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Notes from Innovation Policyworks


I am very excited to announce that Aimee Dobrzeniecki is joining our team! Aimee was most recently Deputy Director of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership in the US Department of Commerce, and is an expert in all things manufacturing. She's also a Black Belt in Innovation Engineering, and like me, is all in on IE! Aimee's going to work out of her office in the Washington, DC area. We're focusing on providing Innovation Engineering training and coaching to non-profits, especially membership and trade associations, economic development organizations, and companies in the energy and environmental fields. Please welcome Aimee! You can read her blog about leaving government service HERE and reach her at aimed@innovationpolicyworks.com or (240) 413-9437. 



Were the Luddites Right?


I recently had to answer the question, "Why should we focus on innovation as an economic development strategy? Doesn't innovation kill jobs?" This is an ancient question, and the most famous questioners were the Luddites who were concerned that the use of new machines in the textile mills of 1811 England would result in less jobs for low-skilled laborers. History shows that of course some specific jobs become obsolete when new technology is introduced, but that many more jobs are created. And, yes, some workers have to learn new skills, and yes, there is often a period of dislocation.           

There's a new book out, The Second Machine Age, by two MIT professors, that describes their theory that we're in a new period of dislocation. While they are optimistic, it's not all roses. View a fascinating interview with one of the authors, Andrew McAfees, HERE. 

Are Demographics Fate? Baby Boomer's Revenge


The Pew Foundations' latest report, The Next America, details two demographic trends that are occurring simultaneously - the "graying" of America and the shift to a non-white majority. My favorite part of the report is an animated graphic that shows the movement of the baby boomers through the age pyramid. Ending in 2060, the chart shows a big group of women over 85. I thought this was great until I calculated how old I would be if I lived to 2060. Guess I will sit this one out. Check out the graphic HERE.


And while you are at it, think about these four ways to adapt to an aging workforce: flexible, half-retirement; prioritizing older workers' skills in hiring and promotions (like loyalty, competence, and common sense); creating new positions or adapting old ones; and changing workplace ergonomics. More HERE.


Another way to deal with the aging workforce is the recognition that so many of us will be involved outside the mainstream as part-timers, freelancers, contractors and participants in the collaborative economy. We pool our resources, share goods and services (think Etsy, eBay, Craiglist, etc.) and freelance (more than one-half of Americans will be independent contractors by 2020). Many people, like me, are productive outside of a corporate office, and without a long-term employer, and we like it that way! Nice to know that baby boomers are on the bleeding edge once again! More HERE.

Universal Service = Community Broadband?


AT&T introduced the notion of "universal service" in 1907 to make sure that telephone service would be available in remote, rural areas, as well as in big cities. In the 1930s, rural electrification was promoted as a way to improve the standard of living on America's farms, and stop the migration of workers from rural areas to the nation's cities. Today, people are hoping that high-speed broadband will also become ubiquitous, even in regions where it costs more to provide the network than individual users can afford. In all three cases, the higher costs of service in rural areas is being shared by other users, because the utility is seen as essential to economic development and quality of life.

One answer being tried is community broadband. Should municipalities be allowed to put in their own broadband networks if the local utilities are slow or are refusing to provide service? Kansas, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Utah and Tennessee all grappled with this issue in their legislative sessions this year with varying results. In Kansas, legislation to prevent community broadband was widely supported by the cable and internet companies, but the bill was later pulled from consideration. Minnesota's proposed bill to expand grants to expand broadband died in committee while New Hampshire is still considering expanded bonding authority for local communities that have limited or no access to broadband. And Utah had a bill that prevented further broadband expansion, but it died after a public uproar. Tennessee's bills to better enable local governments to pursue community broadband also died in committee. At this point, it looks like Big Internet Companies 1, Public Access 0. More HERE.

Creativity at Disney


Fast Company's recent article about creativity at Disney was fascinating, because of the tie-ins to the Innovation Engineering system. Here's some of the quotes:


"Creativity doesn't just happen. It has to be engineered."

"An idea can come from anywhere. If you're the top guy, that doesn't mean you have a great idea; doesn't mean you have the best idea; doesn't mean you're going to be the most valuable person in the process."

"An accountant sitting next to a poet is a really good idea. The best teams weren't best friends; but played well off of each other."

"There is no such thing as a bad idea. Even the silliest ideas are taken seriously at Disney."


Read the whole Disney article HERE. Thanks to my colleague David Mixson for this item. He notes that Innovation Engineering is a systematic, repeatable process that involves people from all levels of an organization, in all roles. Diversity is a cornerstone of the process. External stimulus is critical, because it allows ideas to change and evolve. 


