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Jul 20, 201710:46 AMMaking Madison

with Buckley Brinkman

Fairness or the future?

(page 1 of 2)

“It’s not fair.”

Maybe I’m getting cranky as I get older and that’s why fairness disputes sound more and more like whining rather than uplifting discussions about the future. Maybe it’s just that our present situation provides one of the great opportunities to improve our world and we’re missing the chance to act decisively to build a better future. I’m not sure.

“It’s not fair!”

Don’t we all sometimes feel that way as we go through our lives? When I feel that way, I hear my mom’s voice telling me, “Life’s not fair.” I’m sure most of your mothers said the same thing as you grew up. Why would we expect anything different now?

The “It’s not fair” chorus is all around us. Rich folks grumble about people on welfare, while poor folks see examples of opulent lifestyles and feel jealous. Politicians scream it at us every chance they get — either to defend their own actions or enflame us about our own circumstances. Organizations succeed all the time because of location or circumstance, rather than merit. We all experience it in our everyday lives — remember that driver who cut you off or stole that parking spot?

All the noise about fairness distracts us from tackling the important work of preparing for the future. The future marches on and doesn’t particularly care about fairness. I fear that if we obsess about fairness, we will miss clear trends and the opportunities to do what’s right for the future.

Few times in history present clearer trends or bigger opportunities than what we face today, especially in Wisconsin manufacturing. The major trends are very clear. Demographics are creating a body gap that will affect every organization in the state, cutting-edge technologies will transform competitive manufacturing, and all of us will be stressed by these changes and how they affect our lives.

That change keeps accelerating, too! Thomas Friedman introduced me to the concept of exponential change in a world of people with linear capabilities. Change in today’s world moves at an exponential rate (think Moore’s law). You still can’t relate? Have you ever gone from 0 to 70 in a powerful sports car? Exhilarating, huh? That’s exponential change in action. Now, think about travelling that way from Milwaukee to Superior — not too comfortable. Still, that’s the pace of change we face in modern life. That pace is way too fast for any one person or organization to handle alone.


Jul 24, 2017 01:51 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

One problem is the body gap has not pulled families out of poverty and into the middle class though it has made poverty more sustainable. That is the challenge currently facing America and much of it is caused by our policies that support maintaining poverty as opposed to moving people into self-sufficiency. Those were created by business lobbyists.

Much though of the fairness or perception issues talked about here seems from my experience living/working in several states seems to be far more intensive here than elsewhere- it is a Wisconsin cultural thing. In many places success becomes something to understand and emulate. latch onto. Here (and especially in areas outside Dane) success often is a reason to complain and try to pull people down .

Cultural change is probably key to the economic development of much of the state .

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About This Blog

Buckley Brinkman is executive director and CEO of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing & Productivity and writes about the manufacturing sector in Greater Madison and throughout Wisconsin. He has a breadth of experience in helping companies drive growth, world-class competitiveness, and performance excellence, and has led efforts to save dozens of operations in the U.S. by finding new ways for them to compete. A Wisconsin native, Brinkman holds a business degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.



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