RENAISSANCE TIMES CALL FOR RENAISSANCE PEOPLE: Succeed in the Information Renaissance. Innovative Career Development for a Knowledge Society Driven by an Information Economy

By Gillette, Jay | Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

RENAISSANCE TIMES CALL FOR RENAISSANCE PEOPLE: Succeed in the Information Renaissance. Innovative Career Development for a Knowledge Society Driven by an Information Economy


Gillette, Jay, Career Planning and Adult Development Journal


Abstract:

This article discusses long-term career areas for work in the context of the Information Renaissance, which the article defines as the current era beyond the information revolution. The information renaissance has attributes like the historic European renaissance, and calls for people today to become modern renaissance men and renaissance women. The article also discusses the perspectives and competencies required, and education that needs to be developed and followed to prepare people to work in these challenging and promising times. The article emphasizes the new open innovation movement in research and development. The article outlines and discusses three example long-term craft career roles: Project Manager, Information Networking Architect, and Health Services Informatics Manager.

The "information renaissance" is a way to think about the period we find ourselves in today. It's a historical era that looks a lot like the strangely innovative and disruptive period of the European renaissance. The renaissance is itself a picturesque and historically-flexible term first named in the 19th century. Its purpose was to describe the bridge period of "early modern Europe" that represented a transition from the medieval era to the industrial revolution and the so-called enlightenment period.

The Information Renaissance is Here

In my perspective, after many reinforcing events, the information revolution has led to an extended post-revolutionary period I characterize as the Information Renaissance. I have termed the context of our era as a knowledge society driven by an information economy. On the remarkable scale it has grown to, this new horizon of social and economic change is a huge challenge: chaotic, simultaneously encouraging and dismaying. It is full, like all renaissance times, of transitions and struggles between old paradigms and new ones. I have discussed this elsewhere, for example in "Leadership for the Information Renaissance: Clarity, Challenges, Opportunity" (Gillette, 2007). From that work, here is a summary of my argument that renaissance times call for renaissance people:

According to the Merriam- Webster's Dictionary, 10th edition, the phrase Renaissance Man was noted as part of American English in 1906. [The parallel Renaissance Woman term seems to have emerged in the 1970s.] They define the concept as "a person who has wide interests and is expert in several areas." A more recent term seems to be emerging, polymath- a person of great or varied learning.

There are many examples of such people in history. Americans point to the United States figures of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison. Europeans point to Goethe and Einstein. The modern view is that such people are developed by their outlook and ambitions, and rise to the challenges of their times, the life they find themselves in.

Indeed, a good undergraduate education on the classic liberal arts model works to build such a person at a young age, a person with wide interests who may become an expert in several areas. The idea is that the graduate will continue a lifelong learning enterprise along the same lines, although professional specialization and the constant demands of overworked managers may obstruct the means to that end.

It was the European renaissance that forwarded the concept of this multidimensional person. My hypothesis is that the demands of their renaissance age required them to develop the type.

How do we translate the European renaissance person ideal into a practical application to the information renaissance we find ourselves in today?

Become a Renaissance Person of Breadth and Depth

By way of conclusion, I put it this way: be a T-person - a person whose structure of personality and attributes resembles the structure of the letter T. Be both broadly comprehensive (the T-crossbar), and deeply competent (the T-base), as one complete person. In essence, the information renaissance person has and displays breadth and depth: Breadth of comprehension (the goal of liberal arts education) Depth of competence (the goal of professional education)

These foundational personal and educational attributes lead to professional behaviors we value in the professional world, adaptability and utility. …

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