Sunday, November 30, 2008

What we need today is more entrepreneurs, not more scientists!

“In the end, it comes down to individuals, and you don’t need to be a trained scientist or engineer for this broad swath of creatively productive work,” (Dr. Amar Bhide) observed.

“You need a somewhat more open mind, a willingness to experiment and to innovate in the use of technology, not create it.”

So instead of tilting policy toward the apex of the education system, Dr. Bhidé suggests, it may make more sense to invest scarce government resources further down — say, in upgrading community college programs. “The modern information technology economy is going to need a lot of foot soldiers,” he said.

“And our supply of high-level science and ideas in most fields far exceeds our capacity to use it.”

From an article in today’s (click here:New York Times) about Dr. Amar Bhide and his new book, The Venturesome Economy. Bhide will be with us here in Denver next January 17 to help celebrate Ben Franklin’s 303rd birthday.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

“Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.” "Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."

Author C. S. Lewis, who was born today (1898) in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My friend Dr. Amar Bhide , one of the world's leading experts on entrepreneurship and innovation, has agreed to be here in Denver next January 17 to help us celebrate Ben Franklin’s 303rd birthday. This is from an interview with him in the current issue of (click here to see the complete interview) Inc. Magazine:

Amar Bhidé, a business professor at Columbia University, bubbles with optimism at a time when many Americans have plenty to worry about. In his new book, The Venturesome Economy: How Innovation Sustains Prosperity in a More Connected World (Princeton University), he describes a uniquely American form of innovation, one driven largely by the appetites of American consumers. Bhidé talked with Inc. senior editor Eric Schine about why it doesn't matter where scientific breakthroughs come from, how entrepreneurs push basic innovations forward, and why the iPod represents the triumph of the American system…

Q: (Because of the current financial crisis) are you less optimistic about America's ability to push ahead and create a vibrant, growing economy than you were when you sat down to write your book?

A: No, not at all. We have one thing that works really well, and that's innovation. In the past, many technological developments have taken place during periods of severe economic stress. During the period of high inflation and doom-and-gloom recession of the early 1980s, for instance, people were buying and learning how to use PCs. That PC revolution set the stage for the huge productivity gains of the 1990s. Even in the Great Depression, the increases in productivity were enormous, based on the diffusion of a lot of technologies that had been developed in the 1920s. I'm not wishing for a depression or a replay of the 1980s. All I am saying is that we have a buffer against the financial meltdown, and that buffer is our ability to innovate, especially in the technology sector.

Q: You write that the dire predictions of so-called techno-nationalists are misplaced. Who are these techno-nationalists, and what are they missing?

A: These are people who, in the context of trade and globalization, think that protectionism is bad, but that in order for us to survive the "onslaught of competition" from China and India, we have to crank up our technological investments so that we continuously stay ahead. These people say, let's invest more in R&D, let's invest more in basic research, let's train more engineers -- on the premise that the greater the technological lead that you have vis-à-vis other nations, the more prosperous you're going to be.

Q: And that's wrong?

A: Absolutely. The U.S. isn't locked into a winner-take-all race for scientific and technological leadership with other nations. What's more, the growth of research capabilities in China and India, and thus their share of cutting-edge research, does not reduce U.S. prosperity. My analysis suggests exactly the opposite. Advances abroad will help improve living standards in the U.S. Moreover, the benefits I identify aren't the usual ones of how prosperity abroad increases opportunities for U.S. exporters. I show how cutting-edge research developed abroad benefits domestic production and consumption.

Monday, November 24, 2008

From The Economist magazine, “Innovation in America: A gathering storm?"
Nov 20th 2008

Confronted by Asia’s technological rise and the financial crisis, corporate America is losing its self-confidence. It should not…

...Venturesome America

Does the relative decline of America as a technology powerhouse really amount to a threat to its prosperity? Nonsense, insists Amar Bhidé of Columbia Business School. In “The Venturesome Economy”, a provocative new book, he explains why he thinks this gloomy thesis misunderstands innovation in several fundamental ways.

