Thursday, December 19, 2013

Robert Reich on Inequality for all

Robert Reich continues to deliver some of the most lucid analysis of the economic development. In this funny and thought provoking speech in the Commonwealth club of California he discusses the theme of his recent film, Inequality for all.
You ought to hear it. 

CEO of GE Healthcare discusses the need for frugal innovation

The CEO of GE division for healthcare, John Dineen, gave a very interesting keynote speech at the recent World Innovation Summit for Healthcare in Qatar. You can see the videorecording at the WISH website.
Among his observations were that GE traditionally has focused on taking their devices to the next level technically. But now they need to be as concerned about bringing costs down and making their products accessable in emerging markets. The coming years will be about Quality, cost and access, Dineen said. He also said that GE needs to be both clinically and economically relevant.

An example of a lower cost product from GE is a new orthopaedic MR scanner, which only scans limbs, so patients are not completely inserted in the scanner. It’s much more compact, less intimidating to the patients, and the price is $500.000 – rather than $2 million for a full blown MR scanner.

Another example is the smartphone sized V-scan, a battery driven, handheld and extremely easy to operate scanner, which sells for around 8.000 euros. It’s sold to doctors that do house calls in Japan, as well as to midwives working in African villages.
John Dineen observed, that selling to emerging markets means that GE needs to change their business model from simply selling devices, to taking part in creating an entire local eco-system of trained personal, maintenance, electrical charging etc.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Mine or our? They are very different games

There is an important difference between mine and ours, when it comes to commitment and roles. It makes a big difference whether it's ”my” project or if its ”our” project – and exactly the same is true for a company or organization, for knowledge, for stuff and gadgets, and for profits ... Are you thinking in terms of ”me” or ”we”? They are different games, with different logics. And my argument would be that we are moving towards more of an ”Our” approach, ​​because it pays off better with the tools we have available, and because it works better with the challenges we must overcome these days. 
If it's ”your” project, well, that's what it is - then it's not mine, and it’s not any of a lot of other potential contributors’. That makes a difference, and we should be aware of its implications.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

SfG Newsletter: Consumer insights in emerging markets

How do you understand customers in places that are very different from your home-market? Brilliant companies like Toyota, MacDonalds and Danish fashion company IC-companies have failed to connect to the Chinese consumers, thinking that they could simply push the same products that were successfull in the West.

The latest newsletter from the ”Suitable for Growth” project at the Universe Foundation focuses on how to collect market insights in emerging markets, for instance by using ethnographic observations and organizing insights in ”Customer journey maps”.

It also offers lots of entertaining examples of cultural quirks and surprises collected in China. And it features a rare insight into how Haier, the Chinese white goods manfuacturer, uses customer understanding as its core competitive advantage.

It's obvious - if you can see it


Jan Chipchase is probably the worlds leading consumer anthropologist. He has spent decades travelling the world doing consumer research for companies like Nokia, diving deep into local cultures, following consumers in their homes and at work.

In his book ”Hidden in plain sight”, Chipchase presents his methods and how companies use his observations to win customers, even in the most foreign markets and cultures.

His website is a wonderful and ever-changing collection of his snapshots and observation from criss crossing the world – China, Libya, Japan, Afghanistan... -   in search of insights that can lead to better products.

It’s obvious: If you want to create suitable products, you need to know your customers well.

Jan Chipchase is probably the worlds leading consumer anthropologist. He has spent decades travelling the world doing consumer research for companies like Nokia, diving deep into local cultures, following consumers in their homes and at work. Today he is head of consumer insight at Frog, a leading American design company.

In his new book ”Hidden in plain sight”, Chipchase presents his methods and how companies use his observations to win customers, even in the most foreign markets and cultures.

The inspiration that Jan Chipchase collects is anything but linear and direct. Seeing a child by the roadside in Ho Chi Minh City selling gasoline to scooter drivers from a large bottle placed on a stack of bricks, and using a simple plastic hose to fill the scooters’ fuel tank, Chipchase realizes that this is the absolute minimum of what a gas station can be.

He uses the observation to start thinking about what a gas station would be like if it didn’t even sell gasoline. In an age of electrical cars, which can charged when people park at home or at their job, what services remain for the gas stations to deliver: bathrooms, food, car service, picking up parcels? How do gas stations make a difference when the gas is gone?

