LIFE IN THE ACCELERATION LANE

By Brooke Adams, communications specialist, University Marketing and Communications

We are living at an historical epoch where the acceleration of three forces — technology, globalization and climate change — are dramatically reshaping the world and outpacing human adaptability, said Thomas L. Friedman in a speech at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

Friedman, a New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, spoke Jan. 3 at the institute’s inaugural Policy Symposium convened by former Govs. Mike Leavitt of Utah and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. The symposium is designed to bring public and private sector leaders to together annually.

Among the guests were Utah Gov. Gary Herbert; Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams; Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski; Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes; Utah House Majority Leader Brad Wilson; Ted Wilson, a former Salt Lake mayor and Hinckley Institute director; Gail Miller, chairwoman of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies; and Kem C. Gardner, businessman and the institute’s namesake. Friedman also met with MBA students from the David Eccles School of Business.

Friedman’s remarks were drawn from his new book “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration,” which offers his optimistic take on major trends impacting five realms: the workplace, politics, geopolitics, ethics and community.

Keeping pace and meeting the social and political challenges now and into the future will require people and companies, states and countries, to learn faster and govern smarter, Friedman told the institute audience. Government and business should be “radically open,” in his view.

“In the age of acceleration, the most open society is going to get the signals [of change] first and is going to adapt the fastest and is going to attract the most people who actually love those kinds of things,” Friedman said.

Every city and state also will need to support and encourage citizens to be lifelong learners. “We can’t educate people too much,” he said.

At the same time, safety nets will need to be in place because the world will move too fast for some people, Friedman said.

Given these trends, what does Friedman consider to be the jobs of tomorrow?

“We’re moving from an economy that used to be built around hands, what we did with our heads, to one that was built around our heads, what he did with mouths,” he said. “I think we are moving to an economy that is going to be around hearts — all the things machines and software can’t do.”

And the best jobs, he forecasts, will be in what he calls “STEMpathy,” a combining of science, technology, engineering and math skills with human empathy.

Whatever those jobs are, “more will be on you,” he added. “You’ll have to work harder, relearn faster and retool and re-engineer yourself and then you can lead a meaningful life.”

Friedman ended with the career advice he gave his own daughters:

  • Think like a new immigrant, which is to be a “paranoid optimist” always in search of opportunity.
  • Think like an artisan, bringing pride and creativity such that you’ll want to carve your initials into your work.
  • Think like a startup in Silicon Valley, seeing yourself as a beta version that is yet to be finished.
  • Remember PQ (persistence) + CQ (curiosity) is always greater than IQ.
  • Think like a waitress at a Perkins pancake house, which is to think entrepreneurially about opportunities — such as giving an extra serving of fruit in hopes of a bigger tip.