Tag Archives: sustainability

Is Now the Time to Finally End Our Culture of Disposability?

Is Now the Time to Finally End Our Culture of Disposability?Quality used to mean something to companies.

A century ago, when people parted with their hard-earned money to buy something, they expected it to last one or more lifetimes.

Durability was a key design criteria.

But, as the stock market became more central to the American psyche and to executive compensation, the quality of available products and services began to decline in the name of profits above all else.

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Ford Quality is job oneThere was a temporary consumer revolt decades ago that resulted in companies pretending that quality was more important than profits, but it didn’t last long. In the end, Americans accepted the decline in quality as outsourcing and globalization led to declining prices (and of course higher profits) and fewer goods carrying the “Made in the USA” label, quickly replaced by Japan, China, Mexico, Vietnam, Bangladesh and the rest.

An Inconvenient TruthAround the turn of the century we had the birth of the Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) movement followed a few years later by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Perhaps people were beginning to wake up to the fact that our planet’s resources are not infinite and our culture of disposability was catching up to us.

But these movements failed to maintain their momentum and the tidal wave of stores stocking disposable goods continued unabated – dollar stores and party stores spread across the country like a virus. States like New York began shipping their garbage across borders as their landfills reached capacity. Unsold goods began being dumped on the African continent and elsewhere (think about all those t-shirts printed up for the team that didn’t end up winning the Super Bowl).

Is now the time for the winds to shift yet again in favor of quality and sustainability after decades of disposability?

Will more companies better embrace sustainability like Patagonia is attempting to do?

People have been complaining for years about the high cost to repair Apple products and the increasing difficulty of executing these repairs oneself. Recently Apple was FORCED by shareholder activists to allow people to repair their iPhones. Here is their press release that tries to put a positive spin on what they were pressured into doing.

This is the moment for shareholder activists and governments around the world to force companies to design for repairability, reuse and a true accounting of the costs of their products and services inflict upon the populace and the planet. The European Union and Mexico are working together towards this not just because the planet needs this, but because The Circular Economy Creates New Business Opportunities.

Meanwhile, Toyota recently announced that starting this year (2022) in Japan that they will retrofit late-model cars with new technology if the customer desires it. The company aims to let motorists benefit from new technology without having to buy a new car. The LoraxToyota calls this “uppgrading” and defines it as retrofitting safety and convenience functions, like blind spot monitoring, emergency braking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and the addition of a hands-free tailgate or trunk lid. Remodeling will also be an option and will include replacing worn or damaged parts inside and out, such as the upholstery, the seat cushions, and the steering wheel.

Are these two companies voluntary and involuntary actions the beginning of a trend – finally?

Or will the culture of disposability continue unabated until our natural resources are exhausted?

Do we truly live in the land of the Lorax?

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons, OldHouseOnline

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Technology Not Always the Key to Innovation

Technology Not Always the Key to Innovation

Humans love technology and often we make the mistake of thinking that technology is the only path to innovation.

But there are many examples that prove this is often folly…

The wine industry offers a couple of great examples.

Alternative Wine Innovation Opportunity #1 – Barn Owls

Some vintners in Napa Valley, California are eschewing potentially harmful high-tech rodenticides in favor of fluffy little barn owls to control the local rodent population and to reduce damage to the vineyards. Low-tech or no-tech sometimes provides more sustainable solutions than seemingly convenient high-tech solutions.

Alternative Wine Innovation Opportunity #2 – Music

Mozart in the Vineyard…

A winemaker in Tuscany, Italy has taken to the airwaves to improve the quality of his wines, installing speakers around his vineyard that caress his vines with Mozart during the growing process and the barrels of juice during the winemaking process.

One of the primary benefits of the continuous music is said to be a decrease in the use of insecticides because pests like crickets are forced to leave the area because they can communicate with each other. The music is also said to operate in similar frequencies to running water, causing the grapes to grow better the closer they are to the speakers.

One of the most brilliant parts of the clip is the part where the vintner lets it slip that he has partnered with Bose on the project.

Creating a win-win partnership with a company that might benefit from helping to fund an alternative approach is a great way for an entrepreneurial innovator to reduce the risk and the cost of their experiment.

It is also a great way to work with the partner to create equipment fit for purpose that will ultimately perform better than off the shelf components and for the partner will represent solutions they can use to open up a new market.

Conclusion

Technology is not always the path to innovation, but it is easy to forget this.

It is easy to take shortcuts and not spend enough time finding problems worth solving and to not carefully define the right problem to solve.

Technology is seductive and marketers are skilled at making a technology-based solution seem like the easiest solution or even – the only one. But often, if we keep our minds open and our field of vision spread wide, we may notice low-technology solutions that solve the problem either better or in more sustainable ways or in ways with additional benefits.

So keep your eyes and ears, and all of your other senses, peeled for all potential solutions, not just the high technology ones.

A Simple Idea to Save Oil

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.

Here is a great marketing campaign from S-Oil in South Korea which took the challenge of finding ways to decrease oil consumption in South Korea and turned it into a marketing campaign:

In this case the solution highlighted in the video is one potential solution of many to the challenge of decreasing oil consumption, and is focused on reducing the amount of oil consumed searching for a parking spot.

The one thing I didn’t understand was why “HERE” was in English instead of Korean characters… (NOTE: I had to replace the video and the new one is in English)

But anyways…

What simple solution is hiding under your nose?


