Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Here's why YouTube is worth $1.6 billion dollars

One of the most amazing events of 2006 was Google's acquisition of YouTube for $1.6 billion 19 months after launch. Here's the two founders making the announcement themselves.

The last comment is, "The kids have gotten together and we're going to have it our way." Need more be said.

We're only scratching the surface of human potential: 50 marathons in 50 days

This is an article about Dean Karnazes,who ran 50 marathons in 50 days. He does 200 miles just for fun. He'll race in 120-degree heat.

I particularly appreciated his 12 secrets to his success.

I walked five miles yesterday and was beaming with pride at myself. Oh well.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Swamp Fox for the holidays

OK. It's shameless self-promotion, but I hope you enjoy it.

Pepperhill Elementary: A successful experiment in public education

A recent story in the Post and Courier highlights Pepperhill Elementary.
For two periods each day, the North Charleston school ignores students' grades and ages in determining what they should learn and instead organizes classes based on their strengths and weaknesses.
Etheline Mizell, a mother of 10-year-old twin sons at Pepperhill, pointed out what should be obvious, "Everyone is not good at everything."

I don't know anything about Pepperhill other than what is in this article, but it sure sounds encouraging. Do you know anything else about what seems to be a very successful experiment in public education?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

2007 Opportunity #1: How to Have an Overnight Internet Success Story

YouTube was founded and sold to Goggle for $1.6 billion all within 19 months. Yes you can do it too. How to Have an Overnight Internet Success Story

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Those who favor freedom are merely bigots

Jane Clark Lindle, Eugene T. Moore professor of educational leadership at Clemson University, writes in The State that freedom doesn't work, and even if it did it doesn't work in public education.
Few studies of free-market schools show any greater improvement in student achievement than public schools have produced.
Of course its not true. Had she really cared to look, the Manhattan Institute, the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy are but three sources of academically rigorous research that freedom produces superior results even in education.

Joseph Schumpeter accurately described what Dr. Lindle is afraid of:
The opening up of new markets and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as US Steel illustrate the process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one ... [The process] must be seen in its role in the perennial gale of creative destruction.
Dr. Lindle rightly perceives that allowing teachers to be innovative and parents to choose what's in the best interest of their children will destroy the status quo of education today on which she and her College of Education depend. Dr. Lindle does not want to engage in a competition of ideas, and ultimately results, because she instinctively knows that Schumpeter's Gale will blow her away.

What really is disappointing, and quite frankly embarrassing, is for a professor to be reduced to arguing that those who favor freedom are merely bigots.
Proponents of free-market schools...care only that their children benefit from schooling, and they don’t care about other people’s children. Other people are people they don’t know, who live in apartments or public housing, not in their neighborhood. The other people are single parents or immigrants working two or three jobs daily to put food on the table. The other people have different skin color, different abilities or disabilities, different languages, different religions and different politics.
By the way, check out Gaston College Prep and Pride High, which destroys Dr. Lindle's arguments about both freedom and bigots: Most students are black. They are poor. And they are scholars. The founders, Tammi Sutton and Caleb Dolan, weren't trained in a traditional college of education and don't spend much time worrying about the way schools are supposed to operate. That's what Dr. Lindle is really worried about.

May the gale blow.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A lesson for every entrepreneur and innovator

Yahoo is getting their clocked cleaned by Google.

The lesson for every entrepreneur and innovator is to figure out what business you are in and what drives your economic engine, then focus, focus, focus.

Geoffrey Moore in Crossing the Chasm nailed it when he observed that lack of focus is not a problem of the head, but of the emotions.
First, let us understand that [lack of focus] is a failure of will, not of understanding. That is, it is not that these leaders need to learn about niche marketing. MBA marketing curricula of the past 25 years have been adamant about the need to segment markets and the advantages gained thereby. No one, therefore, can or does plead ignorance. Instead, the claim is made that, although niche strategy is generally best, we do not have time—or we cannot afford—to implement it now. This is a ruse, of course, the true answer being much simpler: We do not have, nor are we willing to adopt, any discipline that would ever require us to stop pursuing any sale at any time for any reason. We are, in other words, not a market-driven company; we are a sales-driven company.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Three great sound bites from Moore School Annual Economic Outlook Conference

The Moore School of Business held their 26th Annual Economic Outlook Conference in Columbia November 28th. Don Herriott, Head of Roche Global Chemical Manufacturing, had three great sound bites.

Universities are great at turning money into knowledge, and then companies are great at turning knowledge into money.

What we really need to be talking about is not brain drain, but brain gain.

What would I advise us to stop doing? Stop apologizing.

The better educated a SC student's parents, the further behind their peers they are

''

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Laurens School District Opposes Thornwell Charter School For Children in Crisis

What we need in this state is a more innovative and entrepreneurial public education system that delivers creative educational alternatives for students not well served by the status quo. If there ever was a group of students that met that definition it is "children from broken or torn families" that the Thornwell Charter School is designed to serve.

If you've never toured the Thornwell Children Home in Clinton, you should. It's doing desperately needed work with children in crisis. You would think that because presumably the the Laurens School District cares about providing quality education to all children, they would be bending over backwards to help the Thornwell Charter School be successful.

But no. What's at the core of their objection?
A charter school would cause disruptions for 250 to 300 students spread throughout the district's schools. "If they came out in classes, we could close the class and not pay a teacher. But they wouldn't and that would mean we'd receive less money and still have to pay the same number of teachers."
You know, the way the real world works is that if you've not providing value that attracts customers, you have to downsize. And it is never easy nor painless. That keeps managers at the top of their game to do anything they can to make sure it doesn't happen if it doesn't need to.

Let's move beyond the charade that the objection of the public education establishment to educational alternatives is about meeting the needs of underserved children, and acknowledge that at the end of the day, as is true in everything else, to understand their objections you have to follow the money. The mantra "We don't want public money going to private schools" is a ruse. Charter schools are public schools, and the public education establishment doesn't like them either. They don't really care about children getting the best quality education, nearly as much as they care about the the public education establishment getting the money so they can control education.

It's why we're in the mess where in. To get out, we must clearly and passionately identify that we have "a culture of education which is 'limiting – even ruining – the lives of millions of Americans every year,'" and we will no longer tolerate that in South Carolina.

Ralph Bristol is precisely right about market driven health insurance

If you don't know Ralph Bristol, he's a radio talk show host in Greenville, who I happen to know personally. Unlike a lot of talk show hosts who rant and rave, Ralph approaches issues in a thoughtful way that's very refreshing. Ralph's conservative, and you may not agree with him, but he each day he promotes a dialogue not an argument.

A recent discussion about market driven solutions for health insurance is a great example. I completely agree with Ralph that consumer directed health plans that are 100% portable and independent of employers is the ultimate solution to the health care crisis we face. The solution absolutely is not government provided, universal health care.

The first will promote innovation in health care that will drive cost down and quality up. The second will result in long waits and crummy care.

I also agree with Ralph that getting 100% portability may take an act of Congress. It shouldn’t, but it might. That's a great example of why I'm not a libertarian.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

"South Carolina is really becoming a shining star."

S.C. Pushes Hydrogen Economy
Patrick Serfass, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based association, called South Carolina "one of the newest strong players." He credited a "magic combination" of governments, private industry and universities working together. "The activity is growing very, very fast," he said. "South Carolina is really becoming a shining star."
That's a refreshing change, isn't it?

BMW's Launches First Production Hydrogen-combustion Engine

An article in Wired Magazine describes how BMW is bypassing the hydrogen fuel cell to inject the stuff directly.
The automaker's approach is markedly different than the more familiar concept of hydrogen-powered fuel cells, where energy is stored before it is converted into electricity. By contrast, BMW's Hydrogen 7 is powered by pumping hydrogen into a combustion engine and igniting it. The engine can burn both hydrogen and gasoline, and switches between the two at the flick of a switch.

