IN CELEBRATION last week of my 500th newspaper column, I offered my first half-dozen bedrock beliefs. Now the rest:
The past is mellow prelude. The Japanese have been - and remain - formidable competitors. They have taught us much in the past 15 years. The Germans have passed along superb lessons as well.
And we haven't done badly ourselves. We have listened to them; they have listened to us.
But make no mistake, the economies of Japan and Germany are very much like the US economy: they are mature, aging, and targeted for about 3 per cent annual growth.
Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, China, India, Indonesia, Thailand. Sure, these nations (especially, perhaps, China) will experience big downs along with their bigger ups. But add it all up and the next 15 years will make the past 15 years look like small change.
Yes, it means competition from dirt-cheap labour in some cases. (And those bargain-wage workers are producing quality goods, not junk.)
But it also means hundreds of millions of folks racing into the middle class, in hot pursuit of innovative US, German and Japanese goods and services.
Remember Joseph Schumpeter. The great economist explained that progress comes via "gales of creative destruction."
As we confront the madcap times, our success will mostly be a function of our ability to embrace dislocation, pain and ambiguity (uncertainty's big brother).
It's true for the overall economy, for tiny, midsized and massive companies - as well as for individuals.
Not just bobbles, but bold botches. I've long preached the value of failure. (It's the way we learn to ride bikes, master new software and export to Japan.) But a miscue here and there is no longer adequate. We must comprehend that giant blunders automatically accompany the leaps into the unknown that are needed to thrive (survive) in these turbulent times. Bottom line: measure progress by your scorecard of big flubs.
Innovation R Us - or it better be. The continuous improvement, re-engineering, total quality, empowerment and customer service "movements" have each boosted American competitiveness. But they, too, are quiet prelude to the Age of Innovation. The order of the day is perpetual reinvention and revolution, constant re-creation, continuous curiosity, wild plunges into the abyss.
We will only stay close to the top of the New World …