The Talent Magnet
Brooks on how the U.S. needs to compete:
A visionary speech might begin with the fact that America's position in the world is changing. In the 20th century, America was the Big Dog nation. We had more money, more resources and more skilled labor, and we could outcompete our rivals by dominating the inputs and the outputs — by pouring in more talent, greater investments and more resources.
In the 21st century, the U.S. will no longer be the Big Dog. Human capital will be more broadly dispersed. There will be an array of affluent nations fully engaged in the global economy. Therefore, competitiveness will be more about organizing relationships than amassing force. To thrive, America will have to be the crossroads nation where global talent congregates and collaborates.
Parents in middle-class nations around the world should want to send their kids to American colleges. Young strivers should dream of working in Hollywood or Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs from Israel to Indonesia should be visiting venture-capital firms in San Francisco or capital markets in New York. Global engineers should want to learn the plastics techniques in Akron and retailers should learn branding and distribution in Bentonville and Park Slope.
In this century, economic competition between countries is less like the competition between armies or sports teams (with hermetically sealed units bashing or racing against each other). It's more like the competition between elite universities, who vie for prestige in a networked search for knowledge. It's less: "We will crush you with our efficiency and might." It's more: "We have the best talent and the best values, so if you want to make the most of your own capacities, you'll come join us."
The new sort of competition is all about charisma. It's about gathering talent in one spot (in the information economy, geography matters more than ever because people are most creative when they collaborate face to face). This concentration of talent then attracts more talent, which creates more collaboration, which multiplies everybody's skills, which attracts more talent and so on.
The nation with the most diverse creative hot spots will dominate the century.
January 24, 2011