Facebook’s 32-year-old billionaire founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has been touring the country. He made stops in Michigan recently. He toured Ford’s Rouge plant and even tried his hand at putting parts on an F-150 pickup truck. Turns out time on the assembly line is hard work. He also privately met with Muslim students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
In the early 1990s, I visited billionaire George Soros’ office in New York City to provide some direction on an investment his firm had made in a technology startup run by senior Israeli Air Force officers. Their technology was something akin to an iPod, and this was almost a decade before you could store your entire music collection on a device the size of a bar of soap.
A few years before the Great Recession, I was an advisor to the Federal Reserve Bank. I provided some limited advice on how to stimulate growth through innovation. It was too little, too late. Many financial experts far more capable than myself tried to help prevent the imminent collapse. But the politicians were sure they knew more about our economic system than the experts. Hindsight proves they knew very little and it was the everyday American who suffered from their ignorance and arrogance.
Thirty years ago, University of Chicago Professor Allan Bloom published The Closing of the American Mind. The book deconstructed higher education’s failure to prepare students with the knowledge necessary to lead enlightened lives. Bloom’s emphasis on reading the Great Books was met with adulation by conservatives, who viewed it as a declaration of traditional values, and with condemnation by progressives who thought the work was a perpetuation of social class inequities.
So here we are at the end of one of the most odious and vitriolic campaigns in memory. Rather than adding yet more commentary, I’d like to dig deeper into a claim both parties make – that they will bring jobs back to the U.S. The question no one is asking is “where exactly will the jobs come from?”
If everyone knows of 20th century Detroit as the Motor City, what's Detroit's identity today and what should it be for the future? Every Thursday on our Next Idea segment, we look at the innovations and we look at the new ideas that could reshape Michigan.
“I would love to see a renaissance in innovation here in the state of Michigan”
Those are the words of Jeff DeGraff, a professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. DeGraff knows very well that one of the biggest challenges in business is taking a great idea and bringing it to the marketplace and making it grow.
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.