Now Florida needs to 'see' around the world
Talk about looking back and looking forward. USF history professor Gary Mormino tantalized a luncheon audience today in Tampa with tales from Florida's past and selected tidbits from his 2005 social history book, "Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams." My favorite story: How the town of Clermont (now a western suburb of Orlando) built a tower that, from its top, allowed folks to see 17-million citrus trees. No more. He cited a former mayor of Orlando saying (and I paraphrase), "We stopped picking citrus and started picking tourists." Now we pick condo buyers, Mormino said. In the 1950s, the author reminded his audience of about 150 people at the Maddux Report/CEO Council of Tampa Bay gathering at the Renaissance Tampa Hotel, Florida's cost of living allowed public school teachers to live on the water. Now that was a long, long time ago!
Remarked Mormino on Florida's transient population: "Never have so many people lived so well, for so long, so far away from home." Now there's an historic claim challenged by modern pressures. We'll see if that holds true here in the coming years.
After Mormino spoke, up jumped Elizabeth J. Smith, IBM general manager of infrastructure services in its global technology services, to fast-forward the audience into the world of global business competition. She cited a new survey IBM did -- consisting of one-on-one interviews with more than 1,000 CEOs around the world. It was interesting but abstract stuff, so allow me to boil it down.
1. Companies competing globally must be hungry for change.
2. Companies must be able to innovate "beyond the imagination" of their customers.
3. Companies must be globally integrated (so the smartest worker in Brazil can work easily with the smartest worker in India on a topic of common expertise).
4. Companies must be "disruptive" by nature, meaning they must reinvent their business models constantly to stay ahead of competitors that, typically, can match a product within three months or a new service within a year or so.
5. And companies must be "genuine, not just generous" or, in other words, show communities in which they operate that they are truly socially responsible and not just prone to throwing money (and little else) at philanthropic projects.
Smith ended by asking the audience five questions. Are you ready for the kind of change we see coming? Are you aware how demanding your (increasingly well informed) customers are? Are you globally integrated to optimize what you do? Do you have the best disruptive business models possible in order to compete? And are you really aware of your impact on the environment?
All good, provocative questions. The crowd had no questions for the speakers today.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist