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December 4, 2016


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Technology Review
August 2, 2010

Clear CT Scans with Less Radiation

Researchers are devising new ways to get the same results with fewer x-rays.
Computed tomography --or CT--scans have become a powerful imaging tool for diagnosing disease. Health-care providers performed more than 70 million CT scans in the United States in 2007. A December 2009 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine calculated that those 70 million scans could lead to 29,000 cancers. That figure is a statistical calculation and "there is no direct evidence linking the radiation dose from CT scans to cancer," says Cynthia McCollough, a radiological physicist at the Mayo Clinic. "Doses delivered in a CT scan are of the same magnitude that we get every year from background radiation." (A typical CT scan might result in a dose of one to 14 millisieverts. )
Technology Review
August 2, 2010

Growing Organs and Helping Wounds Heal

A strong, stretchy material could provide a scaffold for growing organs or making wounds heal faster.
A stretchy new fabric made by linking together the proteins found in muscle tissue could provide a scaffold for growing new organs. It could also be used as a coating for bandages to help wounds heal quickly and with less scarring. The fabric was made in the laboratory of Kevin Kit Parker, a professor at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Science. When the body grows new tissue, cells secrete fibronectin--a strong, stretchy type of protein that acts as a supportive scaffold. The shape and structure that fibronectin adopts directs the subsequent growth of new cells, giving the resulting tissue the correct form.
Technology Review
August 2, 2010

Your Apps Could Be Leaking Private Info

Many apps collect and share sensitive data, and the developers may not even realize it.
A study of iPhone and Android apps has revealed that many of these programs secretly collect and transmit users' personal information. The App Genome Project, launched by the mobile security company Lookout, analyzed every app available through Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market. Developers must disclose an app's functionality when they submit an app to either store. Apple performs its own review before making an app downloadable.
MIT Research News
August 2, 2010

Silicon Can Be Made to Melt in Reverse

Material that shows melting while cooling might someday lead to applications in solar cells and other devices
Like an ice cube on a warm day, most materials melt — that is, change from a solid to a liquid state — as they get warmer. But a few oddball materials do the reverse: They melt as they get cooler. Now a team of researchers at MIT has found that silicon, the most widely used material for computer chips and solar cells, can exhibit this strange property of “retrograde melting” when it contains high concentrations of certain metals dissolved in it.

The material, a compound of silicon, copper, nickel and iron, “melts” (actually turning from a solid to a slush-like mix of solid and liquid material) as it cools below 900 degrees Celsius, whereas silicon ordinarily melts at 1414 degrees C. The much lower temperatures make it possible to observe the behavior of the material during melting, based on specialized X-ray fluorescence microprobe technology using a synchrotron — a type of particle accelerator — as a source.
Read Full Article at MIT News Office
MIT Sloan Management Review
August 1, 2010

Best Practices for Industry-University Collaboration

Universities can be major resources in a company’s innovation strategy. But to extract the most business value from research, companies need to follow these seven rules.
We surveyed 106 projects at 25 multinational companies that engage in research collaborations with a broad base of universities; a dozen of those projects involved collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We targeted companies with substantial experience that allowed us to tap the accumulated knowledge of experienced managers in companies with successful track records in utilizing university research.

Here’s what we discovered: Roughly 50% of the 106 examined projects resulted in what were seen as major outcomes (i.e., produced new ideas or solutions to problems, developed new methods of analysis or generated new intellectual property of potential benefit for the company). Given the risks in research funding, that is an impressive batting average.

But only about 20% of the projects led to major impacts on the company that participated in the collaboration. And only 40% of the projects with major research outcomes were exploited in ways that led to major impact, defined as an observable and generally agreed-upon positive effect on the company’s competitiveness or productivity. The other 60% of the projects underachieved, at least from a business standpoint: The outcomes did not make their way into products or processes or influence company decisions.

This article is adapted from “Best Practices for Industry-University Collaboration,” by Julio A. Pertuzé, Edward S. Calder, Edward M. Greitzer and William A. Lucas, which appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review.
MIT Sloan Management Review
August 1, 2010

How to Save Your Brand in the Face of Crisis

When bad things happen, companies need the right strategy for talking their way out of a mess and avoiding a calamitous pummeling of their corporate image. Choosing the best response can spell the difference between a brand’s survival—even enhancement—and its irreversible tarnishing.
In 2009 and 2010, Toyota Motor Corp. was the target of much adverse media attention after a series of accidents due to sudden acceleration incidents and brake faults that led to deaths and injuries. The Toyota brand’s reputation took a battering. Toyota management had a choice: to be resigned to this fate or to use communication strategies to recover from the crisis.

