11 March 2009

Brain Squad Idea

---Jenius Thanks to Janine Mendes-Franco for selecting another of My posts for Global Voices. New item (long overdue) on My agenda for 2009: Meet Janine Mendes-Franco.

Here's an idea from the "What the hell" file:

Because one of the very few absolutes in economic theory is the high-return impact of government-sponsored research and development (averaging 25% with highs of 155% in numerous global studies), I propose that Puerto Rico launch a "brain squad" initiative to develop ways of radically transforming Our economy to not only compete but dominate in world markets.

In other words, pay some of Us to make Our economy what it should be. With government money. 

Now this goes against one of My basic tenets, which is that government money should not be part of a business plan, but I'm not talking about a business plan: I'm talking about doing the job the government should have done decades ago.

If We had implemented My Talent Bank suggestion of a year ago, the selection of the people to carry out this R&D project would be easier. But I'll do My part (like you can stop Me) and flesh out what We'd need to make this work:

1) An eclectic group of 60-80 persons that would serve as the "core" group, and the criteria for selection would include nothing more than interest. No minimal degreees, no minimal amount or kind of experience, no track record except lack of criminal record, nothing but the desire to make a true difference. One week to submit bona fides and then a lottery to select the core group, with 20 "reserve list" names in case some of the selected are unable to participate.

2) A one-year contract per person for $36,000. Everybody gets paid the same, from "director" to "associate." No exceptions. The director and 2 sub-directors are chosen from within the Brain Squad by vote. Their initial task is to start the brainstorming process and settle intransigence issues. These three directors are re-elected as needed. Not enough salary to attract top prospects? Most of the so-called "top prospects" are already esconced in the system; the Brain Squad is about breaking new ground and having a burning desire to do so.

3) At the end of each year, there will be a peer review and evaluation for all associates, no exceptions. The bottom 20% in overall scoring are released. No exceptions.

4) Review and evaluation are based on two simple questions: (1) Is this person working well to achieve the goal of radically transforming Our economy? (scale of 1-100) and (2) How much do you estimate this person's work will generate for Our economy? (in dollars). Multiply the two numbers and drop the lowest 20%. Fuzzy? Yes. But it forces an analytical thought process that doesn't lend itself well to tit-for-tat nonchalance.

5) Additional people are added to the core group in a three-step process: (1) Only people who provide volunteer work first can be recruited for a one-year contract; (2) At least 3 Brain Squad project teams must request the person and (3) Each recruit gets paid $36,000 a year, just like the core group associates; no exceptions.

6) The Brain Squad is given one month to list initial ideas or angles for R&D. In this case, R&D is brainstorming, modeling and planning, not product development. The entire corpus of internally approved ideas and angles is presented to the public and then the Squad has 2 months to narrow the list down to a Priorities Plan. How that'a done and what that turns out to be is up to the Brain Squad. Every six months after that, the Squad must present three simple reports (prepared by volunteer college students who collect the data and prepare the narrative sections): New Ideas/Angles, Current Project Results and Questions. The Questions Report is the Brain Squad's "idea magnet" combining "what We see" with "what We wish We knew" to stimulate greater participation in its central mission.

7) The Brain Squad is assigned a 5-year budget, but associates can change every year (or every month, with recruits.) At no point can the Brain Squad have more than 140 associates. Fiscal oversight on the budget will be in the hands of a 3-person Board representing government, business and industry. The Board only has fiscal oversight powers, to ensure that monies are spent according to regulations; they have no say in Brain Squad R&D development processes.

8) Brain Squad project teams compete for funding at three levels: $50,000, $200,000 and $500,000. Projects are approved by non-involved associates, meaning that Brain Squad members are both developers and approvers of projects. Projects must present clear objectives and goals and provide a range of expected measurable results. Projects with outstanding merit can receive additional approved funding once early-phase objectives are reached, thus avoiding another project review.

9) Projects must be reviewed and decided upon within 10 business days by the randomly-assigned 5-person Review Team. The Review Team can seek outside help to evaluate the project, but can only ask for one 5-day extension. If after 15 days the project has not been decided upon, Review Team members are docked 5% of their respective salaries to provide seed money for the unreviewed project.

10) Companies whose employees provide in-house assistance (minimum 20 hours) to the Brain Squad receive a tax credit equal to 1.5 times that person's wages for the time provided.

11) Brain Squad initiatives for economic change are presented to the government, leading business organizations and industry groups, as well as citizens. Initiatives are evaluated as "Pass-Fail" within government and commerce groups. Any "Failed" initiative can be re-presented for a populace vote, and if it receives 300,000 votes in a 10-day period (secure online process), it must be implemented. Even so, many initiatives will not require direct government or commerce group intervention to make happen.

12) No Brain Squad associate can become an immediately salaried or fee-based asset to any business or entity launched from developed initiatives (for a minimum of one year after leaving Brain Squad.) However, the associate may become a partner and receive deferred compensation if s/he invests at least 30 hours a week for one year in that business or entity.

In salaries and project budgets alone We're looking at about $60 million for 5 years. Throw in infrastructure and operating expenses (low, but 5 years' worth) and We can put the Brain Squad together for well under $75 million. Call it $80 million just in case.

The Department of Education has a $1.4 billion budget and all they produce is crap. Three weeks of their annual budget would fund the Brain Squad for five years. And I guarantee that the Brain Squad would return far more than the current $600 million thrown away every year like shredded lettuce in the maw of "Education" sycophants.

Then again, do We really need the government to fund the Brain Squad? Discuss.

The Jenius Has Spoken.


1 comment:

The Insider said...

I, of course, think the idea is fantastic. However, I arrived at the end of the text and instantly started to wonder... how much red tape would they place up front (Extra $10 million to develop the Brain Squad's version of "Robert's Rules of Order")... and how quickly would the individuals on the Squad, many of whom would be guaranteed to be those with political aspirations (enrollment based on *self* interest), start re-assembling themselves into a more hierarchical/bureaucratically structured model, and begin burning more time on trying to increase the budget than on solution hunting, declaring holidays for Einstein, Newton, Hawking, Schmidt's birthdays, complaining that the equal pay structure is not adequate compensation for the anointed few, unionizing, handling lawsuits from the disgruntled 20% who were ousted for political reasons, and end up ultimately spiraling out of control and ready for a "party merger" with Figueroa. ;)

I still like it. Might I suggest "you" hand pick the first 80 Gil? I recommend 50 people that you absolutely love for the appointment, and the other 30 that you feel a little vomit enter your mouth when you think about them, i.e. those that you have long since created special names for. :) I would have made it 40/40, but we're looking for change so no sense creating a possibility for a stale mate. :)

I think we have to draw in game theory here, and make sure the structure is just about flawless for it to work. Of course... now I'm creating red tape, aren't I? ;)