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The Obama Administration & Innovation

"The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation. None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do — what America does better than anyone else — is spark the creativity and imagination of our people."  –President Barack Obama, January 25, 2011

There are two very practical reasons that I am so passionate about cultivating environments that support creative problem-solving and innovation.  One of these is that, as an American, I care deeply about the resurgence of a healthy U.S. economy with full employment.  The second is that, as Albert Einstein pointed out, we cannot use the same kind of thinking that created our problems to solve them, problems which now include great social-political and global environmental threats. 

I was already concerned about the direction business and management-as-usual were taking us, when two different influences inspired me to launch Kowabunga! at the end of January 2011. 

  • One was the 2010 IBM global CEO study I had read that previous fall, and which has been frequently cited in this blog.  It reports that top managers from around the world said that creative thinking is the #1 most important leadership ability needed to tackle the rapid changes in global markets, technology, social-political issues, and environmental challenges.  Disturbingly, 51% of them admitted their organizations were not prepared to meet the challenges. 
  • The second was President Obama’s State of the Union address before Congress on January 25th, in which he referred to “innovation” 17 times.  Following this speech, the Obama Administration released its ambitious Strategy for American Innovation in February 2011.  The  introduction reiterates that, "[In order to] create the jobs and industries of the future… the U.S. must out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world."  Executive Summary or Full report.

Most would agree the Republican-led House of Representatives, further pressured by minimalist government Tea Party forces, has made it extremely difficult for many of the president’s initiatives to pass. 

So, what progress has been made on his plans to foster more innovation on a wider scale in the U.S.?  In a Forbes Magazine article, Todd Park, the U.S. government's first Chief Technology Officer offers his perspective in answer to this question.  

Frankly, I was somewhat surprised to read all that has been accomplished, given the numerous challenges that Congress has placed before the Obama Administration.  Of course, you will be your own judge regarding the extent of the achievements cited below.  I noted with particular interest important improvements at the U.S. Patent Office that haven't received much airtime.  These include considerable shoring-up of staffing, streamlining, and prioritization in order to expedite the vital patent application process. 

Kowabunga's next post will summarize a recently released report conducted by Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF)  that compares the two presidential candidates' recommended approaches to fueling increased innovation in the U.S..

What Efforts Has President Obama Made While In Office To Encourage Entrepreneurship And Innovation?

Todd Park, United States Chief Technology Officer

President Obama’s efforts to fuel innovation and entrepreneurship are wide-ranging and unprecedented. As Chief Technology Officer of the United States (a position created for the first time by President Obama), I see these efforts first-hand throughout the Administration— and as an entrepreneur who cofounded a company at age 24 and took it public ten years later, I have a special appreciation for how startups and innovation create jobs and prosperity across the country.

Let’s focus on three areas where the President’s leadership is making a huge impact: promoting high-growth entrepreneurship, helping accelerate technology breakthroughs, and investing in the “building blocks” of innovation.  This is by no means a comprehensive list of every Administration effort to foster innovation across the United States, but every example below is specific, impactful, and well underway.

PROMOTING HIGH-GROWTH ENTREPRENEURSHIP:

Unlocking capital: This spring President Obama signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act (http://wh.gov/QBy), a bipartisan bill that allows startups to raise capital from investors more efficiently, among other initiatives, by allowing small-dollar crowdfunding investments (http://wh.gov/3Buf), expanding mini-public offerings, and creating an “IPO on-ramp” consistent with investor protections. This is on top of an Administration commitment of $2 billion to match private investment in high-growth companies over the next five years through vehicles such as Impact Investment Funds (http://1.usa.gov/rfYCI8) and Early Stage Innovation Funds (http://1.usa.gov/JFf36a). The Small Business Investment Company program just had a record year in 2011 of helping over 1,000 businesses get $2.6 billion in capital.