First, he argues that the obsession with the number of doctorates and technical graduates is misplaced because the “high-level” inventions and ideas such boffins come up with travel easily across national borders. Even if China spends a fortune to train more scientists, it cannot prevent America from capitalising on their inventions with better business models.

That points to his next insight, that the commercialisation, diffusion and use of inventions is of more value to companies and societies than the initial bright spark. America’s sophisticated marketing, distribution, sales and customer-service systems have long given it a decisive advantage over rivals, such as Japan in the 1980s, that began to catch up with its technological prowess. For America to retain this sort of edge, then, what the country needs is better MBAs, not more PhDs.

America also has another advantage: the extraordinary willingness of its consumers to try new things. Mr Bhidé insists that such “venturesome consumption” is a vital counterpart to the country’s entrepreneurial business culture.

There have been many negative comments posted on The Economist website about this article because of it's unfortunate use of "MBA" instead of what Dr. Bhide really says, "entrepreneur." So I just posted this comment:

Dr. Bhide's previous book, The Origin and Evolution of New Businesses, has been called by the publisher of Inc. Magazine the most important book about startup ever written. In light of it, this new book of his makes a critically important point that is totally missed in this article: What America needs is not more scientists (or MBAs), but more entrepreneurs.

John Wren, author of Daring Mighty Things--The Simplest Way to Start Your First (or Next) New Business. Available free today for Economist readers at

My little book on startup is also available for free today to readers of, just click on the link to the bottom left. What do you think of it? Your input now would be very helpful, I'm intending to publish a fully revised print edition soon.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

When’s the last time you bought a tune in a Jukebox? The first one was put into play on this date in 1889 in San Francisco.

A guest editorial in the Denver Post today sees the GOP problem as conservatives-gone-wild, and that what is needed is a move to the middle:

(click here for article): Stunned by GOP's post-election response

This the comment that I just posted:

Moderation is a red herring, a distraction from the real reason the Democrats won such an overwhelming victory, in my opinion.

What was the real reason?

At least in Colorado, Democrats did the grassroots organizing that the GOP has only given lip-service over the last couple of decades.

Phone banks, advertising & direct-mail, and 96-hour GOTV campaigns will never beat door-to-door, neighbor-to-neighbor efforts, especially in caucus states such as Colorado and Iowa.

So watch for attempt to kill the caucus again, this time from an ungodly alliance between misguided GOP leaders and caucus-haters of the left, elitists who supported Amendment 29 in 2002 which would have killed our wonderful Colorado precinct caucus-assembly system for nominating candidates to the primary ballot.

Is it time to fire-up Save the Caucus? We'll raise this as an issue this afternoon (Sun, Nov 23) at Denver Speakers Corner. Join us today, or any Sunday afternoon, at 4 p.m., Denver Civic Center, North Pavilion on Colfax across the street from the Denver Newspaper Agency. Details and optional RSVP at

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mary and I are again experimenting with Denver When & Where which we first set up about a year ago. Do you find it helpful? I just posted my everyday-ordinary-people's review of the phenomenal play that just opened last night at the DCPA.

Would you do me a favor? Take a look at and email your comments (or invitation to an event you'd like us to cover) to me at

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dr. Amar Bhide’s research has found that new businesses that eventually become successful almost always start from the direct experience and discovery of a need by individual consumers who become entrepreneurs. Here’s a great example, how a boating hobby became a new business: and

It's the birthday of astronomer Edward Hubble, born in Marshfield, Missouri (1889).

He majored in math and astronomy in college, then went to law school and started practicing as an attorney. He got bored after just a couple of years and went to get a Ph.D. in astronomy, where he focused his research on nebulae — distant objects in the sky that couldn't be categorized as stars. He moved to California to work with the world's largest telescope, which was in Pasadena.

