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A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

An Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Future

Instead of reading this column, you really should be reading Steve Case's new book, The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future (Simon and Schuster, 2016). Seriously. It's not only a fascinating view of his experience at the dawn of the Internet age, it's also a blueprint for how organizations must form partnerships with governments and others if they're going to succeed in this age of technological innovation.

But since you’re here, I'll try to make this synopsis worth your while. The wave of which Case writes is one in which the "Internet of Everything" is giving rise to ideas and companies that have the potential to totally disrupt the way we do things. He describes it as "a phase where the Internet will be fully integrated into every part of our lives—how we learn, how we heal, how we manage our finances, how we get around, how we work, even what we eat.” 

Case calls it the Internet of Everything instead of the Internet of Things, because the Internet is impacting nearly every aspect of our lives. And it can do so much more. Real time tracking of vital signs...

The Most Career-Minded Generation

According to admissions departments’ informational pamphlets, the primary reason for attending college is rather noble: Campus is a place to discover one’s interests and strengths, a place for both personal and intellectual development. But in recent years, another narrative has taken hold—that what matters is return on investment. In other words: What kind of job-market value does a graduate get from a college degree?

Post-college job considerations have always been part of the equation. But with the rapidly rising tuition costs, the national student-debt crisis, and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs encouraging some students to drop out altogether and enter the job market, this question has taken on new urgency. And it’s an important one, because it begets a whole slew of other anxieties about college. If one of the goals of higher education is to ensure that graduates go on to be financially stable, then a bunch of figures matter: how they fare in the labor market, what they’re paid, and what their loan-repayment and default rates are, to name a few. 

These considerations will sound distasteful to those who believe that education should be its own end. But, increasingly, students are looking at college degrees from...

Government’s Catch-22 People Problem

The skills gap is not new. Moreover, recent stories about staffing problems at Customs and Border Protection and the Bureau of Prisons show the issue is not limited to a short list of high risk mission-critical occupations. The latest example is the Secret Service.

Central to the problem across the board is the civil service bureaucracy, the General Schedule salary system, and the government’s “brand” as an employer.  The core issue is the rigidity of the civil service system and government’s inability or reluctance to tackle the real problems. Simply stated, today’s “war for talent” requires new answers. There is no solution in existing laws and regulations. 

Every year that passes without making needed changes results in the loss of more institutional knowledge and the further deterioration of morale. Each time the media focuses on performance problems, it gives new ammunition for the critics of government. Added to that are the pay and hiring freezes. Reports that it can take 18 months to get hired make the need for change obvious. For new graduates, the prospect of a federal career could hardly be less appealing.

The problem is exacerbated by projected skill shortages in the private sector...

How a Marine Confronts Fear, and Overcomes It

Fear took ahold the second I laid eyes on what they called the “confidence course.” There wasn’t anything to be confident about, as I listened to how we would maneuver our bodies across a couple of acres of what appeared to be instruments of the Middle Ages.  

I was afraid and thought to myself, “You really did it this time . . . it’s over!”

I grew up afraid of heights. Deathly afraid of heights. I didn’t have a problem getting into an airplane and seeing the world from 20,000 feet. But if you put me on a stool to change a light bulb, I would start shaking instantly. And now, the day of reckoning had arrived at age 24. The Marine Corps instructors evaluating my potential to lead Marines had somehow placed me in a situation where I had to face and overcome my biggest weakness—the fear of high places.  

As the supremely fit Marine instructor finished explaining and demonstrating each of the obstacles to our group of officer candidates—college graduates, some with graduate degrees and law degrees in their pockets—I did what I usually did to calm myself when faced with adversity. I took...

Why Aren't Intelligent People Happier?

There are three things, once one’s basic needs are satisfied, that academic literature points to as the ingredients for happiness: having meaningful social relationships, being good at whatever it is one spends one’s days doing, and having the freedom to make life decisions independently.

But research into happiness has also yielded something a little less obvious: Being better educated, richer, or more accomplished doesn’t do much to predict whether someone will be happy. In fact, it might mean someone is less likely to be satisfied with life.

That second finding is the puzzle that Raj Raghunathan, a professor of marketing at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, tries to make sense of in his recent book, If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?Raghunathan’s writing does fall under the category of self-help (with all of the pep talks and progress worksheets that that entails), but his commitment to scientific research serves as ballast for the genre’s more glib tendencies.

I recently spoke to Raghunathan about his book, and the interview that follows has been edited and condensed for the sake of clarity.

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Pinsker: One of the premises...