As American jobs are outsourced, consider a new paradigm that celebrates mastery of skills and innovation.
As the world becomes more and more connected, many American workers—both blue- and white-collar—have watched their jobs migrate outside our borders.
Many nations in Far East Asia and other parts of the world are willing to work just as hard as Americans for a lot less.Today, our manufacturing industry is a far cry from the golden ages of industrial revolution.
Unfortunately, this trend is now targeting highly professional jobs as well. I know an American radiology professional association that outsources the initial interpretation and diagnosis of medical images, obtained by contracting U.S. hospitals during graveyard shifts, to India. That time period is least desirable for American radiologists because it deprives them of a good night sleep. The same time slot is, however, ideal for local time zones in India. Images are sent to radiologists in India via secure high speed Internet. These non-American radiologists study the images in great detail. They then interpret them and send their findings to an American licensed radiologist, who briefly reviews them and then forms his diagnosis. Hospitals prefer this new approach because these diagnoses cost them considerably less. In addition, since two radiologists review the images, there is a reduced risk of errors.
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 only 68 percent of high school senior graduates enrolled in either two- or four-year colleges or universities. That does not take into account the 1.3 million seniors who fail to earn their high school diploma each year. Among those who enter a four-year college, only 53 percent graduate within six years. One might think the U.S. needs to spend more on education. Unfortunately statistics suggest otherwise. In total, the U.S. spends close to a trillion dollars on education (USC Rossier - February 2011). We spend more on education than the next top ten countries combined! American taxpayers invest over $91,000 per student between the ages of six and fifteen (George Mason University - December, 2010).
Access to good education is not the problem either. Nineteen of the top Universities in the world are in the United States. Yet, American students rank 25th in math and 21st in science, compared to students in top 30 industrialized countries. These statistics are very discouraging and are telltale signs that we are on the wrong path.
Solving the Problem
Albert Einstein said, “We can't solve today’s problems with the same kind of thinking we used when we first created them.” We must go back to the drawing board and reassess our approach. We must supply our pupils with more fertile soil so they can flourish in their chosen field of interest. We should select teachers that are in love with learning, exploring, and inventing themselves. After all, one can only preach what one practices. We must create an atmosphere that provides students with easy access to eager sponsors who would get compensated only if their apprentice achieves mastership.
Utilizing a Proven Strategy
I suggest we utilize a strategy that has worked for performing arts and sports for nearly half a century. I call this strategy, shooting for the moon. Basically, no one gets rewarded for being a mediocre actor or athlete. But if one masters the art, they are showered with wealth, prosperity, and national recognition in grand fashion (i.e. the Academy Awards, Super Bowl, etc.). Their trainers and coaches also get rewarded and recognition only if they produce winners. For example, NBA basketball players have learned to dunk the ball so amazingly because they know mastery in that field is equivalent to winning the lottery. Young athletes practice countless hours to win NBA slam-dunk competitions. What if we provided a similar platform for science and math in a scale much larger than the Noble prize and more glamorous than the Oscars?
Developing Future Steve Jobs and Jack Welches
This system must also promote big thinking and relentless pursuit of what others consider impossible. Such national recognition and mega-million dollar rewards can systemically breed people like Steve Jobs. He proved, if we focus on making innovative products and good quality, people don't mind paying top dollar. Such mentality made Apple the most profitable corporation in the world. This year, it even surpassed giants such as Exxon-Mobile and Boeing.
When Jack Welch took over at General Electric in 1980, he introduced a new policy. He proposed that each year the top 25 percent get rewarded immensely, the middle 50 percent get coached to do better, and the bottom 25 percent get fired. He also proposed that GE get into other ventures, so long as it ranks either first or second in that field. If they could not do so, he would sell and get out. His “take no hostages” approach took GE from an appliance manufacturing company facing bankruptcy to the largest corporation in the world during the 1990s with over 300,000 employees worldwide.
Still Ahead but Losing Ground:
Economically and technologically, the United States is still far ahead of the pack. But, the competition is gaining on us. Before long we might find ourselves playing catch up to other nations. Previous generations were able to maintain an upper middle class life style with average skill level and good work ethics. Today, however, that American Dream and promise is no longer valid. For the first time ever, our children are not expected to do better—or even as well as their parents with the similar skill levels. We are certainly not in Kansas anymore.
In order to turn things around we must adapt a new paradigm that celebrates mastery of skills and innovation. We must offer annual competition and huge monetary prizes (in tens of millions) to those who achieve excellence in key fields. We must not accept or compensate mediocrity. After all, no mountain climber gets recognized or rewarded for almost making it to the top.