Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Reading :: A Civic Entrepreneur

A Civic Entrepreneur: The Life of Technology Visionary George Kozmetsky
By Monty Jones

George Kozmetsky (1917-2003) “is most widely known today for two accomplishments -- taking the early steps that propelled the business school at the University of Texas at Austin toward its current position as an internationally prominent institution, and playing a central role in the economic transformation of Austin from a sleepy college town in the mid-twentieth century to its present-day status as a center of high-technology research, development, and manufacturing” (p.3). In the second role, Kozmetsky founded the IC2 Institute and its unit, the Austin Technology Incubator, and played a pivotal role in bringing MCC to Austin in the early 1980s. This thick biography (461pp plus end matter) covers his entire life, from his birth as the child of Russian immigrants in Seattle to his death of ALS.

For my purposes, the most important parts of this story relate to Kozmetsky’s hand in Austin’s economic transformation. Kozmetsky was at one point one of the richest men in the US, thanks to his cofounding of Teledyne, and one unofficial reason that he was selected as Dean of UT’s business school was that the University expected him to be a donor in addition to courting donors. He did not disappoint on either count, but his personal donations often strategically advanced his own objectives. One example was the Institute for Constructive Capitalism, which he began planning in 1966 and established in 1977 (p.293), largely through his own donations. This “think and do tank,” which had “an emphasis on practical, hands-on economic development activities as well as academic research” (p.293), was meant to promote a constructive capitalism in line with Kozmetsky’s politically liberal views, involving collaboration among government, business, education, and labor (p.297). The term “capitalism” fell out of favor, so in 1985 the Institute received a new name: the IC2 Institute (named for innovation, creativity, and capital) (p.305).

IC2 evolved over the years. Originally, its goals were to “underwrite advanced research on issues such as determining the role of capitalism in society, encouraging business enterprises to contribute more toward solving societal problems and improving life, nurturing entrepreneurship and gaining a better understanding of the role of small business in caapitalist society, and promoting better public understanding of business, including improving business education in public schools.” In the 1980s, its scope shifted “into a more proactive role of spurring economic development” (p.296). In the 1990s, Kozmetsky focused on technology commercialization pursued as a commitment shared by stakeholders in government, business, education, and labor (p.297). Kozmetsky remained director until 1995; after stepping down, he remained closely involved in its leadership (p.300).

IC2 had six characteristics that, Kozmetsky said, made it a unique research organization: (1) it dealt with unstructured problems; (2) it attacked those problems with interdisciplinary “think teams”; (3) it went beyond traditional business ed subjects; (4) it linked theory and practice viaa interdisciplinary conferences, initiatives, and “experienced practitioners”; (5) it tried new ways of solving problems while remaining in a university environment; (6) it transferred research results to other institutions (pp.301-302).

IC2 developed several innovations that were eventually transferred to the business school. One was Moot Corp, a business plan competition (p.314). Another was the Master’s Degree in Science and Technology Commercialization (MSTC), which began in 1996 and was one of the earliest degree programs of its type, and was moved to the business school in 2014 (p.382). (Note: The MSTC was one of the models for the HDO program.)

Kozmetsky wanted to build up the regional capacity for developing new firms, based in the philosophy that it’s better to create new firms than to “steal” existing ones (p.336). Among his efforts was the Center for Technology Venturing, a 1988 joint project between IC2 and the business school’s Bureau of Business Research (p.336). In 1989, this Center spawned teh Austin Technology Incubator (p.337), which “provided companies with strategic advice, mentoring, financing, marketing, public relations assistance, emnployee benefit programs, and office and manufacturing space for as long as three years” (p.339). The Center for Technology Venturing also spawned the Texas Capital Network in 1989; “by 1994 it had expanded nationwide and changed its name to the Capital Network” (p.338).

Kozmetsky also “led a group of entrepreneurs in establishing the Austin Entrepreneurs’ council” in 1991 (p.345), which in turn spawned the Austin Software Council, a group that in 1998 separated from IC2; in 2002 it changed its name to the Austin Technology Council (p.347).

