Tag Archives: transportation

Going with the Flow

How Great Ideas Sometimes Come From Following the Natural Flow of Things

Image: James Homans on Unpslash

GUEST POST from John Bessant

Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas which change the world. Barbed wire is nothing more than a cleverly twisted piece of metal, yet its role in taming the Wild West was much more significant than any cowboys or cavalry. It enabled settlers to graze their herds and property rights to be marked out and defended.

Joe Woodland’s idle scratches in the sand on a Miami beach were the prototype for what became known as the Universal Product Code — and paved the way for bar codes identifying everything from supermarket items to surgical implants.

And a simple metal box transformed the pattern and economics of world trade. Brainchild of Malcolm McLean containerisation changed the way goods were transported internationally, drastically cutting costs and saving time. In 1965 a ship could expect to remain in port being loaded or unloaded for up to a week, with transfer rates for cargo around 1.7 tonnes/hour. By 1970 this had speeded up to 30 tonnes/hour and big shops could enter and leave ports on the same day. Journey times from door to door were cut by over half and the ability to seal containers massively cut losses due to theft and consequently reduced insurance costs.

McLean was a tough entrepreneur who’d already built a business out of trucking. He’d learned the rules of the innovation game the hard way and knew that having a great idea was only the start of a long journey. Realising the value at scale would take a lot of ingenious problem-solving and systems thinking to put the puzzle together. He needed complementary assets — the ‘who else?’ and ‘what else?’ — to realise his vision. And he understood the challenge of diffusion — getting others to buy into your idea and enabling adoption through a mixture of demonstration, persuasion and pressure.

But he wasn’t the first to come up with the idea; that distinction probably goes to another systems thinker who played the innovation game well throughout his unfortunately short life. And, like McClean, he can take a big share of the credit for transforming the pattern of world trade, this time in the 18th century.

Image: David Dibert on Pexels

James Brindley was born in 1716 and spent his early years learning the hard way about how things work — and how to make them work better. He didn’t have much of a formal education, could barely read or write and worked as an agricultural labourer until he was 17. He used his savings to buy his way into an apprenticeship to a millwright, one Abraham Bennett. Bennett was an engineer who preferred to leave much of the work in his business to others while he relaxed (and drank away) the fruits of their labour. Which offered James an opportunity not only to learn fast but to try out ideas. He’d grown up around mills, (both wind and water driven) and was fascinated by their operations.

He got a chance to put some of his innovative ideas into practice when he was given the task, in 1735 of carrying out emergency repairs to a small silk mill. His work so impressed the mill superintendent that he recommended Brindley to others; it wasn’t long before he’d acquired enough experience and skill from different projects to set up on his own as a millwright. He earned the nickname of ‘the Schemer’ because of his approach which was often unconventional but certainly delivered results.

Photo by Ali Arapoğlu from Pexels

Which is how he came to be associated with the Wedgwood brothers who were busy establishing their ceramics business in nearby Stoke on Trent. They sought him out to help with problems they were having in grinding flint, one of the key ingredients in their pottery. Brindley built a series of mills for them, finding ways to improve efficiency and cut costs, and consolidating his reputation They in turn recommended him to John Heathcote, owner of the large Clifton collieries near Manchester who was struggling with a big problem of flooding in his mines.

Brindley’s solution seemed crazy at first — he proposed drawing in more water! But in fact his ingenious idea was to draw water from the nearby river Irwell, pass it through an underground tunnel nearly a kilometre in length and use it to drive a huge mill wheel which drove a pump. It was strong enough to pump out the mine and efficient since it returned the water to the river. It worked — and established his reputation not just as a skilled engineer but as an imaginative problem-solver and innovator.

No-one could call him a lazy man — he worked incessantly on a wide range of projects. But he also spent a lot of time in bed — sometimes days at a time. This was his thinking space, a way of incubating novel and sometimes crazy ideas.

And water was at the centre of his thinking; he seemed to have an intuitive grasp of how it flowed and how those principles could be applied in a wide variety of situations. As he famously replied to an early enquiry about how he had come up with a solution to a complex hydraulic problem he said ‘…it came natural-like…’

And of course one thing about water is that it requires you to think in systems terms, how things are linked together. Brindley had a gift for seeing the interconnected challenges in realising big schemes like the mine pumping system — and for focusing on solving those to enable the whole system to deliver value.