Building trust

Noticing that in some places, consumers making a cup of tea will sniff the milk before they pour it into the cup, Chipchase starts wondering about the many ways that companies need to build trust in their brand by allowing users to ”sniff the milk” before they buy.

How to signal trust, reliability, status varies tremendously between cultures – and understanding how to meet the locate requirements and style of communicating quality is crucial – for instance, if you are selling milk, chicken or beer in China.

A Chinese example of building trust is the use of carpet mats in elevators, and seat coverings in taxis with the current day of the week printed on them – a way to show customers that this is a clean place.

One reason why Ebay has failed, but Taobao has succeeded in China, is that Taobao allows customers to put the payment into an escrow account at Taobao. Sellers know that the money has been deposited, but it will only be released, when the customer has received the goods and is satisfied with them.

No-one wants to be seen as disabled

A particularly interesting case, which Chipchase describes in his book, is the process, Nokia went through when it considered whether to create a handset specifically suited for illiterate users in developing countries.

Nokia has a very strong brand in developing and emerging markets. Of the more than a quarter of a billion phones it sells annually, a large part are the simplest and cheapest model, and millions of them are sold to people who are illiterate.

Chipchase and his colleagues did extensive research into how illiterate people use phones and services such as texting or receiving information. They realized that illiterates do not want to carry a phone, which clearly signals that they have no education. People have invented all sorts of work-arounds that allow them to use the phone despite not knowing letters and numbers, so for them, the most important factor was that the phone is cheap and reliable.

The surprising conclusion for Nokia was, that it would be better to continue selling one, really cheap phone, rather than developing and marketing a new model, which would inevitably be more expensive.

Therefore, Nokia decided to focus its efforts on designing little changes to the general interface that could help the illiterate.

Go out and live with people

A lot of Chipchase’s work has been helping Western companies understand what consumers in the emerging markets become willing to pay for as their buying power increases.

He repeatedly emphasizes that ”low-income people are in fact some of the worlds toughest customers. Because they have to make every rupee count, they can least afford to buy poorly designed products”.

”Hidden in plain sight” is also a bit of a manual. Chipchase describes how he and his teams start their scouting in a new location by finding local helpers – ”fixers” – often students, who can take them for tours, explain local quirks and set up meetings in private homes and companies.

Rather than staying at a hotel, Chipchase prefers renting a house for the whole team to live in, and he recommends renting bikes, to get a closer feel for the city’s flow and life. He likes to wake up early to observe the city coming to life; unfolding the functions, rituals and habits of everyday life.

Barbershops are one of the places he visits to get into conversations that go deeper than an outside observation. He confesses, that he has managed to take a shave twice in a day, just to meet more people.

It’s all about looking at the world with a systematically open and curious mind: Visiting people in their homes, sneaking a peek in their refrigerator and bathroom, joining them on their commute to work, studying what they carry in their pockets and bags, and asking why they carry it.  Weeks of observations lead to a better sense of how people consume, in order to make their lives more convenient and maintain the social status they strive to express: whether it be through the use of mobile phones, banking services or deodorant and toothpaste.

In Bangkok, Chipchase found a shop selling false braces for teeth. The cheap braces obviously were not working, but they were worn by people who wanted to signal that they had the means to have their teeth straightened.

Find a problem and fix it

It becomes clear from the many examples in the book how blockbuster products and service have emerged, because someone realized, that there was an everyday problem, which could be fixed – but which, as the title of the book has it, had been hidden in plain sight.

A simple insight into how users behave allows designers to come up with improvements – big or small: Google understood that we often forget to attach files when we mail others, so in Gmail, if you use the word ”attach” in your message, and you don’t attach a file, the system will ask if you want to attach a file, before sending.

What’s suitable for customers is not always obvious, there is any number of ever-changing  dimensions and variables to consider and weigh against each other. Jan Chipchase’s book will give readers a good introduction to some methods that can business choose with more precision.

Chipchase'sblog, future perfect, is a treasure trove of funny and thought provoking observations from around the world.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Syret tænkt, smukt udført

Vores lokale kunstgalleri i Svendborg, SAK, har en ny udstilling med en stribe af de gamle rock-musikere, som har kastet sig over billedkunst på deres gamle dage: Troels Trier, Erik Clausen, Franz Beckerlee etc. Det er ganske finurligt, men når det kommer til virkelig at kunne tegne, så rager Ole Fick langt over resten. Det er både mesterligt udført - og temmelig syret tænkt. Check hans website. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Glassholes and drones

Drones and Google glasses may be a lot of fun for the person controlling them, but for everybody else they are likely to be a nuissance. 
They are technologies whose use obviously affects others. Being allowed to use them at a given location is not just a matter of individual freedom, since using them affects the freedom of others not to feel spied on, or not being disturbed by the buzzing overhead. 
It will be interesting to see how it plays out. How will we enforce drone or glass – free zones?

