Innovation Inside

24 May 10

There has been a lot of recent innobuzz  about crowd-sourcing and looking outside for innovation. Both techniques have their place in idea generation, but what about the people who know your products the best? You know, your employees. Now, I am not saying you need to launch an innovation center like Bayer is to come up with the next big idea (albeit if you can, go for it), but rather think about ways you can grow or enhance your business from within.

The following are some companies who have successfully looked inside to innovate:

  • Southwest Airlines: Southwest is using an idea management software tool to capture their employee’s ideas on improving and bettering processes. This web-based  ideation tool allows employees in different geographic locations and of different levels to share ideas and work together to problem solve.  Bringing internal minds together has enabled Southwest to improve internal processes and create efficiencies.
  • Intuit: Intuit gives their employees 10% of unstructured time during their workweek (Google does something similar). During this time, Intuit employees are allowed to collaborate with others in order to develop new ideas. Viable products such as are results of such unstructured time. Read the rest of this entry »

2010 BCG and BusinessWeek Innovation Survey Results

10 May 10

BYD Auto, Number 8 on the 2010 BCG Innovative Companies RankingThe seventh annual iteration of the Boston Consulting Group and Businessweek’s Global Innovation Survey presents us with some interesting trends in innovation. As BCG so eloquently puts it, a new world order is taking hold. While no drastic disruptions have occurred this year, there are signs that the times are changing. The most noteworthy finding this year is that Rapidly Developing Economies (RDEs), led by China, India, and Brazil, are slowly gaining ground on the western world’s  dominance in innovation. These countries have recognized innovation as the next arena to prove their capabilities and they are investing heavily in this effort. The RDE’s currently have an indispensable combination of fast GDP growth, prioritization of innovation, strong government support, and investment in talent-all of which help drive the group’s growing innovation success.

While the top ranked innovative global companies are mainly unchallenged, there are some hints of long term change. BYD, a Chinese manufacturer of automobiles and rechargeable batteries makes its debut on the list at number eight. The following companies round out the top twelve (check out our case studies on some of these key companies to learn from their innovation prowess):

  1. Apple (number one for the fifth year in a row!)
  2. Google
  3. Microsoft  Read the rest of this entry »

Future 2049: Farmer Exxon

1 July 09

The conversation would go something like this with a mom talking to her young son in 2028: “Honey, Exxon used to make gas to run cars. I know – really, It sounds funny but they used to be what we called a ‘oil and gas’ company, when cars ran on gasoline – and they made hundreds of billions of dollars doing it (that was a lot of money back then, son).” But apparently with the adoption of hydro-electric cars (brought on by legislative and economic incentives (read: subsidies)), that made the auto industries ‘dream to be green’ possible. Exxon therefore had to find a new industry or go out of business, It was shocking, really. With tremendous real estate and technology assets on their balance sheet (refineries) they wondered what else could be done with these refineries now that drilling for oil wasn’t a major revenue stream anymore.  So, after fighting Mother Nature all these years, they finally embraced it. Sun (solar), wind power, water and manufactured land platforms at their disposal in the oceans across the globe (with some architectural tweaks) they became the largest farmer in the United States with more water/farm land than the states of (Nebraska, Iowa..and…). Exxon’s offshore farming industry took off – growing vegetables and farming fish while creating new eco-environments with the reefs they created. Now with grazing land at such a premium, both the Argentinean and US governments have asked Exxon to begin using some of their platforms for raising livestock. We expect the first offshore cattle to be ready for market in 2 years.

The Ultimate Driving Open Source Machine

24 October 08

At the Convergence 2008 conference on automotive electronics yesterday, BMW announced that it is looking for partners with which to collaborate on an open-source car computing platform. No other auto companies have officially signed on to collaborate, though Chrysler, Ford, GM, and Honda have reportedly expressed interest. BMW’s goal, with or without partners, is to have an open-source operating system in a vehicle selling 200,000 or more units over the next five to seven years. Read the rest of this entry »

Honda to Produce Clarity

16 June 08


Honda announced today that it would begin commercial production of the FCX Clarity, a four-door, hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered sedan whose only emission is water. The vehicle, which was introduced as a concept about two years ago, was built from the ground up around hydrogen fuel cell power. The workings of this vehicle are perhaps its most revolutionary aspect. From Honda’s site: Read the rest of this entry »

Sweet Suite Jet

8 May 08

futurethink JetSuite JetBlue

Are you interested in private jet ownership, but frustrated with the skyrocketing costs of jet maintenance and ownership? If so, then JetSuite might be the solution for you.

