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Shane Kempton, Director of Consulting Phase 2 Interactive
Our entire society is powered by the energy produced and products made from oil and natural gas, so it seems obvious that the most valuable company would be the largest oil industry company.
So what does it mean when a company focused on the intersection of liberal arts and technology becomes more valuable than any other company in the world, including one that fuels our civilization?
Around the middle of August, Apple and Exxon started leapfrogging one another for the top spot on in the market. Then, toward the end of the month, Apple jumped to the top and kept its footing at the pinnacle for a few months. At the time of this writing, Apple sits at $407 a share with a market cap of $378 billion.
It means our economy will not continue to be tangible. It’s not about what we do — not about the widgets — but about how we think and how the process of solving problems will be valued more than the item itself.
Human creativity is the currency of our age.
It’s not about iPods, iPhones and iPads, but it certainly is about the “I” — what an individual can bring to the creative problemsolving that will keep our economy churning in this new engineering and design economy — and how a company will foster that creativity and turn it into profits.“It’s not about what we do, but about how we think.”
What that means for Oklahoma is that we can’t just focus on energy. We have to focus on the value of creativity from the universities and onward.
First, it requires a different management skill set versus the industrial economy.
Managing a factory is very different than managing, inspiring and retaining creative problem-solvers. Creative people require autonomy, creative freedom, inspiration and meaningful work.
Ask yourself: How do I hire and retain creative people?
Next, what we value cannot be the hard product that someone produced, but the person and process. It’s a completely different mind-set. It’s about encouraging a new way of engineering and doing something.
The concept of having an office and having people sit there to fulfill a set number of hours is an old idea. While it’s good to have people come together, forcing someone every day to come in just to see a face is an old standard of contribution. Instead, what are the goals that need to be met? The problems that must be solved? And think about how the culture and environment that will encourage those solutions.
Many manufacturers have died on the vine. They can’t compete with cheaper service available outside the country. That will continue to be the case, and eventually, it will be machines doing it better and cheaper than any person. But instead of dying, why not redefine yourself as engineers and designers? “Designed by Apple in California; assembled in China.” Apple knows that its value is in design and engineering, from its products to its manufacturing process, success is in the creative solutions designed by its people.
It’s the new solutions that will make us better, from every industry and every profession. Create things that make your service better. Think, “Make them love me.” Ask yourself, “How could you service your clients better?” Is it by designing a piece of software that makes your product more efficient for the user? Give them something they can’t get somewhere else.
Instead of stifling creativity, approach things from a new angle. In Oklahoma, the MAPS project was a creative solution to a major problem that no one had tried before: combining public and private funding to make it happen.
There is no doubt this new economy will be disruptive. We’ve already seen how automation is changing how we work and live — and eliminating jobs that are no longer necessary. What does this mean for you as an individual? Put your energy into making solutions.
Fear must be overcome and creativity is hard. It takes time, effort, humility and risk.
Yet it also means that an individual or business can create successful niches like never before. Thanks to this shift, we’re seeing the return of true craftsmanship. We have the ability to create something of value and push that out to the rest of the world. Platforms such as Etsy and eBay let us easily search for, find and compare to discover the exact, perfect thing. This access a broader market, which was never possible before, let’s individuals and companies develop successful niches.