Monday, September 02, 2013

Fake goods galore

Wonderful set of photos from a high-end shopping mall in Shenyang, China - with Fake brand names: Starbocks, Cnanel, Herwes, Cairter etc.

Newsletter on Chinese mid-market; Relations between HQ and subsidiary

To what extent should the subsidiary in China be allowed to act differently than the mother-company in Denmark? It’s a delicate balance: The Danish headquarter needs consistency and
coordination among its divisions – but the subsidiary in China needs freedom and resources to pursue opportunities in a rapidly changing market.
The latest newsletter from the Suitable for Growth project at the Universe Foundation focuses on how to manage that balance.

Friday, August 23, 2013

No growth for them: 40% of Britons are falling behind

The Economist published an informative article, describing how any economic recovery so far has only benefited the wealthy. Wages have barely risen since 2000, but living costs are 35% higher.
52% of Britons are struggling to keep up with the bills. 
Makes you wonder how far the polarization of income will go, before the trend reverses?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Frugal solutions presention at AOM 2013 in Orlando

I presented the frugal solutions project at the Academy of Management annual conference in Orlando. The presentation focused on why frugal innovation is highly relevant for Western markets.
You can see the slides and listen to the 15 minute presentation here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

5 days at Disney's

Just got back after spending 5 days at a conference held on the Disney property in Orlando Florida, right next to Disney World, Animal Kingdom and the other theme parks.

Frankly, I didn’t connect. There’s a certain perfection to Disney that is impressive. It’s clean, well maintained, the whole thing is planned at an absolutely audacious scale.

But… it’s hard not to pick up a darker tone underneath the perfectly staged setting. Once you are on the property, Disney has absolute monopoly. They run everything: All the hotels, all the restaurant, all the shops, the busses... You will eat the food they have put on the menu. You will pay the prices they charge. You will wait in their lines.

There’s an obsession with safety. The signs warn you about dangers you never considered. When you check in it feels a bit like signing a contract, there’s all kinds of disclaimers that you must sign off on.

My favorite example was on the little note pads in the conference rooms. At the bottom of every page there would be a safety advice:
For your safety, watch your step, do not walk and text! 
– or: For your safety, please locate the nearest exit. 
Or: For your safety, please be aware of your surroundings. 

Basically, at Disney's, we’re reduced to infants. We are told to follow the rule, to take care, and we are given the role of an absolutely passive consumer: There’s nothing to add – everything has been planned for us, already. Just relax.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Nudging / manipulation

Nudging is about presenting choices in a way that makes people do what you want them to – while still leaving them with the freedom to choose for themselves.
One way of nudging is setting the default, you present people with options, but one of them has been pre-chosen. Most of us will simply accept the default.

This has been used to make school kids make more healthy choices in canteens – but the same mechanism can obviously also be used to make consumers spend more than they would otherwise. 

Here’s an example, from Disney in Orlando. It’s always a bit of a hassle to calculate tips in the US, but this restaurant helps you by calculating the amount for you. They have two suggestions: 18% and 20%. All you need to do is fill in the amount.
…But what happened to 15%? As long as I can remember, 15% was the norm. Now, if you want to pay 15% you are not normal, in fact it really sticks out that you are trying to go against a norm that you have been presented with.
Personally, I get really stubborn when I sense that I’m being manipulated. It’s no longer a friendly transaction, when you sense that the other party is trying to trick you.
They got 15%.

New kid on the block

There’s a new newspaper in some of the vending boxes on street corners in New York, The China daily – the largest english language Chinese paper.

It’s a slim, slick, well produced paper. A bit sterile, but not bad, really. In many ways similar to USA Today. 
The price is 25 cents – compared to USA Today which sells at a dollar.

