Reinvention or Simple Action?

March 31, 2014

I was fortunate to attend Forbes Reinventing America Summit last week in Chicago. The theme of the conference was daunting and the participants were impressive – CEOs, financiers, entrepreneurs, inventors and political figures from cities and states.

The conversation centered around the idea that to remain or become competitive, we need to “reinvent” education, workforce development, government, companies and entire industries. Although hard realities of these challenges were addressed, there was a lot of optimism in the room.

I believe there is good reason for this optimism. It seems both business and civic leaders are more willing and more capable of challenging assumptions than ever before. Everything seems to be up for debate. Is a technical school classroom or a college campus the best place to learn? What business models foster the greatest innovation? What is the government’s role in fostering job creation, workforce training, and even innovation? Not only are leaders willing to ask these questions and address these “sacred cows,” but they now have more data and more tools for this analysis.

Technology was a big part of the dialogue. Faster computing cycles, the evolving Internet and cloud computing help get things done more efficiently and they create new ways to deliver services. Technology helps crunch numbers and analyze data, and in doing so, is smashing long held beliefs about society and the economy. This is a leading to a period of progress and innovation, which is upending industries and institutions.

The greatest question presented by those at the Forbes Reinventing America Summit was not whether we have the insight or the ability to “reinvent” America, but rather, do we have the willingness to take action? Oddly enough, it seems that the greatest challenge may be to move forward on issues where the evidence is clear and there is a great amount of agreement. If we start on those items – and there seems to be many of them – we will be well on our way to becoming more competitive in every aspect of our communities and our countries.

Kenny McDonald

One Columbus Update