Monday, November 05, 2007

We've moved: Join us at

As of October 11, 2007, The Swamp Fox Insights blog has become integrated into the website. You can find highlighted blog entries in the Feature Articles on the Swamp Fox Community website. Come join our community.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Zipit featured on Wall Street Journal Online

Check out the Wall Street Journal's Gadget Gallery

Fashion will go wired as technologies and tastes converge to revolutionize the textile industry.

Each year since 1985, the editors of THE FUTURIST have selected the most thought-provoking ideas and forecasts appearing in the magazine. Over the years, Outlook has spotlighted the emergence of such epochal developments as the Internet, virtual reality, and the end of the Cold War.

Here's the list.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Creation of Conscious Culture through Educational Innovation

Michael Strong has a vision of schools which will promote authentic learning for our youth. In this expansive manifesto, he calls for a diverse educational market in terms that any business person will appreciate.
Slide 5: The tragedy of modern times is that the most powerful system for developing and disseminating products and services, the free market, has not yet been applied to education.
He had me hooked right there.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A fate we'd like the new Swamp Fox to avoid

In developing the new Swamp Fox website, we've studied lots of other social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Digg.

Doing something new is always exciting, but it's important to stay in touch with the brutal facts of reality. Here's an article we routed around the Swamp Fox team recently: The Three Potential Causes of Facebook's Death

It's a fate we'd really like to avoid.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A thought provoking discussion about educating children in poverty

Brian Lamb of C-span interviewed Wendy Kopp, CEO and Founder of Teach for America, about educating children in povery. It was a very interesting and thought provoking discussion.

LAMB: You’ve watched this up close for 18 years. What’s wrong with our education system?

KOPP: You know, I guess the way I’d come at that – I mean, the most salient lesson for me in 18 years is not so much what’s wrong, but what is possible. We see evidence every day in diverse communities at different grade levels all across the country, that when kids are given the chances they deserve, they excel academically.

Now, that, in and of itself, goes against, I think, the common perceptions out there that this is in some way an intractable problem, that because of all the challenges of poverty, because maybe students aren’t motivated or maybe parents don’t care, that we can only do so much.

And yet, we see real evidence that, when kids are given the chances they deserve, they are motivated. And, in fact, most parents care in every community. And certainly, we’ve seen that the parents in our communities want the best possible education for their kids.

So, I guess I leave this with a sense of hopefulness. And what I leave most focused on is just the need for greater local capacity of local leadership.

So, I look at a D.C. – you were asking about Michelle Rhee earlier, and I just – and we could talk about D.C., we could talk about New Orleans and Oakland and Chicago, and communities across the country where Teach For America has been placing folks for a decade or more now. We’ve been placing 50 people a year in Washington, D.C. – not terribly many.

But today, our alums run 10 percent of the schools in Washington, D.C., including the highest performing among them. One of the two newly-elected board members overlooking the school system there is a Teach For America alum. One of the right hands for the mayor for education policy is a Teach For America alum.

The only national teacher of the year in the history of Washington, D.C., is a Teach For America alum, who was in his eighth year of teaching two years ago when he won that recognition. And now we have a schools chancellor, a deputy schools chancellor and a team of folks in the district, inside the district, working for real change.

And I look at an example like that and think, gosh. And every alum I just mentioned came through Teach For America when we were bringing in 500 people a year. So, the fact that we brought in 3,000 folks this year and will soon bring in many more than that, the fact that we’ll soon bring in 200 people a year to the D.C. area, I think just gives me tremendous optimism that we can be one significant part of the effort to channel a new level of talent and energy into really making change happen.

LAMB: But, as you know, a lot of politicians will stand up day after day and say, our school system is a mess, our schools are a mess.

What is wrong? And you must have been motivated originally to change something. What’s wrong out there?

KOPP: You know what? You come out of this thinking – I think so many alums of Teach For America who have been working at this problem in many different ways would say the same thing.

You come out of it realizing that there’s nothing elusive about either what the problem is or really what the solutions are. And there’s no magic to it.

It’s about all the hard work that it takes to run successful organizations in any sector. There’s nothing other than that. It’s all about leadership and talent at every level of the system that can build very strong cultures and implement good systems for accountability and continuous improvement. It is all the basics.

But if you look at the capacity that exists in most of our public school systems versus that that exists in, say, our most successful corporations – like compare a GE, a General Electric to all the – you know, look at the tech systems and the people development systems that they have in a GE versus those that exist in our school systems, and the disparity is almost inconceivable. And yet, the work of educating our kids is at least as challenging as the work that General Electric is undertaking.

So, I just think we’ve hugely underinvested – using that word in the broadest sense of it – in building the capacity within our systems that it will take to really ensure that all of our kids are truly fulfilling their true potential.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Gov. Jeb Bush wants $75-million for start-ups

Here's someone serious about stimulating entrepreneurship and other knowlege based activities in his state.

Being first to market isn't the only thing, and maybe not even the most important thing

A week or so ago someone said to me, "We have to be first to market, because others are already working on this idea." That was a flashback to the late 1990s, during the hay day of the technology bubble, when you couldn't have a conversation without someone breathlessly saying they would make a gazillion dollars because they had a first mover advantage.

NetBank in Atlanta was one of the first online banking companies. They were first to market. Recently they were closed after intervention from the US Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Being first to market is important. But it's not the only thing. And it may not be the most important thing.

I had a client at KPMG back in the 1980s, TelMan, that was one of the first companies to begin selling long distance services after AT&T was deregulated. (That's where Leighton Cubbage cut his teeth, for those of you who know Leighton.) But TelMan leadership knew that their first mover advantage wasn't a sustainable advantage, so they designed the company from the beginning to sell. They started in 1984, went public in 1986, and sold to SouthernNet in 1986 for a couple of hundred million dollars. There you go.

To have a sustainable advantage, like a Swamp Fox you need to be creating an entirely new value chain targeted at customers not well served by the market leaders. The are several signs to look for that you are hiking on the right trail.

The target customers probably are on the low end of an existing market, so it looks too small and unprofitable for the market leader to bother with. Think about how Bentonville looked from the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago in the late 1960s, when Sears was focused on affluent, suburban markets where the end of growth couldn't be seen. Do it right like Sam Walton did, and when you finally hit the radar screen of the market leader you have a lean, mean channel developed serving what now everyone understands is a large market. The market leader goes from looking potent and agile to slow and lumbering. Happens all the time. Ask Sears and Lord Cornwallis.

Another sign that you are creating distinctive value is that your competition is an indirect alternative. We've discussed here before about how Henry Ford competed with faster horses, not other manufacturers of expensive luxury cars, and Southwest Airlines competed with people driving their cars, not other airlines with expensive hub systems.

The final sign that you're creating a sustainable advantage is that you are empowering people in your value chain to generate revenue that weren't before. Angioplasty wasn't commercialized by heart surgeons. They saw it as an inferior clinical (and oh by the way less profitable) alternative to open heart surgery. Cardiologists enthusiastically commercialized angioplasty because it was an entirely new revenue stream to them (and of course in their professional opinion it was a superior solution in most cases to heart surgery.)

NetBank was a first mover in the world of online banking a decade ago. They didn't create distinctive value that market leaders couldn't ultimately co-opt. And they didn't have the insight to sell out when they were hot and could.

So now they have the ignominious fate of TechCrunch formally announcing them part of their Deadpool.

If you repeat a myth often enough, it is still a myth

Recently the 2006 National Assessment of Education Progress was released, and the public education establishment has been promoting that in the fourth and eighth grades South Carolina is a little below average, not last, in the country.

But they also insist on propagating the myth that, as was reported in the Greenville News, "NAEP scores are often considered a far more accurate representation of student achievement than the SAT. State-by-state comparisons on the SAT are unfair because of the large disparity in the number of students who take the test in each state."

That SC's SAT scores are low because a large number of students take the test is the myth that just won't go away because the public education establishment doesn't want it to go away. The reality is, the better educated the typical SC student’s parents are, the further his SAT scores trail his peers nationally.