Burning hydrogen is more efficient than converting it into electricity, making it the more practical choice for hydrogen-fueled cars now, according to BMW.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Many criticisms of the market economy is really lack of belief in freedom itself.

Below is an excerpt from Milton Freedman's editorial, "The New Liberal's Creed: Individual Freedom, Preserving Dissent Are Ultimate Goals," in the Wall Street Journal, May 18, 1961. Think about this especially when you hear arguments about why school choice won't work.
On the Free Market

What most people really object to when they object to a free market is that it is so hard for them to shape it to their own will. The market gives people what the people want instead of what other people think they ought to want. At the bottom of many criticisms of the market economy is really lack of belief in freedom itself. (my emphasis)

The essence of political freedom is the absence of coercion of one man by his fellow men. The fundamental danger to political freedom is the concentration of power. The existence of a large measure of power in the hands of a relatively few individuals enables them to use it to coerce their fellow men. Preservation of freedom requires either the elimination of power where that is possible, or its dispersal where it cannot be eliminated.

It essentially requires a system of checks and balances, like that explicitly incorporated in our Constitution. . . .

The person who buys bread doesn't know whether the wheat from which it was made was grown by a pleader of the Fifth Amendment or a McCarthyite, by person whose skin is black or whose skin is white. The market is an impersonal mechanism that separates economic activities of individual from their personal characteristics. It enables people to cooperate in the economic realm regardless of any differences of opinion or views or attitudes they may have in other areas.

Re: Motives do matter in public education

There is a university professor I have an ongoing conversation with about improving public education. I observed that KIPP schools are an excellence example of an out of the box solution targeted at students in poverty not well served by the existing education system. He noted that:
Let us also take note that these schools were originally formed, and have been furthered, on the basis that the goal was to reform education. Motives do matter.
Bingo. Here's my response.

Re: Motives do matter.

That's one thing you've said that I totally agree with. Motives matter for students. And motives matter for principals and teachers too.

I grew up with and have spent the past 25 years of my professional career surrounded by entrepreneurs. The best are out of the box thinkers. They generally are frustrated inside large organizations where they can not effect change, and they are highly motivated when they see a problem and then can create and take ownership of a solution.

This does not mean they are not accountable to some outside authority. We're all accountable to other people in one way or another. You can't open a restaurant without being accountable to customers, to your landlord, to your investors, to your employees, to the health department, and to taxing authorities. Keep all those people happy and you can be as out of the box as you want to be. Let one down, and you'll be out of business. Who you don't have to be accountable to is the guy running the restaurant across the street.

This works in education just like it does in every other aspect of our society. I did an interview this summer with Virginia Uldrick about founding the Governor's School for the Arts. By any definition that is a roaring success. She observed:
Often people think if you step outside the box you are not accountable. It's even being more accountable because you know you have to still live by the rules and regulations. Its incredible to me, what people don't do with what they have; how much they have and what they don't ever develop.
She has also stated that it would have been impossible to create the Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities inside the Greenville County School District. She ought to know; she also created the Fine Arts Center, which is a part of the Greenville County School District. That's a clear example in education of what Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen calls The Innovators Dilemma. His point is that the source of this dilemma is not the result of management that is not intelligent, well trained, or paying attention. It is a structural issue inherent in all large organizations who have tremendous internal momentum to serve existing customers, and it is why entrepreneurs across our society are successful in creating new solutions for customers not well served by the status quo.

Saturday I was in a seminar organized by Furman's Richard Riley Institute, and a superintendent of a school district in South Carolina said we need to "implode the current system at its core and start over." This wasn't some radical Republican politician running for office who knows nothing about education. This was a public school district superintendent in the trenches every day trying to educate students. In the room were six other public school teachers and one superintendent, and they all agreed. There is tremendous, pent up entrepreneurial energy in principals and teachers in South Carolina who understand what the problems are and desperately want to take ownership of and accountability for creative solutions.

Teachers do not, for the most part, have experience or resources in creating new organizations. Many people in the business world don't either. The institution that serves that role in a business setting is called a venture capital firm, which not only provides capital but also has deep experience with forming and growing entrepreneurial companies. I was in Asheville Friday participating about capital formation, and there was a person from Minnesota who ran a community development organization that, in part, financed the creation of charter schools. That's very intriguing, and something I plan to get more details on.

Deep in the marrow of my bones I believe unleashing the creative energy of teachers by allowing them to take ownership of and accountability for the challenges we face in public education is essential to any solution, and I think it is impossible to get to where we need to be unless we tap into it.

John

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Happy 10th Anniversary to the Spiro Center

The Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership at Clemson University is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Under the strong leadership of Caron St. John, the Spiro Center has been a major contributor to entrepreneurship not only at Clemson, but throughout the Upstate, all across South Carolina, and recently even around the world.

I have had the privilege of working closely with the Spiro Institute over the years, from the Institute being a founding partner in the Upstate Coalition for Entrepreneurial Development, the Carolina Crescent Coalition, and InnoVenture, to collaborating on the first, and unfortunately only, KEMET Innovation Forum which brought Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen to Greenville.

As inspiring as the last ten years have been, I can't wait to see what the next ten will bring.

Response to Brad Wharton's editorial: "We can’t cut and run from our public schools"

Brad Wharton at The State opined,
We know we can do education well; just look at the public schools in our affluent suburbs. More relevantly, look at how successful Richland 2 is at educating even the disadvantaged. We must duplicate that kind of success throughout the state, particularly in the most stubborn pockets of resistance — the poor, rural areas.
Is Brad kidding? Here's a response.
Brad

Richland 2 is not successful at educating the disadvantaged. They are not even successful are educating the wealthy. There's not a school in Richland 2, or all of Columbia for that matter, that is in top 25 in average SAT scores among high schools in North and South Carolina. Not one.

We’re in denial. Our problem is not just that we have a lot of poor children in this state. Andrew Coulson documented that, "the better educated a SC student’s parents, the further he trails peers nationally."

Saturday I was in a seminar organized by Furman's Richard Riley Institute, and a superintendent of a school district in South Carolina said we need to "implode the current system at its core and start over." This wasn't some radical Republican politician running for office who knows nothing about education. This was a public school district superintendent in the trenches every day trying to educate students. In the room were six other public school teachers and one superintendent, and they all agreed.

Public education is full of wonderful, dedicated people who are working incredibly hard every day to make South Carolina a better place. The system we have is failing them as well as our students. As Bill Gates has observed, "America’s high schools are obsolete... and ruining the lives of millions of Americans every year." Ken Robinson, an expert in creativity from Oxford, noted, "Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip mine the earth for a particular commodity. And for the future it won’t serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principals on which we educate our children."

Brad, it is time to face reality that our current system of public education is not giving our children the education they require and no amount of incremental tweaking will fix it. I know it, I believe in your heart of hearts you know it, and most of all I am certain that educational professionals in this state know it.

It's past time to get on with the hard work of reinventing public education for the 21st century so it is much more innovative and entrepreneurial to meet the needs of the wide diversity of children in the state.

I would love to see you become a leader in doing what needs to be done.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Role of Government in Education - Milton Friedman, 1955

One of the greatest economists in history died this week. A fitting tribute is for all of us to take the time to read the words of the master on"The Role of Government in Education."

1955.Wow. He was always a man on the leading edge of his time. Imagine the high quality and diverse public education system we would have today if we had only listened fifty years ago.

Sadly, it's too late for our children in school today, but not for their children and their children's children.

Regarding a certain event later this week...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Take the bait from The State

The State opined that "It’s time for common-sense school reforms." Well, it's about time they took a few steps towards the real world with the rest of us.

Only 49.2 percent of incoming ninth graders will graduate from high school on time. So this isn't the recognition that is really necessary by The State of the reality that our current model of delivering education fails large percentages of students, but it's something and we ought to take the bait.

