Thursday, 22 December 2011

How do you keep airport scanner operators alert?

"Every TSA X-ray machine has a Threat Image Projection system, which digitally inserts images of guns, knives and bombs into the X-rays of luggage, to keep screeners alert. This system library contains "tens of thousands" of images, said TSA spokesman Christopher White.

"If screeners observe a suspicious object, they can check with the simple click of a computer mouse. If they detect a threat object, the computer congratulates them. Successes and failures are recorded for use in a screener's performance evaluation and are factors in determining pay."


Tuesday, 20 December 2011


Two agencies with a clear articulation of their proposition and USP on their site. Software developers Red Badger:

Media/online agency Kinda Sorta Media:

They say:
"We think many of the best people in the business have left their jobs at agencies or media companies to become hired guns or consultants. KSM is a collection of these people."

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Sony Playstation - invented in a skunkworks

This might be a useful example of a skunkworks. Investigate more if needed.

"When a strategic alliance with Nintendo collapsed, so did Sony's desire to enter computer games. But Kutaragi, the leader on the project, refused to give up. Against considerable internal opposition he set up a splinter cell within Sony, and in these hostile conditions eventually developed the console that persuaded the company to launch the PlayStation in 1994. PlayStation now generates almost 60% of Sony's operating profit."

Source: Adam Morgan's (EatBigFish) article at

Friday, 16 December 2011

Fly Virgin Atlantic

Chris Moss, then marketing director of Virgin Atlantic, wanted to put 'Fly Virgin Atlantic' across the front of the team strip of Crystal Palace football club, which the company sponsored. He was told that only the name of the company could appear on the shirts. So he registered a company called Fly Virgin Atlantic Ltd.

Source: Adam Morgan's (EatBigFish) article at

Monday, 5 December 2011

Signage in Sainsbury's

Sainsbury's 'milestone' store in Welwyn Garden City finally has signs that show they understand that people navigate through colour-shape and looking for known products to find a category.

Photo source: Retail Week

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Google - The Fastest Shade of Blue

Google tested 40 shades of blue for the links on their search results.

One shade led to people clicking on links a fraction of a second faster. Over millions of searches that adds up – faster for users, better for Google.

They’ve found that a 1/10th or a second, or even a 1/100th of a second faster makes a difference to users – resulting in them being happier, and coming back more frequently to search.

Source: Lecture by Matt Brittin, Vice President of Google for Northern and Central Europe, Imperial College, Nov 2011. Video here.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Hotel towel re-use

Noah Goldstein, UCLA assistant professor of HR and organised behaviour, headed up a 2010 study on how to encourage towel reuse among hotel guests. In one experiment, two different signs were tested in rooms.:
  • 1st sign had an appeal saying that towel reuse is good for the environment; 35% of guest complied.
  • 2nd sign added a social cue: "Almost 75% of guests who are asked to participate... do help by using their towel more than once." 44% compliance.
Source: Wired (UK) Aug 2011

Mints & tips in restaurants

If a waiter leaves a mint on the tray with the bill, his tips rise by 3.3%. If he leaves to mints, they rise by 14%.

Robert Cialdini, author of Influence, quoted in Wired (UK) Aug 2011

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Plastic Bottle House

Remarkable house made from plastic bottles filled with sands.


Friday, 28 October 2011

Elephants exercise

  • When are we at our best?
  • What gets in the way?
  • What are we going to do?

Amazon Locker

Amazon's lockers are now available in 7-Eleven's in Seattle, and being rolled out in London shopping centres thanks to a deal with Land Securities.

Apparently Amazon also had a short-lived foray into pick-up stations for Amazon Fresh, its Seattle grocery service, before moving to a focus on home deliveries.


WePay - group payments

WePay is currently offering groups a way to manage their money in the US. You can get a debit card for the account, and send cheques.

Others have failed in this space, will be interesting to see if this succeeds.


Thursday, 27 October 2011

House of Fraser - buy and collect store

House of Fraser have just opened a shop in Aberdeen's Union Square. It has no stock, and will probably used primarily for click-and-collect.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Spitfire - a long shot that paid off

The British Air Ministry funded the Spitfire prototype, for about the price of a house in London, as "a most interesting experiment".

Source: Tim Harford in Wired (UK), July 2011

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Ideas from Employees

Ideas from employees tend to be more innovative than those from management.

