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Value Matters: Innovation Has Direction

Watch the new dMASS video, "Value Matters: Innovation Has Direction" today!'s "Value Matters: Innovation Has Direction," is a short, animated video revealing the direction of innovation and what it means for businesses and for sustainable design. The video offers a simple method for companies to align business and environmental goals. It challenges business leaders to question what business they are really in and to deliver the value customers want using the fewest possible resources.

The new video is a follow up to the popular short "Design Matters: Doing Better with Less." "Design Matters" used a Buckminster Fuller story as a jumping off point to explain why the key to successful design, innovation, and business strategy is producing drastically more benefits for people using drastically fewer resources.


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Putting the economy on a diet? It’s value, not just amount that matters

dMASS is not about austerity or self-denial.  It is about harvesting the most useful benefits from the least resources...Leadership in business is delivering more benefits to customers with fewer tons of resources. 

The vet recently told me my dog is "gravitationally challenged."  I was mortified.  While mass and weight are not technically the same thing, on this planet the mass of something can be measured by the degree of gravity's influence on it - by its weight.  Here I am advocating dMASS and my dog is obese.

For a long time, I have lectured about the comparability of what doctors call an obesity epidemic spreading around the world and our economic obesity epidemic.  If you prefer politically correct terminology, our cars are gravitationally challenged.  So are our buildings and our manufactured products.

The comparison between metabolic and economic obesity is more than just a literary device.  Nature is organized energy patterns and processes that are manifest at different scales.  When a doctor helps someone plan a diet, the trick is not just reducing food mass intake; it is also important to ensure nutrition.  A good diet is nutrient-rich.  That means that the essential benefits of eating can be obtained from less total food mass intake if that food is nutrient-rich, rather than nutrient-poor.  Jared Diamond is just one of many scientists to point out that some cultures developed faster because the available native foods were higher in protein and other nutrients, so less time had to be spent harvesting, transporting, and processing food to get what was needed from it.

I look at the economy in the same way.  dMASS is not about austerity or self-denial.  It is about harvesting the most useful benefits from the least resources.  We need to re-design our products, our organizations, and our buildings and infrastructure using this simple principle.  We need to harvest many more benefits from every ton of resources we use.  This is only hard to do because we somehow came to think of mass and benefits as inherently proportional.  They are not.  We have confused the products we create with the benefits they deliver, the massiveness of the buildings we build with their function.

If I want my dog to be healthy, it won't do to simply give her less food.  The same is true for economics.  Leadership in business is delivering more benefits to customers with fewer tons of resources.

Read more:

Designing to eliminate mass for competitive advantage – where things are headed

Lightweighting: dMASS design in action

How to overcome resistance to change with innovation

And others under the Design category.

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Where is the value in your business?

In a world where success is measured in terms of concrete things, how do we value that which is invisible?  More often than not, we convert the invisible to tangible anchor points that we can visualize.  We associate quantities of electricity with the size of a light bulb, bits of information with hard drives, and monetary value with dollar bills.  In the pre-industrial world, things were what counted and counting them was a pretty good proxy for wealth and success.  But with each passing day, more and more of the products that create wealth, more and more of the things that matter to us, are invisible.     I took my 91-year-old mother, who recently moved from the midwest to our small New England town, to a local savings bank headquartered in a 200-year old house.  She looked at the bank's wood clapboard construction and asked if her money was safe in there.  I chuckled and reminded her, "It isn't there.  They don't keep your money there."   "Oh, right." she said, and then asked, "Where is it?"  I paused and said, "The same place where all money from all banks is located."  "Where is that?"  The answer isn't comforting when you get right down to it.  The fact is that it isn't anywhere.  It doesn't physically exist, except as incomprehensibly small bits of slightly reorganized, invisible energy we call memory.  It's associated with your social security number, which is maintained in the same way.  And who knows where that is.  Your money is in many places, but the only tangible representative of it is on your monthly statement printed on paper.  I don't even get that.  

I can lose my wallet and not lose my money, because it isn't in there either.  I just lose the time and energy required to resolve a lost ID and credit cards, or to restore a compromised credit score.  Corporations have parallel concerns when their physical assets are compromised.  If a fire or other tragedy strikes a corporate office, there could certainly be financial losses and time and energy lost putting things back together.  But the corporate DNA, the essential information that allows that company to operate and generate wealth is not located in the office.  It's in bits of information scattered around the globe in backed up copies, it's in the minds of the people who work there, and it's in the intellectual property that provides the basis for the business and makes that company unique.  A manufacturing company might suffer greater losses in machinery and inventory, but would still retain its ideas, patents, designs, and people. 

We are moving rapidly toward an economy in which value is increasingly invisible; less and less wealth is associated with tangibles.  Not just products and services that companies "produce," but companies themselves.  Whole companies.  There can be a plaque on an office door that indicates a company is in a location, but today that often has little to do with where the value is.  For some businesses, like real estate or raw materials, physical place matters.  But, ultimately the value of an organization is based on the favorable ratio of tangible and intangible value delivered to customers in relation to the amount of material mass required to deliver and maintain that value.  This is the principle of the dMass economy - harvesting and securing invisible value from the least possible invested mass.