IC2 also did work for NASA in 1993, laying the ground for NASA’s “nationwide network of technology transfer programs by the end of the century” (p.381).

As you’ll notice, I’ve mainly focused on the Austin parts of the Kozmetsky story. But the entire book is interesting reading, painting Kozmetsky as a driven, focused, generous, yet sometimes flawed person. He was a visionary strategist and he also excelled at the “retail” parts of being dean -- maintaining relations with local and national government agencies and external stakeholders. On the other hand, he was not always effective at the “management” parts of being dean, such as identifying and addressing faculty grievances.

If you’re interested in technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, technology transfer, technology commercialization -- or Austin -- definitely pick up this book.

Reading :: The Sustainability Edge

The Sustainability Edge: How to Drive Top-Line Growth with Triple-Bottom-Line Thinking
By Suhas Apte and Jagdish Sheth

This business book tackles the question: How do you build a business around sustainability? That is, rather than building a business around simply maximizing business profits and/or maximizing shareholder value, how do you maximize benefits for all stakeholders, and how do you do it as a source of competitive advantage (p.16)? As the authors state, “Today, the best companies are generating every form of value that matters: emotional, experiential, social, and financial. And they’re doing it for all their stakeholders, not because it’s ‘politically correct’ but because it’s the only path to long-term competitive advantage” (p.17).

This angle may remind my readers of the socially responsible capitalism of Kozmetsky or, more cynically, Boltanski and Chiapello’s argument that capitalism incorporates its critiques. In any case, the book is built around the “sustainability stakeholders framework,” which attends to “triple-bottom-line thinking”: direct impact (consumers, customers, employees), indirect impact (NGOs, governments, media), and enabler impact (suppliers, investors, communities) (p.25). Most of the book involves describing each kind of impact and each stakeholder, providing illustrations from major companies such as Clorox.

To be honest, most of the heavy lifting in the book is done by the framework described above (depicted at the beginning of most chapters) and the attendant Stakeholder Sustainability Audit in the appendix. The (singular) bottom line of the book is that companies will be more sustainable if they identify a way to balance the needs of all the listed stakeholders. In other words, this book could be easily summarized in an HBR article, but the illustrations make it easier to apply.

Should you read this book? If you’re trying to formulate a business model, I’d suggest skimming it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Reading :: New Wealth

New Wealth: Commercialization of Science and Technology for Business and Economic Development
By George Kozmetsky, Frederick Williams, and Victoria Williams

George Kozmetsky was dean of the School of Business at the University of Texas as well as the founder and first director of the IC2 Institute. Since I've been doing with IC2 and specifically with technology commercialization, I thought I'd better pick up this 2004 book.

Kozmetsky was an enthusiastic promoter of the development of socially responsible capitalism. In this book, he and the other two authors describe a research agenda for understanding technology-based enterprise creation, "with the initial goal of identifying those variables apparently critical in the creation of businesses where success was based on the commercialization of technologies, application or both" (p.13). Their research, they say, confirmed:

  • technology as a type of wealth, one that may need new measurements
  • the need for technology policy
  • the interactions among markets, no one of which is wholly insulated from others
  • the need for effective management and entrepreneurial training
  • technology transfer as a process
  • fast-company design
  • new management strategies
  • the consequent need for enhanced applied research (p.14)
They list policy implications (pp.14-15), which amount to finding ways to encourage technological activities through public policy that appropriately harnesses private talent and enterprise.

