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Dr. Bordogna's Remarks


"Creating the Future: Collaboration and the Value of Partnerships"

Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Deputy Director
Chief Operating Officer
Total Quality Forum IX
Penn State University

April 30, 2000

Thank you so much for the introduction, Graham. I'm delighted to be here this evening for the ninth Total Quality Forum.

I recognize many of you in the audience, and I'm reminded of your pioneering work building partnerships between industry and academe.

[Title Slide] Use Back to Return to Speech.

I'm sure that when the first Total Quality Forum was convened - now over a decade ago - many of us would not have predicted how swiftly the winds of change have swept across our institutions. They have reshaped the once familiar landscape of the economy and have forced us to clear new paths in business, in research, in science and engineering, and in education.

When we look back, we recall the storm clouds on the horizon. Economic growth was disappointing, and we wondered where the new jobs would come from. There were serious worries about the ability of U.S. industry to compete in the global marketplace. There was little real growth in overall R&D spending. Colleges and universities were feeling the chill.

What a difference a decade makes! In the United States, we are, for the moment, economically stronger than we have been in decades. Partnerships among our various sectors - government, industry and academe - are fashionable and increasingly effective. A new inter-organizational way of business and academic life is forming.

Service workers dominate in our workforce. The most talented and highly skilled workers in every country comprise the modern phenomenon of a global and mobile workforce. They can easily gravitate to where the best jobs are located. But information technologies have also made it possible for them to stay home and yet work abroad.

Colleges and universities are facing information-age transformations with virtual centers and institutes, shared infrastructure, collaboratories and long-distance learning. The future portends even more.

Of course, this is familiar territory to all of us. You are here because you collectively have designed the partnerships that are becoming so common between industry and academe. You have helped to redefine the connection between academic training and economic growth.

I'll take a page from one of the great practitioners of American management theory, Peter Drucker.

[Drucker quote] Use Back to Return to Speech.

"The best way to predict the future is to create it."

That's a good way to introduce what I want to talk about tonight: creating the future. First, I'll offer you a framework for thinking about what lies ahead. Then I want to explore what this means for the evolving nature of our partnerships and collaborations. Finally, I'd like to describe some challenges that I hope you will consider as you discuss these issues over the next two days.

As the baseball great Casey Stengel so famously said, "The future ain't what it used to be."

[Stengel quote] Use Back to Return to Speech.

That observation would probably have appealed to the Austrian economist, Joseph Schumpeter. Schumpeter developed the "rule-breaking" theory of economics in 1942. He described the "perennial gale of creative destruction" that is the hallmark of technological innovation.

[Schumpeter quote] Use Back to Return to Speech.

"Entrepreneurship," he said, "incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one."

According to Schumpeter, disruption is the normal state of a healthy, vibrant economy.

Of course, it causes losses in its path. In fact, the disruption caused by an innovation can bring down a whole industry, while simultaneously creating new opportunities for growth.

Transistor technology disrupted the vacuum-tube industry, HMOs shook the foundation of the health insurance industry, and the CD killed the needle in the groove.

[Economist Excerpt] Use Back to Return to Speech.

The February 20, 1999, issue of the Economist magazine included a major examination of innovation. One of the sidebars to the text reads, "Innovators break all the rules. Trust them."

Innovation is breaking the rules and winning - over and over again. The kind of change engendered by innovation alters our familiar landscapes forever. Eventually, it reshapes our expectations in harmony with the future it has created. And yes, it lays down a new set of rules. Let me illustrate what I mean with an example.

Danny Hillis is a noted computer philosopher and designer. He helped pioneer the concept of parallel computing, and in 1996 he became the vice president of research and development at The Walt Disney Company. He shares this story from his past.

"I went to my first computer conference at the New York Hilton about 20 years ago. When somebody there predicted the market for microprocessors would eventually be in the millions, someone else said, 'Where are they all going to go? It's not like you need a computer in every doorknob!"

Years later, Hillis went back to the same hotel. He noticed that the room keys had been replaced by electronic cards you slide into slots in the doors. There was, indeed, "a computer in every doorknob," as well as sensors and actuators - and other hardware to make the software sing.

Danny Hillis may have seen that future for microprocessors, but at that computer conference two decades ago, that insight was in short supply. That's probably why Danny Hillis is now head of R&D for Walt Disney.

[Economist Excerpt] Use Back to Return to Speech.

The Economist article on Innovation points to another way in which the future "ain't what it used to be." Innovation is occurring at a breathtaking pace. Industrial cycles appear to be getting shorter and shorter.

