Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thomas Friedman May Be Onto Something

...but I still don't think he's getting it. As I've written before, the key to innovation is liberal arts, not engineering and science education.

Today, Friedman quotes a Harvard professor:
As the Harvard University labor expert Lawrence Katz explains it: “If you think about the labor market today, the top half of the college market, those with the high-end analytical and problem-solving skills who can compete on the world market or game the financial system or deal with new government regulations, have done great. But the bottom half of the top, those engineers and programmers working on more routine tasks and not actively engaged in developing new ideas or recombining existing technologies or thinking about what new customers want, have done poorly. They’ve been much more exposed to global competitors that make them easily substitutable.”

To the extent that engineering and computer science education promote deterministic, sequential thinking it fails to provide the skills required for true innovation. It's too bad Friedman doesn't get it yet. Well, one can't blame him. He's too busy coming up with lame catchphrases to think deeply about anything he's writing about.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here is a slightly used post, which I put up at another blog talking about Friedman: his is sort of Lake Wobegon advice, for 'all the kids are above average'. Half the kids are below average, and loosey-goosey personal growth education means they need pictograms on the cash register when they get their jobs at BurgerKing. It seems clear to me that kids who come in with terrible skills need to have them brought to standard before we work hard on their creativity.

Contra Friedman, in my wife's law firm, the Layoff Fairy touched her magic wand to the people who didn't have enough hours/billing based on criteria set by the management committee. People who were fortunate enough to have been working in growth areas (distressed debt, bankruptcy, etc.) did swell. Who knew? dave.s.

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