Specifically they suggest, "We need to go in and open state charter schools in areas where the local school boards can’t get the job done." OK. So here's a specific idea that we've talked about here before.
KIPP is a network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools in under-resourced communities throughout the United States. There are currently 52 locally-run KIPP schools in 16 states and Washington, DC, serving over 12,000 students. At KIPP, there are no shortcuts: outstanding educators, more time in school, a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum, and a strong culture of achievement and support help our students make significant academic gains and continue to excel in high school and college.
Let's start a chain of KIPP charter schools serving children in impoverished communities. KIPP is a proven model that works. It makes a lot more sense to have a statewide district serving a homogeneous demographic, than it does to have local schools district trying to be all things to all students from the poorest to the most affluent. That's a major source of much of the problem in public education the way it is delivered today.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Companies Moving High-End Functions Offshore to Access Talent, Study Finds

Companies Moving High-End Functions Offshore to Access Talent, Study Finds

Companies are increasingly moving sophisticated, mission-critical functions such as product design and research and development to China, India and other offshore locations primarily because these countries can provide highly skilled scientific and engineering workers who are in short supply in the U.S. and Europe, according to a new study by Duke University and management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

InnoVenture Success - Michelin

Michelin North America, including the Michelin Americas Research and Development Corporation, was an anchor of InnoVenture 2006. Ralph Hulseman made an excellent presentation about Michelin's vision of a Community of Innovation surrounding Michelin. This presentation was featured on Fortune Magazine's Innovation Insider blog as well as on the Innovate on Purpose blog.

InnoVenture Success - Selah Technologies

Michael Bolick, formerly an executive with Irix Pharmaceuticals, licensed technology from the Sun Research Group at Clemson University that he found at InnoVenture 2006. Michael founded Selah Technologies to commercialize this technology. This is exactly the kind of synergy InnoVenture was expected to produce when we put some of the best talent working with large companies in the same room with some of the best talent from research universities.

InnoVenture Success - Navagational Sciences

Navigational Sciences Inc. develops and delivers tracking and data communication systems capable of monitoring security where other technologies typically fail. The company successfully raised capital from a venture capital firm that it met at InnoVenture 2005.

InnoVenture Success - Ometric

Walter Alessandrini, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ometric Corporation was the luncheon keynote speaker at InnoVenture 2006. Ometric is based on technology licensed from Micky Myrick's Group at the University of South Carolina. Ometric, which was also a presenter at InnoVenture 2004, is one of the most successful start-ups of a South Carolina technology company.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Something Women Can't Do In Public :-)

I can't explain it, you just have to watch it :-)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Wow! Intuitive, "interface-free," touch-driven computer screen


TEDTalks: Jeff Han


This video is of Jeff Han, a research scientist for New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, who demonstrates—for the first time publicly—his intuitive, "interface-free," touch-driven computer screen, which can be manipulated intuitively with the fingertips, and responds to varying levels of pressure.

Very, very cool. Where can I get one?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The empires of the future will be empires of the mind.

Sounds like some techno-geek talk from last week.

Not on your life. Winston Churchill said that in speech at Harvard University in 1943.

The article points out,
The war for talent is at its fiercest in high-tech industries... but a large and growing number of businesses outside the tech industry—from consulting to hedge funds—also run on brainpower... Companies do not even know how to define “talent,” let alone how to manage it.

It would be wonderful if talent were distributed equally across races, classes and genders. But what if a free market shows it not to be, raising all sorts of political problems? And what happens to talented Western workers when they have to compete with millions of clever Indians who are willing to do the job for a small fraction of the price?
That last point reminded me of a comment by Ken Robinson in our discussion about education last week.
Children starting in school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue what the world will look like in five years, and yet we’re meant to be educating for it. The unpredictability is extraordinary.

Our whole pubic education system was invented around the world to meet the needs of industrialism... I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip mine the earth for a particular commodity. And for the future it won’t serve us.

Making the point, Google signs deal to build R&D center in Korea

Just to put an exclamation point on the fact that the empires of the future will be empires of the mind...

here's your wake up call: Google signs deal to build R&D center in Korea

PS - The empire builder isn't Korea.

Forget Jack Welch: Jimmy Wales is the future

Here's a very interesting article about the leadership style of Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia: Forget Jack Welch: Jimmy Wales is the future

Here's the punch line. What leads up to the punch line is excellent too.
Innovation thrives when flocks of creative people – inside and outside and organisations – are attracted to an exciting goal or opportunity. That is how Linux and Wikipedia got going: they attracted a swarm of innovators to an interesting question posed by people who in time became leaders of a community. Closed leaders mainly propel. Open leaders mainly attract: they create the conditions for creative self-organisation by articulating compelling goals and unlock the capacity of others to reach those goals. Or put it another way if it’s a choice between Jack Welch and Jimmy Wales, give me Jimmy Wales everytime.

Boy, isn't this the truth!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Harry Potter finds his way to Duke University (via YouTube)

Duke University announced this week first demonstration of a working invisibility cloak. As intersting as the discovery to me, is the fact that Duke saw fit to publicize it on YouTube.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

For those of you who want the full buffet, but don't want to pay for it...

We've had an ongoing discussion here about net neutrality. We all want an all-you-can-eat Internet buffet, but no one wants to pay for it.

Here's an article about how, "soaring demand for games, video and music will stretch the Internet to its limits." When you think about it, it only makes sense that this is coming. The only reason we didn't hit the wall already is because of the massive overbuilding of infrastructure during the late 1990s technology bubble.

So, we're reaching a point where new capital investments are needed to build out the infrastructure to support the growth of new web-based services. If we insist on pure net neutrality and don't allow infrastructure providers to make a market return on their investment, who's going to make the necessary investment? Who are we going to blame with the performance of the Internet grinds to a crawl?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A rival to Wikipedia and an open innovation lesson

Here is a story about how a co-founder of Wikipedia is setting up a rival to the online encyclopedia. I've commented before that the example of Wikipedia demonstrates the need for an authority to make a community work.

Encyclopedia Britannica, for example, gets people who are authorities in their fields to write articles. While this ensures that a scholarly view is presented, Encyclopedia Britannica doesn't necessarily contain opposing views outside the mainstream, and the range of topics is more narrow and less timely than is possible with an online open collaboration like Wikipedia.

Wikipedia operates with a minimum of authority. Here's the challenge.
Its openness has also drawn charges of unreliability and left it vulnerable to disputes between people with opposing views, particularly on politically sensitive topics.

The latest venture... is intended to bring more order to this creative chaos by drawing on traditional measures of authority. Though still open to submissions from anyone, the power to authorise articles will be given to editors who can prove their expertise, as well as a group of volunteer "“constables"”, charged with keeping the peace between warring interests.

Accusing Wikipedia of failing to control its writers and editors, he said: "“The latest articles don't represent a consensus view -– they tend to become what the most persistent '‘posters'’ say."”
John Seely Brown, head of Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center and chief scientist at Xerox, and a colleague, John Hagel, an alumnus of McKinsey's Silicon Valley office, make a lot of sense on this issue.
Intriguingly promising are "networks of creation" (or "creation nets"), where hundreds and even thousands of participants from diverse institutional settings collaborate to create new knowledge, to learn from one another, and to appropriate and build on one another's work... These diverse participants often work in parallel and then fight and learn among themselves when the time comes to integrate their individual efforts into a broader offering.

Mobilizing such a range of participants requires a precise set of institutional mechanisms to make clear who assembles the network, who can participate in it, how disputes will be resolved, and how performance will be measured. Creation nets thus begin with a network organizer, in the role of gatekeeper.
Otherwise open collaboration just turns to anarchy. But as Wikipedia demonstrates, the balance between openness and authority isn't easy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Reality Check II: We just got email...

Dawg gone! This is my week to deal with those at the back of the herd.

Earlier in the week it was explained to me that "eCommerce is a fax." Then today I had another reality check conversation.

My mother recently moved into an assisted living facility. We met with her stock broker in September to make sure everything was in order and to give me power of attorney to help manage her affairs. Her stockbroker works for a national firm.