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Are You Investing in an Innovation Culture?

Are You Investing in an Innovation Culture?

Innovation is everywhere.

You can’t go an entire commercial break during the Super Bowl or a State of the Union address (okay, sorry, both American examples) without hearing the word innovation pop up at least once or twice. Companies have added innovation to their company values and mission statements in accelerating numbers. Some organizations have implemented idea management systems. And others are willing to spend large sums of money on design firms and innovation boutique consultancies to get help designing some new widget or service to flog to new or existing customers. Based on all of that you would think that most companies are committed to innovation, right?

If you asked most CEOs “Is your organization committed to innovation?”, do you think you could find a single CEO that would say no?

So, why do think I’m about to make the following statement?

90+% of organizations have no sustained commitment to innovation.

When it comes to fostering continuous innovation, most organizational cultures stink at it.

Let’s look at some data, because anyone who is committed to innovation (and not just creativity) should love data (especially unstructured data from customers):

  • Over the last 50 years the average lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 has dropped from 61 years to 18 years (and is forecast to grow even shorter in the future)1
  • In a worldwide survey of 175 companies by Hill & Knowlton (a communications consultancy), executives cited “promoting continuous innovation” as the most difficult goal for their company to get right. “Structurally, many companies just aren’t set up to deliver continuous innovation.”2
  • 84% of more than 2,200 executives agree that their organization’s culture is critical to business success3
  • “96% of respondents say some change is needed to their culture, and 51% think their culture requires a major overhaul.”3

So what does this data tell us?

For one thing, it helps to reinforce the notion that the pace of innovation is increasing.

For another thing, it doesn’t exactly scream that organizations are as committed to building an innovation culture internally as their words externally say about being committed to innovation.

Why is this?

Well, as fellow Innovation Excellence contributor Jeffrey Phillips once said:

“When it comes to innovation, ideas are the easy part. The cultural resistance learned over 30 years of efficiency is the hard part.”

And when you get right down to it, most employees in most organizations are slaves to execution, efficiency, and improvement. And while those things are all important (you can’t have innovation without execution), organizations that fail to strike a balance between improvement/efficiency and innovation/entrepreneurship, are well, doomed to fail.

This increasing pace of innovation along with the lower cost of starting/scaling a business and the always difficult challenge of building a productive culture of continuous innovation, is the reason that the lifespan of organizations is shrinking.

So if it isn’t enough to talk about innovation, or to invest in trying to come up with new products and services, shouldn’t more organizations be also investing to making sure their innovation culture doesn’t, well, stink?

The obvious answer is… (insert yours here)

So, if your innovation culture stinks, I encourage you to come join me at Pipeline 2014 and attend my keynote session on exploring five ways to make it smell better:

“Our Innovation Culture Stinks – Five Ways to Make it Smell Better”

It’s a free virtual event on June 6, 2014.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Sources:
1. Innosight/Richard N. Foster/Standard & Poor’s
2. Hill & Knowlton Executive Survey
3. Booz & Company Global Culture and Change Management Survey 2013


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World’s Worst Logo?

World's Worst Logo? -  Definitely Needs Updating

Every time I see this logo I cringe.

If there is one logo in the world that is definitely in desperate need of updating, it is the logo of Sherwin Williams.

My stomach turns at the site of the earth dripping with paint and the slogan “Cover the Earth” only makes it worse.

Is there anyone out there that would actually like to see the earth covered in paint?

Especially paint that looks like blood?

Sherwin Williams, I implore you, please update your logo as soon as possible to reflect the changing world we live in, where people are concerned about toxicity and where sustainability and being green are increasingly important.

If you could do it before Earth Day on April 22, 2012 that would be even better.

You may not realize the negative logo your logo is having on your business because your stock price is moving up and to the right, but imagine how much better it might be doing if you updated your image to reflect your surroundings?

Come on Sherwin Williams, you can do it!

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Innovation Comes in Many Forms

Innovation Comes in Many FormsInnovation comes in all different forms, and there is more than one way to boost profits in organizations.

Layoffs are not the only way to improve the bottom line when times get tough. Often asking the right questions can uncover new revenue sources in areas that previously had only been seen as a source of costs.

There is an article in Fast Company from 2007 when I wrote this article that talks about ways that companies are greening themselves. I highly recommend that every entrepreneur and manager read it. It’s not a hippie and granola, look at us aren’t we great type of article but instead highlights loads of different ways that organizations are becoming green. This article highlights lots of different ways that organizations are improving their bottom lines, while greening themselves at the same time.

There are many reasons why trying to make your organization more environmentally responsible has the potential to improve the bottom line:

  1. It focuses the organization on identifying and eliminating waste
  2. Creating new directions for the waste your organization produces:
    • Are our waste products of value to someone?
    • Can we recycle or otherwise use our waste products for something useful?
  3. Could we produce our products closer to our customers?
  4. Could we source our inputs closer to our factories?
  5. Could we change how we package our product to reduce the amount of raw materials needed?
  6. Could we somehow distribute our products in reusable containers?

Finally, there is no escaping the fact that becoming more environmentally responsible as an organization will either gain you additional sales now or prevent you from losing sales in the future. as the standards of government and corporate procurement departments begin to shift towards purchasing from more environmentally responsible vendors.

So, what does your organization have to gain from trying to identify areas of environmental opportunity?

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