That myths like this take on a life of their own and impact public perceptions regardless of what the facts actually are is the reason I reacted so strongly last week to the perception that the Riley Institute study reported, "South Carolinians across the state largely agree about how to improve our schools." The last election for Superintendent of Education was decided by a few hundred votes between opponents who had radically different views for fixing education. That there is a strong consensus about what to do to fix public education just isn't so.

We need recognize that some progress has been made in public education in recent years. We also need to recognize that there are deep and fundamental problems that incremental changes won't fix.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The perks of being in the "media": I wonder if there will be a tasting

Media Access to Regional Moonshine Investigation Training

On Thursday, Sept. 27, 2007, the media will be granted access to a unique moonshine investigations training. The seemingly lost and historical crime of making and distributing untaxed liquor continues to exist in the southeast region of the United States. Although law enforcement priorities have shifted throughout the years, "bootleggers" typically profit by operating outside of this regulated industry, posing significant health risks to those who consume their product. As a result, a new generation of law enforcement officials must be trained on the techniques of identifying, seizing and destroying the tools of the moonshine trade.

WHO: Georgia Department of Revenue (Alcohol and Tobacco Division), the Rabun County Sheriff's Office are co-sponsors of the training, with instructors from ATF and the U.S. Department of Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

WHAT: Media will have access to instructors, agency representatives and the on-site moonshine training venue (to include a tour and demonstration of an operating, backwoods "still," tactical raid training and the live destruction of a working still by use of explosives).

WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 27, 2007 at 9:30 a.m.

WHERE: The Rabun County Detention Center, 175 Boen Creek Road, Tiger, GA 30576. There will be a staging area for the media at the detention center, where they will be escorted to the training site.

URGENT: You must confirm attendance today, Sept. 26, and also confirm directions to ensure timely arrival. Please be advised that cell phone coverage at venue may not be available for all service providers.

CONTACT: Marc Jackson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, +1-404-886-8096.

/PRNewswire-USNewswire -- Sept. 26/

First Call Analyst:
FCMN Contact:

Source: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Web Site:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What does "accountable to the public" mean?

In recent weeks, Secretary Jim Rex has toured the state promoting innovation in public education, but he specifically opposes schools that are not "accountable to the public, which is a cornerstone of the public school system.”

"Accountable to the public" doesn't mean accountable to parents and students, or even employers who ultimately employ the public schools' product, but it means being accountable to arbitrary standards imposed by the Legislature and the SC Department of Education. That will ensure "innovative" schools will have to look pretty much like public schools today.

That's what happens anytime the market leader can define what "innovation" looks like. If I had asked Bi Lo if I could build an Earth Fare store across the street, Bi Lo would have assured me that they had an organic isle to serve those customers, the market couldn't support an organic store, and an organic store would only take resources away from improving the existing grocery store in the area. Because being "accountable to the public" meant being accountable to customers, we built the stores anyway and most were very successful. Go figure. How could Bi Lo have been so wrong?

The wagons are being circled around the status quo. The Riley Institute's recent survey is being touted by the SC Department of Education as finding a "broad base support for improving South Carolina’s public education system." At least in one case, a public school superintendent told the Riley Institute that we need to "implode the current system at its core and start over." Secretary Rex didn't hear voices like those “in concluding, "These results are reassuring. They confirm what we’ve been saying all along. There is consensus in South Carolina for improving public education and moving our schools forward"

They real problem with true innovation in education is that schools outside the existing system will take resources away from improving the existing public schools. I hope Jim Rex and his team are successful, but to get the quantum leap in improvement in education we need they need to think less like Bi Lo and more like Earth Fare.

Riley Institute reports a consensus: Was I part of the same study?

The Riley Institute promoted the results of a recent study of public education:

Researchers were surprised not only at the high degree of agreement on what should be done but also at the passion for education reform expressed by the superintendents, principals, teachers, school board members, students, parents and business leaders who participated.
Here's how I reported at the time on my experience in a group session of the Riley Institute project.

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.
I ws stunned to read that the Riley Institute reported there was a strong consensus. Maybe I participated in a different study than they reported on.

Mustard N’ Relish: Tart, and Definitely Chunky

You have to appreciate a firm with a Swamp Foxy name like Mustard N’ Relish Marketing Communications.

One of the principals describes himself as "tart, and definitely chunky." I resemble that remark :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Google giving away $10 million for plug-in hybrids

RechargeIT is a initiative that aims to reduce CO2 emissions, cut oil use and stabilize the electrical grid by accelerating the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and vehicle-to-grid technology.

I know, some of you don't believe in the long tail of knowledge...

but for the rest of us, this is pretty cool.

Wikipedia had its 2 millionth English language article written.

Hydrogen, smydrogen

Try saltwater

Courtesy of ET@OC

Monday, September 10, 2007

Dilbert Does Web 2.0

Go here to see full size comic.

Today's Dilbert Comic
OK, maybe only my friends at Orange Coat even came close to thinking this is funny.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Oh my! Motorcycles?

If you have not been to the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, you need to go. It is a blast. They recently announced that in addition to cars, they now have a BMW Motorcycle Rider Training program.

I had to smile when I read that the program has "exercises including braking technique." The last time I was there, the instructor told me to accelerate an M Series BMW in the straight away and then put the brake to the floor and trust the vehicle. Well of course I didn't. Where else can you put a $120,000 vehicle in the tall grass, then get out and hand them the keys and go home!

But motorcycles? Whew. It costs $650 per day for participants renting a BMW motorcycle. But that's not the cost I'm worried about. How long is it going to take the heal? I'm not as young as I used to be :-)

There need to be more programs like this supporting innovation in education

Innovation in education is our only really hope for the quantum leap in improvement that we need. There needs to be more programs like this that promote the best in innovative thinking in education.

Here's the ING Unsung Heroes(R) Awards Program Grand Prize Winner:
The technology used in “Write On!” is designed to give the children leverage to express their creativity. Each student will learn that they are bigger than their circumstances and that their ideas have the power to create wealth.
Now that's powerful.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

For all you who laughed, keep laughing

Unless you live another planet, by now you have to have seen Miss Teen South Carolina choke. If you haven't, check out one of the many versions of her performance on You Tube that over 10 million people have already seen.

10 million viewers. Unbelievable. No one knew who she was last Thursday hardly.

Be honest. You either thought it was hilarious, or you felt sorry for her (or felt sorry for South Carolina), but you couldn't stop giggling.

Now check this out. Since the girl is a famous and a good sport, she'll now make a gazillion dollars from her new found celebrity.

Keep laughing.

And oh by the way, how many of the seven geography questions that she asked did you get right?

Why I do this

Some people play golf. I do this.

Joe Milam and I sat on the sidewalk in downtown Greenville one morning as he passionately described an new business he's going to launch to create and serve an entirely new market of customers. It's hard not to feed off of Joe's enthusiasm. Life is good.

Google's 9 Steps to Innovation

Chris Harris's blog identifies an interesting list of Google's 9 Steps to Innovation.

  • Innovation, not instant perfection.
  • Share everything you can.
  • You’re brilliant, we’re hiring.
  • Allow employees to pursue their dreams.
  • Ideas come from everywhere.
  • Don’t politic – use data.
  • Creativity loves restraint.
  • Get users and usage – the money will follow.
  • Don’t kill projects, morph them.

(He provides lots more editorial if your interested.)

It struck me how counter most of these are to the closed, execution oriented culture most organizations around here have.

