TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 19

1. China should match its massive investment in Africa with robust support for the Ebola fight.

By James Gibney in Bloomberg View

2. The market alone can’t drive advances in biomedical science. Philanthropy has a role.

By David Panzirer in Wired

3. Far from radical, the new USA Freedom Act protects citizens from government spying with better oversight and less secrecy.

By Mary McCarthy in USA Today

4. Outdated laws on debt collection and wage garnishment are crushing the working poor.

By Paul Kiel in ProPublica and Chris Arnold at National Public Radio

5. Scotlands referendum was a reassuring exercise in the ‘majesty of democracy.’

By Michael Ignatieff in the Financial Times

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

Watch This Dancing Traffic Light Stop People in Their Tracks

Sidewalk, meet dance floor

lost-at-e-minor_logo

This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

Since nobody likes to wait at traffic lights, one company, Smart, decided to place a very special set of traffic lights in the middle of Lisbon, Portugal. They allowed random pedestrians to enter an oversized traffic light studio, dance, and their moves were displayed in real time on the traffic lights outside.

The idea wasn’t just to amuse people waiting at stop lights, but also to make it a safer area, since Smart believes traffic lights are some of the most dangerous spots in the city. And through this extra fun installation, Smart was able to make 81% more people stop at the red lights and wait. See! Dancing can change the world!

(via Viral Nova)

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 18

1. Islamic State is hunting for Syrian chemical weapons that eluded international inspectors.

By Paul D. Shinkman in U.S. News and World Report

2. The true promise of education technology is in differentiating learning to meet the needs of each student.

By Jennifer Carolan in EdSurge

3. A robot’s ethical dilemma: How would a self-driving car weigh the safety of its passengers against the risk to other motorists?

By Aviva Rutkin in New Scientist

4. A disaster relief organization is giving military veterans a chance to do good and recapture the spirit of their service.

By Jonathan Lesser in Medium

5. Future social scientists will have a wealth of data from Facebook likes and shares to truly understand what moves us.

By Jonathan Wai in Quartz

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 17

1. Islamic State’s sexual violence is a war crime and U.S. leaders should call it out, seek ways to track it, and hold the terrorists to account. Instead, policymakers are ignoring it.

By Aki Peritz and Tara Maller in Foreign Policy

2. When the rich get richer, states get poorer. Income inequality is eating away at state tax revenue.

By Gabriel J. Petek at Standard and Poor’s Ratings Service

3. Does big philanthropy have too much power over policy?

By Gara LaMarche in Democracy

4. An innovative program is connecting high-performing low-income students with scholarship dollars and guiding them through the daunting financial aid process.

By David Leonhardt in the Upshot

5. Can a major redesign transform Union Station into the commercial and cultural heart of Washington?

By Steven Pearlstein in the Washington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

How to Make the World’s Poor $500 Billion Richer

Central American Migrants Attempt Arduous Voyage Thru Mexico To U.S.
Honduran migrants at a shelter for undocumented Central American immigrants on Sept. 14, 2014 in Tenosique, Mexico. The research by Copenhagen Consensus Center suggests that free mobility of skilled workers should be encouraged. John Moore—Getty Images

My think tank, the Copenhagen Consensus, has asked 63 teams of the world’s top economists to look at economic, social and environmental costs and benefits

There is a way to make the poor of this world $500 billion better off, but this solution is rarely discussed.

This matters, because the international community is gearing up to produce the next set of development goals for 2015-2030, to continue the work of the Millennium Development Goals. $2.5 trillion in development aid plus unknown trillions from national budgets hang in the balance of these goals, so getting our priorities right is vital. Spending money on poorly chosen targets is a wasted opportunity to do much more good elsewhere.

To do the most good, my think tank, the Copenhagen Consensus, has asked 63 teams of the world’s top economists to look at the economic, social and environmental costs and benefits of all the top targets. Some of these are obvious, like health, education, food, water and environment, but some are less so—though often discussed in the development community. One such example is the transfer of technology from rich to poor and middle-income countries as an aid to sustainable development.

The reason technology is so important is that it makes people more productive, which boosts overall economic growth. Not just that, but once knowledge has been gained, it is embedded in society and can be used as a stepping stone for future growth. Countries with a reasonable technical or research and development base are in a better position to absorb and make the best use of more new technologies as they become available.

Professor Keith E. Maskus from the University of Colorado has written an extensive paper on what works and how much good it will do. As he rightly points out, the UN’s technology-related targets are simply too general and bland. Instead, using the economic literature, he puts forward two proposals.

The first proposal is straight-forward: if our goal is to get more technology available for the poor, maybe we should simply increase investment in research and development (R&D), especially in the developing world.

The point is the benefits from R&D do not just go to the company doing it; there are also broader societal benefits as productivity gains occur elsewhere in the economy and other people learn on the job or see the possibility for more innovation. After Apple produced an innovative touch screen on its first iPhone, the knowledge is now available to lots of products in many different areas.

