Wednesday, July 26, 2006

YEScarolina is spreading entrepreneurship to young South Carolinians

I recently was introduced to a great organization, YEScarolina, whose mission is to teach entrepreneurship to young South Carolinians of all socio-economic backgrounds to enhance their economic productivity by improving their business, academic, and life skills.

This summer, YEScarolina has offered excellent training from the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship without charge to 100 public school teachers statewide. Four partner colleges; Francis Marion University, Clemson University, Midlands Technical College, and College of Charleston hosted NFTE training sessions.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Borgias produced warfare and terror, Michelangelo and da Vinci

Orson Welles as Harry Lime in The Third Man
In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and what did that produce - the cuckoo clock!
The intersection of diverse cultures sparks intense conflict and creativity. Innovation is a passionate, messy business, not for the faint hearted or the weak minded. Joseph Schumpeter observed in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy
The fundamental impulse that sets and keeps the capitalist engine in motion comes from the new consumers, new goods, the new methods of production or transportation, the new markets, the new forms of industrial organization … that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in.
He wasn't kidding.

South Carolina Student Retention Study Released

Here is the summary of a survey of 1,900 students from colleges throughout South Carolina conducted to understand how many of our college students plan to leave South Carolina after graduation and develop strategies to keep them in the state. View the Study.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Passion and informed intuition key to successful entrepreneurs

I've been working on a documentary film on entrepreneurship that will be released early 2007. Last week I interviewed three exceptional entrepreneurs about what made them successful.

Passion jumped out of each of their stories. Each knew very young what their passion was and they had been studying their field for much of their lives, even though they weren't sure where their passion would take them. The informal study they did on their own was as important, perhaps more important, than the formal training they had received. Each was very curious and an avid, broad reader. One person had a high school degree, one had a BS, and one had a PhD, but this held true for each one.

Their passion had a big impact on their careers in two ways. First, entrepreneurs inherently are operating in a low data environment. They are creating something new, so there isn't much formalized information available on which to base decisions. I asked each one how they knew they were right about the market. Each looked at me puzzled, saying something like, "I just knew." This kind of informed intuition is critical to an entrepreneur's success, and it often comes from a lifetime of study of an area of passion, as it did with these three individuals.

Their passion also showed up in the people they hired. They looked for inspired individuals, people that themselves had a passion for their work. I asked how they ensured that their organization executed well. Again one looked confused by the question, answering when you hire people that excel at what they do you let them do their job. Another confused me focusing on policies and procedures. When I challenged why you hire outstanding people and then micromanage them, he said, "Oh no, they wrote their own policies and procedures. I didn't write them for them. They know more about what they're doing than I do."

Fascinating stuff. More to come. I'd love to hear your stories.

Interesting Disruption in Health Care

Recently I began seeing an emerging trend in health care, stripped down medical clinics delivering services in grocery stores, department stores, corporate campuses, etc.

MinuteClinic is a leader of this trend. The basic idea is that:
The clinics can charge lower fees than other clinics because they use nurse practitioners who diagnose and prescribe medications for about a dozen common ailments. They refer more complicated problems elsewhere.
This week, an announcement caught my eye.
SmartCare Family Medical Centers, a rapidly growing operator of retail healthcare centers, has signed a partnership agreement with the Kroger Atlanta division of the Kroger Co. to open its SmartCare Centers inside stores located in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. SmartCare Centers will initially open centers in the Atlanta metro area in the fall of 2006.
Bi Lo recently announced the beginning of A Wellspot Health and Wellness Center, offering a quick and easy alternative for family health care staffed by family nurse practitioners, who can provide treatment and diagnosis for routine conditions.

Increasing competition is a sure sign that this innovation is gaining traction in the market and becoming mainstream.

A recent article cited a Harvard Business School case study of MinuteClinic, formerly known as QuickMedx, concluded "some members of the medical community believe the clinics disrupt continuity of care for patients." Doesn't the status quo always attempt to reject an innovation that is discontinuous to them and begins to take away business? Expect to see articles that despite the fact that customers love them, these quick clinics are a threat to public health.

By the way, another interesting aspect of MinuteClinic is their management team. They have plenty of health care expertise, but one of the critical success factors will be their ability to roll out and manage a large number of individuals units. So what is the background of their CEO? Former President and CEO of Arby's Inc. That's probably a very wise choice.

Summer Reading on Innovation

The Innovators Bookshelf has a number of reviews of books on innovation that you may find good reading to end the summer and get charged back up going into the fall. A great place to start is The Innovator’s Bookshelf Essentials of classics that I have on my shelf and refer to frequently.

