Seeds Of Collaborative Advantage:
Austin on the SuperHighway
Debra M. Amidon
In appreciation for your inspiration to value intellect,
innovation and international collaboration.
Through your demonstrated leadership, guiding hands and open hearts,
you have both touched me in ways to numerous to mention;
and I have grown - both personally and professionally.
There is no substitute for genuine care, supporting the road less traveled;
And it has made all the difference.
- Dedication to Dr. George and Ronya Kozmetsky (2003)
We convened at the IC2 Institute in Austin, Texas, celebrating their 25th anniversary as well celebrated the international launch of the new book - The Innovation SuperHighway - http://www.entovation.com/press-room/for-immediate-release.htm.
Joining us were E100 members including Darius Mahdjoubi, a PhD student at the University of Texas, Lynne Schneider, CEO of ESSI in Washington, D.C. and Dr. Javier Carrillo, Director of the Knowledge Systems Research Center (notably the first in the world), located at ITESM, Monterrey, Mexico.
Among those in attendance were Dr. John Butler, Alex Cavalli and Dr. David Gibson, the current principals of the Institute.
In 1982, I had been working on the team to bring the Microelectronics Computer and Technology Corporation (MCC) to Boston.
After all, we had the most successful Route 128 High Technology Belt and highest concentration of academic institutions than anywhere else in the world.
We were 'The Massachusetts Miracle' (Lampe, 1988). We expected that the San Francisco Bay area was our only formidable competitor with the then rapidly emerging Silicon Valley.
The principals of Control Data Corporation and Digital Equipment Corporation had been actively involved in charting a new course for US R&D - establishing a collaborative foundation for pre-competitive research.
They had studied the principles of the then highly successful Japanese Keiretsu - horizontally and vertically integrated groupings of firms.
They studied the plans for Tsukuba City - the first large-scale planned science city - that was designed to be a 'knowledge-generation' site (Gibson & Rogers, 1994).
And they studied the plans for the Technopolis strategy to link the castle towns of the nation with superhighway infrastructures (Tatsuno, 1986).
The decision stunned the economic development community when the announcement was made that this national treasure would be based in Austin, Texas.
This was a pivotal decision orchestrated with a combined academia, government and industrial bid that established new rules for the soon-to-be innovation landscape of the modern enterprise - although few realized its importance at the time.
Collaboration - with all the difficulties if implementation - was to become the modern management modus operandi.
From Barren Landscape to Industrial Powerhouse
I remember my first trip to Austin in 1984 to review the initial research and technology transfer plans of this new research consortium.
I was impressed by meeting with Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, the Corporation’s first CEO, who was the former Director of the National Security Agency and Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
I marveled at the plans for a new MCC facility - a researcher's dream and an ideal location to create, exchange new knowledge in a spirit of collaboration that transcended the walls of significantly competitive firms.
I must admit, however, as I looked at the relatively barren landscape (sorry, but remember I was from Massachusetts), I wondered how the talent needed to succeed would be recruited to Texas.
I returned only 18 short months later and it seems that a city had been built overnight!
Already there were highways and skyways to rival a mature industrial complex…and it was only the beginning.
It did not take long for us to realize, in fact, that the 'infrastructure' that had been so eloquently crafted by local leaders such as Dr. George Kozmetsky, Founder and Director of the IC2 Institute, was not of bricks and mortar.
It was, instead, a vibrant 'social capital' infrastructure founded on the intelligence and interactions of people sharing with common purpose and shared vision.
They called it 'collaborative individualism' - these managerial architects of MCC.
It was similar to 'entrepreneurial teamwork' - the core value of Digital Equipment Corporation, the 3rd official company to join.
It was based upon a 'technopolis wheel' emphasizing the public/private collaboration across the academic, business and government sectors (Smilor, Gibson and Kozmetsky, 1988).
A new form of technology transfer was being innovated - one that relied upon the flow of knowledge (not technology per se) to and from MCC.
Success would be based upon the quality and intensity of those interactions.
There was considerable energy in the deliberations - and excitement, if you will, that a new era was coming…and indeed, it was.
The restrictive country anti-trust laws were rewritten; arch-competitors were collaborating and people were discussing possibilities - across functions, across businesses and even across nations.
The process of innovation was being redefined forever and we were all eagerly participating in that evolution.
That was the beginning. Now there are numerous programs underway designed to bootstrap the capabilities of the region and, in effect, the innovation capacity of the state.
For instance, the E-Learning & Training Labs is a collaboratory ("laboratory without walls") that brings together transdisciplinary teams from academia, business, and government to help ensure that the nation has a skilled workforce when it needs to meet the challenges of the coming century.
The base 45-hour EnterTech program - is an instructor-led Web-based workforce-training program that simulates "on-the-job" experiences and rapidly imparts crucial personal growth & development skills to disadvantaged adults and at-risk youth.
A compendium professional program - The Career Initiative Project - provides students with realistic simulations of occupations, enabling them to make informed decisions on career and college pathways critical to their future. The ELT labs include:
- Career Ladders and Worker Retraining - Employers need better methods to match people to their career ladders and to retrain incumbent workers. In the fast-paced evolution of the knowledge-based economy, workers must be able to learn and adapt quickly. Everyone must cultivate meta-cognitive skills to remain competitive.
