Why Do Grownups Suck At Innovation?

Alison Gopnik & Tom Griffiths: “Why does creativity generally tend to decline as we age? … the explanation may have to do with a tension between two kinds of thinking: what computer scientists call exploration and exploitation. When we face a new problem, we adults usually exploit the knowledge about the world we have acquired so far … On the other hand, exploration — trying something new — may lead us to a more unusual idea, a less obvious solution, a new piece of knowledge. But it may also mean that we waste time considering crazy possibilities that will never work, something both preschoolers and teenagers have been known to do.”

“This idea suggests a solution to the evolutionary paradox that is human childhood and adolescence. We humans have an exceptionally long childhood and prolonged adolescence. Why make human children so helpless for so long, and make human adults invest so much time and effort into caring for them?”

“The answer: Childhood and adolescence may, at least in part, be designed to resolve the tension between exploration and exploitation. Those periods of our life give us time to explore before we have to face the stern and earnest realities of grown-up life. Teenagers may no longer care all that much about how the physical world works. But they care a lot about exploring all the ways that the social world can be organized. And that may help each new generation change the world.”

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Novo Oh-No: ‘New & Improved’ Doesn’t Sell

The Wall Street Journal: “Danish drug giant Novo Nordisk is living through a corporate nightmare that any CEO might recognize from business school. After the company concentrated on making essentially one product better and better—and charging more and more—customers have suddenly stopped paying for all that improvement. The established versions are, well, good enough.”

“Doctors, health-plan managers and insurers all have balked at paying for Novo Nordisk’s newest version of its insulin. Clinical trials show it works as promised in controlling diabetes and delivers significant side benefits compared with its predecessors. But for many customers, all that isn’t enough to warrant paying more—because the older drugs on the market already work pretty well, too.”

“Common, deadly ailments, such as asthma, high cholesterol and heart disease, were the focus of the pharmaceutical industry during a golden age of drug launches in the 1990s. Now, building on those advances has proven costlier and more complex, and usually results in smaller gains. Incrementally improved medicines are harder to sell at the prices needed to cover their development costs.”

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Digital Scale Cuts Ikea Food Waste

Fast Company: “By the end of August 2020, Ikea wants to cut its food waste at its stores–both in its restaurants and in its smaller bistros serving cinnamon buns, hot dogs, and soft serve–in half. At the heart of this plan is a digital scale. Whenever employees in Emeryville (CA) toss food waste from the kitchen into a bin, it now records the weight of the food. On a touchscreen mounted on the wall above the bin, employees quickly record what type of food was lost, and see feedback about the cost of that food and the carbon footprint. Over time, the patterns in the data will help the company make changes.”

“Ikea began piloting its new food waste system in 2015, and began rolling it out to stores in December 2016. By May 2017, it had launched in 20% of its stores, reducing nearly 80,000 pounds of food waste and saving the company more than $1 million. It’s now in the process of rolling it out to all of its 400 stores, which serve 650 million customers a year.”

Andrew Shakman, CEO of LeanPath, makers of the digital scale, comments: “The moment you start measuring with technology you begin to change awareness levels and you cause people to start to think differently. Whereas in the past they could just throw something in the garbage, now they have to stop and for a moment; they have to record something about it. In that moment, you’re not just collecting data, you’re communicating your values.”

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Kellogg Story: The Battle of Battle Creek

Bryan Burrough: “If by chance you are reading this over your morning cornflakes, be warned … it turns out that the turn-of-the-last-century origin and evolution of the cereal industry was a very nasty and unpleasant bit of business, as Howard Markel chronicles in The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek … Dr. Markel, a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan, tells the story not only of two titans of American commerce and medicine, the brothers John Harvey and William Keith Kellogg, but of the institutions they founded, John’s Battle Creek Sanitarium and Will’s Kellogg cereal colossus—not to mention their long-running feud, one of the more spectacular in the annals of business.”

“Many of John’s patients struggled with the age’s great scourge, ‘dyspepsia,’ a medley of gas, diarrhea, heartburn and upset stomach. An American diet long on animal fat, salt and sugar produced what one historian called ‘the great American stomach ache’ … The Kelloggs (and others) thought that an easily digestible corn cereal might solve all the problems.” However, John “refused to aggressively sell the Kellogg cereal because he thought it unseemly for a medical doctor, and his increasingly famous sanitarium (“the San”), to sell a commercial product.”

Will “made a deal with John to leave the San and start a cereal company of his own, which in time became a global conglomerate. Litigation between the two brothers began almost before the first Corn Flakes box could be shipped from Will’s factory. John sued. Will countersued when John finally sold a cereal of his own. The litigation went on for years, finally ending only in 1920, by which point the damage was irreparable … In the end, the Kellogg brothers’ fortunes reversed. Will, dour and lonely, became one of the country’s wealthiest men … John, though internationally famous well into the 1930s, slowly lost many of his holdings, including, in 1920, the sanitarium itself.”

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Ambient Computing: Invisible & Omnipresent

Steve Vassallo: “Slack and Airbnb—like Pinterest, Instagram and Kickstarter—are recent successes founded by designers, people who are devoted to the practice of building impeccably considerate technology. Design is the key to building the next great wave of companies.”

“I think we’re entering the age of ‘ambient computing,’ when personal technology will become invisible and omnipresent. Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, the Internet of Things, and other nascent tech will fade into the background of our lives. Technology will no longer come in the form of gadgets.”

“In this new era, design will be ever more critical to how we build and use our technology. The 21st century will be the century of the designer founder, when core value for businesses is created by entrepreneurs who have a deeper, more intuitive sense for the human condition.”