The Gift Of ADHD

Sam Grossman grew up thinking he was stupid, lazy and irresponsible—"a screw-up," as he puts it. Struggling with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), he constantly disappointed his parents and teachers alike.
Our current, typical K-12 education, public or private, is not designed for people like Sam. In fact, it we tried to create an environment to frustrate Sam we couldn't do much better job that a k-12 class room. For Sam, those classrooms can be torture chambers. Thus the reason he seems stupid, lazy and irresponsible—"a screw-up,"
Distractibility, poor impulse control and emotional sensitivity have flip sides that are actually strengths—namely creativity, energy and intuition... A mind that flits easily from one thought to the next may not be good at mastering the material for a biology test, but the authors contend that a nonlinear mind can excel at combining ideas in new ways.
How people think and learn comes in a wide spectrum. We design classrooms for the middle if the bell curve, and neither end is well served. Most educators were themselves successful in the existing system, and thus don't get why Sam finds the system frustrating. When you bring this up to them, most ignore what you're saying and some get defensive. Very few empathize.

The reason that the Sam's of the world sometimes succeed as entrepreneurs is that they finally get to create an environment that matches their strengths, in particular their nonlinear thinking that excels at combining ideas in new ways. It's also why you often see them matching up with a strong operating partner to compensate for their weaknesses. Most K-12 education doesn't help Sam develop his full potential. As Sir Ken Robinson has clearly articulated, we spent 12 years systematically beating creativity, energy and intuition out of Sam.

Having a wide variety of educational alternatives that meet the needs of a wide spectrum of students isn't going to come from the top down. Variety never does. It's going to come, if it comes at all, from educational entrepreneurs who seek to create novel ways of delivering education to students not well served today. To empower that system, the money in education needs to follow the student.

If you are suspecting that I have lived this struggle both as a student and a parent, you are right.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Where's the tipping point in public education?

South Carolina's SAT Scores Fall

And it's not just because a high percentage of SC student's take the test. A higher percentage of students in sixteen other states take the test, and we trail all but one of them.

Plus the problem is not just at the bottom in South Carolina.
The better educated a SC student’s parents, the further he trails peers nationally. Actually, student at the bottom score on par with their peers across the country, though we do have more students in poverty. But the gap in test scores is greater with SC students at the top compared to their peers across the country.

This comes on the heels of reports that over half the high schools students in South Carolina do not graduate on time.

I wonder where the tipping point is for a large segment of folks decide that what we doing now is broken and we need to reinvent public education as we know it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Henry Ford: If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

My earlier post about Southwest Airlines reminded that Henry Ford famously said,
If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.
While true, Ford almost certainly had conversations with prospective customers who were clear about the frustrations of their daily experiences getting to and from where they wanted to go.

Henry Ford didn’t invent automobiles. In 1902, at least 50 US firms manufactured and sold cars mostly to wealthy customers as high end luxuries, which were generally expensive to purchase and difficult to maintain. That year, the Detroit Automobile Co. went bankrupt after selling fewer than half a dozen cars in two years, and Chief Engineer Henry Ford was fired. The Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903, but it was 1908 before the Model T was introduced.

Prior to the Model T, Ford had been up and down in the nascent automotive industry for a long time, from which he had developed a deep base of informed intuition. He had a clear insight into the needs of an emerging market of low end customers for simpler, cheaper, more reliable transportation. Ford understood that many people wanted faster horses to do practical jobs like getting to and from town quicker so more work could be done on the farm. He identified a job the car could perform for non-consumers which was fundamentally different than the job for which most early cars were being built. Rather than competing with the market leaders in automobiles, Ford was led by customers to develop a simpler, cheaper, more reliable productivity tool.

With that insight, Ford looked around for how to create a product that completely satisfied his customers’ needs using existing components and processes where possible. Ford intuitively understood that his focus needed to be on what was difficult in delivering what the customer wanted, which was assembling car components as efficiently and reliably as possible. The famous innovation for which Ford is given credit, the assembly line, had actually been around for a century since Eli Whitney’s cotton gin. The relatively recent broad scale commercialization of electricity made small electric motors possible, which significantly enhanced the potential scale of the assembly line process.

Ford surrounded himself with talented people who were as passionate about the business as he was. It was William Klann, not Ford, who brought the assembly line into Ford Motor Company after viewing the "disassembly line" of a Chicago slaughterhouse where animals were butchered as they moved along a conveyor. Ford was disciplined in meeting his customer’s demand with a laser like focus, but remained open to diverse ideas from other industries about how to best develop a solution for his customers.

What was most innovative about Henry Ford was not a new technology or even a new process, but a new insight into the needs of an emerging market of customers for which he created a powerful, new business model.

Ford is also famous for saying,
They can have it in any color, as long as it is black.
Early in a new market, what is usually not good enough is efficiently reconfiguring mostly existing components into a simple, reliable solution that completely satisfies the customers.

Once that is mastered, markets inevitably begin to climb up the S-curve of innovation. What Ford failed to grasp, at least as the market initially began to mature, is that discontinuous innovations create new markets, and then sustaining innovations create great companies. That the car market was ready to branch into segments contiguous to the early mainstream market beachhead that had been established was the insight grasped by Albert Sloan, the legendary CEO of General Motors.

You don't get the right answer if you ask the wrong question

Jeffrey over at Innovate on Purpose is concerned that,
while asking people what they want seems reasonable, it isn't a very useful way to create interesting, unique innovations.
With all due respect, Jeffrey is getting answers that aren't useful because he is asking the wrong questions. He uses Southwest Airlines as an example.
When Southwest disrupted the market, most existing fliers demanded frequent flier miles and were not likely to switch, so they identified a market that didn't demand frequent flier miles. Imagine asking customers if they wanted an airline without frequent flier miles!
Well asking customers if they wanted an airline without frequent flier miles was the wrong question. The right question to ask passengers was what about their flying experience was difficult, expensive, or inconvenient.

Imagine the earful that Southwest would have gotten. Customers surely would have said is that they absolutely hated connections. They take too long, they add unnecessary cost, and don't even bring up missed connections. What passengers really want is to get from where they are to where they want to be as efficiently and as quickly as they can.

The biggest problem with giving customers what they wanted wasn't the frequent flier system, it was the hub system. Airlines assumed that they needed to get customers from any location to any other location. Given that assumption, they created the central hub system as a cost effective clearing house of sorts.

Southwest changed the rules of competition, like all good Swamp Foxes do. They looked at the high volume routes, like Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and they implemented a very simple idea. They'd fly customers between Los Angeles to Las Vegas faster and less expensively that any other airline, because they didn't have the expensive hub system to support. And to make it even less expensive, they'd use only one kind of airplane, to make maintenance easier and less costly. And they wouldn't serve crappy airline meals, so passengers could bring their own on board. And since they wouldn't be flying passengers all over the country to get them where them wanted to go, they'd do away with the frequent flier miles.

Passengers who wanted to go to Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back, and those that wanted to fly other high volume routes, loved it. Southwest didn't worry about other customers, because they weren't Soutwest's market.

Southwest asked the right question. What were customers trying to do but finding all of their existing options expensive, difficult or inconvenient. As a result, Southwest was able to make a boatload of money by creating an entirely new segment of the airline industry that was less costly to passengers and at the same time more profitable to Southwest. Not bad.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Choice in education that works

What completely baffles me is how we can see such dramatic improvement in higher education because students have choices about the types of higher education that best fit their needs, and yet many can't make the leap that this same dynamic will dramatically improve K-12 education as well.

Clemson just found out that it has risen to #27 on the U.S.News ranking, well along the way to becoming a top 20 public university. Setting an objective to rise in the rankings is inherently to engage in a competition with peer institutions. Clemson President Jim Barker captured the dynamic at work:
I’m very excited about the number 27, but I’m more encouraged by what’s behind that number. We’re seeing improvement in areas that directly impact faculty and students - smaller classes, lower student-to-faculty ratios and continued strong retention and graduation rates. We’ve always said that if we do the right things, if we make good decisions, if we’re strategic about resource allocation and if we constantly focus on academic quality, the rankings would take care of themselves. Today, I’m happy to report that our plan is working.
This competitive dynamic even works with private institutions: Furman moved from 41st to 37th on the list of top liberal arts colleges. Furman President David Shi doesn't like the terms of the competition, though, saying,
Serious reservations" persist "about the legitimacy of the process. It is much more important for a prospective student to find the college that is the best fit for him or her rather than basing such an important decision on a problematic college ranking.
That's a very Swamp Foxy thing to do: don't accept the status quo of the market leaders, but rather define the competition on terms that better matches your strengths and minimizes your weaknesses. That works as long as you can get customers to buy it.

