Policy and Practice Header
Notes from Innovation Policyworks


A few weeks ago, I attended a breakfast in Portland sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Maine. The topic: Immigration and Entrepreneurship. I thought this was a brilliant connection. The data are clear that people that are foreign-born file more patents, start more companies, and are more innovative. Yet few are making the connection - in communities that are losing population, and are increasingly old and white, immigration, whether from other states or other nations, is the only answer. Without immigration, these places will soon lack the workforce to fill existing jobs, or to attract or build new jobs. This is a sure recipe for economic stagnation.


Yet, there is another dynamic going on here. With immigration comes diversity, and with diversity comes innovation. New ideas occur when new knowledge collides with new perspectives and different ways of looking at things. Companies and communities that are diverse perform better because they are creative, open, and tolerant of each other and of risk and uncertainty.


It's time we stopped asking, Are you from Away? and instead welcomed folks with open arms.  



Why Diversity Matters


We have been talking for some time about the importance of diversity as a rich source of creativity. Now comes new data that directly supports this thesis. McKinsey has released a new report that concludes that the most gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to financially outperform their least gender diverse peers. For ethnically diverse companies, the diversity dividend is 35%.  They conclude that diversity is a competitive differentiator. The interesting question is, does this diversity dividend extend to communities as well? Read McKinsey's report Diversity Matters here.


Immigration Myths


Fear, uncertainty and doubt about immigration and immigrants seem to be a fixture of American political and economic life. In each generation, immigrants are routinely discriminated against, decried and generally not welcomed. The fact that as immigrants move up the social ladder, they often discriminate against those who follow them is just one piece of irony. The New York Times recently ran an article about this phenomenon, arguing that the central problem is the authors call the Lump of Labor Fallacy - that there is only so much work to be done and that no one can get a job without taking one from someone else. But economics shows that this isn't at all true. In fact, immigrants also increase demand by renting apartments, getting haircuts, buying food, etc. So, the overall effect is to grow the economy.  Read the whole article here.


Is this Scary or Cool?


Draper Laboratory is developing a method to automatically detect and repair software errors in new programs. The method, DeepCode, uses big-data analytics to recognize patterns, mimicking the human brain's ability to learn.  Draper President and CEO Kaigham J. Gabriel said, "This novel approach attempts to do what neither static nor dynamic testing techniques have been able to accomplish to date - automatically find all known vulnerabilities in binary and source code."  More here.


Uncertainty and Innovation


Geert Hofstede created an uncertainty-avoidance measure years ago to identify and measure a culture's comfort with uncertainty. Cultures that measure high on uncertainty-avoidance try to minimize the occurrence of unknown situations by implementing rules, laws and regulations. Cultures that measure low tend to be more tolerant of change.  It turns out that high uncertainty-avoidance places have very high bureaucracy and low innovation, while the opposite is true in low uncertainty-avoidance cultures. A recent Harvard Business School article shows this effect in Greece, which scores 100 out of 100 on the index of uncertainty-avoidance. But wouldn't it be interesting to see how this applies to communities as well? More here.


Advanced Industries and Higher Wages


Brookings has recently redefined advanced industries to mean those that perform a high level of research and development per worker and employ a high percentage of workers in science, technology, engineering and math occupations. These industries, according to Brookings, provide the bulk of new inventions and products. It turns out that wages are rising very quickly in these industries, across the board, for all levels of education. The explanation offered by Brookings is that the orientation to new products is a distinguishing factor, versus sectors like health care, education and retail where cost containment are the driving strategies. This is a path to stagnation, according to Brookings. More here.


The Real Facts about Solar


The price of solar panels has come down by 80 percent since 2008. When coupled with new incentives and financing models such as solar leasing programs, you can understand why there is now around 20 gigawatts of solar energy in the US, and we added more capacity in the last two years than in the previous 30. Interestingly, this is not just for wealthy folks, but the median income of adopters is between $30,000 - $90,000. By the way, the solar industry is adding jobs 20 times faster than the national average, and increased 86 percent in the past five years. Facts here.


