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The Woz Effect: Innovation For Tomorrow, Today! (Are You In?)

I think everyone probably has at least heard bits and pieces of what Steve Wozniak’s Key Note at FOSE yesterday, however I think it’s very important we wipe away our awe for a moment and look long and hard at just what he said. To most technorati, or at very least technology proficient, folks in and out of government probably agreed with the core basics of what “The Woz” shared. However, as you read on below I want to ask you to consider this: What are we doing as a Government, a Public, and as an Individual to actually affect the types of changes that are required to move towards a better future?

To the point, GovWin’s Knowledge Editor Sean Tucker, has laid out his take on the major themes of Mr. Woznaik’s Key Note and I have laid them out below for easy consumption:

On the Role of Technology in Our Lives:
“Instead of the three-day workweek we envisioned, we now have a world where both parents have to work full-time just to pay the bills. I’m not sure how we lost that dream.” –The Woz

Seems like a fairly valid point, when the development of technology lead us to the point that we are required to undertake more effort and time to complete tasks that would have taken less time without technology. Granted, there are plenty of examples time saving is demonstrated by technology. However, I believe the point being made here is that we have created technology (e.g., netbooks, tablets, smart phones, etc) that seem to only distract us more than simply complete the tasks of making a phone call and/or checking your email.

On the Role of Government in the Technology Market:
Primarily the point to take home on this topic is that it has been a long held belief that the technology market is and has been driven by government need (e.g., science, military, etc.) creating a bit of a technology trickledown effect. However, Mr. Wozniak reiterated that the consumer markets really should be where the tech drive comes from; building on his point that technology is supposed to, “make life easier.”

On Motivation, and Innovation:
“You learn so much when you do things for yourself, for your own personal reasons,” – The Woz

Mr. Wozniak went on to explain that many tech companies in the past and today have allowed employees to explore innovation personally and that this pays in dividends time and time again. When you have personal drive to accomplish something you are interested in, as humans, we typically step up in order to solve the problem. A re-innovation of self-motivation is long overdue in government and out. How do we re-ignite the “spark of innovation?” (I think there are a few things at work now, but more can always be done to unleash the power of the individual.

Additionally, Mr. Wozniak also made one statement that largely impacted me: (To paraphrase) Woz pointed out that more focus should be made on in-house innovation and development than on commercial off the shelf (COTS) type products. Having the ability to have coders and innovators in house means you can develop to solve your problems, your way. In the long run this equals more innovation, streamlining of processes, and systems that can be adjusted in a more agile environment where you no longer have to rely on contractors and/or the vendor to make changes. (Novel concept.)

On the Cloud:
“The cloud is getting closer and closer,” he said. “Close to 15 years ago, at my father’s wake, Steve Jobs talked to me about ‘oh my gosh, some day all these things we do that are close to us are going to be out there, done in the cloud,” – The Woz

Yup, so the cloud is here, now what? (This seems to be the main point being shouted by most.) Mr. Wozniak seems to think, and I agree, that we are looking at a culture issue and not much else. The technology is there, it’s getting better every day, so why aren’t we doing so much more in the cloud? Well adoption of the technology and a confidence from a security perspective is probably what holds us back currently, so focus must remain on gaining acceptance.

On the Future:
“All this technology — what has it done for the world?” he asked. “Well, computers allow each person to do more work and use more energy, and more energy means more pollution, so computers have probably increased pollution in the world. Every time we make a computer that can do something for it, we make ourselves less important.” – The Woz

And he’s right, his theme rang throughout his statement and he concludes on the same topic: People matter.

So, what does this all mean? It means there is a lot to be done, even though a great deal has been done to get us here. Time to pick ourselves up and become motivated, even in the face of adversity, to go forward and innovate for the sake of doing so, to better the world.

“Every time we say we’re just at the start, we’re right,” –The Woz

…and we are just at the start of something, are you in?

[Source: GovWin]

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Dick Davies

Hi Chris!

On doing in-house development vs COTS (or Outhouse) solutions: Open source technology allows you to take proven technology and adapt it to best fit your needs. So with open source management it’s not an either/or but a Yes/And to get the right bang for an affordable price.

Chris Poirier

Great point on OpenSource and this is a bit to my point. Given agile development tools, having the native skill sets in house makes for the organization to best be able to adapt their tools to their mission on the fly. Rather than relying on contractors, etc to maintain a tool that was designed based on requirements over a decade old.