With the economy on a shaky road to recovery, it has become clear that
the Great Recession triggered a fundamental change in the way Americans
are forced to operate in the globalized economy. Everyone is feeling the
strains. The archetype of the “company man” is fast going extinct,
schools and other public services are facing record budget cuts, our
infrastructure is antiquated and deteriorating every day, and access to
global labor markets has created a flat line in wage increases for the
But it’s not all gloom and doom. America has long been the global destination for the planet’s most daring and innovative minds, and globalization has only fueled our ability to tap into the global intellectual fountain. Think of the recent slump as growing pains. With the sheer amount of change in the last generation, it is inevitable that there will need to be an adjustment period where we as a nation reinvent how we operate our economy and start to implement long-term solutions that will ensure a 21st century of unimaginable progress for all Americans.
While it is very important to invest time and money in infrastructure, the foundations of our economy and fixing the tone of the political debate in Washington, there is another crucial program that needs restructuring and reinvestment: education. People are America’s most valuable resource, and if we want to get ahead in a competitive global economy we need to invest in our human capital.
On that critical topic, I heard some remarkable advice from two great minds, Aneesh Chopra, former CTO of the United States, and Vijay Vaitheeswaran of The Economist. They agreed part of the problem was the lack of innovation in the way we educate. Big Pharma, for example, invests 15 percent of its annual revenues into R&D, with amazing results for global health. Public education, on the other hand, invests just 0.5 percent into R&D. This is an unfortunate failure that needs to be rectified. Already we’ve seen examples of how using innovative teaching techniques can blow traditional methods out of the water. One example is the Education Domination program from DARPA that developed a four-month personalized course for a select group of future IT candidates. After completing the program, the graduates outperformed professionals in their field who had seven years of on-the-job experience.
Innovation and investment are what made this country great, and they are the key to a sustainable recovery.