Conventional wisdom, beliefs and ideas concerning information technology crumble in the face of fundamental technology innovations such as Mobile, Social, SaaS, Big Data and the like. Removing the fundamental logic creates an opportunity for new ways of thinking – reimagining – IT, its value and role in the organization. The question is, will this change lead to an IT renaissance?
The last thing IT needs is a renaissance.
A renaissance or re-birth involves rediscovering, returning and updating old forms to fit new realities. The European renaissance in art and culture rediscovered classical forms and themes that replaced ecclesiastical based values and aesthetics. The renaissance updated, extended and transformed forms as they returned to something that had existed before. In the case of art, culture and science, the renaissance represented a rediscovery, return and updating of the classical themes of Rome and Greece.
The Renaissance lasted for more than 200 years covering the 15th and 16th centuries. The Renaissance created the foundation of western civilization and its masterpieces represent high points of human achievement. We know the giants of the Renaissance by single names like DaVinci or Galileo or Shakespeare or Luther or Michelangelo, etc. They changed western culture forever.
IT does not need a Renaissance or return to its classical values for the simple reason that continued technology innovations make these IT values less relevant and important. An IT renaissance, for example a return to structured methods, classic custom development, or classical concepts of knowledge management or enterprise architecture, would be a step backward in the face of the stream of technology innovations and models we face.
IT needs Enlightenment.
Enlightenment came after the Renaissance and represented a shift in focus, direction and emphasis. The Enlightenment was fundamentally about discovering the natural sciences and laying the foundation for modern society and science. Natural law and science provided a basis for new previously inconceivable social systems and technical solutions. This is the realm of the natural philosophers: Newton, Locke, Jefferson, Smith, Rousseau, Voltaire, Goethe, Franklin, etc. All of us, regardless of where you live, are children of the Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment rests on the scientific method in creating new ideas and insights through challenging rather than updating classical ideals. That is the type of thinking we need for the next wave of information and technology for the simple reason that the fundamentals of classical IT crumble in the face of new technology innovations.
To get the discussion going, here are a few thoughts on the challenges and requirements facing a 21st century IT enlightenment.
- Evolve the ‘science of management and business’ in a degree similar to the evolution of natural science that happened during the first Enlightenment. The natural philosophers of that age discovered the mechanisms of the natural world. A similar enlightenment regarding how the ‘extended’ world of information, technology, society, environment, energy, individuals, etc. works is central for the next enlightenment.
- Value becoming an operational reality, not a metaphysical concept. Information and Technology will remain in a relative dark age until it is possible to overthrow the tyranny of finance and financial accounting that originated in the Renaissance and make the Enlightenment ideas of ‘utility’ part of management science.
- Context replacing ideas surrounding information and knowledge. Realizing a greater proportion of IT’s potential rests in evolving IT beyond business transactions and user interfaces.
- Participation evolving beyond business process and breaking free of the industrial limitations of current collaboration, workflow and business application models.
Subsequent posts will expand on these under the keyword IT Enlightenment. Please add to these via comments.