This approach stood him in good stead as he moved into the field for which we best know him — canals. Canals played a critical role in the early Industrial Revolution; they meant that raw materials could get in to factories and their finished products could find their way to ports and be exported around the world. Britain, as ‘the workshop of the world’ depended on the canals as the veins and arteries that enabled the giant to come to life.

And canals represented just the kind of systems challenge which Brindley was so good at. When the Duke of Bridgwater approached him in 1759 to help create a canal to connect his mines in Worsley to the city of Manchester he began a journey which would eventually see him changing the face of Britain, constructing 365 miles of canals criss-crossing the country and revolutionising productivity.

When the Bridgwater Canal was finished in 1761 it helped cut the price of coal in Manchester by 50% and it fell further over the coming years. He followed this with other major projects; he worked with the Wedgwoods to create the Trent and Mersey canal which linked the Potteries to the big industrial cities and ports, providing a way of climbing (through a total of 35 locks) the country and delivering their fragile wares to a global export market. Whether it was shipping coal, flint or other raw materials into cities or transporting their finished wares out to the great ports like Liverpool, Brindley’s canals connected the country.

Photo by Inge Wallumrød from Pexels

It wasn’t easy; quite apart from the eye-watering costs of construction building the canal posed many challenges. Brindley innovated his way around them, coming up with radical ideas for:

  • using natural contours, working with the grain of the land rather than in straight lines. His canals might have been longer as a result but they were much cheaper to dig since this approach reduced the need for tunnels or expensive cuttings
  • cutting narrower canals, which reduced the water consumption and hence the running costs. Of course to make these work required the design of narrow longer boats — something else which Brindley pioneered and which became the dominant design for the waterways
  • pumping and circulatory systems to ensure efficient water flow into and tough the canal systems — and improving the design and productivity of the equipment involved
  • raising and lowering boats as they traversed the country through a series of watertight locks, some of which survive to this day
  • using puddling clay — a watertight ceramic material which he devised (using knowledge picked up from working with the Wedgwoods in their pottery factories) and which offered a watertight base with which to line the canals and solve the problem of water seepage
  • imagining and realising things like the Barton viaduct, a bridge carrying the Bridgwater canal over river Irwell 12m below
Image: Watercolour of Barton aqueduct by G.F. Yates 1793, public domain

He also developed another innovation as part of his problem-solving for the coal industry. His narrow boats were nicknamed ‘Starvationers’ on account of the wooden braces across the hull which gave them strength. They looked like an emaciated torso but this design meant they were strong enough to haul tons of coal or iron ore. But there was a bottleneck in terms of loading and unloading and so Brindley designed a system of wooden containers for coal which could be filled and transhipped easily. His first boat with 10 containers began work in 1766, predating Malcolm McLean by close to 200 years.

(The concept was elaborated and really brought to the mainstream by James Outram who linked the idea into a system in which horses pulled containers from mines along rails to the canal where they were quickly transhipped. As the railways emerged to replace horse drawn traffic so this ‘intermodal system’ took off)

Water was what made him and indirectly it was the death of him. In 1771 he’d begun work on another visionary scheme, surveying the route of what was to become the Trent and Mersey canal. But he was caught in a heavy thunderstorm and drenched through. He wasn’t able to dry out properly at the inn where he was lodging and by the time he returned home he was severely ill; he died of pneumonia a few days later.

He left a legacy of innovation, both in the 365 miles of canals which he built and in the locks, pumping stations, tunnels and other engineering solutions to the problem of creating a viable water-based transport system.,

And he also offers a good reminder of some key innovation themes involved in bringing large scale ideas to fruition and having an impact at scale. He might have been nicknamed ‘the Schemer’, improvising his way to solving engineering problems, but he also understood things like:

  • the importance of systems thinking and the need for complementary assets — identifying and putting in place the many interlocking pieces of the puzzle
  • the value of prototypes and working models to help persuade and accelerate adoption. Legend has it that when he was presenting his ideas to a sceptical group of Members of Parliament whose approval he needed for the Bridgwater canal route he used a cheese out of which he carved a model of the aqueduct he proposed to build!
  • the power of open innovation, learning from the many different sectors and projects he worked with and integrating knowledge from these different worlds — for example, using his knowledge of ceramics to develop the puddling clay liners for his canals
  • the importance of business models in laying out the architecture through which ideas can create value. He not only understood the literal flow of water, he was also skilled at managing cash flow, acquiring a reputation for being ‘careful with money’ which undoubtedly helped realise some of the huge schemes with which he was involved.

