Thursday, July 31, 2008

Proctor and Gamble’s Way to Innovate

At the 2008 Front End of Innovation conference, A. G. Lafley spoke about how Proctor and Gamble does a great job innovating their brands and products. A recent article at Business Week takes a look at how well Proctor and Gamble innovates, with their CEO making it a top priority of their business.

“Design thinking” is the key way that focuses the P&G developers to constantly innovate and create new ways to indentify products with their consumers. Their approach to company culture involves several key areas: leadership, cross-function teams, and visualization. These three key focuses allow Proctor and Gamble a way to communicate with their customers. They take these approaches and combine it with their “design thinking” in order to solve the problems they’ve noticed within their company. To encourage this fact, P&G has many workshops around the world to get their team to think in new, creative ways.

These workshops are often a high point of creativity, as Cindy Tripp, the marketing director for P&G Global Design:

"I get goose bumps at the high level of dialogue and caliber of discussion that happens. Design thinking activates both sides of the brain—it makes participants more creative, more empathetic toward the human condition P&G consumers face. Our managers don't leave their analytical minds at home; instead they are able to operate with their whole brain, not just the left hemisphere."

A good example of this, as the article points out, is OlayForYou.com. This website allows for customers to pick their preferences when it comes to skin care, and then tells them which products are best made to suit their needs. Other innovative concepts like this have spread to the Herbal Essences and Tide lines.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Travel at a Speed Faster than Light

Two scientists, Gerald Cleaver and Richard Obousy, may have designed a way to create an engine that could travel at speeds faster than light, also called a warp engine. According to Discovery News, this concept that the co-authors built on was first developed in 1994 by Michael Alcubierre and is in accordance with Einstein’s theory on relativity. The warp drive would be created based on the two theories of general relativity and string theory which would bend but not break the laws of physics. As Cleaver says

"We're recreating the inflationary period of the universe behind the ship."

As the article further explains

“the ship wouldn't actually move; space itself would move underneath the stationary spacecraft. A beam of light next to the ship would still zoom away, same as it always does, but a beam of light far from the ship would be left behind.”

The estimated amount of energy required is 10^45 joules. Which as Cleaver made note, that’s the same amount of energy that would be produced if the entirety of Jupiter was changed into pure energy using E=MC2. With respect to the actual construction, Cleaver also released a statement saying that:

"Warp drive isn't doable now, and probably won't be for the next several millennia."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Value Innovation: Improving the Buyer Utility Map




Introduction

The book Blue Ocean Strategy by Professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne of the INSEAD Business School in France is possibly one of the most read books on innovation in recent years. In it, the authors describe how companies can use innovative products to open up new markets in which they can grow without fear of competition. The book contains several tools for generating ideas for such products.

One of these tools is the Buyer Utility Map. This is a table which contains search fields for potential new products. The rows of the table are Utility Levers, which are paths to providing increased customer value. In the book, these levers are:

  • Risk
  • (Customer) Productivity
  • Convenience
  • Environmental Friendliness
  • Fun and Image
  • Simplicity

The columns of the table are the phases of the so-called Buyer Experience Cycle. These are the phases in which in the customer comes into contact with the product: Purchase, Delivery, Use, Supplements, Maintenance, and Disposal.

The combination of six rows and columns gives a total of 36 cells. Each cell describes a different approach to inventing a new or improved product.

The original Buyer Utility Map can be found in many places on the Internet, including Wikipedia.

Improvements

Any good model can be expected to possess two important properties:

  • Completeness: No relevant aspects are missing from the model.
  • Redundancy-free: The components of the model are disjunct; no component contains aspects of another.

A model which does not have these properties is of limited use. We have therefore analysed the Buyer Utility Map in order to determine whether the columns and rows of the table contain all relevant possibilities and whether they are free of overlap.

The result of our analysis is shown in the diagram at the beginning of the article.

The Rows

Of the six rows of the original model, we retain the first three (Productivity, Convenience and Risk) unmodified.

Simplicity we think is redundant, since it either serves Convenience or Productivity. In other words, it is not an independent category of customer value.

