Innovators, Not Politicians, Wield The Most Influence

Posted by financialguy on 11/01/12

A recent op-ed for Project Syndicate caught my eye. Written by Shimon Peres, President of Israel, it struck me just how accurate he is.

The main thrust of the piece is that a study of history will not help a politician these days. There is so much going on, things are moving so quickly and are so complex that there are few, if any, precedents to follow. Quite so.

To quote, “The only certainty is that the future will be defined by scientific progress and innovation, which cannot be known ahead of time.” He continues, “As a result, the traditional power of states and leaders is declining; in today’s global economy, innovators, not politicians, wield the most influence.”

It is an interesting idea for sure, and if you think about the Arab Spring for example, Twitter and Facebook, mobile technology and a few key individuals willing to take a stand was enough to start the movement that overthrew long established regimes. Even more amazing, none of these tools was Egyptian in origin, for example.

One final quote from the article, “The young leaders who created Facebook and Google have had a greater global impact than many statesmen and generals.”

The question for me then, is if something so amazing and transformational can happen with relatively new technology and the creators can literally develop tools that change the world, why aren’t more people committed to becoming entrepreneurs and technology developers? It is a rough and potentially rocky road for sure, but those that make it also have the added bonus of becoming seriously, mind-blowingly, fabulously wealthy.

These ought to be motivation enough for anyone.

And yet, we have all read reports in the news in the last few years that, for example, becoming a civil servant is the most desired job in France. There are many other reports that seem to suggest that modern generations want a safe and secure career, not an exciting chance to make a real difference.

Why is that? What are we doing wrong in Europe?

Clearly that is too big a question to ask or expect answers to, but as a policy community, try we must.

My own personal guess is that the “career advice” provided within schools is not adventurous enough. Why recommend taking on the world in a fast paced and changing environment when you can tell kids to be an accountant instead? And with all due respect to the teachers and advisers (because teaching is a profession that is massively undervalued by society, in my opinion), are they really the best people to offer this type of advice?

This is just one strand in a very complex issue. I view it as being a little like spaghetti – the more you unravel, the more there seems to be.

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Formerly in finance, now in the EU world, this is a take on financial and economic matters, EU Innovation policy intermingled with occassional interviews of EU policy professionals. Click here to find out more.



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