This broader benefit justifies governments supporting research, either through tax credits or direct government spending on research in public institutions. Right now, the developing countries spend just 0.2% of their GDP on R&D and perhaps 0.3% in 2030. If we instead aim at 0.5% of GDP by 2030, this would naturally increase the direct government costs, but it would also increase the long-run technological innovation and capabilities.

The models estimate in total, that for every dollar spent, we could likely end up doing $3 worth of good. That is not bad.

However, there is another, and much more effective way to increase technological capabilities in low-income countries. Instead of focusing on innovating more technology to make people more productive, we could focus on getting more people to places where they would be productive.

While allowing the free mobility of goods (free trade) can add several percentage points to global GDP, we have long known that free mobility of people could add anywhere from 67-147% to global GDP. Allowing free mobility could essentially double the world’s income.

This is because people in poor areas are not inherently unproductive but their circumstances mostly make them unproductive. So, if they were to migrate, from say, Guatemala to the US, they would become much more productive.

Of course, absolutely free mobility would result in a massive relocation from poor to rich countries, which would likely engender huge political issues. But professor Maskus suggests that we could start off with a modest goal of increasing current skilled migration by 5-20% with 10-year visas. Since we have the best models for the Americas, he estimates the outcome for this region, but it is likely the results can scale for the rest of the world.

A 5% increase in skilled migration would mean an extra 136,000 managerial and technical workers, with 97,000 going to the US. Although other research shows migrants would only become half (or less) as productive as Americans, this would still make them much better off. The model shows they would earn $15 billion more over the next 25 years. Moreover, as they would bring with them new ideas and concepts, they will increase productivity in the US and elsewhere by $1.5 billion.

Of course, this will also mean an outflow of skilled workers from poorer countries. For instance, 30,000 people will leave Mexico for 10 years. But they will send back money – about $3 billion in total. And while many worry about a ‘brain drain’, there is actually more evidence for a ‘brain gain’: If there is an opportunity to go abroad and make more money as a doctor or engineer, it will induce more young to invest in a professional education, meaning more doctors and technicians in the long run. And as these skilled professionals come back after 10 years, they will also bring back new ideas and higher productivity.

In total, the costs, mostly in lost tax revenue are significantly outweighed by the gains. For every dollar spent, this target could do $10-20 worth of good. With the Americas making up one-third of the global economy, the potential benefits could go as high as $500 billion. That should make the target of higher labor mobility a strong contender for the world’s next set of goals.

Dr. Bjørn Lomborg, an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, directs the Copenhagen Consensus Center, ranking the smartest solutions to the world’s biggest problems by cost-benefit. He is the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It. His new book is How To Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 16

1. America can offset China’s rising power and Russia’s influence in Asia by strengthening its relationship with India.

By Paul J. Leaf in the National Interest

2. MIT moms challenge engineers and students to pitch ways to improve breast pumps in a ‘hackathon.’

By Katie Levingston in Boston.com

3. College is disproportionately off limits to poor and minority students. Here are some critical steps to close that gap.

By Antoinette Flores at the Center for American Progress

4. State governments should stop paying off businesses to ‘create jobs.’ The tax incentives and other giveaways are a waste.

By Richard Florida in the Los Angeles Times

5. One way the NFL can address the mishandling of domestic violence by its players: paying to rebuild our nation’s depleted support system for survivors of abuse.

By Jonathan Cohn in the New Republic

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

New Robot Cheetah Can Run (And Jump) Without a Tether

'Our robot can be silent and as efficient as animals. The only things you hear are the feet hitting the ground,' says researcher.

(via MIT News)

TIME Innovation

This Company Makes Shoes That Look Like Confectionery Treats

The Shoe Bakery makes shoes that appear to be covered in frosting and ice cream

lost-at-e-minor_logo

This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

Those heels look shoe delicious! Orlando-based shoe company ‘The Shoe Bakery’ creates footwear that are inspired by confectionary treats like ice cream, cupcakes, donuts, and cake. “My love for shoes came with the passion for being unique,” says founder Chris Campbell. “I love shoes and sweets so why not put them together?”

As you can see, excellent craftsmanship and great attention to detail went into the making of these sweet-looking shoes. Customers can even order custom-made designs, which will cost around $200-400 and will take about 3-6 weeks to finish. With shoes that look as mouthwatering as these, I think I’d rather eat them than wear them!

You can find out more about The Shoe Bakery and purchase their products here.

Via Design Taxi

TIME Innovation

This Is What Customers Really Crave

Stephanie Alvarez Ewens

According to the co-founder of Fast Company

bif10-600-sq-info

This is one of a 10-article series of conversations with transformational leaders who will be storytellers at the BIF10 Collaborative Innovation Summit in Providence, RI, on Sept. 17-18

“The real promise of the technology revolution isn’t its products—it’s the new ways by which it has enabled us to express our humanity,” claims Bill Taylor, co-founder of the iconic Fast Company magazine and author of the bestseller, Practically Radical.

 

“Today, smaller and smaller teams are building bigger and bigger things, faster,” he explains. In today’s marketplace—which is streamlined by technology and defined by abundant choice— “corporate muscle mass” such as factories and storefronts have lost the clout they had 50 years prior.

