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Archive for the ‘New Concepts’ Category

Airbnb PinterestE-commerce company Airbnb, began in 2008 in San Francisco as a house-sharing website, helping people to find a place to sleep for the night when local hotels were sold out.  Today Airbnb has over 100,000 listings in 192 countries and has expanded to incorporate other rentals such as parking, storage, bikes, cars etc.

The video below sums up Airbnb’s basic concept:

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, intends Airbnb to become an online marketplace enabling small businesses and entrepreneurs to participate in what he refers to as the “sharing economy.”  Current users are typically independent and have an average age of 35 years old.  It is hoped that Airbnb can eventually enable its users to locate or offer almost anything they want to rent, while managing the transactions through Airbnb’s online transaction management system.  Chesky, recognizes that Airbnb’s scope is potentially endless, though caution is needed:

“There are so many things we can do; the most challenging part of this is to figure out what not to do.”

Airbnb PinterestThe current issue of Fortune magazine suggests that Airbnb may even have the potential to become the next eBay.  Indeed, this e-commerce company has made money from day one, by charging a commission fee of 6 – 12% on each transaction.  The company has certainly been successful in winning the support of high-profile investors including actor Ashton Kutcher and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.

Whether or not Airbnb can realize their vision will like any other company be based on their ability to outpace their competition.  Imitation websites for bikes, ride shares, office space and other things have emerged and as the company diversifies it will also face competition from other websites that allow small businesses to have online storefronts such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy.  Airbnb hopes to differentiate themselves by paying close attention to detail to all aspects of their service, by being user-driven, and by focusing on ease of use with their 3-step buyer and seller transaction process.

Interested in learning how to use Airbnb? Check out the video below:

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Ever since I began this blog 3 months ago, I’ve been waiting for an excuse to do an entire post on a new innovative idea from one of my favorite organizations: Disney. Fortunately for me given Disney’s innovation and creativity it didn’t take long. This week Disney began testing their high-tech FastPass (part of their NextGen project) at their Magic Kingdom park.

The current system: Since 1999 Disney theme parks have offered a virtual queuing system through use of a FastPass. Guests insert their park ticket into a machine at one of the busiest attractions and receive a ticket to return later in the day and skip the line. Typically guests can only get one FastPass every two hours and only a certain predetermined number are issued each day. FastPass holders cannot use their FastPass prior to its listed time, but in spite of its one-hour time slot it is unofficially (based on my experience as a cast member and guest) valid at any time throughout the rest of the day. The FastPass is essential for some attractions such as Soarin’ over California which in my experience typically has long lines.

The proposed system: Disney’s NextGen project is a “next generation experience” technology project rumored to cost over $1 billion. Part of this project is expected to result in the creation of guest wristbands implanted with RFID microchips. Prior to arrival guests may be able to pre select a number of attractions for FastPass, reserve show seats, book character-greeting slots etc. This information would then be downloaded into the RFID microchips, to interact with sensors located throughout the Disney parks and resorts. Additional attraction interaction features may also occur based on the information obtained on the chip on the guest’s specific interests.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pazca/6993985474/

The “test sensor posts” and the current FastPass

The current test: This week at Disney’s Magic Kingdom park in Orlando, FL blue RFID sensor posts with a Mickey mouse symbol have been temporarily installed throughout the park. A small number of selected guests have been given bands to scan and test. As they scan their band, reservation data is sent to a cast member’s iPad. The bands are intended to provide faster access to attractions than the current FastPass system.

The full extent of what Disney’s NextGen experience could be, is still under wraps. But one thing is for sure the scope for what RFID technology could do to enhance the Disney park’s experience is potentially endless. I know I would love to test this technology, but what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Imagine arriving at a hotel, tired after traveling and being able to skip the front desk and head straight to your room. Sounds good right? Such a situation is the reality for guests staying at hotels, which use OpenWays.

So what is OpenWays?

OpenWays is a global solution provider of mobile access-management and security solutions, which is paving the way for Near Field Communication (NFC) technology by offering a solution that works with today’s cell phones. OpenWays provide a web-based mobile phone application that automatically adapts to the phone to offer hotel customers a secure way to access their hotel rooms.

This solution is currently being tested at selected Holiday Inn and Choice Hotels across the world. Guests staying at these hotels can download the application onto their smart phone prior to arrival. They then receive a text message with their room number and upon arrival can unlock their room with their cell phone. The application may also enable a customer to order room service or other hotel services from their phone. This video shows the process at Holiday Inn:

OpenWays cell phone compatibility

OpenWays is compatible with all cell phone network technologies. Current smart phone companies OpenWays support include Microsoft, Apple, Blackberry, and Google Android among others.

Why would a hotel purchase OpenWays?

