by R. Brent Lang, CIM FCSI
Something is changing in the way today’s youth learn and advance their thoughts. We should all pay attention because this is BIG! I attended Tech Cocktail’s Vancouver Innovation keynote featuring Mr. Dale Dougherty. The audience consisted of approximately 200 very eclectic individuals, with most looking like they had spent their day in computer labs at Uni, with their wrinkly chinos, backpacks and studious demeanor – they had come this evening to listen to Dale. If several important facts of this man’s life don’t immediately pop into your mind, then you are like me on that night – I didn’t know my life was about to be enriched and my thought process forever altered. The room had a few ‘suits’ in it – probably folks like me just wanting to learn about this so-called, ‘Maker’ Movement. The rest evenly comprised young men and women of all nationalities. Oddly similar to watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory, yet welcoming. This gathering was about innovation and the future – not fashion or finance, no ego or attitude was present – just awe.
Who is Dale Dougherty? Well, in the early days of the internet was the founder of GNN, the Global Network Navigator, the first web portal and the first site on the internet to be supported by advertising. He sold GNN to AOL in 1995. He is a co-founder (with Tim O’Reilly) of O’Reilly Media and most recently is the founder and publisher of O’Reilly’s new Make Magazine and Maker Faire. He believes that everyone has the potential to make things that improve our world. He is passionate about fostering a new generation of ‘makers’ who are creative, innovative, and curious. Contrary to popular perception, it was he who coined the term ‘Web 2.0’.
Why should you care? Traditional ‘institutional’ learning allows a student time to simmer in academia and bring higher knowledge into their individual character, much the way a chef would select very specific ingredients to prepare a recipe, carefully combining items that create flavour, texture and aroma to a dish. There is another way to learn? Throughout history the trades have had apprentices, and great mentoring provided the specialized knowledge that influenced the trend and ascent in one’s career success. Today, the internet and its universal content, available on a ubiquitous array of mobile devices – available to every geo-point on planet Earth, propels specialized user-sought learning on any topic any time day or night. You can find a tutorial, demonstration, innovation or idea on any topic you seek. The delivery method is the internet, the cost is free and instructor/course/lesson/observation/thought could be a recognized world-expert on a subject or increasingly, a person unknown until their revolutionary idea or innovation catches on. This user-enabled search permits learning at a very accelerated pace in one’s own path and has exponential capacity. I’m convinced; this ‘maker’ learning style just may be the strongest innovation force in 21st century!
This is 2012. Technology, innovation and thought-leadership are passed around freely through open-source sharing and collaboration. This is pushing ideas forward that would otherwise be stuck waiting for in-house, proprietary answers. Tomorrow’s leaders – the youth of today – are viewing success from a different perspective. Individual success is earned by reputation for unique skills, talents, innovation and for contributing to a solution. The ability to ‘be different’ is actually trumpeted and celebrated as it leads to new breakthroughs and resolution to problems through teamwork.
I met a group from Vancouver Hack Space after the keynote. I thought ‘Hack’ was a negative, threatening word, but to today’s youth and young professionals, it means discovery but in a real hands-on manner. They have a shared place where they gather to dissect and learn, again in an open-source, collaborative process. They’re ripping apart things to see how they work, putting these parts with other parts to see what new item can be made, improved, re-purposed (diverted from land-fill) and reborn into the world.
Institutional learning, where we send our kids off to get culture and higher education at a prestigious colleges or universities for umpteen thousands of dollars a year is well and good – those are valuable years in development toward adulthood – but equally valuable will be embracing change and seizing every opportunity to learn and advance one’s talents and treasures with others who share their enthusiasm.
If you don’t know what a 3D Printer is – get ready for your mind to explode! Attend an upcoming Maker Faire in a city near you!
R. Brent Lang, CIM FCSI, is active in the fields of finance and philanthropy.