Throughout the book, they discuss relevant concepts, often drawing from other IC2 and IC2-adjacent publications. For instance, Chapter 8 is about creating the technopolis; it summarizes the insights from Smilor, Kozmetsky, and Gibson as well as Gibson and Rogers. Chapter 9, Adoption of Innovations, treads the same ground as Rogers

They also clarify some pieces that I haven't seen discussed elsewhere. For instance, they succinctly summarize factors of technology commercialization: 
  1. "Technology is a constantly replenishable national resource."
  2. "Technology generates wealth, which in turn is the key to economic, social, and political power."
  3. "Technology is a prime factor for domestic productivity and international competitiveness."
  4. "Technology is the driver for new alliances among academia, business, and government."
  5. "Technology requires a new managerial philosophy and practice." (p.62)
In technology commercialization, R&D results are "transformed into the marketplace as products and services in a timely manner" (p.65). Traditionally, "industrial laboratories concentrate on mission-oriented products and universities confine themselves primarily to basic research and teaching," but this approach is inadequate, resulting in fewer opportunities, more layoffs and closures, a weaker global position, poorer regional and local development, and poorer growth opportunities. "Since 1996, a new paradigm has been emerging ... [which] includes institutional developments involving academia, business, and government technology venturing." This new paradigm involves "accelerating the successful commercialization of innovation in a competitive environment" (p.65). (For examples, see my recent papers on technology entrepreneurship education.) 

Related, the authors have a chapter on industrial parks and incubators. This chapter includes a short history of the IC2 Institute's Austin Technology Incubator (p.85). In 1989, ATI was founded. In 1995, it moved into the MCC building (p.85). 

Chapter 15 reviews "The Austin Model"; I want to note this chapter for later, but I won't review it.

Finally, the book concludes with Chapter 20, "Toward Capitalism with Conscience." Specifically, "we will consider the 'conscience' of capitalism as that of avoiding or rectifying inequities in the sharing of wealth and prosperity" (p.200). The authors draw on Milton Friedman here in claiming an interdependence between free enterprise and freedom (p.201). More skeptical readers may be reminded of Boltanski and Chiapello's claim that capitalism always reconfigures itself to incorporate its critiques.

In all, this was a useful book for me in terms of understanding IC2, ATI, and Austin as well as technology commercialization's raison d'etre more broadly. If you're interested in such things, definitely pick it up.

Reading :: Posthumanism

Posthumanism: Anthropological Insights
By Alan Smart and Josephine Smart

This slim book (98pp. plus end matter) provides a useful, accessible introduction to posthumanism, a term that I have been hearing but have been until now unmotivated to explore. Spoiler alert: it involves Haraway, Hayles, Latour, Maturana & Vela, Pickering, Wrangham, and others I've reviewed and written about. So, although the term has been a bit of a question mark for me, it encompasses a great deal of familiar material.

The authors note that for some, "posthumanism is mostly about how new technologies are changing what it means to be human," but for them, "we have always been posthuman" in the sense that "becoming human involved our intimate interaction with more-than-human elements" such as fire and bacteria (p.2). "Becoming human involved the adoption of new extrasomatic technologies (i.e., things that go beyond our bodies and their basic abilities) and fundamental changes in our microbial ecologies. ... Inhabiting the globe required collaboration with plants and animals" (p.3).

Posthumanism, as the authors put it, denotes both posthuman-ism (after humans) and post-humanism (after the Western humanist tradition, with its emphases on Western-defined secularity, rationality, and human progress) (p.4).

Not surprisingly, actor-network theory constitutes a big chunk of the discussion, with the authors essentially claiming that Latour's "modernity" is roughly equal to their "humanism" (p.23). The authors are interested in the poststructuralist critique of the coherence of the individual leveled by Latour as well as Derrida, Foucault, Haraway, Althusser, and Deleuze & Guattari (p.52). But the authors also point to other lines of thought, such as distributed cognition and Haraway's cyborg anthropology (p.77).

All in all, I appreciated the straightforward simplicity of this book. The authors manage to lay out a clear, well illustrated account of posthumanism, which is quite a trick given some of the abtruse philosophical sources from which they draw (I'm thinking of Deleuze and Guattari here). They draw relationships among the lines of thought that contribute to posthumanism, and they abstract some basic principles for us. If, like me, you have been wondering about the term, this book is a strong introduction; pick it up.

Reading :: Naturalistic Decision Making

Naturalistic Decision Making
Edited by Caroline E. Zsambok and Gary Klein

This book was originally published in 1994 based on the Second Naturalistic Decision Making Conference that year. It was reprinted in 2009.

