The other day I got this through my friend Jan, who just recently finished his PhD. This is a video animation of a presentation of Steven Johnson, based on his new book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation.

He explains the idea of how meeting places where such a great place for innovation, back in the day (and today), and all the time it took to develop ideas. For sure, there were people who talk more, and people who would listen more. But all good benefited. You could go to the table that shares your interests, once in a while. I think that is the same principle in twitter.

I have to admit that my twitter log, (which once in a while I copy in a doc for easier findings), help me a lot to get ideas to include in papers. Therefore I’m very grateful to this tool. It comes a lot of inspiration, and try to keep the people I follow to a minimum, to restrict it for my work. (I don’t know how people can follow more than 150 people, no offense, but there is an optimization point.) Anyways, the thing is that twitter can help to exchange ideas, unfortunately it does not leave too much room for discussion.

I love these animations. Another good one is David Harvey’s (if you don’t know him, is the most quoted geographer), “The Crisis of Capitalism”.

Picture used by GABA, the organizors of the conference

On Wednesday and Thursday I went to the “Building Innovation Bridges between Silicon Valley and Europe” Conference. It was very nice to meet all these European people here in the Bay Area. I liked the first day meeting in Google headquarters (these are actually several buildings, it reminded me a little bit the one of Intel). It was very stimulating listening to Alberto Savoia, Director of Engineering at Google and the extreme innovation concept. Among other things, I think it’s a fantastic idea what Google does with their employees and the 20% rule, in which they can work in whatever project they have created on aprox. 1/5 of his time. It’s just a great example to encourage intrapreneurship, and being successful.

On the next day there were several panels. They were very knowledgeable, however I would have to say that I was not very satisfied with the couple of questions I did. I have to say though, that I’m now more interested on policy making than business strategies, so here my bias. The first question was to a one to a panel of 5 experts in Venture Capital and Business Angels, was “How can we improve the ‘ecosystem’ (the always use this word here) the European cities in order to have investors invest in our own young people, such as young engineers who would like to start a business?” They dodged the question, I think basically because they don’t care about European cities. The only thing they basically answered was something like “send your kids here, pay us, and we will teach them how to innovate”. Somewhat egocentric.

My second question was directed to a panel of representatives of of several European organizations, the majority subsidized by the national governments (Denmark, Ireland, Germany, Finland, Italy, and others in the room present, Estonia, France, the Netherlands, UK, Czech Republic, etc.). My question was something like: “The majority of your organizations are specialized in bringing European entrepreneurs to the Silicon Valley… (some nod their head). We talk about bridges, and that bridges are for traffic in both directions. In a previous panel a successful European entrepreneur here said that in 20 years, never a politician or any organization has asked to come back. He said he would really think about it if being asked. China, who has been mentioned here several times about being a strong competitor, has a strong policy of sending people abroad and really building bridges with their people, so they can give/come back. Does any of you, or do you know about any organization who assists entrepreneurs to bring back to Europe?”. They avoid the question, and basically it was “no”. Which I found somewhat disturbing.

Everyone wants to be wanted. I think that this is something we’re missing. There is an amazing knowledge overseas, who could really help back at home, but they’re completely forgotten. To put an example, more than a century ago when they wanted to electrify the country, they did not know how to do it. Then they made efforts to recruit Scandinavians who had worked in the U.S. cities setting up the electric grid. They came back and helped in a crucial sector. (Jensen, Johnson, Lorenz & Lundvall, 2007. “Forms of Knowledge, Modes of Innovation and Innovation Systems”, Research Policy. Vol. 36 ( 5), 680-693.). People felt wanted. I know this also from me personal experience. My father he’s originally from Ecuador. He has always dreamed of going back there since he left in the 1970’s. He would be the most happy man in the world if his home country would ask him to do something. In fact in one occasion they asked them to do something and he really devoted his heart to do it.

I think there is a lot of potential in that strategy. Reinhard Bütikofer, a politician from the EU Parliament, he picked the idea and suggested some stuff in that line. Like inviting some successful expats entrepreneurs in America, to come back to Europe to give some presentations to EU entrepreneurs.

