Monthly Archives: June 2013

Jeff Haden: Pursuing Excellence

Editor’s Note: Jeff Haden is a great business think tank, entrepreneur, speakers, ghostwriter and LinkedIn influencer.  He is a a true talent in the world of Ghostwriting. He is the founder of Blackbird Media. He has ghostwritten nearly forty non-fiction books (four Amazon Business & Investing #1s). He is a featured columnist for Inc.com and CBS MoneyWatch and a great speaker on subjects like: leadership, management, and small business for industry conferences, company meetings, civic groups, and the occasional workshop. In a nutshell, he is revolutionizing the Business Industry with his impressive ideas, thoughts, insights, experience and writings.

He didn’t have things the easy or the fast way, but he is certainly making some of the best written articles for self improvement and business. He’d tell you which ones, but then he’d have to kill you.

As he says:

‘Bottom line? I’m versatile, easy to work with, and I really like what I do. If we work together, you will too.’

You can read his full bio from here and get connected on Twitter and LinkedIn.

eTalk’s Niaz Uddin has interviewed Jeff Haden recently to gain insights about pursuing excellence in career and life which is given below.

Niaz: Dear Jeff, thank you so much for joining us in the midst of your busy schedule. We are thrilled and honored to have you at eTalks.

Jeff: I am happy to join.

Niaz: At the beginning of our interview, can you please tell us a bit about your background? How have you become a ghostwriter from being a forklift driver?

Jeff: I worked my way through college by working full-time at a manufacturing plant. I liked being on the shop floor, liked being a part of making things… just really liked the production environment. When I graduated from college I interviewed for several jobs, but they were all “40 year-old men working in cubicles” type jobs, and I couldn’t see myself enjoying that. So I took an entry-level job at another manufacturing facility in town.

When I say entry-level, I mean entry-level. I started as a material handler, which literally meant lifting and carrying heavy boxes and bundles at a fast pace. Fortunately I worked my way up into other jobs: Forklift driver, crew leader, machine operator, supervisor, manager, etc.

But I’m really glad that’s how I started. I literally learned the business from the ground up, and I think it helps you be a better leader when you truly understand what the people you do go through on a daily basis.

Niaz: What is your motivation to motivate others?

Jeff: I worked for other people for twenty years (more if you count jobs in high school and college.) I worked my way up from the absolute bottom of the totem pole to running manufacturing operations for a book plant… and along the way made every mistake possible (I even ate my lunch during one inter-departmental job interview… but I swear there was a good reason!)

I know a ton about what not to do. I’m like the ultimate career cautionary tale. All I have to do is think back on one of many career-limiting moves… and an article writes itself. And hopefully other people can learn from my mistakes instead of having to go through the pain of making the same mistakes themselves.

Niaz: Career is probably most important thing of an individual’s life.  I have seen that you tend to do a lot of article on Inc. concerning career advice. What do you think about career? How significant is career for a person’s life?

Jeff: I know it’s a cliché, but most of us spend more time working than we do on any other single pursuit. While I don’t think what you do define you, it does define much of what you do, if that makes sense. So why spend your life doing something you don’t enjoy or that doesn’t fulfill you? I know we don’t always have choices and we can’t all love our work… but we should either try to find work we love, or find ways to love certain aspects of the work we do.

Niaz: In this knowledge economy, what’s new about career? How is career path is changing and what should one keep in mind while setting career plans in this knowledge economy?

Jeff: At one time I think you could get by with simply having experience. If you checked all the boxes and had the right qualifications, you were fine. Now I think it’s much more about what you do and what you do with what you know. (That’s how I define the knowledge economy.) Accomplishments are everything – and accomplishments are based on having and applying knowledge that others do not have.

One way is to specialize. You may not be given the latitude to focus on one tiny aspect of a job or an industry, but you should pick one thing that you can know and do better than anyone around you – that way you’re always valuable and you’re as close to being indispensable as possible.

Of course the key is to pick one thing that truly adds value. Don’t just pick what you like – pick what truly makes a difference and creates real value.

Niaz: As you know, everything has been changing with the changes of time. Our past generations used to have only one career for their whole life. Now we have so many career paths as well as have so many opportunities. We are doing multiple things at a time. What do you think about the best ways of choosing multiple careers?

Jeff: I like to think in terms of layers: What am I doing today, how can I leverage that tomorrow, and how does that extend to other possibilities? For example, I write. Writing is based on knowledge and expertise about a subject, so that can easily extend to speaking. Or consulting, or meeting people you can partner with to take on new challenges.

