"All human societies contain inventive people. It's just that some environments provide more starting materials, and more favorable conditions for utilizing inventions, than do other environments."
- Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel
- Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel
At a time when Europe was a series of fragmented, competing silos mired in a Dark Age, China was a technological superpower with a strong, centralized government. China built greater ships, established trade with lands as far away as Africa and grew in both wealth and influence.
Yet as we know, it was European explorers on tiny ships that introduced the New World to the Old World, resulting in centuries of European dominance on the global stage.
How did this happen?
As control of all China's activities was held tightly in the hands of a few elite at the top, it was whim and personal inclination that determined the course of the nation's engagement. Literally, someone at the top of the food chain in the Chinese government decided they didn't like the sea trade (or someone in charge of the sea trade) and killed it.
Meanwhile, Christopher Columbus, entrepreneur that he was, tried sponsor after sponsor after sponsor before he landed on Spain to fund his expedition - and even then he had to try twice. With the minimal resources he was able to wrangle, Columbus was incredibly lucky his exposition succeeded. We like to pat successful entrepreneurs on the back and show them off as examples of how persistence pays off, but that's largely a delusional myth. It was fortune more than anything that delivered a win for Columbus and the Spanish Crown; human resource challenges, weather and all sorts of factors could very easily have derailed the explorer's plans and left him a failure. Spain would have regretted their investment and moved on.
Remember - Columbus wasn't the first European to reach the Americas; Vikings and possibly Basque fishermen were there first, but lacked the appropriate resources and logistical support to gain a lasting foothold. There may have been thousands of Columbus' in Europe, Asia and even Africa who tried to find support for similar expeditions, but we don't know about them because they weren't successful.
The two worlds were bound to connect; random trial-and-error would have made it happen eventually. If one Chinese mandarin had changed his mind, or if Columbus had failed to find that one backer, or someone else had been more successful, history could have been incredibly different. The end result would be more or less the same - a global economy striving for equality with some players faring much better than others. Only the names of the winners would change.
In the United States, psychiatric hospital admissions of Chrysler employees actually went down 12 percent one year over another, and their length of stay in mental hospitals dropped 22 percent, due to that company’s efforts to achieve higher rates of earlier detection through better psychiatric health benefit programs and greater success in matching diagnosis and treatment methods.
Husky Injection Molding Systems
Husky Injection Molding Systems of Bolton, Ontario estimates it has saved $8 million in reduced absenteeism, higher productivity, and better use of resources, from a $4 million investment in employee well-being and a healthy workplace environment.
Absenteeism rates in 1999 were 2.25 days per Husky employee per year, compared to the Canadian average of 5.7 days per year
Lots and lots of people are wringing their hands around the costs of occupational mental illness; lots of reports have been commissioned and discussions had. Governments have started the herculanean task of addressing this elephant in the room, but it's slow-going and lots of stakeholders have other priorities.
But it's a few bold businesses that are actually taking the risk and making this happen. The risk is paying dividends with fewer sick employees, greater productivity and better HR morale - which in turn results in stronger, more resilient companies.
Yet here in Canada, we have a government that thinks natural resource exploitation is the silver bullet for economic success and is starving all other programs to focus on this one basket. They're also stamping out any opposition and risk assessment of their singular focus.
Kind of like the Chinese did with sea trade.
Proactive occupational mental health is going to happen and, really, that ship is already starting to sail.
As it stands now, Canada isn't onboard. If we don't want to end up being a China of the Knowledge Economy, now's the time for our government to get over it's fear of troubled waters and dive in.