Richer Sounds have 20 ideas per employee per year.
Toyota Lexus have 100 ideas per employee per year.

Source: Online PPT here by Alan G. Robinson from University of Massachusetts. Sadly doesn't give his sources.

BBH Beliefs

  1. The power of creativity and the primacy of ideas.
  2. Encouraging ideas from any source.
  3. The right of everyone to be listened to.
  4. The fundamental importance of effectiveness and accountability.
  5. Processes that liberate creativity.
  6. Client relationships that encourage equal status, allowing best advise.
  7. An organisation without politics.
  8. Providing opportunity, stimulation and consideration to all who work with us.
  9. The need for honesty, decency and integrity in all that we do.
  10. The obligations these beliefs place upon us.
Photo on Flickr here.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Best Food Shopping & Eating Markets

  • The English Market - Cork, Ireland
  • Faneuil Hall - Boston, USA
  • Queen Victoria Hall - Melbourne
  • Borough Market - London

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Brand story: Vitsoe shelving

Lovely video giving a bit of the brand story of Vitsoe shelving, showing behind the scenes in their London workshop. The film is called 'Definitely No Robots'.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Netflix splits streaming & DVD rental

Netflix raised its prices, which lost it 1m users. The next month their CEO apologised for the poor communication around this, and also announced the split of streaming and DVD rental businesses.

The aim is to let each business have more focus, with a return to marketing of the DVD rental business and an ability for streaming to expand globally and without the constraints of compatibility with DVD rentals. Many user comments on the DVD blog post disagree, but the CEO argues that more companies fail from moving too slowly and trying not to harm their existing businesses as they grow, than fail from moving too fast.

Will be interesting to see what happens.

Original Netflix blog post: here
"1m people unsubcribed" source: Lifehacker

Next Home & Garden Shop, Shoreham

Next have opened a large out of town shop near Shoreham, covering Home and Garden. Supposed to be good.

Looks like Habitat meets Homebase.


Friday, 9 September 2011

Goldsmith's Jewellery Vending Machine

Goldsmith's in Westfield Stratford Goldsmith’s boutique will include Autonomous Retailing Machines – vending machines that allow customers to purchase products out of operating hours.

Interesting to see how that works out.

Milk vending machine

In August 2011 a milk vending machine was installed in Gosforth by dairy farmer Richard Mawson. Interesting to check back and see if it works out and is still there in a year.

Monday, 5 September 2011

HSBC Cash Machine Phone Kiosks

Source: scousevulture~ re-inspired on Flickr, all copyrights acknowledged

Ariel 'Fashion Shoot'

Aerial put a ketchup-firing robotic arm in a Scandinavian train station. Controlling the arm via a Facebook app, you could shoot at a moving selection of white clothing. Hit the clothes and it is washed in Ariel and sent to you as a prize.


Sunday, 4 September 2011

Fastest Way to Board An Airplane

Dr Jason Steffen, a physicist by trade, did a computer simulation and then a simulation with real people and a full size test plane to find the fastest way to board passengers. The principles are that people should board from window seat first, then middle, then aisle. And also that alternate aisles should be filled.

Brief Economist article:

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Edison's Concrete Piano

Not all Edison's ideas were successes - as owner of the Portland Cement Company he tried making affordable concrete pianos (he was mostly deaf) and concrete furniture. Neither were entirely successful.

Source: The Week's extract from Pigeon-Guided Missiles by James Moore and Paul Nero

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Curry's and PC World 'Black' Concept Store

Curry's and PC World have a new 'Black' concept shop in Birmingham. Products are supposed to meet high style and technical standards to earn a place in store.

Eco DIY shops - Green Depot (USA) and Kbane (France)

Green Depot in the US and Kbane in France are both interesting eco building shops. Kbane is owned by Group Adeo, giant owners of Leroy Merlin etc.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Hospital Food Around the World

Strangely compelling photos:

Pricing Strategies

  • Cost plus pricing - costs for goods plus a mark-up
  • Value pricing - based on what customer are prepared to pay
  • Every day low pricing (EDLP)
  • High-low pricing - price high then discount it. E.g. Pizza Express have higher prices and constant 2 for 1 coupons available.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Imagineering Profit - SME financial info

Imagineering Profit lets small businesses upload info and get useful stats.

