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The Next Idea

The Next Idea is Michigan Radio's new project devoted to the new innovations and ideas that will change our state. Each week on this page, Michigan's most creative and visionary leaders will share their best ideas for making innovation happen and how to move the state forward. Starting with essays posted here, the conversations will continue on Stateside with Cynthia Canty and with you on social media and in the comments section below each piece. Share your ideas, tell us about the cool things happening around you and the people we should talk to next.

Support for The Next Idea comes from The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

Click here to learn more about the MEDC

painting of robot hand and human hand in a handshake
O'Reilly Conferences / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Advances in computer technology are one of many factors that have led to the decline of certain types of jobs. To some extent, technology has always played a role in changing how people work and live: think of the internal combustion engine or factory mechanization.

But today’s guest on The Next Idea wonders if advances in artificial intelligence could be a tipping point into societal unrest, even revolt, because of loss of jobs.

Caribb / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

From the Sears kit houses of the early 1900s to the McMansions of the '90s, the way we heat and cool our homes has mostly followed this formula: Build a space the size you want, then install heating and cooling that will keep that square footage comfortable. 

Ed Schipul / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

It’s fair to say that the automobile has been central to the life of Bob Lutz. He’s 85 now, but before he was semi-retired he held top-tier positions at BMW, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, where he was vice chairman.

He recently wrote an article for Automotive News with the striking headline, “Kiss the good times goodbye.” It’s about where the world of cars is headed, for better or worse. 

Roymundo VII / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

The Next Idea

Homelessness has a different look in a city than it does in rural areas, and somehow it feels easier to overlook.

Dennis Van Kampen, executive director and CEO of the Grand Rapids nonprofit Mel Trotter Ministries, joined Stateside to talk about a pilot program aimed at helping homeless families in rural Cedar Springs, and take on the problem of rural homelessness more broadly.

Augmented reality app
Courtesy of SpellBound

The Next Idea

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition announced its list of winners earlier this month.

It's time to meet one of them: Christina York, CEO of SpellBound, joined Stateside to talk about the app that just won her company the People’s Choice Award.

Ford Rouge Factory Tour in Dearborn
Nicole Yeary / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Michiganders know well the effects of manufacturing’s decline in this country. 

But a new report points out ways to ensure manufacturing stays alive here, and with 1-in-7 workers in our state still employed in this sector, it’s a challenge that we need to address. 

The report is called Making it in America: Revitalizing U.S. manufacturing. It was released this month by the McKinsey Global Institute, a leading private-sector think tank.

The report examines what hurt manufacturing in the past, and explores where it might go in the future.

Libraries Without Borders-US

The Next Idea

Pretend it’s Saturday. 

You and the kids are running errands, including a several-hour stop at the laundromat. They are bored, you are bored.... What if you could use that washer time for something like education? What if your laundromat had the services of a library? 

Well, over the summer, this started happening in Detroit. 

Hillary Miller

The Next Idea

FEMMES, Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering and Science, is a group of University of Michigan graduate students and faculty who are working to get girls in the 4th through 6th grades excited about science and to get them thinking about going into STEM fields. They do this through hands-on activities and presentations that show science in action.

We reported on FEMMES back in 2014 and decided to check back in three years later. Hillary Miller, a PhD candidate in cell and molecular biology at the University of Michigan and a part of FEMMES, joined The Next Idea to provide an update.

clown troupe
Courtesy of Gwendolyn Hopkins

The Next Idea

Bullying in Michigan and around the country is a serious problem – one that parents, educators and others are striving to solve. One Michigan college is offering a unique approach to this serious problem.

Mott Community College’s Honors College is home to a group of students who transform themselves into clowns and reach out to school children with an anti-bullying message. 

Courtesy of Jeanane Charara / Michigan Science Center

The Next Idea

If you're a certain age, you probably remember watching educational films in science class on a noisy projector.

