Innovation Article

Lawrence Lanahan’s picture

By: Lawrence Lanahan

Ryan Tillman-French sat at his seventh-floor desk early on a Thursday morning, the skyscrapers of downtown Boston crowding the windows behind him.

On a laptop in the nearly empty office, he worked on code for a web page he was developing for his employer, the learning materials company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. In half an hour, he needed to join a conference call about changes to the company’s website.

He had been at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for four months. Coding he liked. Meetings, not so much.

“That’s one thing I wasn’t warned about when it comes to the corporate world,” he said. “So many meetings.”


Ryan Tillman-French, a developer for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Boston. Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

Annet Aris’s picture

By: Annet Aris

Even tedious jobs like cleaning out archives can sometimes lead to great insights. Sifting through my old files recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find a treasure trove of old memories and forgotten facts. Among these papers were notebooks from my engineering studies; I realized that I no longer remembered the math formulas I had so diligently noted. The everyday pressures of business have blurred these lines.

There are, however, some basic concepts that have stood the test of time. Most are simple intuitive relationships such as extrapolated trend lines, the normal distribution curve, and scale effects that taper as volume increases.

For most of us, these stick in our heads and have been useful in an analogue world where goods were scarce and the cost of transactions significant. As business becomes digital, however, other rules and relationships apply. If the old curves and concepts are rooted too deeply, we run the risk of making the wrong decisions based on our default ideas.

Larry Hardesty’s picture

By: Larry Hardesty

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that can transcribe words that the user verbalizes internally but does not actually speak aloud.

The system consists of a wearable device and an associated computing system. Electrodes in the device pick up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalizations—saying words “in your head”—but are undetectable to the human eye. The signals are fed to a machine-learning system that has been trained to correlate particular signals with particular words.

The device also includes a pair of bone-conduction headphones, which transmit vibrations through the bones of the face to the inner ear. Because they don’t obstruct the ear canal, the headphones enable the system to convey information to the user without interrupting conversation or otherwise interfering with the user’s auditory experience.

Rick Gould’s default image

By: Rick Gould

Well over half the world’s population does not have access to safe sanitation. For many people, this means the indignity and risks that come of having no toilets. The answer, it seems, lies in new sustainable treatment plants. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the Gates Foundation have joined forces to show how clean toilets and standards can change people’s lives forever.

Matthew M. Lowe’s picture

By: Matthew M. Lowe

While most business sectors have welcomed the efficiencies and benefits that cloud technologies and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings bring, the life sciences industry has been slow to embrace external cloud networks. Merely a decade ago, in fact, an International Data Corp. survey showed that 75 percent of CIOs and IT executives in life sciences and healthcare fields surveyed said that security risks were their primary reason for opposing cloud technologies.

Cloud-averse attitudes are slow to change, and industry research shows that companies that manage health information continue to show major resistance to cloud technology.

David Dubois’s picture

By: David Dubois

Faced with a growing range of tech solutions in marketing, from AI to big data to blockchain, business-to-business (B2B) companies too often choose the status quo. Recent evidence suggests the divide between success and failure is not about how much companies spend, but how well they integrate technological solutions that create value.

In other words, a company’s digital investment does not necessarily translate into marketing return on investment (ROI). For that to happen the firm needs to build a digital marketing organization—data-driven marketing capabilities around the customer. 

Nicola Olivetti’s picture

By: Nicola Olivetti

According to a report by PwC, industrial sectors worldwide plan to invest $900 billion in Industry 4.0 each year. Despite these growing technology investments, only a few technologies are significantly mature to drive measurable quality impacts. Digital visual management (DVM) is one of them, being the fundamental link that bridges the lean culture and quality management in the digital age. 

What is digital visual management?

The vast majority of all the information and communication is visual. The human brain processes visual information significantly faster than text. When a relevant image is paired with audio material, two-thirds of people retain the information three days later.

Organizations dedicated to continuous improvement take advantage of this reality and use DVM to engage staff, provide insight into key information, and to ensure improvement projects are moving forward as scheduled.

Multiple Authors
By: Venkat Viswanathan, Shashank Sripad, William Fredericks

As electric cars and trucks appear increasingly on U.S. highways, it raises the question: When will commercially viable electric vehicles take to the skies? There are a number of ambitious efforts to build electric-powered airplanes, including regional jets and planes that can cover longer distances. Electrification is starting to enable a type of air travel that many have been hoping for, but haven’t seen yet: a flying car.

Matthew M. Lowe’s picture

By: Matthew M. Lowe

Despite the life science industry’s infatuation with modernity and trend chasing, even its most forward-thinking organizations have struggled to fully digitize and integrate their operations.

Yet, while the industry lags behind most other sectors in implementing business-streamlining digital technologies, many shrewd life science companies are working to close the digital gap so they can capitalize on the competitive advantages digitization affords.

Tara García Mathewson’s picture

By: Tara García Mathewson

Once students learn how to sound out words, reading is easy. They can speak the words they see. But whether they understand them is a different question entirely. Reading comprehension is complicated. Teachers, though, can help students learn concrete skills to become better readers. One way is by teaching them how to think as they read.

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