Innovation, blah, blah, blah... Agility, blah, blah... Listening to myself talk about innovation and agility I remind myself of politicians talking piously about family and national security. I feel myself drifting into that dead zone of boring platitudes and mind-numbing cliches. Uh-Oh!
In an attempt to avoid the dead zone and understand what makes innovation and agility possible (and why we should care), I've been doing some thinking lately. I'm an amateur historian so I can reel off historical facts the way other guys who are experts on sports can reel off team statistics. I've got a pretty good grasp on the broad outlines of world history for the last 5,000 years or so; and there are two totally new things happening right now that have never happened before. I believe these two things are the foundations of 21st Century innovation and agility.
The first new thing is global delivery of real-time feedback via rich media like streaming video and moving 3D graphics. The second new thing is full and equal participation of women in politics and business.
I know a bit about the first thing because that's the realm of IT and that's what I do for a living. On the second thing I don't know much so I'll confine myself to just a few remarks before moving back to discuss the first thing.
It's not that women are any smarter than men (although they might be); it's that they see the world from a different perspective and we need both the female perspective and the male perspective to see the world clearly; just as we need two eyes to see the world in three dimensions. It's not that one eye is better than the other, but you can't have true depth perception without the stereo vision that comes from two eyes - from two separate views.
Regarding the first thing - global delivery of real-time feedback via rich media - this means we as a whole planet can for the first time see ourselves as we actually are and see the consequences of our actions as they actually happen. It means we can also test out different courses of action in simulated worlds built from real-time global data feeds. We can learn from mistakes made in virtual worlds without suffering the consequences of making those same mistakes in the real world.
This is profound and extremely hopeful. With this we can learn a whole lot faster than ever before. And since all agility and innovation is based on learning, the faster we learn, the better we can innovate and be agile.
It's become obvious that things are going to come to a head in our lifetime, not in our children's lifetime or our grandchildren's lifetime. As the saying goes, "There's nothing like a hanging in the morning to focus the mind." In the coming years we're actually going to have to figure out how to deal with global warming, what to do about Iran (and lots of other countries) wanting nuclear weapons, and figure out if the Chicago Cubs can ever win the World Series.
We're going to need lots of innovation and agility to navigate through the next 40 years. IT provides one of the two new things that give us what we need to rise to this challenge.
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