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Impossible Burgers: Food is not an App

The New York Times: “One of the chief selling points of the Impossible Burger, a much ballyhooed plant-based burger patty, is its resemblance to meat, right down to the taste and beeflike ‘blood’ …. Now, its secret sauce — soy leghemoglobin, a substance found in nature in the roots of soybean plants that the company makes in its laboratory — has raised regulatory questions. Impossible Foods wants the Food and Drug Administration to confirm that the ingredient is safe to eat. But the agency has expressed concern that it has never been consumed by humans and may be an allergen.”

“Impossible Foods can still sell its burger despite the F.D.A. findings, which did not conclude that soy leghemoglobin was unsafe. The company plans to resubmit its petition to the agency.” Rachel Konrad, a spokeswoman for Impossible Foods, states: “The Impossible Burger is safe. A key ingredient of the Impossible Burger — heme — is an ancient molecule found in every living organism.”

“Impossible Foods is finding out what happens when a fast-moving venture capital business runs headlong into the staid world of government regulation. Investors like Bill Gates and Khosla Ventures have poured money into a variety of so-called alt meat companies. Silicon Valley has noble goals, applying technological solutions to address major issues like climate change, farm animal welfare and food security. But food is not an app. It is far more heavily regulated by governments and much more heavily freighted with cultural and emotional baggage.”

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Amazon’s Buzz: A Drone Beehive?

Business Insider: “Amazon is heavily investing in drones, and one day hopes to use the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to revolutionise deliveries. Right now, it’s all still early stages — but public patent filings can offer us tantalising glimpses of what Amazon’s engineers are thinking about and experimenting as they develop the tech. For example, a key problem facing any drone deliveries is batteries and maintenance. When your drones are in the shop getting fixed, they’re not helping you make any money — so how do you keep them charged and in the air for as long as possible?”

“Amazon is exploring the idea of building special facilities that can store, repair, and deploy drones, and pre-emptively moving products and drones to areas of anticipated demand (based on seasonal trends, say, or a special event in the area) before launching them … the patent — and others like it — offers us a window into the kind of problems Amazon’s employees are grappling with, and how they might ultimately hope to solve them.”

“For example, Amazon has previously filed for a patent for a beehive-like tower for storing its fleets of drones — or as it calls it, a ‘multi-level fulfillment center for unmanned aerial vehicles’ … Amazon is also thinking about using its drones to scan your house while carrying out deliveries in order to try and sell you more stuff. If it spots one of your trees is dying, it might recommend some fertiliser to you with an advert on its website, for example.”

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$1,400 iPhone & The Veblen Effect

Christopher Mims: “The launch of a pricey new iPhone has big implications for Apple’s financials, and it also bodes well for Apple’s continued dominance in mobile phones. Here are five reasons for Apple to go big, price-wise:” 1 Halo Effect: “An ultraexpensive edition of the iPhone makes sense as a shot in the arm for the whole brand … 2 Crazy New Tech: A big reason companies have halo products is that they give them a way to test new technologies.” 3 Supply & Demand: “If Apple’s high-end iPhone is aimed at a new segment—people willing to pay more than $1,000 for a phone—Apple can charge whatever it likes to balance supply and demand for the device, rather than worrying about whether increasing the price will hurt its overall market share.”

4 Average Selling Price: “With a phone priced upward of $1,400, Apple would have the opportunity to move the single most important metric on its balance sheet: the average selling price of a new iPhone.” 5 The Veblen Effect: “The final reason a pricey iPhone makes sense is that, paradoxically, the more expensive Apple makes the device, the more people will lust after it. Conspicuous consumption was first described in ‘The Theory of the Leisure Class’ by the economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen, who singled out products that, contrary to logic, sold better when their prices went up.”

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The Remakery: Fix-It-Yourself Retail

Fast Company: “The British social entrepreneur Sophie Unwin thinks there’s room for a new kind of repair shop with an entirely new business model. The Edinburgh Remakery, her shop in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, is part thrift shop, part maker space, part repair shop, and part learning center. It doesn’t just repair broken electronics, furniture, or textiles–it teaches customers to fix things themselves. Because the Remakery’s policy is that they always fix your stuff in front of you, the focus shifts from a transactional service to a learning experience.”

“For Unwin, the goal of Remakery is twofold. First, the company helps prevent waste from going to the landfill–a valuable proposition for local governments, since she says they typically spend about $160 per ton of waste … Second, Remade is showing how investing in repair and repair education creates jobs. Unwin believes that given the number of cities and towns in the U.K. and the success of the Edinburgh Remakery so far, there’s the potential to create 8,000 jobs in computer and electronics, furniture, and textile repair education.”

“In 2018, Remade will start a bona fide franchise, where anyone who wants to start up a Remakery will receive branding, templates, consulting time, and training to help with funding, location, recruitment, and business planning. After a launch period of 18 months, new Remakeries will pay 5% of their income back to the larger organization in return for continued support and to remain a part of the network. Unwin hopes to also use Remade to advocate for designing products that are built to last.”

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Aldi Conquers With Cromwell Gin

Business Insider: “The £9.97 Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin from Aldi won a gold medal at the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) this week. In doing so, the budget retailer’s gin beat bottles costing up to four times the price in the blind taste test.”

“A spokesperson at the International Spirits Challenge said: “The display of awards achieved by Aldi this year at the International Spirits Challenge was fantastic. They consistently showcased high quality products in the blind tastings, which demonstrates that you don’t have to compromise on price to enjoy great tasting drinks.”

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