Monday, November 24, 2008

"Can America Invent Its Way Back?" & "No Time to Forget Innovation"

Extracts of today's and another recent post I put together for the Heart of Innovation, the blog of Idea Champions.

Nov. 24 '08 -
"Can America Invent Its Way Back?"

A recent article in BusinessWeek by Michael Mandel asks this highly relevant question, noting that while the U.S. has spent almost $5 trillion on research and development and on higher education, "employment in most technologically advanced industries has stagnated or even fallen."

Mandel's focus is on the new field of "innovation economics," which studies what forms of funding drive successful innovation.

Nov. 4 '08 -
"It's No Time to Forget About Innovation"
Writing in the New York Times, Janet Rae-Dupree reminds us that even or especially in times "of corporate belt-tightening," companies reduce their efforts to strengthen innovation at their own risk. For example, "a large acquirer's interest in a start-up or smaller company is binary in nature: They either want you or they don't, based on the innovation you have to offer."

Hard times can be the source of innovative inspiration... Some of the best products and services come out of some of the worst times.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"That's Why He's A Great Player"

Once again, the somehow perennially useful reminder that you'll miss 100% of the shots you don't take. (Who first said that, I wonder?) Here it was the other day, voiced in the form of the champion Boston Celtics' coach Doc Rivers commenting on the amazing Paul Pierce. The Celtics' leading scorer had been in a slump recently, but on this night...

"The Raptors... were up by as many as 16 points but fell, 94-87, last night thanks in no small part to the 22-point period Pierce assembled as a part of a 36-point bailout. ...It was, as Doc Rivers said, the kind of night the Celtics had been waiting for out of their captain. Every shot seemed like a big one in a quarter that saw Pierce hit seven of nine attempts and drill two from 3-point range.

"Rivers never had any doubt that Pierce would keep shooting. Mostly because Pierce guaranteed as much in one of their huddles.

"'That's why he's a great player,' Rivers said. 'That's why great players are great players. The average player could not have withstood that. The average player misses shots and he shuts off.

"'The great player misses shots and he starts thinking the odds are on his side.'"

("After playing just 28 minutes against Detroit Sunday, Pierce said he could have played for hours, especially now that he had found his rhythm.")

"Pierce scores 32 in Celtics 94-87 win over Raptors" --
"Their captain became a quarter-master," by Julian Benbow, Boston Globe, 11/11/08

"Paul Pierce For Two" - Photo posted to Flickr by TimDD
(Okay, that pic is from a Lakers game, not this one;
but how much better is one of Pierce blowing by Kobe?)

(...Just like ol' Mr. Hank Aaron, who tipped our hat to early in the year. In baseball terms it comes out as "Just Keep Swinging.")

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"10 Most 'Accountable' Big Companies"

Okay, it's official: Green is in, and funding is loudly touted for initiatives on recovery and sustainability. We have every reason to expect this support to flow significantly from the highest levels, since, for example, just today the President-Elect(!),

".. .reiterated a campaign pledge to invest $15 billion each year in the development of clean technology...

"'When I am president, any governor who's willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that's willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that's willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States of America.'"

- "US president-elect promises 'new chapter in America's leadership on climate change'"
The Guardian,
(I just can't help but saying, while still at this early point, is it not a profound relief to see the President of the country saying this? Alright alright, "-elect" -- but you've got to admit that in spirit he's already effectively taken charge of the country.)

If this new enlightened age for Green Sustainable Whole Earthitude is for real, or to whatever extent it is, then the focus must shift to two types of things:
  • Finding out which are the best ideas, the ones that should get the big-league support, and
  • Recognizing which companies and countries are already doing it right. This also must involve keeping the believability of the whole movement alive by vigorously exposing "greenwashers," those soulless touts trying to pass off their net-effect polluting employers as a saints of save-the-earthness.
So it's good to see the CNN/Money/Fortune magazine agglomeration "rank the world's 100 largest corporations by the quality of their commitment to social and environmental goals."

"10 Most 'Accountable' Big Companies"
Five U.S. companies were in Fortune's top 20 Most Accountable, with one or two in the top ten (since the tenth spot was a statistical three-way tie, with just .1 out of 100 separating their scores).

England's Vodafone was #1; the top U.S. companies were:
#2: GE
11: Hewlett-Packard (really tied for 10th)
16: Chevron
17: Citigroup (Uh-oh...)
23: Ford (Uh-oh!)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Barack Obama, President-Elect of the United States(!)

First of all… Whew!

If you write, you kind of have to write on a day like this, an historic occasion if ever there was one. Like the fall of the Berlin Wall, this is something I never thought would happen in my lifetime, and it is due both to the moment and, significantly, to the extraordinary character of Barack.

Maybe it was close earlier, maybe the Democratic candidate would have won anyway just on the strength of being the Anti-Bush, but there were two factors that decisively tipped it Obama's way. McCain's choice of the beauty pageant queen for his VP did send the hearts of the faithful to flutterin', but once revealed in Katy Couric's pivotal interview, Mrs. Palin caused everybody else to seriously doubt his judgment, and turn even conservative stalwarts like Christopher Buckley (William F.'s son, no less,) against him.

The other, less self-inflicted blow (given his legislative participation in the debacle,) was that little dust-up recently in the markets, the timing of which turned out so poorly for his campaign. Once again, It Was The Economy, Stoopit.

Note, though, that the all-but-complete count as I write this is roughly 53 million Democratic votes vs. 46 million Republican. That many people, a little over 46 percent of the voting population, voted for the maverick military-man version of the same old thing.

So how wise has it been of Obama, even through his victory speech, to strike a conciliatory, inclusive tone, recognizing the strong, deep differences that divide the people in this country, even as we face the same set of problems -- excuse me, "challenges." (Because it turns out, it actually does make a difference how we phrase these situations to ourselves.)

Yes, I got the chills, again, from his acceptance speech, especially when the crowd kept calling back, "Yes, we can!"

Some favorite views of the day:

History in the making: News headlines across the US - slide show, Boston Globe

Reactions from around the world - slide show, Huffington Post

World welcomes Obama with open arms, demands - Amanpour,

What the world expects - BBC correspondents