So today my mother called me to ask a question. I didn't know, so I needed to contact her broker. His business card did not have an email address on it, so I had to call, but of course he wasn't in so I talked with his assistance. As the conversation wrapped up...

Me: By the way, can you give me his email address. It's much easier for me to communicate that way because I do it are odd hours. (Many of you who know me receive 2:30 am emails regularly)

Her: Well, go to our company's website, and you can fill in the form to contact him.

Me: No, I'm looking for an email address.

Her: Well you can contact him through the website.

Me: I'd like to get an email address so I can put it in my contact manager. I have a phone number, but we'll end up playing phone tag most of the time if we try to communicate that way.

Her: Well we just got email, but I'm not sure how it works. I think I have his address. (She fumbles around). Well I can't find it, but I think it is (she gives me what she thinks his address is). Well now wait a minute, I think there's a dot in there somewhere. (she tells me where she thinks the dot is). Try that and see if that works. Why don't I just have him call you this afternoon.

Me: (Hanging my head on the other end of the phone after just explaining about phone tag.) OK, why don't you.

Now I understand that everyone in the world doesn't know what a wiki or del.icio.us is, or even a blog. And I understand that my mother in an assisted living facility may never surf the web. But does it scare anyone else that someone working for a national brokerage firm doesn't know, much less use, their email address?

I feel like I'm in The Twilight Zone this week.

PS - When I met with him in his office, he asked what I did. In explaining I asked him to pull up SwampFox.ws in a browser on the PC on his desk. He tried, but his system wouldn't let him access the site because it was restricted.

No wait a minute. This is a stock broker. He's supposed to be knowledgeable about what's going on in the world so he can give good advice. An he can't get to the Internet? Are they concerned that he's going to be looking at porn or something? Maybe that's a good investment.

(Before you comment on that, I'm just getting frustrated this week.)

Powers of Ten: Serious and the Simpsons

Developed by IBM, here's a pretty interesting "film dealing with the relative size of things in the universe, and the effect of adding another zero."



Then of course, here's the Simpson's version. Now don't cheat and watch this one first. (You know who you are.)



Courtesy of Adam Gautsch at OrangeCoat. He said we ought to produce a video like this to promote a project we are working on together. I wonder which one he meant?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Ten Types of Innovation: Does this make any sense?

Here's an interesting chart of what the author proposes as The Ten Types of Innovation.

Often fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in South Carolina focuses on technology transfer out of universities. Yet technology transfer is a driver for only one of the ten types of innovation identified here, Product performance. Some of most valuable companies created in the past several decades, like Dell and Wal*Mart, market mature products through innovation business models and marketing channels.

If the Sam Walton of 2006 were to appear in South Carolina, we wouldn't give him any economic development incentives and he wouldn't qualify for many of our entrepreneurial development programs because he is a retailer.

Does that make any sense?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Reality Check I: eCommerce is a fax

Every now and then, something happens that really strikes home how resistent most of us are to adopting anything new most of the time.

Swamp Fox LLC has been engaged by a global corporation to do a small project for which we will get paid $3,000. First, the purchasing documents that we had to complete and send back were 25 pages.

But what really got me was that, being the tech savvy guy that I am, I checked the box in the middle of those 25 pages to do business via eCommerce. Just now, someone in the purchasing department called...

Her: I'm reviewing the purchasing documents you sent, and you forgot to give us your fax number.

Me: Can't you email me what I need, or give me a web portal to go to?

Her: No, eCommerce is a fax.

Me: eCommerce is a fax?

Her: Yes, we only fax purchase orders.

Me: Huh. eCommerce is a fax. That's interesting. Well, I don't have a fax number for this company. Can you mail it to me?

Her: Sure, we'll mail it to you.

Wow! I talk here about Enterprise 2.0 and social networking software and open source and the like. There are still people out there, and probably plenty of them, for whom eCommerce is a fax. This is your reality check for the day.

A company's culture gets embedded deeply into its procedures and processes, and it becomes extremely difficult for people inside the company to do different, even if they want to - even if they know they need to. If you need an example of a source of The Innovator's Dilemmna that Clayton Christensen talks about, there you go.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

We're in denial II: The heart breaking decline rigorous math and science

A few weeks ago I observed,
We'’re in denial: The better educated a SC student'’s parents, the further he trails peers nationally.
South Carolina has 22 high schools that participate in the International Baccalaureate program. Recently I had the privilege of visiting the robotics team at one of them, and I met an incredible group of students. About half the students were either born outside the US, or their parents were.

I got a nice follow-up note from their teacher, which I'll let speak for itself.
Hi John,

Thanks again for coming and talking to my students. We perform an after action analysis the following day in class after each Thursday meeting. I heard nothing but very positive comments about your presentation. Many of the students seemed to be really pumped up after your talk.

By the way, the reason I asked the students to raise their hands if they spoke English as a second language was to illustrate some of the things you have been saying on your web site. Our school's program compares well with the Governor's school for Math and Science both in SAT scores and in curriculum. We teach an entire year of math beyond BC Calculus, have a strong AP Computer Science program, and are the only area school offering the entire calculus based AP Physics curriculum. Yet, international students are about the only ones taking advantage of what we offer.

When I first started teaching, the high school regional science fair could have filled a gymnasium. Last year there were only 12 individual entries, mostly from our school, even though our regional fair draws from 4 counties! It is heart breaking to see the almost total decline of interest in rigorous math and science in our school. By contrast, regional science fairs in New York City (and there are several) typically have 1800 or more entries and these include only the top projects from their respective school science fairs.

Again, thanks for talking to us.

You'll lose money treating consumers as highly rational

Andrew McAfee is a Harvard professor who coined the term, Enterprise 2.0, to describe social networking technology applied to a company. A warning - you'll be reading a lot more about that here in weeks to come.

But for now, he's written an interesting article about the adoption of these technologies, which can be applied to the commercialization of any innovation. The first thing that caught my eye was:
One of the benefits of being an academic is the ability to attend seminars that seem to have nothing to do with your own work.
Now why would you do that? Well of course, because:
The intersection of disciplines or cultures is a vibrant place for creativity because bringing together very different concepts from very different fields sets off an explosion of ideas.
Where have you heard that before?

Then he cites some insightful research by John Gourville at Harvard.
We need to stop thinking about consumers as highly rational evaluators of the old vs. the new products, lining up pros and cons of each in mental tables and then selecting the winner. Instead, we need to keep in mind three well-documented features of our cognitive 'equipment' for making evaluations.

  • We make relative evaluations, not absolute ones. When I'm at a poker table deciding whether to call a bet, I don't think of what my total net worth will be if I win the hand vs. if I lose it. Instead, I think in relative terms -- whether I'll be 'up' or 'down.'

  • Our reference point is the status quo. My poker table comparisons are made with respect to where I am at that point in time. "If I win this hand I'll be up $40; if I lose it I'll be down $10 compared to my current bankroll." It's only at the end of the night that my horizon broadens enough to see if I'm up or down for the whole game.

  • We are loss averse. A $50 loss looms larger than a $50 gain. Loss aversion is virtually universal across people and contexts, and is not much affected by how much wealth one already has. Ample research has demonstrated that people find that a prospective loss of $x is about two to three times as painful as a prospective gain of $x is pleasurable.
  • What the $#@! Is Web 2.0?

    This is a pretty straight forward explanation of what's different about Web 2.0, with some good examples.
    User-edited Wikipedia (Web 2.0) has gained ground, while Encarta (Web 1.0) is losing out.

    The Geocities model (Web 1.0) relied on “metaphors of place” while MySpace (Web 2.0) “anchors presence through metaphors of a person.”

    Web 2.0—the social web—is about people.

    Friday, October 06, 2006

    Very quirky, but my 15 year old son found it interesting

    I stumbled onto this "Cartoon promoting the stock market as the engine of America's prosperity." I found it amazing that the New York Stock Exchange would produce a cartoon to explain the stock market. At least they did in 1952.