Whether you engage in the competition head on, like Jim Barker, or you seek to redefine the terms of the competition, like Davis Shi, the fact is that competition will create high quality public and private education options that benefit students and society as a whole.

Someone tell me again why this same dynamic won't work to improve K-12 education.

Getting to the crux of what we do about dropouts

Slog through the The High Cost of South Carolina’s Low Graduation Rate, and the first two thirds of the report document the dreary details of the cost of half the students in South Carlina, half, dropping out before they finish high school. This is among the worst in the nation. Dropouts earn considerably less; they reduce tax revenue; they disproportionately use Medicare; they are twice as likely to be incarcerated.

Finally on page 22 you get to the crux of a part of the solution for improving the dropout rate: The Public Benefits of School Choice. Where school choice has been tried, not only do students who actively choose where to go to school benefit from having that choice, but in fact the local public schools improve as well. The proposal makes a compelling case that:
Even a modest school choice program would reduce South Carolina public school dropouts by up to 3,100 each year, saving up to $10 million annually.
Tell me again why we shouldn't be dramatically increasing the variety of education options available to students in South Carolina.

An irrelevant distinction: public versus private schools

Recently the SC Policy Council and the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation published a report entitled: The High Cost of South Carolina’s Low Graduation Rate.

Responses from political leaders have been predictable. Governor Sanford said it bolsters the case for school choice in South Carolina. Secretary of Education Rex said, "We agree on the magnitude of the problem. And we agree with the Policy Council that the solution is to improve public schools. But we don’t think we improve public schools by paying parents to send their kids to private schools."

As a citizen, I have an obligation to ensure that all children have access to a high quality education. Most of my libertarian friends will disagree with that, but none of us has been successful alone. We have all built on the legacy of many, many others. No where is our obligation to be good stewards of that legacy greater than ensuring that all children have access to education.

It struck me as I read Dr. Rex's quote that he is making an irrelevant distinction between public and private schools. Half the children in this state are dropping out before they finish high school. We are failing as a society to provide them educational options that meet their needs.

I have an obligation to see that all children have access to education. It is irrelevant how that education is delivered as long as at the end of the day children are empowered to become productive, contributing members of society. Drawing a distinction between public and private schools is completely beside the point.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Is nothing sacred?

My high school physics teacher, Mr. Reifler (imagine the fun we had with that name), taught me that one of the most immutable laws of the universe is that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. The great Einstein said so. Now this...
'We have broken speed of light'
A phenomenon called quantum tunnelling, which allows sub-atomic particles to break apparently unbreakable laws. Nothing's sacred anymore.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

All of a sudden the new media isn't looking so bad to an old media warrior

The State's prolific blogger, Brad Warthen slammed John Edwards, which got picked up by the Drudge Report. Brad's now wallowing in all this fun.

Why I see John Edwards as a big phony: Director's Cut

Adjusting the focus on Edwards

Audio of Edwards getting folksy with the editorial board

Fox, or Edwards, or SOMEBODY is mighty excited about my column

The people (some of 'em, anyway) speak out on Edwards

I'm not primarily interested in substance of the discussion, but how an idle post on a blog one afternoon has all of a sudden gotten amplified globally. The new media isn't looking so bad to an old media warrior like Brad right now.

Random acts of kindness

The world would be a better place is we all just slow down a little bit and shared random acts of kindness each day.

I know my world would be.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

OK, let's see you do that.

G4 American Ninja Finalist shows off downtown Greenville, SC.
From Think Greenville

Why isn't this being shouted from the moutain top?

For all the hoopla over rising high education tuition in South Carolina, here's an important result of the way higher education is being funded currently in South Carolina today.
USC President Sorensen cited Clemson University research that showed 60 percent of South Carolina students with SAT scores higher than 1,390 now stay in state to attend college, compared with 17 percent before the start of the scholarships.
This is not a very well known statistic among the public, much less legislators The people that squeal the loudest are those whose children aren't getting into Clemson or USC. But their kids aren't being displaced by out-of-state students; the competition from in-state students has gotten much tougher. Who we don't hear from are the parents of the best and brightest kids that no longer are going out of state.

Why USC and Clemson aren't promoting this much more vigorously, I don't know.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Encyclopedia of Emerging Industries

I recently got a spam email about, "The Encyclopedia of Emerging Industries." Normally I'd just hit delete to blow this off and move on, but this struck me as odd.

I've been involved in a number of start-ups commercializing new ideas. When an idea is truly different, one of the real challenges is what to call it.

Fifteen years ago, I organized a group of investors called Capital Insights; 150 individuals invested $14 million in private companies. Was Capital Insights a venture capital firm? Most of the people investing wouldn't have been able to define "venture capital." Was it an angel group? Capital Insights was started before "angel" investors became a popular term. I find myself describing Capital Insights now, after the fact, using vocabulary that we didn't use at the time.

We've struggled with what to call InnoVenture too. Is it a "venture capital conference?" That's what it started out to be. It's evolved far beyond that, though, and the vast majority of the 1500 people who have attended an InnoVenture conference came looking for something else. So what is InnoVenture; an innovation conference. Yes, but that doesn't seem to describe it fully either. And most of the investors that come still make room on their calendars for InnoVenture by comparing it to other "venture capital conferences" they attend.

I do know that it is very important that you name new ideas well. One of the most critical jobs an entrepreneur has is defining the competition for pragmatic, mainstream customers. And that's what naming new ideas does. It tells they customers that they should do this, instead of that which they otherwise would have done. It can not be overestimated how critically important that positioning is to gaining market acceptance. I recently read an analysis of the video uploading marketing, and the author opined that a major reason the current market leader won is because they have a great name that clearly describes what they are: YouTube. There's something to that.

So that's what struck me as odd about, "The Encyclopedia of Emerging Industries." By the time the name for something new has become widely accepted, especially by the time the name is compiled into an encyclopedia, is it really "emerging" any more?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

What's next in Charleston

I recently got this intriguing email:
its whats next

Ernest Andrade, Director
Charleston Digital Corridor
You now know what I know.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Brainstorming doesn't work

I don't know about you, but I really dislike those brainstorming sessions that start too many planning meetings. My sense has always been that they are pretty much a waste of time. Now, here's proof. By the way, you may remember that Frans Johansson was the keynote speaker at InnoVenture 2005.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Another innovative solution from Milliken

For many years, few people outside knew the full scope of what Milliken & Company did, because they wanted it that way. Recently they have become more open, so they can tap into the creative ideas in the community around them.

Here's an example of another innovative solution from Milliken. They are interested in identifying problems that this innovative material can solve. If you have thoughts, let me know, and I'll get you in touch with the right person at Milliken.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Michelin's World of Better Mobility

A very intersting and well done web site that make learing about better mobility fun.

From how to survive a blow out, or to how to take better care of the environment.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Great accomplishments only seem inevitable in retrospect

One of the defining moments of my life was when I was 10 years old and watched Neil Armstrong step onto the moon saying, "That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Armstrong claims what he really said was "That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Because of a transmission glitch, those of us back home huddled by our small televisions heard it the first way, and for us that will always be the reality of what he said.

What we didn't know, though, huddled by the TV, was that:
There was real fear that once on the lunar surface the astronauts might end up marooned and beyond rescue. In fact, President Nixon had a condolence speech ready to go in the event things turned out badly.
This reminds me of something similar that General Eisenhower did; he wrote a letter which he tucked into his desk on the evening of June 5th accepting personal responsibility for the defeat of the Allied Forces on D-Day.
Our landings have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.
Great accomplishments only seem inevitable in retrospect.

