Solutions Designed by Nature That Business Needs

29 06 2007

Once again here is another lesson from the intersection of professions and industries.

If you ever have the chance to listen or read from Janine Benyus you will understand why it might be a good idea to include more biologists among your product design or R&D team in the industry your association represents. Here’s why…

Nature has been in the R&D business for 3.8 billion years and in that time has accumulated close to 30 million “well adjusted” solutions to a plethora of design challenges that Man struggles to address with mixed results.

According to Benyus, industrial design should focus on two core questions that could unlock tremendous new business opportunities to drive sustainable business and societal growth.

How does Life make things?

How does Life make things disappear into systems?

Benyus is a natural sciences writer, innovation consultant, an author of six books, including her latest – Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, and president of The Biomimicry Institute. Biomimicry is an emerging discipline that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s designs and processes.

What Business Can Learn from Bioscience

Benyus believes business has some great opportunities to learn how Nature has designed elegant solutions for some tough man-made problems. Unfortunately, business interest has been slow except among a few innovative thinkers. Here is a sample from Nature’s database of best practices.

  1. Self-Assembly – Systems that can harness light from the sun or optical lens that can be created at room temperature
  2. CO2 as Feedstock – Pollution becomes food for other systems
  3. Solar Transformation – Fuel cells that are more efficient
  4. Power of Shape – Bumps placed on a jet fuselage like those on a whale’s fins can improve fuel efficiency by 32%
  5. Color without Pigments – Create colors and make them change simply by changing shape
  6. Clean without Detergents – Self-cleaning systems
  7. Quench Thirst – Pulling water from fog or humid air where surface water doesn’t exist
  8. Metals without Mining – Extracting metal from waste water
  9. Green Chemistry – Using only what nature created to design and build
  10. Timed Degradation – The ability to self-compost
  11. Resilience and Healing – Dry vaccines that need no refrigeration

Some of these ideas might suggest that some products we have come to know should no longer be made. But then if those companies innovated to create completely new classes of products made from Nature’s design it wouldn’t matter would it?

Once again, the power of design in systems and products shows its potential.

If you would like to see her presentation that runs 23 minutes, click on the image below.


Creative Commons Founder to Tackle the Opacity of American Politics

26 06 2007

Lawrence Lessig is shifting gears and backing off as a leader working to rebalance the world of copyright, trademark among others.

He sees a new challenge. One that in his view has made American politics and government less effective and efficient.

The American Political Process…

Lessig is currently professor of law at Stanford Law School, founder of its Center for Internet and Society and founder and CEO of Creative Commons. He started the “free culture movement” that promotes the freedom to distribute and modify creative works, using the Internet as well as other media. Their position is to object to overly restrictive copyright law which hinder creativity. They refer to the copyright and trademark status quo as the “permission culture” (more on creative commons and free culture in another post). Creative Commons is a major driver of open innovation, business models and product co-creation.

So you can imagine why he might be eager to improve the transparency in American politics.

Here is an excerpt from his blog explaining his motives.

In one of the handful of opportunities I had to watch (Al) Gore deliver his global warming Keynote, I recognized a link in the problem that he was describing and the work that I have been doing during this past decade. After talking about the basic inability of our political system to reckon the truth about global warming, Gore observed that this was really just part of a much bigger problem. That the real problem here was (what I will call a “corruption” of) the political process. That our government can’t understand basic facts when strong interests have an interest in its misunderstanding.

This is a thought I’ve often had in the debates I’ve been a part of, especially with respect to IP. Think, for example, about term extension. From a public policy perspective, the question of extending existing copyright terms is, as Milton Friedman put it, a “no brainer.” As the Gowers Commission concluded in Britain, a government should never extend an existing copyright term. No public regarding justification could justify the extraordinary deadweight loss that such extensions impose.

Yet governments continue to push ahead with this idiot idea — both Britain and Japan for example are considering extending existing terms. Why?

The answer is a kind of corruption of the political process. Or better, a “corruption” of the political process. I don’t mean corruption in the simple sense of bribery. I mean “corruption” in the sense that the system is so queered by the influence of money that it can’t even get an issue as simple and clear as term extension right. Politicians are starved for the resources concentrated interests can provide. In the US, listening to money is the only way to secure reelection. And so an economy of influence bends public policy away from sense, always to dollars.