Drawing on scientific research on persuasion, we have assembled a crisis communication framework that highlights when communication strategies should be used to help a brand recover from a crisis and restore trust and brand image with customers. Here are some examples of those strategies, which are best used in synergistic combinations:

Come Clean If the brand is truly at fault and the crisis is severe, the only viable option is for management to apologize quickly, express sympathy with the aggrieved parties and accept responsibility. Accepting responsibility is often inhibited by legal considerations; however, management has to weigh the long-term effects of brand damage against potentially shorter-term monetary damages due to litigation.

All the bad news has to be communicated quickly and, if possible, all at once. In a severe crisis, the company’s top manager has to step up and serve as the first spokesperson. Corrective action may be necessary as well. In the case of a product recall, this involves detailed instructions about how to get the product replaced or fixed.

The Toyota crisis exemplifies the detrimental effects of neither acting nor communicating swiftly and openly when faced with a severe problem. Despite the fact that there were indications of safety problems for a long time, Toyota did not openly acknowledge them until it was heavily pressured by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Furthermore, a remedy to fix the problem could not be offered swiftly, and when offered, customers complained that the fix did not work.

Polish the Halo When an apology becomes necessary, the brand may also need to bolster its image so that less-identified customers do not become even more negative toward the brand or transfer their negative beliefs about certain features to other features of the brand -- the “spillover” effect. One way to prevent spillover is to polish the brand image.

Toyota has followed this strategy. In the context of coming clean, the company started a campaign to bolster its image by launching a TV advertisement stressing its commitment to fixing the problems and reminding consumers of Toyota’s long tradition of safety and quality.

It’s important to realize that no amount of polishing the halo can inoculate a brand. The massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill in April 2010 from an offshore oil rig owned by BP p.l.c. provides an illustration. For many years, BP had been attempting to rebrand itself as a company that also invests in alternative energy. The Gulf spill strengthened associations of the BP brand with “Bad Petroleum.”

The “Not Just Me” Response In many cases, a company’s transgression, while real, is not something unique to the brand under attack -- the same thing could happen to any other brand. If consumers understand this, they are less likely to generalize from the crisis to other aspects of the brand.

Inoculation The idea is to prepare consumers for a negative event by communicating a small dose of the accusation together with counterarguments that refute it -- and to do this before the accusation breaks.

The “Yes, but …” Response Management can reduce the power of accusations by augmenting a come clean approach with a forthright explanation of the reasons for the crisis, along with an argument that downplays the damage done.

Rebuttal When the brand is not at fault, the lack of a crisis response by the company might be interpreted as a confession. The company under attack must defend itself with a point-by-point rebuttal of the spurious allegation.

In 1993, for example, PepsiCo Inc. was confronted with multiple claims that it had sold cans containing foreign objects such as syringes. The issue escalated into a national news story. With a crisis plan for product tampering in place and the support of the Food and Drug Administration, which had found no health hazards related to the claims, the crisis was brought to an end within eight days. Pepsi’s most vivid communication instrument was a video news release that showed the process of a can-filling line, which persuasively demonstrated that it was impossible for objects to enter the cans during production. This example shows the relevance of speed, persuasive depiction of disproof and the support of a trusted third party (in this case, the FDA).

Vilify the Accuser The idea here is to decrease the credibility of a claim by discrediting the source of the accusation. This strategy should be used with caution, because it could backfire if it is viewed as being unfair or defensive. Even in minor cases, vilifying the accuser could be useful in communicating to less-identified customers (though it would be unnecessary with highly identified customers).

Denial This approach makes sense when the following hold: The accusation against the brand is not true; target consumers identify with the brand; and these consumers do not perceive the crisis to be severe.

Conclusion The goal of communication during a crisis is to diffuse the episode’s negative impact. The company embroiled in such a crisis should aim to explain to consumers why the problem arose and why the brand should not be viewed more negatively as a result of the event. Companies have to manage consumers’ attributions of blame, as well as their thoughts about the future of the brand, by providing them with a clear narrative that answers their questions about the crisis. By choosing wisely from the communication arsenal we have described, companies can avert backlash from consumers and perhaps even strengthen the brand when a crisis hits.