    Even more amazing - no more like miraculous - is that my 15 year old son stopped playing a video game to watch it with me. When it was over he said, "That was pretty interesting." Wow!

    Animation in public domain and available at Archive.org. 1952.

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    Education Myths

  • The money myth

  • The teacher pay myth

  • The myth of insurmountable problems

  • The class size myth

  • The certification myth

  • The rich-school myth

  • The myth of ineffective school vouchers

  • Very provocative. You'll just need to read it for yourself.

    Sunday, October 01, 2006

    What jobs are Whole Foods customers trying to get done?

    For those of you that live close to a Whole Foods, or who have visited a Whole Foods in your travels, you have probably heard Whole Foods called whole paycheck. If you haven't shopped there, you now know what the common perception of their prices is.

    So I was intrigued by an article that Clayton Christen wrote saying Whole Foods was a classic "high-end disruptor" who is "offering (slightly) lower prices" compared to the available options for the for the job the customer is trying to get done.

    You'll just have to read the explanation from the master himself.

    Let’s Face the Facts on Fueling Transportation

    Earlier this year, William I. "Griff" Griffith, Ph.D., a recently retired research scientist at the Michelin Americas Research and Development Corporation, analyzed fuel cell technology in an essay entitled, Let’s Face the Facts on Fueling Transportation. Griff anayzes modern automotive diesel engines, the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, and hydrogen fuel cells as solutions to our growing energy challenges. He concludes:
    The Bush administration made the decision several years ago to push the concept of the Hydrogen Economy, and many research dollars were moved to support that effort. While intriguing, the Hydrogen Economy will require multiple breakthroughs at every phase described above, and if breakthroughs are not available in any key area, the concept is unlikely to succeed. Nevertheless, the idea is sufficiently interesting to continue the research, in spite of some of its very vocal and knowledgeable critics, such as ex CIA director turned energy analyst James Woolsey who proposed the following three points regarding the Hydrogen Economy in January of 2006, “Forget Hydrogen, Forget Hydrogen, Forget Hydrogen!” Unfortunately, there is no way that the Hydrogen Economy will save us from our present energy crisis. For this we must pursue a variety of paths, and for transportation I believe I have outlined the two most obvious, modern diesel engines and the evolution of the HEV into the PHEV.

    A Deeper Dive Into Distruptive Innovations

    For those of you interested in a deeper dive into Clayton Christensen's ideas on commercialization, you could read his book, The Innovator's Solution. But then if you're like me, you have a shelf full of tomes yet to read. So here's a more digensible interview that is a great overview. And to wet your whistle, here's an intriguing observation from the interview.
    A company starts out in a direction conceived by the founder, and in 93% of companies that ultimately end up being successful, they figure out the original strategy doesn't work. But by kind of thorough experimentation and trial-and-error in the market, they happen upon or iterate towards a strategy and a business model that really is viable...

    Innovation is actually not nearly as risky and random as historically has seemed to be the case. There isn't anything about the process of innovation per se, that makes it unpredictable. The problem in the past is, we just haven't quite known what are all the variables that affect whether we can succeed, nor have we known how to manage those variables well. What I hope we do here, is highlight for innovators, a bunch of these variables that really lie at the root of many innovative failures. If they can understand why this stuff happens, and control it well, they actually can be successful at innovation, much more frequently than historically has seemed to be the case.

    Saturday, September 30, 2006

    Some things are just awesome



    The shuttle, which returned last week from a 12-day mission, and the space station can be seen in orbit 250 miles above the earth while the sun is 93 million miles away.

    Click on the picture to enlarge the image and see a closer look at the shuttle and space station.

    Sunday, September 24, 2006

    Mark Your Calendar - InnoVenture 2007 - March 27 and 28, 2007

    Mark your calendar and plan to attend InnoVenture 2007, to be held March 27 and 28, 2007 at the Palmetto Expo Center in Greenville, SC. InnoVenture has grown from 350 participants in 2004 to over 650 participants in 2006, and we anticipate a bigger crowd this spring.

    Look forward to seeing you at InnoVenture 2007.

    Friday, September 22, 2006

    What causes academics to become entrepreneurial?

    The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has awarded its second Kauffman Prize Medal for Distinguished Research in Entrepreneurship to Professor Toby Stuart of the Harvard Business School.

    The State Science and Technology Institute created the following summaries of a selected set of Professor Stuart's most recent articles:

    "When Do Scientists Become Entrepreneurs? The Social Structural Antecedents of Commercial Activity in the Academic Life Sciences"
    Stuart and Waverly Ding of Berkeley's Haas School of Business take a randomly selected sample of 5,100 life science Ph.D.s in academia, and examine the link between participation in for-profit entrepreneurial ventures and the presence of an academic social network that supports faculty entrepreneurism. They find that university scientists are more likely to found or join the board of a new firm if other faculty members have already done so, particularly if more prestigious colleagues in their department have created their own start-ups. They also find evidence that more accomplished faculty members are more likely to help commercialize technologies and to lead the way in fostering an entrepreneurial climate within a university department.

    "The Impact of Academic Patenting on the Rate, Quality and Direction of (Public) Research Output"
    In this January 2006 paper, Stuart, Ding, and Pierre Azoulay of Columbia University's Graduate School of Business examine the patents and research output of 3,862 academic life scientists to determine if the increasing focus on commercialization at American universities is affecting the quantity and quality of published research. They conclude that patent activity has a positive effect on the rate of article publication, but no observable effect on the quality of those articles.

    "Gender Differences in Patenting in the Academic Life Sciences"
    In this Kauffman-sponsored study, Stuart, Ding, and Fiona Murray of MIT's Sloan School of Management reveal that male life scientists in academia secure patents at more than twice the rate of their female colleagues. The study suggests that women conduct equally significant research, but often find themselves left out of social networks that provide valuable access to the commercial sector. The authors conclude that additional networking groups could help foster greater connections between female researchers and the business community.

    These articles and others by Toby Stuart are available through the TBED Resource Center at http://www.tbedresourcecenter.org.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    What Big Companies Can Learn From Start-Ups

    Duke University has recently released a report of what big companies can learn from start-ups.
    Companies enjoy far greater success when they invest corporate venture capital in startup firms for strategic reasons rather than for narrow financial returns... This research clearly shows that often the greatest benefit of corporate venture capital investment is to provide a window into novel technologies that ultimately helps advance the corporation’s overall technology strategy

    Saturday, September 16, 2006

    Net Neutrality Revisited

    Earlier in the summer we had a discussion about net neutrality. Senator DeMint emerges as a leader in the future of telecommunications and the Internet and A letter to Senator Jim DeMint

    This week a friend on the faculty at USC sent me a link to an article in the Chronical of Higher Education (subscription required).

    The article reports that,
    A dozen higher-education groups sent a letter on Wednesday to two key U.S. senators, reiterating their support for the principle of network neutrality...

    The college groups worry that collaborative online research and distance education will suffer if telecommunications companies that own broadband infrastructure degrade or slow down the transmission of Web content offered by higher-education institutions in favor of content from commercial Web operators.

    "Net neutrality is extremely important for colleges and universities as we develop new ways to deliver multimedia instructional materials to students, including students off campus and in rural areas," the letter reads. "Universities have long been drivers of Internet innovation."
    Aren't students off campus and in rural areas more likely to get the telecommunications infrastructure they need to consume the innovative multimedia instructional materials that will be developed if they pay the market rate for the infrastructure rather than subsidizing them and shifting the cost to other users?

    The elite of South Carolina do the most to drag down the average

    The Greenville News reports the following (which you should already know because you read it here first).:

  • South Carolina students in households with annual incomes above $100,000 scored 68 points below the national average.

  • Those from families earning below $10,000 were 63 points below peers nationally, the College Board data show.

  • All other income groups trailed their peers by 21 to 41 points.

  • So, the Greenville News had a choice between two headlines.