Nurturing entrepreneurial talent: President Obama has taken executive action to make it much easier for graduates to manage student loan debt (http://wh.gov/uc1) and pursue an entrepreneurial path (http://wh.gov/TX5). The Administration has launched new mentorship and training opportunities for thousands of entrepreneurs starting new high-growth companies—including military veterans (http://1.usa.gov/NHNTE8), undergraduate engineers (http://1.usa.gov/qJOiWK), and clean energy entrepreneurs (http://1.usa.gov/fm47Pr) and students (http://1.usa.gov/o0kdfS) — and is engaged in sustained efforts to attract and retain immigrant entrepreneurs who create jobs here in the US (http://1.usa.gov/NglcgG).

Speeding up “lab to market” research: The President has directed all federal research agencies to help accelerate innovation (http://wh.gov/Tuh) by speeding up grants to startups. The National Science Foundation launched an Innovation Corps (http://1.usa.gov/pQSt45) to get teams of scientists out of the lab and starting new companies. Over twenty federal agencies have cooperated to fund regional entrepreneurial ecosystems (http://1.usa.gov/qV9X0e), and are dramatically streamlining patent licenses for entrepreneurs in clean energy (http://techportal.eere.energy.go…) and biotech (http://www.ott.nih.gov/startup).

Liberating data to fuel innovation: The Administration has launched a series of Open Data Initiatives — in health (http://wh.gov/5bg), public safety (http://wh.gov/v9W), education (http://wh.gov/uDZ), and energy (http://wh.gov/OGKY) — to stimulate entrepreneurial innovation using newly unleashed data from government and other sources. As a model, decades ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (http://noaa.gov) began making weather data available for free electronic download by anyone. Entrepreneurs utilized these data (http://data.gov) to create weather newscasts, websites, mobile applications, insurance, and much more. Today, entrepreneurs are using freely available government data and building apps and services that help Americans in an expanding number of ways – e.g., apps and services that help people find the right health care provider for their family, identify the college that provides the best value for their money, save money on electricity bills through smarter shopping (http://wh.gov/REo), keep their families safe by knowing which products have been recalled, and much, much more.

The Startup America Partnership: In response to the President’s call to action to support American entrepreneurs, the nonprofit Startup America Partnership (http://s.co) has mobilized well over $1 billion in private-sector commitments to help support startups and has launched entrepreneur-led coalitions in Startup Regions (http://www.s.co/regions/map) across the country.

HELPING ACCELERATE TECHNOLOGY BREAKTHROUGHS:

Biotechnology: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched a new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) (http://www.ncats.nih.gov/) to speed up the development of new diagnostics, treatments, and cures by building new bridges between the lab and clinic.

Nanotechnology: The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) (http://nano.gov) is investing in areas such as nano-electronics, to foster a revolution in computing comparable to the transition from the vacuum tube to the transistor.

Advanced manufacturing: President Obama launched the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) (http://1.usa.gov/Q8uopK), a national effort that brings together industry, universities, and the federal government to invest in the emerging technologies that create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance our global competitiveness (read the AMP Steering Committee report: http://wh.gov/xTFw). As a first step in building a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (http://1.usa.gov/N0izNg), the Administration is funding a pilot institute for additive manufacturing (3-D printing) (http://1.usa.gov/HhHgBC). The President has also launched a National Robotics Initiative (http://wh.gov/rEt) and a Materials Genome Initiative (http://wh.gov/yF4) to help accelerate manufacturing innovation.

Space exploration: Guided by the President’s National Space Policy (http://wh.gov/3HB), NASA, the Department of Defense, and other agencies are advancing U.S. capabilities and expanding American industry’s role in developing next-generation applications — including the historic docking of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft (http://1.usa.gov/Nk2qQD) with the International Space Station.

Health care technology: Building on the Recovery Act (http://wh.gov/recovery) and the Affordable Care Act (http://wh.gov/healthreform), the Administration is continuously engaged in major efforts to promote health information technology adoption, reform payment incentives to reward value instead of volume, and liberate health information for the benefit of patients while protecting privacy.

Educational technologies: To advance technologies that will transform teaching and learning, the President launched the Digital Promise partnership (http://1.usa.gov/Ole1n1) and championed a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED) (http://1.usa.gov/h9kob4).

