Archive for October, 2010

Captain Morgan & The Hobbit

October 28th, 2010

images-17Time spent in the public sector as an accidental bureaucrat has made me a keen observer of how states and countries use tax incentives to attract and retain corporate investment and jobs.  I have watched companies extract mind-boggling incentives from the taxpayer simply by either moving or threatening to move jobs across state and country borders.  While tax incentives may be great for corporations they make little or no sense when viewed through a community lens.  Corporate tax incentive deals are a terrible use of taxpayer dollars.

Communities everywhere have lost leverage to companies who now have all the buying power.  Corporations have disaggregated their business models moving capabilities around the world like chess pieces.  Companies are no longer dependent on a single location and force communities to bid against each other competing on who will offer the biggest tax breaks.  Communities are treated like commodities. The pricing food fight is intense and all at the taxpayer’s expense. There is no net new value created when companies move activities and jobs from one community to another.  Consider Captain Morgan & The Hobbit. Read more

16 Lbs. of Solid Iron Innovation

October 19th, 2010

download-3Ever want to throw a shot put into the middle of an intransigent organization or system?  I know I have.  With a shot put weighing in at 16 pounds most of us had better either be very close to the target or consider a better way to catalyze change.

You probably haven’t heard of James Fuchs, who passed away on October 8, but he was a classic innovator. Fuchs was the best shot-putter in the world from 1949-1950.  He won 88 consecutive meets, set four world records, and changed the sport forever.  Fuchs teaches us about the difference between best practices and next practices. Read more

Innovation Lessons From Bees

October 12th, 2010

images-16We can learn a lot about innovation by observing the social behavior of honeybees.  Who hasn’t been riveted by devastating stories of colony collapse?  This is serious stuff.  From a honeybee’s perspective watching 35% of your fellow Apis mellifera get wiped out is no joke. From a human perspective, think of it this way, one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat is dependent on honeybee pollination. Bees are responsible for about $15 billion in U.S. agricultural crop value.  Colony collapse really matters. It’s worth paying attention to bees.

The term colony collapse disorder was first applied to a drastic rise in the number of honeybee disappearances in 2006.  It’s an eerie phenomenon where one day worker bees swarm together in great numbers and the next they are gone, poof they just disappear, leaving behind an empty hive.  It’s not as if they leave to join another colony. They leave to die alone and dispersed which is strange given the social nature of honeybees.  Scientists have been working feverishly to determine the etiology of colony collapse disorder. Read more

Measure Innovation Outcomes

October 5th, 2010

images-15If Boston, NYC, and San Francisco are the top three U.S. innovation cities why do their economic, education, health care, and energy systems produce the same poor results as cities around the rest of the country?  I read the recent Top Innovation Cities of the Global Economy report from 2thinknow ranking the top 100 global innovation cities with great interest. Of course I quickly scanned the rankings to see which U.S. cities made the list.  While I was disappointed my hometown of Providence, Rhode Island didn’t make the cut I was pleased to see our neighbor Boston was ranked number one.  Two other U.S. cities joined Boston in the top ten, NYC ranked fifth and San Francisco ranked seventh.

Seems logical to ask if the top ranked innovation cities are delivering more value to their citizens or making more progress on the big social challenges of our time than other cities.  What’s the point of innovation if not to deliver value and solve real world problems?

cities6After barely scratching the surface of examining output measures the obvious question is this, if Boston, NYC, and San Francisco are the top U.S. innovation cities why are their poverty rates so high? Why are their education attainment levels so low?  If these cities are innovation hot-spots and models for the rest of the country shouldn’t they deliver better economic opportunity, and better education, health care, and energy solutions, as well as a better quality of life to their citizens?  I thought innovation was about delivering value and solving real world problems.

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