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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Disruptive Innovation of the Heart

Martin Luther King's birthday is now a holiday... but how do we as technologists use it to further the American dream of justice and equality? I came across this in a blog posting by the poet Charles Chatmon:
...our children will be told part of the story, but not the whole. They'll be told that Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize; but won't be told he was stabbed, they'll hear from pundits how elegant and powerful his speeches were, but failing to realize the huge opposition he faced in taking his successful movement to the Northern cities where politicians denied his efforts at every turn.
And Dr King himself reminded us of the danger of half-hearted support for social justice in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail:
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is ... the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice...
So children: Why was there so much turmoil around an effort we celebrate today as American as apple pie? The Civil Rights movement of the 1960's is often presented as an incremental step in realizing America's promise of inclusion for all its people -but that's not quite right - because it was what we technologists call today a disruptive innovation, in which existing structures had to give way as new behaviors swept the "marketplace".

So let's remember that in society it works just as we've seen it does in technology: a little disruption goes hand in hand with innovation. In the coming year, let's not be afraid to the rock the boat just a little when we see or hear something that we know is just not right. I'm just talking about opening our mouths, venturing an opinion, being as outspoken about human rights as we are about the latest changes in web technology or the search engine wars.

Let's be the innovators we claim to be!
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