Roger Cohen, The Quest to Belong
Next year’s Thanksgiving grace.
Introducing Rip Cord
Rip Cord is a simple improvement upon the classic roll of packaging tape. This tape has a small string running down the center of the tape. The user pulls the string to separate the tape in half. This makes opening boxes a cinch, as there is no longer a need for scissors, knives, or keys. The packaging tape dispenser has a sharp edge with which to cut the tape, this edge is shaped such that the tape is cut to provide a tab at the center. This tape makes it easy for users to locate and lift the string.
I love seeing innovations that will — in a small way — make the world better for everyone, like rip cord.
Don Pepper, Innovations Come in Networks
Adam Smith, 1766
Innovations now are increasingly about rethinking and redoing historical models of production, and using time to advantage:
Claire Cain Miller and Stephanie Clifford, E-Commerce Companies Bypass Middlemen to Build Premium Brand
What is empowering the upstarts now is the Web’s ability to reach lots of consumers without the costs of operating physical stores as well as a change in manufacturers’ willingness to work with small brands.
Because they are not dependent on third parties, these e-commerce companies can also introduce products much more quickly.
Crane and Canopy, for example, releases new duvet covers and sheet sets every other week and designs textiles based on current trends on Pinterest and elsewhere, instead of planning collections seasons ahead of time like most brands, said Karin Shieh, its co-founder.
“We want consumers to get those products immediately, so we connect our customers directly with the factories that are currently making bedding for Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and high-end brands,” Ms. Shieh said.
But Crane and Canopy sells the bedding without all the extra costs. A queen-size white pintuck duvet cover on its site, for instance, is $119, while a similar one by DKNY is $400 at Bloomingdale’s.
Crane and Canopy’s principals leveraged their knowledge of what factories were making for others. How do they get that information? Personal relationships with the factory owners allows them to build their offers and production in the draft behind other, larger, slower competitors.
They are making time out of thin air, and cleaning their competitor’s clocks.
Yet another trend headed in the wrong direction. Companies are letting go of innovators because they are in their 50s.
Tom Agan, Why Innovators Get Better With Age
According to research by Alex Mesoudi of Durham University in England, the age of eventual Nobel Prize winners when making a discovery, and of inventors when making a significant breakthrough, averaged around 38 in 2000, an increase of about six years since 1900.
But there is another reason to keep innovators around longer: the time it takes between the birth of an idea and when its implications are broadly understood and acted upon. This education process is typically driven by the innovators themselves.
For Nobel Prize winners, this process usually takes about 20 years — meaning that someone who is 38 at the time of discovery will most likely be nearly 60 when he or she receives the prize. For most eventual laureates, that interval is spent attending and making presentations at conferences, networking with colleagues, writing additional papers, editing academic journals and talking with the press.
Let’s assume that with company resources, it will take a corporate innovator 10 years instead of 20 to educate others about the nature, implications and applications of a new idea. If that’s true, a reasonable target retention age for attaining an average level of innovation would be at least 50.
YET despite the overall aging of the work force, many organizations are heading in the opposite direction. One executive at a major investment bank remarked with concern that the average age at his firm was 32. This phenomenon is not unique to corporations. Many medical institutions and universities have also shifted to younger workforces. Butaccording to research by Benjamin Jones of Northwestern University, a 55-year-old and even a 65-year-old have significantly more innovation potential than a 25-year-old.
If an organization wants innovation to flourish, the conversation needs to change from severance packages to retention bonuses. Instead of managing the average age downward, companies should be managing it upward.
Looking at Nobel Prize winners might be a bit off the mark, but I wonder about the average age of patent holders: are they going gray, as well?
Stephen Hoover, What We’ve Learned at PARC About the Business of Innovation
I met Jennifer Magnolfi a few years ago, and she joined me in the New York stop of the Future Of Work Tour in 2010. We’ve stayed in touch, and I wanted to catch up on the application of her research, working with Tony Hsieh of Zappos, on his new headquarters design.
About Jennifer Magnolfi
Jennifer Magnolfi is a pioneer in the disruptive field of ‘programmable environments’, where the physical environment is instrumented to make it more productive, sustainable, and more integrated with digital artifacts of business. Her applied research work explores coworking and co-creation, the technologies and practices that support workspaces for innovation, collaboration and community development. In 2012, she teamed up with Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh to support the company’s new headquarters redesign. She also lead the effort to accelerate the emergence of coworking communities for Downtown Project LLC, a real estate and investment fund sponsored by Hsieh, and driving the current revitalization of Downtown Las Vegas. Jennifer is co-author of ‘Always Building: the Programmable Environment’, published by Herman Miller in 2008, where she was a lead architect. Among her other accolades and honors, Jennifer was selected by Fast Company as one of the innovators in their Generation Change project. She received a Masters Degree in Architecture from the Harvard School of Design.
Stowe Boyd: Is modern office redesign and rethinking the workspace still the primary focus of your work?
"We are able to work in many physical environments now. What transforms them into workspaces is the fact that we are connected to our work-related data, and more importantly, that we get into the “zone of work,” that cognitive state that allows us to function for work-related purposes, to work productively and effectively."
Jennifer Magnolfi: In broad terms, yes. The ability of space to shape as well as support certain kinds of behaviors and human interactions is at the heart of what I’m interested in. I believe that the built environment is both a reflection and an enabler of human endeavor. And I think of technology in space as a design medium, a sort of material. It introduces a set of properties that previously weren’t possible – changing interactions by the user with other users through architecture or by the user with other users through digital space, etc.
When we spoke at the end of 2011, I was embarking on research around co-working, which I see as an ‘edge condition’ in the field of corporate real estate.
The world of coworking is a very vibrant community and to a certain degree it has ushered a new culture of work. Although it remains relatively small in size, it has had significant impact. When I first became interested in it a few years ago, it was more of an edge. Now I hear from corporate real estate executives who are asking questions about how to implement coworking, and how to incorporate related design principles in their real estate portfolios. I think of the cumulative effect of this with other macro economic factors are manifesting a “structural shift” in the world of work.
Some insights from the attached chart:
- Innovation has become global: all regions show potential as hubs of innovation (the two upper quadrants show the countries leading in the GII ranking).
- There seems to be a positive relationship between population size and efficiency: six countries among the most densely populated, including three BRICs, are in the top 10 on the efficiency index: Nigeria, China, Pakistan, Brazil, India and Bangladesh (countries to the right of the chart; the chart shows the full name for the 30 most populated countries, except for USA and the UK).
Social density strongly correlates with innovation: coincidensity.