Source: Brett King

mPesa - mobile payments

mPesa grew to 13m customers in 4 years. They now move more money in a month than goes through Western Union in a year. They are bigger than all the banks in Kenya.

Source: Brett King

Square - take credit cards on iPhone

Square lets you accept credit cards with an iPhone. It's much quicker and easier for businesses than opening a merchant account. PoS terminal producer Verifone tried to undermine Square, arguing it's not secure. Visa saw the way things were going and invested in Square.

Source: Brett King

Monday, 15 August 2011

Salvaged timber office

Cool idea using reclaimed timber.

Source: GQ, 2011-08

Pizza Express in supermarkets

Pizza Express now sell as many pizzas in supermarkets as they do in restaurants, according to parent company Gondola Holdings.

Source: Gondola Holdings annual report 2010, here

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Beer towers at your table

In Singapore you can order a communal round of beer in a chilled tower dispenser instead of a jug.

Fizzy Fruit

A company found a way to carbonate fruit. They've been going for a few years, so it can't be a total flop.

Keep your bottle at the bar

In Asia, it's common to buy a bottle of spirits and store it at the bar.

Could be an interesting customer experience ideas for other areas?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

H&M Homewares Magnet

H&M in Helsinki use an Argos-style system for their soft furnishings etc. You pick up a small magnetic card with a picture of the product on and take it to the checkout.

Source: Madeline Temple,

Peer-to-Peer Lending and Borrowing

A few interesting services:
  • - lend or borrow anything
  • - currently focused on DVDs, and particularly borrowing from friends
  • - 'Give away books. Get books back.'
There's also some publicity for, which seems to have closed down.

JC Penney's Foundry Big and Tall Stores

US retailer JC Penney is entering the big and tall market with a store called Foundry. Rather cleverly they're modeled on a micro-brewery look and will feature big screen televisions and a poker table.

Photo source: (c) MyRetailMedia on Flickr here.

Tesco Cars, which is a re-brand of sells used cars sourced from fleets. You reserve a car for £99, and can then view an RAC report before buying.


Nevasic App

Apparently stops you feeling sick using audio:

Made by a friend of Andrew Hearn an 2020.

CB2 SnapShop App

You can take position items of furniture over a photo of your house, to see if it looks good.


Monday, 8 August 2011

Ample Sample - carpet sample re-use ideas is a competition to find uses for old carpet samples.

(Website was having some probs at last visit).

Pop-Up Furniture

Nomad's Mio is a clever idea for building room dividers from recycled cardboard. Useful for pop-up shops.


Meanwhile the Flux Chair is made from a single piece of plastic and folds incredibly small.

Habitat for Humanity's ReStores

Habitat for Humanities ReStores in the US and Canada. Outlets accept donated goods which are sold at a fraction of the retail price. Proceeds help local Habitat affiliates fund the construction of homes within their communities.


Group Buying in China

According to CNN, group buying is getting very big in China:

TD Bank coin counter game

Commerce Bank (now acquired by TD Bank and re-branded) have coin counting machines known as 'penny arcades' in their branches. To keep kids occupied, there is a low screen they can interact with an even play a game to guess the value of the coins.

Image source: Powerhouse Animation Studios blog
Detailed screenshots and more info on this blog.

Pottery Barn for Kids

Pottery Barn for Kids is a particularly well put together site, showing really inspirational kids' bedrooms and then showing you each element in the room individually so you can buy it.

Image from this page on their site.

Whirlpool and Maytag - wash before you buy

Whirlpool and Maytag have concept stores in the US where you can do a load of laundry before you buy. Reportedly, test-drives in Whirlpool’s Atlanta store convert 90% of shoppers into buyers

Washington Post 7.7.04

Chico's Clothing - no dressing room mirrors

Chico's clothing stores purposely leave mirrors out of their dressing rooms so women have to step out and interact with staff and friends to see how they look.

More info in article here.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Best Buy Boutique Stores

In 2006 Best Buy experimented with some boutique store formats.

'Escape' in Chicago was aimed at youngish men with high disposable income, and featured membership which seems to have given access to the stores hangout and game playing areas as well as some ability to preview new products.

'Studio D' also in Chicago was aimed at soccer moms and focused on education and helping people do what they wanted in their life through technology.

