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3 CIO Questions from TED 2012

by Chris Curran on February 29, 2012 [email] [twitter]

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Where do you get inspiration from?  How do you challenge yourself, your ideas, perspectives and plans?  An old friend and mentor used to tell me that it’s crucial to commit to learn about a few disciplines that are seemingly unrelated to your own.  The TED experience is one way to immerse yourself in many worlds – some somewhat comfortable and others wholly new.  I’ve been fortunate to attend TED for the last 2 years and wanted to share a few thoughts from the first day.

One thing I’ve learned as I try to keep my mind open to new ideas is that just about any interesting or provocative topic can generate parallels relevant to a current problem or challenge.  Here are three questions raised within their own contexts at TED today with important implications for CIOs and IT leaders.  See what you think.

Are You Operating Based on Old Assumptions?

Along with the usual formula balancing, my son’s Chemistry class is currently discussing science philosopher Thomas Kuhn and his thinking on paradigms. His work discusses the ebbs and flows of the practice of science as it explains and reinforces the boundaries and rules of a current scientific belief system or paradigm.  However, once experimental results start to bring the current models and rules into question, revolutionary science takes over as a new paradigm is formed. In the first TED talk today, Brian Greene, renowned Columbia physicist, built a story to explain why the math that supports string theory (one of his areas of expertise) doesn’t quite work unless you allow for the possibility that our universe is not the only one – the concept of a multiverse.  There are many fascinating examples of why this is quite plausible.

With an old set of assumptions, some things just don’t make sense.  Under what antiquated assumptions could you be leading and operating under?  Old sets of expectations from your peers for you and IT?  Outdated ideas as to what information is available to you to solve problems?  Old assumptions as to the types of skills available in the marketplace?

Is Your Company Full?

Activist, writer and former Greenpeace CEO Paul Gilding argues that we are consuming the Earth’s resources so fast that our population growth rates require more than one Earth to sustain it – in other words, he says “the Earth is full.”

As we continue to struggle with IT spending to keep our businesses running in the present while investing in our future, I think it’s worthwhile to ask if our companies are full. In other words, are you already at capacity and need to rethink what you are doing with your available resources?  For example, are you running too many large concurrent projects or programs?  Are there opportunities to reduce maintenance spending by rationalizing your application portfolio?

Are You Trying to Automate Too Much?

As a contrast to Gilding, Peter Diamandis, the X Prize founder, offered as a more optimistic view, promoting technology’s role in connecting the world to solve problems.  One interesting example is the use of a computer “game” to help determine the way that proteins fold, thus helping scientists develop drugs that can block harmful proteins from forming.  The interesting part is that the computers themselves don’t do a very good job of it by themselves, people do a much better job.  This is a case of too much automation being bad.

Do you have any projects that are just trying to automate too much where simpler, maybe even more labor intensive solutions might be better?

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  • henryh74

    Love the concept and agree with the importance of using lessons across multiple and diverse disciplines to draw conclusions and think creatively about issues/topics in a seemingly unrelated space.

    All the

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