Franz Johansson, M.B.A.
The ADEA Opening Plenary featured Frans Johansson, M.B.A., author of The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts and Culture. A founder of both a medical device company and a software company, Mr. Johansson explores how innovation happens when people look beyond their expertise and put resources together in new combinations. Mr. Johansson began his plenary session by posing the following question and answer to an audience of over 1,000 people: “How do we create groundbreaking ideas? By combining widely different ideas.”
A diversity of perspectives, industries, and backgrounds drives innovation. It takes 15 days for a Spanish company to design a blouse, manufacture it, and place it on the market. A quintuple bypass that costs $120,000 in the United States is now available for $12,000 in Thailand. And the pace of change is speeding up. For example, in Zimbabwe, an architect studied termite mounds, which have a constant internal temperature of 70°F, and used them as a model to create a building with a passive ventilation system that uses 90% less energy than its surrounding buildings, maintaining a constant indoor temperature of 78°F.
“Why is this approach of bringing together divergent ideas so fruitful?” asked Mr. Johansson. There are three reasons: All new ideas are combinations of existing ideas; innovative and diverse teams generate and execute far more ideas (quantity relates to quality); and, at the “intersection,” we come up with better ideas because we come up with more ideas.
Creating diverse teams is key to successful innovation. In academia, this is low-hanging fruit, but that alone is not sufficient. Mr. Johansson pointed out that humans are attracted to that which is familiar and similar, so having diversity present is not enough. There must also be interaction.
Diverse teams can outperform homogenous teams, but it takes time to develop teamwork. One graph showed how homogenous teams take off at a faster rate but then plateau, while diverse teams continue to rise in performance after an adjustment period. This is important to keep in mind as the concept of IPE moves forward in implementation.
The pathway to groundbreaking ideas starts with the smallest executable step. It may fail, but you learn and build on it. The execution of intersectional ideas is circuitous. The path involves making mistakes.
If you wish to drive change, stepping into an intersection is not risky.
Discourse and Dessert with U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin
ADEA was proud to welcome the 18th Surgeon General of the United States, Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., to the popular Evening Plenary on Gender Issues: Discourse and Dessert on Sunday evening. Appointed to the position of Surgeon General in 2009 by President Barack Obama, Dr. Benjamin has had a career full of twists and turns that she often describes in bringing attention to the state of health care for the country's underserved populations.
Dr. Benjamin is founder and CEO of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic, located on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. The clinic was destroyed by Hurricane Georges in 1998. During Discourse and Dessert, Dr. Benjamin shared stories about her patients that illustrated both the joys and difficulties of caring for the underserved.
Over the course of the evening, she also discussed some of the challenges she faced in her career. She ended the night talking about the importance of overall health and adjusting to the mindset of complete patient care. "If we truly want to reform health care, we have to work together to keep people from getting sick," said Dr. Benjamin. "Almost everything we do, even if it's not labeled health or prevention, affects our health."
Political Spotlight with Michael E. Murphy
The ADEA Political Spotlight on Monday morning introduced political strategist and analyst Michael E. Murphy, who has been called the leader of a “new breed” of campaign consultants by Congressional Quarterly. He has handled strategy and advertising for more than 26 successful senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns. His presentation was lively and seeded with personal anecdotes, humor, and thought-provoking analysis of current political trends and polling data.
The most predictive polling question is “Are we on the right track or the wrong track?” Mr. Murphy noted that prior to the last election, a Gallup poll said that 82% of Americans believed we were on the wrong track. Immediately after the election, the same poll showed the opposite. Now, two years after the election, polling data has reversed back to “the wrong track” result, and he noted the problem that with a platform of hope and change come instant expectations. The budget impasse is bringing the “wrong track” numbers back up.
He sees the Republicans’ lack of support among Latinos as their greatest weakness. As Mr. Murphy pointed out, José is currently the number-one name of male babies born in Texas. Nevertheless, he believes the party has an excellent shot at winning the Senate in 2012.
In answer to a question posed about the continuous attacks on health care reform (also called “Obamacare”), Mr. Murphy responded: "Nobody knows what Obamacare is, so [opponents and supporters] can project on it whatever they want. Since it was not bipartisan, it incentivizes the Republicans to attack it. Voters just don't trust the government.”
As Mr. Murphy closed, he praised the Association’s advocacy efforts. "Your association does a great job,” he said. “It is highly respected in D.C. Get out there and advocate."
Self-described as the daughter of two college professors, a member of generation Y, and a journalist, Ms. Kamenetz is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated author who covers the future of business for Fast Company magazine. Her book, Generation Debt: The New Economics of Being Young, posits that young people face unique and unprecedented economic challenges. In her Tuesday morning plenary session, she drew upon her generation-specific experiences and broad research to offer attendees insight into rising educational costs, debt load, the use of technology, work-life balance, and career passion.
“The growing demand for higher education is creating pressure on institutions to change,” said Ms. Kamenetz. She pointed out that there are 120 million higher education students today and that by 2025, 250 million individuals will be seeking higher education. "We don't have the resources to double capacity using the current model. It's not going to happen through bricks and mortar,” she said. “The demand in India alone would require a new campus for 1000 people every week until 2025."
Ms. Kamenetz pointed out that tuition costs have spiraled upward faster than the costs of other goods and services. "In the United States, higher education is for everyone, not just monks or rich white men," she offered as one reason for the surge. She also pointed out that the cost of education is shifting away from states and to individuals. Ms. Kamenetz dates the rise in tuition to the introduction of student loans in 1972, noting that the availability of cheap financing always leads to rising prices. Aggregate student loan debt surpassed aggregate credit card debt last summer. She then posed this question to the audience: “Do you think of business can survive if it raises its prices at twice the rate of inflation? No, it's not sustainable."
According to Ms. Kamenetz, in the future, education will have three open components: content, socialization, and accreditation.
Content will be open, free and unlimited, and can be updated. People are being paid for making the content once, not for selling it. She used the Open Courseware Consortium/CMU Open Learning Initiative as an example. The Obama administration has invested $2 billion in community college course creation for vocational education that will then be made available for use around the world.
In open socialization, distance technologies can bring us together. YouTube can be a personal learning network, and peer learning may be formalized. As an example, she discussed the University of Southern California School of Social Work’s online master’s program that reduces costs and improves experience.
Open accreditation will work in parallel with traditional accreditation. Ms. Kamenetz cited University of Mary Washington students who share their knowledge through blogs. These become portfolios that validate learning and can be shared with future employers. She discussed data-driven career planning, sorting through alumni networks to find connections, and mentors.
A questioner suggested that in future ADEA meetings, sessions be held to help faculty develop skills in open content. Dr. Lynn Johnson of the University of Michigan replied that she held a symposium on this topic last year and 15 people showed up. Dr. Michael Siegel raised the issue of copyright law. Ms. Kamenetz responded that there are ways to incorporate both licensed and unlicensed content in courseware.
On the bright side, she noted it would have been impossible to wire every place on the planet for telephone service, yet the problem of connecting people was solved with the advent of mobile technology.
In discussing assessments, she said, "You need to leverage peer and computer assessment. Clinical evaluation has to be person-to-person. How fast would the profession improve if you had a Yelp (an online community-driven review site) review that had statistics on quality of care?"
ADEA President Sandra C. Andrieu closed the plenary with a final thought: “We spend so much time trying to learn about the younger generation, but I think we need to sit in your world for a while. Without experiencing it as you do, it's going to be hard for us to make the progress we want to make."