Friday, August 16, 2013

An Example from Estonia

Caveat - I am not familiar with the economic situation in Estonia. I am certainly not writing this to argue that Estonia is a role model of an economy. In fact, I couldn't even tell.

Instead, I am writing this to argue that ANY society (or part of it), be they Estonians, Greeks or whatever, can accomplish great things if they only put their minds to it. This article suggests that Estonia has become a leader in technology. I don't know how much that 'technology' contributes to Estonia's GDP. Perhaps a lot; perhaps only little. That's no my point.

Instead, my point is that here seems to be a society which, 20 years ago, embarked on a new direction where they seemed to have competitive advantages and where they spotted potential. Once such a process starts and once one discovers that one, indeed, has potential, the process begins feeding upon itself. Nothing feeds upon itself as success does.

Obviously, if someone - like the government - sets the direction, things become a lot easier. But much more than setting the direction and possibly implementing some support structures the government can't do. The rest is up to the people involved. They have to generate enthusiasm and a sense of common purpose.

I take it that the young generation of Greeks is very well educated. Personally, I am always amazed how many people (not only young!) I meet in all walks of life in Greece who speak English very well. Sometimes I ask them whether they have lived in an English-speaking country and the answer is generally 'no'.

A young generation, however well educated, will have to wait a very, very long time until a country like Greece recovers enough to provide them with new jobs in traditional functions. It is quite apt to talk about a lost generation.

But what if someone came along with ideas how these talents could be used for something new? Something which Greece has not done before? Any raw material needs to be refined in order to assume value. For a society, the educated young generation is one of the most important raw materials.

Steve Jobs allegedly once explained why he opposed market surveys in the following way: "How can I survey consumers' preference for something which does not exist yet?" If Jobs had not come up with his ideas, thousands of people might today not have the career, income and living standard which they enjoy.

I simply refuse to believe that Greece would have a lesser share of creative, entrepreneurial people than other societies. They, too, are raw material which needs to be refined. They must be motivated to step forward.

It is really a shame that the Greek government focuses so much on hard facts (debt, budget, etc.) and so little on soft facts (motivation, visions, etc.). Focusing on hard facts generally falls into the category of 'administration'. Focusing on soft facts generally falls into the category of 'leadership'.

1 comment:

  1. Imho the key element in the rapid development is described by those 2 sentences:

    "The foundation was laid in 1992 when Mart Laar, Estonia’s prime minister at the time, defibrillated the flat-lining economy. In less than two years his young government (average age: 35) gave Estonia a flat income-tax, free trade, sound money and privatisation."

    Greek government is so busy fighting with the Troika and within it's coalition that none of the important reforms has been implemented.