Fun and Image we believe is incomplete. These are two examples of psychological benefits, which - although they certainly provide customer value - are not the only possibilities for doing so. Further examples are the calming effect of cigarettes or chewing gum and the feeling of belonging provided by fan merchandise. For this reason, we have generalised this category and call it Psychological Benefits.

Environmental Friendliness we also believe should be generalised. We prefer to use the concept of Environmental Compatibility. Environmental Compatibility contains classical environmental friendliness in the sense of low energy consumption or reduced waste, but goes further. Environment we take to mean in the most general sense, including, for example, the functional or physical environment of a product. Compatibility is also more general, and includes technical and stylistic compatibility. We can therefore say that a computer has a high Environmental Compatibility, if it has many interfaces to other devices, and a piece of furniture has a high Environmental Compatibility, if it matches the decorating style of the room it is to be placed in.

Future Potential is a new category, which has no corresponding element in Kim and Mauborgne. This lever addresses the attributes of a product which give it future potential in the widest sense. For a technical device, this might mean including a new interface which is not yet standard, but which promises to become one. A product also has a higher Future Potential if its resale value is increased or the guaranteed availability of spare parts is extended further into the future.

Total Cost of Ownership is another new lever. This refers to all financial and other costs associated with the ownership and use of a product. Examples are the purchase price, operating and maintenance costs and space requirements. Any reduction in these costs means an increase in customer value.

For each lever, we have developed a checklist which contains suggestions on how to achieve the corresponding customer value. For example, the checklist for Convenience contains (among others) the following suggestions:

  • make it more comfortable
  • make access easier
  • make it easier to understand
  • individualise it
  • simplify operation
  • make it more intuitive

The Columns

In Kim and Mauborgne's original model, the columns of the matrix contain the so-called Buyer Experience Cycle. This describes the individual phases in which the customer has contact with (i.e. experiences) the product. These are Purchase, Delivery, Use, Supplementals, Maintenance, and Disposal. However, the Buyer Experience Cycle only represents one of many possible perspectives on a product, which we believe could all be used in the same manner. For this reason, we believe that the Buyer Utility Map lacks generality. It is not clear (at least not to me), why Kim and Mauborgne chose this particular angle. One obvious limitation is that it does not apply to services (since services have neither delivery nor disposal.)

For this reason, we have generalised the column definition from Buyer Experience Cycle to Situation Focus. With Situation Focus, attention is drawn a particular perspective on the given situation. Some of the possible perspectives are:

  • Buyer Experience Cycle (as in Kim and Mauborgne)
  • Components of the product (for example Interior, Engine, Trunk)
  • Processes in connection with the product (for example standing in a queue, pushing a shopping cart, looking for a parking space)
  • Functions of the product, (for example opening an account, investing money, checking the balance)
  • Tasks in connection with the product (for example parking, filling up, loading luggage)
  • Target Groups of the product (for example teenagers, professionals, single parents)

Of course, depending on the given innovation task, each of these focuses may be more or less appropriate.

Application

There are five steps involved in applying the model:

  1. A relevant Situation Focus is chosen, for example Tasks.
  2. The corresponding components are entered into the column titles, for example filling the tank, changing a tyre, parking, loading luggage.
  3. A Utility Lever is chosen, for example Convenience.
  4. Using the appropriate checklist for the Utility Lever, formulate questions that inspire new product ideas, for example How can we make operation more intuitive? How can we simplify changing tyres?
  5. Repeat from number 3 using a new lever.

The entire procedure can, of course, be repeated using a different Situation Focus.

The result are new ideas which provide different types of customer value and are generated from many different perspectives on the given situation.

Acknowledgements

The work presented here is part of the Idea Engineering research at the University of Magdeburg, Germany. The improvements were developed in conversations with Jana Görs and René Chelvier (Zephram Corporation), Stefan Knoll and Falko Werner (doctoral students) and David Bobles and Jana Schumann (undergraduate students).

Monday, July 28, 2008

Do successful companies still need to innovate?

In a recent post at the Harvard Business Blog, Scott Anthony asks the question if successful companies should still focus on innovation? Most of the time, they’re so far ahead of the game with their current products, why bother wasting billions of dollars on a product innovation that has the possibility of failure? Anthony believes companies should. Why?