Clearly, they are not there to make money.
A similar effort towards presence in New York is Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, which has rented one of the most visible spaces on Time Square. It most cost a fortune, but they haven’t invested much in producing some content that can stand out amidst the blizzard of great ads around it. They show a stale orange square with letters.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Datsun - the un-Nano

Nissan has launched their low cost car made for India and other emerging markets using the old Datsun brand. It's an entry level car, but the positioning is not about getting a cheap car. 
There's not a word about low prices. Instead its about "the risers".

Quote from the Datsun website: 
"The return of Datsun didn't start with what cars to launch, but with the people, the Risers. Young Risers in high-growth markets who are ahead of the curve. Waiting for that one chance that will propel his career and future. For the young risers, mobility is both physical and social access to opportunities."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bottom-up tweaking – or top-down defeaturing?

Here is an article from the most recent newsletter of the Suitable for Growth project at the Universe Foundation. You can read the rest of the newsletter here. 

Is it possible to defeature a product created for a developed world market – a top-down approach – or should you start bottom up? Or put in another way: Is it in fact possible to change a high-end product solution to a mid-market product solution?
This is a critical question when a Danish company sets out to target the Chinese mid-market.

Western companies are trying to lower their prices in order to compete in the Chinese mid-market. Chinese companies are trying to raise the quality of their products to compete with imported brands. The prices and quality of Western and Chinese products are converging – but they arrived at the same level from different directions.

A western company that wishes to adapt or change its existing product to make it better suited for a lower cost market – in emerging markets or in the West – often finds this difficult, painful and not sufficient to lower prices substantially.

“Transplanting” a western product 1:1 for production in China can give some savings due to lower cost of manual labor, etc., but often not enough to compete in the local mid-market.

Defeaturing the product by removing specific nice-to-have features and functionalities can bring down costs further, but likely still not enough for the product to become competitive in the Chinese mid-market, where prices are typically 50% lower than in the high-end segment.

One reason could be that the original product and the entire value chain, which surrounds it, are ”native” high end. The functionality, the quality, the supply chain, the marketing, and the development efforts are all rooted in the Western culture and economy, and the various elements have been optimized as a system for this context.

Individual elements may not be easily removed, and even if they are, the result may not affect costs substantially.

What’s really needed is a radical re-engineering of the product and the processes to eliminate the things that don’t add value, while keeping or even adding functionalities and features that customers are willing to pay for.

However, such radical cost innovation can be rather difficult to execute on its own for a Danish SME, as it can be costly and it also challenges the organizational mindset and culture.

Starting from bottom instead

Re-designing an existing product, which was originally developed for the Western market and for manufacturing in the West can be described as a “top-down” product development – and as described, this approach tends to be both difficult and insuffiicient for reaching the Chinese mid-market.

Instead, companies might consider using a “bottom up” approach – as one of the participants in the SfG project did.

They found a local manufacturer, which had developed a solution for matching a certain set of functions and a level of quality, which could be suitable for the particular low-end customers that the company was trying to target.

Then the company added a number of tweaks that raised the functionality to a level where the product had positive differences compared to competitors, and which added a certain feel and functionality that lifted it beyond being merely ”good enough” to a level where the company felt comfortable lending their name to it.

This allowed them to offer a new line of products at 50% of the price of their high-end products.

One could call this approach ”tweaking from the bottom”.  It offers some interesting potential advantages over a ”defeaturing from the top” strategy.

Just like a product developed in the West is ”native” high-end, a Chinese product will be ”native” low cost, in the sense that the way it was developed, the components used and the manufacturing process is grounded in Chinese circumstances. Likewise, the features it offers and its level of quality are based on the local producers’ knowledge of the market.

The bottom up approach makes full use of this local knowledge.

Doing what you are best at

One of the greatest obstacles to the top-down defeaturing is culture.

Western engineers may not have the inclination to take away features and essentially making a great product less great. Also, they don’t likely have the insights to prioritize on behalf of customers in a low-cost market.

In contrast, the bottom-up tweaking approach gives the Western engineers a chance to do what they are best at: developing solutions that are better. By tweaking something that is not quite up to Western standard and adding a few selected touches make a real difference.

For an SME company, it is demanding and risky to develop a completely new solution that is radical enough to create the cost reductions that are needed to compete in the Chinese mid-market. Indeed, radical innovation is in itself a very western and high-end approach, compared to the incremental, market driven way, Chinese companies typically use.

By starting from an existing, locally developed solution, the investment in innovation from the SME is limited to the tweaking of the product – and for this, the company can typically draw on knowledge from its high-end products.