This article is adapted from “How to Save Your Brand in the Face of Crisis,” by Gita V. Johar, Matthias M. Birk and Sabine A. Einwiller, which appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review.
MIT Sloan Management Review
August 1, 2010

Rethinking Management

In a new book, Julian Birkinshaw urges businesspeople to give more thought to management models.
Most executives spend a reasonable amount of time thinking about the business model for their organization. But how much time do they spend considering the company’s management model?

Probably not enough, according to Julian Birkinshaw, a professor of strategic and international management at London Business School. In Birkinshaw’s most recent book, Reinventing Management: Making Smart Choices for Tapping Your Company’s Potential (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010), he argues that businesspeople should think more explicitly about the management choices they make when running a company.

MIT Sloan Management Review senior editor Martha E. Mangelsdorf spoke with Birkinshaw about his new book. Here are a few excerpts from that interview, edited for clarity.

In Reinventing Management, you broach the idea that management has been corrupted over the last 100 years. Can you say a little bit more about that?

“Corrupted” is a strong word, and it’s deliberately a bit provocative. I don’t actually mean managers have become corrupt and been sent to jail -- although as we know, a few of them have! I mean “corrupted” as in the word has become tainted in use.

When you use the word “management,” a lot of people immediately think of terms like narrow-minded, controlling, budgeting and planning. Somehow we’ve managed to denigrate management to the extent that it’s no longer actually deemed to be a subject that we should think about or aspire to. No kid today ever grows up thinking, “I want to be a manager.” So we’ve got a problem in that the word has lost its sense of vitality.

One of the things I like about your book -- and it also brings to mind the article you coauthored for MIT Sloan Management Review in 2009 on a similar topic -- is that you take the view that there is no “one size fits all” approach to management, and that what’s important is thinking about the different levers that you can operate.

One of my objectives is to get people to take the concept of a management model a bit more seriously. We spend a lot of time articulating what we mean by business model, and I think we can spend at least as much time and have potentially at least as much benefit in taking seriously the concept of a management model -- and getting people to articulate the choices that they’ve made.

For example, one of the dimensions of management I look at in my book is the question about making decisions top-down versus bottom-up. Should we be relying on the wealth of experience at the top, or should we be tapping into the wisdom of the crowds? Whole books, as you know, have been written on the wisdom of crowds and “crowdsourcing.”

And it’s not very helpful to say that we should rely on one or the other. What is much more helpful is to say, “Let us think through what a ‘wisdom of the crowds’ approach to making decisions looks like. Let’s look at what would make a top-down approach to decision making work. Then let’s look at the pros and cons of each, and let’s encourage people to figure out the right approach to decision making based on their analysis of the situation.” Every company faces, to some degree, different circumstances, and every company is potentially looking to differentiate themselves on slightly different dimensions.

You mentioned at some point in the book that companies should spend as much time thinking about improving their management practices as they do developing new products and services. Do you think any companies actually do that at this point?

No. I’ll be completely frank: I think the chances of that happening anytime soon are remote. We know that many companies spend literally billions on product development. For the most part, that money is not wasted, but much of it is spent on matching competitors, and very often it ends up being spent on what we might call derivative products.

Innovations in the way that we do management have the potential for creating long-lasting advantage. Yes, you’ve got to continue to do product innovation, but the advantages you get out of that are almost always fleeting. If you actually took management innovation in the way that, say, W.L. Gore & Associates did, or perhaps Google has done at some point, then you can actually see management as an engine of long-term sustainable advantage.

Innovation in management to some extent begets innovation in other areas; it’s not an either/or story. I think it’s just a matter of rebalancing the prioritization of the different types of innovation.

This article is adapted from “Rethinking Management,” by Martha E. Mangelsdorf, which appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review.
MIT Sloan Management Review
August 1, 2010

On the Rocky Road to Strong Global Culture

It’s not easy to build a strong organizational culture worldwide—but “cultural hubs” beyond headquarters can help.
For more than a decade, multinational companies (MNCs) have been encouraged to create a strong global corporate culture. Indeed, several recent surveys of global executives have identified the ability to maintain a common corporate culture as one of their greatest challenges. However, our research suggests that a strong global culture is the exception rather than the rule. As companies expand globally, corporate culture often lags behind; it frequently remains too headquarters-centric to pull together far-flung operations, or it disintegrates under the turmoil of globalization.

