If you stop by our office on any given day, you will quite possibly walk into an argument over what some might say is just semantics. Let’s call it a heated discussion rather than a full-bore argument, but the heat comes from an issue that goes to our very core: what is a techonomic topic, a techonomic approach, or a techonomic company?
One person’s semantics is another’s mission.
Ours is to understand those things that sit at the intersection of business, technology and society, and how they could lead to a better, fairer economy and world. As we think about that we continually try to factor in the people, the emerging technologies, the business models, the institutions, the policies, and their impact on communities and society.
As at any busy intersection, sometimes there are collisions. Collisions can bring larger truths to light, can jolt people into action, and even can prevent greater damage down the road.
Such are the outcomes from the accelerating pace of change, change that is led by technology and leaves culture gasping to keep up.
What is Techonomic? The word covers a lot of ground. It is by no means just about pure technology, but it certainly hangs on how technology is transforming everything it touches. It is not about business generally, but is definitely defined by how more and more businesses are expanding their role in the wider world thanks to a larger sense of responsibility.
And it is about the consequences, both intended and unintended, of what we think of optimistically as progress. Such progress brings with it both dizzying opportunities and a gnarly set of unprecedented challenges: the future of work, inequality, threats to privacy and security, tech addiction, the integrity of democratic institutions, and eroding trust in the systems that support it all.
What is Techonomic? It’s a little bit like what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about obscenity: “I know it when I see it.”
For us, it’s also very much about the company we keep. We sit in the center of a community of techonomists, people who think deeply about these issues, understand that we are in the middle of huge societal shift, and are willing to grapple with the implications.
We also partner with a superb group of techonomic companies. We are selective about which ones we partner with, and are thrilled with what we learn from those with whom we do. We work with some of the largest and most influential companies in the world, which is an honor. But it’s a particular kind of influence and experience that most interests us. These companies believe technology and business can be forces for progress:
- It’s techonomic when 132-year-old Johnson & Johnson remakes itself as a technology company intent on changing the trajectory of human health. One of its goals is to better automate operating rooms to help extend that option to the stunning 5.5 billion people who cannot access safe surgery now.
- When consulting firm Accenture decides to focus on the impact of artificial intelligence in the workplace and concludes that it’s the combination of people with machines that will build the most value, that’s techonomic.
- When Philips sets the goal of improving the lives of three billion people worldwide with its healthcare and other products by 2025, and even retains an outside auditor to measure its progress, that’s techonomic.
- It’s techonomic when global telecoms company Ericsson assumes a leadership position in the development and implementation of 5G mobile networks, with a heavy emphasis on how it will change the systems of society.
- When 130-year-old global building materials company Standard Industries pivots to focus its resources around sustainability, that’s techonomic.
- When marketing and communications firm W2O incorporates data and analytics at the heart of how it thinks about reaching people and companies, that’s techonomic, too.
These are all companies we are working with in 2018. They help make our conferences, discussions, and editorial content richer, more purpose-driven, and more pragmatic about how business really can be a force for positive change.
Our partners and many, many more institutions like them are part of a movement of techonomists, forward-looking organizations where values drive impact and impact drives the bottom line. The focus for techonomists is ever more resolutely on the need to craft a better, fairer, more sustainable, and more inclusive world.
Jeff Pundyk is Techonomy’s editorial director.