Innovation achieved through teamwork and is crucial to future of security

With the federal marketplace so ripe with opportunities for emerging technologies such as mobility, big data and the cloud, you hear the word “innovation” a lot, but it is easy to lose sight of what it means to be innovative.

Speaking at the immixGroup Government IT Sales Summit on Thursday, Walter Isaacson, former editor of TIME magazine and CEO of CNN and the author of books on Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein, aimed to add a more concrete idea to what it means to achieve innovation in today’s world.

Isaacson’s keynote address was laden with examples of technological advances over the years. The best-selling author and biographer noted a similarity between the bunch.

“If you look at the data which we have had since 1937, every great advance that has combined human ingenuity and creativity and imagination with machine processing power has taken these great leaps forward, compared to the meager leaps we’ve had in pure machine learning or pure artificial intelligence,” Isaacson said.

His newest book is The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.

“If you look at the course of history, it’s always that beautiful combination of humans and machines,” he added.

That combination exists because of the ability to collaborate.

“We biographers sometimes distort history. We make it seem like some guy or gal goes into a garage or a garret, has a light bulb moment, and innovation happens. That’s not the way it works,” Isaacson said. “The way it works is people work together, and collaboration is a key to any form of innovation.”

Innovation and creativity are team sports, he said, saying that likely no one in the audience knows exactly who invented the transistor, the computer, the internet, or the micro chip. “Because it was teams of people working on them,” Isaacson said.

Now, the industry and world at large are at another technological turning point with emerging technologies such as mobility and the internet of things.

Unfortunately, Isaacson said, with some of the previous achievements like the internet, teams of inventors may not have focused as much on security, and thus those great achievements became available for use and exploitation by enemies.

“At some point, with mobile computing, we’re going to have to figure out how to add trust back to the internet,” he said.

“How do we take this absolutely wonderful technology, how to take the glories that have come from it and bring it back to the realm where it was supposed to be in the beginning, where we could trust things, we thought they were secure, we knew what was happening,” Isaacson said.

“I think that’s the big challenge of this generation.”

About the Author

Mark Hoover is a senior staff writer with Washington Technology. You can contact him at, or connect with him on Twitter at @mhooverWT.

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