Are we witnessing the death of innovation and the end of growth?

horse and cart

As disruptive forces go, the end of economic growth, would have a tsunami impact on businesses, organisations and countries. We tend to think of economic growth as normal, something we’ve lived with forever and we expect its continued benefit. Downturns are seen as blips in the inevitable upwards progress. But increasing economists are arguing that the growth experienced over the past 100-200 years is coming to an end and that it is economic growth that is the real abnormality.

Do we really live in a fast technological age?

Robert Gordon, an economist, argues that the innovations and ensuing growth seen in the 20th century is unlikely to be replicated in the 21st century. He argues that 4 headwinds are holding economic growth back: Ageing demographics; rising cost of higher education; rising inequality; and, consumer and governmental debt. These headwinds, Gordon argues, are powerful enough to cut growth in half.

In this TED talk Robert Gordon produces a strong argument that we are seeing the end of economic growth. He produces great examples and anecdotes and the 12 minute talk is well worth a listen.

If Gordon is right and his statistics are compelling, then, the greatest disruptor in the twenty-first century will be low economic growth and a lack of meaningful innovation.

If this is not to be the case, organisations and leaders will need to deliver innovations unlike anything we have ever seen before. This is going to be a massive challenge because the innovations of the 19th & 20th centuries – electricity, appliances, internal household plumbing and the combustion engine – were phenomenal and today’s business leaders will have to do it all over again finding equally impactful innovations to counter the headwinds buffeting the global economy.

This is not a time for leaders to be creatively conservative. This is not a time for leaders to be focusing on efficiencies and effectiveness. This is a time to embark on bold quests to improve the world around you.

Watch the video and reflect.

 

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