Howard County Library System Follow / FLICKR - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

The key to a successful future for Michigan includes turning out graduates with skill sets needed to fill the jobs of the future. It also includes increasing access to postsecondary education for low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students.

The upcoming Michigan Pre-College and Youth Outreach Conference will explore these challenges, and will focus on the urgency of college access.

Digital_Third_Eye / Flickr - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

One of the central challenges in Detroit’s revival: making sure that all boats rise. That good things are happening for long-time Detroiters, not just the newcomers and new businesses setting up in the city.

Capital Impact Partners created its Equitable Development Initiative after realizing how little of its money went to projects led by minority developers. The program is designed to bring more minority developers into Detroit’s revitalization.

Sunflowers on the shoulder of a highway
Jocelyn Hall / MDOT

The Next Idea

Scientists have known for a while that America’s bee population is in trouble — some types are even ending up on the endangered species list. Pollinator insects like bees are crucial to food production, and, in agricultural states like Michigan, keeping that population alive and healthy is a big deal.

A small but colorful pilot project at the Michigan Department of Transportation aims to provide some late season meals for those hard-working bees. 

michigan state capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

“There ought to be a law.” It’s easier said than done.

The truth is that making policy is an incredibly complex process. For each bill there are multiple stakeholders, and they all demand different things from the outcome.

Teachers can illustrate that complexity for their students through role-playing simulations around policymaking, but even simulations can be too much for one instructor to organize.

Courtesy of Scott Page

The Next Idea

Let’s say your boss wants you to assemble a team to work on a complex problem at your company, or your agency, or your non-profit.

You think about your best and brightest people with some knowledge of the problem, you buy some bagels and coffee, and get together, right?

Turns out, you might not be approaching this kind of problem solving in the best way.

Takashi Yamamiya / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

You've probably heard of One Thousand and One Nights. It's a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales in Arabic from what's known as an Islamic Golden Age collected over many centuries. 

The English-language version is The Arabian Nights.

Something else stemming from that bygone era is coming to the Michigan Science Center — an exhibition called 1001 Inventions: Untold Stories from a Golden Age of Innovation.

mollyali / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

Former AOL CEO and Revolution LLC founder Steve Case's "Rise of the Rest" will make its second pit stop in Ann Arbor on Wednesday.

“It’s really emerging as a strong startup city," Case said. "It’s sort of the center of gravity in terms of a lot of the innovation in Michigan and a lot of people are beginning to understand there are great startups there.”

Juhan Sonin / Flickr - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

In an age where anonymous opinions posted online often drown out civil discourse, the idea of people sitting down to share a meal and conversation seems downright radical. 

But this coming Wednesday, groups of regular folks all over Southeast Michigan will be doing just that, and each gathering will address the same question: What can we do to make our communities places where young people can grow and thrive?

Jason Mrachina / Flickr

 

The Next Idea 

Dear Mr. Bezos,

I hear you’re looking for a new home to grow your business. Detroit is not my hometown, but after many years of searching for a home, I found it here. I've lived in Kentucky, California, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, Maryland and other parts of Michigan, but I’ve never been welcomed to or impressed by a city more than Detroit. I set up shop here, and you should too. Let me tell you why.

Brian Harris / Facebook

The Next Idea

Since mankind first began growing crops, the farmer's enemies have been drought, wind, wild temperature swings: curve balls served up by Mother Nature.

Brian Harris is turning out an array of green produce, protected from the elements, in a converted freight container that sits near downtown Grand Rapids.

He calls this a “hydroponic vertical micro-farm,” officially named Green Collar Farms.

pressure gauge
Observe The Banana / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

 

So many innovative ideas begin with inventors observing simple events. Take Newton’s falling apple, for example, or Archimedes’ overflowing bathtub. 

For Emil Ureel of West Michigan, it was building an ice rink in his backyard — or rather designing a refrigeration system to keep it from melting.

