Continuing on the Europe theme, I see a lot of potential for innovation there if the EU, governments, and companies are willing to address the current challenges with a view of the current situation as helpful constraints rather than roadblocks.
State-based benefits are a competitive advantage that should be leveraged more. The obvious example is the advantage German car makers have when employees receive public health insurance vs. American car makers allocating more and more money to rising health care costs. Modifying these benefits could encourage a “free agent nation” where talented individuals can freely move from contract to contract. Many people will feel a personal insecurity about this compared to a regular job, but the government can show the way by putting the right policies in place now. America, ironically, is behind on this issue by continuing to tie health, retirement, and other benefits to a particular job (usually at medium or large companies only).
Europe should embrace immigration for all the benefits of diversity that America enjoys. It’s not an easy road, but with the example of America’s civil rights movement and South Africa’s apartheid behind us, Europe is not blazing a new trail here. France’s elitism results in rioting, Germany’s prejudice results in conflict, and the Danish media is mistaking blasphemy with freedom of the press. The EU and member nations need to see integration as inevitable and be more sensitive, sophisticated, and progressive about sharing their cultures. Power needs to be shared and will be over time, the question is only whether it’s a difficult process or not.
Preserving culture vs. benefiting from globalism is a false dichotomy, and the media’s representation of the issue as protestors against free-market purists isn’t helping any. Each region needs to think about preserving what’s important to them and preserve it, while doing what is necessary to remain economically viable. Tuscany is a great example of putting very strict architectural restrictions in place while encouraging tourism. They don’t profit from giant tourist attractions, but they have built one amazing brand that is proving resilient.
Unions (and worker’s councils) must become a competitive advantage rather than a source of friction. Again, management needs to recognize they share power with unions and leverage that relationship through collaboration to improve their operations. This is not a new road as the Japanese have already shown us the way with relationships of higher respect and processes that value collaboration and constant feedback (e.g. the Toyota Production System).