Simply put OpenWays offers hotels the opportunity to provide a faster more convenient option to bypass the front desk at check in, potentially enhancing the customer experience. The solution definitely sounds like a convenient option to avoid waiting in line after a long flight or car journey. Using OpenWays also enables a hotel to save on the costs of purchasing room keys and it can be incorporated into an organization’s sustainability plan. The technology works in a way that locks could still have card slots for guests who are less technology savvy.

There is potentially no limit to how mobile technologies can continue to change and enhance the customer experience in many industries. But what do you think of OpenWays? Would you want to use your cell phone as your hotel room key? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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As anyone who has read my blog may have gathered, I love businesses that continually pursue new ideas and believe organizations need to embrace change in order to remain competitive in the long run. A few days ago I got e-mail from Bain Insights on a subtle approach to business change called Repeatability. Bain and Company have set up a website containing articles and research on this topic in support of a new book by two of their partners Chris Zook and James Allen called ‘Repeatability: Building Enduring Businesses for a World of Constant Change.’

The Idea:

The authors recognize that while 80% of high performing companies have differentiation at the heart of their corporate strategy, such differentiation can become excessively complex. As a company becomes more complex they may lose a sense of who they are and what they are good at, as they continually pursue radical change in order to stay ahead of the competition. Such an approach Zook and Allen’s strategic research suggests may not be sustainable in the long run.

The Concept:

Zook and Allen advocate a simple repeatable business model that can be applied to new products and changing markets. The concept requires an organization to constantly adapt over time building on their differentiation in a way that reinforces their strategic advantages and keeps everyone on the same page. Under this concept all employees should know what the company’s key success factors are and change is constant rather than radical and disruptive. This quote from the authors’ Harvard Business Review article sums up the repeatable business model concept:

‘Really successful companies build their strategies on a few vivid and hardy forms of differentiation that act as a system and reinforce one another. They grow in ways that exploit their core differentiators by replicating them in new contexts. And they turn the sources of differentiation into routines, behaviors and activity systems that everyone in the organization can understand and follow.’

In addition, learning systems are put in place to ensure continuous improvement can occur constantly.

Repeatability in Practice:

Organizations with repeatable business models do three things:

  1. They understand what their customers want.
  2. They translate their strategy into clear business principles that can be easily understand and adopted by employees and leaders from all levels of the hierarchy.
  3. They are wired to connect and respond to feedback, adapting accordingly to keep learning.

Lego is an example of a company with a repeatable business model in place. After years of strategic errors Lego developed clear principles and metrics in order to replicate and improve on past successes, while adapting to new markets and the changing business environment. Using their repeatable business model Lego were able to increase their profit margins by 40% creating additional value for the company, which they hope to sustain.

For more information on the repeatable business model check out Chris Zook and James Allen’s book: Repeatability: Build Enduring Businesses for a World of Constant Change.

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If you’re an innovative company, it’s smart to convince your customers that such innovation is going to keep coming and continue to exceed their expectations. This week Google released Project Glass. Project Glass represents a vision through video and photos of how technology in the future might be created to work for you, when you need it and how you need it to. Want to know if that train is going to be late? It will tell you and offer alternatives. See something remarkable and want to share it with someone, go ahead. Want directions inside or outside a building at any given moment? (Something the geographically challenged such as myself could greatly benefit from) this glasses type device will provide that and more. Here is the Project Glass video:

What Google are doing with Project Glass is sharing their ideas of future technology and using crowd sourcing to adapt and create something that best meets consumer needs. Google are actively seeking customer input on this and anyone can add insights on the Project Glass Google+ page.

Upon sharing the Project Glass video on my Facebook page, a friend shared an alternative vision of a glass future from world leader in specialty glass: Corning Inc. In Corning’s vision there are technologically engineered glass flat panel screens everywhere from your house to the office to your car or even outside! Imagine reading from a thin flexible transportable piece of glass or organizing your schedule with a few touches of your bathroom mirror or chatting through interactive video from your kitchen counter top. This company has been researching a vision that could change how we communicate, collaborate and connect in the future. President of Corning, Inc. Jim Clappin explains the company’s vision:

“The consumer trend driving our vision for tomorrow is very clear. We all want to be connected with what we want…when we want…anywhere…and with great ease. Corning’s innovations in glass will enable this journey to continue.”

Watch Corning’s video to see their vision:

Both Google and Corning have innovative visions for the future, but what do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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I am fascinated by technology and what it can do for a business’ efficiency and work environment. The other day in one of my MBA classes we learned about organizations that are social businesses both internally and externally. One example given was the Children’s Hospital Boston. In addition to their extensive external social media activities, the Children’s Hospital Boston has an internal social networking website called SPARC (social platform for accelerating resources and connections). SPARC was designed to foster communication and collaboration to further support the hospital’s innovation acceleration program. SPARC enables its members to join groups, hold conversations, broadcast announcements, and find resources and experts.

