Global Winds Driving The Uncertainty-Paradox

No matter how local your business appears, global forces are going to trip you up if they haven’t already. A corollary – all local markets will feel the impact of international competition and technological change. If your job doesn’t disappear into a digital vacuum, it very well could be centralized in Ohio or Korea. Or decentralized everywhere. Toss a coin. People in high places are thinking about you.

You can either view the coming disruptions as opportunities or tidal waves. Welcome to the Uncertainty-Paradox, it’s not just about big companies. It’s about you. Innovation is a personal enterprise, part of life-long learning that builds value in all different sorts of ways.

For example, folks generating creative output are under some of the most visible pressure to change business models. This is true whether you are a large studio/publisher or one person art studio. It’s very uncomfortable, but not unexpected. Changes in distribution since before the printing press have been altering how fortunes are made and who makes them.

A new business from iStockPhoto ramps this problem up for designers in the same way they hit photographers. iStockPhoto.com will start making custom, single buyer, stock logos available on a sister site for under $700. In reality, this builds a safe marketplace for inexpensive logos, one that had been developing for a number of years. It is a logical and probably necessary jump in service. However, the business model seems to put the majority of risk on designers, changing how they do business. Just as unlimited use stock photography and digital cameras has caused serious disruption in the photography market, this will undoubtedly continue downward pressure on creative shops. Of course it also provides an introduction to selling your services halfway around the globe. Opportunity? Disaster? Race for the bottom?

One issue that stands out for folks in the US (and other countries long in the developed tooth, well actually everywhere) is that job migration appears to be primarily one way – away from home base. Which feels disturbing and unfair, even if there is mutual benefit overall.

In a recent Carnegie Mellon University publication: “Renewing Globalization and Economic Growth in a Post-Crises World – The Future of the G-20 Agenda” I found a few tidbits that deserve watching over the next decade. Government approaches to international trade and policy directly effect the profitability equations on where things get made and done. Mistakes can cause trade wars and disruptions in all markets, not just import/export. Changes can effect the jobs of everyone from CEO to parking attendant.

In the report, Robert Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, makes a compelling argument that today’s ‘mercantilist, export-led’ globalization structure is not sustainable. He defines this approach as focusiing on building prosperity by encouraging exports while discouraging domestic consumption/imports. He feels that we must move core economic policies of nations to innovation-based domestic growth strategies. This is not a call for the re-domstication of manufacturing jobs or a protectionist spew but an assessment that markets in the United States and Europe are simply not big enough to absorb output from export heavy nations like Brazil, China, India, Russia, and Japan. He calls for innovation across industries in every country rather than industry focused groupings. Creating more universal, level growth in prosperity/productivity domestically world wide. Worldwide increases in domestic prosperity will create opportunities worldwide.

A seemingly slight change of focus, but there is a big difference when the argument about imports is what is allowed in vs what can possibly be consumed.

Can you think of any local job that can’t feel the impact of global competition and change? What are you doing to get ready for winds of change?

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4 Responses to Global Winds Driving The Uncertainty-Paradox

  1. Brad Shorr says:

    Fred, This is quite interesting and more than a little scary. I never really thought about what would happen if China and Brazil, etc., keep exporting and all we do is have more and more people flipping hamburgers and processing insurance claim forms. Productivity is key, and I would sure like to see our federal and state governments put a tax system in place that rewards innovation, investment in innovation, and plain old fashioned manufacturing.
    .-= Brad Shorr´s last blog ..How To Get More Blog Subscribers =-.

    • Hi Brad, it’s a subtle shift but the question of sustainability when it comes to international economic models really does seem to be gaining traction. While this probably won’t bring manufacturing flying back to the U.S. it may help raise issues before the next wave leaves.

  2. Karen Swim says:

    Fred, excellent post. As a small business owner, I am a bit more agile and already serve a global market. However, your post highlights that we need to collectively think long term about the decisions we make today. Too often business looks at the financial impact only and it drives our decisions. There seems to be a need to look at a much bigger picture that examines how we are literally changing the future. We can each look within our own region and see on a small scale how decisions 10 years ago have had far reaching consequences today. Here in Michigan that shift is scarily evident.
    .-= Karen Swim´s last blog ..Rip the Veil or Close the Blinds? =-.

    • Hi Karen, I’m glad you’re ready because I think Small Business could drive the next revolution in international business. Cross-border communications and transactions have become so much easier as the internet infrastructure matures that nimble might make all the difference.