This also indicates that as markets, production and development become more globalized, Danish engineers and designers could find an important role – and employment - specifically focusing on tweaking and improving low-cost designs to lift them beyond being merely “good enough”..  

5 approaches to cost reduction

1)      Local production in China: Manufacturing of the same product 1:1. cost reduction mainly achieved through reduction in labor costs, transportation costs and import tax

2)      Defeaturing: Removing nice-to-have features and functionality. Costs reduction achieved through lower product (material) and process costs.

3)      Cost innovation: Re-engineering the product and processes. More fundamental changes of product and manufacturing processes adapted to the local situation. Costs reduction achieved through lower product (material) and process costs.

4)      Radical innovation: Start from scratch. Clean slate development of new product, based on deep knowledge and insights into customers need and local manufacturing processes and competences.

5)        Tweaking bottom up. Building on the inherent low cost of a Chinese designed product, and adding value by tweaking up some features to make the product stand out in the market.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fremtidens innovation: fra Dubai eller Mumbai?

Kontrasten kan dårligt blive større. At tage fra mylderet i Mumbai’s største slumkvarter Dharavi til de funklende skyskrabere og endeløse shoppingcentre i Dubai er som at bevæge sig til en helt anden virkelighed – men der er under to en halv times flyvning.

Jeg prøvede turen for nylig. Som sidste punkt på programmet af nogle ugers research i Indien, hyrede jeg en lokal guide til at tage mig på en lang vandretur rundt i Dharavi slummen. Der bor over en million mennesker på under to kvadratkilometer. Der er mangel på vand, på toiletter, på plads – der er i det hele taget mangel. I nogle kvarterer bor folk ubegribeligt tæt, man dykker ind i en labyrint af mørke gyder, hvor man kun akkurat kan passere hinanden, med en åben rende af spildevand i midten mellem blikskure i tre etager. Det er ikke for de klaustrofobiske. 

Fra Dharavi slummen tog jeg direkte til Mumbais lufthavn og fløj til Dubai. Og vupti, så skifter logikken unægteligt.

I Dubai er der rigeligt af alt: penge, biler, luksus. Alt er nyt, rent, skinnende. Man må lige sunde sig lidt over hvor forskellig verden kan være, når man står udenfor det enorme shoppingcenter Mall of Dubai og kigger henover en kæmpe kunstig sø, op på det sølvskinnende Burj Khalifa, der med sine 828 meter er verdens højeste bygning.

Årsagen til at jeg var taget til Indien, var at jeg arbejder på et projekt med titlen “Nøjsommme Løsninger”. Ideen er at finde eksempler på virksomheder, der forstår at udvikle produkter, der passer godt til deres kunders behov, men som koster langt mindre end vi er vant til.
Efterspørgslen efter billige produkter, der kan opfylde dagligdagens behov, er enorm i den voksende middelklasse i udviklingslandenes storbyer – og indtil videre har danske virksomheder haft meget svært ved at tilbyde noget til priser, der er lave nok til at være bredt tilgængelige.

Jeg var i Indien for at undersøge nærmere, hvordan indiske virksomheder udvikler den type “nøjsomme” løsninger, som eksempelvis Tata Nano, verdens billigste bil, eller de private hospitalskæder, der kan tilbyde hjerteoperationer for 2.000 dollars.

Der er en særlig indisk opfindsomhed, som ofte kaldes “jugaad”. Den er drevet af mangel, og den fører til løsninger, der får løst et behov med et absolut minimum af ressourcer.

Det er en form for innovation, der udmærker sig ved at gøre livet lettere og behageligere for masser af mennesker, der kun netop er kommet ud af fattigdommen, og nu får mulighed for at opleve lidt af forbrugersamfundets goder.

Når metoderne bag nøjsomme løsninger er interessante at forstå for danske virksomheder, er det fordi lave priser er en forudsætning, hvis vi skal kunne eksportere i stor skala til de markeder, hvor der i disse år er allermest gang i væksten. Men nøjsomme løsninger kan også vise sig at være et krav fra de stadigt flere, stadig mere økonomisk trængte forbrugere herhjemme og i vores nabolande. Arbejdsløshed, faldende realløn og truende gæld får forbrugerne til at vælge de billigste varer – og de kommer sjældent fra Danmark. Derimod vil de i stigende grad blive tilbudt af nye globale producenter fra Kina og Indien. Om få år vil vestens forbrugere formentlig være langt bedre bekendte med varemærker som Haier, Huawei, Tata og Godrej, hvis produkter er udviklet til at konkurrere under helt andre prisforhold end her.