Clean energy: The Administration is working to accelerate game-changing energy breakthroughs by funding the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) (http://arpa-e.energy.gov/) and Energy Innovation Hubs (http://1.usa.gov/NHPOII), while pursuing 21st century grand challenges like SunShot (http://1.usa.gov/jignu6) (making solar energy cost-competitive with fossil fuels) and EV Everywhere (http://wh.gov/XFe) (making electric vehicles as affordable and convenient to own and drive as today’s gasoline-powered vehicles).

INVESTING IN “BUILDING BLOCKS” OF INNOVATION:

Research and development: The market innovations that drive economic progress so often depend on breakthroughs in fundamental science. President Obama has implemented the largest increase in federally funded research and development (R&D) in history (http://1.usa.gov/h1cg9G), and is making continuous investments to fuel “Big Data” (http://1.usa.gov/OlfERF) research and double funding for key basic research agencies.

Education:  The President has led the charge to provide every K-12 student in America with a world-class education, including the historic Race to the Top (http://1.usa.gov/2rYyB0) investments to drive comprehensive reform at the state and district levels.  The Investing in Innovation (I3) fund (http://1.usa.gov/Nk4R5x) supports school districts and nonprofit partners to develop, validate, and implement innovative evidence-based practices that accelerate student learning and achievement.  And the President has doubled down on education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by launching a STEM Master Teacher Corps (http://1.usa.gov/Olgpdu) along with public/private investments to scale up high-quality STEM programs (http://changetheequation.org), prepare 100,000 STEM teachers over the next decade (http://wh.gov/tZl), and graduate 10,000 more engineers every year (http://1.usa.gov/ppgPfX).

Internet:  The President signed legislation to invest $7 billion in broadband infrastructure, computers, and training (http://www.broadbandusa.gov/) for consumers and businesses nationwide, and has moved to dramatically expand high-speed wireless service for consumers and first responders through both direct executive action (http://1.usa.gov/Olh0M9) and legislation (http://wh.gov/l17z). Through the US Ignite partnership (http://1.usa.gov/OlhmCt), the Administration has also laid the groundwork for next-generation ultra-fast broadband networks.  And during the national debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and related legislation, the Administration made clear that the important task of protecting intellectual property online must not threaten an open and innovative internet (http://1.usa.gov/Nk5P1S).

Smart grid:  To build a 21st century electric system, the President led the charge to make over $4.5 billion in smart grid (http://smartgrid.gov) investments for electricity delivery and energy reliability modernization, along with new smart grid initiatives to empower consumers (http://wh.gov/DpJ), improve the reliability of the electric grid, and spur innovation.

Patent system:  President Obama signed the bipartisan America Invents Act (http://wh.gov/gOT) after nearly a decade of efforts to reform the nation’s outdated patent laws. The new law is helping entrepreneurs and inventors avoid costly delays and unnecessary litigation so they can focus instead on innovation and growth.

Again, this list is not comprehensive — for more details, check out the White House Startup America Initiative (http://1.usa.gov/xmHjcs) and the President’s Strategy for American Innovation (http://1.usa.gov/9bT9XU). And I have barely touched on all the ways that President Obama has fostered massive innovation within government, from unprecedented use of prizes and challenges (http://wh.gov/ho3) to the new Presidential Innovation Fellows program (http://wh.gov/innovationfellows) that pairs top innovators from outside and inside government to implement cutting-edge solutions for the American people.

 

To stay up to date on President Obama’s innovation agenda, you can follow me on Twitter @todd_park and @whitehouseostp.

Happy Leap Day, all!  May we all make great use of this "extra day" we get every four years on the 29th of February!  EnJoy!

The new combined Kowabunga! & Riding the Wave Training & Development website is still in the final stages of getting its bugs worked out, but will be returning soon with new musings and resources.  In the meantime, inspired by a recent conversation and having missed being in touch, I wanted to say "Aloha!" and share a few thoughts from my Sabbatical perch (Oh, that it were from the beach…).

Creative Thinking as Solution Finding

In August 2011, I wrote a post on the different forms of innovation, “What Does Innovation Mean? Many Things.” http://ridingthewave.net/2011/08/.

