Provost Maria Vaz has provided each Lawrence Tech faculty member with a copy of Friedman and Mandelbaum’s book, “That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.” This provocative book builds on Tom Friedman’s earlier book, “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century,” and argues that the United States is struggling to respond to a world which now operates largely in our own image. In some ways, we are facing Clayton Christensen’s “Innovator’s Dilemma,” where competition in new forms takes incumbents by surprise over time and can cause some incumbents to fail. The twist here is that we have helped invent – directly and indirectly – the new global competitive environment which is causing us to re-examine our own assumptions and will to compete.
Friedman and Mandelbaum argue that there are four types of jobs in today’s economy: creative creators, routine creators, creative servers, and routine servers. Those who are “routine creators” or “routine servers” are in danger of having their jobs outsourced or digitized. Even some jobs formerly considered “nonroutine” – such as attorneys – can be outsourced or digitized if the focus of their work is comprised of rule-based operations – the emerging e-discovery market has taken away a number of legal jobs.
What does this mean for Lawrence Tech students? It’s simple: focus on how to be “creative creators!” Don’t just learn the “theory and practice” of your discipline, but look further. Strive to extend, revise, and innovate within your discipline. Focus on the entrepreneurial aspects of your discipline, difficult problems that require new approaches, opportunities for innovation, and linkages to other disciplines that others have not thought of. Your faculty and student colleagues can help you with this journey, but the creativity comes from within each of you.
Dr. Alan McCord, Interim Dean