All in all, it was a good conference. GABA is very nice organization and I wish them the best. But we should be careful, as an American guy told me, to do not “drink the kool-aid” that many here in Silicon Valley are trying to sell. We need to take an effort to learn from these amazing firms, but also keep in mind that, innovation is NOT only high-tech.

Now I have to write a lot of people, I got plenty of cards after asking the questions.

A few days ago, I joined the Workshop Institutions, Innovation and Development. I missed some sessions, but overall I can say it was an outstanding activity. I enjoyed the paper of Lundvall et al. on how looking at the systems of innovation, this was presented by Cristina Chaminade (she’s from Spain too!). The following discussion seemed very stimulating too.
Also J. Fansberg made an engaging presentation of his findings, linking the relationship between some indicators and economic development. Education, Finance, Tech, and other usual suspects were there. Two that seemed interesting to me were the importance of social cohesion (trust, tolerance, civic engagement, etc.) and that “openess to trade” has no relationship with economic development. As he said that’s a blow to the Washington Consensus. There were other geographical and sociological indicators that I would not mention until are published. But I would say that they were quite controversial.
Overall there were good presentations as you can see in the link I provided above. But probably the best one was the one form Carlota Perez. (another Spanish one!, ok Venezuela)
She focused on the financial crisis linked to her famous techno-economic paradigms. I included some of these graphs in a paper conference I participated a year ago. It’s still so relevant that I’m going to put her whole presentation, this was for and ICT conference in San Francisco. The one she did last week in this workshop focused more on the financial aspects, such as the “financial casino” vs. “real wealth creation”. As J. Fansberg pointed out, it can not be a coincidence that we have at the same time all these crises all across the public and private sector, including for example the car industry. We’re in a turning point in history. You can see slides 24-27 to better have a picture.

The other day I met Google Trends, a powerful tool. I think still some unprecise, but it can bring useful info. I started looking at some of the keywords of my research interest, like “innovation” & “entrepreneurship”,  

Comparing searches of \

We can comment a few things. First, people are more interested in “innovation” than “entrepreneurship”. Even if some of us, keep saying that “Entrepreneurs or Intrapreneurs, We Couldn’t Innovate Without Them” (Mary Key, today). Second thing is that Copenhague and Singapore, are the  most interested city/regions in the world about innovation (Google dixit). Third thing, is that entrepreneurship is much more googled in developing countries. Which makes sense as they have the highest entrepreneurial rates in the world, and are the ones kicking Europe and US. Last thing to point out, that always in Christmas, people don’t care about these things, that’s funny to see in the graph. I always like to see things from a multilevel perspective.  

The experience economy

Aalborg learns about Experience Economy

Aalborg learns about Experience Economy

I looked at other words, but probably the most interesting is “experience economy“. Notice, that Aalborg (or Ålborg), it’s ranked as the number one place in the world more interested in this concept. In fact Denmark its by far number one country googling about it. My supervisor got quite excited when yesterday I saw her that. Of course that is not only my Department that has been interested in this subject, other in Aalborg also do.

So if you are interested in this issue, stay tuned. In fact, the word in the street says we will soon open a website about it.

Here is the power point presentation I prepared for the conference. It was really exciting and I meet many great people in the conference. It’s so exciting to find that many other academics are studying these issues. I also enjoyed the atmosphere of Prague.

In my presentation there were 3 other presentations, and I got 3 or 4 questions that I loved to answer. Many never heard about the “experience economy” so it was nice to see their faces.


April 14, 2008

I told my supervisor about the idea of writing a blog, and she cautioned me to be prudent with my blogging Also, to only use it as a way to relax, but not to work, which is understandable. Actually, I have many things now to read and specially to write.

I would write notes on everything I read, and for the ones I found interesting, I would upload them here. Soon I will upload some of the things I have lately wrote. Two people had already told me that one of the keys to sucessfully do the phd, is to give the same importance to writing than to reading. Meaning, reading and writing about the same time, and not only reading. So, is in it a blog the best thing to write? :)

Right now I’m pretty busy organizing and writing my presentation for the RSA Conference in Prague this next month. It will deal with the Experience Economy and the Innovation Systems.