As I sit here this Sunday afternoon and work on the company’s finances, what was the major expense this month…gas. Yes, my business takes me on the road all over the Southeast. With rising gas prices brings higher overhead. Yes…many businesses pass off the cost of traveling to their clients. But bottomline…someone is paying.

As I ride from place to place, watch television…companies are touting their hybrid technology. But here is the bottom-line on hybrid technology…it is still oil dependent. Yes, they require some natural resource like gasoline to power the propulsion of the vehicles.

Ever since the creation of the modern vehicle, we have used some sort of gasoline or oil dependent resource to combust and create propulsion. If we want to rid ourselves of oil dependency and truly create vehicles that use a sustainable resource for propulsion, we must get rid of the internal combustion engine. Yes…

As long as we are creating “hybrid” cars, we are still using yesterday’s technology to provide propulsion. That means those that are trying to innovate with the idea of using water (H2O) in an internal combustion engine, we are still using yesterday’s technology to provide propulsion and a natural resource that many argue will one day be just as scarce as crude oil.

Many automotive engineers are creating engines that use electric compulsion. Where do we get our electricity? How much of the electric grid is producing electricity that is not compromising a natural resource. Is the earthquake and tsunami in Japan teaching us anything when it comes to creating electricity from nuclear energy?

We must start from scratch. We must be able to throw away what we know and think beyond the conventions we have been using for the last two hundred years. Where are those who are willing to innovate…those entrepreneurs that have nothing to loose, and create the next wave of technology. Who are the Francois Isaac de Rivaz’s of tomorrow?

Our story of the last two centuries has been written, who will write the story for tomorrow? We need you, oil dependency is driving business of today into the dark ages…un-sustainable. Small businesses of America need you.

Entrepreneurial & Creative Focus…Labyrinth Style

This past Sunday…I took part in an experience that was quite different but extremely enlightening. I walked a Labyrinth. Have you ever taken part in an experience like this? Do you know what I am talking about?

A labyrinth is an ancient walking meditation, and is considered a spiritual path of prayer. “It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path.” A labyrinth is different from a maze in that there are no tricks to it, no dead ends, no interesting paths. The labyrinth is a well-defined path that leads to into the center and back out again.

So why am I writing about something that can be such a spiritual experience in a business setting. Well, as I was walking through the Labyrinth, I was thinking about what the Chaplain described as the purpose of the Labyrinth.

From her explanation:
“Following the path is a metaphor for life. Just as we are walking along, nearing the center, we suddenly find ourselves far away from that goal. The Labyrinth teaches us that by persistently following the path, with all the twists and turns, we will get to the center.”

As I was walking, I was filling the tensions of life dissipate, and enlightened focus upon certain areas of my life. Then as I was walking…I began to think how this experience could benefit entrepreneurs. This experience could benefit creative individuals…I know I benefited.

As a blogger, writing, entrepreneur, creative, and lecturer…my life can go in so many different directions. As entrepreneur, creative, and writer…I am always in search of ways to find focused attention that leads to creative inspiration. The mere act of walking through the path allowed me to focus on the path, pealing back the layers of distraction.

Imagine an exercise we could take part in daily that would bring focus and enlightenment to the creative side of our brain. Most of us look for that “zone,” that happy place that allows to fully come into touch with our full senses. This heightened ability to come in close contact with our creative side can sometimes be euphoric. But…that can be somewhat manic. This exercise calms and allows us to focus…the focus that brings enlightenment. This can lead to innovation.

Labyrinths are in cathedrals all over Europe and now more than 1,000 are in churches, parks, prisons, hospitals, and retreat centers in the US. The canvas Labyrinth pictured above is modeled after the stone Labyrinth embedded in the floor of Chartres Cathedral, France, since 1201 AD.

Imagine using this technique of walking a Labyrinth when trying to find focus in your business, with students, when dealing with a tough decision. Yes, there is a spiritual aspect of Labyrinths, but there is also a life aspect…a business application. Using this tool to find focus…by walking this path.

Here is a quote that I think speaks well about Labyrinths:
“Labyrinths are…symbols, spiritual tools, mathematical images, harmonic patterns, pathways of discovery, playgrounds of prayer.” Jill Kimberly Hartwell Geoffrion

I believe there is a business application to the Labyrinth…one for writers, entrepreneurs, bloggers, small business owners, and even the corporate world. What are your thoughts? Have you ever taken part by walking a Labyrinth.

