Eric Schmidt teaches the taught

Pardon me, first, for a moment of paternal pride but I watched Eric Schmidt’s commencement speech at Carnegie Mellon with extra interest because in a few weeks, my wife and I will be driving our son Jake (my secret weapon and webmaster) there to join a summer program for high-school students.

And so I listen to Schmidt talk about education itself in harmony with what I’ve been screaming, that education is built to prepare us all to give the same answers, not necessarily to invent the next Google. Education was built for the industrial age; indeed, when we visited CMU, we were shown one strange building on a slope that was designed to be converted into a factory in case this university thing didn’t work out for Mr. Carnegie. Now we need to reinvent education for the digital/knowledge/Google/creative age. Said Schmidt:

“To some extent you were penalized for making mistakes historically. Now you have to make them because mistakes allow you to learn and to innovate and to try new things. And that’s a culture of innovation that is going to create the next great opportunities for all of you as you come to run and rule the world and the rest of us retire.”

Schmidt also made many observations about the current Facebook and Google (his order) generation, some transcribed by TechCrunch‘s Robin Wauters, some by me:

“When I grew up, we had Tang, you had Red Bull. We used a programming language called Basic, you had Java…. We got our news from newspapers. You get yours from blogs and tweets…. We just didn’t tell anyone about our most embarrassing moments. You record them and post them to Facebook and YouTube every day. I am so happy that my record of my misachievements is not around for posterity…. We thought ‘friend’ is a noun, you think it’s a verb…. I did some research using my favorite search engine, of course. And the great depression spurred some incredible innovations: Rice Krispies, Twinkies and the beer can. You never would have gotten through college without these things. So good things happen in recessions….

“In our lifetimes… every human being on the plane will have access to every piece of information known on the planet. This is a remarkable achievement. God knows what these people will do….

“Don’t bother to have a plan at all. All that stuff about having a plan, throw that out. It seems to be it’s all about opportunity and make your own luck…. You cannot plan innovation. You cannot plan invention. All you can do is try very hard to be at the right place and be ready….

“How should you behave? Well, do things in a group. Don’t do things by yourself. Groups are stronger, groups are faster. None of us is as smart as all of us…..

“Trust matters in a networked world. Trust is your most important currency….

“In a world where everything is kept and remembered forever – the world you are graduating into – you should live for the future and the things you really care about. Don’t live in the past. Live in the future….

“You’ll find today is the best chance you have to start being unreasonable, to demand excellence, to drive change, to make everything happen.”

  • http://andyscheurer.oecii.com Andy

    Awesome – powerful message and brings some comfort to my situation and thoughts. Love this:

    “Don’t bother to have a plan at all. All that stuff about having a plan, throw that out. It seems to be it’s all about opportunity and make your own luck…. You cannot plan innovation. You cannot plan invention. All you can do is try very hard to be at the right place and be ready…”

  • Jonathan Minnick

    good spech…haha “we used mainframe computers with 300MB of storage to go to the moon 6 times, your iPods, 120GB, 500x more, just to get you to your next class” gotta like that

  • http://sites.google.com/site/everythingthatsimportant/ Tim Cronin

    My 18 y/o son just graduated from high school and has the “Don’t bother to have a plan at all” part down pat. Maybe there’s hope! While he’s waiting for his “opportunity” to knock I’m encouraging him to read WWGD? Great stuff. Thanks.

  • invitedmedia

    big congrats to the “secret weapon”!

  • Stephanie

    Really love the message in Eric Schmidt’s speech. Definitely gives you something to think about… such as how we should all stop having meetings on how to plan, what to plan, next steps, etc… So much time is being wasted in paying attention to planning… that we might be missing being at that right place, at the right time. Thanks for sharing.

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  • Ben Lukoff

    CMU Pre-College — did it (music) in 1992 and highly recommend it. What department?

  • Dean Wormer

    Amazing. These remarks encapsulate everything wrong with 99% of internet companies.

    Don’t have a plan, don’t work alone, work in a group, and be unreasonable.

    A perfect formula for every startup I have known where every kid thinks they know everything, listens to no one, and management works on the plan du jour in group meeting after group meeting.

    Just proves Google has been way more lucky than smart.

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