Think about what you do today and then think about how you can leverage it. If you’re a technician, think about ways you can add leadership skills to your toolbox. Or think about how you can work with other departments on projects that are worthwhile for both functional areas. Or think about how you can learn new skills at a part-time job. As long as you’re constantly seeking opportunities and staying open to opportunities that are presented to you, your career path will almost discover itself.

Niaz: How to grab the best opportunities among so many good opportunities? And how can one integrate multiple careers to keep smooth sustainability and growth in career?

Jeff: The key is to always, always, always excel in your current job. Everything follows from that. Growth is based on accomplishment. If you’ve held three jobs in a relatively short period of time and have excelled at all of them, a hiring manager will see that as a great sign. Talent often gets to set its own rules. When you excel, the sky is the limit.

When you’re mediocre, limits are everywhere.

As for best opportunities: Sometimes the best opportunities only reveal themselves later. Make an informed choice and then decide that if the job doesn’t turn out like you hoped that you will do everything possible to make it work. Don’t expect the company or the boss to change – take responsibility for doing your best regardless of the circumstances. Your performance is the only thing you can truly control.

Niaz:  Where and how can one get continuous motivation to do things to reach to the mission of life?

Jeff: Success in business and in life means different things to different people. Success should mean different things. Whether or not you are successful depends on how you define success, and on the tradeoffs you are willing to not just accept but embrace as you pursue that definition of success.

The answer lies in answering one question: How happy am I? That’s it. How successful you are is based solely on the answer to that question.

Tradeoffs are unavoidable. If you’re making tons of money but are still unhappy, you haven’t embraced the fact that incredible business success often carries a heavy personal price. Other things are clearly more important than making money, and that’s okay. If on the other hand you leave every day at 4 o’clock and pursue a rich and varied personal life and you’re still unhappy, you haven’t embraced the fact–and it is a fact–that what you chose to do will not make you wealthy. Personal satisfaction is nice but it’s not enough for you… and that’s okay too.

What motivates you? What do you want to achieve for yourself and your family? What do you value most, spiritually, emotionally, and materially? That’s what will make you happy–and if you aren’t doing it, you won’t be happy.

Defining success is important, but taking a clear-eyed look at the impact of your definition matters even more. As in most things, your intention is important, but the results provide the real answer.

Ask yourself if you’re happy. If you are, you’re successful. The happier you are, the more successful you are.

And if you aren’t happy, it’s time to make some changes.

Niaz:  After interviewing thousands of people for a wide range of positions, what do you think are the most practical ways to pursue excellence in career?

Jeff: Experience is irrelevant. Accomplishments are everything.

You have “10 years in the Web design business.” Whoopee. I don’t care how long you’ve been doing what you do. Years of service indicate nothing; you could be the worst 10-year programmer in the world.

I care about what you’ve done: how many sites you’ve created, how many back-end systems you’ve installed, how many customer-specific applications you’ve developed (and what kind)… all that matters is what you’ve done.

Successful people don’t need to describe themselves using hyperbolic adjectives like passionate, innovative, driven, etc. They can just describe what they’ve done.

Niaz:  ‘Self-branding’ seems to be the buzzword with career coaches today. How do you define ‘Self-branding’?

Jeff: A great personal brand isn’t artificial. It’s authentic. A great personal brand is analogous to a great reputation, which is based on providing exceptional service or doing an exceptional job.

Obviously, that’s often not manifested in popular culture; if you hear “personal brand” and Paris Hilton is the first thing that comes to mind, you might see “personal brand” as a pejorative. But personal branding doesn’t mean duping someone. It doesn’t mean you’re manipulative or self-aggrandizing.

What it means is you are incredibly efficient at getting across to you people who you are and what you stand for.

Niaz:  LinkedIn continues to be a powerhouse in terms of networking professionally, yet many people are using it wrong way. What mistakes are you seeing professionals and job seekers are making?

Jeff: The worst thing you can do is put off making solid connections until the day you need something–customers, employees, a job, or just a better network. If you do, then you’ve waited too long.

Think about where you someday want to be and start now to build the connections, the network, and the following that will support those goals. Building great connections is a parallel, not a serial, task. Later is always too late.

Niaz:  With the evolution of social media and incredibly easy access to web, most of us have multiple social media account. Being present on social media means investing time. And we are investing significant amount of time over social media. What are your ideas to set our social media plans to get best out of it?

Jeff: Don’t just be on social media because you think you should. Social media is just a tool. First figure out what you want to accomplish, then pick the right tools to get you there. If you want to make professional connections, LinkedIn can be a great tool. If you want to find old girlfriends, Facebook is the place. Have a clear idea of what you want to do, then use the right tool… and constantly measure what you’re doing to make sure it’s working – or worth the investment in time.

