The New York Times reported today that Virgin Atlantic will conduct a test of one of its Boeing 747s using biofuels. The most interesting thing to me is that there seems to have been a lot of thought put into both the sustainability and the business aspects (even though this first step is actually a blend of 20% biofuel and 80% conventional jet fuel).
Sustainability: Virgin spokesman Paul Charles is quoted as saying the company rejected fuels derived from crops like palm oil because of the land that would be needed to cultivate such crops, and that the biofuel production would not compete with food or freshwater resources.
Business: This joint project between Virgin, Boeing, and GE Aviation splits the costs of innovation among several companies, and had smart business requirements. For example, the test plane will use one of GE Aviation’s CF6 engines as a “drop-in solution,” meaning the use of biofuel requires no modification, and will not affect the engine’s performance or range.
I recently read a New Yorker article about Branson and his work with Al Gore to create the Virgin Earth Challenge with its $25 million prize. I’m impressed that he’s so intent on solutions that are market-driven, commercial, and don’t require major lifestyle changes, as I believe that these are the ones that are truly scalable. An excellent article that shows that for Branson, business is very personal. I just wonder whether he’ll consider himself eligible to win his own prize?
Posted in business, eco-smart, sustainability
Tagged al gore, boeing, branson, business, environment, GE, green, innovation, richard branson, sustainability, virgin, virgin atlantic
Consulting giant McKinsey & Co has a free subscription service offering a subscription to their business publication, the McKinsey Quarterly. While they do have some articles that are “premium” and require you to purchase full access, a startlingly large percentage of what they put out is free. It’s shocking, but they offer more free content than any of the other business knowledge services I subscribe to (HBS, SSIR, Net Impact) with the exception of Origo Inc’s cross-sector news which is totally free and published less frequently. N.B. All of these services require registration, which means giving out your name, e-mail address and company affiliation, but I find that the information I receive is worth far more than this small amount of personal data. Also, links to each of these services can be found at the right side of this page in the “Social Entrepreneurship Resources” list – no time to create individual links today – sorry!
Today I received an e-mail with the McKinsey Quarterly’s top interviews of 2007. I thought that folks might be interested in one with Al Gore and David Blood on investing in sustainability.
The others from the list that I found particularly helpful and/or interesting were:
Strategy’s strategist: An interview with Richard Rumelt
A giant in the field of strategy ruminates on strategic planning, diversification and focus, and the role of the CEO.
Crafting a message that sticks: An interview with Chip Heath
The key to effective communication: make it simple, make it concrete, and make it surprising.
Promoting growth and social progress: An interview with the president of Chile
Michelle Bachelet discusses her views on the roots of political upheaval in Latin America, and the link between economic development and the fight against poverty.
Leading change: An interview with the CEO of Deere & Company
Bob Lane details the steps his company took to engage the whole organization in an operational and cultural transformation.
Posted in business, eco-smart, strategy, sustainability
Tagged al gore, business, business intelligence, chile, chip heath, communication, deere, interview, organization development, rumelt, strategy, sustainability
In college, my friend Jesse and I often discussed the “night guy vs. morning guy” phenomenon. Night guy would say, “I can totally get by on four hours of sleep – let’s stay up.” Morning guy would curse night guy as he rushed to class late and tired.
A HBS Working Knowledge article documents and codifies this type of behavior and provides a link to the PDF of a working paper by Todd Rogers and Max Bazerman. Here’s a brief overview from the executive summary:
Rogers and Bazerman show through four experiments that people are more likely to choose what they believe they should choose when the choice will be implemented in the future rather than in the present, a tendency they call “future lock-in.” They also discuss directions for future research and applications for public policy, an arena in which citizens are often asked to consider binding policies that trade short-term interests for long-term benefits. Key concepts include:
- Tension occurs between an individual’s immediate self-interest and the interests of all others, including his or her own “future self.” Individuals tend to think that their future selves will behave more virtuously than their present selves.
- Four studies demonstrated the future lock-in effect, which describes a person’s increased willingness to choose and support a binding “should-choice” when it is to be implemented in the future rather than in the present.
- Policymakers could leverage the benefits of future lock-in by advocating for reforms that would be decided upon in the present, but go into effect in the future. Future lock-in would encourage citizens to more heavily weight a policy’s abstract merits rather than its concrete costs.
The working paper presents several studies, including one on donation. They find that “the future lock-in effect… suggests changing the structure of the donation such that the prospective donor can commit now to donate in the future.”
This work obviously has implications for development professionals in nonprofits, and also brought to mind another HBS Working Knowledge article from July 2007 (thanks, Gmail, for making email archiving and search so simple!) which was, in fact, also co-authored by Rogers and Bazerman with Katy Milkman. It also chronicles the “want” vs. “should” cognitive dissonance, and study it in terms of grocery shopping and DVD rentals. You can read that article, an interview with Rogers and Milkman, here.
Yeah, it took an HBS professor to figure this one out. Authenticity is important in new media marketing. This recent article from HBS Working Knowledge looks at the research of professor John Deighton. After a review of the Dove “real beauty” campaign, we get this meaty tidbit:
The new rules
But what does this all boil down to for companies that want to be successful in this relatively new environment? In the working paper, Deighton and Kornfeld discuss 5 aspects of digital interactivity, including
- Thought tracing. Firms infer states of mind from the content of a Web search and serve up relevant advertising; a market born of search terms develops.
- Ubiquitous connectivity. As people become increasingly “plugged in” through cell phones and other devices, marketing opportunities become more frequent as well—and technology develops to protect users from unwanted intrusions. A market in access and identity results.
- Property exchanges. As with Napster, Craigslist, and eBay, people participate in the anonymous exchange of goods and services. Firms compete with these exchanges, and a market in service, reputation, and reliability develops.
- Social exchanges. People build identities in virtual communities like Korea’s Cyworld (90 percent of Koreans in their 20s are members). Firms may then sponsor or co-opt communities. A market in community develops that competes on functionality and status.
- Cultural exchanges. While advertising has always been part of popular culture, technology has increased the rate of exchange and competition for buzz. In addition to Dove’s campaign, Deighton cites BMW’s initiative to hire Hollywood directors and actors to create short, Web-only films featuring BMWs. In the summer of 2001, the company recorded 9 million downloads.
These 5 aspects show increasing levels of effective engagement in creating social meaning and identity, Deighton suggests, noting that the first 2 (thought tracing and ubiquitous connectivity) change the rules of marketing but don’t alter the traditional paradigm of predator and prey. In the last 3 (property, social, and cultural exchanges), the marketer has to become someone who is invited into the exchange or is even pursued (as in the case of the BMW films) as an entity possessing cultural capital.