Within a few years, he had begun to make discoveries that revolutionized the field of astronomy. In 1929, he made what is considered his most important discovery when he came up with a mathematical relationship that explained the correlation of a galaxy's radial velocity to its distance from Earth. In other words, he determined that "the farther a galaxy is from Earth, the faster it appears to move away." This led to the conclusion that the universe is expanding. It provided the basis for the Big Bang theory, which claims that the universe started with a big burst of energy matter exploded, and then expanded, and the universe has continued to expand ever since.

In 1990, about four decades after Edward Hubble's death, NASA launched the Hubble Telescope, the first telescope based in outer space. It captures accurate images of faint, distant objects.

From The Writer’s Almanac

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

According to recent news reports, Bill Clinton has now become an adviser to Barack Obama. Bill Clinton is giving advice to Barack Obama. Do you know who is really upset about this? Michelle Obama. (Jay Leno)

Barack Obama was briefed this morning on the state of the economy, and this afternoon, he called McCain to offer him the presidency. (Craig Ferguson)

At the end of the evening, the electoral vote count was 349 for Obama, 148 for McCain. Or, as Fox News says, too close to call. (David Letterman)
Don’t let daily obstacles block long-term success.
From The Ft. Worth Business Press:

When small business owners get consumed with the daily, urgent needs of running the business they don’t see the obstacles ahead of them.

So how can an owner focus on business and keep an eye out for things that may affect the business? Very simply, join a peer board for small business owners.

Keeping competitors out of peer advisory groups is important, that's what I've always done with the Franklin Circles I've formed here in Denver since 1996. But now I'm trying something different, a group of public accountants. We are having a luncheon meeting this Thursday to introduce the concept, if you know anyone who'd like an invitation email me his or her name and phone number.

The new Denver CPA Peer Advisory Group will do two things: 1) Help each accountant improve his practice management skills; and 2) Act as an alternative to the Small Business Administration. If you are a business owner and would like help from the group, email me at and I'll connect you with the accountant who is most familiar with your industry. I'll also talk with you about how starting or joining a Franklin Circle can help you start your new business or take your existing business to the next level.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Where are we going? This is a thought provoking 15 minutes:

Is this Borg? Is resistance futile?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Looks like my comment is up on the Denver Post Online now.

I'd sent this email to them right after posting my complaint here this morning:

I just had another problem getting my comment posted on your online edition. You can see what I was doing looking it on today (Nov 16).

It would make your online edition much more interesting if comments like this one of mine, a grassroots gathering of people relevant to the item in the paper, be posted. What is your policy on this?

John Wren
Organizer, Denver Speakers Corner
960 Grant St.
Denver, CO 80203

I'll post their response, if I get one, as to what the Denver Post policy is on posting meeting announcements that are directed at the topic of news articles and editorials.
Why wasn't my comment posted just now on

Guest Commentary in the Denver Post this morning: Putting education - not unions — first:

This year brought the biggest electoral Democratic wave in more than three decades. Yet Colorado teachers union officials may have lost, rather than gained, political ground…

It is remarkable, though, to see not one but two legislators without union connections assume the highest positions at our state Capitol. Peter Groff's Democratic peers voted to re-elect him as state Senate president, and Rep. Terrance Carroll was selected to become the new speaker of the House.

Supporters of public school parental choice could find no better friends in the Democratic caucus than Groff and Carroll. Both men have a strong record of protecting charter schools against union-backed legislative attacks, even attacks launched by other Democrats.

For Complete column:

I just posted this comment, which was quickly taken down:

by JohnSWren on 7:46 am, Sun Nov 16

Join us this afternoon (Sun, Nov 16) to speak out about education in Colorado. Do unions give us better instruction in the classroom? Are charter schools really a good idea? What has been your experience with public education in Colorado. Take your turn on the soapbox, or just listen, cheer, boo, ask questions. It's like a poetry reading for poltics each Sunday afternoon. Denver Speakers Corner, Civic Center, North Pavilion on Colfax, right across the street from the Denver Newspaper Agency. More info and optional RSVP at

Checking just now, it looks like my comment was taken down. I’m going to call the city desk and complain, maybe they’ll put it back up. What do you think, does my comment deserve to be posted?

