In response to David A. Patterson’s commentary directed at me in the HBR debate: Is the U.S. Killing Its Innovation Machine? He is Pardee Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley. This blog debate is in response to his article: Revamping DARPA Is Vital to Preserving the U.S. Lead in IT.

My response to professor Patterson:

Resistance to change, fear of criticism, spinning results, avoiding accountability, clinging to past models — these are all symptoms commonly found in failing institutions. I wish I could claim to be the first to make such an observation, but actually the same can be found in the writings of the Founding Fathers of the U.S. among many others.

Actually my personal view is closer to my friend who sadly passed this past year who was deeply involved in tech transfer and commercialization at Berkeley for many years. Jay Morrison quite often shared his frustrations with me on just how challenging his job was with tech transfer at Berkeley, even if his professional passion and deep love of his community provided a regional bias.

In our many communications, I never recall Jay claiming that start-ups were natural at UCB…, rather we talked about heavy lifting — nor has it been in the few I reviewed at UCB — or the thousands of cases I have observed worldwide, to include Google. One thing nature does not have is self-serving bureaucracies, although certainly the actors are conflicted… although insufficiently evolved to claim otherwise.

It requires no courage to promote the university system, or to call for more R&D– certainly not here, nor does it lead to a better system. I certainly gain nothing from it. The power of universities in our society is indeed impressive, which is why so few dare cast a deserved stone on the pristine surface of academia. Tough love is an accurate description of my intent and role. I believe strongly in learning– institutions should (must) earn their credibility on a case by case basis– not just from peers, but those who support them. I have audited too many institutions for blind admiration, and consumed far too many dissertations with wildly inconsistent levels of quality awarded with the same degree, yet am still often impressed and amazed at the quality of a few.

I am free from both emotional and career bias, so on this topic I am more credible than a product of a university, and certainly any official.

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time reviewing Peter Drucker’s work in celebration of his life and contributions, having shared with my own personal network that we could have well used his advice and thought leadership over the past few years.

Rather than provide quotes, I would invite others to revisit his work as well– for your own learning opportunity– I share his view on life long learning rather than a one time event that lasts a lifetime… look closely at his observations on decentralization, bureaucracy, measurement, and accountability. It might also be worthwhile to review his and many other’s work on the natural inclination of entrenched organizations and cultures to protect the past rather than create the future.

My opinion based on thousands of cases in one of the more active careers in small and emerging businesses, to include counseling many university leaders on same, is to embrace diversity and competition. Small independent labs free from conflict, bureaucracy, and bias are simply that — they provide an advantage in some technologies that we would be foolhardy to ignore, particularly today with networked computing. Small and emerging business create most of the jobs, most of the wealth, and the vast majority of competition. Universities are not at all effective at creating businesses. Many are tragic. Too claim otherwise simply ignores an enormous wealth of brutally earned truth. Entrepreneurs deserve much better.

My own Kyield emerged from a self-funded lab, and served hundreds of university thought leaders who benefited from our pro-bono work and contributions, including the editor of this publication (MM: HBR — speaking of late ’90s) and most others worldwide. Would you have me be dishonest in what we learned? What purpose would that serve? What religion? What master if not the truth?

I’ll stand firmly by my position, even if (especially when) surrounded by those with direct conflicts of interest, yet still provided the podium — precisely how this debate was born, which threatens the very engine that supports governments and universities.

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