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Jan 10, 201712:20 PMMaking Madison

with Buckley Brinkman

An Explorer in an XLR world

(page 1 of 2)

I’m not a car guy. My Ford Explorer will pass 100,000 miles sometime in the next few weeks and I’m happy because it gets me there. Somewhere along the way, I lost the car gene.

God has a peculiar sense of humor because I fell in love with a woman who could define the car gene. Karen had a long-term love for the Cadillac XLR — a hardtop convertible built on a Corvette frame, introduced a decade ago. A couple of springs ago, she finally convinced me to shop for one. One in particular was the V model with a 443 horsepower engine that Karen used to take me from zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. Exhilarating, but not my style of driving — or riding!

That ride came back to mind during the holidays. Thomas Friedman used the car analogy to describe this time of exponential change. His premise was that change now moves at an exponential — not linear — rate. That’s the difference between an old Explorer and a hot XLR. Are we ready to live in an XLR world?

But wait, there’s more!

Not only is change accelerating, it’s also moving along three different axes that exponentially increase its complexity: markets, Mother Nature, and Moore’s law. Markets become more globalized and more digitized by the hour. We used to think about globalization as containers moving across the ocean. Now it’s electrons moving through cyberspace. Mother Nature is also under stress as climate change accelerates and species diversity shrinks. Finally, Moore’s law refers to the speed of technological change — effectively doubling capabilities every two years. Exponential change around these three interacting factors now makes it impossible for anyone — no matter how smart — to be THE expert.

Friedman’s perspective certainly complicated my world. I’m passionate about manufacturing and believe that the impending body gap is the most serious issue facing the Wisconsin economy. The lack of people for the workforce holds broad implications for everyone and the solutions require transformative change. Still, I saw this as one-dimensional, linear change. Now it looks like I need to exchange my Explorer thinking for a bit of XLR inspiration.

I’m accepting this challenge for the new year — feeding my passion by finding ways manufacturers can take advantage of this exponential change in their businesses. That involves the radical inclusion of multiple, diverse perspectives in order to step out of the echo chambers that make us too comfortable with incremental reactions to discontinuous change. It also means hitting the “pause button” more often than I like. Friedman made another great point: Hit pause and machines stop, but people grow because they have the time to stop, think, and reflect.


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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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