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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

Designers, engineers connect poetry to safer batteries

Apr 23, 2015
Max Shtein

The Next Idea

This summer, as the latest installment in the Jurassic Park franchise hits movie theaters, we’ll be confronted with a larger-than-life, in-your-face reminder of the dark side of innovation, as a bunch of scientists yet again get so caught up in their inventiveness that they fail to imagine the consequences.

How to welcome more immigrants to Flint, Saginaw

Apr 20, 2015
Flickr/Michigan Municipal League

The Next Idea

I am a daughter of immigrants who grew up in Michigan's Indian and Pakistani community. Most often the response people have when they hear this is to ask: “Why, with all the glamorous cities in America, would so many people from South Asia choose to come to the Midwest?”

Detroit can be model for how to do things right

Apr 13, 2015
Flickr/Michigan Municipal League

The Next Idea

When we hear the term “perfect storm,” the image that generally comes to mind is one of a high-level disaster.

The phrase is relatively new, though its use as the title of the 1993 Sebastian Junger novel which inspired the 2000 film of the same name has accelerated its use in the cultural lexicon.  However, no common dictionary definition for it exists. 

Courtesy of Laurentide Winery

The Next Idea

When was the last time you drank a bottle of Michigan wine? If it’s difficult to remember, you are sadly not alone.

We will pay for our lack of respect for teachers

Apr 2, 2015
Courtesy of TeachingWorks

The Next Idea

Teaching matters. We know that it can make the difference between a child learning to read by third grade, being confident in math, and developing the mindset necessary for success. Yet skillful teaching is not commonplace, and it’s hurting our society. Three reasons stand out:

We already know what it takes to train great teachers

Mar 30, 2015
Flickr/BES Photo

The Next Idea

Just a couple of years ago, a colleague of mine – a woman who has taught for over 25 years – broke down in front of me after school one day and cried her eyes out.

She felt like she was failing her students, not because of her inability as a teacher, but because “the system” has increasingly made it impossible for her to meet their needs. 

Elaine Fogel

The Next Idea

For new ideas to flourish, for innovations to truly take hold and change our communities, we hear all the time that we in Michigan need to connect and collaborate more and be more civil to each other. But how, exactly?

Collaboration and civility are feel-good abstractions that well-meaning folks use, but often without offering a clear pathway to actually achieving improvement. Instead, we are left with flimsy takeaways that basically say, “Just try harder to be more open” or "Just go meet people." 

Flickr

The Next Idea

Michigan will never be the next Silicon Valley.

Michigan can't compete with the allure of the Coasts, or even Chicago, for the nation's best talent.

Michigan investors and politicians are too conservative to support true innovation.

Sarah Hulett/Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

You’ve heard the impassioned arguments about public transportation in Michigan. Let’s start with the rational. Our roads are among the worst in the nation. Our lawmakers have clearly demonstrated that they are not up to the task of maintaining our aging infrastructure. Michigan, a state known for producing automobiles, has become a place where it is increasingly difficult to drive one.

Flickr

The Next Idea

For more than a century and a half, our education system has been designed around a model that prioritizes the standard delivery of instructional content and persistently focuses on what should be “covered."  This model may have served the needs of public education through the first half of the 20th century, but not today.

Michigan must divide in order to conquer

Mar 9, 2015
Flickr

The Next Idea

When people think of Michigan, a number of iconic images come to mind – a long assembly line, acres of cherry orchards, miles of gorgeous coastline. This wide variety of industry, agriculture and tourism contributes to the resilience of our $400 billion economy and is what makes Michigan special. But these industries and regions also have very different requirements to help them grow. The challenge lies in how to foster growth in each one without competing against each other so that some Michigan residents win only when others lose.

Flickr/Martha Soukup

The Next Idea

Living in Michigan, we experience incivility on a daily basis, from simply driving down pot-hole filled roads to attending public meetings to logging into our social media accounts. This has to change, and not just so our Facebook feeds can feel more like a cocktail party -- though that’s not a bad place to start.

Courtesy of Michigan Modern

The Next Idea

Did you know that barbecue grills, refrigerators and hospital beds were all designed in Michigan? What about the electric toothbrush and the golf cart?

These products, and thousands more, are just some of the many everyday items that Michigan’s industrial designers gave the world.

New immigrants are crucial to Michigan's future

Feb 26, 2015
Flickr/Icars

The Next Idea

Every American family has a genesis story about how they came to be in this country: escaping a cruel despot, searching for elusive riches, or enslaved by brutal overlords. Only the few that were made foreigners in their own lands can claim to be the original Americans. Somewhere along the way, you or your ancestors had to overcome the perils of the journey, the acquisition of the language, the challenges of employment, and the stigma of prejudice and intolerance. Regrettably, some are still struggling to this day.

Robin Deits

The Next Idea

The success of Michigan’s future economy will rely on more of our children engaging with science and technology. Their personal futures will depend on it too.

Innovation is not always the answer

Feb 19, 2015
Flickr/Paul Hamilton

The Next Idea

Innovation is a big word. 

