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Does innovation have to mean jobs? - Western Alumni
 Fall 2011
Does innovation have to mean jobs?

by Paul Wells, BA'89
innovation  Apple  Colleges_&_Universities  design  Paul_Wells 
april 2017 by jerryking
Time to push the Western vehicle - Western Alumni
 Summer 2010
Time to push the Western vehicle

by Paul Wells, BA '89
UWO  Paul_Wells  ambitions  CEOs 
april 2017 by jerryking
Measuring value of university contingency - Western Alumni
Spring 2013
Measuring value of university contingency

by Paul Wells, BA'89

Tutoring my favourite nine-year-old, I was surprised at how much trouble he was having with fractions. This is a smart kid with a good number sense, but he was flummoxed as he tried to grasp the applications of halves, quarters and eighths. I went through the stages of tutor grief — denial, anger, bargaining — before I began to realize what the problem was. Fractions represent a huge advance over everything a child has learned up to then, because they represent a relation, not an absolute. No wonder it’s a big moment

[JCK: Dec. 21 2010 | Forbes | Rich Karlgaard. Success is often a
matter of getting the ratios right. Business and investing success is
hardly possible without understanding ratios. Knowing the numbers is
important. But knowing the numbers in relation to other numbers will
make you a millionaire. You will see anomalies that others miss.]

...... the notion of fraction's adaptability is what makes it so powerful. Fractions lead you by a short road to algebra and to a Pandora’s box of tools for finding the value of unknown quantities....A few years ago I spent a month at Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, trying to understand the work of the physicists there. Most of it went right over my head, but once in a while I’d see some genius write symbols above and below a division line, cross it with symbols in a neighbouring fraction, simplify and solve, and I would realize that I was watching another application of tools that became available to that genius,.....At some point in almost every field you move, not without struggle, from the absolute to the contingent. In the first books you read — I’m talking little kids here — a bird is just a bird. Eventually you graduate to metaphor, and now a bird can be a stand-in for hope or freedom or death. In law you move past different readings of a statute to competing notions of the good or just. In music, harmonies become richer, relations among notes more open to interpretation, until the very notion of harmony becomes something a composer can retain or reject according to taste and need. And then you listen to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and you wonder whether any of this change can be said to represent progress.

If there’s a place in modern society where the notions of relation, proportion and contingency are most frequently encountered and applied, it’s the university.....

Few places are easier to mock for their pretentiousness. (Why are campus politics so vicious? Because, Henry Kissinger said, the stakes are so low.) But at universities people are at least a little likelier, on average, to question their assumptions, to be prepared to defend or discard them, than in the rest of the world. That’s the hope, anyway.

So it’s disappointing, while unsurprising, that these bastions of relativism..have spent so much time marketing themselves as purveyors of sure value.
campus_politics  Colleges_&_Universities  contingency  mathematics  messiness  Paul_Wells  Perimeter_Institute  proportionality  ratios  relationships  tools 
april 2017 by jerryking
Life lessons: Looking back and taking stock - Western Alumni
Life lessons: Looking back and taking stock

by Paul Wells, BA'89

“Young people are educated in many ways,” he wrote, “but they are given relatively little help in understanding how a life develops, how careers and families evolve, what are the common mistakes and the common blessings of modern adulthood.”.....every few months when I sit down to write one of these columns, I do a little stock-taking. And a few times after a major screw-up or a minor triumph I’ve tried to do it in a more formal way. It’s true that just about every time I’ve bet everything on a new direction, it’s worked out better than if I’d stayed put. Once I bet everything and it worked out very badly. But even then, failure made a better life possible.

These are not lessons university teaches us well. Partly that’s because the young so rarely have any interest in learning them. I spent a lot more time at Western trying to figure out how to be successful than I did trying to figure out how to be happy. I figured 'happy' was in the gods’ hands, not mine. Almost everything that followed was accident.

To the extent we can learn how to live a good life, I think that so far, we learn it better from the arts and humanities than from science or even social science. Aristotle and Haydn have helped get me out of more fixes than cell biology did, although to be fair I was a lousy scientist. I’m quite sure it’ll never be possible to know, to three decimal places, how to live life well. Too many variables. But the question is still worth asking.

I’m with the Yale class of ’42. Change and risk have stood me in better stead than stasis and worry ever did. There may be a role for universities in teaching that much, at least.
advice  anti-résumé  chance  Colleges_&_Universities  David_Brooks  failure  happiness  lessons_learned  life_lessons  next_play  no_regrets  Paul_Wells  reflections  risk-taking  success  UWO 
february 2017 by jerryking
Hunting for bird courses with potential - Western Alumni
by Paul Wells, BA'89 January 13, 2015

I never did take that course.

I now wish I had. First, because it’s a bad idea to let yourself get scared away too easily. Second, because out here in the real world, it’s hardly unusual to find yourself dedicating six consecutive hours
of hard work to the pursuit of a worthy goal. I’ve been thinking about the second reason lately. One of the things a university education should prepare you for, arguably — well, I’m going to argue it — is the experience of handling a crushing workload, at least once, at least briefly, and surviving to tell the tale.
Paul_Wells  UWO  alumni  Colleges_&_Universities  self-confidence  grit  hard_work  in_the_real_world 
january 2015 by jerryking
Brands not just a new wrapper for institutions
Fall 2014 | Western Alumni Alumni Gazette   | by Paul Wells, BA'89.

