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Tag: jane jacobs

The Value Game For University Outreach

The question that persist for many college and university administrators is what actions must they take to optimize all of their relationships in a manner that reinforces their own value to their community.

The Value Game is an ideal solution for this type of scenario (if you are unfamiliar with TVG, please visit this primer link).  The first step is to identify the asset. The recent graduate is the university asset because they are the customer and the product being advanced.  After all, the life worth of that graduate will reflect upon the institution that prepared them for professional service.

Next, we identify the players that will interact with that graduate over the course of their lives.

A* = The Graduate

  1. The graduate will interact with their Alma Mater
  2. The graduate will interact with their alumni association
  3. The graduate will interact with Their broader community
  4. The graduate will interact with corporations and entrepreneurs

Now, Let’s review each of the relationships and the economic incentives that drive them:

A-1: The graduate relies on the university reputation with players 1,2,3 as an extension of their own capabilities.

A-2: The graduate relies on the influence and success of prior graduates who hold an affinity towards each other in fraternal social networks.

A-3: The graduate will interact with their community for friendships, residency, recreation, and support.

A-4: The graduate will rely on strong and equitable employers / entrepreneur base where they may self-actualize as productive citizens.

Now, let’s review the relationships and incentives that each of the players has with each other:

1 – 2,3,4: The university has an interest in preserving the community because a motivated and educated workforce attracts opportunity far and wide in the form of business, travel, tourism and economic growth (Jacobs Externality).

2 – 1,3,4: Alumni seek to preserve the value of their alma mater because of the direct reflection upon their careers.  It is in their best interest to support the university, it’s graduates, employers and the wider community.

3 – 1,2,4: The community relies on the university graduates and alumni to provide equitable and fair innovations that provide sustainable living standards.

4 – 1,2,3: Employers compete globally for talented, stable and engaged employees and service providers who are attracted foremost by a vibrant entrepreneurial economy and sustainable communities.

Data, information, knowledge, innovation, and wisdom

The Value Game is now played by university administrators who direct university facilities, influence, and resources to bringing at least 2 of these four groups together.  Each time there is an interaction, the university will capture the data associated with the interaction.  That data can be compiled to form information which gives the university administrator knowledge about what their next action must be.  University feedback to the community will tell all of the players what interactions create the most social value upon which all players will innovate in their best interest.

As the game continues over time, the university gains the wisdom to understand the values of their assets and surrounding community. The community will act in the best interest of the other players as a means of acting in their own best interest (Social Capitalism).

Data is the ultimate shared asset

Over time, the University will become the physical “Search Engine” for data, information, knowledge, innovation, and wisdom in a community instead of just a vetting mechanism for book learned material. The University can now deploy this wisdom to their own internal programs and curricula as well as becoming an external reference source for government, industry, and economic development.

*(The University of New Haven is in no way affiliated with this post except I (the author) am a graduate of the UNH Engineering school (go Chargers!) and needed a realistic example that probably would not sue me – thanks guys)

Do We Really Need To Fail?

Yesterday, I heard a report on NPR about the resource management department in North West Washington, in response to diminished funding – is certifying private boats for emergency duty in clean up, security, and rescue.  This is logical because nobody knows and understands the waters of Northern Puget Sound and The Strait of Juan De Fuca than the local tribes and others who ply those waters daily.

Today, I heard another report on NPR about how the City of Houston has gained far more from the demise of Enron than their existence.  Enron would recruit the top intellect in the country, move them to Houston and reward them for creativity and hard work.  The collapse of Enron released 4000 hugely talented people to the Houston Economy where many have started new businesses with remarkable success.

Vicious Circle or Virtuous circle:

I will not pass judgment beyond what these reports stated, except that there is something very valid about the “Knowledge Inventory” that exists in a community and their specific location.  The Jane Jacobs externality proposes that endowment of creative and educated people drives economic growth in a community by attracting investment and development, which attracts more smart people, etc.

Vicious Galaxies or Virtuous Galaxies

As the NPR reports suggest, the type of investment and development is dependent on the quality and quantity of knowledge assets that exist in a particular location.  Now, let’s extrapolate that to include all disciplines and talents of knowledge that exist in all communities and we encounter a stark reality that there is no knowledge inventory from which to build – except in the response to a failure such as the corrosion of government spending or in the wake of corruption and associated corporate collapse.

Yes, it is often said that adversity brings out the best in people, but is that really necessary?  Do we really need for the whole rig to collapse before we emerge from the ashes? 

