Archive for February, 2010

Cities As Innovation Hot Spots

February 25th, 2010

I have been asked by Living Cities to participate in an upcoming Economic Development Roundtable to take place in Detroit on March 5th.  They asked each of the participants to provide an answer to the following question:


Given your experience, what are the most ‘game-changing’ ways to use a significant amount of grant funding ($100 million+) to change the trajectory of an urban economy?  In other words, if you were given a free hand to use $100+ million of grants, what would you do?

Here is my answer.  I suggest that we turn cities in to innovation hotspots.  It should be an interesting conversation.  What would you do with the money? Read more

What’s Your Double McTwist 1260?

February 19th, 2010

imagesAre you more like Shaun White or Evan Lysacek?  Both are bringing home Olympic gold but each took a different path to the podium.  Evan took the less risky path avoiding a quad jump in his final performance while Shaun did his signature risky move, a back-to-back double cork, under the pressure of an Olympic medal competition.  Both Evan and Shaun were awesome with performances that captured the spirit of Olympic competition and gave Americans a source of great national pride.  Evan nailed the fundamentals avoiding mistakes and beat out a competitor that attempted a bigger more risky move and missed.  Shaun was competing for more than the gold medal.  He is reinventing his sport and setting a higher standard that all other competitors are left trying to emulate.  Which athlete will be more memorable? Which path do you take to the medal stand?  Read more


February 17th, 2010


OK. I admit it. I am rapidly descending down the rabbit hole of social media.  Not to point fingers, but if you are reading this, you are probably descending along with me.  And then right in the midst of our free-fall here comes Buzz. One more social media platform to soak up attention and precious hours is just what we all needed.  Yet there we were, well there I was, waiting for the much ballyhooed Buzz icon to pop on to my Gmail account.  Since Buzz launched I have been trying to figure out why.  I still don’t have a clue except for a gut feeling Buzz has the potential to take social media to an entirely new level of connectivity and enabling purposeful networks.  I was determined to be there at the start.

When it comes to new technology I am usually a second wave kinda guy.  While I have a strong inclination to play with all new tech toys I like to wait for a while after their launch so others can work out the initial bugs.  I patiently waited for the second release before jumping on an iPhone and Kindle.  I waited until Twitter was around for a while before wading in.  I never did the Facebook thing.  Initially I was prohibited because Facebook was my kid’s domain.  The deal was that I could have Twitter and Linked-in if I stayed away from their digital domain. Now they are older and the original deal no longer applies but Facebook seems too daunting a hill to climb at this point.  And then along comes Buzz offering me a similar ground floor opportunity.  I was not going to pass it up. Read more


February 11th, 2010


How many times has your boss said, no surprises? Bosses want everything to go down exactly as planned.  Of course they never do.  Maybe instead of trying to avoid surprises we should plan more of them.  When is the last time you genuinely surprised someone?  Did you delight a customer today with the element of surprise?  Did you do something so totally unpredictable that people all around you took notice?  Predictability is overrated and boring.

When the Saints tried an onside kick to begin the second half of the Super Bowl everyone on and off the field was taken by complete surprise. I thought at the time that the game was over right then and there.  The key was the element of surprise.  If you look at the statistics behind onside kicks it was a genius move by Sean Payton, the Saint’s head coach. Turns out that only 26% of onside kicks in the NFL work when they are expected late in the game.  The success rate goes up to 60% if the ploy is unexpected.  The Saints not only had the underdog, post Katrina thing, working for them the odds were in their favor.  The onside kick was a brilliant use of surprise and the Colts never recovered from it. Read more

Innovators, Break Down Those Silos

February 8th, 2010

bw-logoIn my latest Business Week column I highlight the importance of connecting the unusual suspects across silos to enable collaborative innovation.

How many capabilities are locked away, underleveraged in organizational or industry silos? Who hasn’t suffered a severe case of innovator’s envy, coveting access to information and capabilities that seem so tantalizingly close?

Most innovation doesn’t require inventing anything new. It is often just a matter of combining and recombining capabilities across disciplines, organizations, and sectors. The problem is that those capabilities are often impossible to access. The biggest opportunities in health care, education, security, and energy lie in the gray areas between silos. We need to think and act more horizontally.

In doing so, we’ll connect unusual suspects in purposeful ways. Take spies and environmentalists. Recent news of the CIA reviving its MEDEA (Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis) program and providing access to data from national intelligence assets for environmental research really got my attention. What a great example of the power and politics of collaborative innovation.

Continue reading my Business Week column here:

To The Moon, Alice!

February 4th, 2010


One of my biggest pet peeves is setting strategy one tactic at a time.  It drives me crazy to be surrounded by people and organizations that think if they just work hard enough and do more things that a strategic direction and destination will emerge.  It seems that most of the world works this way.  It is terribly inefficient.  How many people and organizations do you know that pedal the bicycle like crazy but never seem to arrive anywhere.  They just keep pedaling harder hoping that something will eventually stick.  It is exhausting watching them.  Why not determine a destination and work hard on those things that help you get there. It seems so simple. Setting a strategic direction provides a way to know which tactics are aligned and contribute to reaching the destination.  The destination may change along the way requiring different tactics, and that is OK, but not having a destination at all is a ticket to nowhere.

When John F. Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon” in 1961, Americans rallied around the destination.  We believed it was possible and the goal of setting foot on the moon rallied a country to advance its global science and technology leadership.  It was cool to study math and science and clear that innovation was the economic engine that would drive American prosperity.  When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon eight years later and said, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”, we celebrated his achievement as if it was our own and knew at that moment that anything was possible.  We have been trying to get that feeling back ever since. Today, we have no clear destination, in space or on earth. Read more