Quote for the Week

“Obama should launch his own moon shot. What the country needs most now is not more government stimulus, but more stimulation. We need to get millions of American kids, not just the geniuses, excited about innovation and entrepreneurship again. We need to make 2010 what Obama should have made 2009: the year of innovation, the year of making our pie bigger, the year of ‘Start-Up America.'”

— Thomas Friedman in More (Steve) Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

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Connecting the Dots

I was struck by a quote in Jon Meacham’s recent Newsweek piece, “In Defense of the Liberal Arts

“The next chapter of the nation’s economic life could well be written not only by engineers but by entrepreneurs who, as products of an apparently disparate education, have formed a habit of mind that enables them to connect ideas that might otherwise have gone unconnected.”

Meacham hits on something that I’ve felt, but haven’t been able to articulate.  An innovator is someone who can take two previously unrelated concepts and connect them in a valuable way.  In other words, innovators connect the dots.

A quick look through Google turns up a number of famous innovations created when someone connected the dots.  Vacuuming a carpet isn’t that different from filtering air in a factory (Dyson).  People would like to take their music with them wherever they go (Apple).  Linking to a web page is an implicit suggestion that the web page is relevant (Google).

Connect the dots!

Meacham goes on to make the case that Liberal Arts degrees (and colleges) are a difficult to value, yet crucial component of America’s ability to innovate.  I agree.  But, in my opinion, what matters is not so much that students be exposed to the Liberal Arts in and of themselves, but that they be exposed to a wide variety of disciplines.  It’s impossible to connect just one dot.

From my own experience in business, I find myself drawing on lessons learned from physics, philosophy, and political science as often as my formal business training (if not more).  It’s not that my business training wasn’t valuable.  It’s just that it’s not that interesting in isolation. But, when I layer on a capability to describe the world as a system (physics), perpetually seek to understand the nature of things (philosophy), and attempt to understand the context in which people operate (political science), I have the potential to make a discovery.

Without the additional layers, I’m not much more than a PowerPoint factory.

Aphorism for a New Year

It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.

— Yogi Berra

A tad indulgent?

Blogging, after Twittering, is the most self-indulgent thing someone can do online.  It’s your own personal pulpit.  Whatever the topic, you can share your opinion, report the facts, or just flat out rant.  And while the hope is that the content you create adds to the discourse — the marketplace of ideas — rarely is that the case.  Blogs now number in the millions.  Any individual post is but a drop in a tsunami of content flowing over the web.

So let’s be honest.  Blogging is not so much about being heard, because we know in our gut that’s not likely to happen.  It’s more about the possibility of being heard.  That feeling that your opinions, your thoughts, your writing could matter.  At some level, that could be viewed as narcissistic.  At the very least, it’s self-indulgent.

I’ve decided to embrace that fact with the naming of this blog.  Between the title and the tagline that WordPress gives me, I’ve managed to use my name for three of the eight total words.  That’s self-indulgent.  And, the blog can be found at www.tadmilbourn.com.  That’s really self-indulgent.

As for what I’ll write about, you can expect an article or two every month on topics I am passionate about.  Primarily, that’s innovation and entrepreneurship.  Occasionally, it’s journalism and education.  I’ll try to stay focused on topics that I have personal experience with and therefore, a shot at a fresh perspective.  I’ll try to refrain from reacting to reactions…commenting on the blog post reacting to the tweet reacting to the New York Times article as there’s little value to be added there.  I use the word try intentionally because, well, I’m blogging and every now and then…

…I just might indulge myself.