Forskellen mellem forbruget i Mumbai og Dubai viser med fuldkommen tydelighed, hvordan opfindsomheden er helt anderledes, når man skal udvikle nøjsomme løsninger. 

Både i Mumbai og i Dubai er der en vældig foretagsomhed. I Dharavis slum sidder folk ikke og hænger. Der er ingen tiggere, alle lader til at have travlt med at arbejde – om end det arbejde så er ekstremt beskidt, usundt og dårligt lønnet. Alt genbruges og repareres, husene (eller skurene er det vel snarere) er som fuglereder, bygget af forhåndenværende materialer, med improviserede løsninger fra døre til lamper og satellitantenner.

Folk kæmper for at få adgang til goder, som vi i Vesten, ser som fuldstændigt grundlæggende, og hvis nogen kan levere det til en tilstrækkelig lav pris, er der et kæmpe uopfyldt behov at forsyne.

For virksomheder handler det om at sælge med meget lille fortjeneste på den enkelte vare – til gengæld kan man sælge til millioner og atter millioner af stræbsomme forbrugere. 


I Dubai er det lige omvendt: Her har folk rigeligt i forvejen. I de overdådige butikker og shopping malls handler det om overbevise folk om at de skal udskifte det, de allerede har, med nye modeller, i et flottere design og med endnu flere fancy funktioner.

Der er godt at sige om begge typer innovation. Dubai-modellen fører videre i retning af det ypperste og mest forfinede i alle detaljer: Mod højere kvalitet i udførelsen, bedre materialer, avanceret teknologi, større bekvemmelighed – og funktioner, man ikke anede, at man kunne have brug for.

Det er en form for udvikling, der ligger godt til den danske industri: Design, højt vidensindhold, banebrydende teknologi, og høje priser, der kan retfærdiggøre vores høje lønninger. I mange tilfælde er det produkter, hvor selve det funktionelle er underordnet: Det er en selvfølgelighed, at produktet virker godt. I stedet konkurrerer man om kunderne igennem de drømme, som produktet repræsenterer. Man sælger status, historier, og oplevelser til kunder, der forlængst har fået stort set alt i adskillige eksemplarer.

I Mumbai handler det om at skabe løsninger, der billigt og effektivt løser et konkret, grundlæggende behov, hvad enten det er transport, bolig, tøjvask eller sundhed. Det må selvfølgelig også gerne se smart ud og være nemt at bruge - men det skal først og fremmest være billigt.

Kort sagt: I Dubai er udviklingen drevet af rigelighed, I Mumbai er det knaphed, der former løsningerne.
Spørgsmålet er selvfølgelig, hvilken form for løsninger, der bliver mest behov fremover? Hvad skal vi leve af at levere?

Svaret er vel: Begge dele. Men pointen er, at vi i øjeblikket kun er gode til Dubai-typen af løsninger. Vi er gode til det eksklusive, niche-prægede, det holdbare og smukke. Men det er ikke nok, for det er ikke dér, væksten og dynamikken ligger idag. Vi kan ikke i længden leve af at sælge til de øverste få procent af markedet, og vi kan ikke opnå tilstrækkelig omsætning til at finansiere den udvikling, der er brug for, hvis vi skal kunne konkurrere med alle de nye og hastigt voksende global spillere på verdensmarkedet.

Danmarks industri er nødt til at forny sin relevans, og derfor er udfordringen at lære at tænke anderledes på hvad kvalitet og innovation vil sige. Det nytter ikke, hvis den eneste form for kvalitet, vi kan skabe, er så dyr, at vi dårligt nok selv har råd til den.

Danske virksomheder får det svært, hvis vi ikke evner at tilbyde løsninger til den globale middelklasse i udviklingslandene. I praksis svarer det til at ignorere over en milliard forbrugere, hvis indkomst vokser med 5-10% årligt.

I vores nabolag viser Eurostats seneste opgørelse, at 120 millioner mennesker i EU lever under fattigdomsgrænsen. Om man opfatter dem som reelt fattige eller ej, så er det afgørende, at en meget stor og desværre voksende del af Europas forbrugere er hårdt klemt økonomisk. De køber nok ikke varer fra Dubai-segmentet.