Naturalistic decision making (NDM), as Caroline Zsambok argues in Chapter 1 ("Naturalistic Decision Making: Where are We Now?"), "is the way people use their experience to make decisions in field settings" (p.4, her emphasis). NDM studies suggest that "the processes and strategies of 'naturalistic' decision making differ from those revealed in traditional field research" (p.4). For instance, in NDM, "the focus of the decision event is more front-loaded, so that decision makers are more concerned about sizing up the situation and refreshing their situation awareness through feedback"—in contrast with traditional decision making, which "emphasizes understanding the back end of the decision event—choosing among options" (p.4).

Key contextual factors of NDM, Zsambok says (quoting Orasanu & Connaly, 1993), are:

  1. "Ill-structured problems"
  2. "Uncertain, dynamic environments"
  3. "Shifting, ill-defined, or competing goals"
  4. "Action/feedback loops"
  5. "Time stress"
  6. "High stakes"
  7. "Multiple players"
  8. "Organizational goals and norms" (p.5)
We can see how these relate to Klein's later books, which are reviewed on this blog. Interestingly, many (especially 4) are also related to John Boyd's OODA loop, with potential interaction between these two lines of inquiry. (It looks like this connection has been explored somewhat in the literature.) Zsambok also notes the connections with research on expertise (p.9) and the difference between cognitive and behavioral task analysis (p.13; see also Crandall et al.). 

Gary Klein discusses applications of NDM in Chapter 5, "An Overview of Naturalistic Decision Making Applications." Here, he notes that "The initial impetus behind the NDM movement was to describe what people do, whereas the motivation behind traditional decision research was to improve the way people made decisions" (p.49). NDM research "tries to describe the strategies proficient decision makers are doing, and does not yet have any central claims about what might led to implications for improving decision quality" (p.50). (Klein later felt comfortable producing such claims, leading to his string of books.) He identifies reasons that NDM might be better applied to decision quality than traditional approaches:
  • "Classical methods do not apply in many naturalistic settings."
  • "Experienced decision makers can be used as standards for performance."
  • "Naturalistic Decision Making tries to build on the strategies people use."
  • "Experience lets people generate reasonable courses of action."
  • "Situation awareness may be more critical than deliberating about alternative courses of action."
  • "Decision requirements are context specific." (p.50)
Zsambok takes up this theme in Chapter 11, "Naturalistic Decision Making Research and Improving Team Decision Making." Based on research, she asserts that good decision-making teams "monitor their performance and self-correct; offer feedback; maintain awareness of roles and functions and take action consistent with that knowledge; adapt to changes in the task or the team; communicate effectively; converge on a shared understanding of their situation and course of action; anticipate each others' actions or needs; and coordinate their actions" (p.112). NDM field studies validate these assertions (p.112) and specifically the idea that teams share mental models (p.113). 

In Chapter 13, "Cognitive Task Analysis," Sallie E. Gordon and Richard T. Gill argue for cognitive task analysis as opposed to behavioral task analysis. Whereas BTA focuses on what people do externally, CTA attempts to capture their cognitive work as well (p.132). CTA analysts try to capture a subset of these:
  • "Concepts and principles, their interrelationships with each other, and their relationship to the task(s)."
  • "Goals and goal structures"
  • "Cognitive skills, rules, strategies, and plans."
  • "Perceptual learning, pattern recognition, and implicit or tacit knowledge."
  • "Mental models"
  • "Problem models"
  • "How novices move through all of the above in various stages to become expert."
  • "Difficulties in acquiring domain knowledge and skills."
  • "Instructional procedures useful for moving a person from novice to expert." (p.132)
In all, this was a useful look at how NDM researchers were positioning their approach against traditional decision making in 1994. We can see here why Klein positions his subsequent books the way he does, specifically pursuing CTA in field studies. We readers from other fields, especially those with a strong field research tradition, may find it odd that some of these arguments have to be made—but the way in which they are made helps us to understand how NDM developed in the subsequent years.