Vinnie Mirchandani‘s The New Polymath is a riveting read. It’s SuperFreakonomics for us technophiles. Because, for better or worse, The New Polymath (who can be thought of as a modern Leonardo da Vinci) must also be an IT guru … as it is information technology that is paving the way for a new generation of polymaths that have access to unprecedented levels of information across disciplines.
Rather than tell you that this fresh and inviting (Benjamin Fried, CIO Google) book is filled with incredible examples of passionate entrepreneurs (Marc Benioff, CEO salesforce.com), that I am inspired by this book (Maynard Webb, CEO LiveOps), or that Mirchandani is one of the few technology analysts to realize that technology doesn’t come in neat bundles anymore (Thomas H. Davenport, President’s Chair Babson College), I’m going to talk about The New Polymath’s ten rules for success which pop out at you if you read between the lines.
Why? One of the Polymath’s chronicled in Vinnie’s masterful manuscript is Brian Sommer, technology consultant extraordinaire of TechVentive and renowned ZDNet blogger, who asks “where are the 10 commandments for technology” as he struggles with the challenges of cyberethics that few dare to address. It’s a good question, and one that I believe we are not yet ready to answer. Which leads me to ask, “how do we get there”? Well, the first step is to obviously become learned, and successful, polymaths well equipped to ask, and debate, the question. To this end, we need a guide … a guide that, if you dig deep, is found within Vinnie’s terrific tome. To get you on your way, and to inspire you to (pre) order your own copy of The New Polymath, I give you:
The New Polymath’s Ten Starting Rules for Success
(because, in reality, there are more than ten … but these are the biggies).
Adopt salesforce.com’s 1-1-1 model: 1 percent employee’s time; 1 percent equity; 1 percent product donation. A true Polymath operates in his community, not out of it, and makes a difference.
- 80 for 20
Aim for solutions that deliver 80% of the value of previous solutions for only 20% of the price. A new Polymath is about true innovation, not overstated renovation.
- Invisible UI
If your product requires a manual, it’s not a product at all. A true Polymath produces solutions with UIs so seamless and so obvious that no manual is needed.
Every component can be traced back to the source … even if it’s software. (And if it is software, every data element can be traced back to the source.)
- Keep Score
Polymaths are responsible and drive for sustainability … to the point where they keep track of how well they are doing and how much better their inventions are compared with predecessor technology. If it’s not more environmentally friendly (and more cost effective, because true green keeps more green in your wallet), it’s not revolutionary.
It’s the age of “big data”, and to make sense of it all, we need to find the data that is relevant to us.
- Decisions, Not Data
Because, in the end, the entire point of finding the semantically relevant data is to enable us to make better decisions than we could before.
- Adopt the “Shamrock” It’s Lucky for a Reason
A “shamrock” organization, as envisioned by Charles Handy, is one that encompasses “core management, a long-term but contractual talent pool, and a transient, flexible workforce”. We are in the age of networked person, who is used to working on the move, and tomorrow’s polymath’s will be flexible at the core.
Technology-is-a-Service. A Polymath moves beyond SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) and TaaS (Technology-as-a-Service) and embraces the concept that, like power and water, information technology must be delivered only as a service in the world of tomorrow. Just like the utilities deliver our power and water, tomorrow’s technology enterprises will deliver our apps, data, and information on-demand as that is what is needed for businesses to truly reach the next level of operations, as technology is not the core competency of most businesses that make use of it today.
- The Turing Oath
Brian Sommer notes that we need a Hippocratic Oath for technology, and I agree. We all need to agree to respect and uphold the privacy of our users and their data to the utmost above all else. And I’m calling that the Turing Oath, after Alan Turing who gave us the first test to determine whether a machine had reached intelligence (and, would thus, need to be instilled with ethics from the get go … and, hopefully, the the three laws of robotics.)
I strongly encourage you to read Vinnie’s groundbreaking debut into the world of publishing (other than his prolific blogging over the years over on Deal Architect and New Florence. New Renaissance.) and do what it takes to become The New Polymath. The world of tomorrow needs you, and in fact, so does the world of today. If, like the polymaths chronicled in this book and Nathan Myhrvold (who was the cloth the new polymaths chronicled in the book were cut from), I encourage you to join the Humanitarian Technology Challenge. The world needs you!
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