Another entrant into the contest to be a huge, renewable energy resource

Gas heading north of $3 per gallon has all kinds of people being creative. Here's the newest entry into the contest to be the fuel of the future:
Biogenic gas is a huge energy resource that could potentially be renewable on a human timescale.

Could Facebook Become The Next Microsoft?

When I sit down at my computer, the first thing I do is launch a browser and from there iGoogle owns my desktop. I use a form of gmail, the Google blog reader, and Goggle documents to collaborate with others.

It's interesting that Facebook is getting enough traction as a platform that someone would even think that:
Facebook is starting to become the one stop shop for content and interaction, be it through feeds, blog creation, image uploading and just plain ol’ social networking

[Goggle is] in a quest to become the No.1 destination of all things to all people. Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Desktop…this list goes on and on. The difference with Facebook will be how the various applications are glued together, and this is where Facebook already has the advantage: Facebook’s origins as a social networking site means that everything they launch is linked in to that central core. Google has great products, but very little to tie them all together. People use Gmail or Reader as stand alone offerings, by comparison everything in Facebook is interlinked.
Goggle will integrate their components and get them playing together better, much like Microsoft did with Office back in the early 1990s. Talk like this about Facebook being king will spur Google to get on with it.

My money is still on Google to be the next Microsoft, but I'm less certain than I was. How about you?

Bibendum, the Michelin Man, is one of the world's oldest trademarks

Did you know that Bibendum the Michelin Man, was introduced in 1898 and is one of the world's oldest trademarks?

Here the story of how Bibendum came to be.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A summer lesson I'll never forget

This morning I was reminded of a lesson in the value of diversity that I learned one summer so powerful that I've incorporated into my world view. You see it reflected in Swamp Fox and InnoVenture.

Twenty years ago, I was promoted into the management group at KPMG and sent to "charm school." There we played a survival game, where our plane had crashed in the Arctic circle. There were 20 items on the plane, and we had to rank them in terms of their importance to our survival.

All of us were from urban areas, except for one woman from rural Maine. We ranked the water purification tablets as very important, without much debate. In my case that is what I was taught in the Boy Scouts, so it had to be right. Then the girl from Maine quietly spoke up that the snow north of the Arctic Circle was clean. We pondered this new, insightful perspective, and then dropped the tablets from one of the most important things we had to one the least important.

The exercise was videoed and played back to us. The snow observation was the only thing the lady said the entire hour, and she only said it once. Someone in the group had to be listening to hear her, and then the group had to respect that she had a different perspective and trust that in that situation she had knowledge the rest of us didn't.

According to the Army Ranger solution, she was precisely right. The instructor said our group got closer to the Ranger's solution than any group he had had. To get to a great solution, we first defined what was essential to success. In our case we decided to stay with the plane and wait for the search party. Given that consensus we had a discussion among the group about what we needed to do to survive. We needed protection from the wind, for example, but we'd die of thirst before we'd die of starvation. Only then then we assess the items we had and decide what was the most important.

Defining what is essential and then leveraging the power of a diverse group to optimize a solution is a powerful innovation model. It's a lesson I'll never forget.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Make better decisions faster

Most Americans are taught from an early age that individualism versus interdependence is what makes America great. Well maybe not always.

Here's a study that finds that people from cultures with an ethos of interdependence can make better decisions faster than others; that is, the Asians do better than the Americans.

I was particularly struck by an observation of
how a Texas corporation "aiming to improve productivity, told its employees to look in the mirror and say 'I am beautiful' 100 times before coming to work. In contrast, a Japanese supermarket instructed its employees to begin their day by telling each other 'you are beautiful'."
Most Americans are also taught to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We just don't live that in our lives very much. That it is in our enlightened self-interest is another reason why we should.

How's that for a Western spin? :-)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Summer fun

This is a pretty cool optical illusion

- When you first see this, the woman is probably turning clockwise.
- Focus on the shadow for awhile, and you'll see her turn counter clockwise.
- Focus on her center foot, and you'll see her turn clockwise again.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Schools are like police and fire departments?

Recently, The State continued their defense of the status quo in public education with a false analogy.
While we think it makes sense to let parents choose between public schools when that’s workable, we’re not convinced that it’s the duty of the taxpayers to fund such choices, any more than it’s the duty of the government to let people choose which police or fire department in the county (or state) will rush to their rescue when they call 911.
This is a bad analogy that fails to grasp the power of innovation. During an urgent crisis, a command and control system is appropriate. When my house is in flames or when the criminal is coming toward my bedroom, I need the 911 dispatcher to get me help right now.

Education is fundamentally different. It plays out over many years when suppliers have plenty of time to create innovative solutions and consumers to make thoughtful choices. The fundamental flaw in public education today is that educators closest to the problem are stuck in a command and control culture that is highly resistant to change.

Universal, publicly funded, excellent education is essential so each child has the opportunity to reach his or her potential. The State says, "we’re not convinced that it’s the duty of the taxpayers to fund such choices." What's not our duty is for the government to provide that education. The best way for us to ensure world class education is to fund each student's choice of the best education option provided by innovative educators.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Researchers Reinvent the Wheel

Here's an interesting article about researchers Reinvent the Wheel.
Scientists have developed an artificial intelligence system to allow the wheels of a car to think and act for themselves. The 'smart' wheel... allows the wheels on a car to communicate with one another while performing thousands of calculations per second. As a result, the wheels think and learn as the car is being driven, making calculations and adjustments according to travelling speed and road conditions.
This reminded me of the fact that Michelin's investment in the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research is in electronics. It takes a bit to get your head around the fact that electronics will be among the biggest areas of value added in the future even in things like tires.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Creating new markets and great enterprises

I work with a very diverse group of people and organizations. On the one hand, there are the entrepreneurs who are trying invent the world we will live in tomorrow. On the other hand, there are large organizations that are enhancing their capability to deploy massive resources on a global scale.

Recently I found a quote that ties these organizations together:
Disruptive innovation creates new markets; evolutionary or sustained innovation creates great enterprises
That's a really big idea.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Henry Ford's Innovation Lesson

Henry Ford famously said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." While true, Ford almost certainly had conversations with prospective customers who were clear about their daily frustrations with their transportation options.

Henry Ford didn't invent automobiles. In 1902, at least 50 US firms manufactured and sold cars mostly to wealthy customers as high end luxuries, which were generally expensive to purchase and difficult to maintain. That year, the Detroit Automobile Co. went bankrupt after selling fewer than half a dozen cars in two years, and Chief Engineer Henry Ford was fired. The Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903, but it was 1908 before the Model T was introduced.

During those five years, Ford developed an intuitive understanding that many people wanted faster horses to do practical jobs like getting to and from town quicker so more work could be done on the farm. He identified a job the car could perform for non-consumers which was fundamentally different than the job for which most early cars were being built. Rather than competing with the market leaders in automobiles, Ford was led by customers to develop a simpler, cheaper, more convenient productivity tool.

With that insight, Ford looked around for how to create a product that completely satisfied his customers needs using existing components and processes where possible. One famous innovation for which Ford is given credit, the assembly line, had actually been around for a century since Eli Whitney's cotton gin. It was William Klann, not Ford, who brought the assembly line into Ford Motor Company after viewing the "disassembly line" of a Chicago slaughterhouse and where animals were butchered as they moved along a conveyor.

Henry Ford had been up and down in the automotive industry for a long time, from which he developed a deep base of informed intuition. He had a clear insight into the needs of an emerging market of low end customers, and he was disciplined in meeting there needs with a laser like focus. He surrounded himself with talented people who were as passionate about the business as he was, and he was open to their diverse ideas from other industries about how to best develop a solution. What was most innovative about Henry Ford was not a new technology or even a new process, but a insight into the needs of a emerging market of customers for which he created a powerful, new business model.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

United States Version 3.0

There have been three major releases of the United States operating system.

