Eric E. Schmidt, current executive chairman and former chief executive officer of Google, discussed topics surrounding entrepreneurship and technological innovation during an address at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum Thursday evening.
During his talk, entitled “Innovation and Leadership in the New Digital Age,” Schmidt laid out the attributes of effective and ineffective entrepreneurs.
“The successful entrepreneur doubles down, fights harder, leads harder, challenges harder, and eventually wins. The unsuccessful entrepreneur gets scared, gets timid, loses confidence, falls apart,” Schmidt said. “That’s the difference between a billion dollars and zero.”
The forum’s moderator David R. Gergen, current director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School of Government and professor of public service, asked Schmidt if joblessness was the “dark side” to innovation.
“I’m personally very worried about [joblessness],” Schmidt said, explaining that automation in the technology industry has reduced the need for many traditional workers’ skills.
In light of this increasing automation, Schmidt said that the U.S. public education system must be reformed to better teach students the analytical skills they need to compete in the modern job market.
”So, we don’t educate the kinds of people we needed 50 years ago, we educate the kinds of people we need in the next 50 years,” Schmidt said.
In an interview after the forum, Gergen agreed with Schmidt on the importance of educating students to meet new demands.
“Clearly one of the questions that this university is grappling at is how do we do a better job of preparing our students for this new age, so they understand the underlying principles and can think ahead of the curve,” Gergen said.
Gergen also praised Schmidt, calling him “one of the most insightful people on the planet about the new digital age.”
Schmidt closed his address by explaining how the effects of technological innovation may alter society today.
In a question and answer session with the audience after his address, Schmidt said he was optimistic about the expansion of Google Fiber, the company’s recently-launched broadband internet service. He also commended methods of innovation in other countries like Israel, and warned of the permanence of information on the internet.