Wednesday, June 28, 2006

We're making progress when Swamp Fox recognized by Forbes for touting Michelin

The Forbes Busienss Innovation Insider picked up on -
SwampFox, which provides news about the Southeastern Innovation Corridor, points to a recent Michelin presentation (Contribute to the Progress of Mobility) at the InnoVenture 2006 conference in South Carolina. See the rest of the Forbes blog post.
Very cool. We're making progress!

The really big idea of the week

"The open source model is not a democratic model. It is the combination of community and hierarchy that makes it work. Community without hierarchy means mediocrity." [My emphasis]

News of Wikipedia's Death Greatly Exaggerated, by Clay Shirky

This is challenging to the hard core libertarians of the world that would just as soon see the government go away. Pure democracy doesn't work and gets us things like urban sprawl.

It's also very challenging to the public education establishment that emphasizes fairness over excellence. Excellence will always result in hierarchy, and they resent that.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Very cool infinite mosaic

Comment from Historic Alley Blog
This is the coolest site I've seen in a while. You can get further into the pictures forever. It's an infinite mosaic.
I agree. Very cool.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Time for a reality check: The problem is us

I spoke to Leadership Charleston last week on behalf of New Carolina. This class of young professionals is among the best and brightest young leaders that Charleston has to offer. I started my presentation observing that the problem with moving Charleston forward, indeed moving the state forward, was in that room.

Dr. Michael Porter made some insightful observations about South Carolina when he spoke to the Moore School Economic Conference in December 2003. He said:
It is often believed that average SC wages are low because of:

A few large, low wage industries;
But, the data indicate wages are relatively low across almost all of South Carolina’s industries;

The relatively large rural population;
But, the data show that lower wages in South Carolina metros explain far more of the gap between South Carolina and the US;

Lower per capita income in the relatively large African-American community;
But, data indicate that per capita income in South Carolina is relatively low across all demographic groups

What accounts for South Carolina’s lower average wages?
Competitiveness. Average wages are lower because of lower value created per worker per year in South Carolina.
Ed Sellers, Chairman of New Carolina, South Carolina's Council on Competitiveness, spoke to the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting in January 2006. He made the observation that:
There are more people in poverty in Greenville than there in eight poor counties in the I-95 corridor. We can not solve the problem of poverty in South Carolina without addressing poverty everywhere.
Andrew J. Coulson wrote a report, "Achievement in Context, How South Carolina Students Fare Against their National and International Competition," and found the following:
College-bound students in SC are last on the SAT and 2nd to last on the ACT. The state’s graduation is worst in US to third worst, depending on how it is computed.

SC blacks score 15 points below blacks nationwide on the SAT. SC whites score 27 points behind whites nationally.

SC students from lower-middle-income families score 20 points behind US peers. Students from wealthiest families score 39 points behind their economic peers

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.
If you are reading this, it is likely that you are relatively educated and affluent, like the young professionals in Leadership Charleston. We're not going to make progress until we accept the reality that the problem is us. On the whole we are not as productive as peers across the country, poverty is in our backyard not just across the state, and the best schools in the state that our children attend are not as good a those in communities we are competing with.

The SC Business Review is a blast

For the past few months, Swamp Fox has been highlighted each Monday morning on the South Carolina Business Review hosted by Mike Switzer, which features news and interviews from South Carolina's public companies and business leaders. The South Carolina Business Review is broadcast statewide each weekday at 7:52 am on SC Public Radio, after Morning Edition and before the Radio Reader. You can find your local station at the SC Public Radio website.

Doing this each week with Mike has been a blast, and I've gotten comments from lots of people all across the state that have enjoyed hearing the week's Swamp Fox highlights on the radio.

If you don't already, you should catch the South Carolina Business Review each weekday, especially on Monday's.

Converse: A Jewel in South Carolina

Last week I had the privilege of having lunch with a friend, Betsy Fleming, recently inaugurated as President of Converse College in Spartanburg. I met Betsy through the Liberty Fellowship.

Converse is a jewel in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and its luster is about to shine brighter. Betsy has a vision for giving young women a model of inspired feminine leadership so they can fulfill their potential in whatever role they choose, whether it be a CEO, or working in a not-for-profit, or a mom.

It's going to be exciting the see the impact that a generation of inspired young women can have on our community in the coming years. Pay attention, and hang onto your seats. They are going to rock our world.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The potential of inspired leadership

It's amazing what one inspired leader can accomplish in half a lifetime. Bill Gates Time Line in Forbes Online

It's even more incredible to think about what is possible when two of the richest individuals in the world combine their resources for good.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The view from across the pond: the South has risen again

Remember that Civil War refrain, “the South will rise again”? Guess what? It happened.