To learn more about Labrinths:

To find a Labyrinth near you, CLICK HERE for the web locator.

Blogging…is truly an entrepreneurial experience!

For many young bloggers and writers, the discovery phase of writing online is so new and confusing. There is a huge perception that what we write is going to be viewed as the gospel, and those comments can negatively impact our message. It is my humble opinion in that discovery phase of writing and blogging, that content is king.

It is important to create a focus for the content; learning how to communicate the message clearly. As bloggers/writers begin to find their niche, writing with a community takes it’s focus. It is this discovery phase that allows our internal engines to see what responses we receive and allow community driven content to naturally take shape. Obviously the joy is that we are using analytics to see where we engage certain audiences.

Here is what concerns me, so many times we read there is a heuristic or model to become a successful blogger/writer. Evverywhere we look, there is the “five steps” for  this or that. To me, blogging is like an entrepreneurial experience.

I have two friends that have very good definitions of entrepreneurship:

  • “Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. The act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.” – John Warner quoting Peter F. Drucker
  • “Entrepreneurship is an activity that involves the discovery, evaluation, and exploitation of opportunities to introduce new goods and services, ways of organizing markets, processes, and raw materials through organizing efforts that previously had not existed.” Sean Williams, Ph.D

If you read these two viewpoints, this to me parallels the blogging world. Bloggers specifically can become innovators with a capacity to create wealth. Bloggers find a need in the market place and focus their writing. This discovery engages that market place.

But…with writing and entrepreneurship, there is not always a clear path to the end and so we have to leverage our communities, and focus on our content. We also have to be passionate about our “product” and write about that passion. Even if the community is going in one direction, we have to be willing to explore new avenues to write about passionately…which engages thought leadership.

I think that there is more than a one stop model for each person in the writing process. Yes, if we a blogging for business…we need focus. But I do think we have look beyond reach, action items, and engagement; and allow ourselves to write in way that allows more of that discovery phase to shine. Writing and blogging can be a place to explore new ideas, new strategies, and empower people to find the voice they never knew they had.

This post was inspired by Mack Collier’s Post: The 3 Critical Content Creation Questions You Must Ask (And Answer!).

Where do those good ideas come from? Stories?

I was watching this great video that is the animation of Stephen Johnson speaking…and I began to think. Where do good ideas come from? He takes us down a path to show us that they start with a hunch…this hunch can take years and years to grow. But what ultimately brings this good idea to life is this idea of connectivity.

But to me…it is more than just connectivity…it is the sharing of the ideas with others, the language exchanged. Mutual discourse leads to innovation. Yes, we can be connected to one another, but we have to bring that idea to a path of articulation. Let’s think for a second. Two people can have the solution to the other’s problem…and their collaborative efforts could yield the tremendous result.  But they have to do more than meet, they have to share. We can be invited to some of the greatest conferences with the brightest minds, and those bright minds can stand side-by-side in that room and never share.

Connectivity does not solve the problem. Or maybe it does. Well…those good ideas come from the articulation of those ideas when connectivity is achieved. One of the tools I teach at Clemson is the classic elevator pitch. I found this nifty little tool from Harvard’s Business School which is called the HBS Elevator Pitch Builder…it identifies:

– What would you most want the listener to remember about you?
– State the valued phrase as key results or impact.
– What is the unique benefit?
– What are the goals?

Now this is not perfect when trying to move beyond connectivity to communication…but it provides a barometer for the conversation. How do we break through the connectivity, to find those relationships we trust, and freely exchange the ideas that lead to innovation? Let’s take Twitter for example. Millions of people online using a portal to freely express ideas. You can share, you can listen, and you can sit and watch. By merely opening a webpage and logging into Twitter…you are connected. But what does it take to share an idea openly? What does it take to engage with a conversation inside this massive paradigm of social interactions to exchange ideas. Yes, it provides connectivity…but it can be the same as screaming your idea out loud in a crowd of millions.  Bringing language to your idea is hard!

