I've written a great deal about making firms more entrepreneurial. What I have not mentioned is the competitive pressure that we in the developed countries will feel to do this.
Through the early 1900's, the developed countries held a competitive advantage because of industrial capacity. Today, we have an advantage because of the pairing of knowledge workers and information technology (IT) through our corporations in what we've come to call an information economy. Yet the relative productivity advantage we have is rapidly disappearing.
The industrial economy had huge barriers to entry. By contrast, the information economy does not. A few guys in a basement can launch a business that is soon worth millions - even billions. This has consequences for national policy, particularly when those guys in the basement are in the Ukraine.
Professionals in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, France, Germany and the rest of the EU will increasingly be competing with professionals in China, India, Malaysia, and other rapidly developing countries like the Ukraine and Taiwan. Professionals making $80,000 in developed countries will have trouble competing with similarly educated and equipped professionals making $8,000.
Individual effort has never been as big a determinant of productivity as the system in which these individuals are working. A hard working trapper in the Great Lakes makes less than a hard working dry land wheat farmer in Saskatchewan. The industrious assembly line worker makes less than the industrious programmer. Changing from an agricultural to industrial or industrial to information economy always makes a bigger difference than individual effort within an old economy.
The developed nations have an opportunity to transform again - to become an entrepreneurial economy instead of an information economy. To pretend that we can continue to demand big salaries in a world of 6 billion increasingly armed with laptops and university educations borders on denial.
What will it mean to become an entrepreneurial instead of information economy? For one thing, it means that we'll rely on an increasing percentage of our work force to act like entrepreneurs instead of knowledge workers, to move from positions within bureaucracies to positions within dynamic markets. Such markets suggest a reliance on the information economy - a smooth and continual operation of markets that are communicated across networks that blend and distort the difference between Facebook and NASDAQ, between eBay and Monster.com.
For me, the prospect of the popularization of entrepreneurship is exciting for so many reasons. But beyond what it opens up as possibility for the individual, it is a practical and increasingly necessary solution to emerging economies that will easily underbid us should we continue to rely on an information economy that has outlived its advantage.