Idea Fest

The New Business Conversation Starts Here. 23 Bright Ideas for a Stellar 2003.

1. Sheila Wellington

President, Catalyst


A year from now, when we look back on 2003, people will say that this was the year that business finally got it. It was the year when business started to bring new people to the table. When business made the case for diversity and inclusion in the workplace — and then matched it with action. The goal for the year was all about making companies more open to women and people of color. Finally, people will say, business leaders realized that organizational credibility begins with how an organization looks.

This call for change is hardly a new one. For years, we’ve known that by 2010, 70% of new entrants into the workforce will be women and/or people of color. We’ve seen a steady increase in the presence of female corporate officers, but the pace has been incremental at best. We’re still talking less than 20%. How can that be, when women are getting more than 50% of BAs and MAs, 43% of PhDs, nearly 50% of law degrees and medical degrees, and slightly more than 33% of business degrees?

There has never been a greater need for fresh air in business — and if that’s what we’re really after, then we have to get fresh people.


2. Jeff Taylor

Founder and chairman,

We all need to go into the corn-storage business. By that, I mean developing “silo expertise” in emerging business areas — such as health care, government, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals — that haven’t gotten much attention in the past five years. Those are the places where money is still being spent.

We’re using that approach at Monster. For example, 71% of federal-government workers will be eligible to retire over the next eight years. My conclusion: I have to figure out how to do business with the U.S. government. So I put employees in a number of different departments who wear a government-solutions name badge. They represent a silo of expertise that’s going to help me win that business.


Call them “silos” or “niches,” “business units,” “communities,” or “channels.” I like “silo” because it represents a harvest. The market-place in 2003 is more specialized, competitive, and focused. If you want to harvest revenue, then you’ll have to get into the silo business. You’ll have to build 20 of them, each with a different expertise. Then, depending on the size of your business, you could make $5 million or $300 million in one of those silos and substantially increase your revenue productivity.

What does this mean for each of us? We can’t be generalists anymore. If you want to have a chance, you need to be a specialist. Be bold about your industry or niche expertise. If you’ve been in pharmaceutical sales, trumpet your expertise in the industry, not just your sales skills. You need to become a silo yourself.

3. Hirotaka Takeuchi

Dean, Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy, Hitotsubashi University


Three of the most innovative companies in Japan — Honda, NTT DoCoMo, and Sony — will take a quantum leap in solving the biggest social problem facing Japan and, for that matter, the world’s industrialized nations: the drop in the fertility rate, which has resulted in a growing aging population. (In 25 years, one out of four Japanese will be over 60 years old.) Looking ahead, the problem will eventually hit developing nations, since the drop in fertility rates for countries like China and India will pose unheard-of challenges beyond the year 2050.

So what are Honda, NTT DoCoMo, and Sony doing to solve this problem? Right now, they are all working to develop humanlike robots. Honda’s robot, named Asimo, is 120 centimeters tall and weighs 43 kilograms. NTT DoCoMo’s is much bigger at 160 centimeters, while Sony’s is much smaller at 50 centimeters. Honda’s humanlike robot can walk down stairs. NTT DoCoMo’s can’t walk but can move its fingers, and Sony’s can dance.

A goal for these robots is to be ready to challenge the winner of the FIFA World Cup to a soccer match in about 50 years. If they can play soccer, then they surely will be able to do a lot of things for you, both at home — like wash the dishes, vacuum the floor, baby-sit while you are gone — and at work. We know that robots represent the future — if not tomorrow, then soon. We need to start preparing for them, however, in 2003. The challenge facing us humans is to make sure that these robots behave morally and ethically — something that we have a hard time doing ourselves.


4. Patrick T. Harker

Dean, Wharton School

In the post-Enron, post-WorldCom era, much has been written on corporate governance, corporate responsibility, financial malfeasance, and greed. The perp walks of business executives have become a regular feature of the nightly news. But once the furor over the corporate cleanup has subsided and the felons have been thrown in the brig, we’ll go back to our lives and the pain of the past two years will begin to fade.

However, in the wake of those scandals, we’ve changed: We’ve rediscovered the power of truth. We’ll no longer be willing to be patient with people who claim that they weren’t really lying but were simply shading the truth. Spinning, shading, and obfuscating have all become part of our vernacular, and not just with regard to financial statements. We experience these little lies regularly.


