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 Response Page - Kelley  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Steve Kelley Interview of

The Questions:


Minnesota needs to establish an innovative culture in both its private and public industry. A process known as "Design Thinking" may help government and business organizations to both devise and accept change by bringing people with backgrounds in the design professions into the mix of in-house problem-solvers. Two areas greatly in need of innovative efficiencies, health care and education, are not treated evenly in state budget discussions. In forecast budget deficits, spending projections correctly include inflation in health care costs but not in education costs. This puts K-12 at an unfair funding disadvantage.

For the complete interview summary see:

Individual Responses:

Will Shapira

If you're not distributing these to "the media," you should be.

Peter Hennessey

I burst out laughing when I saw this week's summary of " Does successful innovation depend upon involving the people most affected?" You should have run this piece last week; it might even have affected the elections yesterday. Do you need a better, and funnier, admission of the elitist attitude of the Ruling Class, than "He suggests what he calls "design thinking"-- living with people, observing them, working with them. "   Imagine that! Providers actually being interested in what customers might want, how they might use it and benefit from it (whatever "it" is). As opposed to telling them what will be forced on them? Keep going on this line of thinking and someday the Ruling Class will discover free enterprise... Is this why they call themselves "progressives"? Because eventually they'll catch up to 1776 in about ...2076?

Dennis L Johnson

The general thesis of Mr. Kelley seems to be the value of including professional designers as part of the process of redesigning government and other systems to help foster innovation and more creative thinking. As an Architect, I would certainly applaud this idea, with certain caveats.   PGArchitects are the generalists of the design disciplines, and the nature of their work is to gather a great deal of information about the needs of a building project, and to respond with a functional, sound, and hopefully enriching solution to the particular problem at hand. (Firmness, commodity, and delight) Innovation is their nature because they are often required to reconcile many conflicting or competing needs. Their whole training and the competitive nature of the profession requires them to think "outside the box” and create innovative solutions.  This nature often is transferable to problems beyond that of designing a single building or complex of buildings. 

Architects differ greatly in approach, experience, and ability in their capacity to work on broader systems, however. There is no "ideal" architect for this work, and many can make valuable contributions to the dialogue. As a minimum, however, they should have some years of experience under their belt, be comfortable in working with larger groups with differing backgrounds or of varying specialties, and be free of any direct conflicts of interest in the outcome. 

During my career I have served on and/or headed nearly a dozen Boards of Directors of mainly nonprofit organizations where my role has been that of any other Director or Officer, not necessarily in an architectural capacity. It has often fallen to me to be the "idea man" when confronted with a new need or the need for a new strategy to deal with matters that arise. Many people, despite having greatly differing skills, are simply not accustomed to the constant mental search for a "better idea" found among most Architects and designers. (Those without this affliction have long since dropped out or drifted away from the profession). 

I therefore urge all who are dealing with the redesign of systems to include a professional designer in the dialogue. Avoid, however, the academic theorists who have never practiced, those who have another agenda or axe to grind, or those gifted in rhetoric but lacking in innovative ideas. 

‘Make no little plans; they have no fire to stir men's souls’ .  .  .Daniel Burnham

Wayne Jennings

I strongly accept the redesign of services idea. What retards educational innovation, even with charter schools, is government demands and reporting to make the new program fit conventional descriptions and expectations. Examples: non-graded students have to be put into grades even though a given student may be at the equivalent of 8th grade in math, 12th grade in art, 6th grade in English. Or, the expectations that all 7th grade students will score at least at the same level—or else. Or, experimenting with elevating the position and power of a teacher by having fewer teachers and more assistants. In medicine, 7% of the profession are doctors, in education it’s 60% teachers. Licensing requirements restrict teachers to narrow silos of academic content when most real world problems are interdisciplinary. Steve Kelley is right on in proposing systems rethinking and interdisciplinary planning.

W. D. Hamm

Having met Steve a number of times at the State DFL convention, I find myself once again as unimpressed as ever with his typically Socialist approach to every problem. Let's start with his "Left Brain, Right Brain" controversy; this is a thinly veiled attempt to support an elitist, "picked committee", of intellectual experts to solve all our problems for us. What is "thinly veiled" here is that by committing to this concept we are accepting Steve's underlying fact that "We the People" are just [too] ignorant to figure this thing out for ourselves or to even be a part of the solution. "Designed Thinking" is just new nomenclature for a centrally controlled, top down Socialist system which is exactly what got us into trouble on these issues, (education and healthcare), in the first place. I am so looking forward to these design engineers going slumming to come live with us so they will understand what it means to not be "rich" or "middle class" but 62%ers although it has never worked before as the novelty soon wears off. I especially love the Henry Ford quote, "If I had ask[ed] my customers what they wanted they would have said 'a faster horse'"; it's too bad that is a business statement not one in support of public employees doing our thinking for us. I have never supported Steve Kelly politically particularly because of his low opinion of true participatory Governance for common folks like me, and his White Collar, Public Employee, …, elitism. As for early childhood; what we need to do is once again make supporting the family as the primary educator of children a part of the education system instead of the education system undermining family with things like Bloom[‘]s Taxonomy that says, "challenging a child's fixed beliefs", is the height of educational achievement. We never gave any of these elitists the right to challenge what we taught our children, and they still don't have it, nor do they understand why public support for this so called socialist top down education system, used to propagandize our children, is so under supported by the public in general. There is always a Socialist for the cause, and also a Socialist solution for every problem, especially a Socialist caused problem.

Carolyn Ring

Necessity is the mother of invention.  We need to address the problems in the economy, education and health care to name a few.  Rather than a patchwork approach, this is the time for a comprehensive results-oriented approach.  Design thinking could be developed and at least tried in one of our current biggest problems.  It would necessitate a leader who is well schooled in the process.

Al Quie

Steve is spot on. What he has proposed has been proven so many times. Most institutions develop into top down operations in time. It is [in] good relationships that motivation and creativity is produced.  The most effective activities are made up of people who have learned to Listen, Think and Love.

Bruce Lundeen

Typical liberal thought, made complete by bashing Emmer.

Tom Spitznagle

In the private sector competition stimulates innovation.  To a large degree, it's a matter of survival.  There is much less competition in the public sector so that the tendency is to not take risks but to accept the status quo instead.
Highly motivated folks who desire to innovate exist in both the private and public sectors, of course.  However, it appears that these people receive much less support in the public sector, especially in a situation involving unions where innovation is often discouraged, especially if it threatens the status quo.
Too often in the public sector, the standard approach is to ask for more funding, blaming all ills on inadequate funding while simultaneously resisting any outside challenges from "customers" to objectively evaluate operational processes and develop new ones, for example.  This type of behavior has been fairly common in Minnesota's public education systems.
My experience in the health care industry in Minnesota indicates that there has been a great deal of motivation to improve quality and cut costs through innovation, especially in the insurance and managed care sectors.  Innovation also exists in the public sector where groups of counties have formed health care consortiums in recent years in order to cut costs and improve quality.



The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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