Friday, May 29, 2009

Incandescent Innovation

Over the past ten or so years, incandescent light bulbs have fallen out of favor. New designs - such as the compact fluorescent bulb - are far more energy efficient. In fact, the European Union is in the process of phasing out traditional incandescent bulbs, and many countries around the world are following suit.

But the New York Times reports that incandescents may have a new lease on life. Several groups of scientists - from university researchers to lighting corporations - have discovered new techniques for dramatically increasing the energy efficiency of traditional incandescents. Their ideas involve pulse lasers, reflective coatings, and more. Whether next-generation incandescents can keep up with their eco-friendly replacements remains to be seen - but the race is getting more interesting by the day.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Edward de Bono's weekly message: Difficult Times / Problem Solving

There is a difference between difficult times and a problem. With difficult times the universe of action is changed. All logics are only relevant in their particular universe - just as the universe of a patterning system is different from a language universe. The recession at the moment qualifies as a difficult time so a rather different thinking is required from traditional problem solving. Values become even more important. Problem solving usually implies a return to the situation before the problem. That is not possible for an individual or a corporation.

Visitors to this site might like to visit which is intended to bring together people who are using my work.

Friday, May 08, 2009

"Innovation: Case by Case" at ASTD International Conference & Expo

Barb Stennes' book Innovation: Case by Case will be available at ASTD's International Conference and Expo. The book offers twenty case studies of well-known organizations - such as Boeing, ABN AMRO, Motorola, and 3M - that have used the de Bono thinking tools to solve critical problems.

Driving Innovation with Social Media

In a nice post, BookmarkDevil paraphrases Guy Kawasaki and Michael Axelin's suggestions for using social media to drive innovation. Social networking sites - e.g., Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and their ilk - are used primarily for non-commercial purposes; after all, there is a reason that they are called social networking.

But these tools also have commercial applications, and companies are increasingly trying to capitalize on them. The applications include marketing and consumer outreach, new product development, team collaboration, online brainstorming and innovation, and more.

As every business leader knows, innovation is critical to success, and social networking offers multiple tools for any organization to become more innovative. For executives who want to know more, BookmarkDevil's post is a good place to start.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Espresso and print-on-demand

One of the most exciting innovations I have seen recently is the Espresso Book Machine. In essence, the device is a large printer that can that can print a single copy of virtually any book in only a couple minutes. Think of a vending machine with some two million books inside.

This is the type of innovation that could potentially disrupt the entire publishing industry. What Microsoft did for computers, what Skype did for telecommunications,
OnDemandBooks could conceivably do for books.

The publishing industry’s historical business model is “print, ship, sell.” Publishers print the books, which are delivered to bookstores and eventually sold to consumers. Like in any retail environment, inventory management is critical. If a bookstore stocks too many copies of a book, it risks unsold inventory. If it stocks too few, it misses out on sales. Another variable is the number of different books to stock. Large inventories mean (1) typing up lots of capital and (2) renting expensive warehouses or retail stores. On the other hand, large inventories also mean that a store is likely to have whichever book a particular consumer wants.

The bookstore wars of the last thirty years reflect advances on this front. In the good ol’ days, every town had a corner bookshop. The 1980s gave us chains like Waldenbooks and B. Dalton, which featured centralized purchasing and inventory management systems. The 1990s witnessed mega-stores Borders and Barnes & Noble. With fewer (but significantly larger) retail locations, these mega-stores could manage inventory even better. They also became “destination” locations and encouraged shoppers to linger and browse. And of course, the internet age spawned Amazon, which dispensed with the storefront altogether. While innovative in its own way, Amazon nonetheless needed a large technological and logistical infrastructure. What’s more, they manage their inventory as carefully as any other retailer.

The Espresso Book Machine is different. Print-on-demand flips the entire business model on its head: “sell, print.” First the consumer buys the book, and then it is printed. Meanwhile, shipping is eliminated altogether.

Suddenly, inventory management – the most difficult problem faced by every retailer – is a non-issue. The bookstore always has exactly the right number of books in stock – never too many, never too few. Whatever book the customer wants is always in stock. Moreover, the store faces zero inventory cost, which frees up capital. The store can “stock” millions upon millions of titles without needing large stores or warehouses. And shipping costs are eliminated altogether.

In short, print-on-demand is a radical innovation in the publishing world. It will be very interesting to see how things shake out.

And for those who wants to see the Espresso Book Machine firsthand, it’s available at
these locations.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Edward de Bono at the House of Lords

Edward de Bono was recently at the House of Lords, where he led Thinking Evolution, a gathering of experts in a variety of disciplines. Their task? To generate ideas on ways to improve the world.