If this is so, the Economist goes on to speculate, that our current industrial cycle - the one powered by digital networks, software and new media - has already run two-thirds of its course, with only another five or six years left to go!

I promised you a framework for thinking about what lies ahead. So far I've described disruption that is ubiquitous and pervasive, occurring at ever-greater frequencies. That's dangerously close to a definition of chaos. But let's not despair yet.

[Greenspan quote] Use Back to Return to Speech.

Nearly sixty years after Schumpeter first linked dramatic economic growth to technological progress, Alan Greenspan said: "something special is happening in the U.S. economy" - and it's happening because of science and technology.

Today, the combination of new knowledge and innovation are the driving forces of the current economic expansion.

In a more formal sense, Peter Drucker tells us that innovation is the process of applying new knowledge to tasks that are new and different, demanding that society's new knowledge bank be constantly renewed.

[Drucker quote] Use Back to Return to Speech.

There are two ways to do better than we've done. We can improve upon our performance through incremental additions to productivity, doing better what we already do. Or we can create fresh wealth and value through new enterprises - doing things we have never done before.

The current balance is strongly tilted toward innovation in Drucker's sense. Today's composite of digital, electronic, optical and biotechnologies is reframing society as concept-driven and knowledge ridden.

We can already calculate the impact. The Economist probably said it better than I could.

"America gets more than half its economic growth from industries that barely existed a decade ago-such is the power of innovation, especially in the information and biotechnology industries."

The recognition that new knowledge is the driving force behind innovation and economic growth is in turn changing perceptions. It highlights the importance of R&D in the nation's science and technology enterprise.

[S&T Linkage] Use Back to Return to Speech.

I am sure you are all familiar with recent studies that indicate a strong and growing linkage between patents granted in the U.S. system and frontier research published in archival journals. Nearly two-thirds of the patents that were granted cited research supported primarily by public funding. That is powerful evidence of the catalytic effect new knowledge has on innovation.

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Even more dramatic is the rate at which this dependence is increasing. Over 100,000 of the patents granted in the U.S. in 1998 cited scientific and technical articles. That's a ten-fold increase since 1988 and a doubling in just the two years 1997 and 1998.

We know that many of these technologies, from the Internet to biotechnology, are the result of federal government investments over the decades.

This fresh awareness of the power of new knowledge to generate economic growth has helped wake up Washington - and the nation - to the importance of science and technology for sustained economic growth.

Of course, thinking about what lies ahead in these terms does not allow us to predict the future. Its value lies in providing us with a general strategy for recognizing change so that we can embrace it and turn it to our advantage.

It does this, in part, by putting our eyes on the frontiers. That's risky and uncomfortable, but that's where the action is bound to be.

It also makes us think more deeply about innovation itself and what we can learn about doing it better.

And finally, it prepares us to ask the right questions in the face of the inevitable uncertainty confronting us.

[Drucker quote] Use Back to Return to Speech.

Drucker put it this way: I never predict. I just look out the window and see what's visible - but not yet seen.

Let me use the National Science Foundation to illustrate one way this strategy can work in practice.

NSF's vision is clear and simple: Enabling the Nation's future through discovery, learning and innovation. We are in the business of discovery and innovation, and we are serious about it.

To move toward the realization of this vision, we have just completed a five-year strategic plan, containing three major strategic "thrusts." We call them "thrusts" because we think of them as lively and dynamic directions, not hidebound prescriptions.

Their value lies in how they crystallize our thinking as we consider new opportunities.

[Strategic Thrusts] Use Back to Return to Speech.

I like to think of them as posing questions that we should ask each time we consider a new project or program or organizational change.

The first strategic thrust, "Invest in Intellectual Capital," puts our attention squarely on the new knowledge that drives innovation and creates new wealth and value.

With each new opportunity we consider, we have to ask ourselves, "Will this enhance individual and collective capacity to discover, learn, create, identify problems and formulate solutions?" If the answer is "no," then we shouldn't be investing.

Our second strategic thrust - "Integrate research and education" - goes to the heart of how we prepare students and shape the American workforce for the future. The corresponding question we need to ask is, "Will our action infuse learning with the excitement of discovery, and assure that the findings and methods of research are quickly and effectively communicated in a broader context and to a larger audience?"

"Promote Partnerships" is our third and final strategic thrust. It brings me back to partnerships and why we are here tonight.

Here, the question we need to ask is especially critical: "Will our action enable the movement of ideas, people and tools among disciplines and institutions and between academe, industry and government in order to optimize their impact?"

