developed. To install new hardware and software on existing cars to make them self-driving, we will need many new auto mechanics. We need to manufacture the new medical sensors, install increasingly efficient solar panels, and write new automation software.

So the future is very bright for some countries in the short term, and in the long term is uncertain for all. The only certainty is that much change lies ahead that no one really knows how to prepare for.



BigSpeak Speaker, Vivek Wadhwa is a fellow at Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, director of research at Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke, and distinguished fellow at Singularity University. His past appointments include Harvard Law School, University of California Berkeley, and Emory University. To learn more about Vivek or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Vivek Wadhwa's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.