With your advice, AmCham recently changed its membership structures, splitting the IT Committee to form a Digital Economy Council and concentrating the IT Committee on sharing best practice for using the technology to improve the functionality of a business. You took over the Chair of Digital Economy Council. Can you walk us through the thought process behind the change, and your aims for the Council?
"AmCham has a really challenging place in the economic network. It sits in the middle of several hundred companies, each with its own needs and ideas of how economic policy could be better, and it somehow has to hammer together a position that represents the widest possible consensus, and then communicate it – to the government, education institutions and to the general public. To achieve this, such organization needs efficient feedback mechanisms that group the interests of as many members as possible in as few subsets as possible. The idea of the Councils came up in discussions among the Best Office chairs and AmCham Board members last year. We need a sounding board for what best practice companies needed to make their offices work better, as well as a quick way to understand what needed to change in policy to react or, better yet, anticipate the constant, rapid changes in the business landscape. I liked the idea of creating groups centered around key parts of the economy and asking them to give feedback directly to the AmCham board, other committees, and the staff. So, the board created these councils for the Digital Economy, for Tourism, for Real Estate, for Health Care, and for Manufacturing. We are also considering councils for Prague and Brno to address specific infrastructure and workforce needs of those important engines of the economy.
I have three perspectives through which I view the Digital Economy Council. The first perspective is the common good of the country. The second is how it benefits Y Soft, the company I am working for. And the third is my own ambition. I will start with my own goals, because they serve as food for the others. I got involved in the work of the AmCham because I wanted to contribute to the Czech Republic becoming a more value-added economy. My original goal was to try to improve the quality of education, but I began to think about why I cared about the quality of the education, and I realized that education is one of the tools to increase the quality of life, by means of creating more added value. Education lets us do more sophisticated work and create products with greater technology, and this is what creates the internal wealth that raises incomes and quality of life. So, I do not really care whether we are training better tailors or better nuclear physicists, as long as that education contributes to a better quality of life for the country as a whole.
The key to this is product development. And this is where my personal goals connect with YSoft's goals. Our company is a human system for creating products from ideas. We share many of the same traits as our country. We are small, and surrounded by many, much bigger players, who have a longer track record, more capital, and more human resources. We need to be more lean, more agile. That is a popular business word these days, which means it has been marketed into meaning almost anything. But it is an important concept. What agile means for us is the ability to move quickly from our current direction to a new direction depending on which of our ideas gets the best reception in the market. The key to agility is anticipation of quality. You need to be able to act before you need to react. That means we need smart people who understand technology, who can commercialize it quickly, and who almost instinctively comprehend how what we can do meets our customer's needs before our customer even recognizes it as a need.
That is what YSoft can get out of the work of AmCham: policies that lead to a more educated, active workforce with focus on products, sustainability and added value and government policies that support product development. Because product development is what is going to long term create jobs here with emphasis on the “long term”. And that also describes what we can do for the common good, because Y Soft is just a microcosm of the Czech Republic. Our country occupies a very small stall in the open, global market. Right next to our stall is the largest player in Europe, and one of the best product developers and exporters in the world: Germany. It has a longer track record, more capital, more human resources, and more companies with deep and successful experience in developing technology and marketing it around the world. We can become a subsidiary of that giant; we can become a feeder region. Our current policies concerning research and investment incentives and job creation incline the slope in that direction. It is a safe path, but it is a path that can only lead us to approach German quality of life and wages, never equal or surpass them. I believe in our capacities as a country; I believe in my own abilities and the abilities of those with whom I work. I want to surpass the German quality of life.
To do that, we have to take risks in an organized way, and we have to hold ourselves accountable for the results. One of the reasons we at Y Soft like to work with AmCham is that it always tries to set measurable goals for what it does in policy, and it pursues the big things that will make a major difference in the bottom line. That is why we are setting goals such as achieving a 2-to-1 ratio in business-to-public spending on research, raising the number of science and math degrees by 4%, lifting two university faculties into global top 100 status, and increasing the value-added in manufacturing by an average of 10% over the decade. This puts where we want to go in the GPS. Now, we need to work with the government to find the road that gets us there the fastest."