Version 1.0 was the Articles of Confederation, adopted in 1777. It failed because it couldn't properly balance the conflicting interests of the central government and the states.

Delegates sent to a convention to revise the Articles of Confederation ignored their charter and in 1788 launched Version 2.0 of the United States, the US Constitution. It could be argued that the Bill of Rights deserves a new version number, but given that it was in the works at the time of the prior release, we'll call it Version 2.1.

This version worked fairly well for four score or so years, when it finally failed because a design flaw in the operating system caused the civility between the two fundamentally different cultures to break. One culture destroyed the other, and Version 3.0 of the United States was launched in 1865 with the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments.

Rarely is Version 1.0 of any innovation ultimately successful, government or otherwise, and it's unreasonable for us to expect that it will be.

Innovation insights from the Declaration of Independence

In reading through the Declaration of Independence again on this July 4th, I was struck by Jefferson's insight into the conditions necessary for innovation to occur.
All experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
People don't like to change, even when their current situation is pretty miserable. Only rarely when the pain becomes unbearable are the conditions right for windows of opportunity to open for fundamental change.

George Fletcher of New Carolina has a great, pithy saying that resonates with Jefferson, "Never waste a good crisis."

Lessons in freedom... from Orangutans

One day at the National Zoo in Washington, I got the most interesting lessons in freedom from two Orangutans.

Their keeper poured lots of apples and oranges from a large basket onto the floor of their exhibit. The Orangutans immediately leaped down from the trees, and aggressively began collecting all of the apples and oranges, stuffing fruit in their mouths, under their arms, and anywhere else they could stash it.

Then they labored back up into the trees, and sat an arms distance from each other. One Orangutan offered the other an apple, and got an orange in exchange. Then the same trade was made again, and again, until one Orangutan ended up with all the apples and the other ended up with all the oranges.

If that is the result they wanted, it would have been easier for one ape to pick up all the apples and the other to pick up all the oranges. That's just not how Orangutans were endowed by their creator. To deny the competition is to deny who Orangutans are. To try to change who the Orangutans are would only frustrate us and them.

The journey was integral to their pursuit of happiness. The Orangutans were much happier in the end from having gone through this exhilarating experience than they would have been had they skipped that part and tamely picked up the fruit. Their hearts pumped, their nostrils flared, and life was just more fun the way they did it.

The fact that the Orangutans are created equal, doesn't mean that they ended up with an equal result. Each had the liberty to pursue their own happiness, and the magic of their marketplace ended up delivering what each wanted, and that wasn't the same thing.

Here's wishing you a wonderful fourth of July.

Friday, June 29, 2007

In other words, we're all just wildebeests...

Duncan Watts reported in the New York Times:
The long-run success of a song depends so sensitively on the decisions of a few early-arriving individuals, whose choices are subsequently amplified and eventually locked in... what people like depends on what they think other people like... a result that has implications not only for our understanding of best-seller lists but for business and politics as well.
This fellow is a professor of sociology at Columbia University, who thinks he's discovered something new. Most entrepreneurs will look at this like native Americans greeting Christopher Columbus.

At the end of the day, we live with this self-deception that we are rational creatures, when in reality there is only a thin layer of civilization on the cortex of our brains very easily overwritten by hormones. Much more often than we're willing to admit, we're all just wildebeests stampeding on an African plain.

Most great entrepreneurs not only know that, they know how to profit from it. Lewis Grizzard, a southern comic who was polular when I was in college, used to end each performance with the thought:
If you ain't the lead dog, the scenery never changes.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Myths of Innovation

Guy Kawasaki has a very interesting interview with Scott Berkun, author of a recently released book called The Myths of Innovation. Here are some of the highlights for me.

"A killer for many would-be geniuses is they have to spend way more time persuading and convincing others as they do inventing, and they don’t have the skills or emotional endurance for it."

No wonder I'm exhausted :)

"The problem is most schools and organizations train us out of the habits [of creativity]."

That reminded me of Sir Ken Robinson's observation that, "we’re now running educational systems where mistakes are the worst things you can make. The result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacity." And Bill Gates who said, "America’s high schools are obsolete... – even when they’re working exactly as designed – [they] cannot teach our kids what they need to know today."

"If [I was] a venture capitalist, ...I’d invest in people more than ideas or business plans—though those are important of course. A great entrepreneur who won’t give up and will keep growing and learning is gold. It’s a tiny percentage of entrepreneurs who have any real success the first few times out—3M, Ford, Flickr were all second or third efforts."


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Watch the end of poverty

A fascinating discussion of poverty, and an even more fascinating use of technology to describe it.

We especially like addictive painkillers!

Kevin Fong of the Mayfield venture capital fund used to say:
We divide business plans into three categories: candy, vitamins, and painkillers. We throw away the candy. We look at vitamins. We really like painkillers. We especially like addictive painkillers!
Lifted from Academic VC

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Caveat innovator

And let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up as the leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new.

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

A novel intersection

New innovations emerge at the intersection of technical disciplines that never intersected before. Or a new innovation — a breakthrough innovation — occurs where you apply a technology to a market where it’s never been applied before. The principle is that breakthrough innovations rarely occur within a technical discipline or within a market, but almost always where you create a novel intersection between markets.

Clayton M. Christensen, Harvard University, Interview in
That's easy to say, but what's really challenging is creating forums, like InnoVenture, where lots of novel intersections can occur.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Younger siblings just accept their fate in life!

The New York Times recently reported what many of us already knew: Study Says Eldest Children Have Higher I.Q.s
The eldest children in families tend to develop slightly higher I.Q.s than their younger siblings, researchers are reporting... Researchers have long had evidence that first-borns tend to be more dutiful and cautious than their siblings, early in life and later... The new findings, which is to appear in the journal Science on Friday... found that eldest children scored about three points higher on I.Q. tests than their closest sibling.
All you younger siblings just need to accept reality and get on with life :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Now this is a serious announcement :)

No visit to Clemson is complete without a peach milkshake from the ‘55 Exchange! Back in the old days, they just called it ag sales, but the milkshakes were just as good.

Clemson ice cream sales shop extends summer hours

CLEMSON — The ‘55 Exchange, retail sales shop for Clemson University's famous ice cream, is extending its hours to better accommodate alumni, visitors, new students, families and students on campus during the summer. The extended hours, through July, are 11:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m.–6 p.m. Friday and 1–6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.The ’55 Exchange is on campus in the Hendrix Student Center, at the corner of Cherry and McMillan roads.

A gift from Clemson's Class of 1955, the Exchange is a student-run retail operation that sells and serves Clemson’s world-famous ice cream and blue cheese. All revenues generated through the retail center go to support the university's students and academic programs.One popular feature of the ice cream shop is the Tiger Slab, where customers can customize their ice cream flavor, mixing Clemson ice cream and an assortment of ingredients.

Why not to do a startup

Courtesy of the Gnoso Blog, here's a post by Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, about “Why not to do a startup.”

The one that resonates most clearly with my experience:
In a startup, absolutely nothing happens unless you make it happen.
What else resonates is:
You get told no -- a lot.
Of course, once you are successful, it is amazing the number of people who will remember being around when "we" started.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Wikipedia is about as accurate on science as the Encyclopedia Britannica

Much of academia views Wikipedia as the dark side. I think this is because the model of knowledge creation it represents is so discontinuous to the the way the academy operates today.

The academic indictment of Wikipedia is that it is unreliable. There generally isn't any evidence cited. Academics just dismiss Wikipedia because, as reported in a article from BBC News, "it is based on wikis, open-source software which lets anyone fiddle with a web page, anyone reading a subject entry can disagree, edit, add, delete, or replace the entry." The fact that people outside the academy can add knowledge really bothers academics.

Well, here's some evidence to illuminate this debate.

The British journal Nature examined a range of scientific entries on both works of reference [Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica] and found few differences in accuracy...

Nature conducted a peer review of scientific entries on Wikipedia and the well-established Encyclopedia Britannica.