With companies that are already widely successful, they have the capital to spend on new product innovation. They also have developers and assets to foster the innovative spark, and a company always has room for growth. Anthony points out that a new era is coming when innovation from within the company is vital. He pointed out these companies that are proving this point: Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, Cisco Systems and Amazon.com.

What’s your standpoint on successful companies innovating? Are those who are failing to keep up with the new trend of improving and inventing their products going to loose their status as successful companies if they do not work at coming up with new products?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Baidu vs. Google

We have posted before on how Google is not known as most innovative everywhere. In fact Yandex, a European search engine has a 10 point lead over Google in Russia. This recent article, from WSJ.com, highlighted that Google is experiencing the same problem against Chinese search engine company Baidu.com Inc. Baidu has made claims that they “out-Google Google”. The company’s internal research, they say, shows that their search engine is responsible for 60% of all searches in China. Also in a wsj.com survey, Baidu was voted as the most “Innovative in Responding to Customer Needs.”

This could mean trouble for Google later on since according to Internetworldstats.com, 427 million people search in English, while 233 million people search in Chinese. This shows that it is imperative, and will continue to be important for Google to keep up and increase their presence in the Chinese market. Meanwhile it will be interesting to see how the most innovative company according to BusinessWeek, will maintain their status with the increasing globalization of the search engine industry.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Use Stories and Anecdotes to Improve Innovation

Consumers are giving feedback and talking about products and services all over the internet, ex: social networks, blogs, twitter, forums, etc. John Caddell discusses how businesses should take a look at these anecdotes, or “stories”, gathered from social media and use it towards their innovation process in his latest post on the Marketing & Strategy Innovation Blog.

Here are some insights that customer’s might mention in these stories according to John:

  • People find our product really hard to use.
  • Feature X of our product is proving more valuable than we expected.
  • A group of people are using our product in an interesting way that we didn't anticipate.

Why is this information useful? An accumulation of these small anecdotes can really give you an idea of what needs to be improved. It can give your company insight on new product development, new design, product packaging, and where innovation is working and where it isn’t. Customers will continue to tell “indirect” stories to their peers on communities; it’s time for businesses to start using this resource to foster ideas.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Global Collaboration leads to Military Strengths

We recently gave you a look at what our military is innovating to stay ahead in combat situations. I recently found an article by Andy Blumenthal of User-Centric Enterprise Architecture, and he highlighted worldwide when it comes to innovation on military technologies. His main stance is that ideas do not only come from within the enterprise, but from throughout the world, and this point can be seen from the technologies used within the military, and the United States has used others technologies to secure the edge over other militaries.

Some of the technologies Blumenthal pointed out in his article were the fact that nuclear weapons came from German Jewish scientists, armored vehicles and air power came from the British, stealth technology came from a Russian algorithm. The US military has taken all of these innovations and used them to improve their military, as have others around the world. One of the newest advancements on the jet fighter, the Joint Strike Fighter (pictured in this article), was a global initiative.

Blumenthal also pointed out that the US population counts for 4.5% of the world’s population, and that by 2010, 90% of all scientists and engineers will be located in Asia. Around the world, global innovation needs to be a reality.

Blumenthal ends his article with this statement:

Innovation is incremental; we can learn from others, build on it, improve on it, and integrate it with our own creativity. Then we are architecting our enterprises with the added force of globalization.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is Innovation Necessary for Companies?

I came across this thought provoking article about innovation from the Harvard Business Publishing today. It discusses how useful innovation really is, and whether or not it is ‘overrated’. As Scott Berkum stated

“It's a vague, subjective term that distracts from what you're really trying to do: enjoy your life. Or in the case of a business: profit by making good things.”

His premise is that businesses should not be focused on building the newest and latest, instead they should focus on making the best in class. He provides the example of Google and Apple. Both companies were not the first innovators for either search engines, or touch screen, yet both companies are hailed as being the best innovators from sources such as BusinessWeek. His view is that this is a misnomer and instead they simply are the best at what they do. As he explains

The truth is making really good things is difficult -- it requires a commitment to craft, an attention to detail, and a love for work that has always been rare. And while we'd never call these three attributes innovations, it's the success of creating an organization that rewards these things that leads to the products we often herald, after they're done, as innovations.

