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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

flickr user neetalparekh / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

Mark “Puck” Mykleby is a retired Marine colonel who worked from 2009 to 2011 as an assistant to former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen.

Mullen wanted a grand strategy for the nation. Not a military strategy, but something to encourage the kind of innovation and leadership he felt has been slipping away in the United States.

Mykleby left the Pentagon a little frustrated with Washington and figured he really needed to take the idea to the private sector.

Ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Elijah J. McCoy Patent and Trademark Office in Detroit in 2012
flickr user Senator Stabenow / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

Innovation means new ideas, and new ideas mean investments, all of which need to be protected.

That’s where the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office comes in.

Three years ago, they opened their first office outside of Washington D.C., and chose to put it in Detroit.

What does that mean for Michigan inventors, entrepreneurs, startups and researchers?

Grocoff: "If we wish to sustain the climate to which we and all living things have adapted, then we need to design systems more like old growth forests and less like tree farms."
Jim Sorbie / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

As The Next Idea continues to explore innovation in Michigan, it’s clear that amidst the new technology and new breakthroughs, some concepts stand the test of time.

One such concept was summed up by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods."

That was the key to the success of Michigan inventor, businessman and innovator Webster Marble.

Flickr/opensource.com / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea 

At the heart of every great innovation is a great compromise: In order to start something new, we have to stop something old. Think of it as a deal you make with yourself — the things you’ll give up in order to make room for future growth.

Imagine someone’s garage so full of old scrap that there’s no room for the new car. How can businesses better incentivize taking out the trash?

Courtesy of Our Kitchen Table

The Next Idea

School gardens seem like a great idea. Teachers get to reinforce key concepts in science and math, students get hands-on experiences with healthy food, and everyone gets to eat homegrown snacks at the end of a few months. Sounds good, right? Wrong.

In fact, most school gardens fail. They might look good at first. But without constant attention from parents, students, and community members, the plants wither, the weeds sprout, and the garden goes from an optimistic symbol of health to an ugly eyesore right in front of the school. 

Turning to "Paradise" for equitable growth in Detroit

Oct 26, 2015
Flickr/Knight Foundation / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

In the first half of the 20th Century, two areas on the northeast side of Detroit’s central business district teemed with African American residents, retail businesses and entertainment venues.

Gavel
Flickr/Joe Gratz / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

Traffic tickets and low-level misdemeanors aren’t supposed to ruin lives and cost taxpayers millions.

For most of these offenses, paying a fine or arguing a case before a judge should be a fairly straightforward, low-hassle matter.

Yet there are plenty of reasons why these minor violations end up as major problems.

Are the arts a luxury or an economic necessity?

Oct 19, 2015
Melanie Goulish

The Next Idea

Most of us have a sense that the arts contribute to a community’s economic well-being. Measuring that feeling in real economic terms, however, is quite difficult.

We know that arts and culture enhance where we live, but when it comes to determining where to invest money for our state’s future, it’s not clear how the arts really add up.

Flickr/Tri Mode / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

Michigan makes things, millions of things. And not only do we manufacture them, we invent and design them. For a century, Michigan has led the form and function of furniture, appliances, medical devices, automobiles, aerospace, and agricultural products.

Courtesy of MC4ME

The Next Idea

There is a lot of pressure in schools these days.

From the early grades through high school, students take tests and then more tests and shuffle from one extracurricular activity to the next, all while many are also trying to navigate instability at home.

Flickr/MichBio / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

For decades men have considered bars, clubs, locker rooms and golf courses open territory in which they can ask for introductions and guidance to advance their businesses and careers.

But something like the Old Boys’ Network has mostly eluded women. Our formal and informal networks are not as robust, perhaps because we are still hampered by the competition that existed when there was only one seat for a woman at any important table.

There's a way to help every child in Michigan save for education

Oct 5, 2015
Jennifer Guerra/Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

Education and wealth are inextricably linked. Not only does educational attainment affect earning potential and capacity to build wealth, but family wealth greatly impacts a student’s likelihood of completing postsecondary education.

Sadly, measures of family wealth and education attainment in the U.S. show a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

Part of the Rumsey St. Project, this auto body garage was painted by Los Angeles-based artist Mark Dean Veca
SiTE:LAB

The Next Idea

Collaboration between people of different backgrounds, expertise and points of view is one of the key drivers of innovation.

There’s one entry in this year’s Artprize in Grand Rapids that takes collaboration to another level.

Courtesy of Backyard Brains

The Next Idea

All it takes is one new innovation or successful company to change the economic fortunes of an entire city or region.

More often though, it’s the cumulative effect of many new innovations and successful companies that create lasting economic change.

Regardless if it’s one or 1000, new tech companies have an arduous path to success. Yet because of their potentially huge payoffs, competition to host them and their talented workforce is fierce.

Here's a concept: Have voters actually inform our politicians

Sep 17, 2015
Graphic: Jack Van Allsburg, Calvin College Center for Social Research

The Next Idea

Let’s face it:  The unsettling truth is that too many of us aren’t really sure whether democracy works anymore.

We are marinating in a bitter rhetorical sauce of claims that “Lansing is broken;” we’re stewing up resentment over every stove in town. Too many of us think people are sheep, politicians are wolves, and that sheep transform into wolves the moment they hold public office.

Our hearts are in the right place when we use the word "innovation," but we may have ruined it for ourselves
flickr user Missy Schmidt / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

It’s not too hard for many of us to think of words that are just used so much that instead of summoning up a powerful image, they trigger a bored eye roll.

One such word is actually a very big part of The Next Idea: “innovation.”