This has happened before. For some reason, the media seems to be turning a cold sholder to the Denver Speakers Corner. Do we need to start publishing our own newspaper to encourage attendance each Sunday afternoon?

(The American Dream is) 'that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.' James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America 1931. First known use of the term “American Dream.”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

This biting commentary is in the current issue of the Jesuit magazine America:

(Arthur Millers play Death of a Salesman) was a critique of the American Dream. Willy Loman was the perfect representative Everyman to appear in the middle of the American Century, when the United States was flush with confidence and swagger after winning World War II. And he was a salesman.

It didn’t matter what he sold: he was selling happiness, domestic bliss, reaching for the golden ring on the carousel of life—and nabbing it. Think of all those smiling faces in magazine ads and TV sitcoms from the 1950s. Arthur Miller’s genius was to realize that America’s number one product was the idea of America itself—Happyland. If Walt Disney had thought of it, he would have included it alongside Frontierland and Tomorrowland, but then again, Disneyland itself was a perfect distillation of the idea.

But Happyland doesn’t exist, at least not this side of paradise. It’s a myth cooked up by slick ad men to sell whatever it is that they’re selling, whether it’s popcorn, iPods or politicians. The trouble with our constant exposure to this myth is that we begin to believe it, and this was Willy Loman’s undoing. When he could no longer deny that his “happy life” was a facade, he didn’t know what to do, how he could continue to live, and so he chose not to.

Miller’s cultural critique of America has undergone a brilliant updating in the television series “Mad Men,” which recently concluded its second season on the cable network AMC. Set in the early 1960s, the show follows the stylish comings and goings of a group of Madison Avenue ad men and the women they love—or use. Personified by the dapper Don Draper and his rakish boss, Roger Sterling, these men are early versions of the “Masters of the Universe,” whom Tom Wolfe so bitingly satirized in The Bonfire of the Vanities. They’re attractive, confident, and rich—much like America itself before JFK’s assassination. These men and their colleagues do whatever they want. They smoke, they swill gin, they take time off in the middle of the day to have sex with their secretaries or their mistresses (who often enough are their secretaries). They blithely lie about their infidelities to their wives. And they do all this while selling assorted versions of the American Dream—and trying to maintain the appearance of this Happyland fantasy at home.

As with Willy Loman, their lives are mirages built on sand (to borrow an image from Jesus). This is cleverly signaled in the
opening title sequence that begins every episode. Done in an animation style reminiscent of Saul Bass (whose work was at its height during the same time period), it features a flat, black silhouette of a man whose high-rise office crumbles beneath his feet. As he tumbles to the ground, he falls past cascading ads for the good life, past gigantic smiling models, glasses of scotch and seductive legs in pantyhose. Just before he hits the ground, his black silhouette fills the screen, only to reveal that he’s magically back in his office, his arm jauntily thrown over the back of a chair, cigarette in hand.

This sequence perfectly illustrates both the cardboard-thin morals and dark lives of the show’s main characters and the stylish, Rat Pack-era production design that dazzles the eye even as it obscures cynical manipulations of the heart. Much of the appeal of the first season focuses on the ironic dichotomy between the picture-perfect lives of the ad men—which flawlessly mirror the cheerful fantasies they sell for a living—and the deceit and unhappiness that lie just below the surface.

I just posted this comment to the above article:

Historian and writer James Truslow Adams coined the phrase "American Dream" in his 1931 book Epic of America:

"The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."

This was the True American Dream of our founding fathers and Teddy Roosevelt with his massive reforms intended to strengthen the voice of the common person in business and politics.
It is what still attracts so many to this country even today and what caused so many to work for the election Barrack Obama.

Will he now instead go the way of Willie Loman and the Mad Men?

