Tuesday, January 30, 2007

He who writes the stories defines the culture.


Thanks to Olivier Blanchard for highlighting that.

Happy Milton Friedman Day

Dr. Milton Friedman was perhaps the most influential economist of the 20th Century, and the impact of his ideas will extend far into the future. To honor the man, January 29th is declared as Milton Friedman Day – a celebration of the economist’s positive impact on American life and business, and the spread of the benefits of free markets to nations around the globe.

Is InnoVenture Worth Your Investment?

In September, we asked people who had attended InnoVenture 2004, 2005 and 2006:
What is the most specific benefit that you have received from your past participation in InnoVenture?
Here are their responses, with very little editing and in no particular order.

We've also launched an innovative registrations system that will allow you to find and collaborate with others before and after the conference.

If you are not already registered, now is the time.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Swamp Fox Question of the Week

This week's question announced on the SC Business Review radio program is, "What successful grass roots programs are there across South Carolina to improve K-12 public education?"

We'll report a summary of your comments on the SC Business Review on Monday, February 5th.

David Shi Reports on Successful Grass Roots Program to Improve Public Education

This week, Furman President David Shi reports on a successful grass root program to improve K-12 public education in South Carolina.
Bridges to a Brighter Future is an academic and social enrichment program focused on high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Its objective is simple: to help promising high school students who struggle against significant financial, personal, and cultural barriers earn a diploma and enroll in college.

Since its inception in 1996, the Bridges program has had remarkable success. While every one of the racially and ethnically diverse students has an annual family income of less than $35,000, all of the program participants have graduated from high school, and 90 percent have enrolled in college.
David's report inspired the question of the week.

Superintendent Jim Rex starts out right

I agree with an editorial in the Greenville News: Superintendent starts out right - The new state education leader has a sound vision for progress. Next step: putting it into action.
Rex reiterated his five-point plan that won the support of South Carolina voters:

- Accelerate innovation.
- Increase public school choice.
- Refine accountability for maximum results with minimum testing.
- Elevate and reinvigorate the teaching profession.
- Provide fair and more equitable funding.
If Secretary Rex can really do all that, we stand a chance.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Part 1: We haven't really accepted reality

Here's the famous photograph of Earthrise taken from Apollo 8.

But here's how the picture was actually framed that made the most sense to the astronaut in space that took the photograph. This perspective is uncomfortable to us because it literally undermines our understanding of the foundation on which we stand. We can't help but want to turn the picture 90 degrees and make the horizon horizontal.

We need to learn to accept new data for what it is, not what we want it to be.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Part 2: We haven't really accepted reality

China could overtake the United States to have the world's largest number of Internet users in two years.

Are we truly prepared to accept what happens when the largest online market is no longer in the US? When online products are first developed to the sensibilities of the world's largest market, the Chinese, and then exported to the US? When online standards are developed in Mandarin, not English?

Can you really imagine your grandchildren having to learn Mandarin in elementary school in order to be prepared for the leading edge technology? Can you really?

Part 3: We haven't really accepted reality

Newt Gingrich warned that the United States could,
lose two or three cities to nuclear weapons, or more than a million to biological weapons. Freedom as we know it will disappear, and we will become a much grimmer, much more militarized, dictatorial society.

Three nuclear weapons are a second Holocaust. People are greatly underestimating how dangerous the world is becoming. I'll repeat it, three nuclear weapons are a second Holocaust. Our enemies are quite explicit in their desire to destroy us. They say it publicly? We are sleepwalking through this process as though it's only a problem of communication.

Our enemies are fully as determined as Nazi Germany, and more determined that the Soviets. Our enemies will kill us the first chance they get. There is no rational ability to deny that fact. It's very clear that the problems are larger and more immediate than the political systems in Israel or the US are currently capable of dealing with.

Time to come to grips with threat.

We don't have right language, goals, structure, or operating speed, to defeat our enemies. My hope is that being this candid and direct, I could open a dialogue that will force people to come to grips with how serious this is, how real it is, how much we are threatened. If that fails, at least we will be intellectually prepared for the correct results once we have lost one or more cities.

Citizens who do not wake up every morning and think about the possible catastrophic civilian casualties are deluding themselves.

If we knew that tomorrow morning we would lose Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, what we would do to stop it? If we knew we would tomorrow lose Boston, San Francisco, or Atlanta, what would we do? Today, those threats are probably one, two, five years away? Although you can't be certain when our enemies will break out.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A massive, non-technology driver of change - Exhibit I

Change drives innovation. Despite all the hype, the most massive change isn't always driven by technology, though that is what we tend of focus on. My book, Swamp Fox Insights, leads off with this observation.
Ours is a time of profound change that holds the seeds of almost unlimited opportunities for those with the vision, courage, and ability to seize them.

