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Friday I drove three hours to metro Detroit for a Board meeting with some of my nun friends. Getting to my old neighborhood was no problem; getting to the changed location took an extra hour and would not have occurred without a little help from technology–a smart phone and a laptop. Being new to the android phone society, I didn’t think to open an old email for the correct address using what I was waving around as I placed help calls. But a young man who heard my dilemma was immediately searching the internet from his phone.  I made a mental note to wise up and use this wondrous form of connectivity more effectively in the future.

The incident was stowed away in my memory as just another helpful hint until I read Thomas Friedman’s opinion editorial in the New York Times online today. He quoted Carlson’s Law (written by Curtis Carlson, CEO of SRI Int’l. in Silicon Valley:

“In a world where so many people now have access to education and cheap tools of innovation, innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb.” As a result, says Carlson, the sweet spot for innovation today is “moving down,” closer to the people, not up, because all the people together are smarter than anyone alone and all the people now have the tools to invent and collaborate.  From Advise for China

The same little phone (or other internet portal) that could have saved me from wasting time and disrupting plans could make you and me much smarter together, smart enough to find solutions to problems eluding some of our finest minds isolated in their labs. Maybe it’s time for more than just me to wise up and use the technology we already own and the social networks we’ve already established to orchestrate the innovations we thought would trickle down.

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