Technology: The Element of Change
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Technology: The Element of Change

By Ron Guerrier, Secretary of Innovation and Technology, State of Illinois

Ron Guerrier, Secretary of Innovation and Technology, State of Illinois

We all learned in school about a phenomenon called inertia in which matter tends to do nothing or remain unchanged unless affected by an external force. Einstein also once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  

When you pause and compare both of these terms there are similarities, despite one being physical and the other being psychological. Just to make this formula a bit more volatile, let’s quickly throw in a catalyst such as technology. Technology involves the tools and machines that help solve problems or do new things. By design, technology is intended to break the mundane orbit and introduce sanity when it’s needed. It’s definitely a catalyst that creates change and two forces despise change, friction and emotion.  

So why would I start a thought leadership article reviewing these three basic terms? Well I have found in my over 20 years in various roles and organizations that technology - which was once shunned as a nuisance- is now the true catalyst as it has been since the wheel was invented. Those who made their careers in technology 30+ years ago were once relegated to dark dungeons or utilitarian roles like Scottie in Star Trek only called upon for more power in dire situations. They were the Wizards of Oz enabling those on stage to perform. 

Then something happened. Those Wizards and Propeller Heads started creating products and services that made basic tasks simpler at an exponential rate. They found ways to create efficiencies removing laborious tasks. They democratized technology for the common employee and consumer, leveling the playing field. Disruptors became giants changing our society forever, while the giants became case studies filling pages with would have, could have, should have. 

How did we get here and how did we get here so quickly?  Well the answer to this question is fluid because I don’t believe we are there yet or ever will be.  Every other publication, conference, or webinar highlights the phrase Digital Transformation, but as JayZ proclaimed the death of AutoTune, allow me to do the same for this term as it is a red herring.  Going back to the previous discussion on inertia and insanity, getting caught up in the term denotes there’s a defined end before another wave or term supersedes it.  It’s a fallacy.  We never said it’s the dawn of Analog Transformation and doubt that after Digital Transformation we will be saying Virtual Transformation. Why am I doubtful... the underlying technology beneath all this are still mainframes and Cobol language upgraded for today’s needs so transformation isn’t accurate.

Technology has proven time and time again that it carries elemental properties. Wind and water reshaped long standing mountains forever carving out landscapes like the Grand Canyon. Fire constantly reshapes the Pacific Rim creating islands while destroying land on the fringe. Those who have mastered technology know what it is capable of years in the future, anticipate the resistors, know how to combine different elements to create new solutions, and are often considered zealots; until their tech is sitting in your pocket suggesting what to buy, where to go, or how to remain healthy. 

Now if I were to take all this and distill it into a pragmatic guide for a reader, I’d say the following. For my peers in the technology field, we have an amazing opportunity to connect the dots, step out from behind the curtain, and as Alexander Hamilton stated, “have a seat at the table”.  We should be zealots of technology, but also understand at what pace our employees and clients can consume the change that technology introduces.  Remain close enough to navigate the organization because if you stray too far ahead, you’ll be thrown into orbit. 

Technology is an enabler as people and things perform hopefully better.  

Technology engages people through social media and things through IoT.  

Technology helps us explore what’s next as self-disruption is akin to Darwinism.

Ultimately, we must harness this element as it’s constantly changing our trajectory. We need to break our inertia, so we can stop doing the same thing over and over hoping for a better result.  Evolution isn’t a phase and technology provides the tools and processes to enable advancement. Last and most important, we must invest in STEM & STEAM programs from early childhood through lifetime learning. Technology is constantly evolving, and we must as well since the next great breakthrough will come as a spark from anyone with access and a problem to solve.  Let’s democratize access and ecosystems of learning fueling that spark, born of friction breaking inertia.

I’ve been fortunate to serve as CIO for great organizations in automotive, F&I, and healthcare. As the Secretary of Innovation & Technology for my home state of Illinois, adapting these lessons to better the lives our residents, businesses, and neighbors is a worthwhile endeavor, as we make tomorrow better than yesterday.

Let’s go!

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