Wednesday, December 5, 2012 —
“Innovation is the key.”
We are hearing these words of wisdom all the time, aren’t we?
And we nod our heads in agreement, remembering our pocket computers and communication devices that we still call phones. Or how the 3D technology and programs of North Carolina-based Geomagic make possible the on-demand manufacture of one-of-a kind products based on the special 3D design plans from Geomagic’s software.
But does the word have meaning to us ordinary humans who are not geniuses like Apple’s Steve Jobs or Geomagic’s Ping Fu?
At a recent discussion on innovation at the Advanta-geWest Economic Summit in Asheville, I asked panelists to explain what innovation means and illustrate with an example.
Their varied answers helped me understand that there is a place for innovation in almost every workplace.
Mike Adams, president of Moog Music Inc., the high tech manufacturer of the Moog music synthesizers, noted the innovations that had swept by in his lifetime in rapid long distance communication: Telephone and telegraph replaced mail, which was replaced by telex, which was replaced by fax, which is being replaced by emails, which are being replaced by a variety of innovations. “I try to think like a 12-year-old. They are thinking, what is next?”
For Anita Brown-Graham, director of North Carolina's Institute for Emerging Issues in Raleigh, innovation is not so much about mere good ideas. An innovation to her is an idea that can be applied to meet an unmet need.
Brown-Graham described a teacher in Chapel Hill who found it hard to get her students’ attention after lunch. But if she let them first go to the playground, they came back refreshed and alert. The teacher wanted to give her students stimulating exercise. She also wanted to preserve serious class time. By innovating, she did both. She recorded her lectures for the post-lunch class, gave each kid a listening device and took them for a 35-minute walk while they heard her recording. Her innovation met her need. It is also meeting the needs of other teachers through The Walking Classroom program that makes available a WalkKit listening product preloaded with a year’s worth of lectures.
Brown-Graham is optimistic about the innovation capabilities of the generation just entering college. They are risk takers and programmed to be innovators. However, they don’t have the support networks, experience in small business or the financing to make their innovations a business success.
Dan Gerlach, president of the Golden Leaf Foundation, agreed and emphasized the need for sources of funding for the effective exploitation of innovations in a commercial context.
Gerlach described an unusual innovation in the location and construction of a wave-making machine in the Nantahala River in Swain County. That innovative idea, when brought to reality, drew thousands of people to the region for this year’s Freestyle Kayaking World Cup Championship.
Charlotte’s Mark Erwin, former U.S. ambassador to Mauritius, an island off the coast of Africa, used that country as an example of innovation. In 1976, when the island gained its independence, it was one of the poorest countries in the world, almost totally dependent on a sugar plantation economy. When the new leader took an economic inventory of his country, he found there was almost nothing, only 1.3 million mostly uneducated people. Since the people were the country’s only resource, the leader declared that education would be free for everyone.
“That was innovation,” said Erwin.
“Today it is the most prosperous country in Africa, with the highest literacy rate, a huge Information Technology center, much tourism and a thriving textile industry.”
These different examples of innovation suggest that, since there are an untold number of unmet needs, there are an equal number of opportunities for innovation, just waiting for some of us to exploit.
Note: More information about the Walking Classroom (www.thewalking classroom.org) and AdvantageWest (www.advantagewest.com).
Wednesday, December 5, 2012 —
“Innovation is the key.”
- Opinion & Letters to the Editor
Two sides in debate about film incentives
RALEIGH – It’s looking like the current film incentives program may be scrapped for a much different grant program for TV and movie production companies.
Read others’ views to be better informed, decide for yourself
“I don’t read The Washington Post. That is not where I get my ideas.”
This isn’t medical marijuana
As state legislators debated allowing the use of an extract from marijuana plants to treat seizure disorders over the past couple of weeks, it was evident that social conservatives – there are many of them in the General Assembly – felt a tinge of unease about it, even as almost every one of them voted yes.
Friends and contentment
Last week I made my annual trip up the mountain to Sparta. My friends have a secluded home near a babbling brook. Their home and property are a haven for peace. It’s a two-plus hour ride to their home that doesn’t feel that long because I look so forward to my time with this great couple. When I arrive, the conversation seems to pick up right where we left it the last time we saw each other.
Thanks for the honest deed
I would like to thank the person that found my wallet in the parking lot of Harris Teeter on July 23 and turned it in to the Albemarle Police.
Don't judge mothers with messy homes
I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."
We need your help
Hurray for the Albemarle City Council. Council plans to battle N.C. Department of Transportation’s ranking of all 13 projects in Stanly County to the bottom of their priority list. Council is setting up petitions in various city buildings for citizens to sign.
Council asks veterans to seek office
The terms of office for the leaders of the Stanly County Veterans Council ended June 30. A call is being sent to veterans council members requesting candidates for the four elective offices of the council. A meeting has been set for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at the DAV building. All council members are urged to attend.
The gains and gaps in our economy
Twice a year, I pull out my cloudy crystal ball and attempt to make some predictions about the direction and pace of the North Carolina economy. I just finished my latest effort and, as usual, the results are a combination of pluses and minuses.
Yellow journalism takes on new form, people are dumber for it
Time to get on the soapbox for a few minutes.
Let me clear my throat. Eh ... hem!
People are dumb.
- More Opinion & Letters to the Editor Headlines
- Two sides in debate about film incentives