Derfor: Hvis vi er så dygtige i Danmark, kunne vi så ikke udvikle løsninger på dagligdagens behov, der er smukke, som fungerer godt, er nemme at bruge, billige i drift, miljøvenlige, genanvendelige – og til at betale?

Det er hårde krav, beklager, men det er det, der skal til. Det kræver, at vi begynder at tænke anderledes: At vi fokuserer mere på hvad kunden er nødt til at have, snarere end hvad der kunne være rart at have. At vi lærer at forenkle. At vi bruger masser af computerkraft og data til at spare på råmaterialer og energi. At vi er gode til at udnytte viden udefra, så vi ikke selv skal opfinde alting. At vi begynder at inddrage brugerne i at skabe noget af værdien…

Måske kan vi lære noget af opfindsomheden i Dharavi? Ellers bliver der ihvertfald ikke råd til at tage Dubai fremover, hvis det er det, vi vil. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stronger government at lower cost

Government is facing two, almost conflicting, demands in the future:
We need a stronger public sector, but at a lower cost
We need more effective governance, also at a lower cost

Monday, July 08, 2013

Smarter innovation project at the Universe Foundation

At the Universe Foundation, where I work, we are just starting up a new project in collaboration with the Danish Industrial Foundation – it’s called SMART.
The idea is to assist and follow a handful of Danish 5 medium sized companies as they try to lower their costs and prices in order to adapt to an increasing pressure on prices in the European market.
What’s important is that the reduction in cost should not cause a reduction in utility and satsifaction for the end-user. Ideally, we are looking for ways to increase the experience quality in new wasy that do not add cost.
From our research over the past year with “suitable” innovation in Shanghai and with “frugal solutions” in India and in the West, we have learned that it’s very hard for companies to move downwards in prices – particularly for established companies, that are operating in the main export markets in Europe, where price used to be less of an issue.
We are trying hard to lower the threshold for the companies to get started, so were are specifically not attempting radical innovation, but rather applying a systematic, incremental approach of understanding customers needs exactly and modifying products to deliver just the utility and quality that really matters to end-users.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Google Art: poetry generator

Another example of art based on Google: Google poetics. 
Very simple idea, it's a collection of "poems" that have showed up when Google made a list of suggestions to automatically complete a search. The phrases that Google suggest are based on the most common queries, so in that sense the poem reflects the interest of all we Google users.
Mesmerizing stuff. Open for contributions.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Too cheap: booking a Ryanair ticket

I just ordered a ticket with Ryanair and the main impression that I came away with was one of feeling almost unclean, after dealing with someone a bit too sleazy for comfort. I acknowledge that they have been pioneers in changing the level of prices for air travel – but to me they are pushing it too far now. I’m glad I’m not an employee there, but even as a customer, you get a sense that they are trying to trick you.
The moment I enter the website, I am on alert, because I know that unless I move very carefully, I will either spend more money than I thought I would – or I will waste a lot of time, before finally quitting in frustration and protest.

The first thing I want to know is whether they have a departure that fits my plans. But in order to search for flights, I have to declare that I have read and accepted the conditions. I don’t have the patience for that, so I accept – with a slight unease: what am I accepting that they do with the information about me?


The design of the website is explicitly cheap, Typography and colors are LOUD, pop up windows appear, ads for all sorts of additional stuff is everywhere – they’re even selling ad-space for competing airlines. 
The box that asks for permission to keep spamming me with offers has a intriguing backwards phrasing:


Obviously they are very eager to sell additional services – like insurance:

Not only does this big and loud sales pitch come up, but for every extra item they offer – airtime for phoning (…), sightseeing tours, luggage – you must specifically click no or scroll all the way down to the ”not interested” option. 

It goes on for several screens, including one for rental cars, and finally one for some sort of lottery - which you must also explicity reject:


Finally you get your total price – I noticed an extra charge for paying with my credit card, of course.

Then they send you a confirmation and itinerary. Again, filled with colorful ads for extra service. For me as a customer, I would like a simple document, that didn’t force me to spend precious color ink on printing ads for stuff I don’t need.

So, now I’m ready. I just have to remember, that when I check in from home, I must print out the boarding card. Otherwise Ryan air will charge me 70 pounds to print one!

It’s the only departure that fits my schedule for this travel. And it’s cheap – but maybe a bit too cheap.