5/9/2009 | 3 MINUTE READ

This Too Shall Pass

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"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."-T.S. Eliot


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I don't know about you, but I am getting sick and tired of hearing about all of the problems of America. Sure, our economy is in the toilet, we're sinking under ever-growing debt-things are bad. Still, we need to understand that after this tumultuous period ends, and it will, we need to be prepared for what's next.
Technology is not standing still. Consumer electronics companies continue to introduce new products at a rapid pace and innovation continues in our research laboratories and universities. There's a future out there and no one seems to be paying attention to it. It's easy in these days of 24-hour news cycles and Internet blogging to get sucked into the negativity. I know I find myself sometimes feeling lethargic after watching CNN for a few hours-it's more excruciating than walking on the treadmill for 40 minutes. The talking heads blabber at length about how American's are getting more "fearful" about the prospects of our economy according to yet another survey, or we hear some financial expert warn the day may soon arrive when ATMs will run out of money.
This relentless negativity is causing some to overreact, which further erodes our possibility at turning some sort of corner. Here's an example of what I mean: a colleague of mine recently told me that one automaker told its staff it needed to cut budgets in all facets of the company by a certain percentage because the rest of the industry was doing it. It didn't matter whether the automaker in question was doing reasonably well compared to the rest of the industry, the worry seemed to be that the competition obviously knew something about the economy that they didn't and so everyone should be cutting to the bone. Didn't their mothers once tell them, "Just because everyone is doing it, it doesn't mean it's right"?
Are we turning into a world of lemmings where we follow the crowd without questioning the validity of our actions? It seems we may be. Look, I understand there are many people in our industry who are losing their jobs because of real problems and there are likely many more to come, but I wonder if some of our problems aren't being created by the mass negativity that is permeating our airwaves and computer screens. It's time for us to start shifting our focus from the short-term to the longer term, beyond next quarter's financial reports or next month's sales figures, onto the next three to five years. What will tomorrow's automobiles look like? What technologies will be required to meet the changing demands of tomorrow's vehicle buyers? There are companies out there who are focused on this approach and the future they envision is exciting and promising-and they are likely the one who will profit most when things rebound, which they inevitably will.
We're at a critical point in our industry that's not only going to change the composition of our nation's manufacturing base, but will lead to new ways in which we engineer, build and market the vehicle's of tomorrow. Let's embrace this moment for the rare opportunity it presents us to throw all of our conventional wisdom out the window and start with a clean-sheet approach to everything we do. Yes, things are tough economically and our businesses are under tremendous pressure, but it's unlikely that we will ever face a moment full of opportunity as the one that lies before us now. Let's embrace it! So, turn off the cable news, delete the bookmark to Yahoo! Finance and start thinking about what you can do to make tomorrow brighter for your organization and all those who will be a part of it. It's easy to cower into the corner, but are you brave enough to take the risk to think about what's next? The choice is yours!


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