June 15, 2005

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A sobering truth As I ate my lunch today, I perused the latest issue of Workforce Performance Solutions. The very first column I turned to really made me stop and think. In the magazine's opening pages, the well-respected leadership expert Marshall Goldsmith wrote about "The Danger of Denial." This article did a really good job, I think, of pointing out the looming problem of the United States falling behind in the global knowledge market. Goldsmith talks about traveling abroad and meeting workers in Eastern Europe, India, and China who are well educated, value learning, and are willing to work 80 hours a week for less than $20,000 a year. They're also fluent in English and motivated to improve their and their families' quality of life. He says many people in the United States are hiding their heads in the sand and saying that the country will always continue to have the world's number 1 economy. But, according to Goldsmith and Intel Chairman Craig Barrett, whom Goldsmith quotes, "...if Americans don't increase our efforts in research and development, and dramatically improve our education system, we may lose our leadership." This idea isn't a new one, but I think Goldsmith does a good idea at getting to the root of the problem when many others simply take issue with one of its symptoms: outsourcing. Whether or not you believe companies in the United States should be outsourcing work to other countries, it's important to realize that this phenomenon is just a symptom of a greater problem. The quote from Goldsmith above succinctly and, I believe, accurately sums up what needs to be done. He says it's not impossible for the United States to meet this challenge, but it will take hard work. How can those of us in the United States do it? Goldsmith says we need new leaders who tell this hard truth and challenge workers to face the new reality, and we need to make continuing education a high priority. We need to invest in people, and we need to let go of our arrogance that says we will always win. Got other ideas? Leave a comment below.

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The T+D blog covers training, learning, business, and technology topics as well as relevant content from ASTD (the American Society for Training and Development) publications and services.

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