- Biggest Take-Notice Non-Technical innovations of 2013
By Joe Giordano
2013 brought us so many new innovative solution, cool inventions, changes in the way we do things, economic growth (and not so much), big wins and some giant failures. Because of this, I have spent the last few days thinking through what some of the biggest innovations of 2013 are in my opinion. The list kept growing and growing because I seemed to have gotten stuck down the technology road since I consider myself fairly technological and above all I like playing with new gadgets and software.
So, I challenged myself to find my biggest take-notice, non-technical innovations of 2013. This was a difficult exercise since most of the business news is focused on Google this, Apple that, software, hardware, connectivity, etc…
My criteria for determining a take-notice, non-technical innovation was a simple formula:
- It had to impact people–either consumers or employees (covers pretty much everyone)
- It could not have electronic parts, be software related or plug in
- The impact or implications has or will be felt on a large scale and will probably be a lasting one (some extrapolation here)
Here are my top take-notice, non-technical innovations of 2013, not in any particular order:
I have been waiting for something “like” this for a long time. I have always felt that someone or something needed to upend the mobile phone industry. I finally got my ½ wish. JUMP, or Just Upgrade My Phone allows consumers to upgrade their device twice, every 12 months, not once every two years. For years now consumers have been frustrated with the inability to get the latest device or even replace a lost or damaged phone without paying exorbitant fees (sometimes upwards of $350 if it is in your first six months of your contract).
Why it is on the list: T-Mobile took a well established practice that is disliked by consumers and completely rewrote it to the dismay of its competitors like AT&T and Verizon. They actually created a program the met the needs of the consumer and make business sense.
Lasting Impact: Touche says AT&T and Verizon who in the weeks (even days or hours) following the JUMP announcement delivered their own plans to compete with it. T-Mobile made the other carriers react with their own versions which says to me, they hit the nail on the hear.
This one snuck into 2013 as it was “announced” in late November at a Zappos employee meeting and will be implemented throughout 2014. CEO Tony Hsieh who grew Zappos into a billion dollar retailer and now operates as an independently managed subsidiary of Amazon laid out the groundwork for a major reorganization.
He has decided to replace the traditional management and hierarchical structure into a “holacracy.” A holacracy is defined as a radical “self-governing” operating system where there are no job titles and no managers. It essentially operates under the auspices that a whole that’s part of a greater whole. This structure is extremely flat and distributes power more evenly across the entire employee spectrum. Over the next year (2014), Zappos will roll out hundreds of employee “circles” where each employee may or will have several roles within those circles.
Why its on the list: Even though the holacracy concept was envisioned a few years back by a business consultant, I think there is innovative kudos to Zappos for implementing on a large scale. CEO Hsieh told the crowd in November, “Darwin said that it’s not the fastest or strongest that survive. It’s the ones most adaptive to change.” And this is definitely 12 months of change that everyone in the business world will be looking at.
Lasting Impact: CEOs who sign on to Holacracy agree to cede some level of power. The advantage is that they get to view their company through an entirely different lens. It’s a major adjustment for both leaders and employees. Zappos, which has 1,500 employees, will be the largest company to date to implement Holacracy according to many published articles. Zappos will be a case study in management, leadership, teamwork and collaboration for the next few years.
For more information on the creator of the holacracy, please see www.holacracyone.com and founder Brian Robertson.
Egg Substitutes From Plants
I am a huge fan of the show Bizarre Foods starring Andrew Zimmern on Travel Channel. I was watching a few weeks ago and he was doing an episode from San Francisco at a company called Hampton Creek Foods. The CEO is named Josh Tetrick and he comes from great stock having worked at TOMS, previously lived in Africa, started crowd funded companies and is very concerned with the social wellness of all. In 2011 he founded Hampton Creek and hired biochemists, food scientists and engineers and began their work out of a small lab in San Francisco. Their goal: To perfectly recreate the chicken egg, making it entirely out of plant material so that it can be transportable and shelf stable and not have a negative impact on environment (think chicken farms). In the process they isolated the egg’s different functions and now they have a mayonnaise product on the shelves in Whole Foods.
Why its on the list: Hampton Creek Foods is generating huge excitement and pulling in millions of dollars in investment from the Founders Fund, and investors such as Bill Gates are creating an influx of cash.
Lasting Impact: Hampton Creek Foods (www.hamptoncreekfoods.com) is now working on creating more foods from different plants. In the near future, Hampton Creek Foods will truly be able to feed the world.
I came across my final innovation of 2013 while watching an episode of Ellen. She was highlighting a wonderful young man who happens to be a serial problem solver and inventor. Peyton Robertson, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., designed a new kind of sandbag to protect against flooding from hurricanes and other disasters. “Superstorm Sandy really got me concerned about how people can prepare,” he told the likes of NBC News, Ellen Degeneres, Huffington Post and many other local and national news outlets.
Peyton re-imagined what the conventional sandbag could possibly become instead of the cumbersome and heavy-weighted with the potential to leave openings where water can flush through. After several failed experiments, the key to getting to innovation, he concocted a mixture of salt and expandable polymers to fill the bag. Peyton’s sandbag is lightweight, portable and easy to store. Above all it is far more effective at keeping water out.
I thought I would let Peyton convince you himself. Please see this video of Peyton demonstrating his invention: Peyton Robertson This is the video that won him the $25,000 Young Scientist Award.
Why its on the list: Simply because an 11 year old has broken down an accepted solution and not only re-imagined it, he improved it considerably. Additionally, do a search for Peyton Robinson, he has a few other inventions that he is completely spot on with.
Lasting Impact: These sandbags have the ability to be transported all over the world and help any coastal area in a flooding situation. I am sure he is working on a fresh water solution too. Additionally, I feel Peyton is creating a legacy for himself even before he hits his teen years, he is one to follow.