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.


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.

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 :-)