Design Involves More Than Thinking

CCA LiveE | Friday January 15th, 2010 | 2 Comments

By Jason Linder

In 2008 CCA introduced an innovative new approach to the business degree—the MBA in Design Strategy. In 2009 CCA took this idea even further and began offering a dual-degree MFA/MBA. I am one of three students embarking on this hybrid journey. My curriculum integrates courses from the existing MFA in Design with the new MBA in Design Strategy Program to offer completion of both degrees in three years.

Having worked in interactive design for the last 10 years, both at small agencies and in-house at a large corporation, I have witnessed the mesh of creativity and business many times and am excited about what both disciplines can learn from each other. One term that has become a popular way of describing this crossover is “Design Thinking.”

The core idea—that the creative processes used by designers can be applied to the processes used by business—is compelling and full of promise. But the term “Design Thinking” sets a misguided expectation about how these creative processes work—that it’s simply a matter of switching to a different mental mode. On the contrary, one of the most important tools of the design process is to take the thinking out of the equation.

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Balancing Arrogance and Humility in Business Strategy

| Friday January 15th, 2010 | 1 Comment


By Ted Ko
Some recent writings by Jay Ogilvy (not yet published) on the opposing styles of systems thinking provide an enlightening philosophical framework behind the evolution of strategy theory and the successes and failures of corporate strategy development processes. Fundamentally, strategy design is a systems thinking exercise and executives would do well to understand the basic approaches to systems theory. Then, optimal design would seem to require active awareness of the “oscillations” between arrogance and humility and strike an appropriate balance.

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Shrink Nanotechnologies Bets on Bioplastic

3p Contributor | Friday January 15th, 2010 | 0 Comments

This post by Bruce Haring, originally appeared on CleanTechies.

Shrink Nanotechnologies is one of several companies that is using bioplastics to find a new way of making devices that will minimize the use of increasingly-scarce rare metals.

The company’s OptiSol Solar Concentrator is billed as a nanotechnology-based plastic solar concentrator and solar film. Traditional silicon solar cells absorb only a small fraction of the total incident solar radiation potential, with a majority of the light either reflected or converted to thermal energy.

Based on electromagnetic non-optical principles and using a proprietary technology, the OptiSol enhances the capabilities and efficiency of existing solar cell designs by focusing and tuning the incident solar radiation from the sun for optimal silicon absorption, with less of the total spectrum lost as heat or reflection. The goal is to deliver immediate and significant improvements in efficiency and power output.

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Bottled Water Bad. Reusable Bottle Good. Tap Water Gross. 321 Water Fixes That, Beautifully

| Friday January 15th, 2010 | 11 Comments

More articles on the controversy surrounding bottled water can be found here!


Is bottled water bad? You probably by now know that the plastics that go into bottled water are bad for the environment, and perhaps even not so good for you if it’s just nicely labeled tap water. Add to that the possibility the bottle contains BPA and they’re not such a healthy choice after all. And yet, they’re so convenient and obtainable anywhere. And drinking your local tap water? Not going to happen.

If you add into the equation that you’re not even close to hippie, and don’t want to look like one, your healthy, sustainable water choices get slim.

Australian startup Half a Teaspoon has designed a product to answer all these concerns, in a design-, environment- and people-friendly  product: 321 Water.

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Why Monsanto Might Be Worried

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday January 15th, 2010 | 4 Comments

Monsanto made the news several times this past month, most recently for reporting a quarterly loss last week. On January 6, Monsanto posted a net loss of $19 million, or three cents a share, for the first quarter, compared to last year’s profit of $556 million or $1 a share. Net sales decreased $952 million (36 percent) for the period ending November 30. The company cited a decline in herbicide sales and smaller decline in corn and soybean seed sales as the reason for the loss.

Sales of glyphosate-based herbicide, including Roundup, decreased 63 percent in the quarter. According to Reuters, sales decreased “primarily in Brazil and Europe.” Net sales in corn seed and traits decreased nine percent, or $59 million in the quarter largely due to fewer acres planted in Brazil and Argentina.

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Untying and Retying the Knot: Building a New Kind of Leadership

CCA LiveE | Thursday January 14th, 2010 | 6 Comments

By Linda Chang & John Garvie

Teach-Us-Something-in-7-Minutes is one of the keystone introductory projects of CCA’s DMBA program. The project, TUS-7M, as it came to be called, sets up students in pairs to develop a subject of compelling interest to be presented at a public event in CCA’s Timken Auditorium. The constraints were that we address something in the domains of communication, design, business and/or sustainability, that we consider the difference between “telling” and “showing,” and after 7 minutes, we would be cut off, whether we were finished or not. Our presentation, The Girl Who Woke Up in a Knot, was a metaphorical story about knots. Knots represent not only complicated problems, but also interpersonal entanglements that come from our most important conversations – personally and professionally. We wrestle with knots as difficult problems to be solved and unsnarled, but they are also “the ties that bind,” connecting us to what is essential.