I remember having this idea a few years ago after graduate school. It is a cool idea that I think one day will come true. My father encouraged me to go after the idea, but I was scared. He told me to just write it down and share it with others. But who would I share it with? How would I explain the idea. I did not have the language to articulate this idea and the network of people to share it with to bring it to life. Bringing language to life, giving life to an idea is more than connectivity…it is learning to articulate that idea. It is learning to articulate that particular idea at the right time when connectivity presents itself.

That is why storytelling is a great thing. It is the ability to articulate an idea in a way that connects with our audience. To help the audience see an idea in their context. When we share, when we articulate an idea, when give voice to our thoughts…we are telling the story of our idea. Bridging the gap between two connected people is language…the story of our idea.

Stephen Johnson’s Book: Where Good Ideas Come From

HTML5, VP8, H264 – What is all this video stuff?

At the beginning of this year, one of my major initiatives when starting my new company is to offer high-quality video content for my customers and not be restricted specifically with Flash Video codecs. Why…well, it is heavy, takes for ever to encode, and does not maximize the high definition image my clients pay me so dearly to deliver.

First stop, go mobile. I did tons of research on companies providing solutions for mobile video delivery. From Brightcove, Kaltura, Sorenson and host of others were on my choping block to sift through and see what fits me best. Right now, 360 by Sorenson has worked well providing rich media delivery to not only web interfaces but also to iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. They have more to come and waiting on the HTML5 release.

But one of the major places I have been watching is the HTML5 discussion. I am currently using an HTML5 player on my homepage for video delivery. This allows different browsers select with video codec to use whether it may be Flash, Quicktime, or even OGG.

So…today was a big day in the video delivery arena. Google announced it’s acquisition of On2 Media and the release of the VP8 codec as an open source codec. As a part of this they announced the WebM Project as a part of the release of the VP8 codec as an open source codec.
***FYI, below are some links that explain all this stuff like HTML5, VP8, etc.

Now…what the hell does this mean for the end consumer. Web video delivery is changing faster than I can find a new gadget to buy. Also, Flash video is not the main gig anymore and I am thankful. With VP8 and other codecs that can be wrapped by an HTML5 player, high quality video will be delivered faster and to more browsers including mobile platforms. The big boys are openly acknowledging that offering video to the standard desktop is the wave of yesterday and the consumer demand to watch video over any mobile device is crucial.

So…when you are thinking about working with a video production group or a video technology group to distribute your video content, the game is changing fast. It is more than just burning a DVD and compressing to play on your website. It is now outputting the right flavors of your project and getting them to your audience. Seriously, audience and wear they watch the video content is the crucial equation to this game. If you are trying to reach people on an Android or and iPad, you better be able to distribute that message to that technology! Audience and Distribution is the crucial question!

A year ago, it was all Flash Video or some Quicktime for web. Becuase of that, you could not access this content on most mobile devices and some browsers. Now, with all the new mobile devices whether be in your pocket or on the door of your refrigerator…the next generation codecs and players like VP8, H264, HTML5 will allow you to get a message to a targeted audience regardless of the technology! Are you working with just cool video producers or are you working with peeps that can create the message and understand how and where it needs to be delivered?

OK…cool links:

Today’s Google Annoucement from the Google I/O 2010 Conference
Mashable’s 5 Tools for Integrating HTML5 Video into your Website
What is HTML5 Video from Wikipedia
What is VP8 from Wikipedia
The WebM Project
The Digital Media Update from Sorenson’s CEO Peter Csathy on VP8

You have to be aligned: head, mouth, heart, feet!

After spending two days attending the InnoVenture Southeast Conference in Greenville, SC…I started to think about one of the speakers from the CHPRM’s Conference I attended last week. OK…let’s back-up for a second. Two different conferences, how in the world am I relating these two totally different topic areas: healthcare marketing and innovation/entrepreneurship?

CHPRM’s is the Carolina Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society who puts on two conferences each year, one happened this Spring. The opening speaker was a man by the name of Scott Regan who was talking about how to build a better brand. He said one thing that stuck out in my mind,”Be authentic! You have to be aligned: your head, your mouth, you heart, and your feet.” Hmm…makes sense. He then charged us with seven questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is your product?
  3. How is it special?
  4. How is it different from others’ similar offerings?
  5. How can I demonstrate it’s trustworthiness?
  6. How can I demonstrate I am contemporary?
  7. How can I demonstrate cool?

