Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Technology as the tide that raises all boats 12 – but often unevenly 9

This is my 12th installment to a discussion that I initially began as a single stand-alone posting in April, 2012, but that needs reconsidering. I focused in that posting, on a key issue that enters into a determination of how and when change rises to a level of significance so as to qualify as true innovation (see Outsourcing and Globalization, postings 25 and loosely following for Parts 1-11, and Part 1 of that in particular as the foundational urtext for this narrative.)

I began discussing economic friction as a basic approach to understanding economic systems, and its more micro-level expression: business systems friction in Part 11, as tools for more fully understanding a global playing field perspective that innovation arises in and spreads through, when and as it does. And I focused there on two specific aspects of this phenomenon, as it plays out in the marketplace:

• How friction can limit the flow of information that would be required in order to make best possible business and economic decisions, by impacting upon and shaping how market participants perceive and respond to, in this case innovation, and
• How the levels and sources of friction vary for market participants depending on where they would position themselves along a standard innovation acceptance curve, running from pioneer and early adaptors on through late and last adaptors.

My goal for this posting is to continue that narrative, here addressing the issues of “cultural and socioeconomic impact, as innovative change and the opportunity for it advances all around us.” And I focus in that on the dichotomy of open and closed societies, and on how they variously allow or limit the acceptance of change and innovation, and the flow of information that would be needed for that to be possible. The forces that arise there, can ultimately override the impact of the aspects to this topic that I have addressed up to here in this series and certainly as addressed in Part 11.

I have at least briefly discussed the issues of open and closed societies per se in this blog, for the impact that more generally closed societies and what might be deemed more “selectively open” ones can have in creating wrinkles and barriers in the global flattening that Thomas Friedman writes of in his books. (See, for example:

• Friedman, T.L. (2007 edition) The World Is Flat. Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. (The first edition of this initially came out in 2005 but I cite here its revised and updated edition.)
• Friedman, T.L. (2008) Hot, Flat and Crowded: why we need a green revolution – and how it can renew America. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. (Available through this link as a free full text PDF download.)
• Friedman, T.L. (2016) Thank You for Being Late: an optimist’s guide to thriving in the age of accelerations. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York.)

I address this complex of issues in this posting from the perspective of communications and information sharing across traditional boundaries and the friction that barriers to this can create, reinforcing those boundaries. But perhaps more importantly, I address this set of issues here from a more finely grained perspective than that of entire societies, at least as more traditionally envisioned too. Ultimately, to pursue the message implicit in the first half of the title to this posting, technology can only serve as a tide that can raise all boats, if all boats are floating, and all are equally unencumbered in being able to respond change and innovation and to its potential. And ultimately, that calls for a free and open exchange of information: wide-ranging fact and opinion and all that fits between them as holding elements of both of them.

Where are we now for this, as of this writing, as individuals and collectively? Where are we societally and as members of networking and otherwise connected groups? Is the world currently more actively opening up and both for information sharing from us, and for our open receipt of information that is at least potentially open to us? Right now, and certainly for the foreseeable future as I write this, I would have to answer these questions with more negative answers. And I this regard, I cite a posting that I have offered here in this blog that I based on a talk that I gave during the candidate nominations race in the United States leading up to the 2016 presidential elections:

Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs.

I wrote there of how we have come to speak past each other, and less with each other and most certainly in political arenas and across differences of opinion. I did not explicitly write of epistemic bubbles there as a within-group and outsider to that defining understanding of this phenomenon: echo chamber barriers that we increasingly enter into, within which we only hear what we are already inclined to believe, and opinion and information: true or not that would support it. But I have used that term and I have discussed its issues for their sociopolitical and societal impact in subsequent postings to a series that I have developed from that posting. My point here is that we increasingly live in a world of communities that are splintered by the communications barriers that divide us. And this impacts on politics and trade and everything else. And ultimately, our reliance on those bubbles for our news and opinion sourcing and for our networking and direct communicating, and our increasing existence essentially entirely within them leads to a reduced ability to respond to and live in a wider world. Think of this as an emerging new source of wrinkles and of overt barriers too, in any participation in the larger communities that ubiquitous online connectivity and communications resources should be making possible and for all of us. This series is about innovation and change and this partitioning affects what we see of that too, and how we see the specific changes that do come to our attention.

We are currently living in a decidedly and I have to add increasingly “but often unevenly” world, to cite the second half of the title of this posting. And ironically, this phenomenon is most pronounced in at least some of the most online connected nations on this planet, and certainly in nations like the United States, as those who would battle for openness and connectedness in them confront those who would turn away from all that might differ from them and threaten their beliefs and opinions by offering alternatives to them.

I am going to end writing to this series at least for now, with that note, though I might very well return to it again and certainly as the era of the Trump presidency ends and his vision and his “nationalistic” closing off excesses come into wider and more dispassionate review and analysis.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. I also include this in Outsourcing and Globalization – and see that directory for related material. And I include a link to this posting as a supplemental addition to Section VII: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals (reconsidered), of Reexamining the Fundamentals too.

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