Truth will be the mantra of business for the next few years. We, as consumers, investors, and members of society, will demand it. The hard part will be to accept it. Did we really believe that dotcom mania made the laws of economics obsolete? Of course not. But we were willing to suspend our disbelief. The Bible teaches, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” What it doesn’t say is that freedom demands responsibility and the willingness to accept the consequences of the truth: to live without hype and its dazzling, if unfounded, promises. Starting in 2003, that will be our challenge — and our hope for turning the past year’s pain into true progress.

5. Jack Miles

Pulitzer Prize Winner, God: a Biography

Tension between the Muslim world and the rest of the world will continue. The Bush administration, having made little effort to enlist the support of both American and other Western Muslims to build bridges, will do no more along those lines than it already has. The Muslim world, seeing no viable liberal or Western option and feeling itself under siege, will continue its conservative drift. Terrorism will not abate.


Meanwhile, the administration’s environmental policies will increase tension between it and the rest of the world as environmental degradation gradually replaces terrorism as the command issue. Because the environment has a strong hold on younger voters (in poll after poll, high-school grads describe themselves as “environmentalists”), a Green candidate, probably a Green Democrat, will begin to rebuild a new, long-term base for the Democratic Party around this issue.

6. Mary Lou Quinlan

CEO, Just Ask a Woman

I listen to women every day. Boomer women tell me that they’re nearing the breaking point. The life that they bought into as college graduates in the late 1960s and early 1970s has brought them success but often not a lot of satisfaction.


Fast-forward to today’s graduates, the oldest members of generation Y. I often speak on campuses, and I hear students, both men and women, asking, “How can I have success and a life?” The generation that was raised on the Internet and MTV’s Road Rules has a passion for a life well lived.

How are two such disparate generations connected? Despite their angst of “Why isn’t this generation more like us?” boomers may find themselves looking in the mirror and reevaluating what they wanted to be in the first place. Maybe 2003 will be the year that boomers start learning from their kids: Count yourself successful because you’re happy instead of the other way around.

As the two groups discover their shared values, imagine an intergenerational partnership that we haven’t seen before — where it’s not about the destination but the journey.


7. Roger McNamee

Cofounder, Integral Capital Partners and Silver Lake Partners

Will 2003 be the Year of the Next Big Thing? Fat chance. The Year of WiFi? Not likely. The Year of the Next Bull Market? We can only hope. The Year of the Big Deal? Possibly — but probably not your big deal. What’s certain is that this environment isn’t some blip down an otherwise unfettered march to technology fame and riches. It’s all about the New Normal, and 2003 will be the first full year of it.

The New Normal demands a different kind of management. Like the European armies during World War I, tech-industry leaders are struggling to adjust to new realities. Most rose to power in the era of biz dev, Internet time, and overnight paper fortunes. Now they must figure out how to make products and services that customers will pay for in an era when investors don’t care. Vision matters, but only if it can be financed and delivered in a reasonable period of time. Without the magnetic power of options, managers will have to find new — or old-fashioned — ways to motivate their teams.


8. Marcus Buckingham

Author and Consultant, the Gallup Organization

Most American businesses have a relationship with their customers that is based solely on price. Is it any wonder, then, that companies are now having massive difficulties maintaining their margins? The challenge for 2003 — and for the future — is for companies to figure out a way to extend those relationships beyond price and engage their customers on an emotional level.

In late 2002, the Nobel Prize committee recognized the importance of the emotional economy by awarding the economics prize to Daniel Kahneman, a Princeton psychology professor. It was the first time the economic establishment admitted that a person’s psychological makeup is the key determining factor in economic behavior.


For 2003, I’m intrigued by the questions following that insight: How big is the emotional economy? Are we mismanaging it? Have we even begun to scratch the surface of how we manage the emotions of our employees and our customers?

Through our studies at the Gallup Organization, we’re just beginning to realize how economically valuable emotions are, and it’s already clear that they’re largely out of control. Analysts have even started to downgrade companies — such as Wal-Mart and the Home Depot — whose cultures, they believe, are eroding, even if their earnings are holding up. Even Disney is at risk. A company based on cartoons and theme parks, Disney was the poster child for building a brand based on emotions. But now its name is associated more with an entertainment conglomerate than with the businesses of animated movies and teacup rides. Disney has protected the form of Mickey Mouse but has forgotten his heart.

Companies need to realize that, as economic beings, we behave emotionally most of the time. You can either build your business around that fact or risk losing your customers to somebody who understands and cares for them better.


