Bringing Bill Gates’ mind to Berlin

25 September 2019

Today I’m part of a workshop hosted by the Hightech-Forum, the German federal advisory board on technology. The central question of today’s workshop is how the government might enable social innovation around societal challenges better, and how that may demand change in how the government works. A big question that could benefit from how Kennisland works: starting with small change, learning, and working towards larger-scale change in policymaking. 

Yesterday I finished watching the three-part documentary Inside Bill’s Brain on Bill Gates. I think it’s excellent in leaving the stuff out that is not instrumental in telling the story, apparently disagreeing with many reviewers. The main point I’m taking away is that Bill – different from other well known tech heroes – is all about optimisation and gradual change with technology as his sole instrument.

People accuse him of seeing technology as the only way to solve problems. “…I guess I’m guilty of that”, Bill reacts after contemplating his answer, “This is the one thing that I am good at. It’s my hammer. And with this hammer, I see lots of nails.” This is all very much aligned with what people expect from Bill Gates. But what the maker shows us is that a large part of Bill’s success, apart from being a very pragmatic and tech-oriented person with a super processor brain, was to organise other, perpendicular perspectives around him so that he could solve problems better. In many ways, Bill Gates organised his own criticism, manifested in, for example, his own wife Melinda. 

I will try to bring some of this forward in today’s discussion: how should we not focus on technology or social innovation solely, but keep organising our own critique and counter perspectives? How can we start to think about problem-solving by involving different perspectives – not only the ones at today’s table?

Deze tekst heeft een Creative Commons Naamsvermelding-licentie (CC BY) en is gekopieerd van de Kennisland-website. Ga voor de volledige versie met afbeeldingen, streamers en noten naar

This text has a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) and has been copied from the Kennisland website. For a full version with images, streamers and notes go to