Prosperity and Learning; Two Sides of the Same Coin?
by Alex Adamopoulos

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“Poverty has slain its thousands but prosperity its tens of thousands”

Variations of this quote have appeared for over a century. The quote comes from a book written in 1822 and it was used in a slightly different variation on July 8, 1896 in a speech given by William Jennings Bryan.

Bryan was a leader of the Democratic party and served as Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson. Bryan’s speech, the Cross of Gold, is known as perhaps the most famous and the most effective speech ever delivered at a national party convention on the topic of a monetary plank – in other words, how all things related to money are best managed for the good of all so that there is more equality when it comes to prosperity.

The widening gap

This topic will never go away. In fact, the prolific expansion of technology in nearly all industries has begun widening the gap between those that want to change and those that have the power to change. the underlying message that this quote offers is about the dangers of increasing prosperity at a rate that leaves many behind. Many are concerned with the advancement of robotics, for example. Is it really a question of technology taking over or one of waning talent?

We’re facing the largest talent gap we’ve seen in decades and the concern that many jobs will potentially be lost to machines. Some of these fears are misunderstood. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a shift in how work gets done. The automotive industry introduced robotic prototypes in 1961 that eventually helped the segment soar. The industry worked with it’s workforce to build a higher quality product, which increased the requirement for learning and new skills. We’ve seen this same trend as every major technology advancement has arrived.

Prosperity challenge

The challenge with growing prosperity is that it typically involves the few, not the many. With that comes the burden to close the widening talent gap. In 2016 Gartner published a research note titled “Survey Analysis: What Leading Enterprises Do Differently With Talent and Organization” – where 77% of those leading enterprises stated that within 10 years the skills and knowledge in their organization will have little resemblance to the skills and knowledge in their organization of today.

This same report showed that acquisitions were the most favored and likely answer by a large margin to closing the gap. It’s clear that most major enterprises are trying to catch up to respond to the talent and technology gaps they face. It makes sense that acquisitions are leading the way simply because companies can’t change fast enough and re-train people quickly to adapt to the modern skills and practices that are needed now. Therefore, this consolidation effort is exactly why growing prosperity typically involves the few, not the many. Growing through acquisition doesn’t decrease the risk of failure nor will it stop the growth of startups. For many startups, their exit strategy might be largely based on the differentiated skills they offer a larger competitor.

Job losses and gains

Robotics was mentioned earlier as one example where there is growing concern about the loss of jobs, automating the more basic tasks that organizations undertake today. But before we assume all such jobs are going away, research shows that over the next decade areas such as business strategy, product enhancement/development, the Internet of Things, innovation and even marketing are expected to grow at larger percentages than digital anthropology. What this means is that while AI and robotic process automation are areas that are beginning to thrive, the need for skills and talent in those other areas is growing faster still.

Develop new skills

We need greater emphasis to help people rework their mindset and rapidly develop new skills that will help them and their companies compete.

“Poverty has slain its thousands but prosperity its tens of thousands”

It’s relevant because while we appreciate the impact of poverty, we often neglect to understand the second half. Prosperity always runs the risk of leaving a greater percentage behind. What we must aim for, even in our smallest of circles, is to help balance this by increasing learning and purpose for those we serve.

“Learning is an ornament in prosperity, a refuge in adversity, and a provision in old age.”

― Aristotle


About the author:

Alex is the Chief Executive Officer for Emergn, which helps enterprise companies execute digital transformations. Emergn is the developer of Value, Flow, Quality (VFQ), the only accelerated work-based education product for modern ways of working, used by many of the world’s leading companies.


  1. Thanks for your article, Alex. I especially liked this: “We need greater emphasis to help people rework their mindset and rapidly develop new skills that will help them and their companies compete.” Would be good to see specific examples of the skills you are thinking of.

  2. Prosperity and learning go of the hand, as he says the page the study is an ornament in the prosperity, a refuge in the adversity, and a provision in the oldness, because of it I invite you to study in the best University of Cuenca in the polytechnic University Salesiana here the link: http: //

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