Innovation/tech

Ravi Mattu

Canada’s WestJet airline doesn’t have a business class or premium economy, but it’s come up with another idea to give its passengers a bit more space, save on fuel consumption and avoid having to buy new planes for longer flights – charge people a bit extra to keep the middle seat vacant. According to Richard Bartrem, WestJet’s vice-president of corporate culture and communications, one motivation is to deal with the “question of real estate” when it comes to the armrest between seats.

I will confess, I didn’t realise this was such a problem but stranger business ideas have worked in the past, so I’ll happily eat my hat if this becomes a huge success.

Ravi Mattu

  • A husband and wife switch jobs for two weeks – Huband takes become the stay-at-home parent, wife takes over his job as an editor of Slate, the online magazine. Not exactly the craziest switch in the world; Susan Burton is a former editor at Harper’s Magazine (declaration: I was an intern at the magazine at the time when Susan was an editor there) but still could prove an intriguing experiment. At the very least, it should be a good read.
  • David Hockney’s iPhone passion – If I was Apple, I’m not sure I could have come up with a better advertisement of just how useful the iPhone is for some people. This has to take the mobile phone as utility to a new level. The piece includes examples of work he’s created on the phone
  • The price of being gay - The authors admit that this isn’t an exact science but…
  • Parental benefits for the self-employed – I’m Canadian and a parent and I know lots of people who might break out and do their own thing if not for the need to keep their benefits, including maternity or paterntiy pay. Does this hold back business and entrepreneurship?
  • France Telecom makes changes at the top in wake of scandal of suicides – a story that still has yet to be resolved. Here’s the FT’s take, the story in Les Echos, Liberation and Le Figaro

Ravi Mattu

Ravi Mattu

Apple held its “It’s only rock-n-roll” event yesterday and Steve Jobs the leader of the Apple tribe (which I wrote about in Why Community Matters a few weeks ago) was back in front of the camera and his community. In the video after the jump, Richard Waters explains why this was the most dramatic news from the company and why there remain some major unresolved questions in terms of the company’s future prospects.

Meanwhile, Chris Nuttall reviewed the video iPod nano, the “technology star of the event” and live-blogged the event over on the Tech Blog.

Stefan Stern

THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! went the music and WAH! WAH! WAH! went my baby daughter. A party a few doors down was getting out of hand. It was 1.15 in the morning and time to take action.

“Wimbledon police station?” I asked, after dialling the number in the phone book. “Well, we handle their calls,” a man answered, slightly mysteriously. (Great: a call centre, just what I needed.) But no, sorry, they didn’t deal with this sort of thing. Try the local authority and its environmental health department instead.

I did. I pressed “3” to opt for help, and was put through to a tired-sounding person on the night shift. “Let me take a few more details from you, and somebody will call you back,” he said. “Can’t you deal with this?” I whined. “That’s not how it works.”

The remainder of the article can be read here. Please post comments below.

Stefan Stern

Managers dream of discovering the new new thing. Innovation is on every business leader’s lips.

“We plan to launch more new products than at any time in our history,” wrote Jeff Immelt, chief executive of General Electric, in this newspaper last week. That’s 130 years of rather impressive history he is hoping to outdo.

The most fashionable concept in the world of innovation is the network – an outwardly focused group of people that helps to bring ideas into the organisation. Keen innovation networkers seek things that are “not invented here”.

But what if the answer to your quest for innovation lies closer to home, within the organisation? As Bain’s Chris Zook has argued for many years, some companies “may already hold most of the cards for a winning hand” but cannot see it.

The remainder of the article can be read here. Please post comments below.

Ravi Mattu

Ok, so we don’t actually have any sort of world exclusive with anyone from Google (although today’s news that Google is releasing an operating system is, in management terms, a huge story and it would be a great time to have an interview with the company) but I borrowed the headline from the cover of the August edition of Wired UK magazine. I added the exclamation mark at the end to show just how much better our “world exclusive” is.

It’s an odd claim given that Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt has been interviewed a few times on FT.com, and that there doesn’t seem to be anything especially new in this piece. But any interview with the people (Wired also spoke to Sergey Brin) who are at the forefront of a technology revolution at one of the world’s most interesting companies is worth reading.

Ravi Mattu

John Gapper reviewed Free: The future of a radical price, the latest book by Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired (US edition) in today’s paper.

And over on John’s blog, we have been engaging in our first ‘interactive review’ – opening up our pages to the author to respond and exchange ideas with the critic.

The discussion threw up some interesting ideas and, being the FT, they were discussed in a suitably civilised way.

I’m sure a lot of readers have thoughts on this so feel free to pitch in with your comments (registration is required but this isn’t too onerous).

Stefan Stern

The great financial crisis intensified at ultra-high speed thanks to super-fast broadband connections and increased computer processing power. Time to switch the machines off? No. But it is surely time to manage the flow of information better.

This will not be easy. Research led by the husband-and-wife-team Professors Andrew and Nada Kakabadse (he is based at the Cranfield school of management, she is at the Northampton business school) has revealed the depths of managers’ addiction to new communication technology. Around a quarter of the 1,200 professionals surveyed spend three or more hours a day on their e-mails and sending text messages. More than half the younger and middle-aged respondents never turn their phones off at all.

Three quarters of younger workers admit to being addicted to technology. Alcohol, tobacco, shopping: none of these temptations matches the appeal of fancy new gadgets and high-tech kit. The only good news is that, while confessing to their addiction, the majority of respondents deny that their use of technology is out of control.

The remainder of the article can be read here. Please post comments below.

Adam Jones

Italy’s Alessi is a master at using imaginative design to transform everyday objects such as kettles and toilet brushes into beautiful luxury goods.

Alberto Alessi, the design house’s CEO, applies a mathematical model to figure out whether a prototype will succeed in the marketplace.

In an interview with McKinsey (registration required), he says the first component of the formula is the degree to which a person would say “oh, what a beautiful object”.

The second is the extent to which customers could make use of the object to communicate their definition of themselves to others (i.e., show off).

The third and fourth components of the formula — and he rather glosses over these, it must be said — are function and price.

The formula doesn’t work for everything. But when we have a long history with a product, it works perfectly. If I have to evaluate a pot or a coffee maker or a kettle, for example, the score indicates exactly the number of pieces that we can sell.

The system certainly seems to produce new products that have a long shelf life: Mr Alessi says half are still on sale a decade after their introduction.

Further reading: Mr Alessi discusses how to compete with China in an FT interview.



About the authors

Stefan Stern writes a column on Tuesdays on management. He is winner of the 2010 Towers Watson award for excellence in HR journalism, and has previously won awards from the Work Foundation and the Management Consultancies Association.

Ravi Mattu is the editor of Business Life, the FT's management features section, and a former editor of the Mastering Management series. He joined the FT in 2000 from Prospect magazine

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