Innovation

  • The White-Collar Pickle

    The switch of highly educated professionals to making a risky living selling small batches of craft products has its roots in work that is its own reward, writes Brian Dijkema, a Hamilton-based beekeeper who is also Cardus Program Director for Work and Economics.

    There is a little bit in Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations where he gives five circumstances that help explain wage inequality. As someone who has long made the case for the ...

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  • The Conversation Precedes Us

    Detail from Maulbertsch's The QuackIt's not too hard to look back at some of these bizarre rituals and beliefs and to hold our noses up in disdain at such ignorant understandings of the world. With our sanitation systems and medical acumen, our iPods and our Weather Networks, we know so much more ... right?

    There were times when people would give children large doses of morphine just to calm them down; rub mercury into cuts as a way of healing; and even bathe themselves in urine and excrement to increase cleanliness.

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  • What makes a Christian Organization?

    But legal definitions should not overly influence our perception of Christian (or other religiously-based) institutions. There are more basic things to keep in mind.

    Supreme Court cases on both sides of the 49th parallel last week focused on what ...

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  • Can We Have Subsidiarity Without the Regulation?

    Yet how does this all work? What prevents confusion from reigning? Two things: government regulation and the power of culture. The mirror of the devolution of responsibilities to business, government, educational, and social partners is a huge and rather onerous system of regulations. . . . . . . .

    Germany is a skilled-trades producing machine. But behind this machine is a web of institutions executing different, and distributed, responsibilities so smoothly that it's easy to imagine why the Germans produce Porsches. Their success is fuelled by their ...

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  • Transcendent Humans

    I guess what has changed—or so the writers here argue—is how we think about death now, and how conflicted the modern Western mind is when it reflects upon that inevitable day when we'll "shuffle off this mortal coil." Our current saturation with images of death for entertainment is perhaps unparalleled, yet I wonder if such a morbid fascination is simply a byproduct of our capacity, also unparalleled, to stave off the Stygian shore.

    Gearing up for Halloween, the National Post ran a spate of articles last week on "How We Die Now." Spoiler alert: we still stop breathing.

    I guess wha...

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  • Remembering How to Innovate

    For instance, Newton's Principia may not help you build a faster processor, but the story of Hans Neilson Hauge (cf. Cam Harder) can help you gain vital perspective on your difficult social innovation labours.

    Innovation can be very, very difficult. Are we turning enough to the deep well of human history? History has many social and cultural lessons to teach, and they may be more applicable to social innovation than we think.

    For instance, Newton's Prin...

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  • Sacred Space Smackdown

    In his response, Jacobs challenges Renn on a number of points of inadequately defined terms and formal logic, rather like a professor spanking a student for sloppy thinking in a paper. But I find Jacobs' critique less compelling than Renn's original question, which is a good one, even if his answer is a little uneven.

    Alan Jacobs takes on Aaron M. Renn on the subject of sacred space in a blog post on The American Conservative.  Re...

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  • All Hail the Twitterati

    But is it true, like Alexis Wichowski has argued, that social media is now so central to good governance, to political and social life, that "to ignore or disdain it would amount to professional malpractice?"

    The twitterati are now an established class of pundits. Journalists and politicians are increasingly known for their 140-characters of sass, more so even than their editorials or full press releases. The Canadian International Council has launched a new ann...

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  • Less Power, More Flourishing

    Charlie Brown always thinks he's going to kick the ball, but Charlie Brown always ends up falling on his back. He's never really out of the game, and he's always keen to try again—but each time he falls. Canadian unions are always up for another try. However, like Charlie Brown, there is a sense of predetermination, of inevitability in each try.

    ...

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  • Progressing Backwards

    Such was the case last week when a regular correspondent of mine, a Mr. P.A. George, set out in five easy steps the recipe that activists cooking up all manner of "social progress" have used in Canada during the past 40 years: If I were to suggest any addition to this stellar summary, it would be to expand point four to include professional associations beyond just teachers.

