I find your conclusions rather interesting and familar. I remember Kelly Johnson's statement in the 70s about CAD along the same lines. He bemond the loss of engineering creativity and quality. His response was give me a few more engineer's that can use slide rules and a few less computers. Aside for the historical reference, what I have watched more years than I care to admit to in public has been an acceleration of the business cycle which has accellerated the engineering and product development cycle. This has ultimately resulted in businesses looking for people to fill slots that can come in and so to speak be productive immediately. I use the passive sentence purposely, as I see lots of engineer's lately that can bang out a design, but is it a good design. I see many senior engineering manager' that I would let suppervise running bathwater for my kids bath.
I don't put this people down, its the environment that has created them to be they way they are. When was the last time you saw a real apprentiship program? I don't mean having interns grinding through dog work, I mean a real program where new talent was brought on board the team and given a project of some real importance to do suppervised by a real mentor.
During the late 80s was asked about how to save the talent and knowledge that was leaving out the door in most major aerospace corporations. During that time AI and Knowledge Capture where the big things at IBM. I remember telling a panel of Sr. Execs the best thing they could do was create a real mentor program and start using their Sr.s not as managers but trainier and mentors. Bring up people from the ranks to learn how to do large projects.
As I watch many more corporations (GM, IBM, even MIcrosoft) stumbling, I can see the roots of their own failures in not investing in people. You hear the slogan "People are our most important asset" however, you don't see them managed that way. They've become just another portfolio item to be traded.
Given that situation, do you wonder why many people today are acting as though they're here just to fill a slot. Do exactly what was spec'd no more, no less --stay in the box. If my company wants be to do something they'll tell me. Trouble is most of the management above is clueless on what they need to tell these people as they didn't learn it from their management in the 90s.
They've learned mangement by spreadsheet and therefore if it doesn't fit into Cell A4 it doesn't get worked upon. I guess I shouldn't worry, it just means more money for my consulting business strating out these problems.