The contradictions of 2010 populism


In a recent New Yorker article, James Surowiecki explores the inherent contradictions (and resulting challenges) in what people want (or don’t want) from the government. 

Key quotes: “The anger is understandable, and voters are under no obligation to be consistent. But that doesn’t make the new populism any less of a challenge politically, since, at the moment, voters will find something wrong whatever is done…”

“The temptation, then, is simply to abandon ambitious plans in an attempt to annoy no one. But a better approach would be to recognize that voters’ anger is less ideological than pragmatic: at heart, it’s the product of the weak economy and the poor job market … what matters most is getting the economy moving again … it may bring some short-term political pain, but the only way out is through.”

Notes from London


Last week I had the good fortune of speaking in London at the U.K. Skills Convention 2010 on Skills, Jobs, and Growth.  The delegates were an extremely interesting group of hand-picked folks from around the globe, including  Australia, Canada, China, New Zealand, and (of course) the United Kingdom. (You can find videos and blogs from the conference online.)

I’ll confess that I’m often not much of a fan of conferences, but I do attend my fair share, often out of professional necessity or courtesy (the latter, in this case).  But to my great delight, this proved to be a conference I’m very glad I attended. 

Here are four things that I observed and learned from the conference that will stick with me:

  1. Nations around the world are building infrastructures and devoting significant resources to improving the skill base among working-age adults.
  2. The United States is lagging behind in this regard.
  3. A very strong research base demonstrates that organizations that implement “high performance work practices” (what I would call “superior human capital management”) enjoy significant economic benefit from doing so.
  4. England is lagging behind many of its European counterparts in developing critical aspects of these high performance practices.