The reviewers were asked to check for errors, but were not told about the source of the information.

"Only eight serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts, were detected in the pairs of articles reviewed, four from each encyclopedia," reported Nature.

"But reviewers also found many factual errors, omissions or misleading statements: 162 and 123 in Wikipedia and Britannica, respectively."
Another issue raised by academics is that students shouldn't rely on any one source for their research. That's true, but it is as true for Britannica as it is for Wikipedia.

My guess, though, is the facts won't get in the way of teachers banning Wikipedia as a resources for their students.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Immigrants Outpacing Native-born Americans in Entrepreneurial Activity

When John Sibley Butler from IC2 in Austin spoke at InnoVenture 2006, he discussed how entrepreneurs are often people outside the power structure who do what they do because they have to. In particular, he noted how many entreprenuerial companies were started by immigrants.

The latest assessment of entrepreneurial activity by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation provides startling numbers for yet another year. The study found that an average of 465,000 people created new businesses each month in 2006. Asians, Latinos and immigrants far outpaced native-born Americans in entrepreneurial activity. African Americans experienced a decline. The report also contains data on activity at the state level. The five states with the highest rates of entrepreneurial activity included three of the Southern Growth states: Montana, Mississippi, Georgia, Oklahoma and Maine. See the report and data sets at

Monday, June 11, 2007

Very intersting way to present a very complex topic, the US Budget

This is a very interesting and powerful way to present a complex topic, the US budget.

Click on any part of the poster, and it will resolved to greater and greater detail.

Sourced from:

Saturday, June 09, 2007

How wealth is created in Plato's City

Click the navigation to advance the slides in the presentation.

SC Technical College System and New Carolina Tie Workforce Development to Clusters

SC Technical College System and New Carolina Tie Workforce Development to Clusters
New Report Outlines Roadmap for South Carolina’s Future Workforce

SC Technical College System and New Carolina-South Carolina’s Council on Competitiveness recently released Developing South Carolina’s Workforce: A Roadmap for the Future (Roadmap for the Future),which outlines the findings of the first comprehensive discussion tying workforce development to economic clusters in South Carolina.

The report can be downloaded at the New Carolina website.

Roadmap for the Future reports recommendations from participants in a research project initiated by the Southern Growth Policies Board, and presented by the SC Technical College System and New Carolina.

Southern Growth’s goal is to define practical recommendations to build workforces that efficiently support southern states’ economic initiatives. The SC Technical College System and New Carolina built on that mission by hosting Panel Discussions and Community Forums around the state that focused on identifying both general and specific economic cluster workforce needs, and providing recommendations for future development. Key themes outlined by participants from the Statewide Policy Dialogue and the six Panel Discussions and Community Forums ranged from:

· the need to develop comprehensive statewide workforce solutions

· concerns about the consistent need for funding innovative initiatives

· a sense that the involvement of the entire educational continuum – pre-K through 16 – is critical

· a sense of the increasing need for “soft skill” development in general workforce training—e.g., problem solving, critical thinking, communication, working as a team, etc.

· the importance of continued dialogue. The SCTCS and New Carolina are exploring ways to develop a structured method of collecting community feedback on a more regular basis.

Friday, June 08, 2007

I love people who have the courage to think different

What's most fun to me is seeing this fellow approach something common place in a novel way. Changing our paradigms of how things are supposed to work is easy to say and incredibly difficult to do.

Andy Mckee Amazing Guitar Player - Watch more free videos

Monday, June 04, 2007

Pelzer SC is in the Lead in Top 10 Greenest Cities

I was recently contacted about spreading the word about a contest to identify America's Greenest City. Below is what I received. I was intrigued that Pelzer, SC was in the lead. If you don't know where Pelzer is, it's a nice town in Upstate SC, but don't blink when you drive through of you'll miss it.

I'm as intrigued with the social networking aspects of this contest as I am with the specific contest itself - especially that the contest organizers could motivate folks in a small town like Pelzer to band together to win this contest. Or on second thought, perhaps it is because Pelzer is a small town that people are banding together to win a contest like this. There probably is a social networking lesson there.

Anyway, log in, have fun, and help Pelzer win!

Pelzer, SC is one of the top contenders in Yahoo’s Green City Challenge. Cities across the country are competing for the fleet of hybrid taxis -- the more residents of Pelzer use Yahoo! Be a Better Planet (, the better your chance of having the hybrid taxis or $250,000 for an environmental project for the city.

There’s only a week left in the challenge, but Pelzer is currently in first place -- and definitely has a chance to win. I was hoping you might be interested in rallying your local readers to try to win the challenge, along with fostering some South Carolina pride, and bettering our planet!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Powerful Idea: Design for the Other 90%

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum: Design for the Other 90%

"There must be some role for technology to solve poverty... they don't need a handout, what they need is an opportunity."

The majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customers. Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90%."

Featured in the New York Times: Design That Solves Problems for the World’s Poor

"A billion customers in the world, are waiting for a $2 pair of eyeglasses, a $10 solar lantern and a $100 house."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Interface Becomes Ubiquitious

Computers embedded in every surface in your environment, down to the wallpaper.

Thanks for TechCrunch

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Developing South Carolina's Workforce: A Roadmap for the Future

This new report outlines input from Panel Discussions and Community Forums on the future of South Carolina's workforce, and explores how clusters can be linked to workforce development issues. These Forums were hosted by SC Technical College System ( and New Carolina.

Thanks to the industry leaders, educational administrators, workforce development experts and policy makers from across the state who shared their thoughts. Read what they had to say!

Download the report at

New Carolina Executive Director George Fletcher:
"Thanks to Dr. Barry Russell for the invitation to partner on these forums. I was pleased that the SC Technical College System wanted to look at the state's workforce relative to industry clusters. With some exceptions, fully developed clusters are regional and often drive regional economies. They can also provide a basis for regional workforce strategies."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Memorial Day Meditation: It's not just a name. It's my Daddy's name.

“For me and my brother, it’s not just a wall. It's a name. And it's not just a name. It's my Daddy’s name.”

Regardless of whether we agree with the policy makers, this is why we humbly pause to honor all those who sacrifice to keep us safe, especially those like Pfc. Arthur Doiley, 19, who made the ultimate sacrifice ten months after enlisting in the Army.

39 years after his death, veteran joins list on state's Vietnam monument

Stop on the way to the beach: Renowned artist preserves Swamp Fox history

General Marion was an elusive character that never got caught and helped win independence in the south. Today, the General himself may be gone from this world but his legend continues.

Renowned artist, mural society preserve ‘Swamp Fox’ history

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

String Theory: Vote for the Home Team

Discovery Magazine presents several videos in a contest to find the best explanation for string theory in two minutes or less.
Science in Two Minutes or Less
On the menu bar to the right, scroll to the bottom to see String Theory for Dummies, by Jason Lonon's astrophysics class at Spartanburg Day School in Spartanburg, SC.


Hat tip to Paul Winston.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

An elementary rule of business that is violated wholesale

Mass production... generate[s] great pressure to "move" the product. But what usually gets emphasized is selling, not marketing. Marketing, being a more sophisticated and complex process, gets ignored.

The difference between marketing and selling is more than semantic. Selling focuses on the needs of the seller, marketing on the needs of the buyer. Selling is preoccupation with the seller's need to convert his product into cash, marketing with the idea of satisfying the needs of the customer by means of the product and the whole cluster of things associated with creating, delivering, and finally consuming it.

This may sound like an elementary rule of business, but that does not keep it from being violated wholesale.
Theodore Levitt, Marketing Myopia Harvard Business Review, 38 (July-August 1960),
The goal of... [marketing] is to create a space inside the customer's head called "best buy for this type of situation" and to attain sole, undisputed occupancy of that space.