Niaz:  What are your secrets of your success?

Jeff: I’m not that smart, not that talented, not that gifted… but I can do what other people are not willing to do.

Everyone says they go the extra mile. Almost no one actually does. Most people who go a little farther or longer think, “Wait… no one else is here… why am I doing this?”

That’s why the extra mile is such a lonely place. That’s also why the extra mile is a place filled with opportunities.

Be early. Stay late. Make the extra phone call. Send the extra email. Do the extra research. Help a customer unload or unpack a shipment. Don’t wait to be asked; offer. Don’t just tell employees what to do–show them what to do and work beside them.

Every time you do something, think of one extra thing you can do–especially if other people aren’t doing that one thing.

Sure, it’s hard.

But that’s what will make you different.

And over time, that’s what will make you incredibly successful.

Niaz:  Jeff thank you once again for sharing us your invaluable ideas, knowledge, insights and experiences. We are wishing you very good luck for all of your upcoming endeavors.

Jeff: You’re welcome Niaz.

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Further Reading:

01. Philip Kotler on Marketing for Better World

02. Hugh Mac­Leod on Creativity and Art

03. Daniel Pink on To Sell is Human

04. Naeem Zafar on Entrepreneurship for the Better World

05. Derek Sivers on  Entrepreneurship, CD Baby and Wood Egg

06. Gerd Leonhard on Big Data and the Future of Media, Marketing and Technology

07. Rita McGrath on Strategy in Volatile and Uncertain Environments

08. Gautam Mukunda on Leadership

Gerd Leonhard: Big Data and the Future of Media

Editor’s Note: Gerd Leonhard is a well-known Futurist and Author of 5 books, a highly influential Keynote Speaker, Think-Tank Leader & Adviser, and – since late 2011 – the Founder of GreenFuturists.com. Wall Street Journal called him ‘one of the leading Media Futurists in the World’. He is well-known as the Co-author of the influential book ‘The Future of Music’ (Berklee Press, 2005), and as the author of ‘The End of Control’ (2007), ‘Music 2.0’ (2008), ‘Friction is Fiction’ (2009, Lulu Publishing), and ‘The Future of Content’ (Kindle-only, 2011). His new book is “From Ego to Eco”.

Gerd is a fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts (London), a member of the World Future Society, and a visiting professor at the Fundação Dom Cabral in Brazil. A native German, he now resides in Basel, Switzerland.

You can read his bio and learn more about his works from here, here, here, here and here.

eTalk’s Niaz Uddin has interviewed Gerd Leonhard recently to gain his ideas and insights about  Big Data and the Future of Media, Marketing and Technology which is given below.

Niaz: Dear Leonhard thanks for joining us in the midst of your busy schedule. We are honored and thrilled to have you at eTalks.

Gerd: My pleasure.

Niaz: At the beginning of our interview, can you please tell us about Big Data? How is Big Data revolutionizing our life and work?

Gerd: I define Big Data as the result of exponentially increasing velocity, variety, volume, virality and value.  All of us are generating increasingly large amounts of data, whether it’s by using Google, or sharing a location, rating a site, tweeting, facebooking, photo uploading etc. – and this is primarily driven by the Social-Local-Mobile SoLoMo revolution on the Internet. Once this data can be harnessed – and safeguarded i.e. refined and permitted – it will allow for substantial cost savings (such as with networked public cars, logistics, p2p energy etc.) as well as for pretty dramatic new values such as prediction and anticipation offerings like Google Now and Siri.

Niaz: Why does Big Data excite you most?

Gerd: The possibility of generating real user value from the raw data, i.e. faster understanding of complex issues, realtime, customized news and content feeds, and an overall dramatically improved digital content experiences.  The downside – as we have just recently discovered see my post on this, that we may all become permanently naked and subject to whatever data obsession governments may follow.

Niaz: What do you think about Big Data Products?

Gerd: They are more like services, platforms and experiences then they are products — but we are still very nascent with this; kind of like the beginning of Search, 10 or so years ago.  Every major technology company, every internet portal and every media company is now diving into Big Data as the next big thing – and this connects to Social Media of course, and to The Internet of Things (IoT)

Niaz: How the futures of products (Big Data Products) are going to be changed?

Gerd:  Big Data, unlike Big Oil, will be all about ecosystems, about creating win-win-win solutions, about interdependence and mutual respect i.e. permission and trust. Unless we have that worked out, it will fail.

Niaz:  As you know, Big Data has started revolutionizing almost everything. Marketing is changing significantly. Can you please tell us about the impact of Big Data in Marketing?