Do you agree with his assessment on innovation? If not what is your viewpoint?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Using Trash to Power a Vehicle

In the past, being at war has been a launching point for innovation with the creation of common products such as the Jeep, computer, and microwave. Currently, the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force, is funding the Tiger project to create a new type of vehicle that can convert food and waste into fuel as reported in this article. The full name for the vehicle is Tactical Garbage to Energy Refinery, and it will provide the military with a safer way to dispose of trash where soldiers won’t have to worry about being exposed when taking it out, while simultaneously helping to save energy costs as an alternative fuel source. As Peter Kindsvatter, military historian at Aberdeen Proving ground, remarked on the importance of innovation

“In wartime, you’re not worried about making a profit necessarily, you’re worried about getting the latest technology on the street. Basically, you find yourself in a technology race with your enemy.”

Tiger is being developed by scientists from Edgewood, VA Defense Life Sciences LLC, in conjunction with Purdue University. So far the costs to the military for this project have totaled $3 million dollars. Future funding will be dependent on how successful the 90 day testing period that is ending August 10th proves to be.

Friday, July 18, 2008

China’s innovative Olympics venues

Yesterday, we wrote a post about how China is trying to regain the innovative reputation they had for centuries. One of the ways their doing this is buy using innovative, sustainable venues to host the games of the summer Olympics. The venues were detailed here in the China View.

The National Stadium is built out of steel, which is formed into a lattice. This structure helps the venue with water conservation, pooling the rain water into a nearby pond. The rain water will provide 23% of the water used on the grounds, and the rest will come from industrial waste water and urban sewage. The recycled water will be used for watering the plants and washing the race track.

The National Aquatics Center was also built in order to collect rainwater. The “Water Cube” will have devices to collect the wasted water from baths and the swimming pool to wash the grounds, flush the toilets and provide water for the cooling tower. The National Stadium will have solar panels on the roof and the southern side, which will in turn provide power for the underground parking garage. After the Olympics are finished, the energy from the solar panels will then be added into the power grid and give power to the homes of Beijing. At the Beijing Science and Technology Gym, where the judo and taekwondo will take place, conductors will filter 80% of the sunlight into the gym, filling the building with mostly natural light.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

China working to revive innovative image

With the 2008 Summer Olympics quickly approaching, the spotlight is on China. Some of the countries most famous inventions have been gunpowder, paper, silk and the toothbrush. According to this article in the International Harold Tribune, China is trying to resurrect it’s image of innovation. In a recent exhibition at the Albert and Victoria Museum in London, researchers spent four years compiling China Design Now.

With all of the rapid growth taking place in China, the next step is to turn from a manufacturing country to a country that excels at inventing new products. Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Beijing are emerging as centers for innovation and design. In Beijing, architects have been able to build the world’s largest airport, as well as the bird’s nest stadium for the Olympics. Designers have made an effort to make all the buildings for the Olympics sustainable. A key to keep this new innovation and design going is the education of design through China. Schools have been growing significantly in number, however, China needs to take care to make sure that these schools are filled with the quality teachers and can provide a good education.

One of the museum curators, Lauren Parker, who helped design the exhibit had this to say about China’s future:

“The key challenges do not lie so much in the creativity and aspirations of individual designers (China has those), but in the development of a nurturing infrastructure which will develop its design strengths further. Most importantly China's government needs to invest in the country's designers, creating a supportive environment where design can flourish, and design companies can grow and thrive.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Michigan Universities Promoting Innovation

In a recent post on our blog we mentioned how Florida is making an effort to become more innovative. This article from mlive.com, tells how Michigan is also making an effort to become more innovative in order to help the economy. All 15 of the public universities across Michigan have banded together to form a group called Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The goal of this group will be to raise and distribute $75 million in funds in order to promote their cause. Thomas Haas, President of Grand Valley State University released this public statement:

All the universities are coming together knowing that we have an obligation to be a catalyst for the jobs of the future. We're going to create some excitement about entrepreneurs.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

GE Builds Innovative Engines

Turboprop engines have become increasingly popular among private and corporate aircraft owners due to soaring fuel prices. This latest article in Business Week details how GE has created a new innovative turboprop engine, the GE M601 H80, to accommodate the airline industry’s need for an efficient alternative to fuel-thirsty jet engines.

