Smart Power
August 27, 2015

Dr. Seuss Teaches Us to Thrive in the Knowledge Economy

By Andrea Durkin
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Dr. Seuss had it right in so many ways.

His whimsical lyrics and characters hold enduring appeal. They capture the imagination while offering life lessons to generations of children.  In so doing, his books support reading proficiency, the foundation for learning and career success.

Today’s globally competitive Knowledge Economy demands high literacy skills.  Nearly two-thirds of new jobs in the U.S. will require some post-secondary education.  A growing portion of jobs require advanced learning including the ability to identify, evaluate, and synthesize relevant information and use higher-level thinking strategies to solve problems.

Competitive Advantage in the Fast-Paced Knowledge Economy

The Knowledge Economy isn’t new, but it has stepped up its game as more sophisticated information and communication technologies (ICTs) make possible rapid innovation and improvements to products and processes.

This is true not only within knowledge-intensive industries, but in all sectors of the economy.

The U.S. retail sector has leveraged a wealth of customer data to optimize inventory planning.  In advanced manufacturing, Big Data is deployed to increase accuracy, quality and yield in production processes and cut costs. ICTs integrated into production equipment and final products provide feedback critical to improving engineering processes, conducting predictive maintenance of machinery and enhancing customer experience.  Information collected in real time from the factory floor allows logistics experts to fine-tune the supply chain.

Dramatic efficiency gains can accrue to high-tech industries from infrastructure to energy, autos, aerospace, electronics, medical equipment and pharmaceuticals due to better and more information in the hands of knowledge workers.

These are the industries generating nearly three-fourths of U.S. business R&D and they are leading U.S. exporters, enhancing their global competitiveness by leveraging information and ICTs. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates the use of Big Data analytics in retail and manufacturing will generate $325 billion in incremental annual U.S. GDP by 2020.

Knowledge is a strong asset because it’s a resource that cannot be depleted.  Quite the opposite, we are accruing knowledge faster than we can process.

ICTs enable us to share and access knowledge anywhere in the world, stimulating greater demand for knowledge-based services through international trade. Knowledge-intensive commercially-traded services include professional, scientific and technical services such as accounting, advertising, and engineering services; management of companies and enterprises; and financial and information services such as data processing, motion picture recording and publishing.

The National Center for Science and Engineering Studies of the National Science Foundation assessed that knowledge-intensive services industries produced 22% of U.S. GDP in 2012 and generated one-half of the $587 billion in total U.S. cross-border exports for all services in 2012.

Talent Development in the Knowledge Economy

There is no set definition of a knowledge worker.  Knowledge workers can be identified by the skills they employ, such as expert thinking or problem solving for which rule-based solutions do not exist.  Knowledge jobs may involve complex communications and judgment skills.  They certainly include skilled workers who use ICTs intensively.  At its most basic, knowledge jobs involve the ability to produce and use information effectively.

According to the Work Foundation, the labor market has experienced a structural shift in recent decades as knowledge economy jobs are steadily added.  The share of knowledge workers has grown in almost every OECD economy.

This shift has implications for education and workforce development approaches in advanced and emerging economies alike.  Key ingredients for developing a workforce prepared to thrive in the Knowledge Economy include: investments in graduating more scientists and engineers, increasing the population that successfully matriculates from tertiary education, expanding broadband penetration, and supporting life-long learning so that knowledge workers adapt and continually acquire new competencies.

Dr. Seuss’ Knowledge Workers

Knowledge workers collect, consume, and generate data and ideas.  They support R&D and innovate processes.  They design and develop high technology products used by consumers all over the world and they offer knowledge-intensive services that are in high demand globally.  They embrace new technologies to bring us the next generation of learning and productivity tools, culture and entertainment through software, games and movies.  As the Motion Picture Association of America points out in a recent blog, “content creators [in the movie industry] have always leveraged technology to tell better stories.”

Dr. Seuss wanted kids to enjoy learning.  He must have known this would position them for success in the modern Knowledge Economy where working and learning are both synonymous and complementary.  Knowledge grows exponentially as you use it and share it.

U.S. knowledge workers are leading the way, creating a strong foundation for U.S. competitiveness into the future.  Through international trade in their products, services and creations, they are also sharing their knowledge with the world.

This kind of achievement begins when we teach our kids to read and encourage them to become life-long learners.  “Will you succeed? Yes, you will indeed. (98 3/4% guaranteed.)”