If you want to read the entire post click here.

Keep an eye on Lessig.

Opensource may be coming to American politics.

Can Cradle to Cradle Spur Innovation? Spread the Word

26 06 2007

If you agree, vote “yes.” Technorati’s “Where’s the Fire” is a service that helps people share important ideas that deserve to be heard.

You can increase the visibility of the words and deeds of Bill McDonough, his Cradle to Cradle design protocol, and how it is being deployed by companies like Interface Carpet.

Business can become the solution to environmental and social problems because this time “business will be designed right.”

Waste will cease to become an external cost that business externalizes and let’s others handle. In fact, it will become someone else’s food or raw materials for their business. If that happens we might even need to rely less on politicians and regulators because the paradigm will have shifted.

Sound Utopian? It’s happening now at Nike, Herman Miller, Interface Carpet…the list goes on. Hey even the Chinese government has adopted the strategy to build six new cities.

Listen to a CEO of a billion dollar carpet company – Ray Anderson explain the “business case” that led them to rethink their business.

Or here from Bill McDonough himself (click on image below)

The future is not about cutting back and doing without. It’s about rethinking how we design our businesses and products or services to be more efficient, less wasteful, more profitable, more sustainable.

It can all be done at the same time.

Cradle to Cradle design protocol

Help it get into the conversation stream where you live. Vote here and help spread the word.

New Media Breathes Life into Old World Publishing & Research

25 06 2007

By jove I think they have something here….

If you are a scientist chances are you feel the old ways of conducting research have become obstacles to innovation.

  • Increased complexity makes rapid transfer of knowledge more and more difficult outstripping the capabilities of old scientific paper-based peer review journals to communicate and spread this knowledge quickly and accurately
  • Reproducing newly published studies has become harder to do as the need to learn new laboratory techniques and procedures slows the whole process down. Methodologies are undergoing significant changes every few years creating new constraints to time and the cost of training and re-training

The thinkers at JoVE the Journal of Visualized Experiments believe you can use the Internet to create entirely new ways to conduct and disseminate research by “employing visualization to increase reproducibility and transparency in biological sciences.” According to the founders:

“Visualization greatly facilitates the understanding and efficient reproduction of fundamental experimental techniques, therefore contributing to the solution of two of the most challenging problems faced by today’s life science research community: (1) low transparency and reproducibility of biological experiments and (2) time-consuming learning of experimental techniques.

Presently, JoVE is an open access tool in life science publication and communication. The site is free and charges nothing to post videos. It is run by volunteers currently but the founders hope that the journal will someday pay for itself through ads from manufacturers of lab equipment using the Google model.

JoVE allows a researcher to publish experiments in all its dimensions, overcoming the inherent limitations of traditional print journals, thus adding a whole new quality to the communication of your experimental work and research results.

Click on the image below to see a visualized experiment sample.

Better Storytelling & Community

It is a good example of an open business model using online communities to power content that is using new media to work around old obstacles for sharing and disseminating information.

Imagine the possibilities for traditional journals in other areas of science or even non-scientific professions. How could you use new media to create more compelling stories about the value and potential of your content?

One Company’s Progress in Achieving “Eco-Effectiveness” – A Look Behind Herman Miller

23 06 2007

An interesting interview conducted by with Paul Murray, Director of Environmental Health and Safety for Herman Miller, sheds light on the vision and commitment required to innovate by pursuing a sustainable business strategy.

“Our first ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ was set in 1990. We wanted to get to zero landfill by 1995.

I often ask the question: “Do you have a zero-landfill home?” The answer is “No.” Why then would Herman Miller shoot for something, knowing that you’re not going to get there anytime soon? Because of technology, we were sending 41 million pounds of waste to the landfill in 1990. By 1994 we had reduced it to 21 million pounds. In 1995, our zero-landfill goal hadn’t been met. But it was still the right thing to do and our efforts were saving an incredible amount of money.

Our Environmental Steering Committee reviewed our progress and upped the ante to aim for zero footprint by the year 2020. You’ll probably never get to zero footprint but it’s still an admirable goal. Our zero footprint isn’t only 100 percent renewable energy, but also 100 percent landfill-free, hazardous wastes-free and air and water emissions-free. To achieve this, we’ll need to design better products. So our goal set is huge. For a company our size, we believe our Perfect Vision 2020 Initiative is the significantly right thing to do.”

