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Making more than money

Editorial | February 1, 2020 | By:

January always brings two things forcibly to mind: first, the NFL playoffs, and second, an almost viral need to find lists of reasons to make business or economic predictions for the coming year. (This is the February issue, I know, but it’s January 14 as I write this.) The Minnesota Vikings … washed out of the playoffs again last weekend in San Francisco. Since 1961, the Vikings have been in the playoffs 30 times, and have made it to the Super Bowl four times. They lost four times. Coupled with the frequent necessity of shoveling heavy snow, Minnesotans really can’t handle the stress of another Super Bowl. For us, we can just move faster to saying “just wait until next year.”

The year ahead, of course, is an election year. Tuesday, Nov. 3, also is the first day of IFAI Expo 2020. I’m not sure what that portends for the opening of the exhibit hall on Nov. 4; there probably isn’t enough snow in Indianapolis in early November to tempt everyone outside for an invigorating snowball fight—but everything I’ve been reading seems to indicate that the pundits do not anticipate an economic crisis based on election results. 

There are other causes of economic crises, of course, but most of them we can’t do much about, except possibly to shut down the stock markets when they panic and drag the rest of us into their messes. So, for those predictions: in 2020, robots will be after our jobs (especially management, in terms of handling data); 3D printing and biological engineering will allow us to make replacement body parts by 2030; mobile apps will redefine service industries; social media will undergo a backlash; newspapers will cease to exist; the DIY economy will rise in industries like the media, travel and retail; the role of educational institutions will emphasize online learning; China will move up the value chain; older workers will re-enter the work force; and existing workers will need to be retrained in new technologies. Isn’t there a natural connection there?

Technology is a major business and economic force, but it’s not the only socioeconomic driver in town. And it’s not just older workers that know the attractions of skilled work. The workforce issues in our industry can be addressed with training, public and private, as long as wages and benefits are commensurate with the value these employees bring to a business. Any business owner can learn how to use social media effectively, handle mobile payments and adapt the equipment and materials used to take advantage of the latest technologies. Perhaps these unretiring workers can help younger workers with skills training, and be helped with mobile technology in turn. 

Years ago, I was trying to replace a doorknob, and finally decided the house had been built around it. I won’t be teaching anybody how to build fabric structures when I retire. On the other hand … editing is eternal. 

Just wait until next year.

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