Omega’s John Seely Brown Delivers Keynote at the Rochester Institute of Technology

Omega’s John Seely Brown addressed graduating seniors during the Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) 134th annual commencement ceremony.

Dr. Brown has been a Board Member of some of the world’s largest corporations — Amazon, Polycom, In-Q-Tel, and Corning .  Dr. Brown previously spent more than two decades at Xerox Corporation in Palo Alto as Managing Director of the famed Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).  His mission at PARC was to invent the future – from the ethernet, to personal computing to graphical user interfaces, Smalltalk, Ubiquitous computing, and Machine Learning.

Dr. Brown spoke to RIT graduates about the Imagination Age – an age that calls for new ways to see, to imagine, to think, to act, to learn, and one that also calls for us to re-examine the foundations of our way of being – being human – and what it means to be human. Something, we seem to be neglecting in a context of uncertainty and ambiguity

We are living in a white water world. It is a world in which we must learn, like a white water kayaker, to skillfully read the currents and disturbances of the context around us – interpreting the surface flows, ripples and rapids for what they reveal about what lies beneath the surface.

We are increasingly aware that AI and ML are  changing the skill equation for today’s knowledge workers.  In today’s AI-enabled business world, currently a full one-third of Fortune 500 executives are worried that they won’t be able to meet the demand for AI skills over the next five years and are staring down a stark shortage of qualified workers.  Many corporations say that they plan to implement AI-inclusive continual learning initiatives to upskill their employees. 

What is abundantly clear is that today’s knowledge workers have to take charge of their own career paths — adopting a ‘systems thinking’ perspective with great intentionality –and proactively implement self-development plans that address the new skills and roles that the workplace of the future is sure to require.  All of us need to become true entrepreneurial learners:

  • Always questing, connecting, probing.
  • Deeply curious and listening to others.
  • Always learning with and from others.
  • Reading context as much as reading content.
  • Continuously learning from interacting with the world.

In today’s world, social capital may be as important as intellectual capital. Strangely, this is not yet a kind of capital that is classically measured or explicitly developed.  Few challenges can be solved alone – no matter how good one is. As a networked world, we can leverage the power of social capital in new ways and with new social protocols that help us achieve new levels of success.