 

“What customers really crave is a sense of humanity,” claims Taylor.

“Leaders of economically successful organizations are every bit as rigorous about the human side of their enterprises as they are about R&D and acquisitions,” he maintains. Taylor encourages us to recognize the influence of passion brands. “Apple, Google, HBO” he lists, all have dominated their industry sectors thanks to the might of a zealous group of consumers.

“Ultimately, your culture is what sustains your strategy.”

+++

The aspect of technological revolution that currently fascinates Bill Taylor is the power of businesses that are facilitated by technology, but driven by a human touch.

As a primer, he shares three guidelines for companies looking to embrace this new culture of work:

  1. Capitalize on what makes you unique.

Breakaway success requires a commitment to the unprecedented.

“If your customers can live without you, eventually they will,” warns Taylor. “You can’t just be the best at what you do—you have to be the only organization that does what you do.”

Taylor looks up to an early adopter of this principle: Southwest Airlines. “They were never a “low-cost” airline,” he argues, “they were a “big idea” airline.”

Taylor says, “Southwest’s purpose from day one was to ‘democratize the skies,’ to give rank-and-file families the freedom to fly. In the early 1970s when they began to operate, air travel was a luxury of business travelers and the well-to-do.”

Southwest was successful because “their strategy was completely at odds with the rest of the airline industry.”

  1. Create meaning and camaraderie at every level of the organization.

Instead of giving their employees the chance to amass power to get rich, companies must instead help them unleash freedoms from within, allowing people in their ranks to give input about the goods and services they produce.

“People want their work to be consistent with what they care about as human beings,” Taylor says. “The best leaders unearth the passion, energy, and commitment of their people by enabling them to make a real difference to their customers and one another.”

He urges companies to examine themselves. He asks them, “What does it mean—in terms of the language, the daily rituals—to be a member of your organization?”

Taylor shares a revolutionary tip: “The real use of social media is not so that we can market our product to a broader audience, but to give our people the capacity to humanize our brand.”

  1. Be kind—it’s more important than being clever.

We can’t thrive in a corporate world that sacrifices humanity for the sake of profit, Taylor maintains.

At a BIF Summit several years ago, Taylor shared a story of two automobile dealers his father encountered while shopping for a car.

The first dealer sold Cadillacs, a brand Taylor’s father had long been loyal to. Cadillac sent the man a $1,000 customer-loyalty discount in the mail, but because he wanted to buy a car 24 hours after the coupon expired, the dealer refused to honor it.

The second dealer sold Buicks. After a conversation with Taylor’s father, this dealer offered to honor the expired Cadillac discount. The same dealer let the man test-drive the car over a weekend, and, when an emergency surgery prohibited timely return of the vehicle, sent a lovely bouquet of flowers with a “hilarious note.”

“Which car do you think my father bought?” Taylor asks.

“Small gestures of kindness send big signals about who we are and why people should want to affiliate with us.” He adds, “It was the highest ROI on a bouquet of flowers in history.”

+++

Bill Taylor says he “always looks forward” to the Collaborative Innovation Summit, hosted by the nonprofit Business Innovation Factory (BIF) in Providence, RI. Taylor has joined the lineup of radical business thinkers at BIF Summit more than once.

“I’m proud to say I crashed the first BIF Summit in 2004,” he says, “because I’ve been back every year since. It is one of the most exciting and authentic learning laboratories I’ve ever encountered.”

“Community is an overused word, but BIF truly is a community. We come together once a year, and learn from and support each other all the rest of the year.”

“I live for months off the energy that I get from the BIF Summit,” he professes. “It’s a poetry slam for innovators. What a refreshing break from standard operating procedure.”

The BIF Collaborative Innovation Summit combines 30 brilliant storytellers with more than 400 innovation junkies in a two-day storytelling jam, featuring tales of personal discovery and transformation that spark real connection and “random collisions of unusual suspects.”

Saul Kaplan is the author of The Business Model Innovation Factory. He is the founder and chief catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) in Providence and blogs regularly at It’s Saul Connected. Follow him on Twitter at @skap5. Nicha Ratana is a senior pursuing a degree in English Nonfiction Writing at Brown University and an intern at The Business Innovation Factory. Follow her on Twitter at @nicharatana.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 15

1. Relief organizations today are dangerously politicized and risk irrelevancy. To survive, they must evolve into decentralized networks for sharing knowledge, aid, and true humanity.

By Paul Currion in Aeon

2. There is more to measuring economic strength than jobs. For manufacturing, America is one of the most cost-competitive countries in the industrial world.

By Harold L. Sirkin, Michael Zinser, and Justin Rose in BCG Perspectives

3. Could a secret online marketplace for illegal drugs provide a safer alternative to our modern drug war?

By Colin Moore in Substance

4. Marketing to so-called “influencers” is a waste of advertising dollars.

By Greg Satell in Harvard Business Review

5. Technology vs. Tradition: Menstrupedia tackles taboos in India to improve women’s health and lives.

By Priti Salian in TakePart

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser