A rallying cry we can all get behind

We all want to make things better. It’s in our DNA. The evolution of our species is the unstoppable progress of our knowledge and how we apply it. Despite this pandemic, humankind is healthier, wealthier and safer than ever before. Yet we don’t want to stop there. We can’t; it’s what makes us human.
As leaders, our core challenge — or opportunity — is to make things better every day. Our customers should be happier, our employees more engaged, our operations more efficient, our bottom and top lines bigger. As civic and community leaders, we strive toward more equity and wealth for everyone, better jobs for everyone, and safer, more livable neighborhoods for everyone.
Making it better — for everyone — isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s an organizational imperative. Over 60 percent of Americans are hopeful business will take the lead to drive social and environmental change. McKinsey found that, in 2019, the most ethnically and culturally diverse companies outperformed the least diverse by 36 percent. Highly engaged teams show 21 percent greater profitability. This past year has exacerbated these trends.
We are all on the same mission. Continuous improvement at a manufacturing company may seem like a one-off, a way to improve it. But if all companies improved through technology and innovation continuously, Northeast Ohio’s economy would be stronger, with more jobs, more tax revenue and healthier citizens. We would even be able to bring back manufacturing jobs from beyond our borders. The numbers back this up; filling the 8,000 open jobs in manufacturing in Northeast Ohio would boost the economy by an estimated $5 billion annually.
Similarly, working on behalf of a nonprofit board devoted to reducing poverty may seem aimed at improving the lives of the impoverished. But if we reduce poverty and raise equity, our communities will be more vibrant, more people will be able to spend money, diversity will enhance the appeal and potential of our companies to innovate and hire, and Northeast Ohio will be a better place to live.
We’ve seen this firsthand. Guided by input from hundreds of manufacturing CEOs, community leaders, business leaders, academics, workers, students and nonprofit leaders, MAGNET released a blueprint on how to “Make It Better” for manufacturers in Northeast Ohio and the region. We included stories of people who are making it better each and every day. They are an inspiration to all of us.
If we embrace that we are all driven to make things better, our common purpose will lead to partnerships that will make our efforts easier and more effective. These may be altruistic, with businesses, nonprofits and governments joining to have a social impact. Or they may be profit-driven — businesses teaming up to create new products, a more resilient supply chain, or other innovations. Either way, we will accomplish more by coming together.
Collaboration is often what’s needed — getting someone a job, for example, takes collaboration among transportation providers, educators, job-matching services and others. Working together toward this aim — Making It Better — will uplift and sustain our region more than any politician, sports win, or windfall ever could.

The next time you are frustrated with the pace of change, remember that, at our core, everyone wants to make things better. In a world where division seems to be the norm, let’s unite Northeast Ohio behind this overarching goal.

Ethan Karp is president and CEO of MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network.