Columbus: The Silicon Valley of Retail?

The New York Times: “A combination of demographics, geography and luck turned Columbus into the nation’s consumer laboratory. This Rust Belt city has historically been a microcosm of the national population’s age and ethnicity, ranking fourth among metropolitan areas in its resemblance to the United States over all, according to data compiled by WalletHub.”

“Ohio State University’s 65,000 students mean young shoppers are always on hand. Columbus is within a day’s drive of nearly half of the United States population, making it a convenient hub for distribution. The city’s relatively small size and contained media market make it affordable for companies to run advertising campaigns and measure their effectiveness. And its relatively low profile allows brands to try something and fail — without the scrutiny they would draw in New York or Los Angeles.”

“Perhaps most important, a robust network of retailers and service providers — from big brands like Abercrombie & Fitch to small design firms that focus on store layouts — has taken root in Columbus. Today there are more fashion designers in Columbus than in any other American city besides New York and Los Angeles.”

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The Microsoft Treehouse: Outdoorsy Creativity

The Verge: “Microsoft has built some tree houses for its employees. One sits in a Pacific Northwest Douglas fir, while another is 12 feet above the ground and features charred-wood walls and a high ceiling complete with a skylight … Microsoft said it had been planning renovations and surveyed employees to see what they cared about the most. Employees said if they were given the opportunity, they would work outside more.”

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CVS & The Prescription Experience

Fast Company: “With the profusion of online pharmacies, CVS realized that to give people a reason to come in, it had to design a better service. A new pill bottle system is just one piece of a larger service-design challenge … hinged upon understanding the user end-to-end, rather than one transaction at a time.”

“CVS realized that one lever it had for creating more customer loyalty was the prescription itself—and how often those prescriptions go wrong. About a third of recurring prescriptions never get filled; of those that do, about one third are forgotten after the first couple refills. CVS’s bet is that a better service can improve those figures, and, in doing so, make patients not only more healthy but better customers as well.”

“The new prescription labels are just a start for a number of things CVS has on its roadmap, including ways to bundle together medications meant to be taken at the same time and an in-home delivery service. But perhaps their most user-friendly aspiration is to redesign the role of pharmacists. Today, they typically spend most of their time counting pills … CVS is working to have better service procedures, in which the pharmacists become a front-line in talking to patients—for example, by giving every patient taking five drugs or more an automatic consultation, which includes talking them through the new prescription schedule.”

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Slowball: Is ‘Big Data’ Wrecking Baseball?

The Wall Street Journal: “Baseball has never been more beset by inaction. Games this season saw an average gap of 3 minutes, 48 seconds between balls in play, an all-time high … A confluence of hitting, pitching and defensive strategies spawned by the league’s ‘Moneyball’ revolution have all played a role. That makes baseball, whose early use of big-data strategies was embraced by the business world in general, a case study in its unintended consequences.”

For example: “Statistics showing precisely when starting pitchers become less effective have prompted teams to remove them from games earlier than before. That has increased one of the biggest drags on pace of play: pitching changes. Regular-season games this year saw an average of 8.4 pitchers used between both teams, an all-time high. That’s up from 5.8 pitchers a game 30 years ago.”

“Radar and camera measurements of the angle at which balls leave the bat have shown that the optimal swing angle looks more like an uppercut than many hitters preferred. Hitters, in turn, have started swinging for the fences in droves. Home runs this season reached a record level. That all-or-nothing approach means that between each home run there is a lot of standing around and waiting. Some classic displays of athleticism—a daring attempt by a runner to advance more than one base on a teammate’s hit, for instance—have become rarer.”

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The Future of Plant-Based Protein

“Look at the dairy category: 14 percent of it now is plant-based, like soy or almong or rice milk. I believe the same could be true for meat. If we get to that meat [department] I believe there’s potential for at least 14 percent of this category to become plant-based.” – Seth Goldman, executive chairman, Beyond Meat, in brandchannel.

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The da Vinci Code: Observe, Connect & Create

Walter Isaacson: “Today we live in a world that encourages specialization, whether we are students, scholars, workers or professionals. We also tend to exalt training in technology and engineering, believing that the jobs of the future will go to those who can code and build rather than those who can be creative.”

“But the true innovators tend to be those like Leonardo who make no distinction between the beauties of the arts and the beauties of the sciences. When Einstein was stymied in his pursuit of the field equations for general relativity, he would often pull out his violin and play Mozart. The music, he said, helped to connect him to the harmonies of our cosmos. At the end of many of his product presentations, Steve Jobs would display a slide that showed the intersection of streets labeled ‘Liberal Arts’ and ‘Technology.’ He knew that at such crossroads lay creativity.”

“There is a flip side for those of us who love the arts and humanities. Like Leonardo, we must be able to see and embrace the beauty of a mathematical equation or a scientific theory. Cultural critics who complain that today’s students fail to learn Shakespeare or civics or history should not be complacent about their own cluelessness when it comes to, say, what a transistor does or how a circuit processes logical sequences. All of these topics are valuable and enriching, especially when we can connect them to one another.”

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Fiskars: It’s All in the ‘Snip’

Business Insider: “In the late 1960s, Finnish designer Olof Backstrom helped Fiskars create the world’s first pair of plastic-handled scissors. They were supposed to be black, not orange. But when Fiskars accidentally used some leftover orange plastic from a juicer production line, the company realized it’d created something great. The company put the color to a vote. Orange won out over black 9-7.”

“Other colors have come along since then, but the orange pair is by far Fiskars most treasured creation. The scissors became a permanent fixture in New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2004, and the color even has its own trademark.”

“Before each pair leaves the factory, professional “scissors listeners” make sure they produce the right snip sound as the steel blades slice together. According to Fiskars, the scissors ‘are inspired by nature, physics, and the human anatomy to solve problems in surprising ways.’It’s no accident designers lump them in with other perfectly designed products, like Sharpie markers and Post-It Notes. Fiskars has been around since the 17th century. It’s had some time to get the cutting experience just right.”

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Vision: Michelin Prints The ‘Perfect’ Tire

The Verge: “They’re completely airless, last virtually forever, and could be the perfect tire for our autonomous future. Michelin, the 128-year-old tire manufacturer based in Clermont-Ferrand, France, recently unveiled a 3D-printed tire concept that it says could be the ideal ride for self-driving cars. It just needs to figure out how to actually manufacture them first.”

“Dubbed ‘Vision,’ these spidery, psychedelic-looking sponges are printed from bio-sourced and biodegradable materials, including natural rubber, bamboo, paper, tin cans, wood, electronic and plastic waste, hay, tire chips, used metals, cloth, cardboard, molasses, and orange zest.”

“These tires would be embedded with RFID sensors to collect data and predict performance and function of the vehicle. And they will be adaptive to different conditions. Heading to the mountains for some skiing? Drive through a Michelin printing station and get your tires retrofitted for snowy terrain … this isn’t Michelin’s first rimless, airless tire to be released. The Twheel, an airless tire concept that emerged over a decade ago, is currently in use in small-frame, low-speed vehicles and appliances like golf carts and lawn mowers.”

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