GE engineers have created this innovative design by simply making updates in tried-and-tested designs. For example, engineers have worked on the aerodynamics of the engine, and will soon work on the redesign of the existing gearbox to continuously improve fuel efficiency. A wide portfolio of different engines ranging in power will be available over the upcoming years. GE, who has recently experienced disappointing earnings last quarter, has bounced back by reinvesting capital in new product development.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hormel partners up with Culinary Institute of America

In a recent news release, Hormel and the Culinary Institute of America announced they were partnering up to offer advanced classes to professional chefs. The curriculum was chosen by both institutions in order to provide an education opportunity that had been in the field for more than five years. The four sets of three day sessions will give chefs an opportunity to focus on creativity, innovation, leadership and management. Upon graduation from the program, the students will have advanced certification from the CIA and become a member of the Hormel Circle of Innovation.

Dennis Gottsch, the vice president of marketing in Hormel’s Food Service division had this to say about the partnership:

We want to invest in the future of the culinary arts, creating an innovation-focused program to prepare today's best and brightest for leadership in the field. The values of innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship are at the heart of Hormel Foods' long-standing heritage. We are honored to partner with the CIA, the world's premier culinary college, to build this exciting and influential program.

Sources: Austin Post Bulletin, Fox Business

Friday, July 11, 2008

Finally! Relevant Applications for YouTube and Twitter in the Enterprise!

Finally! Relevant Applications for YouTube and Twitter in the Enterprise!

If you are involved with manufacturing these days, you've no doubt heard about Lean Manufacturing. I'll not go deep into this area here, but one fascinating (for me) aspect is the thread (in some quarters) that ERP and computer systems are the enemy of Lean. On the whole, I don't disagree - process improvement, kanbans, and attacking muda are typically very physical exercises; roaming the floor, walking through the processes (gemba walks), reorganizing workspaces for flow, designing and simplifying standard work - all very visual, participatory efforts that continue over time (constant improvement). Computer systems can just get in the way - metrics and measurements that require extra data entry, or inflexible processes that can't be changed quickly. Much of Lean thinking is common sense and practical, applied thought - computers can over-complicate things!



However, it's that visual, participatory nature of process improvement that can be something of an obstacle, especially if you're working in an extended organization with many locations. It's difficult to gain insight over the assembly process unless you're standing at the bench, twisting and turning to reach for components. It's hard to design practical speed improvements for changeovers if you aren't there handling the tools / molds. And it's often extremely difficult to get the folks who know how to do this stuff (operators) to effectively document their work!



Enter the YouTube idea (which I freely admit is not my own, but the originator has no problem sharing his insights). Travel budgets are shrinking, time away from the shop is tough - but all I need is a 5 minute show-and-tell of a process. Why not a quick video? It's hard to describe how I can easily, visually manage WIP until you stand in that one key spot on the floor, and see how the sight lines to the various workstations all line up perfectly. Why don't I just show you ...



What about Twitter? Well, eMails, blogs, and wikis are really just fancied-up documentation tools, and nobody likes to create documentation. But Twitter can be terse, instant, and informal - not too intimidating for the itinerant author. Heck, sending tweets about ideas and observations on the job would be very much like sending text messages from your cell phone, an increasingly common, popular, and non-threatening task. The bonus, however, is that Twitter traffic can be broadcast (unlike your typical point-to-point text) and saved to a database for further review and insight.



Now, the public YouTube and Twitter sites are probably not the way you want to implement these ideas; much of what we're Tube-ing and Tweet-ing is company confidential. Corporate IT should get involved - either host it yourselves or properly vet a third party site for access & availability, storage & security.



... finally, a chance to walk into the COO's office and say "tweet" with a straight face ...



