Adversity Drives Innovation

by scott pickard

Businesses face adversity from time to time which directly impacts profitability, such as:

  • From man-made environmental and safety situations that precipitate regulations requiring costly compliance measures; e.g., the fuel efficiency and general safety regulations imposed on the automobile industry
  • The water and wastewater treatment regulations imposed on manufacturers by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Acts of God and natural global conditions such as drought which is currently affecting much of the agricultural land in production across the world

Each era in our history has had its challenges. The automobile industry has been able to respond to the adversity imposed by fuel standard regulations and over time, improve the quality of the cars and their competitive advantage. Manufacturers have been able to respond to the adversity imposed by water and air-quality regulations from EPA to build new corporate cultures that embrace green and sustainable practices requiring innovation along the way while building goodwill, brand, and competitiveness in the market.

Today, drought is one of the most serious and pervasive adverse challenges facing farming and farm communities worldwide. Instead of waiting for it to finally rain, the farm industry must pursue innovation in several key areas:

  • Storage of water
  • Recycling of wastewater back to subsurface ground and storage
  • Efficient use of water to grow next-generation crops requiring less water

Research is ongoing in all of these areas and when successfully applied, innovation will sprout wherever drought is an issue.

History teaches us that adversity at first may seem like a direct attack to profitability and the sustainability of our businesses, and this typically instigates a stubborn defensive reaction in the beginning. But history also shows us that when companies face adversity head on, people rise to the occasion and solve some very difficult problems and those solutions benefit everyone.

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Mary Barra vs the Dysfunctional GM Culture

by Scott Pickard

Sarah, very interesting article and your recommendations are well-intentioned and truthful, but, I give them a slim chance of making a dent in the sprawling, dense and calcified GM cultural fabric which has deeply embedded within it the familiar dysfunctional qualities of a massive bureaucratic organization. In this regard, human nature repeats itself with disappointing consistency. In very large corporations, universities, government units, and military, this is what we face and deal with every day.

It confirms to me that GM was probably not “too big to fail.” Failure could have been the disruptive event necessary to purge the dysfunction and clear a path for renewal — a “corporate reboot” if you will.  Bankruptcy would have provided the platform and mandate for sweeping away all the dead wood, political toxicity, cronyism, greed, and staleness that builds up over time inside society’s largest institutions.

Law Crime, Corruption, Power, Violence How can we rethink security beyond mass incarceration? How can transnational organized crime networks be stopped? Is there anything goingon in the company that can result in an Enron-style financial collapse? (a) self-dealing; (b) undisclosed insider trading; (c) unauthorized compensation; (d) debt-loaded limited partnerships in general: archive: Crime Library | biology: The Anatomy of Violence Raine | city shootings: ceasefirechicago, Cradle-to-Grave Program | cybersecurity: antiphishing, AccessData, onguardonline | depravity: Crime and Punishment Dostoyevsky | gangs: Home Boy Industries, knockout game | gun violence/control: gun-rights lobby | insider trading: Rajaratnam | jewel thieves: Pink Panthers | kidnapping | organized crime: Hell’s Angels | policing software: Mark43 | research: Crime Lab | school shootings | sex offenders: Miracle Village | TV shows:, Orange is the New Black prison | white collar: nw3c insider trading: Has the company made a reasonable effort to make all insiders (executives, employees, directors) aware of the insider trading rules? | documentary: To Catch a Trader | SEC Filings: power: How is power consolidated in the company?  Are directors careful to not get involved in the internal politics of the company? | greed:  about, The Wolf of Wall Street vigilante: about | Bruce Willis | fiction/comics: batman, robin hood, superman | Mexico: drug cartels | Paul Newman | Death Wish | Steven Sigal | Three Days of the Condor weapons: bombs: toothpaste books/movies: Crime and Punishment Dostoyevsky | Inside Job | Syndromes of Corruption: Wealth, Power, and Democracy Johnston | The Onion Field Wambaugh Decisions | Issues | Emotions | Ethics | Smart Grid | War | Survival | Sports

Had that happened, then “creating opportunities for collegiality to take root….encouraging questions that create context….. helping employees to feel safe by reshaping the work environment…,” might have been introduced into a clean, fear-free, accepting cultural landscape.

But, it didn’t happen, so best of luck to Mary Barra.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all-in for capitalism with its faults, but we all know the aggressive pursuit of profit in BIG BUSINESS (with power and greed lurking in the headquarters’ shadows) has its dark side.


Smartphone sensors

Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego have built a small fleet of portable pollution sensors that allow users to monitor air quality in real time on their smart phones. The sensors could be particularly useful to people suffering from chronic conditions, such as asthma, who need to avoid exposure to pollutants.