9. Geoffrey Moore

Chairman and founder, the Chasm Group LLC

Here in Silicon Valley, every company has one question for 2003: How do I sign new business? The answer? The only possibility of new business is as a replacement for old business. And the only people who can make that kind of decision are top-level executives. How? Your first job is to convince them that things are worse than they know. Don’t reassure them. Provoke them: “We’ve been looking at companies in your category and the situation appears grim.” Pause. “It’s a terrible time to be wasting money in basic business processes — and yet our experience tells us that your company is doing just that.” Then make your pitch: “You could be losing so much money that you would be acting responsibly if you intervened right now, assuming there’s a fix available. We’re that fix.”

If your prospective customer agrees that the situation is as serious as you say it is, then you and your team agree to do a free diagnostic review. In return, the prospect agrees that, if the diagnostic turns up a fix, he’ll give you the business. I can’t promise that this fix-the-leaky-pipe approach will work every time. But I can tell you that this is how Silicon Valley startups are slogging it out through the downturn.

10. Bill Strickland

President and CEO, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and Bidwell Training Center

We may be entering a new year, but my focus remains the same: I’m still committed to converting inner-city communities into assets. The way I see it, our economy will always be troubled if we don’t bring our most distressed communities back to life. The first step, and the most pressing challenge for 2003, then, is to get people on board — corporate leaders, community folks, entrepreneurs, and educators — and start revitalizing communities.

The change begins in schools. They’re the focal point for economic revitalization. In cities such as San Francisco and Cincinnati, we’re in the planning stages to build centers of excellence that will provide opportunities for kids to get a world-class education. Our vision is that these centers will be more than fully functioning, market-driven schools. On one level, schools provide value by working with kids and advancing literacy and math skills. On another level, schools become a way out of the fog for these communities. With top-notch schools, neighborhoods and communities have a real yardstick against which they can measure progress.

And schools go beyond education, even beyond the kids who attend them. Schools create a solid starting point for deep, important conversations about opportunities for economic revitalization to begin. By virtue of how they operate, well-run schools with high visibility are almost guaranteed to generate discussions that tap into a wide range of community interests and that attract the attention of community leaders. Schools can stimulate a shared belief in opportunities for businesses to grow and create a mechanism for people to come together around the physical rehabilitation of a neighborhood. My message for 2003 to business folks: Be a part of that conversation, and get in on it now.

11. Tim Sanders

Chief Solutions Officer, Yahoo

We all know about the hidden costs of goods and services — things like reconciliation and inventory control. They eat away at the bottom line and usually only become visible when we look in the rearview mirror. The lesson is that there’s a difference between the price of something and its real cost. Think of it as price plus hassle.

People have a hidden cost too. As much as purchasing and logistics departments have wrung hidden costs out of their operations, management could use the same approach to improve business results.

Consider Kristine, a business-development manager with some of the best numbers around when it comes to closing deals. But Kristine has a terrible temper; she can make life miserable for everyone around her. Her customers can’t put their finger on it, but there’s something stressful about dealing with her — a hidden cost to doing business with her. Over time, that cost becomes visible as clients find reasons to justify leaving Kristine and her company.

I challenge managers in 2003 to take an inventory of their team’s hidden costs, person by person. Draw up a chart for your talent, with one column identifying added values and another identifying hidden costs. One added value could be “Vast network of relationships in all business units.” For hidden costs, “Frequently tardy for meetings.” I wouldn’t call a person’s added value a “strength,” and I wouldn’t call his hidden cost a “weakness.” But somewhere in the middle is a formula of added value versus hidden costs that 21st-century managers must deal with. The problem with hidden costs is that they are hidden — and the results are often hard to trace. Hidden costs are an important part of the retail, supply-chain, and manufacturing lexicon. Now is the time to make them part of effective management practice.

12. Linda Thomas Brooks

Executive Vice President and Managing Director, GM Mediaworks and GM Cyberworks

This year, business is poised to go back to basics. Don’t worry, all you dedicated innovators out there: We’re not returning to a world of time-card-punching company men. Rather, there’s a renewed appreciation for the idea that all of our businesses — new or established, hierarchical or flat — need to be rooted in business fundamentals.

Consider this the business equivalent of reading the classics. It can be terrific fun to read only mysteries or science fiction, but if we’re looking for valuable, timeless lessons, we turn to writings that have stood the test of time.

It’s a great adrenaline rush to set precedent or prior learning on its ear. But to do that, we need to know, understand, and respect the knowledge that came before. New ideas multiply their power and potential infinitely when grounded in informed perspective.