Gerd: Basically, IF users allow marketers to track them i.e. if there is a ‘like’ relationship, than big data feeds are a goldmine for marketers – everything will be 99% track able, customized and personalized.  Again, IF value is there for the users, this is dream come true for marketers. The main focus will be on securing and maintaining TRUST – which is why the PRISM debacle is such an issue

Niaz: What do you think about the future of Marketing?

Gerd: We wont need Marketing as we know it. It will all be about sense-making, curation, experiences, added values, timeliness and conversations (see my HBR piece)

Niaz: If you go for buying foods, soda or any house hold things you will have so many good alternatives. Considering broader area, if you go for buying smart phone, computers or even cars, you will have so many good alternatives too. But living in such an exciting era, we just have only one good search engine, only one good micro blogging site, only one good social network and only one good professional network. Are we going through any crisis?

Gerd: I think we have a multitude of platforms and services – innovation is moving much too fast!

Niaz: How can we recover this crisis? What is the future of this trend?

Gerd: The only way forward is to create some kind of ‘sustainable capitalism’ based on hyper-collaboration and new, interdependent ecosystems of money, media, energy, food and data (See ego to eco).

Niaz: As you know, as long as we are watching adds on social media or web, we are no longer human beings, we become products. Social media companies are making billions of dollars but they are not making their consumers wealthy and not even enriching the life of consumers. What are the core problems of our social media?

Gerd: As the saying goes: if you don’t pay you ARE the product. This is not per se a problem – unless we lose control of our bargains. Too much too fast too deep can become a real problem for the human brain, as well, so… deteching will increase as well.

Niaz: How do you see the world of social media evolving over the next 10 years?

Gerd: All the web is social, mobile, local – there will be no difference in online and offline in less than 7 years, and the same goes for ‘social’.

Niaz: By this time, Google has become very gigantic. It controls almost all information available on the Internet. It shows us that information it wants to. So many people have already started to believe that Google is going to control the whole world. We have also seen Google to use its monopoly power. Google’s search algorithms “decide” what is relevant and valuable. What do you think about Google’s monopoly? What could be better for the whole world?

Gerd: If Google behaves like a monolith and stops earning our trust it will die very quickly as we will feel be betrayed – this is why WE control these big web companies, in the end.

Niaz: Can you please tell us about real-time approach?

Gerd: Everything is going real-time because of mobile internet, cameras, social media, big data — in many ways a torrent of noise, in other ways a treasure trove. We will need better filters and curators.

Niaz: What are the impacts of real-time approach in everything we do now?

Gerd: Basically if it’s not realtime we won’t care.

Niaz: Dear Gerd, we are really grateful for giving us time and sharing us priceless ideas, insights and experience for eTalks community. We are wishing you very good luck for all of your upcoming endeavors.

Gerd: Thank you Niaz.

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Further Reading:

1. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger on Big Data Revolution

2. James Allworth on Disruptive Innovation

3. Ely Kahn on Big Data, Startup and Entrepreneurship

4. Brian Keegan on Big Data

5. danah boyd on Future of Technology and Social Media

6. Irving Wladawsky-Berger on Evolution of Technology and Innovation

7. Horace Dediu on Asymco, Apple and Future of Computing

Joseph Nye: Global Politics

Editor’s Note: Joseph Nye is an American political scientist and former Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He currently holds the position of University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard University where he has been a member of the faculty since 1964. He has served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Chair of the National Intelligence Council, and Deputy Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology. He is an author of some great books including Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics; Understanding International Conflict; and The Power Game: A Washington Novel. In 2008 he published The Powers to Leadand his latest book published in 2011 is The Future of Power. He also spoke at TED on Global power shifts.

You can read his full bio from here, here and here. To learn more about his ideas, insights, research and experience on global politics, you can read his personal blog and huffington post blog.

eTalk’s Niaz Uddin has interviewed Joseph Nye recently to gain insights about his ideas, research and works in the field of global politics which is given below.

Niaz: Dear Joseph, thank you so much for joining us. We are honored and thrilled to have you at eTalks.

Joseph: Thank you Niaz for having me.

Niaz: At the beginning of our interview, can you please tell us about ‘21st Century’s Global Leadership’?

Joseph: As the National Intelligence Council report on the world in 2030 concluded, the US is likely to remain the leading power in world politics, but it will be primus inter pares and have to pay attention to others.

Niaz: Who are the current aspiring global leaders to you?

Joseph: The most important is China, but Europe remains important when it is able to act as an entity, and India and Brazil are increasing their roles.

Niaz: As you know globalization, information technology, social media, technological innovation and digital media have been revolutionizing our life significantly. Now, in what kind of international world do we live?

Joseph: I use the term ‘Global Information Age’ to describe the current world.