Fundamental demographic shifts are creating enormous opportunities and risks by thoroughly reshaping institutions from universities, to manufacturers, to grocery stores. New markets and competitors are emerging from the globalization of our economy. From nano-materials to new energy sources, science is creating the raw material of the future at an unprecedented pace. Fortunes will be made and lost attempting to commercialize innovations with global impact.
So how about this for a demographic shift. The New York Times reports, "51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse."
At one end of the age spectrum, women are marrying later or living with unmarried partners more often and for longer periods. At the other end, women are living longer as widows and, after a divorce, are more likely than men to delay remarriage, sometimes delighting in their newfound freedom.

In addition, marriage rates among black women remain low. Only about 30 percent of black women are living with a spouse, according to the Census Bureau, compared with about 49 percent of Hispanic women, 55 percent of non-Hispanic white women and more than 60 percent of Asian women.

“This is yet another of the inexorable signs that there is no going back to a world where we can assume that marriage is the main institution that organizes people’s lives,” said Prof. Stephanie Coontz, director of public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit research group. “Most of these women will marry, or have married. But on average, Americans now spend half their adult lives outside marriage.”
Talk about profound change. Someone is going to make a fortune.

A massive, non-technology driver of change - Exhibit II

As reported by Reuters.
Chairman Ben Bernanke warned the U.S. Congress on Thursday that failure to take action soon to deal with the budgetary strains posed by an aging U.S. population could lead to serious economic harm...

"Unfortunately, economic growth alone is unlikely to solve the nation's impending fiscal problems," Bernanke told the Senate Budget Committee. "We are experiencing what seems likely to be the calm before the storm."

This week professor closes his eyes to reality

Dr. Thomas is a professor at Furman University, who wrote an op/ed for The State, Open enrollment a bad idea for S.C.’s public schools, which is as misguided as the one he wrote for the Greenville News last week. Professor closes his eyes to the facts.

Now Dr. Thomas is a fellow, just like us, who lives every day in 21st century America. Every day he makes choices about where to eat, where to buy his gas, where to get banking services. He shops for the essential he needs, decides when to splurge on the extras that make life enjoyable. He chooses where to get his news, both in terms of the news source and well as the medium. All of these options make his life richer. They are all made possible because talented and creative people are straining their brains every day thinking up new ways to make life better for him and his family, merely because he has the choice of where to shift some of the resources at his disposal in the form of purchases he makes.

How is it possible that a person who lives in this world can make a statement as inane as this?
[Choice proposals share] the same flawed premise...: Our schools are failing because there is no competition for customers.
Now mind you, Dr. Thomas is not arguing against a proposal advocated by a wild-eyed Republican who has no experience in public education wanting to melt down the public education establishment and start over. (Though that proposal actually was made recently by the current superintendent of a SC public school district.)

What Dr. Thomas is arguing against is open enrollment in existing public schools. It doesn't make sense to him that giving parents even the slightest control over where their children attend schools might have the least impact on improving the quality of public education. The simple fact that he has a choice works beautifully for him when Dr. Thomas stops off for a gallon of milk on the way home, but somehow principals and teachers are not mere mortals tempted by the same incentives that motivate the rest of us.

Does Dr. Thomas really believe that if creative, talented teachers have the ability to attract some of the resources currently being spent on students whose needs are not being met, that they wouldn't be straining their brains every day thinking up new ways to make their students education better? And does Dr. Thomas really not understand, that after beating their heads against an unchangable public education establishment long enough, that creative, talented teachers either give up and leave or settle into the frustration of surviving in a system they know is not working well. Given the world he lives in every day, can he possibly not understand that?

Milton Friedman said it best. You either believe in freedom or you don't. Maybe Dr. Thomas would be more comfortable if he moved to Venezuela and helped Hugo Chavez build one of the "socialist cities" run by "people power" that he has planned. None of us has any doubt what the ultimate outcome of Chavez's socialist cities will be. We shouldn't have any doubt about what the outcome of Thomas' public schools will be either.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Jeffrey Phillips responds to "John, we're just not innovative"

A recent Swamp Fox feature article was "John, we're just not innovative." Here's an interesting response from Jeffrey Phillips at OVO in Raleigh.
If you "just aren't innovative" then you are on the slow track to oblivion. Every company was innovative at least once sometime in their past, and innovation is not like quantum physics, which will take years to learn and master. Innovation capability is first and foremost a state of mind.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Professor closes his eyes to the facts

Furman professor Paul Thomas opines in a Greenville News op/ed on the Education Week: From Cradle to Careers report that I commented on here last week. Dr. Thomas amazingly comes to three conclusions:

* South Carolina education is performing relatively well within the socioeconomic realities of this state.

