If there’s one thing Americans can agree on, it’s the sorry state of our country’s infrastructure. We’re stuck, quite literally, and the inability to move affects every aspect of business and our lives: commuters caught in roadway congestion; delayed goods at higher cost; human suffering from collapsing bridges or train derailments; public transit that fails in severe weather or fails to connect disadvantaged communities to jobs – the list goes on. It’s yet another critical component in which the U.S. is severely outpaced by international competitors.
This is our nation’s most urgent problem, according to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, foremost authority on strategy, innovation and leadership for change – and she’s tackling it with gusto. To get America moving again, “We need inspiring visions, strategic thinking, openness to innovation, and change processes that involve coalition.” In a word, we need leadership.
Kanter, an influential Harvard Business School professor whose strategic and practical insights have guided leaders of organizations worldwide, is applying everything she knows and teaches to this daunting challenge. Her just-published book, “MOVE: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead” (W.W. Norton & Company, May 2015), takes a sweeping look across modes of transportation and industries being transformed by sensors, smartphones and wireless networks to illuminate the roots of the current system mess, and identify where the leadership will come from to initiate dramatic improvement.
Fixing infrastructure is important in itself, but more so, it is a critical starting point for generating the courage and collaboration that will get us moving to solve a range of problems. “By improving physical mobility, we would improve economic and social mobility by increasing access to good education and jobs,” Kanter explains in her recent Wall Street Journal “The Experts” column, “What Travel Could Be Like in the Future.”
We would also secure America’s future as an economic power. “We’re going to stagnate without this,” she cautions in an interview with Business Insider. “Other countries have more modern systems… We have to think of it as an economic competitiveness issue.” And the need is especially pressing because the Federal Highway Trust Fund is running on empty; its money could be depleted in less than a month.
“MOVE” centers on infrastructure and mobility – the problems and the solutions – but ultimately, leadership is its imperative. Among the pivotal players are visionary civic leaders, app-creating technology entrepreneurs, establish companies getting on the Big Data bus, and investor seeing the potential of sector change. With their guidance, we’ll be able to start a national conversation, and shape new expectations about who we are and who we can become.
“Everybody depends on this. Absolutely everybody,” stresses Kanter.
You might also be interested in reading Kanter’s three-part article series published by BloombergView, in which she delves deep into various issues and potential solutions for reinventing transportation, including “Big Data in the Driver’s Seat,” “What Good Are Airports If You Can’t Get There?” and “Private Investors Can Save Public Infrastructure.”