For Chester, it's 'time to look to the future'

With another announcement of a textile mill closing, Chester leaders are looking for better-paying and more sophisticated, technology-based operations.
If we don't set the bar high, nobody will ever reach it.
That's true, but you have to be prepared to compete.
Chester workers may need to go back to school. Decades of textile work haven't given some of them the technical savvy that's required in the industrial workplaces of tomorrow.
While some jump at the opportunities presented by a booming, global economy, others are slapped with a brutal reality of what it takes to compete. Hopefully Chester can find the staying power to be successful. It's a marathon, not a sprint. What other alternative to they have really?

Thinking of the talent pool as Western and white is over

Chinese appliance maker Haier has been successful with its operations in South Carolina, because it has managed to "build a strong cultural linkage" with the local community.
That probably doesn't strike most of us as odd. But the ramifications of it will ultimately shake the foundations of the cultural identity that we have.
As companies become globally integrated, companies will in turn develop a common culture. Culture is key but that does not mean that IBM will have an American set of values. Each corporation will have values that are dear to their employees.

Integration and the adoption of a corporate culture does not mean homogeneity as diversity is still the mother of innovation.
South Carolina employees of Haier don't want to adopt "Chinese" values, any more than Chinese employees of American companies want to adopt "American" values. As companies develop cultures that are diverse but have a common set of values that bind employees around the world together into a common, global vision, has the "United States" or "Japan" or "Germany" become obsolete?

Our institutions are growing larger and smaller simultaneously

We backed into multi-site. It's not something we intentionally tried to do. It was more like a disruptive moment where we faced a problem and saw an opportunity.
Those sound like the words of a business innovator, not a theologian. While the author is probably very conservative theologically, he is clearly an innovator in leveraging new communications technology to reinvent the business model of the church. I've commented before on a growing phenomena sometimes also called the "cellular church."

Leaders of the movement even draw comparisons to business themselves.
Yesterday. "That's the First National Bank at the corner of Main and Washington, and directly across from it is First Church, where we have been members since we moved here thirty years ago. The college is up on the hill, our hospital is about a half mile to the west, and our doctor has his office in that building over there."

"That's the First National Bank, but I haven't been there for years. We do all our banking at a branch supermarket where we buy groceries. We're members of First Church, but we go to their east-side campus, which is near our house. We have one congregation but three meeting places—a small one on the north side, the big one out where we live, and the old building downtown here. The old college on the hill is now a university. This is their main campus, but they also offer classes at three other locations. We're members of an HMO that has doctors in five locations, but my primary-care physician is in a branch about a mile from where we live. I've never been in the main hospital except to visit a couple of friends."

This illustrates the direction our world is going—our institutions are growing larger and smaller simultaneously, blending the strength that size offers with the comfort and convenience of smaller, closer venues. This is one example of what Jim Collins in Built to Last called "the genius of the AND," the paradoxical view that allows you to pursue both A and B simultaneously.
One of the things interesting about this movement is that they are so clear about how they are inventing this new business model. They outline "eight other advantages that all demonstrate the genius of the AND." It's insightful reading.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A bit of summer trivia: Where'd the name Myrtle Beach come from?

A recent press release by RWO Acquisitions announced plans to develop Withers Preserve in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The announcement included an interesting bit of trivia about where the name Myrtle Beach came from.
Withers is a name that holds close ties to current-day Myrtle Beach. The Withers family's association with the area began in the mid 1700's when Francis Withers was first awarded 300 acres of present day Myrtle Beach as part of a 66,000-acre land grant. The center of Withers was focused around the current-day Third Avenue South and Withers Swash area of Myrtle Beach.

The Burroughs and Collins Company of Conway purchased much of the Withers' family land in 1881, keeping the Withers name and even seeing the opening of the Withers post office on April 30, 1888. The area was known as Withers until a contest was held in 1900 to give the area a new name. Addie Burroughs, wife of Franklin G. Burroughs, suggested Myrtle Beach because of the wax myrtle bushes that grew in abundance along the strand. Thus Myrtle Beach was born. After the renaming, the Withers post office was replaced by the first Myrtle Beach post office in the early 1900s. Myrtle Beach became an official town in 1938, when it was incorporated, and a city in 1957.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Innovation for those with too much time on their hands this summer

Phil Yanov turned me onto these two guys who have way too much time on their hands, but this is pretty amazing.

Looks like Phil has too much time on his hands too :)

Are our friends at OVO right about innovation vs. fast followers?

Jeff Phillips, VP of Marketing and Sales with OVO, was a presenter at InnoVenture 2006. Jeff keeps a blog called Innovate on Purpose. It's pretty good, and you ought to subscribe if you're into such things.