In brief, creative, divergent, or “out of the box” thinking, as it is so often called, has been relegated in the minds of many as "what marketing/ advertising, or maybe some R&D folks do," versus what it actually is, which is: 

 

  1. The partPhoto of gold compass-like instrument with red needle pointing toward the word "Quality" and black needle toward work "Productivity."ner of critical thinking.
  2. The gears for creative problem-solving.
  3. The foundation of continuous improvement.
  4. It also is a key component forthe scenario planning that all organizations should be practicing as precursors to their strategic planning processes.
  5. And yes, of course, creative thinking also results in more obvious innovations in product, service, and market development.
  6. Creative thinking is also inextricably linked with cultivating an engaged workforceIn a September 2011 post, “A Creative Look at Employee Engagement by Explania,” http://ridingthewave.net/2011/09/ *

This last point is one that remains especially difficult for many in leadership and management roles to see.  It is highly improbable that one will find employees willing to give 110% unless they feel they have a voice and input into the creative problem solving, solutions, and continuous improvement processes. 

Why would this be?  Simply put, when management doesn’t demonstrate genuine interest in the input and ideas of employees by creating mechanisms to capture, vet, and implement the viable ones, staff:

a) do not feel respected, and

Whiteboard drawing of happy employees climbing success mountain toward shared vision. b) feel frustrated when they see ways that processes and services could be improved and feel unable to make a difference.

Having no ownership in the process, they do not feel inspired to proactively go above and beyond in their duties and may simply be biding their time until they can work elsewhere.  Most of us have either witnessed the dynamics of an apathetic workforce or know this from personal experience having worked in companies where we were told, either directly, or indirectly, that we were “not being paid to think beyond our pay grades.” 

And everyone loses out, from customers to shareholders, from benefiting from their frontline problem-solving and continuous process improvement ideas, even before they make their exits from their respective organizations.  

So, the next time someone says, “We don’t have time for creative and innovative thinking" — try to help him or her to think beyond the box s/he may have placed around those forms of cognition.   Insert terms like: “creative problem solving,” “continuous process improvement,” “comprehensive, lasting solutions,” and “engaged workforce,”… And then ask them whether there is time for that.  ???

 

I look forward to further exploration with you on the links between creative thinking, innovation, best management practices, and organizational success when Kowabunga! returns soon on a regular basis.  And in the meantime, "Aloha!" 

 

*Check out the great short educational video on that post:  http://www.explania.com/en/animations/detail/how-to-use-employee-engagement-to-boost-your-business.

You can also catch the delightful one-minute video depicted in these photos on "Thinking Outside the Box" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJ_7gUP42Bk&feature=related.  

Other short, brilliant videos on creative and innovative thinking can be viewed on Kowabunga's post from February 24, 2011: http://ridingthewave.net/2011/02/

Asterik figure dring race car it made out of the box.

 

 

Read more…

Dear Readers,

As yet another Columbus Day is about to be observed in the U.S.,
I'm reposting this article for you
from my current location in the city named after
the ever wise Chief Seattle.

I wrote this blog post two years ago
in honor of those
whom
we actually should be celebrating. 

Please share it with others. 
This is yet another piece of history, our-story,
that we all should know.

And may the second Monday of every October
soon be resurrected and known officially as
Indigenous People's Day!


I am no fan of the Columbus Day holiday that is still unfortunately observed in the U.S.  My hope is that in time this day will instead honor the 2.5 million Native Americans or American Indians who are all who remain in the U.S. of the 50-100 million inhabitants of the Americas who were here when the European invasion and genocide began.

And so today, on this Columbus Day, in recognition that he did not "discover" America, I choose to honor a some of the countless, little known innovations made by the wonderfully creative indigenous Americans that have ultimately benefitted the entire planet.

  • Almanacs: Containing meteorological and astronomical information, these were invented by the Mayans around 3,500 years ago.
  • Calendars: Developed throughout N. America, Mesoamerica, and S. America, used since 600 BCE. So precise that by the 5th century BCE they were only 19 minutes off!
  • Chewing gum: Made from the spruce tree in New England. The Mayans were the first people to make it from latex gum.
  • Long-fiber cotton: Its export helped to fuel much of the Industrial Revolution throughout the world.
  • Embalming: Egyptians began their mummification around 2000 BCE, 3000 years after the Chinchoro of S. America began the practice.
  • Foods, Glorious Foods!