    Children from lower-income families gaining on SAT scores

    or

    The elite of South Carolina do the most to drag down the average

    The fact that the story ran at all, though, is a sign of progress. Once we begin to accept reality we can then do something about it.

    A friend on the faculty at Clemson sent me a link to an article about how
    U.S. students [in the US] are falling behind in math and science, and competition from abroad is intensifying. Our students rank 24th in the world in math literacy by the time they get to high school.
    So comparing SC to the US average is a far cry from comparing SC to the best in the world.

    Wednesday, September 13, 2006

    Here's what's wrong with the Monitor study of education

    Well, you knew it was coming. It was really done quite intentionally.

    The Monitor Group completed a study of public education concluding as the Greenville News put it that Contrary to some perceptions, state's students hold their own.

    Now along comes The State newspaper opining that:
    THE FICTION THAT South Carolina has the worst schools in the nation has become something akin to an urban legend, perpetuated by the same means: Tell a lie often enough, and eventually people will believe it.
    The State reads into this report that:
    But there is good reason to believe that the combination of [current] changes and the full 12-year implementation of the 1998 Education Accountability Act that is already producing such dramatic results in the lower grades will put our graduation rates on that same path to improvement.
    So in other words, let's just stick with the status quo and everything will be all right.

    But the reality is, as Swamp Fox showed a couple of weeks ago, that in the words of Andrew J. Coulson, who also studied SC public education and reached a fundamentally different conclusion,
    The better educated a South Carolina student'’s parents happen to be, the further that student scores behind students in other states whose parents are similarly educated.
    Arguing that we should maintain the status quo in public education and that everything will be alright is not going to help our children be the best in the world at what they do to compete in the global economy they will face over their careers.

    Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    How do you build communities?

    How to you build communities of people collaborating together?

    Big lessons can be learned from organizations that have been successful at that over the ages - churches. The lessons are both in time proven ways in how they organize to build community, as well as emerging ways in terms of how they use technology to build communities.

    ACS Technologies in Florence recently introduced an enhanced product:
    Small Groups Complete™, an easy choice for churches that wish to manage and organize small group ministries more efficiently and effectively.

    The concept of small groups is an increasingly popular way for connecting people and encouraging involvement within churches by helping members build relationships and grow spiritually. With unique online interactivity, members and leaders can join groups and communicate with members within their groups while staff has total access.

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    Market for automotive telematics $38.3 billion in 2011

    Telematics is "the use of Global Positioning System technology integrated with computers and mobile communications technology." The market for automotive telematics, just one segment of automotive IT, is anticipated to generate total revenues of $38.3 billion in 2011.

    Sunday, September 10, 2006

    US Department of Transportation Strategic Plan 2006 to 2011

    From fuel cells to automotive IT to out traditional automotive cluster, we have a lot riding on transportation. Here you can find a copy of the US Department of Transportation - Draft Strategic Plan - Fiscal Years 2006 – 2011. The priorities for how the Federal government spends transportation dollars will drive a lot of the development of our area.

    A driver's dream: High-tech freeways

    There's an interesting article in the San Jose Mercury News about A driver's dream: High-tech freeways. Why don't we build on here first?

    Complementary innovation at Michelin

    Michelin marketing of both tires and tourist guides was recently the feature of an interesting discussion of complementary innovation on Nicholas Carr's Rough Type blog, found compliments of the Fortune Business Innovator Insider blog.

    Carr asks five questions in assessing the potential of developing complementary products:

    1. What complements are currently constraining demand in our markets?
    2. What new product might boost demand for our core offerings?
    3. Would our customers buy more if they had better information?
    4. Would we learn valuable lessons by innovating in complements?
    5. Do we have competitors whose fortunes are tightly tied to the price of complements?

    Sunday, September 03, 2006

    Context, not content, is king in a world of infinite choice

    The book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More discusses how we've been conditioned to focus on a few best selling items, the Top 40 playlist on the radio or the New York Times Bestsellers, because physical shelf space is scarce and physical retail business models are based on maximizing the value of that shelf space.

    In a digitally connected world, it's no more expensive to display a product that rarely sells than it is to display a bestseller. Most of things in the world aren't valuable to us, but buried in the blizzard are a few diamonds. The trick is that what each of us defines as diamonds is different. Where there is an overabundance of choices, what's really valuable is a filter that helps us find what we want when we want it.

    The author notes halfway through the book:
    In a world of infinite choice, context--not content--is king.
    Hmmm... Then he notes that
    American Airlines made more money from its Sabre electronic reservation system than the entire airline industry made collectively charging people money to ride on planes.

    Baby Bells were bringing in more profits from their yellow pages than from their inherited monopolies.
    Hmmm... There's a business model for us here somewhere.

    Data mining in a world of infinite choice

    I spent some time recently with Ed Roehl and Ruby Daamen of Advanced Data Mining International. ADMi was a presenting company at InnoVenture 2006 and has won Innovision Awards in 2005 and 2003.

    The ADMi website says:
    People are awash in rivers of data, flowing from many sources. Without automation, leveraging this information is beyond human abilities.

    Advanced Data Mining provides data visualization and analysis software, and services that extract knowledge from large databases. We help people decipher the relationships between hundreds of variables. Our highly experienced staff has unsurpassed expertise in data mining, ultra high quality multi-dimensional computer graphics, and web-based data communications. We not only give you knowledge that is unobtainable by other means, we can also embed this knowledge in your operations to give you real-time understanding that adapts to a world that is constantly changing.
    Hmmm... In a world of The Long Tail, there's a business model in there somewhere.

    The dark side of a world of infinite choice

    Recently Evan Tishuk of OrangeCoat sent me a link to DIGITAL MAOISM: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism. He criticizes Wikipedia as
    part of... a new online collectivism that is nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise, that it is desirable to have influence concentrated in a bottleneck that can channel the collective with the most verity and force.
    He comments that:
    A variety of "Consensus Web filters" such as "Digg" and "Reddit"... assemble material every day from all the myriad of other aggregating sites. Such sites intend to be more Meta than the sites they aggregate. There is no person taking responsibility for what appears on them, only an algorithm. The hope seems to be that the most Meta site will become the mother of all bottlenecks and receive infinite funding.
    His coup de grâce is:
    The hive mind is for the most part stupid and boring. Why pay attention to it?... The beauty of the Internet is that it connects people. The value is in the other people. If we start to believe that the Internet itself is an entity that has something to say, we're devaluing those people and making ourselves into idiots.

    What makes a market work, for instance, is the marriage of collective and individual intelligence. A marketplace can't exist only on the basis of having prices determined by competition. It also needs entrepreneurs to come up with the products that are competing in the first place. In other words, clever individuals, the heroes of the marketplace, ask the questions which are answered by collective behavior.
    Hmmm...

    Saturday, August 26, 2006

    A Fascinating Discussion With Virginia Uldrick About Unleashing Creative Potential

    I am producing a documentary on entrepreneurship, and recently had an interview with Virginia Uldrick, the founder of the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities. Below is a snippet about how Virginia recruited out of the box thinkers, who are among the best in the world at what they do, and molded them into one of best high schools in the world.

    There is a powerful lesson here for how to create highly innovative communities. Surround yourself with incredibly talented people. Give them rules of the organization must live by. Then make it possible for talented people to do what they do at the best level possible.

    Uldrick: The vision of the school was to create the best arts high school in America, maybe in the world, to become the best in the world. We were successful. We are the number one school in music theory of a school for its size; we are one of sixteen schools in America doing service learning, the right way. We are one of two of the finest dance training programs in the world of a school of its size and the number of students served. Our teacher is one of three people winning the Nijinsky prize, the head of the dance department. How do you get people like this?

    Warner: How do you get teachers to do this?

    Uldrick: You do that very carefully by advertising in lots of places nationally. You do a lot of research.

    Warner: What are you looking for?

    Uldrick: Well we wrote the specs on that. We wrote what we wanted in a teacher. First of all, they have to be outside the box. They have to be an artist. The arts teachers have to be an artist. They have to be a distinguished artist. They have to have made some record in being a master teacher, either privately in the colleges or universities or in the public schools.