In a recent blog entry Jeffrey was criticizing Microsoft for being a fast follower with its Zune MP-3 player.
I was driving between meetings on Tuesday listening to NPR story about whether or not Microsoft would be successful with the Zune, given it's late arrival and the fact that Apple already controls much of the MP-3 market and mindshare.

For any firm, there are going to be products and markets where the firm chooses to be an innovator, a fast follower or a "me too" player. These are perfectly valid strategies and should be considered as part of the business strategy. No firm, no matter how smart or strong, can differentiate only on innovation.
Well, the obvious initial reaction to that is Apple was a leader in capturing market and mind share thirty years ago, and that turned out OK for Microsoft.

I guess more than that though, I question Jeff's differentiation between being an "innovator" and being a "fast follower." Microsoft has often not chosen to be first to market with new software applications. But as a product matures, the game shifts to being able to integrate that product with other applications. That is where Microsoft has been extremely good at taking new applications that gain traction and bundling them together into a whole product. Some of you with gray hair will remember has-been market leaders Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect. Most of you will remember the market lead that Netscape once had.

Microsoft's business is bundling products together into the best whole product solution, so, for example, you can cut and paste relatively effortlessly between Excel and Word and PowerPoint. It's in Microsoft's interest to let other horses run the races early, and then jump in the middle of the race when they have the horsepower to overwhelm whoever the winner happens to be. (Isn't that precisely what the antitrust case was all about?) Does this mean that Microsoft isn't innovative, or that it is just smart.

The biggest threat to Microsoft isn't Apple and the iPod, which doesn't keep Bill Gates up at night much more than the Macintosh does. What has to give Bill Gates serious heartburn, though, is Google. I have found myself using Google documents and spreadsheets more and more lately because they are a convenient way to collaborate with others. Google also now owns my desktop as a practical matter not Microsoft. My home page is Goggle, with a search bar and then a whole series of tabs for various things I use regularly. I switched my email to gmail, and basically use Outlook as an email archive every few days. More and more of what I depend on every day does not require me to use any licensed software from Microsoft, except for the Windows operating system. And so far with Google applications, because I'm willing to put up with a little highly targeted advertising, the price is right.

Google's threat to Microsoft is not that it launched a new licensed software application, which Microsoft could have handled, but that Google changed the rules of the game in a way that Microsoft was unprepared to deal with.

Just like Microsoft did to IBM.

Just like our intrepid hero, the Swamp Fox, did to the British.

When you can do that, change the rules of the game, now that's real innovation.

Innovation with a Southern Accent

Recently the Southern Innovation Summit was held in New Orleans.

Presentations at Innovation with a Southern Accent
focused on creating a Southern culture of knowledge, where learning and innovation are primary social values, and essential to the region’s global competitiveness.

The Executive Summary of the report of the conference is also available. The recommendations are:

1. Increase the creation of knowledge in the South
a. Enhance and leverage the region’s university-performed R&D
b. Enhance and leverage the region’s federally-performed R&D
c. Encourage the rapid growth of the region’s industrially-performed R&D

2. Increase the accumulation of knowledge in the South
a. Raise awareness of math and science careers and the importance of math
and science
b. Ensure teacher quality
c. Emphasize an integrated approach to math and science
d. Fix leaks in the pipeline
e. Promote non-traditional science and math degree programs through
community colleges
f. Retrain the workforce in technology-driven industries
g. Improve science literacy
h. Design a strategic recruitment plan for developing knowledge-driven clusters
i. Recruit world-class talent nationally and internationally

3. Increase the application of knowledge in the South
a. Build venture and related innovation funding capacity
b. Nurture and support entrepreneurs
c. Leverage university technology assets and business support capacity

4. Launch the Southern Innovation System, a series of multi-state,
sector-specific and infrastructure-related initiatives designed to
enhance the South’s competitive position
a. Implement the Southern Nanotechnology Initiative
b. Implement VentureSouth: The Southern Task Force on Venture Capital
c. Implement the Southern Information Technology Initiative
d. Implement the Southern Manufacturing Technology Initiative
e. Implement the Southern Biotechnology Initiative
f. Implement the Southern Industrial R&D Initiative
g. Implement the Southern Automotive R&D Initiative

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Brad Warthen responds, "The State completely misses the point about Clemson"

Brad Warthen, The State's Editorial Page Editor, was kind enough to comment on my post, The State completely misses the point about Clemson.