We need to build the knowledge inventory today.  People need to know what people know – that is where the truth lives.   We need to know what can be built from the parts that we have in the bin.  We don’t want to try to build something from the wrong parts any more than we want to misallocate the right parts to build the wrong things.  In any industry in the world, none of these situations would pass the stink test, yet this is the state of our communities today.  We don’t even know that we don’t know what we know.  Seriously, is anyone else wondering about these things?

Two Sides Of The Social Value Equation

There are two sides to the Social Value Equation – the creation of social value and the destruction of social value. There are countless examples where innovation destroys the value of prior technologies. There are also many instances where “progress”, perhaps in the form of a freeway or public structure, divides a community where strong social bonds once acted.

In the presentations that I give, I often cite the value of a bridge over a waterway. The bridge may cost 50 million dollars to build and maintain, but it increases human productivity by 50 billion in the life span of the bridge. We often cite a factor of 1:1000 for the valuation of the dollar to social currency.

Contrary to that, Jane Jacobs (renowned urban theorist and community activist) may argue, the bridge (and roadway) may divide a community or neighborhood. Where the community may once have been scaled for foot traffic, the new boundary may require a car to circumvent. The new road may divert old commercial traffic in many ways that are bad for a community. In such a case, the social capital destroyed by the bridge is in fact the dominant financial outcome.

So here I am, I just destroyed my own best analogy to demonstrate a point. Without vetting the complete transaction in the form of social currency, net “progress” of any kind is as easy to leverage backwards as well as forward at a rate of 1000:1.

Communities that seek to stop a disruptive development program will often organize to protest urban development decisions. Unfortunately, they are usually up against a calculation of economic impact that is dominated by dollar denominated currency. Without a “Social Currency” of their own, quantified and convertible to dollars, communities are doomed. Law suits will play out in the same manner where damages are non-quantifiable, and therefore non-existent.

Jane Jacobs also writes that a community that can place a value on their social currency – although I do not think she explicitly called it that – and can act to preserve value or increase value by their actions. Many communities from Greenwich Village to Boston have thrived under a social currency diverting projects away from sensitive communities. The Big Dig went underground in Boston much like the The viaduct replacement project will do the same Seattle. Granted, the Seattle project mainly preserves water and mountain views for million dollar condos, this concept, in fact, would be more critical to poorer communities than wealthy ones.

Obviously there is no way to impede progress. All innovations destroy prior value in the creation of greater value. The danger is when Wall Street priorities can dominate Social Priorities. Capitalism, for all the greatness it creates, is amoral. Capitalism is committed to dollar currency, and devoid of social obligation except to the degree that obligation is profitable – that is where social currency converts to capital currency.

Through the magic of the fractional reserve system, Banks create money backed by debt vs. deposits at a factor of 1:1000. Therefore, the convertibility of social currency with a capital currency at a similar factor of 1000:1 is essentially the only effective way to convert Social Priorities into Wall Street Priorities.

Got a Life?

Geographic Compatibility:

In the early 1990’s, traffic in Los Angeles was so horrendous, it could take hours to travel a dozen miles.  Commuting was a nightmare and the last thing anyone wanted to do was sit in more traffic.  As a single professional, every time I met a prospective lady friend, I had that elemental question in the back of my mind – and so did she: are we Geographically Compatible (GC)?

The sweet spot:

I recall many a magical conversation ending with that mutual inevitable shrug of the shoulders; a secret code for “have a nice life”.  In Los Angeles, GC peaked in the sweet spot of 1-6 miles.  After that, GC diminished roughly proportional to the square of distance with 20 miles as an absolute maximum.  Any more was no closer or farther than, say, Nashville.

The cost of ownership:

Today, not only must we contend with traffic and the cost of owning a car, we must attend to a warming planet were every gallon of gas burned spews 19 lbs of CO2 to the atmosphere.  In addition, we have a deepening deficit of the most valuable asset in our lives and the lives of those around us; time, bandwidth, productivity, sleep, money, innovation; it’s all the same convertible currency.  All are wasted equally behind the wheel of an automobile.

Social Experiment:

With this in mind, I did a little experiment.  I went to Linkedin and conducted a search for everyone within 6 miles of me.  All that they offered was a 10 mile range and with keyword search too.  The results were very interesting; not ideal but not too shabby.  I tried the same with Facebook, and the best I could do was search by zip code.  It was very awkward and the profile search feature only allowed me to query my existing contacts.  I am guessing that there is some sort of security issue that restricts this type of searching.  Too many nuts, flakes and stalks in that granola, I suppose.

