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Rebuilding our industrial commons

For over 30 years, U.S. manufacturing has been in relative decline in the face of relentless competitive pressure.  Rebuilding our relative competitive position in manufacturing will not come easily. Years of manufacturing decline have eroded the “industrial commons” on which globally competitive manufacturing depends. The networks within the industrial commons resemble an “ecosystem” that speeds […]

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Moving our innovation thinking from barriers to ecosystems

Introduction Commercialization of federally funded research at universities faces a bewildering array of obstacles. The reason: innovation — the translation of knowledge into value (or money) — emerges from continuous knowledge flows. Unfortunately, these knowledge flows can be easily blocked in multiple ways. Taken together, these knowledge flows form an “ecosystem”, networks embedded in other […]

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Focusing on the future of small towns

Our colleagues at the University of North Alabama and Mississippi State have introduced Strategic Doing to four small towns. (This museum shows the importance of these towns to the history and culture of Mississippi.) To introduce Strategic Doing, our colleagues developed a new version of Strategic Doing: The Game. Based in Sweet Tea, Mississippi, the […]

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Thoughts on the emerging practice of strategy

Strategy practices that emerged from WWII are increasingly inadequate to the task of guiding today’s organizations, communities and regions. Even when they are executed, the results from traditional strategic planning are not very strong. This is not a new insight. Noted strategy theorist Henry Mintzberg pointed this out 20 years ago in his book, The Rise […]

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Conducting strategy with difficult people

When we introduce ideas around agile strategy, some folks get stuck on how the jerks will react.  For example last week someone asked, “What happens when you encounter loud, obstinate people? Don’t they simply disrupt the process?” The answer is, of course, “Yes, if you let them.” One of the beauties of our democracy is […]

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Moving from strategic plans to strategic action plans

In the last month, I’ve encountered two situations in which the conventional approach to strategy has broken down. Strategic planning, as a management discipline, emerged from operations planning during World War II. The process is top-down, linear, logical, heavily analytic. The problem, of course, is that our organizations and our economies don’t function this way. […]

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Replacing strategic planning with agile strategy

In a world that is becoming more complex, turbulent and less stable, our traditional approach to strategy – – strategic planning – – becomes increasingly less reliable and effective. The alternative is agile strategy, a lean process of creating and capturing value through learning by doing. In complex environments, strategic planning doesn’t work very well […]

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Some thoughts on strategy in a world of open networks

Over the years, I have collected a number of thoughts on developing strategies in a globally connected world. In a globally connected world, isolation is a choice. If you want to face the turbulence ahead by yourself, go ahead. But that’s probably not your best option. You always have the opportunity to connect. The choice […]

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Overcoming the tyranny of stakeholders

An academic leader recently connected with me, frustrated. After two years of trying to implement large-scale system change within her university, her team had little to show for it. A relatively small initiative involving 30 students was underway, but little else. When I asked her to describe this process, her strategy, she eloquently explained how […]

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Innovation districts: Simple guidelines

For those of us who have been around a while, the new push to regenerate cities with innovation districts appears like yet another fad. But is it? Clearly, Brookings, the major proponent of the shift doesn’t think so. Veterans in economic development have a right to be skeptical. After all, we’ve seen metropolitan business plans. Before […]

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Transforming engineering education with Strategic Doing

With my colleague Scott Hutcheson, I’ve been working with Stanford and the National Collegiate Inventors and Educators Alliance (NCIIA) on the NSF-funded Epicenter project, specifically the Pathways to Innovation component. Tom Byers from Sanford and others authored an article for Summer 2013 issue of The Bridge, a publication of the National Academy of Engineering, that […]

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Testing our approach to Innovation Acceleration in New Jersey

In April, the New Jersey Institute of Technology launched the New Jersey Innovation Institute. In July, the Department of Defense announced a $5.6 million dollar award to support the Institute’s first initiative, MarketShift, a statewide cluster development effort in defense and aerospace. Strategic Doing provides a key framework for the new NJII. NJIT’s MarketShift initiative includes […]

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Adapting the Fraunhofer model to the US market: Innovation ecosystems

This morning a friend shared an article that triggered some thoughts: Behind Germany’s Success Story in Manufacturing For the past year, I have been developing an approach with our colleagues at Fraunhofer to apply market-tested principles of innovation to Purdue. As the article notes, the Obama Administration is using the Fraunhofer model as a template […]

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Moving past gridlock: A path forward to reshaping our democracy

Our politics is a mess. Thirty years of increasingly partisan wrangling has left Congress incapable of taking on any complex policy task. Sadly, there is little prospect of escaping these ideological wars anytime soon. Partisan differences are growing, not shrinking. Over the past three decades, ideologues have seized control of our democracy and run it […]

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Visualizing regional innovation ecosystems: A high level perspective

Depending on your purpose, there are multiple alternatives for visualizing regional innovation ecosystems. These visualizations are best seen within the context of a strategic purpose. In other words, “What strategic outcome are you trying to achieve and how would a drawing help you?” This afternoon, I have been adapting a high level visualization initially presented […]

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Confronting complexity: Can we distinguish the simplistic from the simple?

A column by NYT’s Nicholas Kristof touched a nerve in the academy, when he suggested that academics had “walled themselves […]

Here are my take-aways from the Global Innovation Summit 2014

Here are some of my takeaways from the Global Innovation Summit that I attended in San Jose last week, a […]

The growing popularity of Strategic Doing: Some questions answered

As the popularity of Strategic Doing grows, we are encountering some questions that deserve answers. Where has Strategic Doing worked? […]

7 keys to guiding an open network

Since the railroads introduced them in the 1870’s, hierarchical organizations have dominated our economic landscape. They have shaped our thinking […]

Connecting technology development with market opportunities

Last week, I spent time with my Fraunhofer colleagues focusing on a particular challenge facing the pace and scale of […]

Re-imagining the economic development profession: What would it look like if…

Next week, I head back to work with our colleagues at Fraunhofer. As I prepare for the trip, I’ve been […]