Having a grasp of business fundamentals means knowing the history of your company, your business, and your industry. It means understanding how complex companies operate and how each unit within affects other units, as well as the employees, stockholders, and communities in which it exists. It means grounding innovations in research and knowing that opinions are not facts. It means conceding that just because you weren’t aware of something before doesn’t mean it never existed: Owning the innovation means owning the homework necessary to vet it.

A framework of business basics shouldn’t crowd out innovation, or risk taking, or occasional off-the-wall guessing. They should all be additions to the basic black of your business wardrobe. Colors and sequins are very powerful on this frame. But Liberace aside, building a wardrobe that’s based on sequins is rarely successful.

The classical canon. Basic black. Whether high culture, haute couture, or pop culture, those concepts provide frames onto which new ideas can be built. Consider your grounding in business fundamentals the leather-bound edition on your library shelf. Surround it with a couple of friendly tomes of equal weight, then add new breakthrough authors, contemporary fiction, maybe even a comic book or two. Don’t let innovation be stifled by the basics. But don’t forego the precious trove of knowledge that already exists.

13. Adrian Slywotzky

Vice President, Mercer Management Consulting

In the weak economic recovery that we’re likely to see in 2003, the past decade’s blistering growth rates will be history. The traditional growth model — innovate great products, sell them internationally, buy out your smaller competitors, and consolidate the industry — is up against its natural limits. Product and brand extensions can no longer grow the kinds of giant companies we have today.

A handful of companies are uncovering and serving new customer needs in the spaces surrounding the product. This new approach, called demand innovation, is jump-starting new growth, even in mature industries. To implement demand innovation, business leaders need to ask a new set of questions: What can I do to help improve my customers’ profitability? How can I reduce their costs, shorten their cycle times, improve their differentiation, or boost their sales?

In 2003, the advantage goes to the incumbents who have the knowledge and skills not just to make great products, but also to help improve their customers’ economic systems.

14. Len Schlesinger

COO, Limited Brands

My one big idea for 2003 represents an almost anachronistic retreat to the past: The basics of everyday operating management will never be, and should never be, supplanted by any other big idea. Many managers are on a never-ending chase for new solutions and silver bullets. For the most part, the quest is a waste of energy. Inside our enterprise — a $10 billion fashion retailer — the application of basic practices will result in a set of timeless operational initiatives.

  1. A fundamental respect for the importance of the customer experience, regardless of the channel that you are selling through.
  2. An explicit focus on the dynamics of the demand chain rather than the supply chain. We are all sellers (even if some of our people carry the title of buyers!).
  3. The recognition that an experience is designed by and delivered by people.
  4. Margin — and ultimately profit — is rooted in meaningful differentiation of the product, of the experience, and of your people.

If we can deliver on these old-fashioned notions, I believe that by the end of this year, we’ll look at 2004 as an opportunity for continuity and more of the same rather than another empty quest for the big idea.

15. Chris Meyer

Director, Ernst & Young Center for Business Innovation

You already carry an organ-donor card. Imagine a data-donor card.

In the past 20 years, we’ve learned that value lies in information. In the next 20 years, we’ll find that nowhere is this more true than in health care as we unravel the genome. But to be useful, your genetic makeup needs to be correlated with health-care outcomes. Which drug best lowers cholesterol — not for all 53-year-old males, but for you?

A data-donor card would dictate that the doctor who prescribes a drug, orders a test, or performs a procedure must forward the outcome to a data-donor foundation, which would preserve your privacy by stripping your identity from the record. By collecting outcomes from millions of people, the foundation would create a data resource that would accelerate the development of individualized medicine.

Donating your outcomes data can improve diagnosis, eliminate complications, and reduce cost. In 2003, a grassroots movement begun by people who want to carry a data-donor card will start the medical revolution.

16. Seth Godin

Author, Marketer, Entrepreneur

Quit your job.

Do it slow, or do it fast, but do it. In retrospect, people will say that 2003 was the best year in a decade to start your own company. Even better, the people with the guts to do it fast or the perseverance to do it slow will be happier, healthier, and more in control of their lives, their ethics, and their contributions to the world.

Did you ever notice that almost nobody who is successful at running their own thing ever goes back? In my case, I quit my one and only non – food service job in 1986. Take it from me: You’re too smart, too fast, and too talented to waste any more time.

Get going. Do it today.