Niaz: As the rise of globalization and as the spread of international community, how our society is changing? Is the way to achieve socio-political success also changing?

Joseph: I believe that global interdependence and the current communications revolution will continue to increase, so success will require adapting to these forces.

Niaz: Keeping in account this configuration, how do you see the near future?

Joseph: It will vary in different areas. I expect the US to remain strong, and China to grow at a slightly slower rate than in the past decade.  I worry about how long it will take Europe and Japan to recover higher rates of economic growth.  The future of the Middle East remains most uncertain.

Niaz: In 2004, you have published your book Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics’. What does soft power mean?

Joseph: Power is the ability to affect others to get the outcomes you want, and that can be done by coercion, payment or attraction. Soft power is the ability to get the outcomes you want through attraction rather than coercion or payment.

Niaz: How is soft power the means to success in world politics?

Joseph: Soft power alone is rarely sufficient for success, but it is often necessary for long-term success.

Niaz: Some people have started to believe that Google is going to control the whole world. By this time, we have seen Google to use its monopoly power. Google’s search algorithms “decide” what is relevant and valuable. Isn’t it tempting for democratic and free-market states to seek control of these technologies in order to exert the kind of “soft power” you describe?

Joseph: Google is a powerful company, but it faces competition from other companies, and anti trust scrutiny from the European Union and the United States.

Niaz: In your book The Power to Lead you argued that leaders need both soft power and hard power. Can you please tell us a bit about hard power? And how leaders can combine soft power and hard power?

Joseph: The ability to combine hard  power (coercion and payment) with soft power  in a manner in which they reinforce each other is what I call a smart power strategy.

Niaz: As you know there’s a dilemma between individual power and power of society, because if one person has power to attract and control whole society, what others can do?

Joseph: It is important to have constitutional limits to prevent one person from controlling the whole society. The American founding fathers accomplished this by creating checks and balances so that power could not concentrate in the chief executive. It makes for inefficient government, but it preserves liberties.

Niaz: We see from time to time, people with power dominate and control the whole society. As a result, mass people, businesses, democracy, capitalism suffer profoundly and the society starts malfunctioning. Can you please briefly tell us about how to use power to make our society a better place?

Joseph: In addition to the constitutional checks and balances, it is important to have a strong civil society, including a free press able and willing to criticize the government.

Niaz: And what are the responsibilities and roles political leaders should play to make sure that no one is abusing power?

Joseph: Self-restraint by leaders is also part of the solution.

Niaz: Can you please briefly tell us about your latest book, which was published in 2011, ‘The Future of Power’?

Joseph: The Future of Power has chapters on the meaning of power, military power, economic power, soft power and cyber power.

Niaz: Having said that, which countries are going to play major roles in the future power game?

Joseph: In addition to the US, China and other countries mentioned above, non state actors will play a larger role in future power games.

Niaz: What are the challenges for other countries? And how can they come forward and join in this power game.

Joseph: Keeping a strong civil society that is open to the outside world is crucial to success in the long term.

Niaz: Dear Joseph thanks again for your invaluable time. We are enlightened with your ideas, knowledge and experience. We wish you good luck for all of your endeavors. Take very good care of yourself.

Joseph: You’re welcome Niaz.

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Further Reading:

1. Peter Klein on Entrepreneurship, Economics and Education

2. Derek Sivers on  Entrepreneurship, CD Baby and Wood Egg

3. F. M. Scherer on Industrial Economy, Digital Economy and Innovation

4. Diego Comin on Entrepreneurship, Technology and Global Economic Development

5. Stephen Walt on Global Development

6. Juliana Rotich on Social Entrepreneurial Innovation

F. M. Scherer: Industrial Economy, Digital Economy and Innovation

Editor’s Note: F. M. Scherer is Aetna Professor Emeritus in the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Born in 1932, he received an A.B. degree with honors and distinction from the University of Michigan in 1954; an M.B.A. with high distinction from Harvard University in 1958; and a Ph.D. in business economics from Harvard University in 1963.

From 1974 to 1976, he was chief economist at the Federal Trade Commission. His research specialties are industrial economics and the economics of technological change, leading inter alia to books on Patents: Economics, Policy and Measurement; Industrial Market Structure and Economic Performance (third edition with David Ross); New Perspectives on Economic Growth and Technological Innovation; The Economics of Multi-Plant Operation: An International Comparisons Study(with three coauthors); International High-Technology Competition; Competition Policies for an Integrated World Economy; Mergers, Sell-offs, and Economic Efficiency (with David J. Ravenscraft) and Innovation and Growth: Schumpeterian Perspectives.