As I walked through the InnoVenture Conference this past few days, I was surrounded by entrepreneurs, medium size to large companies, non-profits, etc. giving 15 minute presentations. These were more than just presentations but more like pitches. Each had to tell what made them special and what they needed to be successful, their elevator pitch. Some real good, some not so articulate. As I sat there…I thought about those seven questions and Scott’s quote: “Be authentic! You have to be aligned: your head, your mouth, you heart, and your feet.”

Creating messages with groups, whether it be a video message, direct mail piece, web landing page, or even a print piece…you have to think as it being a mini-elevator pitch for that particular situation. You have to get rid of the clutter.

I compare writing and executing a 30 second television spot and even 140 character tweet the same as an elevator pitch, asking myself those seven questions. It is easy to sit down and write a presentation for a pitch knowing your time is unlimited or even more than 30 minutes. But imagine having to to trim it to 5 minutes. It is just as hard as writing that same message in a 30 second spot or even a 140 character tweet. You have to be aligned, head, mouth, heart, and feet.

I was writing a script for a small business the other day and one of the first things I asked them to do is write out a one page description of their company’s message. From there, I sat down and spent time talking with them, challenging thought, presented opposing view-points, and began extracting a message. I am looking for that pitch, that memorable piece that if you were riding the elevator with Donald Trump, you would shake his hand, tell him what you do…enough so that you leave him with a taste in his heart to want to ask you to jump off the elevator and talk more.

I would much more prefer writing a memorable pitch, a memorable script, or a memorable piece of marketing that can achieve more in 140 characters (or 30 seconds) that two pages of boring non-sense. OK…I have written 2 hour documentaries and produced long form work that warranted story development, but the principal is still the same.

So what is my point here in this long drawn out madness? We have to be memorable, authentic to survive in this crazy game called business. It is healthy for us to ask ourselves those seven questions and not only apply it to our message, but how we do business. From state supported universities to major big box companies to small businesses…we are trying to leverage what we can to succeed. We have to be aligned in-order to be authentic.

I was talking with Russ Davis from Sandler Sales Institute today as he was explaining how he helps groups become successful. I felt like he and I were speaking the same language, helping people define their objective, understand their audience and goals, and refine the message…drill it down until it is memorable. That Russ Davis…he is a smart guy and so is Scott Regan and John Warner of InnoVenture. Where do you want to go and what do you need to get there? Ask yourself the seven questions and remember to “Be authentic! You have to be aligned: your head, your mouth, you heart, and your feet.” I need a dose of my own medicine!

Entrepreneurs are wanted: InnoVenture 2010

There is something about walking through the halls of innovation. Feeling the overwhelming assurance of our ability to innovate, generate ideas, connect with like minded people, and push forward. There is something refreshing, moving from one hand shake to the next, from one introduction to another, and feeling the sense that connections can help us conquer the possible impossibilities.

This is the “pipeline of game changing opportunities.” John Warner has brought us together, empowered our intellect, inspired our creativity, and provided the platform to “connect together in our enlightened self-interest.”

Why is it that we strive to go attend a two-day event, one that has evolved each year….what are we in search of? Hmm…could it be that we are entrepreneurs at heart? We want more than the status quo, we want to find people that can not only help us solve the problems that seek to understand, but meet people and share. It all starts with a handshake.

As we looked around, we found ourselves in a sea of possibilities, and the room was filled with a sea of problem solvers, seekers, ad diverse set of individuals looking for what we are looking for: the common ground that binds us together…innovation.

Where else can you find a room filled with over 500 people listening to a revolving door of entrepreneurs, big business, big ideas, angel investors, people with solutions, people looking for solutions…a sea of opportunity. Where else can you find more human connection happening faster than the transactions in the Blue Cross Blue Shield server farm. Whether if it was an entrepreneur, a big box business, or someone offering a solution…the isles between the chairs were like the sea waters being split providing an angelic pathway from the crowd to the presenter…connecting diverse groups, talking innovation and collaboration.

I want to be a part of this..yes. I want to take my idea to the next level. I want the assurance that it is possible to find someone to help me develop a plan, guide me to funding, inspire me to keep pushing, ground me in the reality, and cheer with me during my successes. Then, I want to be a part of a place similar to Plato’s Republic…a place of sharing, sharing ideas, sharing knowledge, building our knowledge economy.

