Archive for March, 2009

Learning from the Unexpected

Point: To innovate & discover: notice the unexpected

Galileo's sketches

Story: When Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter, he showed for the first time that not everything revolved around the earth. After discovering the moons of Jupiter, he turned his eye and his telescope toward other planets. He hoped to find moons around other bright planets, such as Venus. His search of Venus, however, proved fruitless. Venus had no moons.

But during his observations, Galileo noticed something else: Venus didn’t appear as a perfect disk the way that Jupiter did. Venus waxed and waned in phases just like Earth’s moon does. That is, Venus’ appearance gradually shifted from a crescent to a half-disk to a full disk. These observations led Galileo to realize that Venus must to be orbiting the sun, not the Earth. This contradicted the prevailing Earth-centered model of the solar system and confirmed the new heliocentric theory of the solar system. Although his initial search of Venus proved moonless, noticing the phases helped Galileo prove the more important point of the new model of the solar system.


  • Leverage observations, experiments, and surveys to collect more data than the minimum
  • Don’t discard unusual, unexpected, or disappointing results — try to explain them
  • Use “unexpected” observations to develop new knowledge or to find new opportunities

For more information:

Galileo at Work By Stillman Drake

Galileo and the Discovery of the Phases of Venus

Planetary Motions By Norriss S. Hetherington

2 Comments »How-to, Innovation, Opportunity

World Water Day: A Value Chain Approach to Reducing Water Usage

Point: Help your customers save water by making better use of your products3375486302_284e1d673e
Story: The UN designated March 22nd as World Water Day, to draw attention to the need to manage this vital resource. Many companies are examining how to reduce their water usage. Some companies are also looking at their value chain of customers and suppliers, helping their partners reduce water consumption as well. JohnsonDiversey, one of the S.C. Johnson family of companies, is a leading global provider of institutional cleaning and hygiene products. Because it sells cleaning products to large companies, JohnsonDiversey explored how it could help its customers reduce water consumption. For example, breweries use five times as much water to clean their facilities as they do to make their product. JD realized it could help its customers improve their cleaning practices. JD audits water usage at customer plants and then shares best practices from among all customers to reduce water usage and costs. The company also helped food and beverage customers in 21 sites around the world save a billion gallons of water in 2007 through its water management program.


  • In thinking about water conservation efforts, look beyond your company’s borders.
  • Examine how your products influence water consumption by customers and consumers
  • Create products that enable less water consumption
  • Share ideas among your customers to help everyone reduce water usage and costs.

Sources: MIT Crossroads presentation by Antonio Galvao, VP Global Plan and Deliver at JohnsonDiversey and JohnsonDiversey’s Responsible Resource Solutions

2 Comments »Customers, How-to, Strategy

Grow Your Business by Growing Your Customers’ Business

prod_small_photo0900aecd8031a14bPoint: The customers of your customers are your customers, too.design_gallery

Story: Cisco Systems makes networking gear for a wide range of customers, from massive data centers to home-office networking routers. Anyone who wants to build an internet-based network is a potential customer of Cisco. But, the bulk of Cisco’s sales go to corporate customers. So when you think of Cisco Systems, you don’t think “cheap video cameras.”

So why did Cisco pay over half a billion dollars to acquire Pure Digital, makers of compact inexpensive digital video cameras? Pure’s consumer-friendly little Flip Video products seem far removed from Cisco’s corporate industrial-grade networking technology.

Here’s Cisco’s logic: Consumer video cameras connect to the networks of Cisco’s corporate customers. Digital video consumes a lot of network bandwidth. Just 5 minutes of decent quality digital video requires over 4,000,000 bits per second for streaming and consumes 167 MB of total volume of transfered data. Multiply that by more the 100 million downloads a month at video-sharing sites like YouTube, and the result is prodigious demand on networking performance at data centers, internet backbones, and broadband internet providers. Thus, the buyers of these digital video cameras are important customers that drive the behavior of Cisco’s big corporate customers.

If Cisco can increase the sales of low-margin $100 digital video cameras, then it can increase the sales of high-margin $1 million high-performance networking equipment.


  • Look at the customers of your customers: their behavior drives your customers’ demand
  • Examine how and why your customers use your product to support their own customers
  • Consider new or expanded applications that would boost your customers’ customers’ usage and thus boost demand for your product
  • Invest in technologies that directly increase that customers’ customers’ demand or that help support the demand.

2 Comments »Case study, Customers, Growth, How-to, Opportunity, Strategy

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