Hearing of the Children’s Hospital Boston reminded me of a Business Insider article I’d read earlier this week on another Boston organization Eagle Investment Systems’ innovative workplace. While undoubtedly very different types of organizations, both are forward thinking and adhere to the notions of social business from an internal perspective.

Eagle Investment Systems’ technology has been designed to enable employees to work together no matter where they are located. Like Children’s Hospital the company has an internal social networking website. This portal application contains an instant messaging/web conferencing tool called Jabber. Jabber has enabled employees to communicate more efficiently getting projects launched in two days versus the two weeks it previously took to organize people via e-mail. Now data, contact info, schedules, calendars etc. can be shared through this system, creating fast and effective communications. Interestingly Jabber’s instant messaging tool has replaced e-mail as the workforce’s main communication tool. Another aspect of this technology is status updates, which are displayed on monitors throughout the building enabling employees to efficiently request expertise and keep in the loop with what’s going on.

Eagle Investment Systems’ social networking system is supported by the employees having tablets, laptops and cell phones. There are no traditional desk phones at this company. The work environment is one of huddle rooms to facilitate collaboration. Video conferencing through WebEx is also greatly used and has enhanced relationships with employees in remote locations. Ultimately Eagle Investment Systems’ Head of Information Systems Mike Fitzgerald describes how:

Priorities have shifted away from employees sitting in a cube to what’s happening in the virtual world. It’s all about information flow, data, collaboration… in a dynamic, ad-hoc fashion.’

I personally am intrigued by what Eagle Investment Systems and the Children’s Hospital Boston are doing and think it could represent a vision of the workplace of the future. But what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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In my last post I gave an overview of a revolutionary work environment concept called the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) pioneered by consulting group Culture RX. Today I wanted to finish my 2-part ROWE mini series by summing up the organizational benefits of ROWE:

  1. Leaders are forced to clearly define expectations: So often in the workplace employees are unclear about their manager’s expectations. ROWE requires competent, strong leaders who can clearly communicate their expectations to their employees.
  2. Improved communication: ROWE resulted in employees at the Best Buy headquarters learning to communicate more effectively, working together in new ways, in order to plan around one another’s schedules.
  3. Greater cross training: Employees working in organizations where ROWE is in place, are more willing and able to learn additional skills, in order to fill in for coworkers when needed.
  4. Greater engagement and productivity: With ROWE employees are more engaged, less distracted and more productive.
  5. Healthier employees: With ROWE employees no longer have to race to get to the office at 8. Employees can attend doctors’ appointments without feeling guilty, take care of their health and catch up on sleep when they need to. ROWE provides enough flexibility to eliminate situations such as the example of an employee faking a sick day shown in the video below: 
  6. Elimination of under performers: ROWE weeds out poor performers, resulting in an increase in involuntary turnover during the transition stage. Mediocre, incompetent, time-wasting employees will not be able to survive in this kind of environment. However, why would your organization want to keep these employees anyway?
  7. Empowerment: ROWE creates an environment of trust where employees are treated as adults accountable for getting work done on their own schedule. Employees in ROWE environments are also empowered from knowing that their superiors trust them to get the job done.
  8. Greater talent retention and acquisition: After migrating to ROWE Best Buy’s strategic sourcing and procurement team boosted employee retention by 27%. The work-life balance that ROWE offers can greater help organizations to attract and retain the best talent.

The video below adds to the reasons I’ve listed above by enabling you to see organizations’ experiences and results achieved with ROWE:

For more information on ROWE visit Culture RX’s websiteblog and read Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson’s book: ‘Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution.’

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Back in February I wrote a blog post about companies that offer their employees unlimited paid vacation time. The unlimited paid vacation time concept is a part of a greater concept called Results-Only Work Environment, which I intend to explore further in this post and in a follow-up post tomorrow.

Many of us have experienced working with individuals who while they may seldom leave their desks and may even be the first to arrive and last to leave, don’t seem to accomplish much work. While most organizations pay great rhetoric to the importance of employee results, many traditional organizations fall into the trap of rewarding face time over results. As this video mocks:

 

 

Pioneered by consulting group Culture RX and in practice at Best Buy’s Minneapolis headquarters, a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) is a management philosophy focused on employee results over presence. With ROWE employees are free to come and go as they please and do whatever they want, so long as work gets done and deadlines are met.  As the authors of the book ‘Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution’ Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson explain:

 

 

For a ROWE to be achieved there should be unlimited paid vacation time, no mandatory meetings, no schedules and employees should have the freedom to come and go as they please without judgment from their coworkers and managers on how their day is spent.