We have studied organizational culture in global companies for 12 years, interviewing 250 executives at 10 MNCs, and we have found that few companies succeed at building an organizational culture that is globally integrated, yet flexible enough to accommodate local variations. Based on our research and that of others, we have identified at least two key barriers. One barrier is a headquarters-centric mind-set: Companies often approach the process of developing a global culture as a one-way process dominated by corporate headquarters, exemplified by common terms such as “cultural transfer” “and “culture dissemination.” Also, core values often originate at corporate headquarters and fail to reflect and incorporate diverse cultural influences.

A second barrier is thinking about global culture along a linear continuum ranging from “weak” to “strong.” Such an approach is too simplistic to capture complex cultural patterns in MNCs, which may have “islands” of strong culture distributed across their far-flung operations. Based on these patterns, our framework suggests that global organizational cultures can be categorized along three primary dimensions: the degree to which core values and practices are shared throughout the corporation, the degree to which core values are localized, and the existence of an ongoing multidirectional process that reconciles core values with local realities. Our framework identifies four principal patterns of global culture: Spearhead, Outpost, Disoriented and Global.

Spearhead Culture Some companies have a set of core values that are articulated and shared within the corporate headquarters, whereas employees of overseas subsidiaries share these values weakly and are occasionally unaware of them. If any adaptations are made, they are usually initiated by headquarters and driven by frustration rather than respect for local ways. The Spearhead culture allows companies to run a controlled operation and quickly integrate acquired businesses. However, mediation between the global and local values is virtually nonexistent.

Outpost Culture In some global companies there are islands of strong culture in a sea of cultural fragmentation. These “outposts” are successful subsidiaries led by effective local executives who create a strong culture at the subsidiary level. But due to company-wide fragmentation and lack of corporate leadership, there are no processes set up to share these subsidiaries’ strong culture with other units.

Disoriented Culture A disoriented culture can be characteristic of MNCs experiencing turmoil, perhaps due to changes in the business environment, global competition, organizational restructuring or mergers or acquisitions. Here neither corporate headquarters nor subsidiaries have a sense of strategic direction. Employees often lose faith in management and are baffled about where the company may be headed.

Global Culture A company with a strong global culture has a set of core values that are shared worldwide. These values often reflect an evolving amalgamation of values drawn from the company’s global operations. They constitute the cornerstone of strong global culture and serve as a yardstick that guides operations worldwide. Having common values, however, does not mean that local differences are ignored. In fact, respect for local knowledge is key. Core values can be seen as parameters within which local interpretations take place.

Our research suggests that the global pattern of culture is the exception. Creating a global corporate culture requires breaking away from a headquarters-centric mind-set, drawing upon cultural capabilities that exist across the global operations and incorporating diverse cultural values. Global culture cannot emanate from a single corporate center nor can it be disseminated by a single group such as the human resource function. Therefore, companies should identify and establish multiple cultural hubs around the globe, thereby incorporating a diverse set of organizational entities and employees into the process of maintaining a strong global organizational culture.

By establishing cultural hubs, companies can harness cultural capabilities that reside in different geographic locations and across functions and groups. Most companies already have cultural hubs in place, but they go unrecognized and underutilized. To identify a company’s cultural hubs, executives should look for locales where at least one of the core cultural values is shared, practiced and appropriately localized and where there is potential for the values to be shared across organizational boundaries.

We should note that cultural hubs are dynamic; in other words, due to personnel changes or strategic changes, a particular locale may cease to be a hub. Cultural hubs have in common two main things: They embody the values of a global organizational culture that the company aspires to, and they have the passion to engage in “culture work” that helps to localize and share those values with other parts of the company.

Through such “culture work,” an MNC can identify the core values that must be shared across global operations and learn to elaborate their meanings in different cultural contexts. Companies that develop a strong global culture do not shy away from reviewing and re-articulating their core values and do not view such a process as a sign of weakness. The seeming paradox is that a strong global culture is not unlike those architectural structures whose very stability stems from a system of flexible foundations.

