can operations research lead the way in “combinatorial innovation”

Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian (professor of information sciences, business, and economics at the University of California at Berkeley), claims that we are in a period of “combinatorial innovation,” where understanding how to leverage technology to understand data and make informed decisions is necessary for success.  He says:

Now what we see is a period where you have Internet components, where you have software, protocols, languages, and capabilities to combine these component parts in ways that create totally new innovations. The great thing about the current period is that component parts are all bits. That means you never run out of them. You can reproduce them, you can duplicate them, you can spread them around the world, and you can have thousands and tens of thousands of innovators combining or recombining the same component parts to create new innovation. So there’s no shortage. There are no inventory delays. It’s a situation where the components are available for everyone, and so we get this tremendous burst of innovation that we’re seeing… I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. [emphasis added] Link to article.

Sure, statistics is great, but it also sounds like OR is needed!

On a related note, I read a story today that made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.  Many tech companies are trying to lure back women in science, engineering, and technology who have left the field (such as stay at home mothers).   Many companies are offering re-entry programs for women, despite the economic climate.  The article states:

While 41% of highly qualified scientists, engineers and technicians in lower-tier jobs are female, more than half eventually quit midcareer, based on research by the Center for Work-Life Policy’s Sylvia Hewlett and others, published last year in the Harvard Business Review. Women in these fields face isolation, extreme job pressures and long hours; they often become most discouraged about 10 years into their careers — just as family pressures also tend to intensify.  Still, after years at home, many women scientists and engineers yearn to return to research and development.  Link to article.

This is great news and contrary to what I have heard (namely, that once a woman leaves science/engineering/technology, it’s almost impossible to return).  Yeah!

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