You can read his full bio from here, here and here.

eTalk’s Niaz Uddin has interviewed F. M. Scherer recently to gain insights about Industrial Economy, Digital Economy and Innovation which is given below.

Niaz: You are an expert in Industrial Economics.  At the beginning of our interview, can you please tell us about Industrial Economics?

Scherer: “Industrial economics,” the name commonly applied in Europe, is also called “industrial organization” in the United States.   It is primarily concerned with studying the functioning and malfunctioning of real-world markets, using an array of methods – theory, econometrics, and history.  It also has substantial policy implications, for example, encompassing all varieties of regulatory policy and antitrust policy (called in Europe competition policy).

 Niaz: How is industrial economics different from our traditional economics?

Scherer: The main differences are a strong real-world orientation and a focus on individual industries or markets rather than generalized markets or the overall macro economy.

Niaz: As you know, the economy is transforming to a digital economy.  What revolutionary changes have occurred in this era of digital economy?

Scherer: Virtually every era experiences changes that might at the time be viewed as revolutionary.  The digital economy is not really different.  I suspect most readers know the main elements: the enormously increased capacity and reduced cost of digital devices following Moore’s Law; the evolution of much more capacious means of transmitting information from one place to another – notably, optical fiber cables; and the application of information theory to compress more information into a given transmission medium, either cable or over-the-air.  Building upon these fundamental changes are a host of specific applications, ranging from smaller and more powerful computers to smart phones to the use of computers and robots in automation.

Niaz: What are the impacts of industrial economics in our digital economy?

Scherer: The field of industrial economics has evolved to track and understand the economic implications of the changes mentioned earlier.   We’ve done a lot, for example, to measure the economics of learning curves, which are one facet of Moore’s Law.  Perhaps our most important contribution has been a rethinking of the proper framework for, and means of, regulating specific industries, including telecommunications.  Regulatory reform in telecoms helped open the way for optical fiber cable networks and reassignment of the ether’s frequency space to new modes of information transfer.

Niaz: Can you please tell us about the future of the digital economy?

Scherer: Economists don’t have a particularly good reputation for predicting the future, try as we may.  It’s quite clear, e.g. from studies by economists such as Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT, that more powerful computer systems are helping to raise industrial productivity, as non-digital innovations have been doing for at least two centuries.  Among other things, computerized systems have improved inventory control and logistics in industries such as retailing.  Wal-Mart has been a prominent example here.  But the phenomenon is not really new.  In the 1960s, for example, Anheuser-Busch applied computer-based operations research to optimize its plant structure and shipping patterns, becoming in the process the nation’s largest and most efficient brewer.  And my own experience as a scholar using computers for quantitative data analysis suggests that the changes have been less than revolutionary.  I was able to analyze some rather large data sets successfully in the 1960s using computers that were by today’s standards primitive, but the analysis went through nevertheless.  Long processing queues meant foregoing instant gratification, but the gratification was all the greater for the waiting.  True, today one can access richer data bases – e.g., data on millions of health care interventions, complete retail product transaction tape records, and the whole historical set of U.S. patent grants – that would have been impossible in 1965.

The digital revolution affects not only industrial productivity, but also diverse consumer activities, including communication patterns and entertainment methods.  Here I’m much less confident about the consequences.  Surveys show prodigious numbers of hours spent in the average week, especially by younger people, on computer games and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Many individuals’ use appears from my observation to border on addiction.  (Disclosure: I seek an e-mail fix several times daily.) I suppose people get a lot of pleasure, some narcissistic, from social networking, but I’m much less sure that we are becoming better or more productive human beings as a result.

Education is likely to be affected with special force through the growth of massive open online courses (MOOC).  I’m personally thankful that I’m exiting from teaching just in time, for I know nothing more alienating than talking to an anonymous video camera.

Niaz: There is a tremendous problem of digital divide in under developed, developing, and poor countries.  What are the core challenges for those countries to embrace the blessings of digital economy?

Scherer: Yes, there is such a digital divide, just as there is a less immense digital divide between the United States and nations such as South Korea, Japan and Belgium with faster and more extensive internet connections.  The good news is that cell phone technology is diffusing rapidly into many relatively poor nations, permitting richer intercommunication generally and better information, e.g., on future weather events and market prices, which farmers can use in their planting, harvesting and crop shipping decisions.  From the base that has been established, there will be growth into more advanced generations of digital phone capabilities.  Important to this future progress is the construction of additional cells and high-capacity optical fiber cables to interlink them.  Cheap computers are also becoming available to students in less-developed nations, giving them richer access to the world’s information resources and enhancing their educational progress and, among other things, introducing them to writing software.  These things take time and money.  Both are in short supply, but progress will occur, perhaps faster than I suppose.

