Answer to Barack Obama Question about American Competitiveness

I’ve written this answer twice to a LinkedIn question and had the connection be reset when I tried to save it. So I think I’ll do a third brain dump here where I know I can save it! (If you can’t see the question and other answers, I suspect you need to register with LinkedIn, a professional networking tool.)

Here’s the question he posed:

What ideas do you have to keep America competitive in the years ahead?

Here’s my answer:

1. Invest in our education system with the goal of making it one that helps each individual discover and learn how to exercise personal strengths. This would be a big change from our current system that focuses primarily on verbal and analytical skills.

Average to A+ book cover
Alex Linley, author of Average to A+: Realising Strengths in Ourselves and Others, argues that focusing on strengths is the smallest thing we can do that will make the biggest difference.

Gallup researchers have found that the following question has strong connections to positive business indicators, including employee retention, customer satisfaction, profit, and productivity:

At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

Yet, their research shows that the % of people who answer “Yes” in most companies is appallingly small. So perhaps there is come competitive value to culture changes in businesses towards becoming strengths-based organizations.

2. Include measures of subject well-being in the economic measures that shape economic policies. Economist Alan Krueger commented that most of the things we value the most do not show up in the GDP. What could we use? Perhaps something like the U-index that Krueger and Kahneman have been working on.

3. Stop thinking in terms of competitiveness and start thinking in terms of global non-zero-sum behavior. In his book, Non-zero, Robert Wright has a strong argument that we’ve reached a time in history where this is not only possible, but also very much needed to face the challenges that humankind has in front of it.

Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny
Nonzero book cover

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Filed under Life satisfaction, Strengths

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