In the transition to the Obama administration, I have been interviewed by old and new media about President-Elect Obama's stimulus package, which I applaud for its focus on job creation through short-term infrastructure upgrades combined with longer term investments in technologies of the future.
But I think that what Barack Obama could really change is American culture - and with it, the work ethic and business norms that can support recovery and competitiveness.
So here is my David Letterman-style Top 10 list of how President Obama will shape a new culture. The items are fun, but the message is no joke - there are serious reasons these changes could help the economy.
10. It will be cool to make jump shots AND do well in school.
America is losing competitiveness because we're not educating every child. In some disadvantaged communities, the long-shot of sports or rock star fame seems the only path to success, not staying in school. Obama's model is already changing that, and if it succeeds, America's stock of human capital will increase.
9. Middle-of-the-night studying will replace middle-of-the-night prowling.
Discipline is everything. So are mentors. Obama's grandmother held him to high standards. We could do the same for our colleagues, employees, and children. Hard work built America, and hard work can build a positive future.
8. Kansas will go cosmopolitan and develop children like Obama's mother, with curiosity about other countries.
Obama's Midwestern mother, Stanley Dunham, studied other cultures and took her son abroad. Will more Americans now understand how much there is to learn from other cultures, and how important that knowledge is for success in global marketplaces?
7. Dreams from My Father will be taught in English literature classes, mainstreaming the Chicago black experience.
Obama's first book is a lyrical classic. It might encourage people to talk openly about their backgrounds, thus deepening human bonds necessary for teamwork and collaboration.
6. No matter how important the task, people will put it aside to visit their dying grandmother.
On the eve of the election, Obama stopped campaigning for the most powerful job in the world to put family first. In many companies, work-life flexibility exists in theory more than practice. When will all managers increase compassion and acknowledge that work is not all there is to life?
5. Students will aspire to be community organizers rather than investment bankers.
Obama chose organizing over analyzing. Which career path looks more likely to propel people to the top today? Besides, companies need people with organizing skills, who know how to mobilize support for new ideas.
4. Foreigners will be the hot new date, because if marriage follows, the offspring could be over-achievers.
We'll never know whether Obama's genius genes came from his white mother or his black African father. Three cheers for diversity! Maybe more managers will look beyond race, gender, and ethnicity to find major talent.
3. Unusual first names will replace nicknames, giving everyone a little more R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
I might be alone here, but I'm tired of hearing people first-name or nickname people they have never met (including me). Polite formalities first, please. Respecting others facilitates deal-making.
2. Politicians will try to sound intelligent rather than like folksy beer-drinkers.
Brainpower is an under-rated item on lists of leadership traits. Like Obama, the people in charge of big assets should be big thinkers with the best education.
1. After saying, "Hello, how are you?" people will ask, "And how are you improving the world this week?"
I anticipate a big surge in national service under Obama. Federally-supported opportunities will expand through a bill now in Congress. Companies will emulate IBM in creating their own service corps to develop younger leaders through doing good around the world. Service could become a lifelong expectation.
Leaders are powerful role models. I have high hopes for Obama as culture-shaper - and for all of us who like these values and can act on them.