Black Friday and cyber Monday have kicked off a manic month of holiday shopping, with its seasonal flood of commercials, catalogs, pop-ups and newspaper inserts. But there’s a particular desperation this year. With the economy, the future of retail, and possibly our own happiness at stake, I offer some humble suggestions on how to vote with your dollars… Continue reading
Proposition 37, the Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Initiative, is on the November ballot here in California and the outcome will shape the path of innovation in food and agriculture for decades to come. Continue reading
When new technologies compete, what tips the scale toward one or the other? Maggie Koerth-Baker wrote a terrific article in the New York Times, Why Your Car Isn't Electric, which captures some of the social dimensions of technological innovation by looking at the dominance and demise of the electric vehicle in the first decade of the 20th century. If only inventors, entrepreneurs, and policy makers could spare the time to consider these dimensions before rushing off to change the world.
Political. Self-interested. Calculating. Aggressive. Machiavellian. Few people use these words to describe innovation. Fewer still take pride in these traits.Yet developing more sustainable products or processes depends on the willingness and ability to engage in the politics of innovation. Continue reading
General Electric has just introduced its new Durathon molten salt battery. The battery illustrates the unique challenges of developing sustaining innovations – and particularly the Faster, Better, Cheaper challenge I've described earlier. In doing so, it offers insights for both innovators and policy makers pursuing similar efforts. (to read more on The Hargadon Files, follow the link)
Setting innovation strategies to deal with declining resource stocks sounds like the kind of long-range planning that’s only good for oil, mining, timber, and other companies in the extraction business. But as I mention in an earlier post, the Innovating against Declining Resources, that’s changing. In Getting Green Done, Auden Schendler describes how his company, the Aspen Skiing Company, and the City of Aspen are recognizing the same need in setting their own strategic planning.
Anyone pursuing sustainability through innovation faces the defining challenge of finding growth in the face of declining resource stocks. It’s not a new challenge, by any means, but it is at the core of pursuing sustainable innovaitons. And you won’t find it in the typical narratives celebrating innovation or understanding how to manage it.
Across the globe, many of the opportunities for sustainable innovation will be in mature markets like energy, transportation, agriculture, construction and will present very different challenges from those of innovating in information technology, Internet applicaitons, or social media. The differences between driving change in these different conditions is a defining characteristic of each—something that entrepreneurs, investors, and policy makers alike seem to forget.
We associate innovation with dramatic technological or market breakthroughs that revolutionize industries overnight. So much so that despite continuing evidence to the contrary—that both today’s most succcessful organizations and most revolutionary technologies were not new—organizations, policy makers, and the public show a breakthrough bias when pursuing, funding, or anticipating innovation. This bias becomes even more salient in the pursuit of sustainability, reflected in outrageously ambitious “goals” that, as a result, create significant challenges for those trying to manage the innovation process.