Friday, April 23, 2010

Innovation in Cardboard

Who would have guessed that the cardboard box might be ripe for innovation? Standard shipping boxes are rectangular, which creates a lot of wasted space when you're packaging an unusual-shaped object. The Universal Packaging System lets you fold a cardboard box into precisely the right shape, eliminating this waste. It's a terrific idea.

Moreover, there's a broader lesson to be drawn here: innovation can flourish anywhere. Cardboard is staid. It's boring. It predates the Industrial Revolution. Cardboard is arguably the least sexy product on the planet.

You might expect that over the last 200 years, we would have perfected the cardboard box. After all, if there were any improvements left to be made in cardboard box technology, somebody would have discovered them long ago, right?

Wrong. The Universal Packaging System is a great reminder that ideas frequently coast along unchallenged, simply because people assume there's no better way to do it. But turning a critical eye towards even the most mundane object can yield surprising rewards.

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