In a year filled with extraordinary astronomical phenomena, all eyes will be on the Transit of Venus. A small black dot will appear to be traversing the surface of the sun on June 5 as Venus moves between the Sun and Earth in one of the rarest of all planetary alignments. This will be the last Transit of Venus until the year 2117 (and possibly for the rest of our lifetimes), so the rare event is already inspiring a sense of awe and excitement online.
The event and the resulting buzz got me thinking: Could the Transit of Venus serve as a metaphor for how we view innovation — away from pure science and mathematics, and towards more emphasis on sharing, collaboration and emotional connection?
Bear with me here, but during previous viewable cycles of the Transit of Venus in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the event brought out the alpha males from Mars, so to speak — the guys in big boats who rowed out to remote islands to view Venus from high-powered telescopes. When these men returned home, they relied on principles from science and mathematics to crank out estimates about the size of the solar system and the distance between the Earth and sun.
Flash forward to 2012, where the Transit of Venus will likely be an event celebrated across social media — on platforms where women play a prominent, if not dominant role. The event will be shared with friends, and posted online in the form of videos and photos. There will be collaborative viewings of the Transit of Venus via NASA's live Webcam feed. Even the type of data gathered by astronomers will change, from quantitative data to qualitative data about Venus itself.
This Transit of Venus online, if you will, goes beyond social media sites such as Pinterest or Facebook where women account for a majority of all users. A brave, new generation of female tech entrepreneurs is arising. Companies such as Gilt Groupe, which was founded by two women, are taking the Web in new directions as women are re-making the Web to look the way they want it to look. Take a trip back in the Wayback Machine and you’ll see the Web is more beautiful than it has ever been. Beyond that, thinking about emotion and empathy is infusing how we interact with our gadgets as the design, science and programming worlds combine. Men are learning to co-opt traits and abilities from Venus, much as women have, for some time now, been learning to adopt traits from Mars.
Traits such as collaboration, sharing, inclusiveness and visual thinking — largely thought to be “Venus” traits — are starting to meld with typical “Mars” traits like analytical thinking. Think of it as Venus shifting its interplanetary alignment within the corporate world as women take their place alongside men in determining not only what we consider to be innovative, but also the very traits that define us as innovative. If, before, the Transit of Venus was an event for the scientific elite, it is now an event for everyone.
As we progress from a desktop Web to a mobile Web, this transit in the corporate world should only intensify. If desktops were big, inscrutable objects that plugged into the Web and seemed to be designed by people from Mars, the newest mobile devices look like they were handcrafted in artisanal workshops on Venus. Think how far we’ve come since the last cycle of the Transit of Venus back in 1882, when women played no major role. As Venus makes its way across the surface of the sun tonight, just imagine what the world might look like for your daughters and granddaughters in 2117.
This piece has been corrected to reflect that the Transit of Venus is happening on June 5 — not June 6.
Dominic Basulto is a digital thinker at Bond Strategy and Influence (formerly called Electric Artists) in New York. Prior to Bond Strategy and Influence, he was the editor of Fortune’s Business Innovation Insider and a founding member of Corante.com, one of the Web's first blog media companies. He also shares his thoughts on innovation on the Big Think Endless Innovation blog and is working on a new book on innovation called "Endless Innovation, Most Beautifuland Most Wonderful."
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