    Sometimes, someone chances past who brilliantly captures in a handful of words what others spend whole careers trying to express.

    Such was the case last week when a regular correspondent of mine, a Mr. P.A. George, set out in five easy steps the reci...

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  • The Chickens are Restless

    The task force of Ontario Provincial Police surrounded the house of my sister's neighbours, lights blinking, sirens wailing, scouring barns and residence, terrifying the locals, cuffing the father while wife and children wailed, turning over every table, chair, and bookshelf in the house in search of nefarious goods.

    ...

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  • Death and Getting Better

    The Globe and Mail announced earlier this spring after consultations with union representatives that some of its employees were going to be given the opportunity/asked to take unpaid furloughs for the summer to help the company manage costs and avoid permanent staff reductions. Given that the size of a newspaper is generally dictated by the volume of advertising purchased for it and that summer months constitute weak advertising and readership volumes, this appears to be a sensible solution. Unless of course you are a 35-year-old newsroom employee with a family to support who has been asked to take two months of unpaid leave. In that case, you may wish to spend those two months retraining or otherwise preparing yourself for the post-print journalism era.

    Recent events continue to confirm that media in Canada is undergoing a fundamental transformation away from dominant legacy platforms into an era of diversity and competition that should and could enrich the culture.

    The Globe and Mail announc...

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  • Look At Those Cavemen Go

    This August, barring catastrophe, a robotic rover named Curiosity will be climbing a mountain on Mars. The six-wheeled explorer will parachute down to the Martian surface, cross a plain and ascend a mountain slope, sampling rocks and atmosphere as it goes. Though each day's new robo-call revelation is revealed to us as the gravest imaginable threat to Canadian democracy, at summer's end we will certainly have been provided whiffs of equally ominous instances of corruption and depravity.

    As Canada's media and political exhibitionists scandalize themselves with tales of robo-dialed phone calls, real robotics overhead have humanity on the further edge of wonder.

    This August, barring catastrophe, a robotic rover named Curiosity w...

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  • Tweeted Sunday after going to church

    Can't quite figure it out. Don't want to say that though. Afraid will look like old fuddy-duddy. And face social exclusion. Worse, euthanized as no lngr prdctv member of society. Stream of consciousness. Know every thought that has ever. Popped into Andrew Coyne's head. Or emerged from Kady O'Malley's fingertips.

    I am a late adapter. To Twitter anyway. Slow learner 4 sure.

    Can't quite figure it out. Don't want to say that though. Afraid will look like old fuddy-duddy. And face social exclusion. Worse, euthanized as no lngr prdctv member of society. Stream of ...

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  • The great issue of our day

    The great issue of our day is whether we can order our world with flourishing institutions apart from government and markets. This is the key question behind the very taxing challenge facing the Houe of Commons Standing Committee on Finance today. As tax tools go, Canada's charitable tax credit is one of the most successful ever implemented.

    Presented (3:00 pm EST) February 14, 2012, to the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, Pre-Budget Consultations.

    The great issue of our day is whether we can order our world with flourishing institutions apart from gov...

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  • Have think tanks stopped thinking?

    As it turns out, for such a poorly understood group, think tanks are an increasingly powerful cadre of activists and thinkers. The United States of America has one of the most sophisticated and developed think tank cultures, with most western states not far behind (or catching up quickly). Emerging after the first World War, think tanks were designed to serve two functions: policy development and political combat.

    Think tanks are an odd breed, so odd in fact that I often dispense with the term entirely when people ask me what I do. Prayer around the family table, in which invocations for blessings on work are given, usually go something like, "Bless Rob, and whatever...

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  • Heaven is Chesterton meeting Steve Jobs

    Apple's iPad is a small and easy thing. Apple's iBooks is a small and easy program. Put them together and you are able to get, as I discovered during Christmas, more than 7,000 pages of G.K. Chesterton for a mere $1.99. From Heretics to Orthodoxy, from the Crimes of England to the Innocence of Father Brown, The Club of Queer Trades and the magisterial essay on Dickens, it's all there and, of course, all good.