Interested in more Lean Manufacturing resources? Here's the best of what I've found on the 'net ... check 'em out!







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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Florida Wishes to become a more innovative state

We wrote an earlier blog post on how Oklahoma as trying to become a creative and more innovative state. Anther state has now come out with a study that could help turn its economy innovative. I found the research via this article in the Destin Log. This new study released by Florida’s Great Northwest takes a look at the states weaknesses, strengths, and opportunities to turn its current economy into an innovative space.


In order to find way to make the Florida economy more innovative, Boyette Levy found ways to aide Florida’s effort through interviews of the economic leaders of the state, analysis on current innovation programs, and then a review of the policies and incentives being used in other states.


Some of the strengths that they found were: Florida’s ability to attract outside talents, the state’s cultural diversity, and the willingness of the state’s companies and universities to work together. The weaknesses were: the tradition of a “low cost” state, lack of start ups and early age capitol in the state, and lack of engineering and tech graduates.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Apple vs. Microsoft

A short while ago we posted an article on this blog about Microsoft and Innovation, which elicited some commentary. Often times when talking about Microsoft it is inevitable that the discussion turns to Apple as well. Earlier today I found this article on Apple discussing their market potential in the business world and how this affects the two companies in terms of innovation.

As the article remarks, with Apple’s focus on iPhone, a group of five companies decided to unite to form the Enterprise Desktop Alliance (EDA) in order to help the Mac gain market share in the enterprise industry. Regarding this development, Alykhan Jetha, president and CEO of Marketcircle stated,

“You won’t see the type of innovation Apple shows from Microsoft because they have to cater to enterprise. If Apple caters to the enterprise like Microsoft, progress is going to slow.”

Tim Deal, senior analyst for Pike & Fischer, concurred by saying that,

“Apple has not tried to be everything to everyone and that has certainly been a key factor in its strong position of innovation.”

What is your opinion on the issue of Microsoft vs. Apple and the ways in which they innovate?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Community Colleges Taking Steps in Innovation

At the beginning of June, we shared with you Barack Obama’s speech he gave on the importance of innovation and the education. He sees the importance of education and why the youth of today need to be educated in order to keep the innovation at its highest level in the United States.


Some schools are already taking the lead. In an article at The Seattle Times, Charles H. Mitchell shares with us what Seattle community colleges are doing to keep Seattle one of the most innovative cities in the United States. He credits community colleges for being as creative as any startup in business. One of the colleges in the area was the first to start a two year program in biotechnology, and other has started a two year program in nanotechnology. The Seattle Culinary Academy at Seattle Central has developed a fully sustainable culinary program. Seattle South Community College has developed a program that focuses on green real estate. The city has received $25 million in donations from various sources to keep the city and its community colleges on top of the innovation game.


Seattle is not the only place colleges are innovating. The LA Times reports on other colleges that have chosen to innovate and proceed down the green path. East Los Angeles College has installed 5952 solar panels that will power 45% of the schools energy a year. They’re not the only school that has chosen to find a new way to power and heat and cool their college. A 2004 policy for the University of California schools stated that all new building and renovations must be eco-friendly, and since implementing this policy, the system has saved $5 million as a result. The article also states that when buildings have become sustainable, the buildings have less of upkeep in maintenance.


Whether universities and colleges are making an innovation as a priority in the curriculum or focusing on creating buildings on campus that are environmentally friendly, innovation to aid the environment has become a priority.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Toyota Introduces New Feature for Prius: Solar Panels

Much news has been generated regarding the rising costs of fuel, and the growing trend to be more “green”. In our previous post on this blog, we discussed how UPS has attempted to cut fuel costs by only turning right. The Toyota Prius, which has been a front runner of the green movement by being one of the first mass produced hybrid vehicles available, will make a high end option available that will incorporate solar panels into the 2009 version of the car. These panels will only be used to power some of the air-conditioning, however, and will not to be used to fuel the entire car. This has led many to view this new innovation as simply a “symbolic gesture” as this article in the International Herald Tribune remarked.

