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Book Review: The Power Of Ideas

The book touches upon a wide array of topics such as smart cities, sustainability, sharing economy, health, workplace, education, retail, and travel

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A few months ago, when someone asked me about an alternate career choice for me, I told them I would have been an entrepreneur for sure. If I were not in the stainless steel business, then I would have done something that captivated me just as much. If you are curious enough to do something unconventional, public validation of the idea is always an initial hurdle. In Disrupt, James Bidwell talks about ideas that have meticulously bridged this gap. It is a fantastic repository of the best ideas that have germinated across continents, giving us a glimpse into the world of the future.  

Disrupt is a wonderful tonic for anyone who wants to contribute to the revolution of how we shape our world for the coming generations. Bidwell has cleverly discussed some of the most ingenious business ideas that explain the concept of a sharing economy versus  an access economy. While a sharing economy largely focuses on community building, an access economy focuses on innovative solutions with wider adoption and revenue potential. The good thing here is that the reader can sense balanced views while deliberating on the validity and operability of the ideas for wider acceptance.

The book touches upon a wide array of topics such as smart cities, sustainability, sharing economy, health, workplace, education, retail, and travel. As is the trend in most books today, the key takeaways section at the end of every chapter surmises knowledge in an easy digest. Bidwell’s writing prodded me to wear my six thinking hats and assess the ideas on various parameters to see how they are a logical fit for various economies, or even the world economy at large. The book is essentially an aggregation of ‘impact investing’ ideas, which have a positive and measurable social or environmental impact along with good financial returns.

Any idea that has potential should be gauged on three key tenets keeping in mind the end user – simplicity, scalability and sustainability. Here are the Top 5 ideas from the book that I found worth their salt:

Humanyze the Resource:
Workplace wellbeing has gained importance of late and has certainly given rise to innovations in the form of Fitbits, and the likes, around the world. However, the big-data wearable created at the MIT Media Lab, ‘Humanyze’, takes the game a bit further. It harnesses data that can impact the way organisations look at their bedrock – human resources. Humanyze is like a smart employee badge that collects over 40 pieces of data daily, which include tone of voice, physical activity and general faculties. The data is uploaded to the cloud where it is fed into a dashboard, enabling companies to gain insights into the effects of their employees’ behavioural aspects on the company’s overall performance. Already tested at the Bank of America, Humanyze has shared critical insights that can shape organisational architecture in many ways. The genius in the idea is that it tells you what you can do with the data, which makes it simple and scalable.

Eco-friendly Smart Homes: An Estonian design company, Kodasema’s square Koda home can be assembled in seven hours and includes LED lighting, solar panels and modular fixtures. With the increasing dearth of sustainable housing solutions, Koda comes as a breather for the construction industry as well as for the nation at large. Even better, the team behind Koda believes that the only limit to the use of the structure is the owner’s imagination because of its ergonomic properties.

Crude Oil from Human Waste: The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in the US has invented a hydrothermal liquefaction process that successfully converts human waste in sewage water into crude bio-oil within a few minutes. By mimicking the temperature and pressure conditions that can potentially produce crude oil naturally, the hydrothermal liquefaction process can churn out in minutes what takes the earth millions of years. With the planet already staring at irreversible environmental losses and extinction of bio fuels, green energy centric businesses are paving the way for a sustainable future with PNNL at the helm of a revolutionary innovation.

Energy Efficient Streetlights with Magic: More than 1 million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne diseases every year. Energy efficient streetlights that emit human scent and act as traps are being widely used in Kuala Lumpur. The USP of the contraption is that the LED lamps in the streetlights are powered by wind and solar energy and therefore, can be used in flood-prone areas as well. The modularity and simplicity of this innovation makes it easily scalable and we should not be surprised if we see these in India also very soon.

Tree Wi-Fi’s Smart Birdhouses: Based in Amsterdam, Tree Wi-Fi’s smart birdhouses let residents know about the air quality in their neighborhood and if it’s clean enough, people get free Wi-Fi. People can connect with the Wi-Fi network regardless of the air quality. However, if the surrounding air is polluted, the network gives information and tips to improve the ambient air quality. Founder Joris Lam shared he wanted a non-intrusive innovation that sensitised citizens about the pollution menace. The idea is astounding in itself, yet simple enough to be adopted by the citizens. Lam has demystified the problem of air pollution with this disruptive idea.

With such innovations popping up around the world, I believe Disrupt can give us a much-needed, headlong plunge into the world of ideas towards a sustainable future. I would love to see India at the helm of such impactful innovations, which have a large scale positive influence on our society. I am already excited at the thought of supporting such momentous initiatives through my company. And as the adage goes “Two people look out of the bars, one sees the mud, the other sees stars”, it is time to look out for the stars.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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magazine 24 November 2018 book reviews

Abhyuday Jindal

The author is MD, Jindal Stainless

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