Recently I went to a convention at which the plenary speaker—a self-professed economist—tried for an hour to explain the rationale behind the bailout of the very entities and practices that led the way into our present morass.
I don’t know how much of our national wealth has been squandered in the past couple of years seeking first to obscure a host of looming crises and then to apply a few useless bandages to stanch the bleeding of activities whose basic flaws left them well beyond repair or recovery. My guess, however, is that when historians 100 years hence total up the damage, it will be in the multiple trillions of dollars range, making the bailout figures released to date look like chicken-feed.
Even those in charge of most rock-ribbed institutions are having a tough time ignoring the momentous changes taking place in the nation and around the globe. Many question whether it makes sense to throw money and effort into perpetuating systems that are no longer relevant to the emerging situation, yet here we are poised to go back to the well again (and presumably again and again) in the hope that there’s a magic elixir somewhere short of when the bucket hits bedrock.
My concern is not that these infusions of money can’t produce a short-term appearance of recovery, but rather, what then? The list of “spend your way into prosperity” historical success stories is virtually blank, yet here we go again flying into the face of precedent.
Is it any different in our world of construction? I worry how long it will take for the revolution taking place all around us to fully impact not only how we move dirt, but for us to realize at a visceral level that it’s not just the equipment we use that’s being affected, but that the basic assumptions on which we’ve built our business may no longer apply to the realities of a future coming at us at the speed of heat.
For certain, I don’t know how to read tarot cards, and, even if I did, I couldn’t glean from them how you should prepare for the uncertainties of the future. But what I do know is that now is not the time to look to the past for answers, because they are the very embodiment of stranded investment.
No, it’s radical thinking—approaches that focus firmly on the challenges themselves and then to solutions free from preconditions and agenda of another day and age—that will be our salvation. It is my fervent belief that in following such an approach we will bring about greater environmental and societal benefits than we’ve produced in the past.
While ConExpo 2011 at the Las Vegas Convention Center is still two-and-a-half months away (March 21–25) with much of its offerings wrapped tightly in veils of secrecy, I can’t help but believe that a goodly portion of what is presented will focus on what it will take to succeed in the business challenges we will face throughout the next decade…and beyond. With that in mind, I truly believe that those who attend the once-every-three-year event will have a leg up on those who don’t.
For those looking for a sneak peek at what lies behind the ConExpo tent, you might want to visit this year’s World of Concrete—same venue as its super-sized brother—that opens its doors two weeks hence on January 18. If you’re going to be there, please come see us at Booth number C-6386.