Where else can you listen to a wireless information provider talk about distributing video to devices and immediately be followed by a appliance provider thinking about the possibility of having video content provided on the face of a refrigerator. Then, both sitting down side-by-side and having a conversation. WOW!

Where else can I be empowered by the COO of Michelin Americas Research Company to think big about the possibility of reducing friction between the tire and the road for energy efficiency; only after being empowered by a lawyer talking about bringing one of the biggest airliner manufactures into our knowledge economy of South Carolina. Where else can I here from someone who wants to help entrepreneurs connect with Angel Investors right after someone seeking new ideas to present to automakers in Detroit.

It is possible! It is in our DNA! It is in our language. We can do it…we can create this knowledge economy right here in South Carolina and become the poster child for open innovation…globally.

Where else can I have a few brews right beside one the greatest examples of open innovation, bringing the academy and private sector together under a common vision. How inspiring is it to see each person clap and cheer a deserving award, knowing we felt a little closer to those around us because we wanted; hoped one day to be honored by that very award just named. It is like a new fraternity was formed, a fraternity of innovators…we know that feeling, that dream, that reality that we can almost touch.

Thank you John Warner, thank you for connecting us, inspiring us, and creating a language of innovation right here.  The future is right here…among us. Like Dave Bodde said,”Entrepreneurs are wanted!” We are all entrepreneurs…open innovation is fun. The sea of open innovators is right here. Just like Dan Wooster said…”We are story shapers.”

Web Strategy Firms are the New World Order

Times are changing faster and faster everyday. As technology evolves faster  than we can breathe…and as it evolves, we need people to help us with it, understand it, and sell us a strategy to implement.

Web strategy of 2010 has evolved into business communication strategy. Creating and monitoring revenue streams as we create and monitor conversations…well actually the technology that distributes these conversations and messages.

I think back to when I was in undergrad at Clemson. My freshman year (1992), no email and the only knowledge of the World Wide Web was this thing called Gopher. I remember I could use it to find my girlfriend’s class buildings at Appalachian State University. By my sophomore year, I had email and the WWW became a new idea on Clemson’s campus. By my junior year, Clemson was teaching web design and development classes. While I was in college, major AD & PR agencies were building strategic communication strategies and the computer geeks were creating webpages.

Now…here we sit in 2010, the new age AD Firm is the web/new media agency: building business models around web strategy as a communication plan that drives revenue. It started out as going paperless to save money, but now communication strategies are sold to drive revenue not only for the organizations that buy the plan but for the firms that are selling the strategy.

Why the discussion…I have been studying and trying to understand the evolution of the new media business models. Watching and researching the retainer models for web and new media firms that are not only creating an updated web presence but also building relationships with C-Level executives for long term ROI.

I have been talking and visiting with companies everyday who are caught in similar positions. They are staffed with creative professionals that handle all the graphic design and communication planning for their communication strategies. These companies are staffed with “traditional” media execution but scrambling to create and implement web and new media strategies. Many companies staffed with seasoned professionals trying desperately to get up-to-date with these web, social, and new media concepts. These same companies are staffed with interns that are training professionals how to evolve and adapt practitioner concepts into new technology.

Web strategy companies come in with big retainers and big ideas…visions of solving problems capitalizing on the current deficits in knowledge in many mid to large size organizations…”how can we make our web presence better and drive traffic to our message.” The new age AD Firm is today’s Web Firm….staffed with Presidents/CEOs, project managers, business development professionals, designers, developers and a board of directors. These board of directors made up of investors and visionaries capitalizing on the new wave of messaging.

It is a new world order…we are buying iPad’s and Androids as fast as we consume information. We sit and watch HDTV on our couches while we sit and surf the Internet with our Mac Book Pros and posh laptops. We are texting as we drive down the road while answering phone calls and listening to Pandora. Information velocity has a new derivative…information velocity. It is a new world order. And what is the next evolution? Hmm…Mobile Media Firms will take over and create the new strategies as business communication strategies with brick and mortar offices in every city.

How will we as practitioners stay relevant though this accelerated evolution of business and technology strategies. Hmm…maybe just keep on telling stories. BTW…I realize I might be one of these groups I am talking about…taking part in the new world order.