Michael Ignatieff is an asset to the Harvard brand. Or rather, to the Kennedy School brand, because Ignatieff is returning to the John F. Kennedy School of Government, also known as the Harvard Kennedy School or even as HKS. In other words, Harvard today is a sort of a nested set of Russian dolls of identity. There’s Harvard on the outside, and various affiliated schools further in, with academics of greater or lesser star power in the middle.

And it’s all of those attributes together, that jumble of organizations and individuals, that informed audiences think about when they think about Harvard.....In 2012 Arthur Brisbane, the former public editor of the New York Times, noted he found himself at “an oddly disaggregated New York Times of hyper-engaged journalists building their own brands, and company content flung willy-nilly into the ether.” The Times, surely the strongest newspaper brand in the world, has watched while reporter-columnists like David Carr, Mark Bittman, Paul Krugman, David Brooks take their act at least partly on the road, through active Twitter accounts, books, TV and public speaking gigs. I’ve even had well-meaning readers tell me I’d do better to leave Maclean’s and hang out my own shingle. But that misunderstands the nature of the relationship: The umbrella organization strengthens the individual writer’s clout — and vice versa. Strong identities aren’t something to fear on a big team. They’re essential to the team’s success
Paul_Wells  Colleges_&_Universities  Harvard  brands  branding  KSG  Michael_Ignatieff  personal_branding  NYT  symbiosis  relationships  unidirectional  bidirectional  misunderstandings  star_power  columnists  identity  matryoshka_dolls  writers 
september 2014 by jerryking
Being the best at something - Western Alumni
by Paul Wells, BA'89 May 6, 2014

It was at Western I learned that one of the options open to any ordinary kid was to be the best in the world at something. The “something” in question could be just about anything. That sense of a university as a community of achievement is yet another reason why the notion of a university as a physical place, a meeting place for thousands of young people and the ghosts of all who came before them, is nowhere close to being obsolete.
Paul_Wells  UWO  alumni  economists  music  best_of  Pablo_Picasso  physical_place  Colleges_&_Universities  meeting_place 
may 2014 by jerryking
Physical campus still counts in virtual world
Winter 2014 | Western Alumni | by Paul Wells, BA'89.

A campus isn’t just a luxury from an earlier and more genteel era, it’s starting to seem central to the work a university does. And Western’s lovelier-than-average campus is starting to look like a considerable competitive asset.....I don’t want to overstate the significance of all this. If a university offers a lousy education or does timid, incremental research, it doesn’t matter how fluffy the seat cushions are. Western’s real strengths are in its lecture halls and labs. But I was reminded how, despite its largely utilitarian function — the simultaneous education of tens of thousands of young people — Western remains a pleasant place to be. This matters because the traditional model of the university — a physical place where people convene in large numbers for extended stays to learn and exchange ideas — doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon.
Paul_Wells  UWO  Colleges_&_Universities  MOOCs  aesthetics  physical_place  shared_experiences  shared_consciousness 
january 2014 by jerryking
Academic marriage that works - Western Alumni
Fall 2013 | Alumni Gazette |by Paul Wells, BA'89.
"Many were engineering students. Their schedules were loaded up with lecture and lab hours, they seemed to live at the library, and yet somehow they were often also the most reckless and entertaining at The Spoke. Even more exotic to me were the business students. It had never occurred to me that making money was something you could study at school.

What had also never occurred to me,until recently, was that you could combine these two odd breeds of student. Engineers spend their lives solving technical problems. Business students spend their lives finding opportunities for profit. What if somebody knew how to do both? What if there was a school designed to hone both kinds of skill?"...So lately, people in the field have started to ask whether the problem is at the other end. Maybe researchers are coming up with plenty of good ideas, but businesses are not in the habit of looking around for new ideas and integrating them into the corporate culture. “Quite frankly, if there is an innovation problem in Canada, that’s the responsibility of the management and boards of directors here in Canada,” John Manley, the former Industry Minister, who is CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, has said....Western announced it had received $3 million from alumni John M. and Melinda Thompson to set up a Centre for Engineering Leadership and Innovation at Ivey Business School. The gift will substantially increase the number of Western engineering students who receive business education while at Western.
engineering  Ivey  UWO  Paul_Wells  alumni  John_Manley  philanthropy  cross-disciplinary  innovation  boards_&_directors_&_governance  management 
october 2013 by jerryking
Everything I know I learned at Western, plus a little extra
From a chemistry prof whom I will not embarrass by naming him — my career as a chemist was short, lasting about halfway into
second year, and its trajectory was none of his fault — I learned a set of procedures for solving complex problems. Write down what you know. Write down what you’re trying to figure out. Write down the tools you’ve mastered that might get you from here to there. It’s not a technique, really, just an attitude toward the known and unknown, which is why it’s all I’ve retained from my failed years as a science student.
I’ve learned that politicians who approach problems with the same attitude — What do you have? What do you need? How can you
get from here to there? — are likelier to succeed than the ones
who hope to coast on “charisma” or “electability” or, Lord save us,“vision.” At school, the kids who sat at the front of the lecture hall and closed the library every night actually did better. The same is true in life.
Paul_Wells  UWO  problem_solving  unknowns  information_gaps  charisma  attitudes  politicians  visionaries  electability  5_W’s  complex_problems 
january 2013 by jerryking
Driving ideas to success with plan for profit
Spring 2008 | alumni gazette | Paul Wells.