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The Future of Transportation

Trends and Innovations

The Future of Transportation: Trends and Innovations

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

Transportation stands at the precipice of a seismic transformation. As urbanization frenetic paces, climate change looms large, and technology disrupts traditional models, transportation must pivot to more innovative, sustainable, and efficient systems. Let’s take a journey into the future of transportation and explore the trends and innovations reshaping this critical sector.

Trends Shaping the Future of Transportation

1. Electrification and Sustainable Mobility

The electric vehicle (EV) revolution is well underway. Governments worldwide have set ambitious goals to phase out internal combustion engines. The drop in battery costs and improvements in charging infrastructure are making electric vehicles more accessible. Sustainable mobility also includes the rise of active transport modes like biking and walking, supported by comprehensive urban planning that promotes compact, walkable communities.

2. Autonomous Systems

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) promise to revolutionize transit by reducing accidents caused by human error and improving traffic flow. These systems are not just confined to personal vehicles; autonomous buses, trucks, and even drones are on the horizon. They bring a leap in efficiency and herald significant cost reductions for logistics and public transport.

3. Urban Air Mobility (UAM)

Urban air mobility includes the use of drones and electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for passenger and goods transport. Eying on reducing urban congestion, this emerging sector sees companies like Uber and Airbus experimenting with aerial ridesharing and freight delivery solutions.

4. Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

The concept of Mobility as a Service integrates various forms of transport services into a single accessible on-demand platform. With the goal of smoother, more efficient urban travel, MaaS platforms convey a shift from individual car ownership to shared, multi-modal transport solutions.

Case Study 1: Tesla and The Electrification of Personal Mobility

Undoubtedly, Tesla has become synonymous with the electric vehicle revolution. What sets Tesla apart isn’t just its sleek, high-performance cars, but its ecosystem approach to sustainable transportation.

The Innovation

Tesla’s key innovation lies in its battery technology and network of Supercharger stations that make long-distance travel feasible for electric cars. The company’s vertically integrated production process also helps reduce costs and maintain supply chain efficiency.

The Impact

Tesla’s achievements have prompted traditional automakers to accelerate their electrification plans, contributing to deadlines for phasing out gasoline and diesel cars globally. Furthermore, it has spurred innovation in renewable energy storage, creating synergies between the electric grid and transportation.

Future Prospects

Tesla is also developing autonomous driving capabilities with its Full Self-Driving (FSD) system. As the software matures, it could seamlessly integrate into various modes of transport, from high-speed underground tunnels to its futuristic Cybertruck.

Case Study 2: Waymo and The Next Frontier of Autonomous Mobility

Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle project, is a pioneer in self-driving technology. The company has made strides not only in developing competent AVs but in understanding the complexities of deploying them in real-world environments.

The Innovation

Waymo’s innovation lies in its comprehensive approach to autonomous driving. The company has logged millions of miles of autonomous driving, gathering vast amounts of data to refine its machine learning models. Waymo One, its ride-hailing service in Phoenix, Arizona, marks a significant milestone in commercial AV deployment.

The Impact

Waymo’s endeavors have set new benchmarks for the autonomous vehicle industry. The company’s progress has validated the feasibility of AV technology and laid the groundwork for broader acceptance and regulatory frameworks.

Future Prospects

Looking ahead, Waymo aims to expand its autonomous services to more cities and integrate them with existing public transport networks. This could substantially reduce commuting times, lower costs, and improve the passenger experience.

Conclusion

The future of transportation is being shaped by groundbreaking trends and innovative solutions. Electrification, autonomous systems, urban air mobility, and Mobility as a Service are not just technological advancements but steps toward a more sustainable, efficient, and resilient ecosystem. As seen through the examples of Tesla and Waymo, the integration of technology and visionary thinking can propel us into a new era of mobility.