    What do you write? You write the loftiest ideal’s that you can think about. But they are not lofty, just not done in the norm. You have to reach as high as your brain can take you, as your vision can take you. What is it that children need to know and be able to do? Not just this, but this.

    Warner: So you've got a vision of the school, you've got wonderful people, how do you make it sure it operates right?

    Uldrick: Well you have a plan of action; you know what the rules and regulations are. You have a set of procedures and guidelines to work through. When you are a state agency and you are also a public school you have two agencies you are working for and it’s tough. You have to satisfy both.

    Warner: So you have a talented team of people, how do you make sure that the school runs the way you want it to run? You just told me you had a bunch of people thinking outside of the box.

    Uldrick: Absolutely.

    Warner: Somehow you've got make sure this works.

    Uldrick: But you take what they think out of the box and make it fit into what is required.

    Warner: How do you do that?

    Uldrick: Not easily. But you trust, there has to be major trust between the president, the dean, the faculty, the staff, and the board, major trust.

    Warner: How do you get that trust? You have hired a dance teacher who one of few people who won an award that Baryshnikov won. You going to tell that person how to teach dance?

    Uldrick: Absolutely not! He is going to tell me how to teach it.

    Warner: So how do you do that?

    Uldrick: I am going to give him the rules of the agency and the state, and we have to live within those rules. Now, I will make it possible for you to do what you do, and want to do, at the best level possible. You tell me what you want, and I will tell you what you can have. Then we will try to get the wants, but we have to have what we have to have first.

    So you build, its building blocks and you school those people into becoming [what they must be]. Yes its frustrating for people who aren’t accustomed to that. Because when you are in a public arena generally you go by these rules and you never step outside the box. As long as you satisfy these rules, it’s okay.

    I think we have gone beyond that. I think that both governor’s schools have set a tone to go beyond that but you learn from those people what that have to have to be successful, to give these children the best that is possible and then you work hard with the private sector and the state to say this is what we need. This is not what we want, this is what we need. Now when we get what we need, we will tell you what we need on the next step, which is a want right now.

    So you build your program that way. You build trust with your legislature and you build trust with your donors. You also can not build a donor unless you sit with that donor and you tell them what your vision is. You tell them how they can help satisfy that vision.

    Not for the president, not for the dean, not for the teachers, but for that child. That child does not know what his vision is yet, fully, but he knows, "I want to be a dancer; I want to be a dancer."

    Truth and Beauty: Part Deux

    J. David Woodard, who teaches political science at Clemson and holds the Strom Thurmond Chair of Government, entered the fray over the book assigned to Clemson freshmen to read this summer, Truth and Beauty.

    In the book, a woman makes bad choices in her life and pays the consequences. Sounds like a good book for college freshmen with a new burst of freedom to read. But Dr. Woodard doesn't think the book was appropriate because the author didn't spoon feed the freshmen readers a sermon with the proper moral lesson.
    In the words of a local pastor in his letter to President James Barker, 'Lucy eventually pays the price ... not for these mistakes, but for her false sense of invincibility. Little is done to dissipate the moral fog, even by the book's end.'
    Woodward quotes John Gardner that
    Art is essentially and primarily moral -- that is, life-giving -- in its process of creation and moral in what it says.
    Beyond the fact that many would argue with that definition of art, Wikiepida notes that:
    [Gardner's] direct and often unflattering (perhaps courageous) judgments of contemporary authors harmed his relationships with many in the publishing industry...

    Gardner published "The Life and Times of Chaucer"... [with] several passages in the text that either in whole or in part were lifted directly from works by other authors... [which] Newsweek magazine and other mainstream media outlets were quick to simply label it plagiarism...

    John Gardner was married twice... [and] died in a motorcycle accident just days before a scheduled third wedding.
    Evidently, Garner never absorbed the lessons of his own uplifting moral fiction. Perhaps Dr. Woordward thinks it would have been more appropriate for Clemson freshmen to have read a biography of the man he holds up as a moral beacon. Gardner clearly seems to have made bad choices and paid a price. Let's make sure, though, in this book that we don't challenge young minds to examine and debate the moral choices that Gardner made, but rather by the end of the book let's make sure we lift the moral fog they surely will be in.

    My daughter is a Clemson freshman. She and I attended a reception at Clemson this week, where a top academic official told her that for eighteen years her parents had taught her a value structure and now she was independent and would have to test and build on that value structure herself. An image came to my mind of a National Geographic film where a newly born giraffe struggles and wobbles to get to its feet, teeters a few times, and then runs off into the savannah to make a new life for itself. If all the parts are there properly, the young giraffe will be just fine. It they're not, the youngster is not long for this world.

    I'm confident, yet still pray, that my daughter has a strong foundation and will thrive in the intellectual milieu that is Clemson.

    Startup Success 2006

    This is a video of “Startup Success,” the Churchill Club’s annual look at what it takes to build a successful startup. This panel of five Silicon Valley entrepreneurs discussed the challenges and critical success factors necessary to reach the promised land. August 17, 2006.

     

    Moderator: Guy Kawasaki, Managing Director, Garage Technology Ventures

    Speakers:
    • Lauren Elliott, Founder, Personal News Network

    • Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder and CEO, LinkedIn

    • Joe Kraus, Co-Founder and CEO, JotSpot

    • Daniel Mattes, Co-Founder and CTO, Jajah

    • Alex Welch, Co-Founder and CEO, Photobucket

    Global Cooling in 6-9 Years?

    We're all familiar with the forecast of global warming due to the increase of man made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So, now along comes a Russian scientist that studies solar activity who predicts the beginning of a regular 200 year cycle of global cooling, not global warming.
    On the basis of our [solar emission] research, we developed a scenario of a global cooling of the Earth’s climate by the middle of this century and the beginning of a regular 200-year-long cycle of the climate’s global warming at the start of the 22nd century...He and his colleagues had concluded that a period of global cooling similar to one seen in the late 17th century — when canals froze in the Netherlands and people had to leave their dwellings in Greenland — could start in 2012-2015 and reach its peak in 2055-2060... The Kyoto initiatives to save the planet from the greenhouse effect should be put off until better times.
    Weather is such a complex phenomena that we can't reliably predict it a few days out. Can we really predict it several decades out? Perhaps the increased greenhouse gases will provide a blanket to protect us from the deep freeze to come.

    Probably the scariest thing is that, as it has been for millennia, civilizations come and go based on the fickleness of the weather, we are at its mercy, we can’t predict it, and, at the end of the day, there is nothing we can do about it.

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    On Building a Civil Community

    There are lots of experiments going on in creating online communities. One problem with communities is that there are always a few people that get obnoxious and drive off other more productive people. Think about the neighbors that insist on partying loud at 2:00 am. We've commented before that the example of Wikipedia demonstrates the need for an authority to make a community work.

    Brad Warthen, The State's Editorial Page Editor, has written a blog for some time now. While most of the comments by others are good and constructive, a few people are shrill and insulting to others. To combat this, Brad has instituted some rules: Civility III (draft): Here's what I'm gonna do, for now.

    From now on, Brad will let commenters say pretty much what they want if they put their name to it. Since there are legitimate times things must be said anonymously, he will allow anonymous commenters, but they will be subject to censuring to keep down the anonymous flame throwing. That makes sense, but some people will chafe at any authority, whether it's the referee of a basketball game, the administrators at Wikipedia, or the editor of a blog.

    We can learn as much from Brad's attempt to build a civil community, as we can from the community’s comments themselves.

    The real impact of open source

    The open source movement will change the world - well at least part of the world. The challenge is figuring out which part.

    Evan Tishuk at OrangeCoat forwarded a link to an interesting article, The real impact of open source.

    The punch line is:
    The real impact of open source is to sustain innovations in mature software markets, thus extending the useful life of software assets and saving customers money.
    I think that's right. Open source software is changing the world. SwampFox.ws is built on the open source package, WordPress.