This article is adapted from “On the Rocky Road to Strong Global Culture,” by Orly Levy, Sully Taylor and Nakiye A. Boyacigiller, which appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review.
MIT Sloan Management Review
August 1, 2010

What to Do Against Disruptive Business Models (When and How to Play Two Games at Once)

Fighting against a disruptive business model by rolling out a second business model is one option for companies to consider. But to make that work, you need to avoid the trap of getting stuck in the middle.
Increasingly, established companies in industries as diverse as airlines, media and banking are seeing their markets invaded by new and disruptive business models. The success of invaders such as easyJet, Netflix and ING Direct in capturing market share has encouraged established corporations to respond by adopting new business models alongside their established ones. Yet most companies are unsuccessful in their efforts to compete with two business models at once.

The primary solution to this problem is to keep the two business models in two distinct organizations. But this approach by itself does not ensure success. In fact, there are many examples of companies that have pursued this strategy and failed (such as British Airways with its Go Fly subsidiary and KLM with its Buzz subsidiary).

If separation is not sufficient, what else should companies do? We have identified five questions that companies need to consider:

Question #1: Should I enter the market space created by the new business model?

Before jumping in, an established company needs to assess the “attractiveness” of the new market. Whether or not the new market is attractive will depend not only on its size and growth rate but also on the business’s competences and the likelihood it would succeed in the new market. Established corporations should approach the decision the same way they approach the decision to diversify into another market.

Question #2: If I do enter the new market space, can I do it with my existing business model or will I need a new one?

In making this decision, the question is: Do the new customers represent an entirely different market requiring a different set of value chain activities, or are they just another segment that can be served with the existing business model? The way most banks approached Internet banking suggests that they looked at the new customers as just another segment that could be served with their existing business models. On the other hand, banks like ING (with ING Direct) and HSBC (with First Direct) and airlines like Singapore Airlines (with SilkAir) and Qantas (with Jetstar) have all looked at price-conscious customers not just as another segment but as a fundamentally different market that required a dedicated business model.

Question #3: If I need a new business model to exploit the new market, should I simply adopt the invading business model that’s disrupting my market?

The temptation is to mimic the business model of the disrupters. Our research suggests that this is a trap. Established companies that succeed in entering the new markets do so by developing radically different business models -- different from the one that the disrupters are using and different from the one it employs in its established market. They need to “disrupt the disrupter,” as Nintendo did in response to Sony and Microsoft in the video games console market. Instead of targeting teenagers and young men as Sony and Microsoft did, Nintendo developed the Wii to target families. Instead of emphasizing functionality, speed and superior graphics (as the PlayStation and Xbox did), the Wii stressed ease of use and simplicity. It was a strategy that caught the disrupters (Sony and Microsoft) by surprise and catapulted Nintendo to industry leadership.

Question #4: If I develop a new business model, how separate should it be organizationally from the existing business model?

Proponents of running two separate operations point to the benefits of keeping the two business models apart, the most important being that it allows the new unit to develop its own strategy, culture and processes without interference from the parent. But separation is by no means cost-free. Perhaps the biggest cost is not being able to exploit synergies between the two businesses. We think there has to be a balance: separate enough to avoid conflicts but not so separate as to prevent exploitation of synergies. That balance can be only achieved if the corporation thinks creatively about what activities to separate and what not to.

This decision on the appropriate degree of separation must be made for at least five areas:

Location. Should the separate unit be located close to the parent company or somewhere else?

Name. Should the separate unit adopt a name similar to the parent name (as Nestlé did with Nespresso) or should the name be totally different (as British Airways did with Go Fly)?

Equity. Should the unit be a wholly owned subsidiary of the parent or should the parent own only a certain percentage of the equity?

Value chain activities. Which value chain activities should the unit develop on its own and which should it share with the parent?

Organizational environment. Should the unit be allowed to develop its own culture, values, processes, incentives and people, or should some of these be shared with the parent?

Question #5: Once I create a separate unit, what are the challenges of pursuing two business models at once?

We examined 42 companies that had created a separate unit to compete in the new market. Of these, 10 were successful, while 32 failed. We found that successful companies gave much more operational and financial autonomy to the separate units than unsuccessful companies. They also allowed the units to develop their own cultures and budgetary systems, and to have their own CEOs. These are all policies consistent with the notion that the new units need freedom to operate. However, we also found that autonomy did not come at the expense of synergies: The parent still kept close watch over the strategy of the unit; cooperation between the unit and the parent was encouraged through common incentive and reward systems; and the CEO tended to be transferred from inside the organization to facilitate closer cooperation and active exploitation of synergies.

