Talent, education and entrepreneurship in the 4IR
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As a Director at Verizon’s 5G Labs across the country, I help foster the cutting edge work across our ecosystem of co-working communities and Innovation Centers. I’m fortunate enough to witness across them how education and the evolving needs of the workforce are creating new dynamics to build the talent of today and tomorrow.
Over the past few years I’ve spent a lot of time on university campuses working with (and learning from) the innovators of tomorrow before they enter the workforce. The idea behind it is two-fold:
Each new class is native to a newer and more inherently digital world. Born with expectations and ideas from that generation that we could never truly understand, we love to listen to them to hear their vision for how they want to change the world.
We believe that early investment in people and talent (time, mentorship, teaching, support) pays dividends in the long run. Whether they work for Verizon as an employee someday or with Verizon as a partner.
Along the way, we have observed a few fundamental shifts in how educators and programs are approaching curriculum innovation to keep up with the rapid digitization of our economy and subsequently our workforce. Here are a few examples:
Some university programs have looked externally to the market and observed what new digital tools are being used by both enterprises and the startups looking to disrupt them. They then integrate these tools into their class offerings. For example: Prototyping 101 with InDesign or Intro to VR/XR with Unity and Unreal Engine.
Others have come to a realization that the best talent lies at the intersection of disciplines. Rei Inamoto (ex chief creative officer at AKQA) coined the notion of needing the trifecta of a hacker, hipster and hustler to build an efficient and successful team -- technical meets design meets business.Some schools have evolved this notion to combine two of the three to create hybrids: for example the creative technologist or the the technical MBA. My most successful hires have been some of these!
The best university programs combine the first two approaches and are thinking about a mixture of entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial concentrations. Empowering the “creative technologist” to build a product a customer will love is great, but enabling them to navigate a cross functional team in a fortune 100 is very different than navigating that same process at a company of 100. To prepare for this some of my favorite faculty have created classes in “Corporate Entrepreneurship” and programs like “Startup Studio”.
Time will tell which approaches are best suited to adapt with the market but I’m excited every time I come back to campus and see schools pivoting alongside the startups that spin out of them.
On the hiring end of this talent is the startup, the company, the non-profit.
More than ever, the large incumbents are trying to disrupt themselves before they are the recipients of startup disruption. They are creating new ventures and spin outs to meet new technological change head-on before it happens. But interestingly enough, they are also investing in and partnering with those potentially disruptive startups in new ways. And an entire industry has been made from bridging those two seemingly unlikely partners through things like corporate accelerators or venture studios (I’ve run a few awesome ones with TechStars, R/GA, and The Hive).
These two trends, creative approaches to curriculum innovation and creative approaches to corporate/startup partnerships, are presenting a unique moment in both learning and work. Developing students who can operate across tech and business AND startup and enterprise is a goal schools and institutions should strive to achieve.
As we move through the Fourth Industrial Revolution, accelerated by 5G technology, our ecosystem and community has an unprecedented opportunity to drive better societal outcomes by encouraging these intersections through education.
My favorite book is Clayton Christensen’s “Disrupting Class”. It talks about how education and learning should be approached with the same frameworks regarding innovation as industry: applying learnings from the Innovator’s Dilemma to reinvent the classroom. I believe that we are in a technological and societal moment where the world can change for the better if we embrace new approaches and enablers like 5G. They can empower educators to innovate further and allow industries that will be impacted by the Fourth Industrial Revolution to accept a new wave of students armed with new approaches to developing products in a 5G world.
I’m excited to watch as this next class of students, a fresh perspective unlike the class before them, drive a revolution that will create not only new economic growth but shared societal prosperity.
And it’s up to us to give students the tools, today, to make that change happen tomorrow.
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