JDES General Manager Tom Budan was in the speaker lineup of area technology entrepreneurs and business leaders, whom Hoeven said are leading North Dakota in developing the latest technologies that will change the world.
“If there were an Olympics of technology,” Hoeven said, “the gold medalists are here with me today.”
A key topic of the day was education, specifically in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning.
Caroline McEnnis, Director of Design Engineering at the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM, talked about the adoption of STEM learning techniques throughout the United States. McEnnis described how it tends to start with one school leading the way, thereby transforming a school system, thus becoming a geographic pocket of integrated STEM learning. West Fargo STEM Center Middle School Principal Michelle Weber agrees.
“The West Fargo STEM Center is thriving and proves daily that STEM learning is better equipping our students with the skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s job market,” said Weber. “Our district’s strategic plan focuses on our students becoming lifelong learners, demonstrating and applying 21st century skills. Many schools in our district are adopting STEM principles in their curricula. With willing community partners like John Deere, our region is poised to lead the way.”
John Deere Inspire is Deere’s initiative to positively impact students by supporting STEM learning in Deere communities. John Deere Electronic Solutions works closely with the West Fargo STEM Center to bring STEM concepts, including the engineering design process, to area middle school students.
McEnnis says STEM is for more than just engineers and scientists, and challenged usto consider how the engineering design process is in everything that we do. “STEM education is for everybody,” McEnnis said. “STEM-trained students are problem solvers, innovators, inventors, and self-reliant, technologically literate logical thinkers.”
Innovation was woven into all the speakers’ messages. Jeff Davis, manager of enterprise evangelism for Google, says the more collaborative an organization is, the more likely the team is to innovate. “Remove your developers from the IT organization and embed them into the business systems,” Davis suggested.
This practice is a key factor in Deere and Company’s number two spot on the 2012 Information Week 500 ranking of the most innovative business technology teams that are helping change the way their companies operate.
The day wrapped with a panel of leaders from some of the fastest growing companies in Fargo. Each shared how they drive innovation in their organizations.
Michael Chambers, president/CEO of biotech firm Aldevron, stressed the importance of communication, accepting failure, and nurturing a culture of continuous improvement, adding that innovation can come from anywhere. “It’s incredible what motivated students can do,” said Chambers. “They can run circles around PHDs.”
Jim Traynor, director of client/channel management of Intelligent InSites, cited respect for others’ ideas as integral to driving innovation. Joel Jorgenson, CEO of Packet Digital, said his team uses innovation to attempt to obsolete its own products.
Budan spoke of Deere’s significant resources devoted to research, development and advanced technology, stating the company sustains these areas even during difficult economic times. He says that innovation isn’t unique to engineering, rather it is spread throughout all departments and business systems in Deere.
“Innovation is a core value to John Deere,” Budan said. “Therefore is it not subject to negotiation.”
Read Keynote speaker Doug Burgum’s speech.