There are at least two issues that I want to deal with when referring to technology in the content economy. For the meaning and definition of both a content economy and sustainable progress I refer to my previous blogs linked by clicking on the words. The two points that I want to make are: the role of technology in sustainable progress and the complicated transition for technology driven organization to value driven partners.
Technology in sustainable progress
Key in sustainable progress is not technology itself but the innovation applied to our lifestyle or surrounding introducing an improvement with respect to sustainable progress (human wellness and environment). This gives technology a much larger responsibility that the mere invention, production and sales of goods. The innovative industry take its part in the responsibility of human progress. In the second part of this blog I will explain why this is going to happen across the globe. Right now we should ask ourselves what we would expect from the traditionally competence driven introvert technological organizations when the become active in a value driven environmeny. These points are what we find:
- Partnership in sustainable progress. Key for the organization is to participate directly in the process of progress in society, not as an isolated, self centered distant actor but as a partner in purpose driven processes. Progress can then be introduced by the company itself through the introduction of new inventions, or by the human world because of changes produced by other circumstances (vision, need, nature, etc). Important becomes the direct participation in the processes understanding that every change introduces the need for new changes, participating not just reactively but proactively using competences to drive progress as much as others use theirs. That is the innovative drive of progress and human dynamics. What historic impact have wheels had on our lives, the structure of society and interaction between human beings or our environment? Or train, airplanes, computers, the internet, mobile telephony, whatever? Every novelty that has been introduced in our lives should have introduced also compensation processes to maintain a balance in our health, vitality or human dynamics. But it did not. We concentrated on providing more of the same in large quantities without even caring of sustainable progress. With the current size of the human population and amount of volume driven excesses we ran into severe trouble. Economic growth was the motor of keeping business alive, not change or a drive to produce value. An content economy is not one of monetary scales but scales of human values and wellness. Successful business organization hence have to extremely entrepreneurial, produce a lot of change and can even have a growth perspective, not by speculating on the volume of their productivity but by the scale of adaptability that they present on the markets and the results they produce by doing so. A technological innovator has to feed its own progress through direct interaction with the market in which it takes co-responsibility for value, through the expertise it has in its specialized field and the level of creativity it displays to create something new, meaningfully, and implements it in a result driven manner.
- Competent. The organization has to be extremely competent (a top sporter in its technological field) but not at all arrogant. The competence is needed to feel confident in presenting itself flexibly, trusting its organization as master in translating purpose into technology ready for adequate implementation. The success of the company is not driven by its technology but the application of its knowledge and abilities in sustainable progress. That is totally different that before. Key is not what the product does but how it performs in the context of human progress. The bridge between truly perceived value and techniques is called competence, not just the ability to produce any product.
- Adaptability is probably one of the most complex issues in technology because quality development takes time while value drive expectation never have time to wait. Anticipation is good as long as it does not block adaptability. That is why the ongoing connection between the true value that one wishes to obtain and the translation into technological innovation becomes the distinguishing factor of the organization. One has to be present at the discussion, not just when sales opportunities arise but all the time. We come from a hit and run culture and transform into a culture of shared responsibilities. The technological partner becomes equally accountable for the way it complies with progress. Technological professionalism is its means, not a goal on its own.
- The new role of technological partners in local coalitions for sustainable progress changes entirely the way the sector is organized. Big centralized corporate structures are far too bureaucratic to perform and smaller units need to be accountable for what the they produce and implement. We see hence a tendency of many small and medium sized technologically focused competence centers take a seat at the table through multidisplinary self employed representatives that pick up the signs and interact with the enormous variety of options that technology displays in a global market of science and innovative creativity. The expert technological organizations do not look anymore for standardization of their competences for massive sales but the modular adaptability of their inventions to be easily integrated in a large diversity of complex structures. The component of increasing local content is organized in the same community where the innovation has to be implemented creating commitment and involvement of all those people involved in the end result.