You’ll thank me tomorrow. It’s the right thing to do in 2003 — or any year.

17. George Stalk

Senior Vice President, Boston Consulting Group

Consumers are just plain pissed. The polite term is “consumer distemper.” What are they upset about?

Money They feel financially insecure. Even before the stock-market meltdown, consumers felt pressed.

Time It’s not just money — consumers feel time poor. The definition of a quick home-cooked meal has compressed from 30 minutes five years ago to 10 minutes today.

Affinity Membership to civic groups like the Boy Scouts and Lions Clubs is approaching an all-time low — because there’s no time to participate. But people still crave the emotional satisfaction of belonging.

Trust Consumers don’t trust brand claims. After all, most brands make unsustainable claims, and unbranded products seem to be just as good.

Information overload Too many companies are trying to tell consumers too much. The natural reaction: Consumers make rash purchasing decisions that defy millions of dollars spent on marketing and advertising.

In 2003, business leaders who see these consumer distempers as an opportunity stand to gain an important advantage: Align your products and services to relieve one or more of these consumer distempers, and you’ll discover new growth opportunities.

18. Jeffrey F. Rayport

Founder and CEO, Marketspace LLC

What’s the fastest way to clear a room of media or technology executives? Mention the word “synergy.” It was the false promise of strategic synergies that drove Gerald Levin into early retirement from AOL Time Warner, that led to the sacking of Thomas Middelhoff at Bertelsmann — and that has created a trail of tears on Wall Street. Or so the conventional wisdom goes. There’s just one problem: Synergy isn’t dead. Indeed, it’s alive and well — and central to the future of business.

Synergy comes in many forms, of course. First, there is the idea of synergy as a driver of operating efficiencies. That’s what reengineering aimed to achieve 20 years ago.

Second, there’s the idea of marketing synergy: cross-platform campaigns by media companies to exploit their motion picture, publishing, and merchandising properties. A case in point: Disney’s production and subsequent promotion of The Lion King, which turned a $50 million movie into a $3 billion revenue stream.

But it’s the third form of synergy that transcends the other two: the idea of synergy as a transformational strategy for business. It’s synergy that can create entirely new businesses and industries by melding assets, not just processes. Viacom’s MTV, for example, was born from the insight that two disparate industries — cable television and prerecorded music — might actually become one, giving rise to one of the most profitable network franchises in the history of television. Electronic Arts and Square Entertainment are two of the many production companies that create video games for the personal computer and for the triumvirate of electronic-game consoles. Video games descend from an unholy progeny of board games and dedicated computerized kiosks known as arcade games, made viable through the cluster of innovations that gave rise to the PC. The result is an industry that, last year, eclipsed the movie studios in total revenues.

Synergy works because it reflects how consumers live their lives. A new generation of young consumers is demanding products and services that facilitate multitasking and parallel processing. Marketers must partner with companies that can assemble advertising and promotion packages across multiple channels. Synergy isn’t over; it isn’t even passé. The era of synergy has just begun — and the wealth of the future will be created by heeding its inexorable logic.

19. Clement Mok

President, American Institute of Graphic Arts

I’m not focused on the next big thing but rather on the thing that will help us get there: a way of thinking and seeing that extends far beyond the design world. Call it the art of crossing boundaries. The next 10 years will require people to think and work across boundaries into new zones that are totally different from their area of expertise. They will not only have to cross those boundaries, but they will also have to identify opportunities and make connections between them. Crossover artists — let’s call them that — are experts in a particular subject, but they have the ability to work in multiple modes and disciplines. They can see problems through a multilayered lens.

The world is infinitely more complex than it used to be. To appreciate and exploit the complexity of a networked economy, people have to push themselves not only to know what they don’t know, but also to get to know it. If you’re a designer, take an economics course. If you’re an engineer, take up painting. If you’re a consultant, sign up for an improvisation class. Get to know that new thing to a point where you can understand the tension between your own way of thinking and seeing and this entirely different perspective. For 2003, start to build empathy for the things that are different.

20. David Dreyer

Principal, TSD Communications

It’s time for businesspeople to recognize the need for a repersonalization of American politics. Reaching voters through mass communications doesn’t work anymore. What we need to do is restart the kind of people-to-people conversations about candidates and voting that ended 30 years ago with the advent of political television ads. We need to return to democracy as the Greeks first envisioned it, when they invented the concept.

