Seth Godin really nailed it in his blog today:
Initiative is very difficult to teach to 28 students in a quiet classroom. It’s difficult to brag about in a school board meeting. And it’s a huge pain in the neck to do reliably.
Schools like teaching compliance. They’re pretty good at it.
To top it off, until recently the customers of a school or training program (the companies that hire workers) were buying compliance by the bushel. Initiative was a red flag, not an asset.
The Atlantic found a similar correlation between initiative (leadership outside a classroom) and success in teachers in low income schools:
Things that you might think would help a new teacher achieve success in a poor school—like prior experience working in a low-income neighborhood—don’t seem to matter. Other things that may sound trifling—like a teacher’s extracurricular accomplishments in college—tend to predict greatness.
What the heck does this have to do with cloud computing? Well previously I said:
Cloud infrastructures are the ultimate friend of the unproven idea. The impulsive act of computational creativity not worth pushing through a heavy-weight process.
Taking a step back didn’t Columbus spend 7 years lobbying various Monarchs for the capital to try his geographic experiment? Wikipedia tells us the first time he asked for money:
The king submitted the proposal to his experts, who rejected it.
Eventually his initiative and salesmanship succeeded. Ultimately it took him only five weeks to sail to North America. That’s right: seven years of debating the voyage–five weeks to find success.
The other fascinating suggestion the Wiki post makes is that the one thing he got right was the wind patterns–that is, the trend, the vector of environmental change. The king’s best mathematicians all were fixed on the world being larger than Columbus suspected, crunching the numbers in their 10 year business plan to get to China. The key turned out to be the wind patterns not the ultimate destination. Anyways somebody smarter about VC like @adventurista should write a post on that.
The migration of economic control from the 1400’s until now is pretty stunning. Its all about how important of a person you had to ask to really get something exciting done. Seth’s blog is timely precisely because of this trend. We need a different approach to education because we are entering a phase where the opportunity costs for individuals as well as corporations suppressing initiative are growing.
Sound too radical? Think again, its an increasingly main-stream view of the impact of cloud computing. Check out the recent “Get I.T. out of the boardroom” cloud computing marketing campaign from VMware. It features the company COO.
But its really not as simple as “let everyone take their own initiative,” companies will need thoughtful, policy rich, and technology enabled mechanisms of dolling out this increasing license to self-starting projects and development. The current architecture divide between classic enterprise IT and developer driven clouds is too wide. We need technology to help create a spectrum of user control–not just at the IaaS layer, but at the PaaS layer as well.
The companies, and economies, that learn how to re balance traditional ideals of control vs. initiative will have major, and I think, strategic advantages.