ROWE enables organizations to create an environment of trust, which quickly helps to differentiate the employees that are getting work done from those that aren’t. This concept is most suited to knowledge work environments, which are task and project focused. It is unlikely to work in a service environment.

Here are a couple of examples of how employees can use ROWE:

Example 1: Jane works from 8-12 in the morning before spending the afternoon enjoying the nice weather at the park, before logging back in to her computer to work from home in the evening.

Example 2: Joe completes an entire month of work in 2 weeks and apart from checking in with work by e-mail or cell phone, enjoys the rest of the month with his kids who are on break from school.

So what do you think of this concept? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and look out for my next blog post on the benefits of ROWE tomorrow.

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Nike’s new lightweight running shoe the Flyknit exemplifies a new cost efficient manufacturing process, which could shake up the shoe industry.

The process

The Flyknit is made by computer-controlled technology, which knits the upper part of the shoe ready to attach to the sole. This process which Nike call “micro-level precision engineering” eliminates the labor-intensive process of workers assembling numerous machine cut pieces. The technology also enables detailed design aesthetic and fit adjustments to be easily made. In addition the process is more efficient, cutting production time and enhancing profitability. It’s also sustainable with wasted materials weighing in at 1/100th of a pound (about as much as a sheet of paper).

What this means…

The labor-intensive nature of shoe making previously led to the process being outsourced to countries with cheap labor. By eliminating or significantly reducing the labor-intensive part of the process, the shoes will no longer have to be made in countries with cheap labor. As Nike president Charlie Denson acknowledged in this week’s Bloomberg Business Week:

“This is a complete game-changer, the process cuts costs so much that eventually we could make these shoes anywhere in the world.”

Thus if this process lives up to expectations Nike could do some of their shoe manufacturing here in the U.S. Though operating and labor costs would be higher here relative to Nike’s factories in China, Indonesia and Vietnam, shipping costs would be lower. Another benefit, which would help offset costs, is faster market response time allowing greater flexibility to changes in demand in the american market.

In the long run this flexible technology could result in customers being able to purchase shoes customized to fit their feet through use of a foot scanner. What I liked about this technology is that further down the line it should also offer customers the ability to design their own shoe down to a single thread.

All in all I think it will be interesting to see if this new technology lives up to its expectations.

But what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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This past week saw the launch of Kony 2012 by non-profit organization Invisible Children. The campaign was hard to miss and even with my hectic work and grad school schedule I could not avoid seeing mentions of the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and news sites.

So what is Kony 2012?

Kony 2012 is a campaign to increase awareness of Ugandan LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony in order for him to be arrested during 2012. The campaign’s video has become the fastest spreading viral video ever. As of yesterday evening (March 10th) the youtube video had received over 67,000,000 views.

Why am I talking about it on a business ideas blog?

Well I will start by saying I’m not political in the slightest and as a green card holder I can’t even vote! But I wanted to talk about Kony 2012, as it illustrates the game changing power of social media marketing. In this post I will talk about the characteristics of what makes this viral video successful.

It’s shareable

Kony 2012 is informative and shocking in a way that makes the viewer want to share it with others. It’s a video you could send to your friends, colleagues and family.

It has the Hollywood touch

The Kony 2012 video is inspiring, heartbreaking and uplifting, like any good movie. It’s also beautifully filmed with constant screen changes, different settings and music. The use of the narrator Jason Russell’s son Gavin humanizes the cause further. Typically viral videos need to be short (about 2 minutes) to capture attention, but Kony 2012’s emotional roller coaster style filming makes its 29 minutes watchable. From a viral video perspective Kony 2012 is probably the exception when it comes to video length not the rule.

It shows how individuals can make a difference

The video has several calls to action and viewers are asked to share the video. The Kony 2012 website lets you copy the link or click for a link to embed. Viewers are also instructed to write to the 20 designated culture makers (film, music and sports stars etc.) and 12 policy makers. What is cool about it is that when you click on the individuals you are not given old school mailing and telephone details, but formatted tweets, which can be sent with a click of a button.

Other calls to action include donating to the campaign and buying or downloading a campaign kit. One purpose of the kit is to blanket every street on April 20, 2012. The posters and bracelets are geo tagged and each unique tag number can be entered online to show the campaign’s reach. At the time of writing this blog posts the kits are currently sold out, though can still be downloaded.

It’s time sensitive

The video will expire on December 31, 2012 demonstrating the organization’s goal of getting Kony arrested before the end of the year. The expiration date adds a sense of urgency to the campaign.

Kony 2012 viral video     

Here is the video everyone is talking about:

I would encourage you to watch and share the video if you haven’t already seen it, to learn what Kony 2012 is all about. 

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