First, let us understand that... [the reason business people don't do this] 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.
Geoffrey A. Moore, Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers, (New York: HarperBusiness, 1991)

Henry Ford's operating philosophy succinctly stated

Henry Ford, as quoted in Marketing Myopia by Theodore Levitt, originally published in the Harvard Business Review, 38 (July-August 1960)

Our policy is to reduce the price, extend the operations, and improve the article. You will notice that the reduction of price comes first. We have never considered any costs as fixed. Therefore we first reduce the price to the point where we believe more sales will result. Then we go ahead and try to make the prices. We do not bother about the costs. The new price forces the costs down. The more usual way is to take the costs and then determine the price; and although that method may be scientific in the narrow sense, it is not scientific in the broad sense, because what earthly use is it to know the cost if it tells you that you cannot manufacture at a price at which the article can be sold? But more to the point is the fact that, although one may calculate what a cost is, and of course all of our costs are carefully calculated, no one knows what a cost ought to be. One of the ways of discovering ... is to name a price so low as to force everybody in the place to the highest point of efficiency. The low price makes everybody dig for profits. We make more discoveries concerning manufacturing and selling under this forced method than by any method of leisurely investigation.

Levitt's comments about Ford's operating philosophy:
He was brilliant because he fashioned a production system designed to fit market needs. We habitually celebrate him for the wrong reason, his production genius. His real genius was marketing. We think he was able to cut his selling price and therefore sell millions of $500 cars because his invention of the assembly line had reduced the costs. Actually he invented the assembly line because he had concluded that at $500 he could sell millions of cars. Mass production was the result, not the cause, of his low prices.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

100 million minorities in US is larger than 1910 US population

The US Census Bureau issued a report chronicling the remaking of the America population: Minority Population Tops 100 Million. Nearly half of our children under age 5 are Hispanic, black or Asian.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Clemson demonstrates what every scout already knows!

One of the cooking requirements of the Boy Scout First Class badge is learning the five second rule. Now reseachers at Clemson demonstrate it is true!

They could have just come camping with Troop 260 in Greenville, and we could have shown them that! Dropping your perfectly roasted chicken leg in the dirt only adds a bit of texture. It does make the corn on the cob a bit gritty though.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Secretary Joe Taylor: Our state's economy is strong

Secretary Taylor recently pointed out that:

Last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, South Carolina had the 7th-fastest growing labor force in the nation, indicating more and more people are choosing South Carolina as the place for their families to live and work.

Over the past three months, South Carolina has stepped up to the 6th-fastest employment growth rate in the nation, gaining more than 28,000 jobs since December alone. Just to put that in perspective, that's more jobs than nearly two dozen states produced for all of 2006.

What do you think of Clemson's new website?

Clemson just launched a long awaited revision to its website.

What to you think?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Monday, May 07, 2007

How Do Your Presentation Stack Up To The World's Best

Here's the winner of the World's Best Presentation contest. The presentation format is very strong, and the content is very thought provoking too. (Note that you can click in the bottom right corner to see it full screen.)

The How to Change the World blog reports on other winners too.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The wrong way to sell fuel cells, or any technology for that matter

Grant Jackson at The State relates the conversation below that occurred at the 4th Annual FuelCellSouth Conference in Columbia last week. Sam Logan, CEO of fuel-cell company Logan Energy, asked an audience of potential customers how many planned to buy a fuel cell. That's the wrong question from someone enamored with his technology. When no one was chomping at the bit to buy his whiz bang product, he had the audacity to tell customers, "“I’m ashamed of you.”

Logan is an entrepreneur with a solution in search of a problem. This is a classic example of the wrong way to sell any technology, and it is one of the best ways to lose lots of money.

The question Logan should ask is where is it that customers are trying to accomplish something and finding all of their available options difficult, inconvenient, or expensive. If he can use his fuel cell technology to help customers do a job they already trying to get done cheaper, easier, or more conveniently, then he has found a beachhead to a very successful company. Word of mouth from satisfied with attract other customers to his door.

I don't know anything about Logan Energy. Perhaps it is a great company, and its CEO was just having a bad day. Let's hope so.

My bigger concern is that there's lots of hype in South Carolina about fuel cell technology. Indeed there is tremendous potential. But that potential will only be realized if we get beyond hyping the technology and find customers not currently well served for whom we can use fuel cells to deliver distinctive solutions.

Conversation reported in Why should fuel cells be a hard sell?

In a room full of people working to create a fuel-cell and hydrogen industry, Sam Logan posed the question:

“How many of you anticipate buying a product in the next year that will be powered by a fuel cell?”


Not a single hand went up during the first session of the 4th Annual FuelCellSouth Conference.

“I’m ashamed of you,” said Logan, chief executive officer of Logan Energy, a Roswell, Ga.-based fuel-cell company.

“There are products out there today that are commercial. If you have the ability to make purchasing decisions, you really should consider that.

“Before long, you will be able to buy all sorts of devices that are powered by small, portable fuel cells, so look for them.”

Friday, May 04, 2007

Aisha Staggers on Her Approach to Parent Involvement - A New Carolina Manifesto #5

A special delivery to you from New Carolina: Our fifth Manifesto - another in a series of writings and conversations from South Carolina's thought leaders.

This is from Aisha Staggers of the South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs, on her own version of parent involvement in education, and how she has helped shape her daughter's dreams.

Follow this link to the Manifesto:

Help us get a conversation started around change that will create new energy, new ideas, new action, and new jobs in South Carolina.

Visit us at

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I've noticed my own kids doing this

I've noticed for some time that my daughter, who is a freshman in college, and my son, who is a sophomore in high school, are increasingly texting friends rather than calling each other. They will feverishly peck out messages on the tiny keyboard of their phones back and forth with their friends, or if it is available they will instant message from their laptops. I've found that interesting, and now here is confirmation that the trend is real and having a significant impact.

Mobiles lose their magic as calls fall for the first time

It is the first time the number of calls has fallen since JD Power started the survey ten years ago.

The industry analysts found that text messages and emails - which can be sent from some newer phones - are becoming more popular, possibly because they are cheap.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Teenagers use MySpace to save their local bubble tea hangout

A very cool story about a group of teenage customers who used social networking sites to save their local bubble tea hangout in Greenville. A tea tale


Thursday, April 19, 2007

A shift from aging, top-down classroom technologies to mashup space, mashup spaces comprising feeds, blog posts, podcast widgets

Maybe there is a glimmer of hope.
Elgg, open-source social networking software developed at the University of Brighton, has been designed specifically with academic uses in mind.

Students, tutors and researchers each get a profile page, a blog, photo sharing and friends lists, and they can create and join on-site discussion communities. Some of these features might cause tutors to balk, but Elgg's creators say the collaborative, conversational exchanges in which today's students have become so fluent outside class are the best way to deliver learning inside it.

"The virtual learning environment model used by nearly all universities these days is based on the traditional tutor-led, course-structured mode of learning and doesn't easily allow for significant participation by students or for crossing course boundaries," said Stan Stanier, the school's learning technologies manager, who oversees a 33,000-member Elgg installation. "Higher education is meant to be an environment for student-centered and collaborative learning."

Broadly, Elgg represents a shift from aging, top-down classroom technologies like Blackboard to what e-learning practitioners call personal learning environments -- mashup spaces comprising feeds, blog posts, podcast widgets -- whatever resources students need to document, consume or communicate their learning across disciplines.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rev. Charles B. Jackson, Sr. on Parent Involvement at Brookland - A New Carolina Manifesto # 4

A special delivery to you from New Carolina: Our fourth Manifesto – another in a series of writings and conversations from South Carolina's thought leaders.

This one is from Reverend Charles B. Jackson, Sr., pastor of Brookland Baptist Church in West Columbia, on how the faith-based community at Brookland is supporting parent involvement in education.

Follow this link to read the Manifesto:

Help us get a conversation started around change that will create new energy, new ideas, new action, and new jobs in South Carolina.

Visit us at

Powered by SC's Council on Competitiveness: Working with partners to drive a movement toward a New Carolina – a South Carolina with a brighter future, and a competitive, winning economy.