October 1, 2014

Corner Office

Preparing for the Future

Lynda Keever | 12/1/2007

Lynda Keever, Publisher

If you’re like me with tons of e-mail, voice mail and just regular old mail to read and respond to every day, you may be as stunned as I was when I heard that the amount of information we now have available will double in five years. This was just one of the many attention-grabbing predictions I heard at an event sponsored by the Becker & Poliakoff law firm last month.

I was one of the speakers at the event along with Frank Nero, president and CEO of Miami-Dade’s Beacon Council, and Tony Villamil, CEO of The Washington Economics Group, an economic and business consulting firm based in Coral Gables.

Nero and Villamil both did a tremendous job of explaining how Florida’s strong competitive advantages make it a world-class economic driver. The event’s real show-stopper was Juan Enriquez. In case you haven’t already read or heard about his work, I’m excited to be the one to call your attention to him. He’s a real thought-provoker.

Enriquez is the founder, chairman and CEO of Biotechonomy, a Boston-based life sciences research and investment firm, who has applied his experience in science to business.

Enriquez talked about how the life sciences impact the economy and politics and the role that genomics can play in business. He says that we will soon learn how to program cells the way we do computers. But his main point was that technology changes are coming whether we’re ready or not. And in order for Florida to remain competitive, we have to educate the future workforce appropriately.

I’ve made about a dozen speeches around the state in the last two months, and in almost all of them I’ve also talked about the importance of innovation and education. So it was affirming to hear Enriquez say that we need to be innovative — not just in business — but in the way we educate young people.
Studies show that about half of what college students learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third. Nero also says that if we’re teaching yesterday’s methodology and yesterday’s theories, we’re going to be planted in yesterday’s economy. “Our kids and grandkids are going to see such rapid changes in technology, and the ability to function in society will require a higher knowledge base platform,” Nero says.

Enriquez says that more high schools ought to use the type of textbooks that Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology uses — three-ring binders with scholarly articles that can be replaced as technology changes. Their system obviously works: The school has fielded more National Merit semifinalists than any other high school in America since the 1990s.

Meeting the challenges of the future depends on our ability to meet the needs of a new knowledge-based economy. Thinking about these challenges presents us with the opportunity to create solutions and act on them.

I am excited to announce that the Florida Chamber Foundation and Florida Trend will be teaming up over the next year to help meet these needs by taking bold steps to move the Florida Innovation Economy Initiative ahead. Watch for details in my column next month.

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