You Get What You Pay For


Data useful for the perpetual argument about how expensive it is to live in [fill in the blank place] is contained in this new analysis of "regional price parity" by the Commerce Department. The data takes into account expenses like food and housing, and shows that the Midwest and South are the least expensive, and New York, California and Hawaii are the most expensive. Urbanization is a key factor in these finding, as having more people pushes up housing prices, as do amenities like entertainment and public transit. Geography also counts, hence the high cost of food in Hawaii, which ships in most of its food. For my Maine friends, I note that Maine is right in the middle, and costs around the same as Florida, Texas, Arizona and Vermont. Check out the graphic HERE.

Entrepreneurship is Local


The Kauffman Foundation's new report, Think Locally, Act Locally, confirms what a lot of people believe, that entrepreneurship is essentially a local phenomenon. They found that entrepreneurs follow other local entrepreneurs, that local networks get "thicker" and "deeper" over time, and that different programs reach different entrepreneurs. So, rather than bemoan the recent proliferation of entrepreneurial programming, we should be celebrating the multi-faceted ability of the Portland community to satisfy the demand for peer-based learning and networking. Policy makers need to remember to think local, whether it's Calais or Kittery, and that one size does not fit all. Read the research HERE. 

Internet of Caring Things


By 2020, there will be 30 billion connected devices, mostly NOT PCs, smartphones or tablets. A new forecast suggests that these "things" will serve our most important needs - physical and mental wellbeing, safety, security, etc. - the Internet of Caring Things. Some examples - a smart desk that tracks health data and encourages activity. A smart motorcycle helmet that eliminates blindspots. A smart sleep mask that increases productivity by promoting power napping. Lots more examples to stimulate your thinking and creativity HERE

In This Issue - May 2014
Were the Luddites Right?
Baby Boomer Revenge
Community Broadband
Creativity at Disnet
You Get What You Pay For
Entrepreneurship is Local
Internet of Caring Things
Who is Trolling Whom?
Venture Investments

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Quote of the Month 


"The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective - people who know to see a problem as an opportunity."

Deepak Chopra

"Tired of Working So Hard? 

Webinar Reminder


"Tired of Working So Hard? The three principles for making your business fun to run again!". Register for the Webinar on May 14, 2014 at 12:00 noon HERE. It's free if you use the Passcode: Lobster.


If you're like most business owners, you feel stuck. You've had a good run and now you don't know what to do. You can't sell your business for what it should be worth and you can't even go on a vacation without worrying about your business.


Thousands of business owners have found a way to restart the fun factor of owning a business. It involves a system for engaging their managers and employees in the process of profitable growth. It empowers, educates and excites employees to help you go from worrying to wonder. As one small business owner said "For the first time in years I can go fishing and not worry."


This system is different from others in that it's grounded in science. In fact it's a fully accredited new field of study at Universities called Innovation Engineering.


It's a systematic approach that transforms innovation from a random gamble to a reliable system that delivers increased speed AND decreased risk. In this webinar, Doug Hall leader of the Innovation Engineering Institute, will outline the three key principles that research finds drive success. He will also provide practical tips for getting started that day.

Who is Trolling Whom?


On the surface, it sounds pretty innocent. Governor LePage recently signed into law a bill that will "prohibit bad faith infringement threats perpetrated by patent trolls," according to a press release from the Maine Legislature Senate Majority Office. The bill was modeled after Vermont legislation, and basically allows victims and the Attorney General to go after firms that are filing frivolous lawsuits. However, Democratic first-termer, Representative Janice Cooper, went public in the Portland Press Herald, claiming that big money pharmaceutical firms pushed an amendment to the bill that exempts drug companies from being sued. What's even weirder, is that we really don't have any drug companies in Maine, so what's up with that? Read Rep. Cooper's op ed HERE.

Maine Venture Investments Not Keeping Pace


Across the country, venture capital investments are increasing at a rate that seems to echo the dot-com era fifteen years ago. Led by software firms, venture investments rose by 12 percent in the first quarter of 2014, with the bulk of those dollars going into expansion stage deals. A total of $9.5 billion was invested in 951 deals in the US. While Boston-area firms received the second largest amount of funding, a little over $1 billion, only two Maine firms, Harbor Technologies and Certify, received funding, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers. View the data HERE.

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Innovation Policyworks, LLC, is an innovation strategy firm focused on innovation policy and practice. Dr. Catherine S. Renault has been delivering innovation-based economic development results in rural states for over 22 years, most recently as science advisor and Director of the Office of Innovation for the State of Maine.  She is a Certified Innovation Engineering Black Belt.

Cathy is starting a new partnership of Pew and CREC to work with seven states to
improve their evaluations of their business incentives.  She's been assigned to Oklahoma! What out! For a list of selected projects, see www.innovationpolicyworks.com/projects.