How political candidates use video to tell their story!

New media is a great new tool that has helped political candidates reach out beyond the traditional outlets, and tell their story. We witnessed history as the first African American ran for the highest political office in America, and he used the power of new media to reach his target audiences…his masses.

He engaged with YouTube, email blasts, Twitter, and other means to distribute his message. He coordinated this video message with television advertising. Then he used all of this connection points to bring the masses to watch a one hour television special from the eyes of his audience, telling their story. He was the host.

The one thing I have noticed when he used online video messaging, it always came from him looking directly at his audience. It was not these taped interviews where he was looking off camera, submitting to q&a from media outlets and pre-produced interview sessions. He had a script, it was well crafted, short and obtainable in one sitting, it was phrased in active voice, and he looked at his audience directly eye to eye, face to face.

He distributed these video messages with that same strategy that they were crafted. He used email blasts with embedded images that gave the illusion that someone was going to click the video and it opened up a landing page where the video would rest. Lots of times it was a place to sign-up to donate, sign-up for a newsletter, or commit to attending a rally or function.  He made this process easy…his team programmed and planned for the user interface to be easy and mindless.

He drove traffic to his YouTube site which housed all of his messages, this done by embedding the YouTube video within the landing page. This helped with SEO and creating digital connection points so that the keywords (the issues) where found easily when people used Google to find information. He created the illusion of the digital conversation.

We as business owners can learn a lot from this campaign, this practice, this initiative. People want to here from us, our story! They want to see us say it. They want to know what we look like, our expressions, our emotions, our passionate delivery. If you have listened to the critical analysis’s of his presidency, they spend a lot of time talking about his expressions. This conversation comes from digital penetration…he has made all of his emotions available but showcasing them on a regular basis for the world to see. Wouldn’t we be so lucky to have the same effect? These tools are out there for us to use! What is your story?

Will the market bear more education?

Over the last few months I have been thinking about how the educational system here is South Carolina  is changing and being forced to change. For the past few years, state funding for higher education has continued to drop substantially, each year forcing institutions of higher learning (that depend on state funds to operate) redefine how they support the demand. Well, there are two scenarios to this business proposition, raise the cost of a public education and/or seek more and more private funding. But before going down that thought process, I want to back up a few minutes.

Currently, my wife and I have been put in a position to support (both financially and parentally) my wife’s younger sister Susanna. She is a rising junior at the College of Charleston studying history. For the past two years, after Sarah and Susanna’s mother died of breast cancer, we have been helping Susanna navigate this convoluted financial-aid maze. From applying for expensive and inexpensive student loans to finally being eligible for grant monies, there is a serious conversation concerning “return on investment,” picking a educational path that is going to yield a direction post graduation that provides either a job paying a good wage or moving on to a graduate level education. But what is the ROI on a history degree? That conversation is soon to come.

We are just one of many families having this conversation right now, educational dollars spent should be taken just as seriously as a house purchase. When it is all said and done, one family can spend or borrow close to $7K – $10K per semester. These dollars add up and can come close to a $50K-$80K investment for a four year education. There is a serious business model behind providing loans for those to get a “quality” education. Think about it for a second…it is a like a revolving door behind the rising costs of education and the educational tracks being offered, but…are those tracks market driven?

As a side note, this blog post comes after a Saturday morning conversation with John Warner, he made me think more about market driven education.

More and more degrees are being offered, more and more dollars are being borrowed, more and more institutions are getting fatter, and now we have educational institutions moving away from market driven education. Each day I walk into another Panera Bread where the cashier working is a recent college graduate with a marketing degree and no job. Take a look at my wife’s MA in Professional Communications, she has yet to find a job using that degree. She worked in Manufacturing for close to five years becoming a strategic buyer and then became burned out and now teaching pre-schoolers. She was sold this degree track right out of undergrad at Lander on the fact she would find a high paying job, yet no one helped her in finding that job. It was not market driven…at the time. Side note, she and I graduated with our MA’s right after 911, the market was rock bottom.