    Great progress is best measured, I think, in the splendour of small and easy things combining to make the good available to all.

    Apple's iPad is a small and easy thing. Apple's iBooks is a small and easy program. Put them together and you are able to...

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  • Mathematics and social architecture?

    The physical structures we build, the infrastructure that supports us, and the communication links that enable our exchanges have a specificity that can be partially underwritten by mathematics. These mathematics and the materials of our built environment are the stock-in-trade of engineers, architects, planners, economists, consultants, and legislators.

    At Cardus we are exploring the language and practice of social architecture. Turns out it can mean a lot of things. Sometimes it means the nature of the relationships between people and institutions, o...

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  • Mass Deviance: An Innovation Super-power?

    Positive deviance is well-intentioned rule breaking, making something better by going outside of what was intended. It happens when people tweak, modify, hack, or mash-up a product or service and end up improving things. The off-grid workforce within the sprawling metropolises of the world, the territory that Neuwirth is known for, contains within it positive deviance at a massive scale.

    Wherever there are rules, people break them. But they do it for a lot of different reasons, one of which is necessity. Consider a recent article by Robert Neuwirth in Scientific American titled ...

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  • Time to take the Gulag out of Research

    First, significant amounts of university research never reach the places that need the knowledge. Thousands of published papers are locked up in journals that few people read and, in some cases, couldn't afford to read if they wanted to. Memorial University in St. John's Newfoundland undertook a noble effort to make the insight and knowledge of their institution available to the community and marketplace.

    The increasing complexity and rate of change we face requires better application of our hard-won research results and full utilization of the researchers and teams who are generating insight. Laments about knowledge sharing are ubiquitous in our data-satura...

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  • This age's big idea?

    I'll admit I'm tired of these types of pieces, a genre unto themselves throughout modern history—their ancestors probably are inscribed in hieroglyphics into a stone somewhere. It's similar to that anti-blogging rant I (ironically) blogged about a few weeks ago. As then, I want to say, okay, and what? .

    Last Sunday, the NYTimes ran one of those lengthy opinion pieces that seems calculated to ruffle feathers and generate chatter. The thesis of the piece is t...

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  • Data Visualization and the Power to Tell Stories

    The most critical aspect of this project is the platform that Google has created with Public Data Explorer. You can pick from many public datasets, explore each of them visually, and then share the link or embed it for others to see and use. With the massive sea of data that grows by leaps every day, people who create the platforms for the exploration and communication of this information will be able to leverage those data for various kinds of influence.

    I put together this data visualization based on the World Development Indicators dataset on Google (Public Data Explorer) and it shows how many days it takes to start a business in Brazil, Russia, India, and China compared with Canada. You can see how drama...

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  • The real lesson from the death of News of the World

    It is that newspapers in general have entered the stage of existence where it becomes impossible to learn anything even when survival itself is at stake. It was a justifiable call for the front page, if only from the man-bites-dog angle of a newspaper closing because its owner feels the sudden pangs of conscience rather than the pain of hemorrhaging cash.

    The front page of today's Globe and Mail offers the real lesson to be learned from the death of Britain's tabloid News of the World.

    It is that newspapers in general have entered the stage of existence where it becomes impossible to lea...

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  • Sim City and its Discontents

    The parallel decline of centralized authority, traditional institutions, and values, coming alongside the organic, decentralized model of urban revitalization is interesting of itself. Terms like "empowering" and "crowd sources" and "inclusive" are aplenty in these conversations. This decentralization is a feature not so much of old-fashioned conservatism, as of a growing discontent with centralized power to provide an adaptive responsiveness to local concerns.

    I've started playing (a lot of) Sim City, not for the first time, because of its newest incarnation as a too-fun, too-cheap and too-addictive to play iPad app. Sim Cit...

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