Brunei International Conference on Engineering & Technology Aug 15-18, 2005.

 

Keynote address by Dr. George Kostopoulos (a summary).

 

Honorable Guests, my distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

 

At first, I would like to bring you warm greetings from the American University of Kuwait, and to offer my thanks to the organizing committee for having invited me to address this conference.

 

I feel privileged and honored to stand in front of you in this very important conference, and to share with you my humble thoughts about technology.

 

The theme of my presentation is:   

 

The Spirit of Entrepreneurship as the key to success.

 

It is true that we all want success, but before thinking of success we must first think of the road that leads to success. That is, we need to find the various realities that stand along this road.

 

Globalization…

 

One such reality is Globalization - that is, the removal of all barriers in the transaction of international business. Globalization has created an increased challenge for the survival of existing enterprises, and has created an ocean of opportunities for new ventures.

 

To succeed in this new reality of Globalization we need to recognize that the traditional competition parameters of quality and price are not any longer the prime factors of success. No one would say that quality and price are not important. They are very important, but standardization, on one hand, has forced uniform quality standards and competition, on the other, has brought prices almost at cost.

 

As a result, everyone, more or less, offers the same quality and price.

 

But what could possibly replace quality and price from being the major players in this new market place of Globalization?

 

Well, the two new critical success factors in today’s marketplace are: innovation and responsiveness – and of equal importance. These two concepts also comprise the new definition of entrepreneurship.

 

Innovation plus Responsiveness equals Successful Entrepreneurship.

 

Let us ponder for a moment on these two concepts – innovation and responsiveness.

 

What do they really mean in today’s terms?

 

Innovation…

 

Innovation is the introduction of the novel methods, or technologies, toward the creation, or enhancement, of products or services.

It is through innovation that we attempt to solve seemingly unsolvable problems.

It is, also, through innovation that we try to create and to capture opportunities.

 

Let me give you a real life example of innovation.

Last month, a friend of mine went to a bank in Athens to ask for a real estate loan. He had in US dollars fifty percent of the needed amount. He was planning to convert his US dollars to euro, and to borrow the remaining fifty percent in euro.

 

After reviewing my friend’s financial standing, the loan officer told him that the bank would be most happy to give him the full amount of the real estate price. It would be a euro loan with an interest rate of 3.5%. Furthermore the loan officer told him that his US dollars could earn at the bank an interest rate of 3.75%.

 

Obviously, what the bank offered my friend a win-win situation - borrowing euro at low rate and investing dollars at a higher rate.

 

This is innovation - thinking outside of the box – thinking outside of the traditional solutions - creating new opportunities for mutual benefit.

 

Today, successful relations are not created through cut-throat negotiations aiming at minimizing giving and maximizing taking, but successful relations are application of innovations to create mutually beneficial formulas of lasting cooperation.

 

By now, we may all agree that innovation is the road to success in the Global world.

Well, we got the road to success!!!!!

Isn’t it wonderful?!

Innovation is the road to success.

We found it!

 

We know the road to success, it is innovation, but do we know the road to innovation? What would that be?

 

What is it that will make a person an innovative person? – let it be in business, in education, or in government.

 

What is the summation, or the product, of individual qualities that will make a person innovative?

 

Is it natural intelligence?

Yes, to certain extent.

 

Is it experience?

Yes, to a greater extent, especially, diverse experience.

 

Education…

 

Is it education? Absolutely!

If so, then, what is the appropriate content of that education that would create an innovative mind?

 

The question then is:

Do today’s higher education curricula provide the graduates with the necessary knowledge and, most important, the necessary skills that would create innovative professionals?

 

I regret to say that the answer to this question is an emphatic, no!

 

Today’s higher education curricula need to be updated and upgraded on a semester-by-semester basis, and to be driven by the forces of the respective industries and of the marketplace.

 

What we now call “academic programs” should be renamed, and be called “professional programs”, to at least remind ourselves that we are to produce professionals and not academicians. As for the faculty, we need to bring-in the practitioner who will enhance the programs with real life experiences. In such educational programs we need less of the read-and-memorize learning mode and more projects, more field trips, more internship and more research papers.

 

The educational system that will meet tomorrow’s challenges must place the educator not as the sage-on-the-stage, but as the guide-by-the-side of the student – as the expression goes. Furthermore, quality in education must be measured by the accomplishments of the students and not by the accomplishments of the professors.

 

To meet the challenges of globalization, education itself must be globalized.

And what is globalized education?

 

It is an education that makes the recipients fully aware of the world of cultures, of the world of technologies, and of the world of the competitive forces. In my opinion the strongest competitive force is time. 

The most valuable and absolutely irreplaceable resource! Time!