    But open source has its limitations too. Having a dedicated group of volunteers writing software collaboratively is definitely not a way to do innovative, mission critical applications.

    Saturday, August 19, 2006

    The Brouhaha About Truth and Beauty

    My daughter started as a freshman at Clemson today. I've been amazed by the brouhaha over the book freshman were assigned to read this summer, Truth and Beauty.

    I recently received an email looking for parents who were alarmed. Actually the email was from an organization run by a friend of mine who was a student with me at Clemson too many years ago. The email noted:
    Amazon.com reviewer Ruth Steinberg (Atlanta) had a good grasp of its content when she wrote that it was reminiscent of a "1950s lesbian pulp novel." Allyson Hamilton (Los Angeles) called it "a memoir of a disturbed woman and her girlfriend." While only suggestive of a homosexual relationship, it is full of gratuitous heterosexual sex on the part of Lucy.
    When I moved my daughter into her dorm on Saturday, she had a cable connection for her television. And I'm supposed to be concerned about the gratuitous sex she'll read in a book. Come on. Who are we kidding? There's almost nothing she or her peers are going to learn about sex from a novel.

    She complained the book wasn't good literature. "Fine," I told her. "Clemson's not asking you to agree with the lifestyle in the book or even like the book. What they are requiring is that you think and then articulately explain your position."

    My friend was concerned that we are "subsidizing more and more things [faithful people will] find repulsive with their tax dollars." But an intellectual discussion on a college campus is not morally repulsive, even if the subject is. If some folks think this author is morally warped, wait until these kids get to Emerson or Thoreau. I remember being the only person in my English class at Clemson writing that Thoreau was in la la land on Walden Pond and defending the Puritan authors we read. My professor was very liberal and was having none of it from me. But I did get an A in the class, and I remember that as one of the most enjoyable, and in retrospect one of the most educational, classes that I had at Clemson.

    My daughter's about to get exposed to a bunch of diverse lifestyles, some of which she will find morally repugnant. I appreciate that Clemson is willing to begin her intellectual exploration in a structured setting where first she has to listen to others in the room before she opines. I am proud that she's is willing to express her opinions in a setting where there are likely to be others who strongly disagree with her. I hope the discussion gets frothy. But I also hope that they can go get a pizza together when it is over.

    Regardless of what else she has learned, if at the end of four years she has learned to think, her undergraduate experience will have been successful. She's off to a good start.

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    One shot at websites that changed the world - and the commercial that made Super Bowl commercials Super Bowl commercials

    It's almost hard to believe that all of this happened in the past ten years.

    I was in a meeting yesterday of Next, a group of emerging technology companies in Greenville SC, and whispered to the guy next to me about the famous challege twenty years ago, "Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life, or do you want to change the world?" We recognized that most of the people in the room were too young to have any idea what we were talking about.

    Heck, most of the people in the room never saw the Super Bowl commercial that made Super Bowl commercials Super Bowl commercials.



    I'm feeling old.

    Saturday, August 12, 2006

    Eli Whitney's patent gets ripped off

    Last week Adam Gautsch stirred the muck with his post, "The Problem with Patents."

    Coincidentally, this week American Heritage featured an article about how Eli Whitney got ripped off by Southern cotton farmers who stole his intellectual property, the cotton gin, which made cotton king. If Southerners had had more respect for the need to incentivized innovation, rather than building an economy on human chattel, Southern history could have had a more positive outcome.

    Friday, August 11, 2006

    Expanding the Innovation Horizon: Global CEO Study 2006

    It's IBM's turn to release a survey of CEO's perspectives on innovation - Expanding the Innovation Horizon: Global CEO Study 2006

    A key conclusion is:
    Business model innovation is becoming the new strategic differentiator. "The business model we choose will determine the success or failure of our strategy," one study participant said. In contrast to the findings of the 2004 survey, innovation in the enterprise's business model garnered nearly as much attention as innovation in a company's core processes and functions.
    In Clayton Christensen's parlance, it's discontinuous innovations that need to be commercialized in new business models in order to address the needs of new markets of customers.

    After a couple decades of programs like Six Sigma to drive down costs and improve quality, which primarily improved existing products sold to existing customers, American companies are finding they've squeezed most of the juice from that fruit. Now it's time to tackle the really difficult job of creating new markets.

    Innovation management is where quality management was about twenty years ago.

    Thursday, August 10, 2006

    Our reality is sometime just an illusion

    We think we understand how our brains work, and we are under the illusion that we are rational creatures accurately perceiving our reality.

    Here's a very cool experiment that causes our brain to perceive a reality that isn't there.

    If our brains mislead us in something as simple as this, imagine how often we perceive illusions as reality in our daily existence without never realizing it.

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    An email to a friend: Why the Boston Consulting Group found returns on "innovation" aren't acceptable

    A friend recently emailed me a question:
    According to a Boston Consulting Group study, 3 out of 4 companies will increase spending on innovation this year but 1 out of 2 are unhappy with the return on investment. One critical reason for that is that no one knows how to measure the success of "innovation."

    What are your thoughts on measuring innovation? How would you show a boss that the million dollars he spent on innovation last year was worth it?
    We observed there are three kinds of innovation: selling more to existing customers, improving the productivity of existing processes, and creating new markets of customers. The question was whether if we could measure innovation better, we would get better results. After some back and forth, here's the conclusion I came to in the last email in the conversation:
    In my personal experience here is what I have seen happen.

    A) Certain people are responsible for increasing sales from “new products to existing customers.” This is a combination of sales and R&D people. At times there were increases in the budget for this, and sales out the back end of the process were tracked. We knew the ROI on this.

    B) Certain other people are responsible for “reduced costs.” This is a combination of operations, IT and R&D in terms of reducing the cost of producing the product, and primarily operations, IT, and sales in terms of trying to reduce the cost of other processes. At times there were specific budgets for this, and cost reductions were tracked. We knew the ROI on this too.

    In KEMET’s specific example, the CEO (and everyone else) would tell you that the return on investment on these investments was not acceptable. We could measure it till the cows came home and the returns would still be unacceptable. The problem we had mature products and a mature business model and we kept squeezing the orange but getting less juice out of it. We could measure the juice coming out, there just wasn’t enough, and more precise measurement of the juice or of the effort to squeeze the orange wasn’t going to help much.

    C) That leaves us with, “selling products to new customers.” Most companies don’t know how to do this. Reference Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator's Dilemma. The problem that Christensen identifies is that while A) and B) are high data activities where we can make data decisions, there is very little data about “new customers,” so inherently it is a low data environment. This is not a question of not measuring the right things, because there is not much to measure. When investing I used to remind people that we could do all the due diligence we wanted, and we should, but there was still more that was unknowable than was knowable. So Christensen says that in addition to teaching mangers to make data driven decisions in later stage businesses, we should also teach managers to make theory driven decisions in early stage businesses. This is the informed intuition that the entrepreneurs I spoke to were depending on. They were not placing wild-eye, unknowledgeable bets, it was just that their knowledge had been gathered informally over a long time and they were doing what humans do so well, which is find patterns in widely disbursed data. It's why experienced VCs bet on the jockey, not the horse. A great book on this phenomenon is Blink.

    I have an informed guess about what the CEOs you are talking to are telling you. For the past couple of decades, major companies have invested a great deal in quality and cost reduction programs like Six Sigma. It is not that they have not executed this well, that is, if they measured it better they would get better results. Twenty years ago, there was a lot of juice in the quality and cost oranges. Today, in major corporations most of the juice has been squeezed out and so their returns on continuing to squeeze are diminishing. What they need to now focus on is entrepreneurial opportunities “selling products to new customers” but they don’t know how to do that.

    “Innovation management” is at the same place “quality management” was 20 years ago. You and I have discussed this before. I don’t think the problem of “innovation management” is A) and B), as much as it is C).

    John