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The Next Idea

Only a few decades ago, Israel was a virtual ghost town for business. Now, it’s considered one of the most innovative and energetic economies in the world, earning the nickname “Start-up Nation.”

In November, a group of Michigan CEOs traveled to Israel to see firsthand what makes the country so ideal for new businesses — and what lessons we might take to heart here in Michigan.

Flickr /

The Next Idea

The 21st century software industry owes a lot to a certain 18th century inventor.

Open source innovation is a phrase we tend to associate with post-millennial creativity, but it’s actually a 300-year-old idea. Benjamin Franklin famously did not patent his lighting rod, his bifocals, his stove, and many other of his inventions because he thought that these ideas were simply too important not to share.

This is the same mindset behind today’s open source movement: unrestricted access to designs, products, and ideas to be used by an unlimited number of people in a variety of sectors for diverse purposes.

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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.

flickr user Jim Sorbie /

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.

Daniel Howes /

All week long, Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes is accompanying more than 20 Michigan CEOs as they examine the thriving economy of Israel, looking for lessons that can be applied to Michigan. 

Courtesy of Daniel Howes /

This week, more than 20 of Michigan's top CEOs are on what you might call a field trip.

They're visiting Israel to discover what it took to transform that nation from virtually nothing into one of the most innovative economies in the world, all in the span of just 70 years.

Flickr/ /

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?

Jon Vander Pol /

Exported from Michigan is a documentary film that explores the way Michiganders are employing resilience, creativity, toughness, and innovation to pull our state back from the depths of the Great Recession.

Earlier this year the film won the 2015 Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Length Documentary at the International Beverly Hills Film Festival.

John Vander Pol wrote, produced, and directed the film.

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

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 /

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.

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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.

With each new idea, momentum builds in Detroit

Jun 18, 2015
Courtesy of Focus: HOPE

The Next Idea 

Innovation is at the center of Detroit’s inclusive recovery. Yet this word “innovation” is used so often that its meaning tends to get a little obscured.

Rather than the narrow definition of technological advancement, the meaning of innovation we should use in Detroit is about doing things differently, redefining our future, and challenging ourselves to move beyond business as usual. 

People who are elderly, poor, or not white have new ideas too

Jun 15, 2015
Flickr/George A. Spiva Center for the Arts

The Next Idea

“We never know where the next big innovation is going to come from.”

That’s a common phrase we hear over and over, and it is true. 

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.

New immigrants are crucial to Michigan's future

Feb 26, 2015

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. 

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

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

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. 

Focus on STEM overshadows importance of music education

Jan 5, 2015

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.


Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” -- Kenneth Boulding, economist and political philosopher

As we approach the holidays and we are encouraged to do our civic duty by shopping until we drop, it may be helpful for us to reflect on the concept of innovation and what it may mean to us as consumers.

Time to turn Michigan's "three economies" into one

Dec 1, 2014

When it comes to economic growth in Michigan, one size does not fit all. Take a look at the varying scope and scale of companies here and you’ll find a general pattern of three different types of businesses associated with different regions:  large multinational corporations in Southeast Michigan, small high-tech start-ups in Ann Arbor, and family-owned, mid-size companies in Western Michigan.

Missy Schmidt / Flickr

The creative, the visionary, and the just plain out there.

That’s the goal of Michigan Radio’s new project, The Next Idea.

The on-air and online project will focus on creativity and innovation and ideas to move Michigan forward.

We’ll be featuring this project here on Stateside and we will look to you and ask for your ideas.

Michigan's future starts with new ideas

Nov 17, 2014

Americans love the next thing: the newest gadget, the latest fashion, and all manner of ground-breaking artistic creations. In fact, our entire worldview, economic system, and personal behavior are based on the idea that progress and growth is good.

We are driven to be better and new.

Detroit is now home to a designated “innovation district.”

Mayor Mike Duggan and other officials announced Thursday that Detroit was joining the Brookings Institution national initiative to recharge metropolitan economies.

Backers say those districts are a way to “supercharge the innovation economy.”

user clbinelli / Wikimedia Commons

As Michigan struggles back to economic health, there is plenty of talk about innovators, entrepreneurs and risk-takers being a big part of our recovery. 

And that fits right in with Michigan's history.

Editor R.J. King recently wrote a piece for DBusiness looking at Michigan's history of innovations and inventions. He joins us today.

Listen to the full interview above.