When used correctly, “innovation” means so much. For companies and universities, entrepreneurs and inventors, it means everything.

But the word is now so overused it tends to get lost in the white noise of corporate buzzwords.

Rebuilding Michigan's theatre legacy one artist at a time

Sep 10, 2015
flickr user Lee Carson / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

Theatre has immense power to build community, although its power is often overlooked.

As a live art form, theatrical storytelling relies on the presence and engagement of both performers and spectators — a rarity in today’s media-saturated world. The immediacy of theatre provides us with intimate human connection and a subjective experience that cannot be replicated. You walk into a theatre, settle in your seat, and as the lights begin to dim, you realize you are about to be transported into another world.

Courtesy of Michigan Nonprofit Association

The Next Idea

In Michigan and across the country, our society is suffering from a lack of civic engagement. Many people do not have strong connections to their communities. In addition, we have vast unmet needs in our cities, our neighborhoods, and our other social infrastructure. Government has limited resources, and communities are suffering. But there is a generation of young people like me who want the opportunity to make a difference in our country by helping communities address their most difficult social challenges.

Flickr/Penn State / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

In his recent op-ed piece in the Financial Times, “Europe is a continent that has run out of ideas,” Economics Nobel Laureate Edmund Phelps hangs the near collapse of the world’s second largest economy on a failure of the collective culture to produce real innovators.

Courtesy of Detroit Greenways Coalition

The Next Idea 

In Detroit we have a real chance to do things with our land that no other major city in the world has ever done. From  growing food  and  producing solar power to planting trees and improving public health, Detroit’s 23 square miles  of vacant land  offers a future full of possibilities.

Courtesy of the Capital Region Community Foundation

The Next Idea

When we think of nonprofits, we often think of them helping people or working for causes that improve our quality of life but are difficult to monetize. And usually, it’s their work and their cause that inspire us to give.  

What’s often not mentioned, however, is just how much Michigan’s nonprofit sector also contributes to our economic well-being.

Our "comeback" could use more women investors

Aug 17, 2015
Courtesy of Inforum

The Next Idea

“I never really thought about it that way.”

As someone who regularly judges start-up pitch competitions across Michigan, I tend to hear this phrase rather often from my male colleagues.

We're all pedestrians but our streets beg to differ

Aug 13, 2015
Flickr/SDOT / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

If we’re going to make sure that Detroit’s neighborhoods are part of the city’s comeback, we need an agenda that focuses on integrated mobility within the region. Improved transportation is not only crucial for raising the quality of life for everyone who lives in the area, it also affects the entire state’s economic competitiveness. 

User CedarBendDrive/Flickr

The Next Idea

As public frustration with government mounts in response to the road funding impasse, some members of the state legislature are now joining in on the calls for reform. 

Courtesy of Sakti3

The Next Idea

Ann Marie Sastry is a former University of Michigan professor, a material science researcher, and the founder of Sakti3 -- one of 30 companies invited to showcase its work at the first-ever White House Demo Day.

She's developing the next generation of low-cost batteries, a solid state solution that has generated results and hype.  A Fortune magazine article titled "Will this battery change everything?" offers a detailed look into what stands to happen if the company can achieve the "holy grail of power storage."

Courtesy of Detroit Soup

The Next Idea 

There was an article in the Detroit Free Press last month about a family’s efforts to raise money through a GoFundMe campaign. The goal was to fix up a decaying home so that their mentally disabled relative didn’t have to move into a nursing home. As the article pointed out, the family asked the public for help, “and much of the public reacted with outrage.”

This hurts my heart. As someone who’s been working for the last five-plus years on building a non-profit in Detroit, I have seen firsthand how reluctant – even afraid – we are to help people here.

Non-partisan commission would make more Michigan votes count

Jul 27, 2015
Michigan House Republicans

A counterpoint to this essay can be found here

The Next Idea

Everybody who sets foot in a voting booth wants to know that their vote counts just as much as the vote of the next person in line. Faith in our democratic system rests on fair and representative elections.

Unfortunately, Michigan’s political map has been manipulated to the point that not all votes count the same. Politicians have drawn political districts so that in many places around our state, who wins or loses is a foregone conclusion long before the end of election night. They created the political map this way in order to give themselves and their party a head start in an election, much to the detriment of our democracy and your vote.

Michigan House Republicans

A counterpoint to this essay can be found here

The Next Idea  

If the Michigan AFL-CIO or the Michigan Chamber of Commerce were each drafting a proposed constitutional amendment to “reform” redistricting, it would be met with media derision, with each eventual proposal seen as favoring one political party over the other.

But, when the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and the Michigan Campaign Finance Network announce that they are part of a Collaborative working to draft an amendment, no similar skepticism has yet arisen. 

flickr/michigancommunities / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Next Idea

When I was ten years old, Kalamazoo was voted the All-American city by the National Civic League. We deserved it. We made the greatest guitars, the finest fishing rods and reels, and the best medicines, truck transmissions and automobile chassis in the world. Our downtown mall was featured in Look Magazine like it was a fabulous resort in Europe.

By the time I was 20 things had changed considerably. The venerable companies that had prospered for 100 years and given Kalamazoo its celebrated reputation began to wane, leave or fail altogether. There were cheaper, warmer and newer places to relocate. Many businesses did just that, and many people followed them.

Vet to media: We're not all broken

Jul 9, 2015
Courtesy of Jason Hale

The Next Idea

I am a veteran of two wars – one in Iraq, the other in Afghanistan.  Joining the military has been the best decision of my life.  But if you spend any time watching the news or scrolling through social media, you might wonder why I would say that. 

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