In his original editorial, Brad said:
IN A SMALL, POOR state with 33 public colleges spread out over 79 campuses — that’s 1.7 per county — one university decides, pretty much on its own, to build a whole new campus all the way on the other side of the state. Without any real public debate. Just because the university wanted to.
I noted that "the editorial is factually inaccurate," because the SC Endowed Chair Review Board, the SC Bond Act Review Committee, and the City of North Charleston all participated in creating the Restoration Institute in Charleston.

Brad defends himself saying what he really meant wasn't that Clemson acted totally alone, because it didn't, but rather that
We have for about 15 years held the position... that we need a Board of Regents or some similar organization to set priorities for higher education, to set missions and avoid duplication... Perhaps the editorial should have been clearer in evoking this definition of "pretty much on its own." But it isn't factually inaccurate. It doesn't matter how many more entities checked off on the proposal after it was hatched. Our point was that it was hatched by Clemson, and not within the context of a comprehensive approach to the missions of higher education.
Now if Clemson had tried to spin their words like this, The State reporter that wrote the Hunley series, John Monk, would have skewered the university on a stake like a witch at Salem. Oh that's right, he did skewer Clemson with about the same justification as the hysterical accusers at Salem.

Let's not dwell on semantics. Brad raises a much larger and more important point that should be debated.
What we have in South Carolina is the individual fiefdoms deciding on their own what their missions will be, and pursuing them on their own. Each school goes to the Legislature, or the Endowed Chair board, or the bond review committee, or whomever, and makes its pitch in the complete absence of any overall guiding plan or structure for higher education endeavors in South Carolina.
Now once again, it's not factually accurate to say there is a "complete absence of any overall guiding plan or structure for higher education endeavors in South Carolina." We do have a Commission on Higher Education, but to Brad's point it is weak and ineffective.

I'm putting together some additional thoughts that I'll post on this issue. But for now, what do you think?

Friday, June 02, 2006

US Navy spends billions on technology related to Restoration Institute research

Recently I discussed how The State newspaper had completely missed the point about Clemson's Restoration Institute in North Charleston. I noted that:
The vision of the Institute is to build on the global reputation of Charleston “to create a leading knowledge-based, export-oriented industry cluster” that becomes the world’s “premiere home of restoration knowledge and expertise.” Advances will be made in disciplines from preservation and healthy communities to advanced materials and urban ecology.
As a part of restoring the Hunley, Clemson is doing leading edge advanced materials research into the removal of salts out of metal. This week, a Swamp Fox reader writes to help validate the potential of the Restoration Institute as an economic development asset.
The US Navy spends billions annually in taking or keeping chlorides out of metals, and therefore is very interested in the success of the Clemson scientists for future applications over the next few years.
So I reiterate my point:
This is exactly the type of exciting, aspirational vision that will leverage our historical assets into knowledge-based economic development that grows high wage jobs in South Carolina.

Let's celebrate top public schools ...

Peter Lucas commented about the feature article, A watershed event for innovation in public education, that several public schools in South Carolina made a list produced by Newsweek of the best high schools in the country, The Complete List: 1,200 Top U.S. Schools. Peter asked:
So where is the acknowledgement? Where are the cheers?
Those are fair questions. So let's celebrate the best public high schools in the state.

The South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics in Hartsville was singled out as among the public school elites in the United States.

Here's other South Carolina high schools that made the list, putting them among the top 5 percent of public schools nationally measured according to Newsweek's criteria.

10 - Academic Magnet - North Charleston
36 - Southside - Greenville
138 - Mauldin - Greenville
434 - Dutch Fork - Irmo
456 - Governor's School for Arts & Humanities - Greenville
595 - Wade Hampton - Greenville
674 - Woodruff - Woodruff
684 - Mann - Greenville
704 - Hillcrest - Simpsonville
744 - Daniel - Central
749 - Riverside - Greer
896 - Spartanburg - Spartanburg
912 - Richland Northeast - Columbia
939 - Hilton Head - Hilton Head
1004 - Woodmont - Piedmont
1043 - Spring Valley - Columbia
1116 - South Aiken - Aiken
1120 - Beaufort - Beaufort
1138 - Irmo - Columbia
1147 - Eastside - Greenville
1155 - Aiken - Aiken
1195 - Dorman - Roebuck
1206 - Socastee - Myrtle Beach

Thursday, June 01, 2006

... but some people live in the twilight zone.

A recent letter to the editor, Candidates out to sabotage education ( last letter at the bottom), makes you wonder what state the writer lives in.

The writer is seriously irked by what she feels is out-of-state money influencing the election for Secretary of Education. Well OK, she has a right to her opinion.

She said, "South Carolina needs good public education for all children." Almost no one would disagree with that.