All kidding aside – JetSuite is a new airline that’s taking a different approach to the luxury air travel market. The company has contracted to purchase fifty Embraer Phenom 100 Very Light Jets (VLJs) to use as part of an exclusive private jet fleet. The innovation here is that JetSuite aims to pass ownership of its fleet onto the public. The company is re-selling its fleet to individuals who would like the freedom and luxury of private jet ownership but are looking for a little help with the costs associated with said ownership. Basically, if you’re willing to pay for the Embraer Phenom 100 VLJ (est. starting price of $2.98 million), JetSuites will pay you $25,000 per month to rent it from you when you’re not using it. JetSuites will then operate a traditional private airline business using its rented fleet (similar to NetJets). Read the rest of this entry »

Eco-Living with Lexus

14 April 08

futurethink lexus hybrid living

Lexus is serious about sustainable living. So serious that it has gone beyond the creation of luxury hybrid vehicles into the realm of curating a series of hybrid living concepts.

The company’s hybrid living website features various products, services, restaurants, and travel destinations that align with both the world of luxury and the world of sustainability (hence the “hybrid living” title). The site is sort of an online magazine that’s chock full of eco-luxe tidbits – fashion, art, transportation, architecture… all designed to show visitors that sustainable living doesn’t have to be all vegan and hemp.

Most recently, Lexus partnered with the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco to create a Lexus Hybrid Living Suite. The suite was redesigned by Lexus and eco-savvy interior decorator Kelly LaPlante, and features an array of eco-friendly materials and furnishings for travelers seeking to minimize their carbon footprints without having to sacrifice luxury accommodations. Some notable features of the room include: Read the rest of this entry »

The Ultimate Driving Web Experience

29 February 08

futurethink bmw connecteddrive

As a precursor to the upcoming Geneva auto show, BMW recently announced its ConnectedDrive, an “intelligent network that connects the driver, the vehicle, and their surroundings.” Most notably, the system will deliver the World Wide Web, in all its glory, to the shiny LCDs of new BMWs. Unlike previous iterations, which only provided access to specific sites (like Google Maps), ConnectedDrive provides unrestricted access to the entire internet, allowing users to do everything from online banking to restaurant scouting from the driver’s seat. For safety’s sake, the system will only work when the car is parked. Initially, ConnectedDrive will run on the EDGE network (which can be painfully slow, but it’s more widespread than faster 3G networks).

We like this idea – it shows that BMW is really listening to its customers’ desire to be connected and plugged in. Though, we do wonder: why opt for an in-car system when you can just get an internet-accessible mobile phone? Either way, it’s a nice execution of a service that’s long overdue. Learn more at autoblog.

Time to Get Spaced Out

23 January 08


And in other space travel news: Virgin Galactic has just released its final designs for the vehicle that will take ordinary customers like you and me quite literally beyond the stratosphere.

The company plans to launch scheduled space flights in 2010, and will carry 8 passengers at a time. Virgin says that more than 200 people have already booked their tickets, and an impressive 85,000 have expressed an interest in taking this leap into space. CEO Richard Branson unveiled the designs today in New York at the American Museum of Natural History.

This inarguably represents the biggest leap in aviation history since the Sputnik. Space travel isn’t the stuff of wild dreams anymore – it is now a very real possibility.

Check out the article on the BBC here.

The 1Lakh Vehicle

10 January 08

 Tata Nano

In non-CES news: Tata Motors unveiled its newest vehicle, the 1Lakh (~$2,500) Tata Nano, at the New Delhi Auto Expo earlier today. The much-anticipated vehicle features 4 doors, a Smart Car-esque design, and a fuel-sipping 54 mpg 2-cylinder aluminum engine.

The Nano, also affectionately known as “The People’s Car” (for its affordability), also meets India’s safety and environmental requirements, making it a very attractive transportation option for much of India’s population. Consider this, a typical scooter or motorbike, which are very common on the roads of India, costs about Rs500,000, or half a Lakh. While this vehicle is twice the cost of such a scooter, it also seats more people, is safer, and is more comfortable for traveling long distances. Nano drivers will also enjoy better air quality from inside the vehicle, as opposed to scooter drivers that have to choke on the pollution of the open air. Read the official press release after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »


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