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October 23, 2009

The Great Restructuring and the Great Innovation Civilization

Information technology is all around us — but how does it really change the way we do business? Erik Brynjolfsson, the Schussel Family Professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management, explores this question in his new book, "Wired for Innovation," written along with Adam Saunders, a lecturer at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

* organizational changes are bigger and more costly than the technology investments themselves.
* New business practices are really driving productivity
* There are many ways companies are adding value to the economy, but it's often showing up as greater consumer value rather than in GDP. (Example: we have more music as consumers but a shrinking music industry)
* The Great Restructuring: a fundamental reorganization of business activity. It's not simply a matter of going back and buying the same things we used to buy. Some of them won't exist any more. One reason I think we're seeing such a lag in hiring and employment is that people aren't simply being hired back into the same old jobs they did before. It's going to take a lot of entrepreneurial activity to figure out the best way of grappling with these problems. I think it's going to happen and in the end the economy will be even more productive than in the past. But the transition is clearly very painful.
* There are different kinds of winners. Companies like Google can be big beneficiaries directly, but there are also people who benefit from Google's free services. We use Google Scholar to check citations and that's a tremendously easier way than what we used to have.


The economic restructurings that we have experienced over the last few decades have been partial restructurings. I think it is part of a long trend similar to shift from agriculture to industry. Two hundred years ago 80-98% of the populations in countries were employed in agriculture. Increasing agricultural productivity and shifting and training people and developing whole new industries was not possible without shifting people out of agriculture.

Great Innovation Civilization
There needs to be large and nearly complete shift to super-innovation and entrepreneurism that is maximally supported with automation.

Today even in information based and seemingly creative business segments such as architecture, most of the people who work in that area are not innovative. 90+% of the people in architecture are adapting a few dozen set of standard plans for a new city or building site. They figure out how to maximize the living space and minimize hallways and they make adaptations to local building codes.



How large a percentage of the population could be shifted and developed into another Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Buckminister Fuller, I.M. Pei or other innovator, inventor, developer of new systems, projects and concepts ?

More people could be become great innovators with virtual reality training, brain computer interfaces and other training and enhancement technology.

Great innovators could be supported by massive flexible automation, such that whatever they imagine can be refined with simulations and tested and certified for bad side effects.

This relates to the mundane singularity of taking the technology that we have or almost have and making adjustments to maximize what can be done.

A complete restructuring and shift to full innovation could easily take many decades even for the countries who are the fastest at change and adoption. The shift from rural and agricultural had some countries complete the shift almost 100 years ago while other countries are still subsistence farming.

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