She continued, "Thanks to our current superintendent of education, we have among the most stringent state education standards." Well, at least our current superintendent is a strong advocate of high standards, and SC's are among the highest in the nation.

But then she fell off the turnip truck. "Most schools are high-functioning." Most schools are well functioning? Can she be serious?

Here's an interesting Power Point analysis of public education by Fredric J. Medway, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University Of South Carolina. You can see he's no radical opponent of public education, yet he observes the following facts:
  • Only 48% to 53% (depending on the measure used) of South Carolina ninth graders graduate from high school. The United Health Foundation (2004) places South Carolina at 50th of 50 states in comparative graduation rates.
  • Only 33% of South Carolina’s ninth graders enter college within four years following high school graduation, and only 20% are still enrolled for a second year.
  • While African American students comprise 35% of the South Carolina elementary and secondary school population, they are only 22% of the state’s four-year college population, a statistic that reflects the relationship between college access/retention and individuals’ race and income (Carey, 2004).
That is almost the polar opposite of, "Most schools are high-functioning." The reason public education polarizes people so much, is there is such a fundamentally different opinion of the depth of the public education crisis we face.

Bill Gates is right that American high schools are obsolete and need to be reinvented. Incredibly, some live in the twilight zone and refuse to accept reality.

Do not try to predict the future, engineer it, by Ron Fulbright, Ph.D.

How valuable would it be if you could know the future? Billions of dollars are spent annually on market research and product design/test all trying to determine what the customer is most likely to buy tomorrow. But what if there is a different way to go about this? This article describes Ideation International’s tool called Directed Evolution and discusses how using it alleviates you from having to guess and try to hit that moving target, but instead, allows you to proactively engineer the future.

In general, every product goes through a well-known lifecycle known as the S-curve. Early on, when product technology is new and a consumer base is still forming, growth is sluggish forming the bottom of the classical S-curve. As the product catches on, the curve turns upward and the product enjoys a vigorous growth period. As technology matures, the market becomes saturated, and competitors arise, growth begins to flatten out, forming the top of the S-curve. Here, the product is at a critical point. Unless things change, growth will eventually turn into decline and the product will die out inevitably to be replaced by something else. Whether a competitor’s product, suddenly gaining traction, or an entirely new product has emerged, the new winner is near the bottom of its own S-curve and about to flex into the growth period. And so, the world continues.

The challenge for the manufacturer is to be able to foresee the market forces that drive this cycle and stay ahead of it. If you are smart enough to make improvements to your product during the accelerated growth period, your product can avoid the eventual downturn and remain dominant. However, making changes too early in the lifecycle could kill the product. Also, you always run the risk of changing the product in a way counter to what the market wants. So what do you do at the critical point? How do you know in which direction to go?

In analyzing millions of patents and tens of thousands of case studies, Altshuller and his colleagues now comprising Ideation International recognized that systems do not evolve randomly. Rather, evolution tends along demonstrable principles called “patterns of evolution.” These principles are general in nature and apply to virtually any system or product.

The Directed Evolution tool helps you systematically explore the application of the pattern of evolution to your product. Any evolution that comes out of the process has behind it the power and truth of history. If thousands of other products have followed a certain evolutionary path, yours is likely to do the same. This way, you avoid the pitfall of changing your product into something the market doesn’t want. By applying the Directed Evolution methodology, you identify the approximate point on the S-curve where your product currently is. This prevents you from making changes too early.

However, there is one very important difference in Directed Evolution. Once you have identified what the next version of your product should be, the Direction Evolution tool allows you to identify how your competitors will be able to compete with you. Constructing a patent fence, by essentially inventing their future too, blocks them from entering the market with a competing product. Therefore, you have essentially picked a point in the future to evolve to and have engineered a competitor-free pathway toward that future. Selecting a future using Directed Evolution is fundamentally different from attempting to predict what the future will be as is done traditionally. Rather, you are selecting the future you want to bring about and are actively structuring yourself and the market to maximize your success.

The American War on Science

Tony Boccanfuso wrote a feature article last week saying:
While this federal and military support for R&D has served us well, we should be concerned about recent trends which show Federal research investments shrinking as a share of the U.S. economy.
Evan Tishuk at OrangeCoat forwarded me an article this week, The American War on Science.
By most objective measures, the United States is the undisputed world leader in science and innovation, whether it's funding for research and development, the number of PhD students it graduates or its share of the world's patents. For the world's wealthiest nation, this is hardly a remarkable feat. What is remarkable is that the US accomplished this with a supply of domestic talent whose skills in math and science are, also according to most objective measures, merely mediocre.
If we don't get serious about this growing crisis, we are currently living in the last years of the United States' preeminence in the world.