During my workout today, I listened to a recent DFJ Entrepreneurial Though Leaders Seminar. This is a podcast that is co-sponsored by BASES (a student entrepreneurship group), Standford Technology Ventures Program, and The Department of Management Science and Engineering (Standford University). The speaker for this session was John Seely Brown. John has a technical background, having served as a Senior Scientist at Xerox. His bio is impressive, but I was far more interested in his discussion about the ‘Collaborative Innovation and a Pull Economy‘. I was so impressed by his remarks that I download his latest book, “The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion” (Sponsored link).
In the space I have here, I cannot begin to discuss everything Mr. Brown discussed. His comments, contrasting the 20th century business model, to what will be required in the 21st century are insightful. In a couple of paragraphs I thought I would attempt to tie a couple of his comments back to education, and even ‘new media’.
First, an observation: The 20th century model is founded on principles taught by Alfred Chandler. Mr. Brown called it the ‘Push Economy’. This model is hierarchical, with a ‘center-out’ approach to business. The goal of business in this model is “Scalable Efficiency”. Mr. Brown noted that the infrastructure was key to creating this economy (roads, cars, trucks, ships, and airplanes .. etc). Organizational architecture were built around this infrastructure, leveraging it, generating scalable efficiency. The goals of this were (and largely still are):
– Organizational routines
– Minimizing variance (can you say Six Sigma).
He said, “Build a lot, use transportation mechanisms to distribute it, bah bah bah”. What he said next ties back to my last post. He briefly contrast the 20th century education system to this model. He said:
Our K through 12 schools are built on scalable efficiency, a factory model. Basically, we can predict for you what things you’re going to need for ten to 15 years away, and we’re going to build you a stock of assets for you to learn, to acquire so that eventually, you get to use them, very much like how corporations work.
We’ve been taught to be a replaceable cog in a giant machine. We’ve been taught to consume as a shortcut to hapiness. We’ve been taught not to care about our jobs or our customers. And we’ve been taught to fit in”
There has been a fundamental and long-term change that will ripple through the business world for the next few years. In the new economy, the Pull Economy, will be built around ‘digital infrastructure’ and collaborative innovation. What we call social media today is just one element of the pull economy. This change will require that we think differently about everything from intellectual property to education. Take a few minutes to watch the video and consider what he has to say. I know it made me think hard about many things. I look forward to reading Mr. Brown’s book.
Watch the video and let me know what you think.