Partnerships are becoming increasingly important because discovery and innovation can only rarely get on without them. They bring to the table participants with different expertise and resources, and a diversity of perspectives. As our products, processes, problems and solutions continue to increase in complexity, our need for a diversity of combinations and partners will grow as well.

Partnerships must also be responsive to innovation. Corporations have had to reinvent themselves - over and over again. Universities have begun moving to this mode. Partnerships must permute, reshape, and regenerate to stay fresh and responsive to the demands of new knowledge and innovation.

Scientists and engineers must be able to work across many different disciplines and fields - and make the connections that will lead to deeper insights and more creative solutions.

We will need new mechanisms and designs to prepare talent from all fields and sectors to move in and out of combinations as new challenges arise. That means encouraging flexibility, creativity, and agility, among other skills.

Increasingly, partnerships will be innovation driven as well as innovation oriented. That is why NSF has just launched a new program: "Partnerships for Innovation." The program aims to foster creative partnerships designed to stimulate local and regional economic development through innovation.

We should always view these combinations as creative arrangements. They are not formulas to be automatically replicated but rather new patterns to be ingeniously enhanced each time we create the next combination. As one example, the very diverse set of NSF-funded Engineering Research Centers and Science and Technology Centers attest to this.

[Making Partnerships Sing] Use Back to Return to Speech.

Of course, even in such a whirlwind, there are some constants to give us comfort. These are the sine qua non's that make partnerships "sing." I offer a few drawn from my own experience that I believe will probably withstand the winds of change.

The first is trust among the partners. This is not just the recognition that the parties all stand to gain - or lose - from a successful outcome. Trust also encompasses a matter-of-fact acceptance of what others don't know as well as respect for what they do know.

A partnership works best when its membership is eclectic. Different perspectives are like the best metaphors. Odd couplings help us see the familiar as startling and fresh. As a sentence in the Evaluation Report of the Total Quality Forum - NSF Total Quality Organization (TQO) Program puts it: "a team with no dissenting opinions is unlikely to generate innovative approaches."

Every partner should bring something of value to the table. And every partner should also have something to gain from working with the others. An analogy from poker is appropriate here: if you don't have any chips, you're not going to be playing the same game as everyone else.

As in any endeavor, the best partnerships deserve the best people. "The best" should be very broadly interpreted here so that no useful perspective is excluded.

All parties should be present from the start. If you have had a hand in cooking the soup, you are usually much more inclined to find it tasty.

Good partnerships encourage dialogue. It isn't enough to share creative perspectives. Ideas must survive the rough and tumble that comes from rubbing up against competing propositions.

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Now for some challenges. Among the many facing us, I've chosen three because each has extraordinary power and reach. Meeting them will probably require the "creative destruction" of some of our current ways of thinking about education, business, research and partnerships.

One of the single most important challenges we face is teaching today's students - at all levels - how to innovate.

Can it be done? Of course it can. Students can learn the process of innovation, risk taking, and rule breaking from models taken from our collective experience - and long before they are sent out into the world.

Second, we need to nurture partnership skills and reward those who practice them. That means resolving an apparent dilemma. We are all encouraged to be our own person, and to succeed on our own merits. Yet in many situations, cooperation, pooling talent, knowledge and experience is what is needed.

We will need to discover how to embrace and reward both ways of working. A great baseball team knows how to do this: it values both its homerun hitters and the players who make the double plays.

Third, we need to make the practice of innovation inclusive and pervasive. Including a diverse array of expertise and perspectives strengthens the pool of creativity from which we can draw our new knowledge and technologies.

But innovation must also be pervasive, not simply the province of a few scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs - no matter how diverse. As Alan Greenspan put it earlier this month: "It is not enough to create a job market that has enabled those with few skills to finally be able to grasp the first rung of the ladder to achievement. More generally, we must ensure that our whole population receives an education that will allow full and continuing participation in this dynamic period of American economic history."

It shouldn't be surprising that these challenges involve purely human and social endeavors and arrangements, and that brings me to my concluding point.

As we face the "perennial gale of creative destruction" we possess too little knowledge about learning, about cognition, about human behavior as we confront change and take risks.

Thanks to new methods and new tools, many social scientists believe that this field is poised for many exciting new discoveries. We may end up with something like a "Cognitive or Knowledge Revolution" that makes the information revolution look very small indeed.

Keep this in mind when you create new partnerships - you'll surely want to give social scientists a seat at the table. This will help us balance the chaos that could result from the natural disruption of innovation with a semblance of order needed to move us ahead as a society.

Thank you.



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