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Acquiring, Evaluating, and Implementing Information in a Knowledge-Driven Economy

(September 2008) posted on Tue Sep 09, 2008

The old saying "knowledge is power" is more true today than ever before. Find out why old ways of thinking and applying information need to be changed in order for business and society to flourish.

By Mark A. Coudray

A very simple approach is to propose imaginary situations to improve production. An example would be to say, “We have a situation (stated problem) that needs to be fixed. We need your help. If we couldn’t use any of our methods or practices, how would you fix this?” There are no right or wrong answers. Let them know that too. You want wild and weird ideas because current logic or methods no longer work. A reasonable solution almost always can be deduced from this brainstorming. Participation in the process leads to ownership of the new ideas.

Finally, when it comes to education, we need to think differently. The past 15 years have seen more and more emphasis on math and engineering for technology. I do not disagree with this, but I would like to expand on it. The foundational emphasis needs to be on Liberal Arts.

I can hear the groans, but think about this: Liberal Arts embraces all as-pects of knowledge—history, composition, literature, philosophy (including logic and ethics) psychology, sciences, and mathematics. This is the foundation of an educated, knowledge-based society. As I see it the flaw in the current educational model is too much emphasis on technologies that are constantly evolving. You are behind the minute you graduate. A Liberal Arts education provides the framework for continual knowledge expansion within the context of historical learning.

Two key areas must be changed. The first is that we have a fundamental responsibility to teach our students how to learn to love to learn. This is the only way they will embrace new ideas and be willing to investigate and move forward.

Secondly, we need to change this whole grading/failure model. My own philosophy is fail fast. This means we have a control for performance against which we continually test. Our goal is to defeat and replace the control. This is also called A/B Split testing, a process that’s been used in the advertising and scientific communities forever. Failing fast means we either test and fail—verifying the validity of our current practices—or we find a better way and this now becomes our control. There are many, many excellent procedures to use for this purpose, and we need to start the process today.

On the one hand, what I’ve outlined sounds challenging and somewhat depressing when considered from the historical viewpoint of industrial economy. On the other hand, when the market or the economy becomes too crowded and the profits too slim, you change the rules. That is exactly what we need to do if we are to remain profitable and viable for the next generation.

Mark A. Coudray is president of Coudray Graphic Technologies, San Luis Obispo, CA. He has served as a director of the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association Int'l (SGIA) and as chairman of the Academy of Screenprinting Technology. Coudray has authored more than 250 papers and articles over the last 20 years, and he received the SGIA's Swormstedt Award in 1992 and 1994. He can be reached via e-mail at






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