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March 29, 2007

Holy smokes. In my last post, I asked “Is Ireland a Talent Magnet?”

The answer is a resounding YES, according to this archived article that I found on the web. What really struck me – at least when this article was written – were the numbers showing Ireland as the world’s largest software exporter! Ahead of the United States and India!

Read about it here.

March 26, 2007

I recently came across an interesting passage cited by Richard Florida in his book, “Flight of the Creative Class.” I had the pleasure of meeting Richard after his speech at the POPTech conference last Fall in Camden Maine. In “Flight,” he says:

“The global talent pool and the high-end, high-margin creative industries that used to be the sole province of the U.S. and the critical source of its prosperity have begun to disperse around the globe. A host of countries – Ireland, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Australia, and New Zealand among them – are investing in higher education, producing creative people, and churning out cutting-edge products, from cellular phones to computer software to blockbuster movies. Many of them have learned from the United States success and are shoring up their efforts to attract foreign talent…”

Richard then goes on to describe a sector of society whom he calls the “creative class” – scientists, engineers, artists, and cultural creatives, saying that the competitive challenge before us in a global economy is no longer goods, services, or the flows of capital, but the competition for [these] people. He also has established a “Creative Index,” a measure of creative competitiveness of nations.

He says the U.S. places fourth, behind Sweden, Japan, and Finland. Fast on its heels is – Ireland.

Along with a PhD candidate from Carnegie Mellon, Richard used data from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and compared forty-five nations on measures of creativity and competitiveness, looking at the percentage of society made up of the creative class. The U.S. is not even in the top five. It is in… eleventh place.

Ahead are several countries that have workforces where the creative class is a larger percentage. It constitutes about 1/3rd of the workforce in – Ireland.

He also describes says that the 2004 Globalization Index developed by A.T. Kearney and published in Foreign Policy places the U.S. seventh… behind – you guessed it – Ireland. Also ahead are Singapore, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Finland, and Canada.

It’s a very limited data sample, but after my speech in Galway, Ireland, I was privileged to have a few of the attendees at my table during the luncheon. I asked the fellow across from me where he was from. He replied, “Croatia.” Another clearly bright and articulate person to my right replied, “Czech Republic.” I asked, “Did you ever consider coming to the U.S. instead of Ireland? They replied, ‘Absolutely not.'”


March 22, 2007

Just returned from a whirlwind visit to Ireland, where I gave my talk entitled, “Is the World (Really) Flat? Measurement Insights from Around The World” to a group of about 90 people who participated in the Software Process Improvement Conference 2007 in Galway, Ireland.

Here’s a photo from a delightful day in Galway City, before the talk:

Galway Street.gif

There is so much to say about my visit to this marvelous land that I don’t know where to begin, so bear with me and I’m just going to let it flow in a brief stream of consciousness. (Forgive me for it possibly being rather unedited.)

First, I was taken by the absolute beauty of the countryside and the incredible kindness and hospitality of its people. Even in March, the meadows were lush, and dotted with livestock and stone walls. Now I know why God made the color green. The Irish own it.

I traveled to Galway on the western coast of Ireland. It is a prosperous port with a beautiful bay on the and splendid countryside. I was fascinated to learn that in 1625 and 1690, it was nearly destroyed by Cromwell’s and then William of Orange’s attacks on Catholic Ireland. You can sense the richness of Galway’s heritage in the buildings and architecture. Today, it’s home to a national university with a historic town center and hi-tech industries, but I also noticed from the newspapers that much of the region’s manufacturing is being outsourced. Even Galway’s and Waterford’s famous crystal apparently is sourced from Eastern Europe, although the designs are still etched in Ireland.

Flying into Shannon airport, one comes into the southern part of Galway county, the second largest in the country. A delightful man named Robert met us at the airport and drove north to our hotel at Galway Bay. The land is absolutely gorgeous. I had to get used to the right hand drive cars and narrow roads, and on more than one occasion I could tell that if I were driving with my reversed perspective, there would have been a high risk of a head on collision. Robert said that many American drivers often break off the left hand mirrors of rental cars because they can’t get used to driving on the left side of the road.

Ireland Road.gif

The conference was at the Galway Bay hotel, which looks out on the water not far from Galway City, a short cab ride to a fantastic downtown area. It’s a university town, so in addition to the tourists, there’s a vibrant energy from students strolling the pedestrian walkways and shops. I got a sense of “old Ireland” from the architecture and the land, but you could tell that there was also a healthy industry in the area and there was a balance between the pastoral feel of the countryside and a modern economy.

Keep checking this site… I’ve got more to say and not enough time to say it right now…

March 12, 2007

Tomorrow I head to Galway, Ireland, where I’m giving a speech entitled “Is the World (Really) Flat; Measurement Insights from Around the World,” at a software conference sponsored by Enterprise Ireland and Intec Billing.

The conference sponsor asked me to give a talk that addresses – interestingly enough – the pressures that Irish software companies are feeling to outsource development to countries like India!

I find this fascinating since one of my recent client engagements involved a financial services company that was outsourcing parts of its software development to – Ireland. They wanted a productivity and quality assessment of several multi-shore projects where teams were split between the U.S. and Ireland, a place with an apparently thriving software industry.

And yet I’m struck by the common thread – that companies are finding it very challenging to manage these kinds of projects, irrespective of what country they live in. The common dilemma is the mandate from the financial executives who are dictating policy when it comes to product development strictly because of lower labor rates in the countries that they can outsource to.

So, the debate will come down to followers of Thomas Friedman on one side, who say the world is flat; that all kinds of economic activity can decentralize and migrate away from advanced countries because of the rapid technological advances in communication. And on the other side are emerging voices that say the world is spiky; that there is a powerful counterforce from the clustering of human creativity and talent – resulting in productivity and innovation gains that come from smart people being co-located in close proximity to one another. People voicing these counter-views are folks like the Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Lucas and Richard Florida, Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University and author of “The Rise of the Creative Class.”

I hope to add some lively insights into the debate by voicing what the data is saying, when we examine projects divided across continents compared to those where teams were “clustered” around. It promises to be an interesting trip to Ireland. I’ll be sure to share the experience here.

In the meantime, here’s a photo of the Cliffs of Moher. I’m told that the view is stunning and not to be missed.

02 Cliffs of Moher.jpg