As we write, at the end of 2009, the crisis of the American economy remains an open question. Jobs are no longer being shed at the astounding rates of the last year-plus, but unemployment percentages remain at double-digit highs. Meanwhile, expert economists have claimed that the economy is growing again, yet the Federal Reserve has pledged to keep interest rates “exceptionally low” for a foreseeable “extended period.”

Most would agree that the cause of The Great Recession of 2009 has been an overarching institutional focus on short term gains, in place for decades, not just a cyclical few years. People stopped being people and became merely opportunities for companies to make a quick buck no matter the social cost. People who were supposed to have been America’s best-and-brightest, people who should have known better, were seduced by easy money and quick returns. Meanwhile, most others seemed to have lost sight of being citizens first, consumers second.

Regardless of whether the economy bounces back, the focus on short-term goals with simplistic growth paradigms needs to change. So, how can we make the shift? We need a new way of thinking and acting within business. Like many, we desire a strong business community that integrates new priorities.

We can start with a new kind of MBA. After one semester of learning, growing, stretching our minds and asking questions in our DMBA program, we would like to propose here a view of management for the future and what some of the outcomes may be when managers and businesses start truly cultivating a conscious form of capitalism.

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This Just In: Hybrids Will Not Save Us

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday January 14th, 2010 | 11 Comments

We nominate two analysts from financial services firm Raymond James for the Downer of the Year (so far) Award. The analysts, J. Marshall Adkins and Pavel Molchanov, did some number-crunching that revealed hybrids aren’t making much of a dent in our demand for oil, reports the New York Times.

The research does not rocket science make, and the analysts admit as much, calling their findings “blindingly obvious.” They took the numbers of hybrids sold domestically and globally in recent years, extrapolated out to 2020 and determined that even if hybrids’ market share (including plug-in hybrids) continues to rise aggressively, the amount of oil savings they’ll represent will remain minuscule when compared to demand.

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Why the Wood Pellet Industry Is Growing

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday January 14th, 2010 | 5 Comments

The European demand for biomass pellets is fueling a growth in the North American wood pellet industry, according to a New York Times article last month. The British publication, The Timber Trades Journal, said that the North American wood pellet industry grew “six-fold from a capacity of just over one million tons to more than six million tons in the last five years.”

The Timber Trades Journal article said the U.S. South, with its abundant forests, is expected to become the leading wood-pellet region in North America. The New York Times mentioned Arkansas-based NexGen Biomass, a start-up with plans to build a 150-employee plant capable of producing 440,000 tons of wood pellets a year. NexGen Biomass officials said pine pulpwood will be converted into wood pellets to be used as fuel in Europe.

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FrontlineSMS:Medic Co-founder on Mobile Healthcare at PopTech Conference

| Thursday January 14th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Text messages save lives. So says Josh Nesbit, co-founder of FrontlineSMS:Medic. He discovered a while back one of the key devices in providing adequate healthcare. It has nothing do with lasers or imaging equipment, devices made in the back lab of some highly funded biotech firm. Healthcare, to him, is best delivered by cell phone.

The mission of FrontlineSMS:Medic is to advance healthcare networks in under served communities using innovative, appropriate mobile technologies. The centerpiece of its system, according to its website, is a free, open-source software platform that enables large-scale, two-way text messaging using only a laptop, a GSM modem, and inexpensive cell phones.

A central clinic laptop runs FrontlineSMS software, enabling community health workers to use text messages to coordinate patient care, offer mobile diagnostics, and map health services.

Here’s Nesbit talking at last year’s PopTech Conference on mobile technologies, and the future of healthcare.

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WalMart’s “Sustainability 2.0″ Video Worth a Watch

| Thursday January 14th, 2010 | 5 Comments

Walmart remains the company many love to hate for a lot of reasons, some sound, some irrational. But regular readers know we’ve been generally excited by the myriad changes that have come out of Bentonville in the last few years. With the help of visionaries like Adam Werbach, WalMart has evolved considerably from the days when pondering the nuances of slapping up a big box in a parking lot were about as deeply as Wal Mart considered things.

Though many challenges remain, Walmart has made an honest effort toward reducing waste and becoming a vastly more efficient operation. Not only that, but it has used its clout to force its suppliers and vendors to follow suit. Through the Personal Sustainability Projects program, Walmart has introduced every one of its employees to the basic principals of sustainability and seems to have genuinely affected many in a positive way.

Although financial savings is still the main driver behind most of Walmart’s efforts, there seems to have been a real awakening of consciousness at some levels in the company. How much exactly I’ll leave you to judge, but former CEO Lee Scott says, sustainability represents “the greatest opportunity for the next generation.” Personally, I’d say the current generation has a lot to gain from it too, but the recognition of sustainability as an opportunity makes me feel optimistic. Whoever can help people understand the world more deeply in a time of potential conflict and resource stress is doing something right.