'Eq-life' doesn't seem to have much info around, but from the photo above found on Flickr clearly had a 'v2' that was designed by Fitch. Seems to be between Habitat and Brookstones.

An article on Studio D is also available on here.
Update - more now seems to be available on good. Article with info and criticising them shutting down:

More photos and info from a design company:

More photos as part of a video:

Info sources:

Jordan's Furniture, New England

Jordan's Furniture are the Stew Leonard's of furnture. They have a few stores around Boston, which combine a furniture store with thing like an IMAX theatre, indoor trapeze school etc.

Wasn't convinced until I saw the video clips with the CEO who says:
- Most furniture stores spend 5-10% of revenue on ads, they spend 1%.
- They have very high sales per square foot.

Therefore they can spend millions on installing animatronics etc in their stores, not raise prices and still come out well. Most of the actual selling space looks pretty ordinary, but they did have a feature on the 'sleep lab' where assistants in white coats help you find the right bed - looked decent if not extraordinary.

- Preview clip of Tom Peters' video case study on

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Loss Aversion Bias

At Lollapalooza a sign said:
'Drink more water' and
'You sweat in the heat: you lose water'

You was well written, as it invoked loss aversion (people dislike losses more than they like gains).

Nudge, page 245

Monday, 25 July 2011

Emotions wheel

Could be useful.


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Japanese Arcades Target Seniors

In light of the falling birth rate, Japanese game centers are targeting older people.

A British site that goes beyond AirBnB - rent space for people to camp in your garden!


PeopleTowels aim to get you to carry a flannel with you to try your hands instead of using paper towels. Rather falls down when you think about needing to let it dry - they suggest clipping it to your bag.


Cleancut Dispenser - use less kitchen towel!

The Cleancut Dispenser takes any brand of kitchen towel and dispenses it automatically in small strips so you use less!

Metromint Waters - with chill factors

Bottles come marked with 'chill factors' varying with strength of mint flavour
(e.g. peppermint = -9 degrees, lemonmint = -4 degrees)


Go Smile - AM and PM toothpaste set

Premium toothpaste with essential oils to wake you in the morning and soothe you at night.

Image source:

Sainsbury's Advertising on Milk Cartons

Spotted 13/7/11.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Virtual Tesco on Korean underground platforms

Tesco (known locally as Home Plus) boosted online sales by constructing a virtual store on a train platform. It looks like photos of the aisles in a store, and you shop by scanning QR codes on products.

Update: Ocado are going to be trying a similar 'shopping wall' idea in London.

Sources & more info:

Monday, 4 July 2011

Yo! Sushi

- Was a sensation when they first brought conveyor belt sushi to the UK in 1997.
- Gave many people their first taste of sushi.
- Made it easier for people to choose food they were often a bit anxious about eating (raw!) by letting them just pick up what looked good.
- Even today how often are you in a restaurant when you see someone else has ordered something that looks better that what you get?



For most people booking a hotel is a pretty anxious experience – it can make or break a holiday. TripAdvisor makes it easier for you to make the right choice.

As at May 2011:
45 million reviews.
50m monthly uniques.

Currently in the process of being spun off by Expedia Inc.


Hampton Inn Clock-Radio

Hampton Inn have 1,800 hotels in US, Mexico, Latin America and Europe.

Hilton's Hampton Inn hotels launched their 'Make it Hampton' research project in 2004 aimed at creating a more standout customer experience for their core mid-market business travellers. As a result they came up with many small improvements to the overall experience. They found that some of the key anxieties were:
  • Getting shower water all over the bathroom floor.
  • Not being able to set the alarm clock confidently, and hence not getting a good night's sleep knowing they'd be woken up. In turn this led to more requests for labour-intensive wake-up calls.
In response they sorted out a leak-proof shower curtain with a curved rod, and went in search for an easier to use clock-radio. But they didn't find one, so instead had to invent their own (in partnership with Hotel Technologies). Not only did they create the foolproof alarm, but they also added buttons for different genres of music and news, which are preset to the relevant local stations. The alarm is a 'single day alarm' you can't be woken by the alarm from the previous guest.

In total Make it Hampton resulted in 120 upgrades, including a free hot breakfast (with a to-go option), and free high-speed Internet in every room.