Not unlike the LA dating scene, the future of innovation economics, global sustainability, quality of life, social support structure, family values, and money management will rely increasingly on GC; and the constraints will not end soon.  Social Media must understand the monetization potential of GC and develop robust applications to support it.

If that is not enough convincing, try this:

‘The Jane Jacobs externality’ named after a transformational sociologist of the same name, suggests that concentrations of educated and skilled people attract companies and investment to a geographical area.  The presence of such investment attracts more educated and skilled people to that area; also referred to as “intellectual capital”.

Harvard Professor and Author, Dr. Robert Putnam concluded that people acting in groups can produce far more economic growth faster and better than corporations and government combined. This is called “Social Capital”.

Carnegie Melon Professor and Author, Dr. Richard Florida, suggests that artists and engineers think more similarly 24/7/365, than managers and production workers.  This is called “Creative Capital”.

Factors of production:

All three; intellectual capital, social capital, and creative capital are wholly and utterly dependent on GC.  These are the factors of production of an Innovation Economy.

Evidence of these effects can be demonstrated by the civil rights movement, woman suffrage, neighborhood watch, Silicon Valley, Seattle, Greenwich Village, Austin Texas, Boston, Hollywood, Chicago, NYC, and many more locations where ‘wealth’ is located.  What came first, the money or the people?

So, what part of monetization is Social Media having difficult with?  The sweet spot is 1-6 miles, so get the hint and get it fast. Meanwhile, billions upon billions of magical conversations end with that inevitable shrug of the mouse; a secret code for “have a nice life”.  I say, get a life.

Factors of Production for an Innovation Economy

Many years ago, economists in the midst of the industrial revolution identified three variables (productive inputs) for building industries; Land, Labor, and Capital.  The rate of output was related to how these inputs were allocated. If any of these factors of production were missing, the other two had little use.  The concept of Land, Labor, and Capital is still the foundation of much of today’s economic thought.

We know that in the knowledge economy, the location of knowledge work is highly mobile – so “Land” does not have the same significance for making things as it did 100-200 years ago.

What about “Labor“? Knowledge workers analyze situations, manage many variables, and create unique solutions. They do not really produce identical knowledge pieces like a machine operator or a production worker –so Labor also means something different than a century ago.

The term “Capital” refers to money that would be needed now to build future structures, buy machines and to pay wages. Today money buys access to information, education, and knowledge workers. So we see that many old economic principle may not be as applicable in the new economies.

The factors of production for the Innovation Economy are Intellectual Capital (also call Human Capital), Social Capital, and Creative Capital + entrepreneurs. (Reference: Jane Jacobs, Robert Putnam, Richard Florida)

Intellectual Capital Model suggests that concentrations of educated and motivated people attract investors to employ them and invest in the communities where they reside. This investment attracts other intelligent people who in turn attract more investment thereby creating a cycle of economic growth

The Social Capital Model suggests that people acting in communities can create better solutions, greater accountability, and more economic growth than management, governments, or bureaucracy can induce on their own. Examples of Social Capital include Civil Rights Movement, community watch organizations, Democratic Government, and recently, Social Networking.

The Creative Capital Model, suggests that engineers and scientists think more like artists and musicians than like production workers – their ideas come 24/7/365 – and that an environment of tolerance, diversity, and openness promotes creative output.

Silicon Mouse trap

Many people argue that Silicon Valley, in fact, was created and sustained by a perfect storm of Social Capital, Creative Capital, an Intellectual Capital + Entrepreneurs.  Other countries have tried to duplicate Silicon Valley but most have fallen short – if any of these factors of production are missing, the other two have limited utility for production of innovation. To demonstrate how these productive inputs might appear in an innovation economy, consider the following example:

Suppose that we take 5 mechanical engineers and lock them in a room with instructions to build a better mouse trap, they’ll emerge with a better shingle, a better spring, a better whacker, and a better trigger – but not necessarily a better mousetrap.  Suppose that we now put a dog catcher, an engineer, a plastics manufacturer, an artist, and the mother of 4 rowdy children together with the same task. We can be quite certain that innovation will occur. They may actually come up with an excellent mouse trap.

The Innovation Economy

Innovation Economics will bring the factors of production together in diverse combination rather than similar combination.  In an Innovation Economy, the “secret sauce” for the production of innovation becomes far more valuable than any single innovation itself.  The secret sauce provides a monopoly on dynamic repeatability rather than a static device.

As such, technologies can be open sourced and innovation crowd sourced across a much wider domain of possible user applications.  Such conditions will change the type of innovations that are favored to reflect the broad and sweeping social priorities rather than innovations that are easy to patent, protect, and monopolize.

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