Did you wake up one morning and think, “I wish I had a phone that would not only allow me to text and call, but play games, get directions, read books, allow me access to all social media and take pictures?” Not likely. You wanted an iPhone because Apple put it on the market.
Jim Clifton, CEO at Gallup, says this is no small point. Our economy isn’t waiting for consumers to want to start purchasing things again; it’s waiting for entrepreneurs to create demand.
Growth doesn’t just happen, and it’s not necessarily driven by demand. Growth comes from innovation and from entrepreneurs who create demand. Just look at the iPhone. Apple’s Steve Jobs didn’t create it because there was an insatiable demand for this world-changing device. People didn’t even know what an iPhone was until Apple put it on the market, and now they can’t buy enough of them — and Apple has a nearly $500 billion market capitalization.
How much demand was there for Facebook before Mark Zuckerberg created it? Zero. Most consumers didn’t know what social networking was before their friends started signing up for Facebook.
Clifton suggests that we start looking at our young people: middle- and high-school students who are incredibly bright, innovative, and driven. We give them the tools and platforms they need to create businesses. Sound far-fetched? Should we really leave our economic fate in the hands of teenagers?
Gallup just tested 3,000 high school students in the Nebraska cities of Lincoln and Omaha, and found 150 young people who have the talent to build small to medium-sized businesses of significance. What’s really beautiful about our finding is that it is race- and gender-neutral; girls scored the same as boys and there were no significant differences in potential among blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians. This is profoundly inspiring news for one of the most multicultural nations on earth, much less a country that is making huge strides in equality for women. Think of the massive talent pool we have, just waiting to be unleashed on our stalled economy. If America and its cities can create a coast-to-coast dragnet — a sweep to find the top potential entrepreneurs, the entrepreneurial freaks of nature — and then put them in internship programs and pair them with successful and gifted mentors, everything will change.
Not only is this not far-fetched, it do-able. We have the talent to create new consumer demand, new technologies. We can not only stimulate a sluggish economy, we can unleash the creative force of an entire generation.