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Simple Basic Math 101 and Labour Markets

Divide, Multiply, Differentiate… Shaping the Future of Work

What do Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Bill Gates have in common?

They were voted by Time Magazine in their issue March 29, 1999 as the 20th Century Greatest Minds. One could argue what they also have in common is that they tackled immensely complex issues with a very distinct approach: they simplified the problems. At the heart of it is “Simple math 101”: finding the “common denominator” to challenging issues such as building a car for everyone, software for a personal computer that can sit on a desk, establishing the relation between mass, celerity and energy… Interestingly the person voted number # 1 as having the greatest impact was Sigmund Freud- One can argue that he indeed “simplified the mother of all complexities” the human mind and uncovered the universal themes of the subconscious behavior for all humans irrespective of geography, history or culture….the ultimate common denominator key to simplification. The rest is history. Time_Magazine_GreatestMinds.png

Of course the survey was pre Facebook, Google , the iPhone and in-Memory Technology … all the great minds that uncovered these innovations could easily join the ranks of the “greatest”.

Bottom line: the problems they resolved were supposed to be insurmountable, technically challenging, difficult to implement, involving too many stakeholders, too costly, resilient to change for decades- if not centuries, etc… sounds familiar?

In my last blog “The Silent Job Killer” I was suggesting as a way to tackle unemployment  to use basic math: Simplify (find the common denominator and divide), Scale (multiply) and Personalize (differentiate) as the way to deal with this immensely complex issue.

Let us try to do just that right now and deal first with the operation of “Simplification”. The unemployment riddle and Labor Market intricacies can be simplified into four scenarios for all the challenges referred to in the literature randomly and ad –hoc:

Scenario 1: The Job Disconnect between a qualified job seeker searching for a job and an employer pressed to find the right talent to hire. As it stands today they have a really hard time finding one another. This is referred to as “Frictional Unemployment” by economists and is supposed to be a reality we need to live with. Is that “friction”- which incidentally is very costly at a macro level- inevitable?

Scenario 2: the Talent Gap when an employer pressed for talent finds a candidate that nearly fits the bill. The problem is that the candidate/job-seeker needs some up-skilling … but time does not permit it … will the employer wait or not? In fact studies indicate that 80 % of job seekers that are trained adequately find a job. What can be done to make the up-skilling effective?

Scenario 3: Job Creation. The two scenarios above assume that “a job” exists. What if there are none like what my Greek and Spanish colleagues would argue since the financial crisis of 2008? Who creates the new jobs? The answer is loud and clear: the entrepreneurs and their Small & Medium Size Enterprises SMEs. So the most important persona is not the job-seeker, but the Entrepreneur. What does an Entrepreneur need to grow the SME and create jobs?

Scenario 4: Governance and Policy. A government decision maker overlooking the national eco-system of job creation will, with the help of economists, at best take a guess at what is needed and where to invest. Governments need to enact policies- Active Labor Market Policies (ALMP) – and roll them out in well managed tightly run programs. Why can’t we provide the economists and the decision makers at all levels with “actionable data” to make the right decisions?


As one can see there is a way to simplify the Labor Market issues. Digitization will address all the above challenges and deal with the four simplified scenarios effectively. This has been done separately and in various parts of the world in a “boutique” environment: small scale, separate efforts, pointed solutions by Governments, private Sector initiatives and NGOs. What Digitization will bring is the unique opportunity to re-platform the processes end to end and ability for all the stakeholders to connect, communicate, collaborate, co-innovate to co create the opportunities of tomorrow. The underlying technologies of citizen-centric applications, In-Memory technology, mobility, cloud and Big data Analytics, Citizen engagement platforms will allow the simplification to take shape. Embedded within is the unique ability to scale and personalize.

If “Simple” is easy, “Scaling” is quite a challenge. Moving from a “boutique” to a “mega store” while maintaining the quality is an overwhelming challenge. This is where Ford, Gates, Jobs, Freud, Einstein, Zuckerberg, Larry and Sergei and Hasso Platner, separated themselves distinctively from any competition…

Simplification effectiveness will be tested in the crucible of scaling.

Can we think of ways to scale the “boutique” approach of dealing with unemployment leveraging Digitization ? Ideas welcome!

Discover the power of “Simple”

If you are interested to explore further how powerful “simple” is, two examples in completely different fields where simplification was a game changer:


   1-Warfare & ship building in the ancient world: Carthage vs Rome– this is not a video game. It is a true story how Rome was able to win the first Punic War by uncovering Carthage secret to simplify the very complex science of ship building– through the use of interchangeable parts. Carthage simplified the building of ships by reducing the wooden parts of the ship to its simplest form of interchangeable parts creating thus the most formidable fleet. When Rome discovered accidentally an undamaged Carthaginian ship stuck in the sand it uncovered the secret and was able to build a vast fleet, surprise Carthage and reverse its competitive advantage, dominate the sea and change forever the course ofhistory.  “Simple” is a formidable competitive weapon.

2-Medieval Architecture the glory days of Al Andalusia in the everlasting Alhambra Castle: how simplifying a structure can produce an enduring art. It is an 8 minutes inspirational BBC documentary where in the last 4 minutes a Spanish architect explains how simple trigonometry (math again!) creates enduring elegance and beauty.

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