Reposted From the Future of Work blog, May 17, 2006
In the May 1, 2006 edition of BusinessWeek, the editors ran an article titled “Tech Education: A Red Flag in the Brain Game” Software designer demand is certainly growing and it is outpacing those interested in joining the technology workforce. But perhaps we are asking the wrong questions, and the demand is a false one.
First, many of the young people I talk to want to take today’s technology and do amazing things with it. They aren’t enamored with constant innovation, because they don’t think we’ve maximized the effectiveness of the innovation we already have at our disposal. If we keep changing the way we do things, then we will spend more time learning how, and less time actually doing the thing.
That leads to the second observation, which is if great platforms for innovation exist, the emphasis should be on using those platforms, not necessarily for solving the next technical challenge, but perhaps for solving the next human challenge. How do we innovate to live with a population that is growing older and living longer? How to we help bring opportunity to the disenfranchised. The young people I talk to think about Africa not as a place to think about in terms of innovation of technology, but a place to innovate business and social models so they have the same access to communications and information found in the developed world.
It would be interesting to see, as we make comparisons, if brains of the none technology sort were pitted against each other, if the innovations around social, political and economic issues met with the same complacency. Nicholas M. Donofrio of IBM says “There has to be a passion to be innovative” followed by the question of the American hunger for success.
Mr. Donofrio and other technology leaders may be limited by the lens through which they see the world. Yes, technology has been a driving economic factor of the last 20 years, but many problems remain that need the energy of young people and the will of those in power to affect change. Innovation is a word that can be applied in many ways to many things. Rather than looking at dismal showings in programming contests, we should ask how innovative the social entrepreneurs in China have become in solving issues of creativity and free thought. Where are the creative Eastern Europeans that will create innovative economic reforms necessary to reignite Europe’s economy? Where is the education innovation in India that will allow its still largely underdeveloped population to make their contributions more effectively, if at all.
Buckminster Fuller said, “You never change something by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
The question then is not how do we make technology as intriguing as it was in its early days, it is how to bring technology to the next level, so that innovations are not about technology, but about solving the problems people think are important. When they make that connection, when the model is reinvented so technology is not created in the name of technology, but in the name of supporting a cause, or a process or an ideal, then people will code in droves, with perhaps, a lot more passion and innovation than ever before.