I look forward to receiving The Economist every Friday. By far, it is the best written and most informative magazine per page of any business periodical. In the spirit of Working Wider, here are six bits from this week’s issue that illustrate why dreaming, thinking and working wider is important.
Harnessing the U.S. Immigration Network
The power of immigration is bubbling over the rim of the traditional melting pot. Reaching across international boundaries is relatively easy these days but knowing who to trust is still a major challenge. Immigrants to the U.S. are increasingly using their ethnic ties to reach back into their former homes to define unique needs, establish distribution channels and secure investors. As developing countries middle class expands and innovation accelerates, there is enormous potential for U.S. based firms to harness this access for growth.
Green Means Put the Motor in the Wheels
You put a gas or diesel engine in the front or rear of a vehicle because it’s too big to fit anywhere else. But that’s not the case for electric motors. Why not put them in wheels as Ferdinand Porsche did that 100 years ago? Porsche is doing it again in their Spyder 918, a super high performance concept car. In parallel, Michelin is exploring a system they call the “Active Wheel” which incorporates power and electrically power active suspension thus enlarging Michelin from a tire company to a powertrain manufacturer.
CSI TV Crosses Into Real Courtrooms
Jurors are demanding forensic proof in trials because of the popularity of CSI TV shows. As always, TV’s version of reality is incomplete thus many jury requests are uninformed. A jury wanted to test a bloody coat for DNA when the suspect already admitted being at the murder scene. Nonetheless, forensic science labs are growing as lawyers, judges and prosecutors adapt.
Public Sector Labor Union Membership Exceeds Private Sector
Upon Sinclair’s classic The Jungle chronicled the horrendous working conditions in the meat packing industry that brought us trade unions. In On The Waterfront, Marlon Brando’s epic performance against the chilling corruption of wharf bosses had us cheer for the union. While management criminality and stupidity is not dead, it is far lower than depicted in either of the above. Net result? Today, private sector union membership is at 7.2% whereas the majority of U.S. union members are government workers! Note to Meg Whitman: In light of this, please tell me how you’re going to fix outdated public sector pension plans in California?
The Internet Disintermediates Once Again: This Time China
One of the perils Western companies face competing in developing countries are arcane and often impenetrable distribution systems. Online commerce lagged in China due to scarce Internet access and on-line payment systems. That is changing and on-line sales are booming. A surprise beneficiary are Western trusted brands. Half of all wired households bought diapers and baby formula on line.
Genetic Engineering Makes Tires From Switchgrass
Who said genetic engineering was just about healthcare and agriculture? Isoprene is a petroleum by-product essential to make tires. Working with Goodyear, Genencor is using a genetically modified strain of e.coli bacteria to produce isoprene from plant materials. A pilot plan is under construction with commercial production slated for 2015.