Niaz: So what are the new perspectives on economic growth and technological innovation?

Scherer: I suspect the wording of your question implies the identical wording of a short book I published in 1999.  My answer incorporates some of the pessimism I expressed in that book.  The world’s most advanced nations have experienced truly extraordinary technological progress and productivity growth during the past two centuries.  Some nations once viewed as less developed, such as China, are joining in, taking advantage of what has been learned elsewhere to advance at even more rapid rates.  But in the most advanced nations, growth rates have been ebbing, and nations like China and other later developers will experience diminished growth rates once they have extensively installed imitative  capital goods and must then innovate to advance further – a phenomenon called convergence.   The key question is, what can we sustain?  My own view is that environmental constraints, even if not raw resource constraints, will make future growth more difficult than it has been in the past.  But I confess I could be wrong, as other skeptics have been in the past, and indeed, I hope I am wrong.  I also worry about the increasingly unequal distribution of income and wealth that has occurred over the past four decades as skill requirements, patterns of international trade, and modes of competition have changed.

Niaz: Can you please tell us about your book, ‘Innovation and Growth: Schumpeterian Perspectives’?

Scherer: That was a collection of articles, mostly previously published, issued by the MIT Press in 1984.  It pretty well reflected what I had accomplished during the first two decades of my professional career, at least in the field of technological innovation.  Its main emphases were identifying salient characteristics of how innovation occurs and works its magic on the economy, how market structures affect incentives for investing in innovation, and  how innovation shortfalls contributed to the productivity growth rate slump experienced by the United States beginning in the early 1970s and continuing up to the time the book was published.  (Growth did pick up, at least temporarily, in the 1990s.)  These were, I believe, some of my best contributions.

Niaz: What are the new scopes and opportunities of innovation and growth?

Scherer: As I said before, predicting what will happen is difficult.  In the 1984 Innovation and Growth book, I included one 1978 article with my characterization of technologies that were still evolving rapidly.  My list of potential breakthrough areas included molecularly engineered pharmaceuticals, hormonal insecticides, asexual plant reproduction, optical fiber message transmission, and energy from thermonuclear fusion.  Making allowance for developments that emerged in somewhat different forms than I visualized, I was pretty much right on the first four.  I missed badly on the nuclear fusion score, which people had been cultivating intensively beginning in the 1960s and are still pushing without evident success.   Earlier in the list, I also erred seriously in classifying digital computers as “approaching maturity.”  I completely missed the PC revolution!  The big continuing breakthrough areas, as I look to the future, are further developments in human and plant gene sequencing and splicing, among other things revolutionizing some aspects of health care, and of course, continuation of the information revolution.

Niaz: Do you think we have already solved all of our interesting problems with technology and innovation?  If not, what are your suggestions to come up with big ideas and solve big problems?

Scherer: Clearly, we have not solved all the interesting problems.  The previous answer listed two of my breakthrough candidates.  The biggest yet-unsolved problem in my view is learning how to use energy in ways that will allow the world’s huge and increasing population to prosper without precipitating disastrous climate change.   Seeding the atmosphere with sunlight-deflecting substances is one possible solution, but it is unproven and poses significant risks of getting the balance wrong.  How do we come up with the big ideas?   The essential facet in my view is continuing support of first-rate basic scientific research across a wide diversity of fields.  Chairman Mao was right in urging that we allow 100 flowers to bloom, because we can’t accurately pre-select which ones will thrive best.

Niaz: What is the economics of technological change?

Scherer: It’s a sub-specialty in several fields of economics concerned with the issues I have alluded to earlier.  I’ve been working in the area for more than five decades.  In the 1950s and 1960s, there were only a handful of us.  We were the “happy few … the band of brothers” in Henry V’s soliloquy.   Now there are hundreds of us working in the vineyards.

Niaz: My readers will love to know about your new book, ‘Quarter Notes and Bank Notes: The Economics of Music Composition in the 18th and 19th Centuries’.  Can you briefly tell us about it?

Scherer: It unites two dominant interests in my life: classical music and the study of innovation.  It uses among other things a statistical sample to reveal how 646 composers kept body and soul together in pursuing their chosen profession or avocation.  Among other things, it investigates composers’ education, their motives, their employment modes and entrepreneurship, their remarkable geographic mobility, and how they were affected by the spread of music publication and the emergence of copyright law.

Niaz: Last but not least, can you please leave us some points, ideas and advice to build a strong economy in this era of digitalization?