Innovation in transportation is not just about moving people and goods from point A to point B; it’s about enhancing the quality of life, reducing our carbon footprint, and fostering connected communities. As we stand on the cusp of this transportation revolution, it’s crucial for stakeholders—from policymakers to technologists and consumers—to collaborate, adapt, and innovate for a better, more inclusive future.

By providing an in-depth look into transportation trends and spotlighting two key case studies, I aim to offer actionable insights into how the sector is evolving and what the future may hold.

SPECIAL BONUS: The very best change planners use a visual, collaborative approach to create their deliverables. A methodology and tools like those in Change Planning Toolkit™ can empower anyone to become great change planners themselves.

Image credit: Pixabay

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The Future of Transportation

From Hyperloop to Flying Cars

The Future of Transportation: From Hyperloop to Flying Cars

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

Transportation is a crucial aspect of our daily lives and has been undergoing rapid changes in recent years. From self-driving cars to Hyperloop technology, the future of transportation looks more exciting and innovative than ever before. In this article, we will explore some of the cutting-edge developments in transportation and envision what the future holds for how we move from place to place.

Case Study 1: Hyperloop

One of the most talked-about advancements in transportation technology is the Hyperloop. This high-speed transportation system was first proposed by entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2013 and has gained traction as a potential game-changer in the industry. The Hyperloop concept involves using vacuum tubes to transport passengers or cargo at speeds of up to 700 mph, making travel between cities faster and more efficient than ever before.

Several companies have taken up the challenge to develop Hyperloop technology, with Virgin Hyperloop leading the way with successful test runs and plans for commercial implementation. The benefits of the Hyperloop include reduced travel times, decreased carbon emissions, and enhanced connectivity between cities. As this technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see more companies and governments investing in this revolutionary transportation system.

Case Study 2: Flying Cars

Another exciting development in transportation is the concept of flying cars. While it may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, flying cars are becoming a reality thanks to advancements in drone technology and electric propulsion systems. Companies like Uber, Boeing, and Airbus are actively developing flying cars that could revolutionize urban mobility and alleviate traffic congestion in cities.

Flying cars offer the potential to transform how we commute, allowing for fast and efficient travel between urban centers and suburbs. With the ability to take off and land vertically, these vehicles could provide a convenient and environmentally friendly way to navigate our increasingly crowded cities. While there are still regulatory and safety challenges to overcome, the prospect of flying cars becoming a common mode of transportation in the future is an exciting one.

Conclusion

The future of transportation is filled with possibilities and innovations that promise to reshape how we move from place to place. From Hyperloop technology to flying cars, these advancements offer the potential to make travel faster, safer, and more sustainable. As we continue to invest in these cutting-edge technologies, we can look forward to a future where we can travel farther and faster than ever before. The transportation revolution is just beginning, and the future looks brighter than ever.

SPECIAL BONUS: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.

Image credit: Unsplash

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The One Movie All Electric Car Designers Should Watch

Ford Mustang Electric Cobra

by Braden Kelley

In 2011 a Ron Howard comedy was released starring Kevin James, Vince Vaughn, Winona Ryder, Channing Tatum, Jennifer Connelly, and Queen Latifah. The film was called ‘The Dilemma’ and it was a very funny buddy comedy focused on commitment and marital infidelity. But today, we’re focused on one of the subplots that makes ‘The Dilemma’ a movie that every electric car designer should watch. The subplot highlighted a solution to the silent problem with electric vehicles and one of the barriers to widespread adoption.

Vince Vaughn and Kevin James’ characters are best friends and partners in a small auto design firm. The two have recently been given an opportunity to pitch an eco-friendly car to Dodge. One of the main features of this car is that it looks like a muscle car and it sounds like a muscle car, but it’s actually an electric car. Here is a video clip in German that I found on YouTube that shows their sound triumph:

Besides being like large golf carts, electric cars are also INCREDIBLY dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists at low speeds because they’re nearly silent. In addition to being dangerous, electric cars also sound boring.

Electric cars are so dangerous because of their silence, some governments are mandating that they make sounds at least while backing up – you know, those annoying beeping sounds.

Even the cool 1,500 horsepower equivalent electric Ford Mustang Cobra pictured above sounds really boring when it shoots off the line in its promo video going down the drag strip.

Designers, why can’t you implement more interesting, more exhilarating sounds like those in the video before we’re all forced to buy electric vehicles?