Will you and I?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

'Venturesome Economy' Benefits From Research Produced Abroad, Holds Key to Continuing American Prosperity

Author Presented Findings at International OECD Working Party on Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Entrepreneurship Conference

KANSAS CITY, MO, Oct 30, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) -- Even as the turmoil in America's financial markets provokes fear and anxiety over our economic future, a new book, "The Venturesome Economy: How Innovation Sustains Prosperity in a More Connected World," asserts a contrasting view. By taking advantage of innovation abroad, the United States can better weather economic volatility, according to the book's author, Amar Bhide. Based on research funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Bhide shows that innovation abroad, rather than posing a threat, actually enhances U.S. prosperity.

Bhide, the Glaubinger Professor of Business at Columbia University, conducted extensive interviews with chief executive officers of venture-capital-backed businesses to examine how technology really advances in modern economies. He concludes that, because innovation continues despite economic ups and downs, it is the key to long-term American prosperity.

Bhide presented his findings as part of a panel discussion at the Special Statistical Session on Globalisation, Entrepreneurship and SMEs held by the Working Party on Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Entrepreneurship on October 28, 2008, in Paris. The Kauffman Foundation is one of the event's sponsors.

For more details about the book, visit

Why an Economic Crisis Could Be the Right Time for Companies to Engage in 'Disruptive Innovation'

Published: November 12, 2008 in Knowledge@Wharton

...Paul J.H. Schoemaker, research director for the Mack Center for Technological Innovation, suggests that, for some companies, the economic crisis can actually provide an innovation platform. "The crisis has multiple impacts," Schoemaker says. "Loss of revenue and profit will at first instill a cost cutting mentality, which is not good for innovation. But if the patient is bleeding you need to stop that first. Then, however, a phase starts where leaders ask which parts of their business model are weak (and perhaps unsustainable) and that, in turn, can lead to restructuring and reinvention."

He also cautions against too much caution -- over-reliance on incremental innovation versus transformative, or "disruptive," innovation. In innovation circles, the two have come to be differentiated as "little i" and "Big I" innovation. "The largest gains in business come from more daring innovations that challenge the paradigm and the organization," Schoemaker says…

It may be that the locus of much really radical innovation is shifting outside of the large organizations to small start-ups.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I just got this email, if you're interested in business startup, take a minute and complete the survey, OK?

CU’s Silicon Flatirons Center is conducting a study on university education and entrepreneurship. In order to be useful, this study needs to be informed by data from entrepreneurs: if you’re an entrepreneur, please consider completing the survey. It should take only 10 minutes or so. The final report will be submitted to Governor Ritter's Innovation Council. Survey URL is
We've started a new Alliance for Socrates Cafe and similar groups around the world. This was just posted on our forum by one of our members in London in response to a question about what to do when the group grows large:


We usually have about 30 attend our meetings. We sit in a circle (sometimes the latecomers are in chairs behind the circle).

We've had votes to decide whether to split into two groups and most people want to stay as one large group, although we have to remind people to speak loudly so everyone can hear.

To ensure everyone has a chance to speak at least twice, we start with a 'go around' and everyone introduces themselves and speaks to the topic if they wish. Then the floor opens (with moderator). About a half hour before end-time, we go once more around the circle for closing remarks.

This has worked very well for us. With a group of 200, I would definitely divide the group into smaller circles, no larger than 30. In my mind, the circle format is much more conducive to open discussion than lecture-style seating, which is what you would have to have in that large a group. In that case, you don't really have a 'Socrates Cafe' you have something different.
At the library in which I work and offer these groups, we also work with the University to provide philosophy lectures. After the Professor's talk, the floor opens for discussion. People are sitting in rows, lecture style. It works fairly well for the crowd of 50 or 60, but it lacks the same intimacy that occurs in the circle.
Interesting topic.

John Wren if you are reading this I would like to get my own moderator on board - his name is Bill Paul -he's not on facebook - is there a way to add him just via email???