Approximately 60% of the food upon which the world’s population depends was developed centuries ago by American Indian agrarians who domesticated crops including: six species of maize/corn (150 varieties), five major species of beans, hundreds of varieties of potatoes, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, a range of nuts, avocado, wild rice, and more.

Popular snack foods derived from American Indian agriculture include potato chips, french fries, and popcorn.

And where oh where would humanity be without chocolate (Mayan and Aztec) and Screen shot 2011-10-03 at 3.28.19 AM
vanilla?!

  • Gold plating – The Moche (Peru) dissolved gold using an Alum/Saltpetre/Salt mixture which was then deposited onto copper vessels.
  • The Incan highway system with roads and bridges all up and down South America and foot messengers who would have put the Greek marathon runners to shame.
  • Medicines: Aztecs far surpassed simply knowing which bark made good aspirin or could be used to for quinine to treat malaria, or which berries treated scurvy. Using their sophisticated obsidian knives, Azteks knew how to perform a variety of surgeries, from the mundane to brain surgery.
  • Anesthetics: American Indians used coca, peyote, datura and other plants for partial or total loss of sensation or consciousness during surgery, whereas non-Indian doctors didn’t have effective anesthetics until after the mid-19th century. Other medicines include Novacaine, syrup of ipecac, and astringents.
  • Political theory: The Iroquois Confederacy of upstate New York represented a union of six tribes. Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers borrowed heavily from the democratic Iroquois “federal system” of government when they planned the union that became the United States. The U.S. Constitution bears more resemblance Screen shot 2011-10-09 at 10.56.32 PM to the model of the League of the Iroquois than the Greek Senate or English House of Lords. The whole idea of a balance of powers, of electing representatives, of governing by consensus all came from the Indians who were generally ruled, not by a “Big Chief,” but rather by a council of elders.
  • Rubber products: Rubber balls, rubber balloons: The Olmec (Mexico) produced rubber balls by mixing rubber tree sap and latex around 1700 BCE. Along with the Maya, they discovered the process of vulcanization in waterproofing such items as capes, shoes, bottles, tarpaulins, ponchos, and baskets.
  • Sports: Field and ice hockey and lacrosse (Canadian First Nations). Basketball was played by the Olmec over 3,000 years ago following their invention of the rubber ball.
  • Sciences: The science of ecology as well as the American Indian belief system teaches that all life is interrelated and interdependent. This relationship is expressed in American Indian oral traditions and conservation practices.
  • American Indian mathematic achievements include the development of highly accurate calendars and place value arithmetic. The Mayans of southern Mexico and Central America were the first people to use the concept of zero in mathematical calculations.

Also:

  • Diapers, asphalt, megaphones, hair conditioner, hammocks, the spinning top, sunscreen, syringe needles, petroleum jelly, and freeze-drying foods such as meat jerky.

Much is owed the the indigenous peoples of the Americas. –This includes acknowledgement of their immense creative and innovative genius.
Speaking of which, I want to thank Northern Cheyenne artist Christopher Rowland for use of his wonderful paintings, titles listed in order, below. To see more of his work, go to http://www.facebook.com/media/set/set=a.56597471651.78999.570531651&type=3.

 

For those who wish to support the human, legal, and economic rights
of our living, breathing, fellow American
indigenous brothers and sisters,
the following organizations work diligently on their behalves
and need us to give back, in whatever ways that we can:

And one organization that supports American Indian innovation initiatives:

Screen shot 2011-10-09 at 10.52.42 PM

 

"Gifts" 70"x40" oil on canvas (1991).

"Little Man" 48"x36" oil on canvas (1997). Son of Scalp Cane, Northern Cheyenne.

"Blessings" 28"x22" oil on canvas (2005). Buffalo Calf Trail Woman, a warrior woman of the Northern Cheyenne.

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