- Workforce Public Policy - The Workforce Investment Act and the national workforce system require further enhancements to positively impact the entire breadth of worker development needs. From the working poor who require skill upgrades to qualify for livable wage jobs, to dislocated workers who must quickly learn new trades and occupations, the workforce development system must become more agile and responsive to individual worker needs and labor market trends.
- Influencing Career Choices - How to effectively market careers critical to economic growth is a question of concern and consequence to our global prosperity. The marketing of careers to youth, adults and even mature workers seeking a career change will require exposure to science, technology, healthcare, education, and financial service occupations.
- Instructional Technologies - ELT Labs explores advances in computer-based technologies and the science of human learning to enable more personalized learning environments that are responsive to individual differences.
The EnterTech Project is the development of a support model including a unique, realistic, interactive approach to training designed to provide employers with employees that are
(l) ready for entry-level positions in technology and related supply and service industries;
(2) equipped to solve work-related problems and add value to their workplace;
(3) prepared to continue improving their skills and education.
The Governor of the State of Texas is providing funding to support the project.
The IC2 Institute, The University of Texas at Austin facilitates the project for a coalition of more than 70 employers, community-based organizations, educators and policy makers.
Targeted learners are high school and college students, dislocated workers, incumbent workers, recipients of public assistance, and unemployed or underemployed people.
Perhaps one of the most progressive experiments in crossing geographic territorial boundaries resides on the border of Mexico and the United States.
Imagine if the 'border' between two countries did not - in actuality - exist?
What might that bode for the innovation capability and economic development of the region?
The Cross-Border Institute for Regional Development (CBIRD) is a bi-national development initiative.
By bringing together the academic, government and private enterprise sectors on both sides of the border, as well as foundations and non-government organizations (NGO's) in the region, principals assist in identifying opportunities to rethink, reshape and restructure solutions for a prosperous Border region.
CBIRD's main objective is to empower the grassroots efforts of local communities to shape their own future.
It will help create and share wealth with all citizens of the region, bring equitable prosperity, and protect the environment and the quality of life.
CBIRD offers a unique opportunity for all regional stakeholders to participate through dynamic civic and social entrepreneurship.
It will also allow them to promote sustainable development of the Border region through the creation of a knowledge-based economy driven by leading-edge technology and industries.
As an independent and neutral catalyst and an advocate for the future, CBIRD assists in transforming the Border region into a vibrant and prosperous economic development zone in the Americas.
Through communication, cooperation, collaboration and integration of local and regional communities, CBIRD's vision of "One Region - One Future" will be realized.
The Texas-Mexico border forms a uniquely intertwined, bi-national and multi-cultural community.
In order to respond to the challenge of fulfilling the need to create, shape and build a dynamic and prosperous 21st century border region, the initiative will harness the capability of the region to " think" and "do" as a community-based organization.
They are driven by a "bottom-up" approach using a "think globally and act locally and vice versa" proactive process.
Shaping the region, one program at a time, the principals plan to create a bi-national region through planning and analysis as well as hard work and determination.
CBIRD is committed to working with local communities and their leadership to establish collaborative core programs that help grow and shape the region.
Drivers of the 21st Century
One major initiative that has not received much visibility to-date are the results of a conference held at The Getty Center, April 25-26, 2002, on "Transcending Ideology and technology for a Trusting Society".
This, of course, is in keeping with the World Economic Forum (WEF) declaring 2003 the year of Trust - at Davos this week in Switzerland.
In the Getty's meeting, 40 leaders assembled to assess topics such as listening and sense-making, global wealth-creation, building community with the arts, and co-creation as part of a musical experience.
Complete with real-time artist graphics (commonly now referred to as knowledge visualization), the workshops captured insights as stories were told and experiences shared.
Dr. Kozmetsky outlined the problem: The pace of change and our difficulty of comprehension and preparation.
Consequently, we are operating with a crisis mentality; a multiplicity of issues, roles and responsibilities; and the emergence of new institutions, labor unions and foundations.
He suggests, "Capitalism has been an ideology that drives democracy. The solution, then, is the need for and integrated national policy (e.g., political, economic, moral and cultural)".
In the meeting, he outlined a construct for a trusting and inclusive society. Such an ideology consists of 5 basic components:
- The individual human being, his or her rights and place in society, the definition of the individual's self-respect and the means by which these are achieved.
- The means by which his individual rights are to be guaranteed.
- The mechanisms and criteria for controlling the exploitation of natural and material resources.
- The role of state and the function of government.
- The nature and organization or knowledge, particularly the function of science.
These systems are interdependent in such a change in one has an automatic effect on the other.
Dr. Peter Drucker suggests that there are dominant characteristics of knowledge-workers: borderlessness (knowledge travels more effortlessly than money); upward mobility (available to everyone through easily acquired formal education; and potential for failure as well as success (anyone can acquire knowledge for the job, but not everyone can win).
In summary and as referenced in the IC2 2002 Strategic Plan, technology alone is not sufficient to address the list of issues presented. Solutions require not simply individual and isolated developments, but the integration of disparate aspects of our economy and society, a deeper understanding of large-scale systems and collaboration on a national and global scale.
25 Years of Progress
It would be impossible to capture the importance of the IC2 Institute (http://www.ic2.org), Its hundreds of research Fellows around the world and the plethora of significant publications many of which have been authored by Dr. George Kozmetsky himself - in the field of innovation, capitalism and new forms of collaborative partnering that has set the standard worldwide for decades. With 25 years of progress, it has been in recent years, however, that some of the most breakthrough initiatives have matured.
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