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Innovation June 1, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in university.

The UW has a video blog posting on innovation. The video is mostly puff, and I’m not sure it addresses innovation as I think of innovation. But whatever — the folks at UW are trying to reach out with short video blog messages. This one is from our provost.

It is interesting that she talks about innovation in two forms. First are the new technological breakthroughs that end up in companies outside UW. The second are new support services within the university that are helping it function better. I’d agree with the former, but not the latter — at least not as she has stated it. Wireless around campus, for example. I’d call that a basic service that helps foster innovation, though not innovative in-and-of-itself. If we were one of the first campuses to widely install it ourselves, perhaps (we are one of the last major research universities)… if we invented it, perhaps. The other thing is all the innovations she mentions are break through’s that ended up as companies. There is also a considerable amount that is basic science — like the science done in our department. Neutrinos having mass? That is pretty innovative!

Which brings one to the next logical question: how do you make it happen? Since you can’t actually program innovation, I think you can guess at what you need. First, people. Good ones. I’m thinking of graduate & undergraduate students, post-docs, and professors. Next, the ability to collaborate. This is especially important as collaborations are becoming geographically widespread. Third I’d say were resources to do the hard work needed to turn that spark of an idea into something real (computing farms, machine shops, lab space and equipment). But I guess this paragraph is mostly motherhood. 😉

I tend to watch these things because I blog already; so I’m always curious about how others are approaching the same thing. Normally I watch the videos (about 5 minutes) and quickly forget them. I only mention it because they used some 5 year old footage from a lecture of mine (I think they filmed my lecture because they were doing some sort of minority student project – it is a long story). That got me started writing this posting, and then I realized I was a bit annoyed with the content…



1. Fred - June 5, 2007

To the good Mr. Gordon,

The word unterbewußt comes to mind based on your last sentence, but that would be giving UW too much credit. Bravo, because the video is disturbing on a number of levels but the ability to deal with these matters is why the world still strives. There is so much underlying tension in this seemingly positive video offering. I genuinely feel bad for your provost, but why do you think they call them fluffers. Promoting NASDAQ as a shining star to wish upon is beyond pornographic. There is currently a corporate trend in the website world to invite clients to “Tell Us Your Story.” This goes along with the recent favorite words: robust, moving-forward, diversification and innovation to compliment their arsenal. So Mr. Gordon, here is a story:

Discovery is from the Mouth of Our Monster!!! AAAHH!!

Based on the novel: Only Godzilla Can Save Us, AGAIN!
Narrated by: Peter Lorre
Starring: Godzilla as the Monster
Co-Starring: UW Office of Information Management as the Master

PL: I will now relate of a matter that is occurring at this very moment. The North Pacific harbor is grey, night, and sounds. The lights and water slap up against the boats tied down below, just beyond the weathered shack’s porch railing, a MacBook Pro sits on the Franklin rocker reflecting a glowing feed from UW’s website. The monster called Godzilla is watching as he leans against an open screened door, beat and tired from all those years of destruction and whatnot. He’s nursing a cold one and is thinking about re-enrolling at UW, just a few credits shy of that degree in B.S. He turns up the volume with his remote.

UW: “Innovation. What does it really mean? It means change.”

Godzilla: Me start to get mad. Godzilla no like change. Godzilla no like innovation.

PL: A roar is heard throughout, rolling on the damp air with no moon in sight. The offices of Microsoft, Boeing, Zillow, Expedia, and Starbucks are lit up at this hour, just exactly like they are the other 23 hours each day.

UW: “… ideas are born, they’re nurtured, we cultivate them and they get translated into things …”

Godzilla: RRROOOOOAAAARRR!!! Must go on midnight walk to fight airplanes and Huskies.

PL: The monster, still green and a mouthful of rage, destroys the toy trains against the cool looking electrical power lines while the College of Engineering, the Technology Transfer Office, and the ground-breaking NASDAQ trading laboratory at the University of Washington Business School get more religion. Heh, heh, I mean more innovative. The UWTV Production: Uniquely Washington continues to color the background, with that provost lady still talking and on a mission.

UW: “The Financial Desktop is a way managers can deal with budgets, transfer money from one account to another in a way that is very similar to online banking.”

Godzilla: Me cold, hungry and tired. Me call Hulk. Me cold, hungry and tired.

UW: “… We’ve established a new Office of Information Management. The goals are to make sure that information is collected, managed, organized in an optimal way …”

Godzilla: Godzilla lose. Me apply for scholarship. Me like Huskies. Good doggie.

PL: The next morning, an off-shore breeze greets the shore early as the flags wave a different song, just like yesterday and the time before that. The UW website never skips a beat. The monster does his slow walk back into the Pacific Ocean. Innovation is alive and well. IT power has another good day.

UW: “What role has innovation played in your life at the university? Once again, we’d like to hear from you. Post your comments on our message board.”

The End

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