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Candid News and Events Uncategorized

Dubunking some of our notions about support for Science

We held our first #debunk in the Project Art Centre on the 9th of April.  It’s the first in a series of free morning Near Future events in Dublin where we explore #debunking some of the truism’s that misguide us all in our thinking and decision making.

After great coffee and pastries our first speaker Barre Fitzpatrick (pictured above) spoke eloquently on the nature and role of funding for basic Science research in Ireland.  This is a topic of critical importance to Ireland as a society and its place in the world. Barre pointed out that before 1999 we lacked a serious policy and investment in Science. This despite significant achievement in Science over many years.

The changed with the foundation of Science Foundation Ireland in 2000 and in some respects the period from 2000-2009 can be seen as a brief golden age for Science in Ireland.  An all too brief period it seems. Despite a decade of work the foundations that were being build are starting to crumble. A letter signed by over 900 Irish Scientists appearing just before our talk served to underline this problem.

A key point that Barre made, and is raised by the letter is that

By their very nature, such discoveries are not predictable and cannot be prescribed by what the Government calls “oriented basic research”. Equally unpredictable are the areas in which important discoveries will be made. Basic research should be funded on the criterion of excellence alone to ensure a credible and sustainable scientific infrastructure.

The Innovation Union Scorecard shows that Ireland

According to the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2014, Ireland ranks ninth on the performance of research and innovation systems in the EU countries.

Sweden tops the list, followed by Denmark, Germany and Finland. These states have balanced research and innovation systems, with very good performance on all aspects evaluated (research and innovation inputs; business innovation activities; innovation outputs; and economic effects).

As Barre noted during the talk most Irish statistics used relate back to numbers for 2009. When the system was at it’s strongest.

Barre took us through some critical points on language and the use of language with regards to research.  The linguistic positioning of research as “pure” and “ivory-tower” and a “blue sky” approach was contracted with the need for a pragmatic “grounded” approach in Ireland’s straightened circumstances. This illustration

Using another metaphor a recent piece in the Irish times wrote that

Making sure we have an SSTI policy that delivers is crucial. The age-old metaphor– “the chain is as strong as the weakest link” – is very relevant here both in relation to RD&I policies for enterprises and for investment in research and development in the higher education sector, since research and innovation are on a continuum.

To thrive in the 21st Century Ireland needs the correct State policies in place to foster local innovation, a system of secondary education that produces a scientifically literate knowledgeable society, a system of tertiary education that generates new knowledge, an industrial system that works with the educational system to produce innovative goods and services, and a system of state structures that provides the overarching framework to support innovation. The system must be dynamic enough to anticipate, pre-empt, and adapt to exogenous change yet static enough preserve the ability to change.

Despite our rhetoric about the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) we are failing badly at this.

Barre’s inspired half hour exposition led into a further animated  half hour discussion amongst the attendees before we reluctantly wrapped up just after 9am.

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Communication strategy Technology Uncategorized

Snails, Systems and Slack

Paul Quigley CEO of Newswhip wrote a lovely blogpost about the great Snail Derby of 1998. Faced with the problem of getting the Snails to race in the same direction, an innovative 6yo came up with Snail Trails.

 Snail trails. Snail trails are not a product you can buy. Snail trails are a streak of water, placed in front of a snail using one’s fingertip.

You see, snails prefer pushing themselves over wet surfaces than dry surfaces. My girlfriend observed that a simple streak of wetness leading directly from the snail’s current position to the finish line kept them on the straight and narrow, so to speak. Snail trails saved the day, and the snail derby of 1988 was a roaring success.

Paul goes on to describe how you create snail trails for customer acquisition for SaaS businesses.

There is a broader lesson for businesses in the use of technology.  Demming said that “A bad system will beat a good person every time.”  A snail trail is a better system. It’s a very clever use of lightweight technology to reduce friction in a process.  Good systems do that. They reduce organisational friction.  They drive better organisational conversations.   And the value of reducing friction in processes and conversations is very very large.

One company that is building organisational snail trails is Slack.  I’m a very big fan of Slack. The value of what it’s is doing is rumoured to be up to $2 Billion. Double what it was worth 12 months ago. That’s part of the value that Slack is capturing. And it reflects a small portion of value that it is creating by building better Snail Trails.

/Dermot

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.nearfuture.io/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/dermot2-copy1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Dermot has extensive expertise in the area of Digital Transformation and Strategy.[/author_info]

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Our featured image is Snail Trails from Luís Estrela on Flickr