“The right way isn’t always the easy way.

A good example is our Design for the Environment (DfE) team where we approach our suppliers and ask them to remove any harmful chemicals in their products. It’s called Cradle to Cradle protocol. It took thousands of man-hours to secure an offline database documenting every chemical and material used in every Herman Miller product. Was it easy? No. But the result is we’re going to have greener products for the future.”

Read the full story here.

opensource.association – Post Archive – Spring 2007

22 06 2007

Believe it or not the above is a diagram of the internet.

For more easy review of past content from this site, please use the following handy post archive for Spring 2007.

A US Presidential Run Using Open Source Strategy? 06-21

might a Bloomberg candidacy use open source to make a third party run work?

MBDC – Helping Business Rethink Business 6-20

McDonough & Braungart’s “next industrial age” consultancy making C2C a business necessity

An Inside Out View of News Production: BBC Let’s the Viewer Follow Along 06-19

bringing the news consumer into “as it happens” news production

Open Innovation Strategies in Today’s News 06-18

peer production and crowdsourcing finally getting front page national attention

When Is a Product Promotion Not a Product Promotion? 06-13

young entrepreneurs at skinnyCorp (owners of use “interactive” podcasting in creative and engaging ways

Rules to Grow Community By: Sell T-Shirts, Make Up to $100K a Month 06-13 proves you can co-design and co-produce product with your customers and make millions

A 90+ Year Old Association Tackles Innovation 06-11 radically innovates as it promotes sustainable business practices for themselves and their members

Can You Build Customer Value without Trust and Transparency? 06-11

one view on the new American Medical Association online service and why it may not work as planned

Leave A Lasting Legacy – Design Your Business Better 06-08

Bill McDonough believes that business will become the solution to environmental and social problems because this time it will be designed right

Customer Experience Mapping – Part 2 06-08

a process strategy for designing, producing and measuring customer experiences

Open Source Gaining Ground Among Scientific Community 06-07

a new research paper on InnoCentive demonstrates that open business models and product co-creation live up to expectations for buyers/sellers (aka seekers and solvers)

A Peek at 2015 – Crowdsourcing Mainstreamed 06-06

one view of the not too distant future

Piracy, Protectionism or Open Source – How “Open Music” May Offer A Better Way in the Music Industry 06-05

how is using open business models and innovative copyright strategies to make better music for artists and fans

Using Customer Experience Mapping as a System for Continuous Improvement – Part 1 06-04

a primer and part 1 on the importance of “customer experience mapping” as a means to create and sustain great brand experiences

Forrester Study: Stakeholder Segmenting Strategy Essential to Online Success 06-04

develop a specific customer engagement strategy for each participant type from among your various information consumers BEFORE you deploy different means of content distribution

Architecture Goes Open Source to Promote Social Good 05-31

Open Architecture Network – an open source online community dedicated to the promotion of an architectural revolution to “improve living conditions through innovative and sustainable design”

Constructing Customer Conversation with New Media the Open Source Way 05-30

radio opensource uses new media and online community to good effect

Global Standards & Certified Practices That Promote Sustainable Business 05-30

a selection of the leading certifications in business sustainability for economic, social and environmental good

Business Week – Sustainability Is the New Driver of Innovation 05-22

Business Week says, “the future of innovation is through becoming more sustainable as a business”

Confidence & Innovation (Part 2) – Turnarounds of Gillette & BBC 05-22

part two of Kanter’s book featuring case studies from Gillette and the BBC

Confidence & Innovation (Part 1) – Importance of Managing Intangible Assets 05-21

Rosbeth Moss Kanter believes to innovate requires managing one’s organizational capital through systems that promote confidence in the organization and in oneself

BBC Innovation Labs – Accelerating Good Ideas into Profitable Opportunities 05-17

just to show that an old media business can innovate itself and become a new media power house using a co-creation process and open source

New Studies Profile Public Attitudes and Change 05-16

MUST read research … 2007 Most Desirable Undergraduate Employers” study by Universum Communications, 2007 Survey on US Public Attitudes on CSR Programs” by National Consumers League and Fleishman-Hillard International Communications, 2006 Alloy College Explorer Study” by Alloy Media and Marketing and Harris Interactive