We'd love to have you write a brief review of a book on innovation to post to The Innovators Bookshelf. Others would appreciate your recommendation. Comment below with your contact information, or send me a note.

The Change Function - Have you read it?

Evan over at the OrangeCoat blog highlighted a new book out, The Change Function.

Have you read it? Was it worth others reading? Woudl you be willing to write a brief review for The Innovators Bookshelf.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Can educators create experts?

There's an interesting article in the August 2006 issue of Scientific American, The Expert Mind.

Motivation appears to be a more important factor than innate ability in the development of expertise. It is no accident that in music, chess and sports - all domains in which expertise is defined by competitive performance rather than academic credentialing - professionalism has been emerging at ever younger ages, under the ministrations of increasingly dedicated parents and even extended families...

Teachers in sports, music and other fields tend to believe that talent matters and that they know it when they see it. In fact, they appear to be confusing ability with precocity...

The preponderance of psychological evidence indicates that experts are made, not born. What is more, the demonstrated ability to turn a child into an expert - in chess, music, and a host of other subjects - sets a clear challenge before the schools. Can educators find ways to encourage students to engage in the kind of effortful study that will improve their reading and math skills [or any other skills for that matter]?
This insight seems to show up in other unrelated texts. In Good to Great, Jim Collins say great companies have an intense focus he calls the Hedgehog Effect. Two of three questions he proposes pondering to identify this intense focus clearly relate best-in-the-world expertise with passionate dedication.

* What you can be the best in the world at?
* What you are deeply passionate about?
* What best drives your economic or resource engine?

The insight about experts also matches up with conclusions in the book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

For those of you like me who aren't protégés, it's comforting that there's hope for us if we're just willing to dedicate ourselves to being exceptional. We're not really going to dedicate ourselves to that kind of intense focus, but at least we can day dream about it.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A data point in the ongoing school debate

Recently the US Department of Education published a report, Comparing
Private Schools and Public Schools Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling
. It concluded,
In grades 4 and 8 for both reading and mathematics, students in private schools achieved at higher levels than students in public schools. The average difference in school means ranged from almost 8 points for grade 4 mathematics, to about 18 points for grade 8 reading. The average differences were all statistically significant. Adjusting the comparisons for student characteristics resulted in reductions in all four average differences of approximately 11 to 14 points. Based on adjusted school means, the average for public schools was significantly higher than the average for private schools for grade 4 mathematics, while the average for private schools was significantly higher than the average for public schools for grade 8 reading. The average differences in adjusted school means for both grade 4 reading and grade 8 mathematics were not significantly different from zero.

Comparisons were also carried out with subsets of private schools categorized by sectarian affiliation. After adjusting for student characteristics, raw score average differences were reduced by about 11 to 15 points. In grade 4, Catholic and Lutheran schools were each compared to public schools. For both reading and mathematics, the results were generally similar to those based on all private schools. In grade 8, Catholic, Lutheran, and Conservative Christian schools were each compared to public schools. For Catholic and Lutheran schools for both reading and mathematics, the results were again similar to those based on all private schools. For Conservative Christian schools, the average adjusted school mean in reading was not significantly different from that of public schools. In mathematics, the average adjusted school mean for Conservative Christian schools was significantly lower than that of
public schools.
The New York Times reported that,
Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, the union for millions of teachers, said the findings showed that public schools were “doing an outstanding job.”
On the other hand,
A spokesman for the Education Department, Chad Colby, offered no praise for public schools and said he did not expect the findings to influence policy. Mr. Colby emphasized the caveat, “An overall comparison of the two types of schools is of modest utility.”

“We’re not just for public schools or private schools,’’ he said. “We’re for good schools.”
Amen to that.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A letter to Senator Jim DeMint

We had some interesting discussion last week about Senator DeMint emerges as a leader in the future of telecommunications and the Internet and the issue of Net Neutrality.

The discussion is how best to promote innovation. Personally, I think the build-out of the Internet infrastructure is essential to the delivery of next generation products and services. Things we've only begun to imagine will require immense amounts and different kinds of bandwidth than we currently have. Clearly most people don't like the incumbent telecom companies as a group. The way to encourage competitors to build out a more innovative infrastructure is to be sure new entrants can earn a market return on their investments. Since no one is quite sure what infrastructure is needed, I'm much more confident that the market will sort it out properly than I am that a government mandate will get it right.

Rob Wright posted A letter to Senator Jim DeMint arguing the other side that Net Neutrality is essential. Rob makes a good case, but I still agree with Jim.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Few Appreciate the Stress Endured and Sacrifices Made For Independence

Letter from General Nathaniel Greene to General Francis Marion (ie, The Swamp Fox) answering one of Marion's (which is missing) soon after his arrival at Fort Watson with only eighty men.