* South Carolina education is struggling to meet the needs of those students in poverty and those students we might label "at-risk," but we are succeeding in addressing the needs of the best and the brightest (see our Advanced Placement ranking).

* The myth of "good students trapped in bad schools" is not the emergency some people want to claim, but the reality of "disadvantaged students trapped in struggling schools" is.

Here's the most salient fact in the report:
The longer children are in the South Carolina public education system, the further behind their peers across the country they fall.
Do you think Dr. Thomas could have possibly have read the entire report and come to the conclusions that he did? Or did he just ignore the parts he didn't like.

One of those that commented online at the Greenville News observed:
Many talk about how bad our SAT scores are in this state. What they fail to look at is the fact that in our state ALL students are allowed to take the SAT as long as they pay to take it.
We've dealt with that fallacy before too. Those of us at the top like to believe that the problem is those at the bottom, when the truth is:
The better educated a SC student's parents, the further behind their peers they are.
Until we accept the reality of the problems we face, we've never make the improvement that is essential for our children to compete in the world in which they will live and work.

Viral Learning Center - What a hoot

Original link compliments of our friends at Brains on Fire

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Curse of Knowledge

This post says
Lots of research in economics and psychology shows that when we know something, it becomes hard for us to imagine not knowing it. As a result, we become lousy communicators.
I'm certain this is a problem I have. I see it so clearly, then I realize that I'm not able to get others to see it as clearly. When I'm lucky, I don't realize it too late.

The moon landing like you've never seen it. Is this cool or what?

My kids say this is just history. (I admit that stung when they told me that at the moon landing exhibit in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.) But I'll always think this is very cool. To see it like it's never been seen before. How cool is that?

Apollo 11 the first man on moon

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Declining Success of Students in SC Public Schools

The longer children are in the South Carolina public education system, the further behind their peers across the country they fall.

Source: Education Week: From Cradle to Careers

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Liberty Fellowship seeks nominations

The Liberty Fellowship is a program founded by Hayne Hipp to identify and develop outstanding leadership in the state. I can tell you from the personal experience of having been in the initial class that this is one of the most incredible experiences of your life.

I had lunch recently with Jennie Johnson, Executive Director, and she reminded me that she is seeking nominations of outstanding individuals for the fourth class. Those qualified to be nominated include executives/professionals between the ages of 25 and 45 who have achieved success in their fields and who who have demonstrated their potential for leadership at the highest levels of corporate and civic responsibility.

Nominating someone deserving is a tremendous gift from you to them. You can find more information at the Liberty Fellowship website.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

What we want the Southeastern Innovation Community to become...

Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine and Author of The Long Tail, gave his answer below to the question, "What are you optimistic about?"

What strikes me most is:
Today's Web, which is as much about contributing as it is consuming — two-way links, as opposed to the old one-way networks of broadcast and traditional media — allows the same to apply to people. Connecting minds allows our collective intelligence to grow with each person who joins the global conversation.
A growing collective intelligence is what we want the Southeastern Innovation Community to become.

Metcalfe's Law of Minds

Our species is unique in its ability to use communications to spread learning across populations, allowing us to get smarter and more capable far more quickly than evolution alone would allow. What makes me continually hopeful is that those tools of communications continue to get so much better, so much faster. Anyone who can explore Wikipedia and not be both humbled and filled with confidence in the collective potential in the people all around us is a cynic indeed. And we've only just scratched the surface of such networked intelligence.

Metcalfe's Law says that value of a networks grows with the square of the number of nodes. Today's Web, which is as much about contributing as it is consuming — two-way links, as opposed to the old one-way networks of broadcast and traditional media — allows the same to apply to people. Connecting minds allows our collective intelligence to grow with each person who joins the global conversation. This information propagation process, which was once found in just a few cultures of shared knowledge, such as academic science, is now seen online in everything from hobbies to history. The result, I think, will be the fastest increasing in human knowledge in history.

This morning I was explaining to a nine-year-old about Moore's Law and the magical power of the continuous learning curve. "Will it ever end?" he asked. "I don't see why it should," I answered. That's optimism for you.

Monday, January 01, 2007

InnoVenture 2007 registration open

Registration for InnoVenture 2007 is now open. You'll notice that as a part of the registration process, we're collecting information about the expertise and resources that you are seeking as well as the expertise and resources you have from which others might benefit. This is the next step towards proactively building the Southeastern Innovation Community.

InnoVenture deadline - 1/9 for entrepreneurs and inventors

Applications InnoVenture 2007 from entrepreneurs seeking capital and inventors seeking business partners are due January 9, 2006. Please let us know ASAP if you have any interest in participating.