Gannett Integrates News Consumers into Its News Production Model 05-15

open source strategies and product co-creation re-writing how news is being produced for the “lean forwards” of the world

Reward & Reputation Part 4 – Crowdfunding Products 05-10

product co-creation series part 4 examines new ways of funding new products

Cradle to Cradle Certification Adoption Grows 05-10

possibly the single most important business concept of the 21st Century is gaining traction

HBR Study: “Community Built Around Product Sells More Product” 05-09

online community + your products or services = better $$

An Innovation Lab the Size of Rhode Island 05-09

non profit Business Innovation Factory takes open business models in a new direction

Business Eyes Sustainability As Good for Business 05-08

Ceres “Advancing Sustainable Prosperity” survey conducted last week at the Ceres annual conference in Boston shows that social responsibility has become a good business opportunity

Going from “Tradeshow” to “Solutionshow” via Open Business Model 05-04

a look at NineSigma’s open business models

Global Business Leaders Chart Future Sustainable Business Scenarios 05-03

World Business Council creates four future business scenarios designed to create different environments to assess the impact of certain business strategies

Reward & Reputation Using Paid Models – Part 3 05-03

part 3 in the product co-creation series – this one looks at “crowdsourcing”

Reward & Reputation – Part 2 04-30

part two in series – creating system measurements & metrics to gauge contributions & success for deploying product co-creation

Compelling Storytelling through Design -04-27

design can change how we look and think about things – even complicated issues like global climate change

Reward & Reputation – The Currency of Customer Involvement in Product Co-Creation – Part 1 04-26

how to develop a product and service development strategy that includes your customers throughout the process

MIT Sloan – “Products Often Ignore Customer Needs” 4-20

survey shows business leaders are ready to talk to customers rather than talk at them

Cradle to Cradle – Intelligent Product Design Explored 04-19

read the book and examine some of these case studies of companies who are innovating using C2C

Business 3.0 – Examples of Efforts Underway 4-19

if you need proof that C2C, open business models and product co-creation are important, take a look at some of these innovators showcased by Fast Company

The Importance of Good Design 04-18

the last century had E=MC^2… this century has Waste = Food… this will change everything = Cradle to Cradle certification for product design that is “eco-effective”

Citizen Manufacturer? The Customer Creates What They Want 04-18

MIT fablab shows that even manufacturing can be open sourced

Leading VC Pleads for Execs to Use Personal Power to Rethink Business 04-18

John Doerr, “the über venture capitalist” from Kleiner Perkins has been successfully lobbied to change his “vote” and join efforts to redesign business to be more socially responsible

Business & the Environment Working Together in Europe 04-17

Europe’s Industrial Symbiosis is another compelling and innovative approach to business profitability through sustainability

7,000 Global Business Execs – Customer-Focused Innovation the Next Great Challenge 04-17

Executives are becoming more customer-centric – they felt they do not know enough about their customers, with nearly two-thirds of survey respondents agreeing with the statement “insufficient customer insight is hurting our performance”

Goodbye Blackberry Goodbye Spam – Hello Wiki 04-12

email is so 20th century… say hello to wiki and be more productive

Study of Second Life – Reuters Best Brand Presence 04-12

if you really need to be there then study how Reuters is doing it

A Customer Intimate Strategy Can Leverage A Co-Creation Process 04-12

you need more than a product development process to innovate, you need an organizational strategy that is customer-centric

Car and Home Energy Needs from the Same Place? 04-11

soon you may be buying “gas” for your car and house but not the kind of gas you use now

What Does A 21st Century Sustainable Enterprise Look Like? 04-09

if you are seeking the “business case” on why to become a sustainable business or association look no further

World’s Science Community Say 20-30% of Species Will Die 04-06

if you have a conscience this report from the UN is breathtaking

Death of the 80/20 Rule & the Rise of the Niche Market 04-06

the longtail is all about creating opportunities for many small sales that equal big money

Dissecting Product Co-Creation – Part 2 04-04

part two…open product development doesn’t just happen you need a system

Dissecting the Product Co-Creation Process – Part 1 04-03

showcase on how product co-creation can work to harness the wisdom of the crowd

Different Perspectives, New Innovations 04-02

can a termite mound design really serve as an office tower design that doesn’t need HVAC in Africa?