So what are we seeing, educational institutions are starting to get back to basics. They will begin doing a couple of things. Identifying market driven degree programs that make sense and begin cutting programs that basically have no funding. As funds continue to decrease from the state, institutions like Clemson, USC, and other state supported schools will begin moving closer and closer to privatization. Now they will not become “Private” but they will be supported by private sources that have a vested interest in the types of programs that will be offered, supported with a pipeline of talent educated to fit that market need.

Clemson University was founded to provided the “Common Man” of South Carolina a technology and mechanical education to solve the agricultural problem in the state.

From Thomas Green Clemson’s Will
“My purpose is to establish an agricultural college which will afford useful information to the farmers and mechanics, therefore it should afford thorough instruction in agriculture and the natural sciences connected therewith — it should combine, if practicable, physical and intellectual education, and should be a high seminary of learning in which the graduate of the common schools can commence, pursue and finish the course of studies terminating in thorough theoretic and practical instruction in those sciences and arts which bear directly upon agriculture, but I desire to state plainly that I wish the trustees of said institution to have full authority and power to regulate all matters pertaining to said institution — to fix the course of studies, to make rules for the government of the same, and to change them, as in their judgment, experience may prove necessary, but to always bear in mind that the benefits herein sought to be bestowed are intended to benefit agricultural and mechanical industries.”

What type of education is necessary for the “Common Man” of South Carolina today? One of the “new technologies” is automotive innovation as seen with the creation ICAR. What other innovative, market driven, educational tracks will be created and be supported through private funds? This will be decided because in 2011, the federal stimulus money provided to subsidize the short fall for the 2010 academic year will be gone, and the fat will have to be trimmed and the deficit will have to be managed. You can read about the impact on Clemson in President Barker’s Blog.

Over the past 50 years, especially during the rising and falling economies, their has been an upward trend in expansion of higher education degree tracks. More and more diverse educational opportunities were created either by the market or a vision. More and more dollars were spent by families in a competitive battle between educational institutions. Now, we will be getting back to basics. Degree programs that have a path. General education requirements will be re-evaluated and the new professors will be ones of innovation, entrepreneurship, and educational economics (bring true business value to the classroom).

There was at one time in this great nation the opportunity to get a law degree or a medical degree without a four year bachelorate education…why not today. Is it time to reconsider the four year track for a BA or BS and combine with graduate level education? How can we put value back in the education we pay dearly for and work hard to obtain. Right now, some of it is not worth the piece of paper that it is printed upon, but rather the interest it is accruing for those student loan payments we pay each month. We are paying ours each month as Sarah walks into the daycare classroom each day.

What about my sister-in-law working on a BA in History? It is our hope she will keep on studying to become a librarian after getting a Masters from University of South Carolina. That separate degree was not created for the job market but for the institution’s margin. They are in that cyclic process of creating new degrees just to make money.

The higher education system in South Carolina is fat and needs some trimming, not only from a degree offering stand point, but also from a market position. There is a need to critically examine the type of high dollar education that is being taught and figure out what is really necessary to provide a market bearing education.

So on this line of conversation, there are groups that are wanting to capitalize educationally with this current market. Take Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina. Here is a group that makes money off of transactions. They are a company of IT professionals and they build their systems on COBOL. They are in a position to aggressively seek the next wave innovators to fill positions that are being vacated through attrition. The problem, it is not cool to go into “IT” anymore and the educational systems are not teaching COBOL. So Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina has teamed up with educational institutions like University of South Carolina, Clemson, and others along with IBM to re-shape the perception and educational tracks for the world of “IT”. There is a market need and there is value in teaming up with high education to shape curriculum so that the Blue Cross Blue Shields of the world can capitalize on the new emerging talent. This entity is know as the Consortium for Enterprise Systems Management and is based in Columbia, SC. This group is a marketing engine working with groups to change the face of “IT” and educate and recruit the new talent but educate and reshape our educational system from K-12 to higher education.

So ask yourself, if you had to do it all over again…what would you study? Would you study your passion or what the market would bear. Maybe it is a combination of both, but it is time to shift that conversation back to where there is a need in the market for job opportunity and growth. Or…is a higher education truly standardized just for jobs or theoretical education? The pendulum is swinging back and it is time to figure out what is up next for our new leadership. That leadership are those students, our children, our future, our legacy. Remember, it is up to us to help shape our future…the decisions we make now will shape how we, our children, and our children’s children will live one day.