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U.S. Business Cannot Ignore the Importance of the New Economy

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According to a survey released last week by Pew Charitable Trusts, China either has replaced or eventually will oust the U.S. as the world's top superpower. Europe, too, may surpass the U.S. in the "new" economy, an economy in which creativity is of paramount importance.

Although some corporations in the creative field like movies or music or publishing are investing in the arts and arts education, business generally is reluctant to embrace art and culture as vehicles to enhancing creativity--creativity which leads to innovation. This reluctance will undoubtedly hurt the U.S. economy and our continued economic and political prowess in the world.

China, and many other nations in the world, understand that the key to success in the new global economy is creativity and innovation. According to Forbes Magazine:

A recent survey of global executives from KPMG found that 45 percent of respondents, a plurality, named China the next technology innovation center in the world. The new Five Year Plan includes a mandate to shift China from the world's manufacturer to the world's innovator. It even specifies that China shall produce 3.5 patents for every 10,000 people!

Europe, and many European nations with the Community, may have the edge largely because of its history and culture and its strategy to reinvent itself for the new global knowledge economy.

Last year, despite Europe's budget woes, the European Union announced that it was spending €1.8 billion ($2,423,520,000) for the period 2014-2020 (to) "boost their cultural and creative industries,' which, they said, "are a major source of jobs and growth in Europe."

According to the EU Commission's Creative Europe proposal, it would enable:

• 300 000 artists and cultural professionals and their work to receive funding to reach new audiences beyond their home countries;

• More than 1 000 European films would receive distribution support, enabling them to be seen by audiences throughout Europe and the world,

• At least 2 500 European cinemas would receive funding enabling them to ensure that at least 50% of the films they screen are European,

• More than 5 500 books and other literary works would receive support for translation, allowing readers to enjoy them in their mother tongue,

• Thousands of cultural organizations and professionals would benefit from training to gain new skills and to strengthen their capacity to work internationally.

The U.S. meanwhile is doing too little to prepare itself for the creative and innovative age: The U.S. education system isn't yet educating for the new economy; cities and town across America are not yet renewing their communities with the broadband infrastructures at affordable costs, or providing the public art and architecture of the creative economy; and business has not yet stepped up the plate either.

John Hagel III, co-author along with John Seely Brown and Lang Davison of The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion, at an Aspen Conference on Talent Development, made a rather telling observation that business recruiters are always looking for creative people. Then he noted... they look again at these creative people on their way out... during their "exit interview."

This is all too common with many corporations.

What to do with creative people once business finds them is hard work. So too, is identifying them, as creativity still isn't easily measured or easy to codify. Most résumés are silent on this special qualification. Most businesses aren't advertising for such special talents either.

The attitude in the U.S. toward art expenditures, indeed toward the arts in general, is that they are nice but not essential. A Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund study once found that while eight of 10 Americans believed the arts were life-enriching, only half as many said the arts had much to do with their daily lives. This attitude, which has improved somewhat according to more recent polls, pervades the thinking in most of our schools and in the public arena, business and government as well.

William Osborne, a composer, musicologist and arts activist living in Europe the last 20 years, observed that the American and European economic systems are very different, and as such, dramatically affects the ways they produce, market and perceive art. In an edition of the Arts Journal, a scholarly publication in the field, he writes:

America advocates supply-side economics, small government and free trade - all reflecting a belief that societies should minimize government expenditure and maximize deregulated, privatized global capitalism... Europeans, by contrast, hold to mixed economies with large social and cultural programs.

Osborne notes correctly "Americans insist that privatization and the marketplace provide greater efficiency than governments. These two economic systems have created something of a cultural divide between Europeans and Americans."

Some years ago Business Week Magazine (BW) the leading publication for business said: "The game is changing... It isn't just about math and science anymore (Although those are surely important disciplines). It's about creativity, imagination, and, above all, innovation."

Yet here we are struggling to define yet another shift in the basic structure of the world's economy. We know it's global and that the Internet has played a dominant role in shaping that economy. But it is creativity and it is innovation-- simply defined as "the quality or ability to create or invent something original" -- that best defines the characteristic most of us need to succeed in the new economy.

What is important is that we recognize that a whole new economy and society based upon creativity and innovation is emerging and that, as a consequence, it is of vital importance that we reinvent our communities, our schools, our businesses, our government to meet the challenges such major structural shifts are compelling. These are the ingredients so essential to developing and attracting the type of bright and creative people that generate new patents and inventions, innovative world-class products and services and the finance and marketing plans to support them.

Nothing less will ensure America's dominant economic, social and political position in the 21st century. It's already 2013.