Publically Funded & Accessible Data Can Tell Powerful Stories 03-29

Hans Rosling and Gapminder show how data can tell profound stories and unlock the truth

“Down Under” Business Deals “by Association” 03-29

an association in Australia has developed an exciting new business based on the open business model

So What Is “I=PxA/T^2″ Anyway? Why Should I Care? 03-28

the story of Interface Carpet’s journey to become an eco-effective business with zero waste

Cambrian House – Out of the Primordial Soup 03-27

a little Canadian company demonstrates how crowdsourcing works in the software industry and has fun doing it

Motivation Behind the Peer Production Phenomenon 03-26

why you should consider adopting product co-creation if you want to attract today and tomorrow’s demanding customers

SecondLife 101 03-23

a primer on what SecondLife is and why businesses get involved with it

InnoCentive – Fortune 500 meets 80K Biochemists Open Business Models 03-23

a leading open business model innovator from Eli Lilly has a model associations should be studying

Always Open, Always On “Ecosystem” of Ideas 03-23

why open business models?…read this

A US Presidential Run Using Open Source Strategy?

21 06 2007

Potentially, the US might soon be witnessing a presidential candidate running a candidacy driven by strategy and tactics straight out of business – the open source way.

Consider the conclusions from a recent report from Pricewaterhouse Coopers on “open business models.” Read it and substitute the running for president as the context instead of running a business.

“We are looking at a singular juncture in the history of business-a time when technology, content, and distribution are converging at a speed never before seen, and where innovations have fueled a power shift toward consumers that verges on social revolution. Management tendencies that exist today-i.e., silos, fiefdoms, slow decision making, forced rankings of business cases, outdated executive performance measurements, and inwardly focused marketing-are impeding value creation in this rapidly changing marketplace.

….a new and open business model is the way to manage convergence and realize its potential. We believe that virtual walls and barriers must be eliminated both inside and outside a corporation. A different way of doing business is needed, one that both enhances and extracts value from the fusion of value drivers occurring both across and beyond the enterprise. Characterized by a transparent and rigorous discipline for acquisitions, mergers, internal business units, and alliances, as well as an open approach to opportunity areas such as customer relationships, content, and innovation…we believe that these open business model attributes enable sustainable shareholder value.

The convergence of businesses offers a new scenario in which greater value can occur across the lines of business-value greater than any single line of business might attain. Walls in and around business units and partners limit sharing of resources. They block outside opportunity. In the final analysis, they degrade the possibility of value that convergence presents for the enterprise as a whole. To succeed in this environment, companies must eliminate these walls.

Listen to Michael Bloomberg’s comments yesterday.

  • “Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles, and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology.”
  • “America, the most wonderful country in the world, I think is at a crossroad. The politics of partisanship and the resulting inaction and excuses have paralyzed decision making primarily at the federal level, and the big issues of our day are just not being addressed…We can accept this or we can say, ‘Enough is enough. I’m not going to take it any more,’ and together build a brighter future for our country. The answer is to find politicians who will not be slaves to party dogma.”
  • “There’s nothing wrong with belonging to a political party. But joining a party doesn’t mean you should stop thinking for yourself. Neither party has God on its side, a monopoly on good ideas or a lock on any single fiscal, social or moral philosophy. And anyone who says their party does and the other one doesn’t is either a fraud or just not a very good student of history.”

Since the early days of Linux, open source strategies and management have been about harnessing the power of distributed peer review (wider expertise than party pols) and transparency of process (less reliance on hidden earmarks and loose ethics laws) to deliver better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in (two party system).

Could this mean running government more like a business or at least reducing “out of control” spending projects and living off the social security trust fund to pay down our national debt?

Isn’t it interesting how over 500 US cities have already signed on to the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change despite the US federal government’s lack of leadership in this area? New York City is one of those signators as is Los Angeles. Bloomberg said some interesting things last night on the News Hour on this subject. Has the lack of bipartisan leadership and action in Washington fueled something profound?

Could be interesting to see if and how this outside candidacy creates its own “distributed network” outside of the two parties fueled by a half billion dollars.