They could easily be designed to fade away as the vehicle reaches speeds of around 30 miles per hour and wind and road noise starts to become sufficient to give pedestrians and cyclists a fighting change.

What say you?

Image credit: Slashgear.com


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The Future of Transportation

Disruptive Innovations and Sustainable Solutions

The Future of Transportation

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

Transportation plays a pivotal role in our daily lives, enabling the movement of people and goods. As we progress towards a more connected and sustainable future, disruptive innovations are reshaping the transportation industry. These innovations are challenging traditional norms and providing sustainable solutions to address the growing concerns around congestion, emissions, and infrastructure. In this thought leadership article, we will explore two case studies that illustrate how disruptive innovations are shaping the future of transportation.

Case Study 1: Electric Vehicles – Transforming the Automotive Industry

Electric vehicles (EVs) are revolutionizing the automotive industry, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. With zero tailpipe emissions, EVs address the critical environmental challenges posed by conventional transportation. One of the key disruptors in the EV market is Tesla, an American electric vehicle and clean energy company.

Tesla’s innovative approach to EV manufacturing and infrastructure has redefined the industry standards. Their vehicles provide long-range capabilities, rapidly expandable charging infrastructure, and unparalleled performance, challenging the traditional notion that EVs are limited in range and practicality. Tesla’s success has paved the way for other automakers to invest in electric mobility, accelerating the transition towards a sustainable transportation future.

Additionally, the rise in popularity of EV-sharing platforms and autonomous electric taxis further highlights the disruption caused by electric vehicles. Companies like Uber and Lyft are integrating electric and autonomous vehicles into their fleets, reducing emissions and transforming the transportation landscape. As EV technology continues to advance, costs decrease, and charging infrastructure expands, widespread adoption of electric vehicles holds the promise of a sustainable transportation revolution.

Case Study 2: Hyperloop – Redefining High-Speed Transportation

Hyperloop, a proposed mode of transportation, is a testament to disruptive innovation in the transportation sector. Conceived by Elon Musk, the Hyperloop is a magnetic levitation system that propels passenger pods through low-pressure tubes at high speeds. This revolutionary concept promises to redefine long-distance travel, offering an ultra-fast, energy-efficient, and sustainable mode of transportation.

Virgin Hyperloop, a company founded on Elon Musk’s vision, is actively developing and commercializing Hyperloop technology. With successful test runs, Virgin Hyperloop aims to create a new form of mass transit that is faster than air travel, more sustainable than trains, and less disruptive to the local environment. Hyperloop systems have the potential to connect cities and regions, reducing travel time, congestion, and the associated carbon footprint.

The disruptive nature of the Hyperloop extends beyond passenger transportation. It also has the potential to transform freight logistics, enabling the rapid movement of goods in an eco-friendly and efficient manner. By leveraging renewable energy and minimizing environmental impact, Hyperloop technology holds great promise for sustainable transportation systems of the future.

Conclusion

The future of transportation lies in disruptive innovations that challenge conventional practices and provide sustainable solutions for a connected world. Electric vehicles and the Hyperloop are just two examples of how the transportation industry is being transformed. These innovations not only address environmental concerns but also have the potential to improve efficiency, reduce congestion, and enhance connectivity. As disruptive innovations continue to emerge, it is vital for policymakers, companies, and individuals to embrace these solutions and work together to build a sustainable and resilient transportation ecosystem. Through collaboration and shared vision, we can shape a future where transportation is not only efficient but also in harmony with the environment.

Bottom line: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Poking the Box for Innovation

Poking the Box for InnovationOne of the best ways to challenge people’s thinking and get a group moving in a direction towards innovation is to get the group to define the box.

Of course a million and one innovation and creativity consultants will endlessly drone on about thinking outside the box, but how can think outside the box if you’re not first clear on what the box looks like that you’re trying to think outside of?

When I speak about poking the box, I’m not doing so in the Seth Godin ‘take a risk’ sense, but from the perspective of wanting people to visualize themselves standing in the box, giving a voice to what each of the six main sides are for the context in which you’re trying to innovate.