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Apple Snubs Green Shareholders, Refuses Sustainability Reporting

| Wednesday January 13th, 2010 | 18 Comments

Fresh from our praise of Apple’s accidental green cred, the computer giant’s board of directors plans to oppose two upcoming shareholder resolutions concerning sustainability. EETimes reports that the board is advising shareholders to reject a call for the company to set up a “board committee on sustainability” as well as a call from accountability group As You Sow which wants Apple to issue a 2010 sustainability report similar to that being issued by Dell, HP, IBM and many others. You can read the whole proxy statement in PDF form here (the relevant stuff starts on page 51).

Both requests seem pretty reasonable and standard these days, so why is Apple recommending rejection? In its opposition statement, the board affirms the company’s commitment to sustainability and rightly points out a number of accomplishments the company has lately made. It also points out that it has already been publishing a great deal of product & carbon footprint information on its environment website, including a stated claim to “consider” the global reporting initiative (GRI) guidelines.

So does Apple just want to “think different?” Or does As You Sow have a legitimate gripe?

John Laumer points out that few people actually read these reports (at least the printed versions) and that putting one together might be a distraction. I suspect that it’s more about the effort required to standardize reporting to match what other companies are doing – comparing apples to oranges… or Dells in this case. Is standardization worth the extra effort? Are Apple’s current reporting initiatives faulty?

What do you think about this one? Are you an Apple shareholder? How would you vote?

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Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference

| Wednesday January 13th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Girls in TechA feminist at heart (I ran women’s health workshops as an undergrad at Brown), I am looking forward to the Catalyst Conference held by Girls in Tech on Jan 26th at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.  A recent Harvard Business Review article laments how only 1.5% of the world’s top 2000 performing companies are lead by female CEOs.  Clearly some nurturing and leadership development is needed and that is exactly what I hope to find at the Catalyst Conference.

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Project: Critique

CCA LiveE | Wednesday January 13th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Photo by Ahmed Riaz

Photo by Ahmed Riaz

By Elysa Soffer

This is very NOT Good

A tall, thin, blond woman in her mid-50s, with a thick Swiss-German accent condescends: “Class, come here, everyone, take a look. See this example on the wall? Does everyone see? This is very NOT good.” This was the voice of the typography and design studio teacher who I was both cursed and blessed to have for three years during design school. This voice has echoed in my head for almost 10 years.

Critiquing happens like this – your work is posted on the wall for your entire class to judge, poke and prod at like a science specimen in a lab. They deconstruct the piece and, if you are lucky, help you put the pieces back together by offering some encouraging ideas. It is in school where your skin thickens enough to get you into the real world and strengthen your ability to accept critiques from your future design director and coworkers, who typically have no problem ripping your work to shreds.

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What Does Healthcare Have to Do with Sustainability?

| Wednesday January 13th, 2010 | 5 Comments

stethoscopeAs major news outlets talk about “Cadillac plans” and “public options,” it only seems appropriate to take a couple deep breaths, push the stethoscope to the proverbial belly of our culture, and try to find out what it really means to be healthy in this day and age.

Throughout the rest of January, 3p will be featuring articles investigating how sustainability and health intersect. We’ll feature interviews with people behind some of the biggest names in the industry, give glimpses into the innovative models utilizing technology and social media to deliver care in new and unique ways and talk about the trends as we see them (like this article on Stryker from yesterday). Hopefully it will offer some necessary clarity and insight into such a complex topic.

But as health is such a personal thing, we also want to hear from you about the most important issues and stories that affect our lives. Leave a comment or send us a tweet using the #3p hashtag to tell us what you think are the healthcare stories that shock, scare or even inspire you.

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The Latest, Greatest Tools for Health Care Reform: Soap, and Fewer Drugs

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Wednesday January 13th, 2010 | 0 Comments

In recent history, hospitals have become increasingly successful at making people sick—or worse. Studies show that each year, 100,000 Americans die from medical mistakes, and that healthcare-associated infections account for an estimated 1.7 million infections and 99,000 associated deaths each year. But, as NPR’s health blog recently reported, two recent reports show that following some pretty basic practices can prevent infections and save lives.

These low-tech answers include bathing patients before surgery and swabbing their noses with antibiotic ointment. One of the studies found that “when doctors clean the area on the patient’s body where surgery will be performed with chlorexidine, an antiseptic, their patients get 40 percent fewer infections than those cleaned with iodine, another antiseptic.”

Getting in the habit of hand-washing (and in doing so, taking their own advice) will also go a long way toward enabling health care providers to better heal patients. In fact, NPR reports that Peter Pronovost, a Johns Hopkins professor, earned a 2008 MacArthur Fellowship just for devising a simple five-point, pre-surgery to-to list that includes, believe it or not, washing one’s hands. (Perhaps I’ve watched too many episodes of MASH, but I thought that step was pretty well ingrained in surgeons’ minds…)

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