john kao

The “New York Times” has an interesting article today on John Kao, the author of “Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do to Get It Back.” Here’s a clip:

John Kao’s “non-career career” began with the study of philosophy and social science at Yale and a summer as a keyboardist with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Then there was Yale Medical School and a psychiatry residency at Harvard, interrupted by a fellowship at Harvard Business School that turned into 14 years of teaching about the integration of science, technology and entrepreneurship.

This too was interrupted, by stints as a producer (and Tony nominee) for “Golden Child,” the David Henry Hwang play about tradition and change in China, and production work on films like “Mr. Baseball” and “Sex, Lies and Videotape.”

In 1997, he moved to San Francisco where, from an office in the Presidio, he advises corporations and governments on the subject that he now believes ties his life together: innovation.

He spoke here last month at a forum organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where he was described as “an evangelist for a national innovation agenda,” the goal he advocates in a new book, “Innovation Nation” (Free Press, 2007). Reviewers have praised it as both insightful and “scary.” His ideas are further summed up in what he calls his “little orange book,” a pocket-size, 28-page manifesto he hands out freely to people who express an interest in his work…

Intrigued, I started digging around, and what I found wasn’t all that impressive. There was a superficial article on Detroit, and a piece on the Huffington Post which described his recent work on the Clinton campaign as “douchey.” Here’s a clip from the last piece:

…”The Innovation Manifesto” reads like the bits that weren’t good enough to get into L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics, and since that reads like a barely literate attempt at Bible fan fiction, that’s saying a lot. It’s entirely possible that copies of this lame attempt at “punk” corporate talk, landed in the Clinton staff’s trash cans, but that this sort of faux-inspirational babble has gotten anywhere near a presidential campaign is alarming. It encapsulates everything I find wrong with Hillary’s campaign, highlighting just how uninnovative it is. Innovation doesn’t come in a pamphlet, even a $70,000 one, and it can’t be squeezed into a stump speech here or there. I’d rather she hung a poster up on a wall with a kitten clinging to a softly lit tree branch and “Hang in there!” scrawled on the bottom. This is just pappy crap, and as long as anyone takes it seriously the paper shredder of the future is jammed, we’re stuck in the box, and innovation is nothing.

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2 Comments

  1. Ol' E Cross
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    I’m rich and successful, so I’ll could write a book about becoming rich and successful, which I’ll sell to people who desperately want to be rich and successful, which will make me more rich and successful. Innovative.

  2. dp in ypsi
    Posted June 26, 2008 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    FYI – bidding is live on ebay: Lunch with Warren Buffett.

    I’ll chip in a few bucks if we wanna try to raise the cash to have him come to Ypsi. This could be a fun, odd ball PR event; not to mention it would be most-unbelievably excellent to spend an hour or two with an icon of our time.

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