 

To deliver this type of an education we need an educational system that is fully integrated with the respective industries and with the marketplace. We need an educational system, where the educators are at the helm of education using the technology as their compass.

 

We all know the song “If I had a hammer”….. “If I had a hammer”…..

There is so much depth in this statement.

What it really means is: “If I had the technology”… “If I had the hardware”… “If I had the software”…and most important “If I had the skills”…

“If I had the technology”, I would realize all my dreams.

 

We need to re-engineer the present curricula, and to streamline them not only to the direct needs of today, but also to the projected needs of the future decades. We need technology-based curricula that instill the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.

 

Responsiveness…

 

Hand in hand with innovation comes the second and equally important pillar of successful entrepreneurship, which is responsiveness.

 

The increased speed of bits and bytes in the digital world has had a similar impact in our own speed of communication and interaction. Global, as well as local, communications demand instant response. In the business today the normally expected response is twenty-four hours. While in the personal relations the expected response time is a few hours…if not minutes.

 

Today, responsiveness translates into professionalism, responsiveness translates into care, responsiveness often overrides the traditional criteria of quality and price. Today, competition is not in quality and price, but it is in customer relations management the cornerstone of which is responsiveness.

Let me give you an example of responsiveness.

 

While in Athens this summer, I met a former student of mine. He had studied Management Information Systems in California. I asked him to tell me how he was using his acquired computer skills. He was a renovation projects estimator. With his wireless laptop and his sophisticated software he was providing instant estimates for the renovation of neo-classic buildings.  Through his responsiveness, he had enchanted his clientele, who would happily trade cost for time.

 

There is also, preventive responsiveness through the electronic posting of most likely expected information. This is where the Internet and extranets play a very important role.

 

Digital Divide…

 

There is no doubt that the digital age has created a spiral of high-speed communications, high technology solutions, and equally high rewards for those who can successfully sail capturing the strong winds of technology.

 

Yes, there are high rewards to those who can successfully utilize technology.

 

Regrettably, only a very small percent of the society is privileged with technology proficiency to the point of benefiting from the technological advances. The overwhelming majority is only a technology by stander.

 

I am of course referring to the digital divide that has become a social divide and consequently an economic divide.

 

The digital divide has multiple parameters.

 

We have the divide by access to technology; let it be access to the Internet itself or access to other technologies. A few do have access, while others do not have.

We are faced with global technological illiteracy, where technology is right in the palm of people’s hands but simply do not know how to use it.

 

Would you believe that there are mobile phone users who do not know how to bring SMS messages onto the screen, or do not know how to store numbers in their mobile phone, and they carry with them a little booklet with the numbers? Well, I know several very successful businessmen who fall in this category.

 

We also have the language divide. It is a fact that to fully benefit from technology one needs to know English.

 

In all modesty, we must accept that we are the technological elite, and we have a social responsibility to make every effort in order to bridge this digital divide – the technology divide.

 

High priority must be placed on programs that provide technological literacy for the general public, and technological proficiency to all able to acquire it.

In my opinion, in today’s society, technological literacy is as important as alphabetical literacy.

 

It is our responsibility, as the technological elite, to create and to participate in programs that will bring the non-technologists into the technology era, so that the social benefit from technology be maximized.

 

Technology Obsolescence…

 

Along the road to success, besides Globalization, stands another reality that we need to reckon with.

This is technology obsolescence.

Is technology obsolescence a blessing?

Or is it a curse?

 

Not too long ago, we used to say that it takes five years for a technology to mature.

Now, we see many technologies turn obsolete in five years or less.

 

We have hardware obsolescence, and we have software obsolescence.

The new replace the old.

 

But our prime concern in technology obsolescence is skills obsolescence.

We see the “better” being the permanent enemy of the “good”.

 

How can we maintain our technology skills current?

This is our major challenge!

 

Personally, I receive at least ten technology update newsletters every single day.

Would I dare not to read them? 

Absolutely not!

 

I receive numerous technology magazines.

Would I dare skipping a page?

Of course not!

 

Why? Because of fear that I would miss an important bit or byte of high tech information.

This is our world … a spiral. 

But, fortunately, there is hope.

 

Many thanks go to conferences like this for providing us with a one-stop technology update in many of technology sectors.

 

 

Conclusion…

 

At this point, I would like to summarize my humble thoughts:

 

           We need to realize that we are an elite – a technological elite – with privileges and with obligations.

 

           We enjoy privileges that only knowledge can provide.

           We understand new technologies because we have followed the technological evolution step-by-step; and we draw a special satisfaction and benefits each time we apply a new technology.

 

           We also have obligations.

           We have an obligation to ourselves, to remain current and successful in our respective field;

           And we have an obligation to the society to bring the lights of technology to as many people as possible.

 

Let us hope that we can live up to our obligations!

 

Thank you.