Change? What kind of Change?

Yesterday, General Motors filed for bankruptcy and the US Government now owns a 60% stake in the largest American car company. Whether it be for better or worse, one thing is clear: the auto industry will not remain the same, and change is coming. Perhaps now, in the beginning of one of the largest economic restructurings ever, it is an appropriate time to talk about change. 

There are 2 types of change: regulative change and massive change. One works to bring processes up to date and improve efficiency while the other creates a whole new logic, a whole way of doing things, thereby completely changing the way a system works. GM thought it could save itself by closing plants, streamlining processes, and attempting to create a leaner, more efficient manufacturing company. The problem is, the US automotive industry doesn't just need to be more efficient, it needs to be completely restructured. It is not just the processes that need to change; it's also the motivations, the way of thinking, and the image that drives the company. GM and Ford have resorted to making cartoon cars out of classics! Isn't that post-modernism in a bottle? Is that where we should be? Meanwhile, BMW is making concepts like the GINA which could inspire and rewrite the future of automotive technology. OK, end American Auto Rant.

America, and indeed the developed world, doesn't need regulative change, but massive change. Technology has vastly improved the way we communicate and connect with each other and yet we seem to take that at face value and fail to realize how these massive changes could rewrite the ways in which we operate as a society. The vast spread of information provided by the internet allows for and encourages experimentation. In a trying time like this, we should not hang tight to what we know, but venture out into the unknown to explore and grow, like the pilgrims, or like Lewis and Clark. Regulative change is like pioneering a new cassette tape when everyone has an iPod. In our cities, our landscapes, our businesses, and our buildings, we need to start seeing massive change that will bring us as a society up to the level of our technology.

The restructuring of GM is an opportunity to create massive change, to rewrite not only an industry but a country, and a mentality. If we want to be in a new age, we have to start acting like we are already there.  

(Photos from ideo.ro and wikimedia. The original full-sized versions can be viewed by clicking the photo.)

1 comment:

Daniel Nairn said...

I agree. Too many people think a tweak in the business model or a shift in the corporate culture of GM are enough to get them on secure footing. Massive change is needed. I personally believe, as part of the massive change you call for, it might be time to look toward producing mass transit infrastructure. The U.S. has very little presence in this burgeoning industry, and this may be the time to make that change. We're spending $8 billion now (and more to come), but we can't build any of it here.