Beth J. Harpaz, columnist for the Associated Press, when referring to her teenage kids wrote: “I do not know the customs and cannot speak the language.”
In his book called “The Singularity,” Ray Kurzweil talks about the eventual merger of humans and machines through a process of innovation that is accelerating. Hundreds of years ago, significant technological innovations might occur every ten years, today they seem to occur daily. If one believes Ray’s book, then the proper choice for today’s actions might only be to attempt to simply survive until 2050 when our software (our soul and self) can be downloaded into a machine for our immortality. But, I ask the question: Are there other things that we should be doing?
Related to this I offer two observations:
First, there seems to be a generational gap between my graduate students and my undergrads who are only separated by a few years. And, second, my students are bringing technological innovations into my class that I’ve never heard of and yet, I considered myself a techie.
In general, technological innovation has led to business opportunity. Entrepreneurship is to a great extent based upon observing these discontinuities that are offered by technical advancement. The important question for business today is: If it’s true that significant innovative steps are occurring at rates never before seen, how can they stay contemporary and in touch with new technologies and the needs and wants of new demographic groups?
Again, 100 years ago, a shift, for example, from domestic manufacturing to offshore manufacturing was an innovative step for which companies had 50 years to adapt. (Still some didn’t.) Today, they may only have a year to adapt. Tomorrow, maybe only a week.
I offer the following solution/observation. Businesses and schools need to learn to communicate better at younger ages of students. For example, high school students need to be working and contributing to companies in a way that would have seemed absurd a few short years ago. They need to be teaching the businesses what the new culture and new language rules are and what the new technological landscape looks like and how it will affect their businesses.
Businesses can no longer wait to absorb, for example, “Social Networking” into their lexicon of tools. They must figure out how to “Tweet” and relate to a population that has a completely new set of tools and values to offer.
Business schools, like Babson, where I work, also need to rethink their approach to business education.