High commodity prices have made it fashionable in Ottawa lately to think of Canada as an emerging natural-resources superpower. But ideas remain a cleaner, more durable and renewable resource than anything you can dig out of the ground, and there has never been a better driver for the production and distribution of ideas than the disciplined application of the profit motive.
Paul_Wells  UWO  alumni  ideas  entrepreneurship  Rotman  Roger_Martin  Ivey  commodities  natural_resources 
september 2012 by jerryking
Western Alumni Gazette - What’s the price of attracting great minds?
Winter 2011
Back Page - The Final Say
RSS
What’s the price of attracting great minds?
by Paul Wells, BA'89

Ontario is in a global battle to attract the best minds. It’s all very sweet of Hudak’s education critic, Jim Wilson, to claim that McGuinty “could find the best and brightest already on our own soil,” but what are the odds? Ontario has one-fifth of one percent of the world’s population. I’m going to bet that most of the best and brightest are somewhere else. Some of them work at the Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy at the U.S. National Academies of Science, which wrote in 2009, “The issue for the United States, as for other nations, is that a knowledge-driven economy is more productive if it has access to the best talent regardless of national origin.” Attracting international students has been a pillar of U.S. economic policy for longer than Jim Wilson has been alive. “Talented international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars are drawn to the United States because of the high quality of our research universities [and] the availability of stipends and research funding,” the committee wrote in the same report.
Paul_Wells  Dalton_McGuinty  Colleges_&_Universities  UWO  Ontario  scholars  students  scholarships  talent  knowledge_economy  foreign_scholarships  brainpower  talent_acquisition  the_best_and_brightest 
october 2011 by jerryking
Innovation isn’t in Canada’s DNA
July 24, 2009 | Macleans.ca | by Paul Wells. “I don’t think
you could say that innovation is deeply in the DNA of our Canadian
business enterprises,” he said. “We have built prosperity, up to and
including this decade, on a fairly basic paradigm: we are rich in
natural resources. We’re good at harvesting them. And we have built a
manufacturing and processing sector, and to some degree a services
sector, which has been quite successful in exploiting access to the U.S.
market.”

So Canadian business often doesn’t do much more than build factories 20
km north of the U.S. border and lob products 50 km south. For years,
that model got a lot of help from a cheap Canadian dollar. “I got into a
certain amount of trouble when I was deputy prime minister for saying
you shouldn’t mistake a bull market for brains. The fact that the
Canadian dollar was trading at 62 cents . . . you shouldn’t take that
for granted.”
innovation  John_Manley  productivity  Canadian  CCCE  Paul_Wells  complacency  natural_resources  beyondtheU.S.  loonie  weak_dollar  bull_markets  imposters 
september 2011 by jerryking
Does innovation have to mean jobs?
Fall 2011 Western Alumni Gazette by Paul Wells, BA'89
First things first: we need to understand that productivity
breakthroughs happen when businesses pick a new idea up, not when labs
push one out....When we make “innovation,” “jobs” and “university
research” synonymous, we put unfair distorting pressure on university
science, we let business off the hook, and we get frustration instead of
prosperity. Business schools can play a huge role in getting innovation
right. So can design schools. Internships to get smart kids out of labs
and onto shop floors.

Wells disputes the idea that research leads to discoveries and
inventions, that leads to patents that build Canadian businesses and
create Canadian jobs and that makes for greater prosperity for Canadian
families and workers.”
innovation  Paul_Wells  Apple  productivity  prosperity  internships  design  Colleges_&_Universities 
september 2011 by jerryking
Driving ideas to success with plan for profit
March 31, 2008 | Western News | By Paul Wells, BA'89.
Research works best when its only spur is the curiosity and energy of
thoughtful investigators with the tools to follow hunches. But the
product of their work - ideas - is likeliest to leave the lab when it is
pulled out by entrepreneurs who have an eye on the market. It's
important to get that balance right. It's pointless to fund only
research that looks likely to pay off. You can't know which ideas will
pay off. But new ideas won't go anywhere without competent managers to
implement them. Roger Martin at the University of Toronto's Rotman
School of Management has persuasively demonstrated that if Canada has
fewer high-tech industries than the United States, it's not because
we're doing less science, it's because we have a smaller
university-trained management class. Western's Ivey School of Business
is a big part of the solution, not part of the problem.
UWO  Ivey  Rotman  Roger_Martin  Paul_Wells  curiosity  commodities  natural_resources  research  R&D  entrepreneurship  commercialization  management 
may 2010 by jerryking

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