In the STIR Foundation we create purpose driven environments (s.a. AiREAS) where technology is one of the key players but not the only one. We also have scientific institutions, human health authorities and the regional governments playing an equal role in progress. In the old fragmented world of economies of growth each of these participants is used to think of their own interests, often even with local government in the driver’s seat to determine what is good for the region and with what priorities. Technological enterprises would queue up to see if they could sell as many goods while the local decision makers would draw up public tenders to see what technology and prices there are to choose from. But also the local governments are fragmented when dealing with their responsibilities since they have grown problem oriented and not purpose driven. Such a fragmented society shows clearly in this example, a picture of the garbage bins in a train station:
There a six different types of garbage bins on the platform each falling within the responsibility of another organization but coinciding on a space of 50 m2. They were contracted by totally different organizations that all had something to do with rail, the platform, human transportation or retail. Each had garbage collection in their responsibilities and were separately accountable for the contract. But they apparently felt no need at all to interact or even think of the need to the total picture. The space ended up with 23 garbage bins of 6 different responsibilities on the areas size of a single living room. Ridiculous? It happens all the time. And it is not the pieces installed. Each also needs to be maintained, emptied, cleaned, etc producing traffic on the small platform of workers, bags, garbage loaders, logistic, etc. All of this may be good for the economy (lots of bins sold, workforce to deal with infrastructure) but totally ridiculous from a sustainable progress point of view. And if you look closely at the picture the only piece of litter visible is not even in one of the multiple bins, it is on the ground! The purpose was to contractually install bins, not to do something about the litter on the platform. When the purpose is wrong the solutions will be equally wrong even if they are contractually within logic.
When we look at the example it is not hard to imagine that it is in the self-interest of every institution to maintain this situation, despite its lack of functional logic. For the providers of garbage bins the situation is ideal to produce volume sales and even have multiple opportunities on a single platform. It is not their responsibility to question the fact that five other suppliers already equipped the location with equivalent material. They just want to sell.
The same goes for those who take their part of responsibility for the infrastructure that most certainly has some contractual element related to the usage of the platform for particular purposes, each including a contractual obligation to take care of their own litter by facilitating an infrastructure. Instead of making a deal with each other it is much simpler to comply oneself, preferably with an infrastructure with different looks than the others, not for the litter but for the sake of identification of contractual compliance. Do all these fragmented players comply functionally? No! Despite the abundance of services available the litter is still on the ground and without identification to “who it belongs”. So who is accountable for that piece of litter on the ground? No-one.
Train stations are a very interesting example to see how fragmented responsibilities end up into a bureaucratic mess and a total lack of sustainable progress simply because of the immense amount of self interested institutions involved in the management of infrastructures, urban and interurban human mobility, energy, platform services, city design, etc. If one can solve the complexity of a train station and its functionality in the overall human interest then one can probably deal with most of the complexities in the region.
So when we (STIR Foundation) look at integral human sustainable progress we create value driven communities in which all the stakeholders take a seat and interact with each other based on a definition of progress, not their own interest. And this produces a very intense learning and adaptation process for all involved. In the past they interacted as customers and providers, now they have to learn to behave as partners.
It is the end result that matters in which every one plays a role by positioning competences in the team. In the STIR Foundation we created such purpose driven regional communities that include the four largest pillars involved in the design of society: civil representatives (eg. health authorities), government, technological innovators and scientific experts. The sole responsibility of the STIR Foundation is to define the purpose and sit in the middle of all players to maintain a level playing field based on equality. We invite everyone to participate without exclusions. The union of multidisciplinary participants suffers its own shake out when people cannot deal with the responsibility of trust in this setting by not complying with the competences that brought there in the first place. We have seen large multinationals fail horribly due to the internal, acquisition driven, bureaucratic culture while smaller players started to out perform themselves. Technology is not owned anymore by any of the large labels as it is becoming available through globalization to anyone. The flexibility to interact professionally in a multidisciplinary, extremely local environment is key, not just at the promising front end but also at the compliance back end of performing according the required speed and adaptability.
The fact that science is available at the same creative table gives the technological participants plenty of inspirational feeds to come up with innovations that are truly out of the box and make progress that rapidly spreads throughout the entire world. This can happen anywhere so one needs to be extremely alert, not protective in self interested attitude but intelligently creative and responsive. As mentioned before, every change induces new changes and in this challenge technological expertise finds chances for continuous renewal providing humanity with progress at all times but within reason, meaningful and contribution to our environment and human wellness as we proceed in sustainable progress.
Finally, when we look at where humankind stands right now the entire civilization has been built around material efficiency for many centuries of fragmented institutional interaction. When we start looking at our own environment through the eyes of sustainable progress, using also our ecological and human wellness inefficiencies in the process, we rapidly come to the conclusion that just about everything that we have today is due for modification. We find that the shovel can go through society at all levels. When we see this we also find the tremendous, never ending opportunity that lies ahead redesigning our presence, behavior and interaction in this world. It truly is a new beginning.