Camp, at Cornal's Creek, May 9, 1781.

Dear Sir,

I am favoured with yours of the 6th instant. I am sorry the militia are deserting, because there is no greater support. If they were influenced by proper principles, and were impressed with a love of liberty and a dread of slavery, they would not shrink at difficulties. If we had a force sufficient to recover the country, their aid would not be wanted, and they cannot be well acquainted with their true interest to desert us, because they conceive our force unequal to the reduction of the country without their consent. I shall be always happy to see you at head quarters, but cannot think you seriously mean to solicit leave to go to Philadelphia. It is true your task has been disagreeable, but not more so than others. It is now going on seven years since the commencement of this war. I have never had leave of absence an hour, nor paid the least attention to my own private affairs. Your state is invaded; your all is at stake; what has been done will signify nothing unless we persevere to the end. I left a wife in distress and every thing dear and valuable, to come and afford you all the assistance in my power, and if you leave us in the midst of our difficulties, while you have it so much in your power to promote the service, it must throw a damp upon the spirits of the army, to find that the first men in the state are retiring from the busy service, to indulge themselves in more agreeable amusements. However, your reasons for wishing to decline the command of the militia, may be more pressing than I imagine. I will therefore, add nothing more upon this subject till I see you. My reasons for writing so pressingly respecting the dragoons, was from the distress we were in. It is not my wish to take the horses from the militia if it will injure the public service -- the effects and consequences you can better judge of than I can. You have rendered important service to the public with the militia under your command, and done great honour to yourself; and I would not wish to render your situation less agreeable with them, unless it is to answer some very great purpose; and this I persuade myself you would agree to from a desire to promote the public good. I wish you success in the fort you are besieging. Lord Rawdon was out yesterday; we had the night before taken a new position on Sawney's creek, and I imagine he came out to attack, expecting to find us on the Twenty-five mile creek. We did not like the position on Sawney's creek to risk an action on, and therefore took a new one at this place, leaving the horse, light infantry and picketts at the old encampment; the enemy came and drew up on the other side of the creek, but did not attempt to cross, and retired into Camden before night. We are in daily expectation of a large reinforcement of Virginia militia and some continental troops; when those arrive we shall push our operations with more vigour. No further news of Lord Cornwallis.

I am, Sir,
With the highest esteem and regard,
Yours, &c.
N. Greene.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Einstein in Greenville?

In the course of nurturing innovation we try to create intersections of great ideas and minds. Imagine what could have happened if Charles Townes had still been a physics student (he was class of '35) at Furman in the early 40's when Albert Einstein, while staying with his son living in Greenville, visited Furman a number of times? I can only imagine the conversation: or maybe they wouldn't have talked at all - who knows, who can ever predict what will happen when two people come together with open minds?

What would the "Man of the Century" think of our town, region and state? What words of wisdom could he offer on our efforts to incite innovation, creative thinking and the creation of new industry?

Read about the real trips that Albert Einstein made to Greenville, SC! - Beat (MetroBeat) article by James Shannon

Innovation for those with too much time: One of the strangest things I have ever seen

Burger King created an Internet campaign so you can "Get chicken the way you want it."

This is one of the strangest things I have ever seen.

I can't imagine that it sells much chicken.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Senator DeMint emerges as a leader in the future of telecommunications and the Internet

On July 1st on C-SPAN (The Communicators: Sen. Dorgan (D-ND) & Sen. DeMint (R-SC)), Senator DeMint discussed his leadership role in moving the current telecommunications bill through the Senate Commerce Committee. One of the key amendments was network neutrality, which failed and which Senator DeMint voted against. His argument is that the US is falling behind the rest of the world in the build-out of telecommunications infrastructure, as we must allow those who provide the infrastructure to benefit from their investments to maintain our competitiveness, and even to catch up where necessary.

I think he's right. We don't want Congress mandating network neutrality or non-neutrality. We need for Congress to get out of the way and let the market sort out what consumers want.

Congress screwed up the Telecommunications Act of 1996, leading directly to the speculative bubble of the late 1990s and the painful recovery since then. We can't afford for Congress to screw this up again.

Another South Carolina blog, Laurin Line, has also had an interesting discussion on this topic which is critical to all our futures.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The most incredibly powerful presentation you've heard in awhile

BMW sponsored a conference on creativity called TED, billed as "1,000 great thinkers... invited to share their belief that ideas are everything."

One of the most incredibly powerful presentations
you've heard in awhile was made by Sir Ken Robinson, senior advisor to the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles, and an influential advocate for the importance of creativity in education. It will make you think deeply about how we are educating our children.

There were several other presentations that were also very powerful. Each is about 20 minutes.