April 17th, 2011
11:28 AM ET

Book of the week on American innovation

This week's book of the week is Innovation Nation: How America is losing its innovation edge, why it matters, and what we can do to get it back by John Kao. From Publisher's Weekly:

"Alarmed by the lack of innovation in the United States today, former Harvard Business School professor and current consultant Kao diagnoses the situation, describes best practices, explains how innovation works and puts forth a strategy proposal, all in an attempt to squirt ice water in America's ear.

Kao - who has been an entrepreneur, a psychiatrist, an educator and a pianist for Frank Zappa - is clearly passionate about his premise. Aimed primarily at policy makers and legislators, his three-pronged agenda is designed to help the government create a culture committed to constantly reinventing the nature of its innovation capabilities."

I'll have a special on innovation on GPS in June.

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Ray Tokareff

    Who or what is the danger to the US that justifies the military budget for the US?

    April 17, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  2. Jen Alexander

    Fareed, Your GPS is the BEST in the world.

    April 17, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  3. Ray Tokareff

    Republicans are proof that you can fool some of the people all of the time!

    April 17, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  4. andy attiliis

    | my questions about INNOVATION for show on same––

    | i've never heard it mentioned that computer innovations have negated the need for many jobs that were formerly achieved through other means––many more jobs than such innovations have created | if true, is there a way to gauge which computer advances are worth the sacrifice to middle class individuals? | because, on the other hand, we sure seem to protect certain traditional ways of doing things that are valuable to the upper class | for example, why don't we hear that the medical establishment or the defense establishment needs to tighten it's belt to guarantee the survival of all society | in my opinion, it is obvious that as innovations diminish the need for specific man hours to be rendered, so too have those who formerly delivered that work unintentionally come to be considered expendable | fortunately, i believe that this mistake will be corrected as all economic groups become more fully aware of the situation |

    April 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  5. Jack Lorraine

    Is this country loosing its lead in innovation? Innovation will flourish in the right enviorment. The ground rules for getting innovation are: clearly state the problem; define the current situation or level of development; describe the desired results or goal and make results rewarding. To few people get to play the game of innovation.

    April 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  6. JMH

    As you requested in your broadcast of April 17th, I would like to submit the following as a possible point of discussion for your upcoming show on “Innovations”.

    Elementary Education:
    The one-room classroom worked in the beginning because there were fewer students, the curriculum was narrower, and the teacher (often an individual with no family responsibilities of their own) could give them individual attention. But the philosophy of the one-room classroom for elementary schools has not changed. Unlike some middle school and all high school and college classes, kids in elementary school are processed “horizontally” not “vertically”. Students in the upper range move from subject level to subject level based on their satisfactory completion of that specific class. For example, a college sophomore may be taking math at a junior level while taking remedial English. But in elementary schools, all 5th grade students are taught at the 5th grade level in all subjects even if their subject specific skills are actually at 3rd or 4th grade level. Kids move from grade level to grade level based on an “average” of their skills. As a result, a high school senior may graduate in spite of functioning at an 8th grade reading level, a 9th grade math level; etc. They could even graduate as functioning illiterates!

    While lots of people understand and talk about the need for better funding, better teachers, more parent involvement, etc., I don’t hear anyone talking about looking at education in a whole new way. The expected learning curve for kids today is much steeper than it was even a few decades ago. Even highly involved parents quickly find themselves outpaced by the subject matter. I’ve been told by a long retired 3rd grade teacher that moving kids from class to class is unworkable. I don’t believe it. If the whole school had the same core subject matter at the same time, why couldn’t a 3rd grader go to a 5th grade reading class in 1st period, then to a 2nd grade math class in 2nd period? If the core subjects of reading, math, science, etc. were all taught in the morning, subjects like music, foreign language, even gym could be scheduled in the afternoon without class changes.

    To the “it can’t be done” sayers, my response would be “of course it could – if you wanted it to be”. Wouldn’t it be better to have a child graduate with a 9th grade math skill level than to have him/her so lost by the 6th grade that he/she graduates with a 5th grade skill?

    April 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  7. Peter L. Coye

    California Energy & Power and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed the first super-efficient vertial axis wind turbine. The CE&P design doubles traditional efficiencies for VAWTs and can produce ten times the renewable power per acre of land (see Dr. John Dabiri from Caltech on YouTube) with the new proven design. Now in mass production on a 10 KW turbine, CE&P technology is explained at http://www.cal-epower.com.

    April 18, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • JMH

      To Peter Coye: The news about the advances in wind power is encouraging. If it's in mass production, who's the manufacturer? I'm already an investor (all be it a small one) in First Solar and I've been looking for a promissing investment in windpower. I'm looking to support a potentially viable effort in hopes of furthering the goal of clean energy options.

