Archive for May, 2010

10 Take Aways from The Power of Pull

May 25th, 2010

images8It’s rare that a book so squares with your world-view that you think the authors have taken up residence in your head.  Henceforth The Power of Pull shall be known as my new playbook. The alignment is uncanny. It is a must read for all innovation junkies and anyone who is trying to sort out the possibilities of the 21st century.  Many have tried to help us understand and navigate the transition from an industrial to a knowledge economy.  Few get below the buzzwords.  The Power of Pull not only captures the essence of the transformation under way it provides an actionable framework for individuals, institutions, and social systems.  It is a call to action reminding us of the opportunity and responsibility to remake our world in a way that deeply honors the potential of those around us.

I expected the book to be great. Just look at two of its authors.  John Seely Brown (JSB) and John Hagel are on my short innovation hero list.  JSB (How cool is it to be known by your initials?) was the Director of Xerox PARC with a front row seat in Silicon Valley before it became a household name in innovation circles.  JSB was one of the first people to encourage me when I was launching the Business Innovation Factory (BIF).  We both gave presentations at a conference in 2004 at Brown University.  After my talk, Innovation @ Scale; The Imperative to Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast, JSB told me the idea for BIF to create a real world laboratory to enable R&D for new business models and systems was compelling. He asked how we would deliver on the proposition and we haven’t looked back since. Read more

Government as Innovation Catalyst

May 19th, 2010

bw-logo2In my latest Bloomberg Businessweek column I assert that the U.S. Department of Education Race to the Top has the potential to catalyze system level change.  We must transform our education system and government has an important innovation catalyst role to play.  The student is waiting.

The best use of government is as a catalyst for social system innovation. Yes, that’s right: “Innovation bureaucrat” need not be an oxymoron. Leaders should get the innovation reaction started—and then get out of the way.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is showing how it can be done. The “Race to the Top” program offers $4 billion in grants to states committed to reforming their education systems. Duncan outlined a clear goal of restoring the U.S. as a world leader in preparing students to succeed in college and the workplace and announced the first grants on Mar. 29, 2010—$100 million for Delaware and $500 million for Tennessee.

Instead of spreading the money across the country as usual, Duncan sent a clear message. Imagine the reaction in statehouses across the country when they didn’t get a slice of the pie. By being clear and sticking to the announced criteria, Duncan sent a strong signal that states needed to demonstrate a willingness and capacity to transform. Any state with legislation on the books preventing development or expansion of innovative school approaches need not apply. Any state without the means to leverage data and accountability systems to improve measurable performance outcomes need not apply. And, my favorite, any state that couldn’t demonstrate effective alignment with local teachers’ unions on performance accountability and transformation plans need not apply.

Continue reading my Bloomberg Businessweek column here.

Chipwich, Sweet Innovation

May 17th, 2010

images7You probably haven’t heard of Richard LaMotta but I bet you have heard of and enjoyed his innovation, the Chipwich ice cream sandwich.  I rank the Chipwich right up there on my list of all-time favorite innovations along with Guttenberg’s printing press and Apple’s iPhone.  Like most great innovations the Chipwich didn’t require inventing anything new, just recombining existing elements in a new way to deliver value.  What could deliver more value than sandwiching soft vanilla ice cream between two, large chocolate chip cookies?  As if that isn’t innovative enough add in the piece de resistance, rolling the whole thing in chocolate chips!  Now that’s innovation.  LaMotta died last week and his classic entrepreneur story is worth remembering and celebrating. Read more

Reengineering Engineering

May 12th, 2010

images6I was invited by Olin College President Rick Miller to participate in his President’s Council meeting this week.  I am glad I went.  President Miller and his team are doing great work at Olin.  They are reengineering engineering education.  Olin College was founded in 1999 and will graduate its fifth class this weekend.  Of course Olin had the luxury of starting from scratch but they have taken full advantage of the greenfield opportunity to rethink every aspect of engineering education.  President Miller refers to Olin as a laboratory for developing new engineering education models.  How refreshing.  A real world lab to enable student centered experiential learning.  It is music to my innovation junkie and Business Innovation Factory (BIF) ears.  And the early results are in, the unemployment rate for Olin graduates since the program’s inception is one percent. Olin’s aspiration is nothing short of redefining engineering as a profession of innovation. Read more

I’m No Urban Planning Guru

May 3rd, 2010


Prior to a recent trip to Toronto I tweeted:

Looking forward to getting an innovation fix in Toronto.  I swear innovation is in the air up there.

I meant it.  There are just some places that give off an innovation vibe.  I feel it every time I visit Toronto.

David Olive, a business columnist, for the Toronto Star saw the tweet and my recent Business Week column, Needed Urban Innovation Hot Spots.   He called and we kicked around the potential for Toronto to become an innovation hot spot.  I share his conclusion that the answer is yes and that it is likely to be citizen led.

images-1Here is David Olive’s article: Toronto a ‘Laboratory of Urban Innovation’

I apologize to my friends in Toronto having to wake up on Sunday morning to my mug in their local newspaper.  I don’t apologize for starting an important local conversation and hope it continues among local innovators and spreads to other cities.

It is an honor to find myself in the tall cotton being mentioned along side my friend Richard Florida. The Rise of the Creative Class changed the way many of us think about the importance of human capital to urban development and economic prosperity.  Richard’s new book The Great Reset is on my must read list.  I am grateful that Richard is on the Research Advisory Council of the Business Innovation Factory.

While I readily accept the label of innovation junkie and catalyst I think David reaches in labeling me an urban planning guru.  Richard Florida is an urban planning guru.  I’m no guru, but that doesn’t stop me from sharing a point of view.

We need more cities to take up the challenge of becoming innovation hot spots.