By Christian Kelley

You would have to be living under a rock to not know what the US Congress is working on this week on Capitol Hill. The Economic Stimulus Bill (warning: PDF link) has almost entirely consumed the national and local media as well as water cooler and dinner table conversation, regardless of whether you live in the US or not. This is not a political blog so I am not going to get into a discussion about the merits of the bill or it long term implications. Rather, I would like to seize upon one of the reasons given as to why the bill is needed in the first place: a crisis of confidence.

The thinking is that the economy is in a downward spiral driven by a decreasing amount of confidence that each participant in the economy has in every other participant. Consumers lose confidence and tighten their belts, which impacts retailers causing them to cut orders, which impacts manufacturers and service companies causing them to reduce output and shrink workforces. Of course those workforces are made up of consumers, so this lowers their confidence even further, thus the downward spiral. While the US and other governments are trying to break the cycle, there are some things that we can and should do individually and within our companies to restore the confidence (without creating another bubble).

First, we need to restore confidence in ourselves. We need to know that we are focused on the right things and that we have the right information and perspective to make the right decisions. Next we need to restore confidence amongst our colleagues, both within our company and our network of partners. We need to be able to count on them to come through when they make a commitment and admit that we can’t do everything ourselves. We need to have confidence in our customers. As the father of RSS once wrote

we have to believe our customers are the smartest people because they were smart enough to choose the best product.

Now is not the time to give our customers more of the same.

How do we get there? How do we rebuild our confidence in ourselves, our colleagues and our customers? By just deciding to do it! It’s easy to fall into a ‘slash and burn’ mentality with all the doom and gloom, but now is the time to swim against the stream and invest. Not the ‘because everyone else is doing it’ investment of the past, but rather investment that will set you (and your company) up to grow smartly in the very near future and over the long term. The principles of smart growth are very simply:

1. Outcomes, not income.

2. Connections, not transactions.

3. People, not product.

4. People, not product.

In today’s economic climate, near term this smart growth will likely be at the expense of your competition – now that’s a shame isn’t it? In the long term, those that are able to grow smartly will be the next generation of leading companies and will surely be some of today’s leaders that are able to transform themselves as well as many we have never even heard of yet – or that might not even exist today.

What sort of investments can you make today that will better your outcomes? That will help you focus on your connections rather than your transactions? That will let you tap into your personal as well as your colleagues’ and your customers’ collective intelligence? That will measure your performance based on creativity rather than productivity? That will help you turn more ideas into successful products? For many companies, large and small, the answer is PLM.

Nearly two years ago Siemens made just such an investment (warning PDF link), and it seems to be paying off for us. I’m not advocating that you go out and acquire billion dollar software companies as a way of getting there (although if you want a few ideas, send me an email wink). Rather that Siemens applied the four smart growth principles in making the decision to invest in PLM software. You, both as an individual and in whatever role you have in your company, would be wise to follow these same principle as you look for the right investments to restore confidence. Whether you believe the stimulus bill (or any of its international counterparts) will deliver on its promises or not, I ask you to believe in yourself. Restoring confidence starts with you.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at