      April 18, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
      • Peter L. Coye

        Inverter being made in Arizona, power plant in Ningbo, China and the electronics package in Glendora, California.
        The concentrator and blades of the turbine are being poltruded by Creative Poltrusion outside of Pittsburgh, PA.
        For more information, please call me directly at (951) 314-3117 or visit our web site at http://www.cal-epower.com

        April 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  8. LDW

    I have a suggestion for your special on innovation. I am in industrial designer and a member of the Inventors Association in my state (Most states have one and there is a national organization, too). One of the biggest obstacles to innovation is the extremely long process of getting a patent approved. The current average is 2 years. If our country invested in more patent examiners and other ways to get patents approved a lot faster, we could get innovative products to market faster and improve our country's ability to keep on the leading edge of innovation. If you could do an examination of this patent process and how to solve this, that would be great. You could also look at the United Inventors Association so that people are aware of the help this organization gives to people from all walks of life in getting their ideas to market.

    April 18, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • JMH

      A few weeks ago I read that in addition to a huge backlog of unprocessed patten applications, applications that are pending are published for public review. The article said that other countries (especially China) were mining these pending apps and moving on securing the rights for themselves. If this is true, then in addition to more personal to process these apps, no app should be available to public scrutiny. Publication should be limited to only those that have been approved and for which patten rights are secure. If the article I read is not correct - never mind!

      April 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  9. Barbara H Coye

    Peter L Coye wrote above about his new design for wind power. What he didn't say is how totally different it is....doesn't kill birds, is nearly silent, is only 50' high...can be used for my home. Design uses the shape of an airplane wing to increase efficiency and vertical panels 'collect' air ( concepts he dreamed up while sailing...our favorite sport). Wind can become our future energy when the structure is inexpensive, efficient, quite, and can be easily installed where energy is needed. Peter, my step-son, has always been a 'dreamer'.....'anything is possible if we think about it long enough and work at it hard enough'. Sorry, proud mom just had to add to his brief comment above.

    April 18, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  10. CZH

    Innovation depends on the collaboration of many skills and insights. Typically, new products and services do not spring from the mind of one person. Bill Gates admits that without the R&D of IBM (government sponsored for defense) his personal computer business could not begin. A "vision" requires not only the technical expertise of engineers but the communication skills of marketers and educators to introduce it to the public, coupled with the accounting insights to ensure the project is capitalized and the legal assurance there are no patent violations. Innovation requires a team, and a place where team members can support and share with each other. That's why I'm excited about the TechShop concept.

    April 18, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  11. LMV

    We need to look at some systems currently inplace and see how they can be changed to support the innovation required. I will list just three areas that should be looked at further:
    Corporate tax – use the corporate tax structure to tax for unwanted corporate practices. Don't tax profits – allow deductions for dividends paid to investors – both of which are things desired of companies. Instead tax the divergence in income between upper management / corporate executive compensation and the average production wage. The diverengence has escalated exponentially with no impact on performance so instead of limiting what a CEO can be paid, tax the difference since in the end that difference in compensation costs society. Additional spending on production wage will also result in more dollars being contributed to the social security and medicare systemns which are in dire need of the funds. The definition of compensation could also be expanded to included spending on worker training, educaiton and benefits all of which are investments in human capital. The availaqblitiy of funds for exhorbanant CEO compensation paired with the ability of major multinational companies to avoid paying corporate tax anyway makes the effort to redirect these dollars simply logical.
    Charitable Giving – I have a question – what produces and accumulates profits faster – human capital or monetary capital. If Bill Gates – instead of stockpiling his billions and then starting charitable initiatives had consistently over the past decades of his wealth invested in smaller increments in human capital how much further ahead would we be. If you believe in the strenght and productivity of human capital as many other nations are now realizing then we need to support constant investments in those areas – and not just rely on the government to do it...but the government can aid in the private support of these initiatives. Again, using the tax code – maybe organizations can be ranked by their importance in areas of innovation needed and donations to those institutions are given a higher weight for charitable contribution deductions.
    Education – In reexamining how we teach math and science I see a correlation between those disciplines and the arts. In classical ballet it is the beginning years that are so important because a good teacher understands the importance of the basics and how a simple skill early on is a needed basis for a complex move later. Without a higher level of understanding of where the basics of math and science can lead...can students really be inspired by teaching in the earlier years within these disciplines ? Needing a phd to teach science and math to grade schoolers may seem like a waste of knowledge but is it really ? Inspiring young minds with higher concepts and laying out the pathways to higher achievments could have amazing results.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:26 am |
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