Depending on your frame of reference, asking the question “can the U.S. survive without Jobs?” will elicit a variety of responses. Responses will inevitably be influenced by political affiliation but my question is much broader than that. Because jobs refer to both sluggish job creation and the tragic loss of Steve Jobs.
Both circumstances pose an ominous threat to our role as leader of the free world. Solutions to replace the innovative genius of Jobs and jump start sustainable job creation will remain elusive for some time to come.
Let me start with Steve Jobs. Jobs changed our lives forever, much like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Walt Disney. Jobs didn’t invent the personal computer, the mouse, or the graphical user interface (GUI). What he did brilliantly, according to a column in the Washington Times, was to bring the inventions of others together in beautifully designed packages, then to show us that we’d wanted them desperately all along.
While Jobs like Edison, Ford, or Disney can’t claim to be the father or the originator of the industry they are in, they have a claim on how they changed their respective industries forever.
America is now desperately seeking the next American visionary. By definition, it’s someone on the cusp of an entirely new industry with an as-yet unrealized potential to change the culture. Like Jobs, the next innovative genius will have a “disruptive” quality, believing that constant change is the only way to stay out in front. Like Jobs and his predecessors, the next visionary will create a new market, lead the market, and let companies follow behind. Who is out there among us that we currently see as the idealist or crackpot who will ultimately breakthrough and radically change the way people live.
Regrettably the landscape in which Edison, Ford, Disney, and Jobs turned their vision into reality has turned sour. All these men started small working against all odds, often alone. Entrepreneurship and small business in their day was not only supported but encouraged. Government – local, state, and federal – provided incentives to start up a business, not a bureaucratic labyrinth that was all but impossible to navigate. And if a small business entrepreneur was successful, taxes and other regulations didn’t bleed the entrepreneurial spirit dry. Not only is the U.S.climate not conducive to starting a business and taking risk, we now have competition from rising entrepreneurial juggernauts China and India.
Jobs will be remembered both for the life-changing products he created and for the fact that he was able to sit down, think clearly, and execute his ideas. Given the current political climate and global economic challenge, we are desperately in need of jobs and Jobs. Unfortunately, you just can’t create a committee and select his replacement and the U.S. landscape is becoming repressive and oppressive for small business, entrepreneurshp and innovation. People like Jobs aren’t looking for a job. They are not even pursuing a career. What they seek is a world different than nearly all of us can even imagine. And they will go to places where they are free to innovate and transform ideas into reality.
Right now the loss of Jobs and the loss of jobs go hand in hand. Without innovation that sparks new business and entrepreneurship that creates jobs, unemployment will remain high, GDP will languish, and our economy will be sluggish.