 

“I thermodynamically ended up producing a chiller system from a used central air unit,” Ureel said. “Going through the process, I learned something related to thermodynamics that’s referred to as saturation vapor pressure.”

State Rep. Joe Haveman and Andy Ribbens, President of Premier Finishing in Grand Rapids, look over some of the products created by prisoners in the machines shop at the Richard Handlon Correctional Facility.
mihousegop / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Most offenders in Michigan’s prisons will someday be released. Figuring out what to do next is difficult. Some may lack skills, and employers are wary of hiring people who have done time.

At Ionia's Handlon Correctional Facility, they're addressing this problem with a program called Trading Places. Inmates use their time inside to prepare for trade apprenticeships on the outside.

Kamal Hamid / Flickr

The Next Idea

For centuries, people who need some fast cash have turned to pawn shops: "pawning" some personal treasure for a cash loan.

Today there is a modern way to pawn an item. Instead of driving from shop to shop, you can turn to a Michigan-based startup called PawnGuru and do your dealing online.

The Great Lakes from space.
NASA

The Next Idea

One afternoon while waiting for my flight to board, a headline caught my eye: “Civilization-Destroying Comets Are More Common Than We Thought.” I assumed it was one of those flashy clickbait attention-grabbers like the ones about how researchers have discovered how you can lose ten pounds just by drinking dandelion tea. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t one of those smarmy websites you’ve never heard of. It was Popular Mechanics. Yes, that do-it-yourself periodical for the pocket-protector jet set that has all the panache of your dad’s brown shoes. So why the hyperbole?

Courtesy of Meagan Ward

The Next Idea

Even in 2017, women still face difficulties in the world of business.

Studies confirm women are still perceived as less competent than men are. They’re also less likely to be considered good risks for startup capital, and, of course, there’s still that pesky wage gap between the sexes.

A Detroit businesswoman is fighting back against those characterizations.

Crashmaster007 / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

The Next Idea

I confess that I love football. I played it in high school. Some of my teammates went on to the college gridiron, and one of them even had a long career in the NFL. That’s the dream, isn’t it? Big plays and big money on Sunday. Well apparently things are changing these days, and with good reason.

Adriana Flores next to E2 box
Courtesy of Adriana Flores

The Next Idea

Give a book, take a book. You've probably seen or heard of those tiny, roadside libraries with that mantra. They're usually small wooden structures, like a dog house on stilts, filled with books that are free to anyone in the community.

Our latest contributor to The Next Idea has taken that concept and turned it into a special way to provide basic necessities to folks in need. It’s a box called E²: Empathy and Equity. Instead of books, the box holds free hygiene products.

Hannah Johnson, of Spera Foods, making granola and flour out of tiger nuts and the Incubator Kitchen at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market
Grand Rapids Downtown Market

The Next Idea

The Incubator Kitchen at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market is helping people with an idea for a food product or business turn their dreams into reality without risking their life savings.

The Incubator Kitchen is a full-sized commercial kitchen where hopeful food entrepreneurs can get help with business planning and the licensing required to legally produce their products and sell to the public.

How to train your mind to get in "the zone"

Aug 21, 2017
With exercises and effort, anyone can train their brain to be more creative, says Dr. David Fessell.
Flickr/vaXzine

The Next Idea

Is there a “state of mind” that aids innovation and creativity?

Think for a moment about the last time you were totally immersed in a hobby, music, or sport. Things just seemed to flow, time became imperceptible, and everything seemed almost effortless. Might you have experienced this when writing? Running or gardening? Creating poetry, music, or dancing? Or even tinkering?

Are such times rare or non-existent in your life? These experiences of “flow” are rocket fuel for innovation and creativity—and you can have more of them.

Courtesy of Wolfgang Bauer

The Next Idea

Think about a hot August day. Your car has been sitting out in a parking lot for hours and hours. Think of how hot it is when you get back inside and touch that steering wheel.

What if you could take all of that solar energy and use it for something besides burning your hands?

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