Scherer: You left the hardest question until last.  Education is of course critical.  We’ve come a long way, but there is very much more to be done, especially in the less affluent nations.  And even in the United States, our results leave lots of room for improvement. Among things, we need to provide higher status and pay for primary and secondary school teachers.  For economic strength, we also must reverse the increasing inequality of income distribution.  If the majority of our citizens don’t share the gains from our economic growth, it will be difficult to sustain continuing advances in broad-based consumption technologies.  And discontent is likely to manifest itself politically in ways that could destabilize the economy.   And finally, we need to avert disasters such as rising sea levels and adverse crop-growing conditions likely to be associated with global warming and to keep the nuclear genie in the bottle.  I grew up under the ominous shadow of nuclear disaster.  We had some frightfully close calls.  We’ve been fortunate thus far to avoid that fate, but the danger continues, and we need to keep it in check.

Niaz: Dear Scherer, I am thanking so much for finding time, sharing invaluable ideas and educating us with impressive thoughts in the midst of your busy schedule. I am wishing you very good luck for your good health as well as for all of your upcoming endeavors.

Scherer: I am happy to contribute.

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Further Reading:

1. Peter Klein on Entrepreneurship, Economics and Education

2. Derek Sivers on  Entrepreneurship, CD Baby and Wood Egg

3. Robert Stavins on Environmental Economics

4. Diego Comin on Entrepreneurship, Technology and Global Economic Development

5. Stephen Walt on Global Development

6. Juliana Rotich on Social Entrepreneurial Innovation

7. Naeem Zafar on Entrepreneurship for the Better World

Robert Stavins: Environmental Economics

Editor’s Note: Robert Stavins is the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, Chairman of the Environment and Natural Resources Faculty Group at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and Director of Graduate Studies for the Doctoral Program in Public Policy and the Doctoral Program in Political Economy and Government, and Co-Chair of the  Harvard Business School-Kennedy School Joint Degree Programs, and Director of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements.

To read his full bio, please visit here, here and here.

eTalk’s Niaz Uddin has interviewed Robert Stavins recently to gain insights about Environmental Economics which is given below.

Niaz: Dear Robert, thank you so much for joining us in the midst of your busy schedule. We are so honored to have you at eTalks.

R. Stavins: Thanks for having me Niaz.

Niaz: You are one of the most influential voices in environmental economics and the field of environmental economics is more important than ever.  At the beginning of our interview, can you please tell us about environmental economics?

R. Stavins: In a market economy – the form of economic system that is now found in nearly all countries of the world – the cause of environmental problems are fundamentally economic, namely the fact that environmental pollution is an externality, a negative, unintended consequence of economic activity, whether carried out by individuals or firms.  In addition, the consequences of environmental problems have important economic dimensions.  For these two reasons, economics and economic analysis provide an exceptionally useful lens through which to examine environmental problems, so that they are fully understood, and so that as a result public policies can be designed which are environmentally effective, economically sensible, and therefore more likely to be politically pragmatic.

Over the past two decades, environmental economics has evolved from what was once a relatively obscure application of welfare economics to a prominent field of economics in its own right.  The number of articles on the natural environment appearing in mainstream economics periodicals has continued to increase, as has the number of economics journals dedicated exclusively to environmental and resource topics.  Likewise, the influence of environmental economics on public policy has increased significantly, particularly as greater use has been made of market-based instruments for environmental protection.

Niaz: Do you think environmental economics is conflicting with capitalism or market economy? Why or why not?

R. Stavins: At first blush, many people think of the phrase “environmental economics” as oxymoronic – an internal contradiction – since it’s either the economy or the environment.  Although there are typically trade-offs between environmental protection and narrowly-defined economic well-being (i.e., financial well-being), for the reasons I stated above, environmental economics is not an internal contradiction, but rather an effective discipline with which to study the performance of proposed and implemented environmental policies.

Niaz: What are the distinctive perspectives of environmental economics that make it the next big thing for entrepreneurs, innovators, economists as well as researchers?

R. Stavins: Given the threat of global climate change, which will bring seriously economic damages when it occurs and which will require significant economic sacrifices to mitigate, an environmental economic perspective is increasingly important for a broad range of sectors in private industry.

Niaz: Dear Robert thanks again for finding time in the midst of your busy schedule.

R. Stavins: You’re welcome Niaz.

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Further Reading:

1. Peter Klein on Entrepreneurship, Economics and Education

2. Derek Sivers on  Entrepreneurship, CD Baby and Wood Egg

3. F. M. Scherer on Industrial Economy, Digital Economy and Innovation

4. Diego Comin on Entrepreneurship, Technology and Global Economic Development

5. Stephen Walt on Global Development

6. Juliana Rotich on Social Entrepreneurial Innovation

7. Naeem Zafar on Entrepreneurship for the Better World