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Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?
suggest that it is difficult to name five in which, on average, customers receive worse service than in the United States.
Gilman Louie, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur and former CEO of the high-technology firm In-Q-Tel, tells of attending a lecture by an industrial leader in Japan at which the student audience spontaneously began chanting in unison the Japanese word for innovation. Some businesses in India outfit work cubicles with cots for employees who elect to work late and remain overnight. On a visit to Bangalore, I was told that the young engineers and computer scientists writing software were so committed to their tasks that if an employer simply provides them pizza (yes, in India!) for dinner, “the kids will work all night.” In contrast, in a recent survey of 431 US business leaders, nearly three-fourths cited a lack of work ethic and professionalism as a characteristic of US high-school graduates. (As a case in point, I recently had difficulty gaining the attention of a clerk at—where else?—the customer-service desk of a local computer store because of her ongoing telephone conversation with a boyfriend. When the clerk finally appeared in front of me, I, rather amused by the ridiculousness of the situation, smilingly remarked, “You know, if you worked for me, I’d fire you!” The clerk returned my smile and replied, “That’s why I don’t work for you!”
USA Today reports one US business executive as saying that “[organizations] are realizing it’s less risky to [employ] internationals because they’re more coachable, more socialized, have no posses, and have not been Americanized.” That executive predicts that in his field, by about 2010, foreigners will fill 50% of all the jobs available, compared with the roughly 25% they fill today. The article goes on to assert that US youth are “lacking the fundamentals.”
The executive being quoted was not whom one might expect. It was not the CEO of some high-technology company, such as IBM, Microsoft, or Dell. Rather, it was George Raveling of Nike—speaking of basketball players in the National Basketball Association!
Raveling’s remarks are echoed by Red Auerbach, legendary coach of the Boston Celtics: “All those years I traveled overseas and held clinics, I said to people, ‘You know what? There’s going to come a day when these countries are dangerous for us because these guys are listening. You look at the foreign kids who come over and everyone of them is solid fundamentally. Not our guys. No one can teach them because they all think they are stars when they’re 15.” As if to punctuate his observation, the United States had just finished in sixth place in the world basketball championships.
Former NBA executive Jerry Colangelo could easily have been referring to America’s free-enterprise system and our system of higher education rather than basketball (or base-