Thought is the highest technology

    The last 50 years have witnessed an unprecedented development of technology. The future often conjures up images of a highly automated robotic society. Yet, we ignore the most important technology of them all – the technology of our mind. Better thinking, not bigger machines are the answer to the world’s problems.

    An idea is the most powerful tool of them all. An idea that is shared and communicated can produce a response that reshapes the world almost overnight. It acquires a life of its own and cannot be contained or owned.

    The person recognized for the idea can become tremendously successful. The minds of those exposed to an idea are forever changed.

    Albert Einstein rightly pointed out that we cannot solve the problems that are facing the world today by applying the same level of thinking that was used to create those problems in the first place.

    Technology is a magnifier of our efforts. It is the leverage to help us achieve things. It is wiser to thoughtfully apply a little leverage than to thoughtlessly apply the entire brunt of our energy. It is not enough for us to successfully develop and adopt the latest technology gizmos. We must change the way we think and perceive the world.

    It is not remarkable that the most significant developments in manufacturing over the last 50 years deal with concepts that require no high technology at all. Mass customization thrives on the concepts of rapid product development, continuous process improvement, lean manufacturing, rapid changeovers and cellular flow.

    Such methodologies as SMED, 5S, SPC, Balanced Scorecard, Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ), Kaizen, kanban, autonomation, value stream mapping, visual controls, Poka-Yoke, total productive maintenance, etc. are all conceptual tools that could be easily executed in a carpenter’s shop of three millennia ago and would have revolutionized that shop more so than any of the modern power tools.

    Every single one of those concepts can be executed using a writing tool and a writing surface, with no use of electronics at all.

    Thinking tools are more important in revolutionizing our life than electricity, computers, cell phones and all other high technology tools combined. This is in part because they enable us to develop all the other high technology tools, and, just as importantly, they often give us a simpler solution that does not require their development.

    To quote Einstein: "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction."

    To be sure, we need high technology. I am ecstatic about living in the world of indoor plumbing and antibiotics. Screens are getting flatter and computers can now fit in the palm of a hand. These are signs of the future in which I want to live. I eagerly look toward the day when nanotechnology, for example, becomes every day part of our life.

    The promise of nanotechnology would give us the ability to manipulate matter at the atomic and molecular scales. It may mean anything from being able to have nanobots fixing cancerous cells, to creating entirely new types of weapons of mass destruction. It may mean cell phones that are inside our brain (what in the olden days was called telepathy) or objects appearing when we desire them (nanobots instantly assembling an apple in my hand out of molecules in the air).

    All these new developments will only make the technology of the mind, thinking technology, all the more important. The indoor plumbing did not require a vastly improved machinery or equipment, rather a vastly improved understanding of our world.

    Ditto for aspirin and antibiotics. As technology becomes more advanced, the controls of that technology become more and more important. The actual technology can get small and sometimes even disappear altogether.

    As technology progresses, we gain the power to reshape the world around us. Many visions of the future show technology as being predominant. Yet, the most important technology of the future is not a big robot, but rather better thinking. Many new thinking approaches are already here. They are just waiting for their adoption. It is the organizations that are quicker in adopting better thinking practices that have the best opportunity to prosper, whether they are high tech or low tech.

    Thinking is always the Right Technology.


    Oleg Tumarkin is the owner of FutureWorks Business Expert, a private business training company in Menomonee Falls. He is an adjunct professor of business at Lakeland College, an adjunct instructor of business at Concordia University Wisconsin and adjunct instructor of business and technology at ITT TECH Institute. He writes regularly at on various business topics.

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