The Renaissance Innovator

Thoughts, examples and updates on the Renaissance Innovation Method

Posts from the “Examples” Category

When Business Models Trump Technology

Posted on November 19, 2012


In a recent blog post on Harvard Business Review we discuss one of these frequent situations in which business model innovation is necessary to bring technological innovation to life. In case you missed it, the 2012 World Food Prize went to Daniel Hillel, an Israeli scientist who, in his own words, “…helped to develop the principle of shifting from low-frequency, high-volume irrigation to high-frequency, low-volume irrigation”, the system known as drip irrigation. Irrigation is a big deal in many countries: in just the last 50 years, the world population has doubled and irrigation water is increasingly becoming a critical constraint in many parts of the world. Study after study has shown that improved irrigation systems like drip irrigation can set in motion a new…

Why Apple Has to Manufacture in China

Posted on October 2, 2012


       Apple gets a lot of stick about manufacturing in China, and the issue came up again recently with the release of the iPhone 5. A recent article on the “Cult of Mac” contrasts Apple to Timbuk2, a US producer of traveler and messenger bags, that proudly locates most of its of its manufacturing in San Francisco, one of the most expensive places on earth. The workers in the factory are neither overworked nor are they underpaid, yet Timbuk2 is not struggling financially unlike many other US-based manufacturers. This begs the question: can’t Apple do the same and move jobs back from China?  We covered this issue in a recent post on HBR network.

Making car manufacturing sane: Business Model Innovation at Volkswagen

Posted on September 13, 2012


         After a brief hiatus due to vacations and travel over summer, the Renaissance Innovator blog is back!  While I was catching up on the stack of journals which accumulated over summer, a Fortune article about Volkswagen which describes transformation of the company from a local German producer to a global phenomenon with over €160B in sales caught my eye.  Volkswagen has quietly passed General Motors and Toyota last year to become the largest automotive maker in the world. So what is its secret?

Outclassing Sourcing Champions

Posted on May 28, 2012


With  increasing  specialization,  technological complexity, and globalization, firms now buy a long list of products and services from many outside providers. In industries like automobiles, consumer electronics and retail, reliably sourcing a multitude of products from supply chain partners is the key to success. Li and Fung limited, one of the worlds fastest growing companies,  is fundamentally altering this  sourcing landscape and is simultaneously changing the game in these industries which rely deeply on sourcing. It is a company which owns no production, transportation or retail facilities, but by becoming the key link in  the sourcing  practices of some of the worlds best known companies like Gap, Benetton  and Walmart, has found a novel winning formula. So how has this firm created a multi-billion dollar business…

The Darwinian Workplace in the WinnerS-take-all Organizations

Posted on May 3, 2012


The latest issue of Harvard Business Review features an article “The Darwinian Workplace” on promoting healthy competition in the workplace that I co-authored.  The key message of the article is based on several research projects with highly innovative technology companies that implemented tournaments among its workers to increase worker productivity and, at the same time, to increase firm’s profitability. Competition in high-end jobs in industries ranging from movie making to professional athletes to politics is nothing new but can the same principles be applied in industries as mundane as retail, call centers and restaurants, which usually employ minimal-wage workers, with minimal motivation and incentives to work hard?  Labor costs in these industries typically represent the largest operating expense and the number of people employed…

How to Innovate for a Greener World (and Make Money)

Posted on April 8, 2012


In the minds of both consumers and managers going green is typically thought as being associated with an additional expense.  We see this in food stores, for instance, where organic products cost more.  Despite this general perception, there exists a simple approach for just about any organization or household to become more sustainable and make more money in the process.  The miracle solution  lies in Energy Efficiency projects. For instance, replacing old incandescent and halogen light bulbs with new energy efficient compact flourscent bulbs, installing additional insulation, motion-activated light switches, replacing old-leaky windows, buying energy-efficient heaters, are all known to lower carbon footprint while dramatically lowering energy bills!  In fact, Energy efficiency projects are the easiest and the fastest way to reduce greenhouse emissions,…

SXSW: INSEAD @ South by Southwest

Posted on March 18, 2012


The 2012 edition of the South by Southwest conference (SWSX)  wrapped up in Austin last week. Over the last years, this  has become one of hottest stops on the startup circuit, earning a reputation as the biggest breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies– notably, both foursquare and twitter  catapulted to the big leagues after they  presented early versions at SWSX.  To coincide with all the buzz around SXSW,  I  decided to spend a better part of  this week’s sessions of Identifying New Business Opportunities, an MBA class I am currently teaching, discussing some of the hottest trends from the conference.  A small contingent from the class had attended  SXSW and they got us started by  sharing what caught their attention at the conference (Thanks Nicole, Charlotte…