Start by making a list of the top six assumptions/constraints that we all make in this context:

  1. Assumption/Constraint
  2. Assumption/Constraint
  3. Assumption/Constraint
  4. Assumption/Constraint
  5. What does success look like in this context? — or alternatively, another Assumption/Constraint
  6. What does failure look like in this context? — or alternatively, another Assumption/Constraint

I’d like to thank innovation colleague Ton Verbeek for sharing the following video which looks at the ‘box’ of ground transportation and what happens if you shift from a 2D approach to ground transportation to a 3D approach:

So, what are the assumptions in ground transportation?

What are the constraints?

What does success look like in ground transportation?

What does failure look like in ground transportation?

How has the designer who created this video poked the box?

How has the designer explored the walls of the box and proposed pushing some of them outwards?

Which other assumptions or constraints could be challenged in ground transportation and what characteristics would potential solutions have in order to push a particular wall outwards?

As an example, I would say that the assumption the designer has challenged here in the context of ground transportation is the following:

— Must make efficient use of land to transport the maximum amount of people and goods

What other walls of the ground transportation box could and what would that look like?


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Starbucks Train Making Connections with Customers

Starbucks Train Making Connections with Customers

What happens in Switzerland if you forget to buy your latte or cappuccino before you get on the train?

Well, Starbucks has taken the next leap in connecting with customers as they make their rail connections, moving beyond retail locations in train stations across Europe to opening its first store on a Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) car, the national railway line for Switzerland.

Starbucks Train InteriorThe new Starbucks train café is one of the smallest the company has ever designed, and they have managed to include space for 50 people, baristas, a pastry case, standing bar, and a lounge area, all tastefully assembled into a two level train car.

This latest Starbucks retail twist may only be a test, and the first of its kind for the company, but it now officially puts them in planes, trains, and automobiles, and is a smart way to extend the customer relationship and maintain their connection with existing customers while also possibly building new ones in a captive audience situation.

It’s a smart move for Starbucks to test this format even if it fails like Amazon Tote.

Starbucks Train CustomersIt’s incredibly important for companies like Starbucks that sell daily indulgences to be in the places where people are looking to enjoy that little treat, and with the level of quality increasing (at least in the coffee experience) at competitors like Dunkin Donuts, McCafe, Caribou Coffee, and others, Starbucks has to do everything they can to reinforce their premium image and customer loyalty.

The questions every retailer (or business for that matter) must continuously ask themselves include:

1. What type of customer relationship do we have?
2. What type of relationship does the customer have with our product or service?
3. What products and services do we have our customers’ permission to provide?
4. Where do our customers want us to be?

If you have a copy of my popular five-star book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire, you can dig into the ideas behind these questions more in Appendix A where I look at a number of different “Customer Relationship Types” and “Levels of Customer Permission” in an effort to help you maximize the customer relationship

If you are looking for additional opportunities to serve your customers, maintain existing customer loyalty, and to build new customer relationships, you might also want to check out Appendix B in Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire, where I get into my framework for visualizing the customer purchasing journey and my framework for visualizing the core business operations that support the customer purchasing journey.

And then when you’ve got some ideas that you want to possibly pursue, you might want to run them through The Innovation Baker’s Dozen framework in Appendix C.

There is a lot of great content hidden in the book in various places, which is why it has done so well, and this exploration of the new Starbucks Train is the perfect time to highlight some of the insights captured in the appendices.

So, ask yourself the four questions above, check out the appendices, think about what Starbucks has done with their espresso train and let me know what you come up with!

Here is the official video announcing the Starbucks and SBB collaboration on the Starbucks train experience:


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Innovation or Invention? – Portable Personal Mobility Device

Innovation or Invention? - Portable Personal Mobility DeviceIn writing my article yesterday – Innovation or Invention? – Gyroscopically Stabilized Electric Motorcycle – I came across an interesting video from 2009 of an invention called the U3-X from the research labs at Honda.

While I found the Lit C-1 to be an interesting gadget but unlikely to be widely adopted given the other solutions already available at much better price to performance ratios to the problem it is trying to solve, I am a bit more optimistic about this intriguing design from Honda through a slightly different lens than they might examining its possibilities through.


(Oct 2009)

Here is a second video released along with an announcement of a new installation in France:


(Mar 2012)

Regular readers will know that I feel that innovation is all about:

  • Value Creation
  • Value Access
  • Value Translation

There is no doubt that Honda has created a lot of potential value here. The problem is that they’ve done a really poor job to date with Value Translation. Notice that in both video examples the users are small females. This introduces doubt unconsciously into the viewers. Will this work for a person who is large and/or tall?

