The perfect storm for innovation

In the course of our careers, there are occasionally confluences of events. Those moments should be seized.

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In my career, there have been a few perfect storms, defined as "a confluence, resulting in an event of unusual magnitude."

In 1980, when I was an undergraduate at Stanford University, two geeky guys named Jobs and Wozniak dropped by the Homebrew Computer Club to demonstrate a kit designed in their garage. In the next couple of years came IBM's Personal Computer and Microsoft's MSDOS. I purchased an early copy of Microsoft Basic and began creating software in my dorm room, including early versions of tax calculation software, an econometric modeling language and electronic data interchange tools. Every day brought a new opportunity. The energies of hundreds of entrepreneurs created an industry in a few intensely creative months that laid the foundation for the architecture and tools still in use today. A guy named Gates offered me a job, but I decided to stay in school instead.

In 2001, when I was first hired at Harvard, a visionary dean for medical education, a supportive dean of the medical school, talented new development staff, and a sleepless MD/Ph.D. student came together to create one of the first learning management systems in the country, Mycourses. Robust Web technologies, voice recognition, search engines, early mobile devices and new multimedia streaming standards coincided with resources, strong governance and a sense of urgency. Magic happened and in a matter of months, an entire platform was created that is still powering the medical school today.

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