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Keep Moving

By John Donovan, Svetlana Dotsenko, and Paul D. Parisi

America’s national anthem ends with the phrase: “O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Does the land of the free also have to be the land of the unemployed?

Over the past few years our nation has been struggling to recover from a recession marked by high unemployment. In 2009, President Obama responded to this situation by issuing a gigantic stimulus package worth $787 billion. While it may have averted a deeper recession, it did not correct our trajectory.

Last week’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that our country is in crisis with our unemployment rate stuck at 9.1 percent. More importantly American citizens and families are in crisis. In 2009 President Obama promised a reduction to an eight percent unemployment rate. Clearly, we are on the wrong path. President Obama now suggests municipal construction projects as a solution. At best, this will create temporary jobs, but will not fix the issue in the long term.

For 20 years, I have worked with major corporations and government agencies to identify what I call “lazy assets”—underutilized and often unrecognized physical, intellectual, or cultural assets in an organization—and have helped apply these assets in new ways to propel these organizations to reinvent  themselves to be successful in an ever-changing marketplace.

Following my strategic advice in the 1980s, Hewlett Packard moved from the instrumentation business to computers, in the 1990s to services, in the 2000s to the Internet. They are now moving to Web 2.0. HP became a dominant force in creating jobs, growing from 70,000 employees in 1980, to a workforce of over 300,000 in 2011.

As former Yale University President Kingman Brewster said when I lingered on the stage after receiving my degree, “Son, keep moving, keep moving.” Constant forward movement has made America successful, it is our culture to be entrepreneurial.

The Internet was created through a collaboration of academic, business, and government-sponsored ingenuity. Two billion people now use the internet, a third of the world’s population, and use is growing! Today, globalization is instant. Sharing of knowledge is rapid. Opportunities abound. Facebook did not exist seven years ago. Through the creativity of a group of students at Harvard, 743 million people now have Facebook pages.

What do we do next? Where are the jobs? Who is going to create them? How do we plan to continually adapt?

President Obama, we call upon you to give American entrepreneurs (that is, those who create jobs) and businesses the tools they need to create jobs.

First, fund and sponsor relevant research in such a way that the resultant intellectual property is released into the public domain particularly focusing on new rapidly growing areas such as regenerative medicine, cloud technology, and healthcare. The businesses established as a result of this research which will create new, good, jobs. A blind squirrel will find a nut in these areas!

Second, identify and publicly praise entrepreneurs and companies that start new businesses and create substantial numbers of jobs. Counter the seemingly strong hostility toward business in America.

Third, make it easier for businesses, small and large, to continuously take the risks demanded by a rapidly changing marketplace to create and sustain jobs for tomorrow.

Fourth, make capital available to small businesses. Currently, it is virtually impossible for small or new businesses to obtain capital. Many mechanisms could change that, including government-backed insurance for banks to take risks and share in the successes.

Fifth, leverage social networks and evolving technologies to encourage and empower entrepreneurship.

On the wall of Harvard University’s Bush-Reisinger’s Museum, there is a German saying, “Du kannst, denn du sollst”—“If you can, you must.”

President Obama, if you can assist American citizens to create meaningful, lasting jobs, you must.

Prof. John Donovan served as a tenured professor at MIT in Electrical Engineering and Management and as a professor of pediatrics at Tufts University. He is an Affiliate of the MIT Department of Economics, a Fellow of Yale University, and has served as an adviser to three US presidents. He is the author of over 30 books and 20 patents, and founder of six public companies.

Svetlana Dotsenko ’10 is a graduate of Harvard University in Government and Neurobiology.

Paul D. Parisi is an affiliate at the MIT Center for International Studies and Chief Technology Officer of and Cloud Industries Health. He is the Founder and CTO of and five other companies, author of ten patents, and twenty articles in the areas of internet security and web technologies. He received the Enterprise Center Award for Best Business Plan 2010.

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