My favorite color is black. Besides its slimming effect it is the color of the void. In the void lies ALL possibilities and change. The void represents the future. We have the ability to construct a better future for the next generations from these possibilities. But it will require change. Change excites some and it makes others cringe. Change is often hard for people and we see that all around us every day. But change can also be invigorating. And change is required for innovation and advancement.

The economy is changing rapidly and we are undergoing a structural shift in the economy. Economic conditions are changing how our markets and industries functions. There are numerous technological advances that are converging today to create this structural shift. Electric and autonomous vehicles, Lithium-ion batteries, solar and other alternative energies are providing synergy to shift our transportation and energy sectors. Blockchain is changing currencies, accounting and will shift our financial sector. Artificial intelligence, machine learning and nanotechnology will change more than we can even imagine right now. What does this mean for us and for the next generation?

It means change and a lot of it. It is quite possible that my child will never learn to drive. Not because he doesn’t want to but because he won’t need to. The car he doesn’t drive will be autonomous and electric likely powered by what is currently an alternative energy source and stored in advanced batteries. One of the questions that I ask myself is what skills should I help this child develop? What will be the jobs of the future? That is difficult to say. It is estimated that 65% of today’s children will have a job that has yet to be created. Many would say that he will need to learn to code. This might be true but it is also possible that with machine learning that machines will be better at coding than humans before he reaches the job market. Two important skills for him to develop will be creativity and critical thinking skills. We need our educational systems to do a better job at teaching these skills.

To be a successful economist, economic developer or parent, I know that I must work on today’s issues but also must be focused on what is going to happen tomorrow. As a society we need to make sure we are looking forward so that we can be prepared for these shifts. These shifts will define our prosperity in the coming years. Change leads to emerging sectors and innovation. These changes are crucial for our advancement. I would like to explore a few of the things that I see as necessary to foster innovation. What is demanded for innovation to occur?

Innovation demands the visionaries who will ask the questions. Why are we doing this and what would be better? How do I solve this problem? The statement that makes me cringe the most is “But we have always done it that way.” Great! But is it the best way to do it? Have things changed and is there a better way? And why do we do it that way?  Why? Why is a key question that we all need to be asking all of the time. And it is the question that visionaries ask. It is because they are willing to ask the questions and find solutions that we must have these types of people  readily available in the economy and need to support them.

Synergies of many types are required. Economic development needs workforce development; workforce development must be supported by economic development. One cannot happen without the other. In addition to visionaries, we need the support of many to bring innovation to life. This could be investors, family, skilled and unskilled workers, smart government. Timing plays a role in synergy as well. The convergence of supporting technologies play a key role. Solar power is being supported by the improvement of battery technology and other products. Synergy also demands that we break down silos. We must have the collaboration of smart people to build synergy and symbiotic relationships. When these factors come together we see innovation thrive and our economy expands.

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