Let Customers Segment Themselves


Apparently, different customers are willing to pay different prices for your product. But the trick is how to figure out who is in what segment, and how to keep them fenced off from each other. The latest method: let customers segment themselves! You have probably experienced this yourself: when you buy an airplane ticket and the prices are lower if you stay over a Saturday or Sunday night. As a business traveler, you probably won't take this offer. But you might pay extra for legroom or to check a bag. The trick is being sure that your premium customers get something really extra! More here 


 Upcoming Learning 



Innovation Engineering Executive Experience, 

Eureka! Ranch, Cincinnati, OH


The Executive Experience lets you see, feel and experience the Innovation System that Increases Speed to Market and Decreases Risk. You will leave with an understanding of what it takes to craft an organization that lives and breathes innovation.  


Dates: April 23-24, 2015; May 13-14, 2015; June 25-26, 2015 


Innovation College                                Eureka! Ranch, Cincinnati, OH

Innovation College is the industry education version of the four core courses taught on university campuses at the undergraduate and graduate school level.   Students, on campus, and in industry, routinely declare it to be the most valuable educational experience of their life.  

Dates: May 4-8, 2015; June 8-12, 2015


Contact us for more information.


In This Issue - April 2015

Join Our Mailing List

Aimee's Corner

Looks-like or works-like prototypes are ways to share the ideas in your head with others. They take a new idea and make it real. You may have seen the value of building a prototype in your Innovation Engineering projects especially when you are presenting a new concept or presenting a leap idea that has not yet existed. But this is not the only way to use prototypes to innovate.


This week, a small team of people working on a systems problem took a huge step forward by building several quick prototypes. We wanted the process to be as simple as possible to encourage behavior change. Prototyping helped us focus on the business processes that were broken.


We built a first version of our prototype to get input and better understand the problem from the point of view of users of the system. Then, our second version moved from a static page to a works-like version. In 15 minutes, we had two quick prototypes. Ten minutes later we had another prototype; a hybrid using the best ideas from each version. Using diversity of thought, we were able to go faster.


Prototypes allowed us to go faster in Discovery. Prototypes allowed us to understand the business process failures.


Consider building a simple prototype for your next systems problem. Keep it simple and ask questions. You might just knock down the first domino, starting chain reaction that solves a system problem.


Quote of the Month 


"Strength lies in differences, not in similarities."

Stephen Covey

Most Unique Occupations by State


The Pew Charitable Trusts analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify the most unique jobs in every state. These are the jobs that are most highly concentrated in this particular state.


Maine: Logging operators

District of Columbia: Political scientists

Mass: Biochemists and biophysicists

Florida: Athletes

Mississippi: Upholsterers

Colorado: Atmospheric and space scientists

Washington State: Aircraft assemblers

Hawaii: Professional dancers

New York: Fashion designers

Indiana: Boilermakers

North Dakota: oil extraction workers

Nevada: Gaming supervisors

South Carolina: Tire builders


View our profile on LinkedIn

135 Maine Street, Suite A-183 Brunswick, ME 04011 207.522.9028

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 project with Camoin Associates in New York State, working with a coalition of counties and communities called the I-86 Corridor on a strategic action plan.

Aimee Dobrzeniecki works with clients in Washington DC and across the country sharing her 20 years of government policy, economic development, and technology transition experience. 

She is also  Certified Black Belt in Innovation Engineering, and is following her passion by helping organizations that have a positive outlook on the future. Through her individual coaching skills, she is ready to roll up her sleeves and provide an ally to businesses seeking to enter new markets, create new products, or test new business models. Aimee not only explains why it is the time to innovate; she demonstrates the steps to innovate faster than your competition. 


For a list of selected projects, see www.innovationpolicyworks.com/projects.