How will we get there? With cutting-edge technology. In 2003, it’s back-to-the-future time in politics: New technology will enable a return to person-to-person contact. Already, we’re starting to see examples. The AFL-CIO has decreased its emphasis on TV advertising and is instead, in some districts, putting PalmPilots in the hands of union members to canvass fellow members on the issues of the day.

Citizens ought to look at it with some degree of hope — the hope that technology, which so often has tended to drive us apart, can now be used to bring us closer together. It can revitalize old tools and processes that politics used to be about — and can be again. And if technology can rehumanize politics, that will be good for everyone.

21. Hilary Billings

Chairman and Chief Marketing Officer, Redenvelope Inc.

There’s a growing realization that we’re all becoming victims of the technological devices that were supposed to make our lives simpler. The proliferation of laptops, PDAs, and pagers means that we’re working harder and harder to keep up with our own inventions. The price of being available 24-7 is the loss of time for reflection, creative thinking, and connections with our loved ones — the things that are really important for our emotional and spiritual lives.

Recently, I’m encouraged by people in high-tech fields — the digital elite who are closest to those devices because their jobs require them to be accessible anywhere, anytime — who are now starting to step away from that constant availability.

At my company, we’re constantly thinking about that balance, because we sit on both ends of the spectrum. We want to preserve the human element of connecting to someone you care about, but we realize that a lot of what enables our business is technology. As we grow, our challenge will be to sustain the simple hand gestures. For example, we’ve made a commitment always to have hand-tied bows. We also have to find a way to enable that high-touch element to scale with our business.

My take on 2003? This is the year that we’ll begin to assert control over all of our technology. We’ll use it to enhance our lives instead of allowing it to rob us of our time, peace of mind, and human connections.

22. Laurie Coots

Chief Marketing Officer, TBWA\Worldwide

If the 1970s to the 1990s were about being self-actualized, then now and into the future will be about being “self-actionable.” People want the ability to have the tool set — the information that they need in order not to depend on anybody else. They want to be armed with what they need to take action, whether they’re making a purchase or choosing the right political candidate for office.

When it comes to marketing, 2003 will be about two things: permission and preferences. In the next two to three years, we’ll begin to see the effects of permission marketing as Seth Godin defined it. That’s because technology has finally caught up with consumer demand. Look at TiVo, video-on-demand, the ability to have your own personal television network: They’re all happening.

Permission is related to preferences. It’s all about having what I want — when and how I want it. Consumers will increasingly navigate their lives based on these questions: Who am I going to give permission to come into my life and be part of my day? And how do I want them to do that? Because life’s too short to sift through all of that other shit.

What does this mean for advertisers? Only everything that we’ve been talking about hypothetically for the past decade. The ability to have interactive TV, to have branded content that’s customized for individual households. All of that technology is now catching up and being deployed.

So the more that you as a marketer deliver on my preferences, the more permission I’ll give you. Say you’re an airline. If my ticketing experience is fabulous, if you can call me when my flight’s going to be late, if you respect my preferences, I’ll give you more and more permission to enter my life. I’ll even let you log into my calendar and see when I might be traveling next.

But the minute you blow it, the minute you take advantage or invade my privacy rather than delivering on your promise, you’re history.

23. Paul Saffo

Director, Institute for the Future

The events of the past couple of years have revived an ugly tradition of American culture. Public fears and overboard governmental responses have made this nation of immigrants extremely hostile to new arrivals: A Sikh gas-station owner is murdered by a September 11 – crazed yahoo. A senior vice president of a major Silicon Valley company is pulled off a plane for questioning because he “looked suspicious.” (Suspicious? He was wearing $500 shoes and a $4,000 suit! But he was Hindu, and to the ignoramus in the cockpit, he looked like an Islamic terrorist.) We have yanked America’s welcome mat, and we will pay a heavy price in the loss of skills and entrepreneurial spirit.

Consider Silicon Valley: More than one-third of the Valley’s software engineers come from the Indian subcontinent. Cut off this flow of professionals, and the Valley may as well tear up its office parks and return to growing prunes.

A decade ago, the United States was one of the few places in the world for such talented people to pursue their professional passions. Not anymore. In entrepreneurial centers from Bangalore to Dubai, the word is out that the best and brightest are no longer welcome here.

Here’s the lesson for 2003: We can’t afford to deport our future. Our country cannot sustain the technology sector — much less emerge from the current downturn — without brilliant minds from all over the planet. If we stay on our current path, we will enjoy an illusory sense of security, but it will come at the cost of strangling the nation’s technological and economic future.