Another point that I often highlight is that disruptive innovations require more than explanation, they require education. This is definitely a device that will require a fair amount of education to get people comfortable with the idea and start to see the need. Honda needs to do more education to help with that. They also need to better visualize where the greatest need for this device will be.

For me this is an amazing device because at 10kg (22 lbs) it is a truly portable personal mobility device (if you integrate a strap or two so that people can carry it on their back).

One hour of battery life seems like a big challenge though. But, not if people are using the device in place of crutches or for when they need a break from standing or walking, and don’t need to go far at any one time before plugging in.

I think this device has real potential, but I have no idea what it costs (and that could change my opinion). But for now it is clear it is a solution in search of a problem. So Honda needs to better identify what the problem is that the U3-X is solving before it will gain any traction, and then educate people so that they feel comfortable with it.

Too many companies invent things and feel the need to announce them too early before they find an application where their solution will be more valuable than all existing alternatives. Don’t make this mistake yourself.

But, what do you think? Invention or innovation?

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Innovation or Invention? – Gyroscopically Stabilized Electric Motorcycle

Innovation or Invention? - Gyroscopically Stabilized Electric MotorcycleI came across the C-1 from Lit Motors in an article by Donna Sturgess over on Innovation Excellence that made me wonder, will this be an invention or an innovation?

As you may know my definition of innovation stresses that a new offering must transform the useful seeds on invention into solutions valued above every existing alternative. An there are lots of existing alternatives in this space including:

  • Bicycle
  • Public Transportation
  • Skateboards and Razr Scooters
  • Smart ForTwo
  • BMW C1 (launched in 2000)
  • Standard Motorcycle
  • Standard Scooter
  • Segway
  • Segway Hands-Free
  • Nissan Leaf (and variants)

Is the gyroscopic stabilization and electric drive enough to distinguish it from some of these other options?

What about at a price of $24,000 – up from earlier estimates of $16,000?

For me there are a couple of key questions. Are they going to try to keep it categorized as a motorcycle or try and get it categorized as a car? And if so, will it survive the car crash safety tests. Although getting it re-classified as a car might make it more accessible (no motorcycle license needed), I have a hard time thinking the greater access would offset the publishing of head on and rear crash test results (and pictures). So, I would place this one in the invention camp – unlikely to reach wide adoption.

What do you think? Invention or innovation?

Is this something that will catch on with commuters around the world?

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Why Seattle Needs Double-Decker Buses

Why Seattle Needs Double-Decker BusesTraffic is a problem for drivers and bus riders alike. When traffic gets bad, it gets even worse for buses downtown. Here is why:

Transit agencies, in their quest to put more capacity on popular routes, have added long “bendy” buses to their fleets. The problem is that these buses require twice the available space before an intersection to be able to move from one block to another. They also have more difficulty changing lanes and negotiating corners than standard buses. During periods of heavy traffic this often results in “bendy” buses being unable to move to the next block for more than one light cycle, backing up traffic behind them and delaying other, shorter buses that might have fit into the smaller space in front of them. The answer?

Double Decker BusSeattle and other communities should take a second look at double-decker buses for popular routes that traverse the city center or look to banish “bendy” buses from downtown routes altogether. Double-decker buses are only slightly taller than most standard buses, have a smaller footprint than bendy buses, and give riders a nice view of the city.

Now I must say that I did one time see a double-decker public bus cruising through downtown Seattle the other day. It was a route 417 on its way to Mukilteo and it effortlessly cruised through a yellow light to get the last spot in the bus zone (one a bendy bus wouldn’t have fit in).

I don’t know if the regional transit bureau serving areas north of Seattle has more than one double-decker bus in their fleet or whether this is a test bus for a future purchase, but it sure looked better cruising through downtown Seattle than a bendy bus bouncing up and down. There is nothing quite like the view from the upper-deck of a double-decker bus as you cruise through a city. I hope this is the sign of more to come. Bendy buses may be a newer concept, but double-decker buses are a better one. Oh yeah, and keep the WiFi coming, people love their WiFi on the buses. 🙂

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