In response to questions about the viability of solar panels on cars, Kentaro Endo, a director at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Japan, and specialist in renewable energy has stated:

"Even if you laid solar panels out on the entire roof of a house, you only generate enough energy to run two hairdryers," he said. "It's an interesting idea, but it would be very difficult to power a whole car, even with technological advances."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

UPS Saves the Environment and Cuts Fuel Charges at the same time

In a recent article at ABC News, UPS informs the public that they try to avoid making left turns on deliver routes. In fact, they turn right up to 90% of the time. In a study they did in 2004, they found that lots of fuel is wasted while idling at lights waiting to turn left. Now in their company operating policy, they are encouraged to take only right turns on delivery routes. Their fleet of 93,637 cars, vans, tractors and motorcycles are estimated to save an astounding three million gallons of gas a year.

Wal-mart’s Innovative Logo

For the past 17 years, Wal-mart has used its old logo with uppercase letters and an unoriginal star that served as a hyphen. When compared to other companies like Target, which has its trademark bulls-eye, Wal-mart’s logo seemed generic, but now after nearly two decades it seems as if Wal-mart has finally redesigned its logo.

This article in Business Week points out that Wal-mart has decided to discontinue using the old logo that consisted of pointy letters, and have instead created a new logo with rounded lowercase letters, and have added a symbol after it that resembles a flower or a sunburst. Tobias Frere-Jones, a professor of typography at Yale University notes:

"They seem to be going for something friendlier"

Tobias has been employed by several other companies to create such designs in order to make businesses seem gentler. This logo has also come at a time in which Wal-mart is suffering damages from a Minnesota labor case. Another added factor is consumers are thinking “green”, and so the sunburst makes Wal-mart seem more eco-friendly. But, is a new logo and branding enough to change peoples’ perception of a company? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Where and When do People Get their Best Ideas?

In a recent report released by Idea Champions, they asked the public when and where they got their ideas. The study was conducted September through November of 2007. The question asked was where people got their best ideas, and then results were collected via an informal internet poll.


The top ten were:


Poll Rank

Item Rate

Rating

Catalyst

1

1

4.08

When you’re inspired

2

2

3.64

Brainstorming with others

3

3

3.48

When you’re immersed in a project

4

4

3.45

When you’re happy

5

5

3.55

Collaborating with a partner

6

6

3.27

Daydreaming

7

7

3.25

Analyzing a problem

8

8

3.22

Driving

9

9

3.21

Commuting to and from work

10

10

3.19

Reading books in your field


The survey’s top result was not much of a surprise, as people feel inspired when good ideas occur. The report broke the rest of the results up into several categories: social catalysts, solitary innovation, mind states, exertion and stress, motion and stillness and times of the day.


There were five social catalysts ranked in the top 35, showing that working with others leads to many good ideas. However, there were twice as many solitary states in the top 35. Idea Champions believes this is because the brain can take the time to slow down and work through the problem. That’s why walking and driving rank so high. Lowest of all categories, exertion and stress, showing that deadlines and pressure don’t bode well for coming up with great ideas.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

New Invention May Help Businesses Lower Energy Costs

Many companies have been feeling the effects of the energy and oil crisis. As mentioned in a previous post on this blog, Dow Chemical is planning on making plastics in Brazil using products like sugarcane to help combat rising oil prices. In addition as this article from mlive.com reveals, Dow announced that they were increasing the price of their products by 20% as of June 1st 2008. They said that this was in reaction to their projected energy costs being estimated at $32 billion this year, up from $8 billion in 2002.

Discovery Channel News reports in this article, that students from MIT may have the solution to these problems. Their new innovation is a parabolic shaped solar mirror that can be cheaply reproduced since it does not require silicon or robotics. It is 12 feet by 12 feet, and made of metal framing that holds bent mirrors. These mirrors concentrate sunlight into a single point which creates the ability to vaporize wood, and is hypothesized to be able to melt steel.

The students have formed a new company called Raw Solar, in order to market their patented product. Matt Ridder, Press Officer for Raw Solar and one of the students involved in the creation of the solar product, has stated:

"The first goal is to create a heat source that is cheaper than natural gas or oil. An eventual application is electricity generation."

Below is a picture of the new invention.

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