For many people, the biggest issue in politics today is jobs. To me, it seems that America could learn a lot from Mr. Jobs about creating jobs.
From the beginning, Steve Jobs was an imaginative and farsighted thinker. He built Apple into one of the most valuable companies in the world by focusing on two things: 1.) Creating value for people with innovative products that simplified people’s lives and 2.) Constructing new markets from scratch for these products.
Apple is really just a tremendously successful construction company. [Market Construction]
Think of all of Apple’s biggest revenue drivers: iPod, iPad, iPhone, iTunes ß each of these constructed a new market from scratch. Apple has excelled because they construct new markets that create value in people’s lives.
Why is it so great to be in the [market] construction business? There are big advantages to this approach: Better margins, less competition, more job growth, and first mover advantages. When you pioneer, you set the standards – just ask Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook!
The market construction business is not easy, but it’s worth it. Market construction requires a different frame of thinking. The questions revolve around what could be rather than what is. Leaders think about how customers might re-imagine their experience of a product (think Apple’s mouse for computer interaction; mobile music libraries; a person’s entire life in their pocket command center). Market construction also requires a different approach to marketing / development. Questions become: Who is the customer? (You must find them because they don’t know they need you yet). What do they want from the product? (They don’t know yet. You have to educate them). What is the right price point? (You decide, based on the value you create for customers).
For America, real and substantial job growth will come from innovative market construction. Simply, America needs to get back into the construction business
America has struggled to truly transition from ‘old industries’ where we had strong capabilities (for example, the auto industry, textile industry, and most manufacturing industries) into ‘new economy’ markets that are only beginning to emerge.
The good news is that America is exceptionally well prepared to lead in this century, but we will need to follow Apple’s example of leading on new frontiers.
The biggest areas for growth in the next 20 years, essentially the real estate with the largest “green fields” ready for market construction, will likely be in the areas of: Life sciences (personalized medicine), technical services, green technology, new sources of power generation, nanotech, pharma / medical devices.
The government can play an important role in four key ways:
- Fund basic science (in areas too expensive for industry to drive cost effectively)
- Aid fast growing companies however they can (particularly in ‘targeted’ industries)
- Support business-enabling infrastructure (infrastructure bank, high speed rail)
- Get out of the way (avoid regulatory interference)
Essentially, the government can double down on [market] construction.
Steve Jobs was a visionary. America could use a new generation of visionaries that put on their hard hats as market construction engineers and deliver the jobs of the future.
For more, I was part of a panel on “To the Point with Warren Olney” on PRI/NPR talking about these issues: click here for a link to the broadcast of the show.