Many thanks and good luck everyone!


Jacqui Denomme
Community Outreach and Program Services Assistant
Central Library
London, ON N6A 6H9

Friday, November 07, 2008

"I'm for morality, but morality goes beyond sex to human freedom and social justice." Billy Graham, when he refused to join the Moral Majority in 1979. Graham, who has always been registered as a Democrat, was born on this day in 1918.

Happy 90th birthday, Billy!

When is the new movie about the start of his career going to play in Denver?
Click here for website:

Thursday, November 06, 2008

It was on this day (Nov 6) in 1860 that Abraham Lincoln was elected to his first term as president of the United States. Lincoln's only experience in national politics had been a single term as a congressional representative and two unsuccessful runs for senator. He had only one year of formal schooling and no administrative experience. Newspapers called him a "third-rate Western lawyer."

Once he got the nomination, Lincoln lay low until the election. He only attended one campaign rally, in Springfield, and he didn't even make a speech.

The Southern states took his election as a sign that slavery would be abolished, and before he even had a chance to take the oath of office, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas all seceded from the Union. Abraham Lincoln would spend all but the last few weeks of his life fighting to hold the country together.

Posted today on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. Keillor also hosts the weekly radio show Prairie Home Companion.

According to Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book Team of Rivals, the secret to Lincoln's success was his ability to form and lead a good team. Charlie Rose said on his post-inauguration show with the author as his guest that it was his understanding that the book is being read or re-read by President-elect Barrack Obama. It will be interesting if he, too, forms a team of former rivals. His challenges are certainly equal to Lincoln's in many ways.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"It should not escape our notice that the most massive tyrannies of our
century have been established by men who intended to create an earthly
paradise." -Francis Canavan
Nov. 4, 2008, will go down in history as the biggest day ever in the history of marketing.

Take a relatively unknown man. Younger than all of his opponents. Black. With a bad-sounding name. Consider his first opponent: the best-known woman in America, connected to one of the most successful politicians in history. Then consider his second opponent: a well-known war hero with a long, distinguished record as a U.S. senator.

It didn't matter. Barack Obama had a better marketing strategy than either of them. "Change."

…(Eventually), both Ms. Clinton and Mr. McCain focused their messages on "I can do change better than my opponent can do change."

"Better" never works in marketing. The only thing that works in marketing is "different." When you're different, you can pre-empt the concept in consumers' minds so your competitors can never take it away from you…

Mr. Obama was selected as Advertising Age's Marketer of the Year by the executives attending the Association of National Advertisers' annual conference in Orlando last month.

Al Ries in Ad Age this morning.
In the traditionally GOP-favoring Colorado, Obama set up 59 campaign offices to McCain's 13.

Why did he take this expensive gamble? Because of the internet and rise of social media… In the past, each party would focus its efforts in getting out the vote in its respective solid "D" or solid "R" states and pour hundred of millions of dollars fighting it out over a handful of "battleground states."

This time around, everyone counted. And given the power of social media, everyone who has the interest has the ability to influence and mobilize networks of friends. A blue dot in a sea of red could now make a real impact, both vote-wise and dollar-wise, to a presidential campaign. Obama got this and McCain really didn't.

Pete Snyder in Ad Age this morning. Pete is the founder and CEO of New Media Strategies. He also is a former GOP pollster and media consultant. He voted for McCain.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

DENVER-- 10:15 pm I just watched President elect Barack Obama on TV as he claimed victory at a speech in Chicago, telling a hugh crowd: "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

He recognized John McCain's hard-fought campaign and long record of service to the country.

"It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day ... change has come to America."
"There is no credit to being a comedian, when you have the whole government working for you. All you have to do is report the facts. I don't even have to exaggerate." Cowboy humorist Will Rogers, who was born today in 1879 (1935).

"There are greater pursuits than self-seeking. Glory is not a conceit. It is not a prize for being the most clever, the strongest, or the boldest. Glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself." Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.