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Maximize The Opportunity Cascade Published: Sunday, February 13, 2000 By: Dr. Manuel Angel Morales

Two decades from now there will be ten billion people on the planet, and sophisticated computers will be cheaper than transistor radios. David Brin in his challenging book The Transparent Society argues that if this combination does not lead to war and chaos, then it will surely result in a world where countless men and women will transit data ways in search of something special to do. Their purpose will be some pursuit outside the normal range, to make each one feel just a little bit extraordinary. This condition points to a great hope environment where the normal supply of geniuses from any given generation can match their gifts with technology to make the opportunity they need. Through the internet, we may be seeing the start of a great exploration aimed outward in every conceivable direction of curiosity and need. An expedition to the domains of what we are, and what we may become.

As the transmission of knowledge and technological availability accelerate, as more possibilities are discovered and manufactured, the unabated push for growth also speeds up. This is a foundation of hope, specially in Puerto Rico where intense conflict and tension among people is due to the oversupply of intelligent geniuses looking for space, status, contribution and legacy, and sometimes not being able to achieve such a human condition. But then if due to knowledge and technological imperatives we can re-interpret social and economic behavior as a task of creating and seizing opportunities there will be a better hope. A new measure or indicator of progress could be then the number of possibilities generated by a company or a sector in terms of innovation and use the total to evaluate progress.

Conventional wisdom poses that problems must be solved. Yes, but this is a short term mentality. Business are taught that they are in the business of solving problems. But problems are usually situations where the goal is clear but the execution falls short. The sensitive danger of an absolute problem-solving culture or mentality is that you may be feeding your failures, starving your success, and achieving costly mediocrity ( doing things without foundation). In a global competitive arena, costly mediocrity, canned responses and quick-fix ventures go out of business.

A better strategy is that of actively thinking, researching and pursuing new opportunities. The formula is that of acknowledging that what once were the principles of long-term growth are also becoming the elements and dynamics of short-term competitive advantage. In both the short and long term, our ability to solve political, social and economic problems will be limited primarily to our lack of imagination in seizing new opportunities. Also, additional notions of efficiency die hard. In the past better tools made our work more efficient and to measure it a uniform output was needed. But uniform output is becoming rarer in an economy that emphasizes diverse and smaller production runs, total customization, personalized services and creative innovations.

Machines have taken over the uniform doing the tedious and measurable work. The area of the current economy that shows a rise in global productivity has been the U.S. and Japanese manufacturing sectors, which has seen a 3% to 5% annual increase throughout the 1980ís and in the 1990ís. Each worker by supervising machinery and tools produces more output per person hour. Efficiencies are for robots and technologies.

Opportunities, as acts of discovery and creation, are for humans. They demand flexibility, curiosity, guesswork and many other qualities of human excellence. By its recursive nature, a network breeds opportunities and jobs for humans.

 


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