I must confess I haven’t given it much thought in more than a decade, since I was in the last semester of my MBA program in India. Probably that’s because, back then, the word came up too often. Innovation this, innovation that. Innovate. Innovate. Innovate. 

Technology pushes companies to work for us

Feb 16, 2015

The Next Idea

The world is rapidly changing, in case you haven’t noticed.  How we fundamentally interact with businesses, with government, and with each other is moving in directions that we are only starting to comprehend.

Flickr/Brian Flickinger

The Next Idea

Technological innovation alone doesn’t improve education. We often assume that the latest gadgets and software will change everything — that they will make things easier and better and solve larger problems. The truth is that technology is just one aspect in a larger web of cultural issues, and new breakthroughs by themselves will not have a broad effect on overall learning.

Courtesy of GM

The Next Idea

It can often be difficult to imagine just how much the latest innovations will truly affect our lives. The smartphone’s contributions, for example, are now obvious; the Segway’s, not so much.

One industry, however, that offers some of the clearest examples of how technology and new innovations will fundamentally change our world is the auto industry.

From driverless cars and 3-D printers, to shifting demographic and transportation trends, automakers are competing to find the best, most efficient innovations that will reshape everything from the way we buy (or share) cars to how we drive (or won’t) in the coming decades.

Standards and efficiency stifle innovation

Feb 5, 2015
BILL PUGLIANO GETTY IMAGES

The Next Idea

Most descriptions of innovation end up in overreaching hyperbole: groundbreaking, disruptive, radical. This shouldn’t surprise anyone because innovation is basically a type of positive deviance, a form of useful novelty. What separates a new soft drink that has a hint of cherry flavor from a vaccine that prevents the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease is the magnitude and speed at which it deviates from the norm. 

The Next Idea

Venture capital flow into Michigan has been steadily increasing since 2008, but the state saw a remarkable uptick last year. According to a report released last month by the National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers, venture capital investment in Michigan nearly doubled, up from $111 million in 2013 to $219 million last year.  

Lots of talk about Main Street, yet few ways to invest

Jan 29, 2015
Michigan Main Street Center

The Next Idea

Following the 2008 crisis, many of my colleagues and I in the financial advising industry started to notice a curious thing. More clients began asking about where, exactly, their money was being invested. They wanted to know how to get some or all of it out of “the system," and quite a few added: "Oh by the way, do you know where I can learn about starting a business? I have an idea.”

Lindsey Smith/Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

Michigan’s economy is changing, and our state’s investment culture must change along with it. As we work to diversify by stimulating entrepreneurship, innovation and talent attraction, among many other things, more Michigan residents with money to invest must learn to see that betting on new local businesses is worthwhile, even if the potential for them to fail is high. 

Flickr/CityGypsy11

The Next Idea

In the recent elections last November, Michigan had the lowest turnout, percentage-wise, since 1990. 

Recent national polls show more citizens lack trust in elected officials to serve the public good over private interests than ever before. Elections across the country are now more driven by the excessive wealth of a few, mostly white males, who also help shape the issues discussed, and when they are discussed.

Flickr

The Next Idea

The early history of the Michigan economy is a study in diversity: fur trading, lumbering, furniture making, dairy and fruit farming, salt mining, and who can forget cereal making. But starting with the American Century, the Michigan economy has become the most one-dimensional in all of the United States. Our fortunes come and go with the automotive industry. 

Courtesy of optiMize

The Next Idea

In his essay for The Next Idea, contributor Jamie Shea, who helps finance social enterprises, argues that Michigan has an opportunity to become a global leader in new ideas to solve age-old social problems. One reason Michigan has this potential, he says, is because “new social enterprises are often led by Millennials who want to align their work with their values.  

Courtesy of Urban Ashes

The Next Idea

I think most people would agree that Michigan is on the rebound. In Detroit, where I live, new restaurants are popping up on a weekly basis, national retailers are moving in, and corporations are opening new offices. This hint of change in the Pure Michigan air is still polluted, however, by many of the same intractable issues -- homelessness, unequal access to education and food, and environmental degradation, to name a few. Much like the rest of our economy, these old problems require a new approach.

Focus on STEM overshadows importance of music education

Jan 5, 2015
Flickr

The Next Idea

When we talk about building an education system that prepares children for the creative thinking and collaboration skills necessary in today’s -- and tomorrow’s --  job market, there’s an amazing resource here in Michigan that, like most places, gets almost criminally overlooked: music educators.

Luther College_Photo Bureau / Flickr

Is Michigan just too modest, too Midwestern in the way it treats its prominent entrepreneurs? Jeff DeGraff thinks the answer might be yes.

DeGraff is a clinical professor of management and organizations at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and our partner for the Next Idea. Jeff DeGraff has two questions for listeners:

How would you identify the best and the brightest? And what kinds of help would you give them?

The Next Idea

You may have never heard of Joseph Schumpeter, an eccentric Austrian economist who taught at Harvard in the 1930s and '40s. But to those of us who study the strategic and financial dynamics of innovation, he is far more influential than his peers John Maynard Keynes or Milton Friedman. Schumpeter is the guy who made the entrepreneur the engine of growth for an economy, and several Nobel Laureates since have suggested that he was right on most counts.

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