The latest version of the radios have now been rolled out across other Hilton brands. Operationally, the clocks arrive with the time and date set by the manufacturer. Local staff just have to adjust for time zone. Daylight savings time is changed with a simple switch on the back.

These innovations put them in a good position as the recession hit, and corporate started abandoning full-service hotels for mid-level brands. Hampton are now the leader in mid-level hotels (, Jan 2011).


Sunday, 3 July 2011

Lloyds TSB Save the Change account - Nudge in action

Lloyds TSB have an account called Save the Change that rounds up each debit card to the nearest pound and deposits it in a savings account.

Copied from a US account? In any case, nudge economics in actions.

According to Datamonitor it was a hit (but you have to pay £5k to see the figures):

460,000 had opened an account according to a Lloyds publication in late 2010:

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Google's 9 Points of Innovation

  1. Innovation, not instant perfection. Launch new products and ideas early and often, rather than trying to perfect those ideas behind closed doors before releasing them to the public. Then, customer feedback and popularity prove which projects are most successful.
  2. Share everything you can. Small teams that communicate openly have proved the best results for Google. They believe in transparency in the workplace so that everyone knows what everyone else is working on. They have a computer program where employees can look up names and see what others are working on, so if they have an idea to contribute they know who to talk to.
  3. You’re brilliant, we’re hiring. When Google interviews employees, Lecinski said they set the bar very high. They focus more on hiring generalists rather than specialists, as they have found generalists are more valuable and can contribute ideas to different parts of the company.
  4. Allow employees to pursue their dreams. Lecinski said Google allows its employees’ time in a 70/20/10 model. Seventy percent of the time they work on Google’s search and ad flagships; they develop new programs like Images, Desktop and Finance 20 percent of the time; and 10 percent of the time employees are allowed to pursue their own high risk/high reward projects. Lecinski said Google Earth is a result of one of those projects.
  5. Ideas come from everywhere. Sometimes Google turns to the public for new ideas. The Google mastheads, which are customized for holidays and events, are taken from non-employee submissions. One of the mastheads was designed by a 12-year-old girl.
  6. Don’t politic – use data. With all the ideas floating around Google, the best way to determine which may work is to use supportive data. As Lecinski said, “Data beats opinion.”
  7. Creativity loves restraint. Again, Google has to have some way to keep all of the employee-generated ideas streamlined towards the company’s goals. “Let people explore, but set clear boundaries for that exploration,” Lecinski said.
  8. Get users and usage – the money will follow. This goes back to one of Lecinski’s larger points, “respect for end users,” but is a principle to follow in any form of business. He says to focus on creating things that are innovative and useful for people, not something you can sell.
  9. Don’t kill projects, morph them. Google doesn’t waste ideas. Instead, they try to change and transform them into something the company finds useful.
Source: Jim Lecinski, managing director for Google, speaking at Digital Signage Expo 2007. Article from:

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Where ideas come from

Ideas come from:
  • New patterns/trends
  • Mix 'n mash - taking 2 ideas and colliding them
  • Related worlds
  • Overshot customers - C Christiansen's ideas on customers who are being overdelivered

Adapted from Margaret Gold's presentation at the mHealth unconference.

Mappiness - the happiness app

Interesting LSE project to use an iPhone app to track where and when people are happy.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Low employee turnover = high profits

Taco Bell discovered that the 20% of stores with the lowest employee turnover rates had double the sales and 55% higher profits than the 20% of stores with the highest employee turnover rates.

Source: The Service-Profit Chain, Harvard Business Review, Mar-Apr 1994

Friday, 29 April 2011

Disruptive innovation: Steel Mini Mills

In The Innovators' Solution an example of disruptive innovation is steel mini-mills, e.g. Nucor. Put integrated mill companies out of most businesses. But eventually forced all integrated mills out of a given product and hence lowered prices and wiped out their huge profits.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Sainsbury's Fresh Kitchen format

Sainsbury's are trialling a new format aimed at lunchtime trade:

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Lego Mindstorms: Accidental Innovation

The Lego Mindstorms range came about as a result of Lego embracing hacking of their products.

Mindstorms became Lego's most successful line.

Vodafone Webbox

Vodafone realised that in the developing world many people who don't even have food have a TV. So they put a mobile phone in the body of a keyboard, and added a TV connector. This makes the internet available at a very low cost.