I was just reading about a conference put on by a middle-school in the Bronx called Dot-To-Dot. The main conference topic was exploring freedom but what really caught my attention was the technology platform they used to organize and host all aspects of the conference. Since 2007 this public middle school, IS 339, has been using Google Apps to engage students in new and innovative ways like student run businesses and student projects. Even grading and progress is managed collaboratively with students using Google forms and spreadsheets. What strikes me is how does a public middle school adopt and innovate with a technology like Google Apps when so many companies and government organizations (run by adults) are seemingly unable to do the same? I’m wondering what are the major factors in corporations and governments that stand in the way of adopting a strategy around technology innovations like Google Apps. I’ve seen it over and over throughout my career…with minicomputers, personal computers, LANs, 4th Gen Languages, Web Sites, Intranets, content management systems, etc. These technologies have all been right there staring every company in the face..but most companies just can’t seem to see the new technology until years later after the technology has been adopted by others and has become “old hat.” Why does this happen? If I had to pick one barrier to adoption of new technology for innovation I would have to choose middle management. There always seems to be one or more middle managers, who know little to nothing about how technology is used and where it is going, but for some reason finds it necessary to stand squarely in the way of anything that he/she deems TOO new. I think the reason small startup companies are so innovative is because they aren’t big enough to have put any middle managers into place. Once they do the innovation slows down or even stops. If anybody else has a better idea I would sure like to hear it.
I’ve always been something of a power user of Microsoft Office ever since the release of version 1.0 back in 1993. But more and more nowadays I find myself creating google docs instead. I find the convenience and simple design along with the ease of sharing a document with anybody either in private or public mode just too compelling to resist. The biggest complaint I hear about google docs (especially from Microsoft folks) is they lack the rich feature sets and sophistication of Office documents, which is very true. My take on that argument is that like most people I rarely use the more sophisticated features found in Excel or Word or Powerpoint. In fact studies have shown the majority of people use Excel to create lists of “things” which they can then sort and/or add up. And I don’t know about you but I’m completely turned off whenever I see a powerpoint presentation designed to overwhelm with attempts to impress by overdosing on all the advanced features. I read somewhere that “Simple is the new sophisticated” and google docs certainly fit this description. But the real power of google docs lies in the ability to easily share them with others. You can invite others to work on a document with you…even have multiple people updating the same document simultaneously (each persons updates appear in a different color). Documents can be shared privately so login is required to view…or publicly with a URL that opens the document for anybody without a requirement to log in.