This article is adapted from “What to Do Against Disruptive Business Models (When and How to Play Two Games at Once),” by Constantinos C. Markides and Daniel Oyon, which appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review.
MIT Sloan Management Review
August 1, 2010

Why Too Much Trust Is Death to Innovation

When companies collaborate, low trust is detrimental to innovation. But so is very high trust. The optimal level, yielding maximum impact, lies in between. How do you find it?
The Smart microcar, invented by the tumultuous partnership between Daimler-Benz and The Swatch Group Ltd., seems to be finally reaping the benefits of its provocative design as more consumers order this compact automobile. By contrast, the minivan codeveloped by Peugeot and Fiat (initially sold as the Peugeot 806 and the Fiat Ulysse) was the result of a harmonious relationship but never garnered much attention. It was just another minivan.

These outcomes contradict common sense as well as a large body of academic literature. The general assumption, after all, is that success grows out of good relationships, while poor cooperation and lack of trust lead to disaster. Yet examples abound of high-trust partnerships that fail to innovate and of turbulent ones that succeed.

To evaluate whether trust level is associated with higher or lower levels of innovativeness, we decided to set up a series of experiments. We enrolled groups with up to 30 players each, assigned them to as many as 15 pairs, and instructed each pair to design and build an object in the most creative way possible.

The results point to a major finding: As mutual trust increases, the partnership’s creativity goes up, reaches a maximum point and then starts to decline. To control for the inherent creativity of individual participants in the experiment, we considered not the individuals’ creativity but the pairs’ creativity arising from the partnership. The difference between the two was termed “partnership effectiveness.”

Although innovativeness, like partnership effectiveness, also decreases after passing an optimal point, its values are higher than those realized at lower levels of trust. Our findings show, as one would expect, that low trust is not conducive to innovation. But too much trust is bad for innovation too. As mutual trust goes up, innovativeness increases, but only to a certain point. There seems to be an optimal level of trust, above or below which innovativeness or creativity is impeded.

We can explain this seemingly strange pattern by observing how conflicts affect team performance. According to some management thinkers, tension does not always play a negative role in team dynamics. Indeed, while relational conflicts (which may arise, for example, from personal contempt for one or more team members) are extremely detrimental to team performance, task-oriented conflicts are beneficial because they foster critical thinking and in-depth analysis of the team’s goals and actions. From our findings, we could say that low levels of trust cause relational conflicts, while high levels of trust may induce a reduction in task-oriented conflicts.

Consider the example of the Renault Espace, which was the product of a hugely successful partnership that lasted for nearly two decades. Undoubtedly one of the most innovative car models in Europe in the 1990s, the Espace originated from a challenging partnership between Renault SA and Matra Automobile (now part of Lagardère SCA). While the companies’ CEOs were said to have a good relationship, Renault’s engineering and product-management teams questioned Matra’s ability to develop a successful car, given its modest achievements with previous models (such as the Bagheera, Murena and Rancho). While the Renault teams liked the freshness of Matra’s ideas, they were skeptical about its design solutions.

For example, when Renault’s advanced marketing group members found that customers increasingly valued modular interiors (in which the car owner could modify the seating arrangement) and deemed that Matra’s minivan idea made this feature possible, they insisted that the car incorporate it. At the same time, however, the group was unsure that Matra would be able to engineer the car on a high enough level to reach minimum quality standards. Renault’s marketing executives were so concerned that the Espace would not sell effectively as a passenger car that they demanded it be designed with a flat floor, to easily convert into a delivery van if need be. Matra engineers, who had designed racing cars, did not appreciate this compromise.

Nevertheless, the Espace gradually became the leader in its category in Europe, causing the two partners to repeatedly adjust the production capacity upward, eventually reaching an impressive 600% of its initial level.

Renault and Matra, despite a stormy relationship, were able to find an effective balance in their partnership and offer the market an innovative concept that competitors later adopted. The tensions and limited trust between the two teams resulted in a set of unconventional solutions, and a unique car design, that enjoyed long-term success.

Our findings confirm that joint innovation projects benefit from a committed and trusting environment. But companies not only should avoid very low mutual trust among the individuals working on the project, they also should avoid situations in which it is very high.

Trust that matters is not just at the sponsor or executive level; it is also essential in the teams formed to be creative and produce innovations. Leaders entering a joint innovation partnership should therefore consider the following:

• Do not expect much innovation from new partners (or new teams); it takes time for trust, and the consequent openness and cooperative behavior that generate benefits, to develop.
• Help teams involved in a joint innovation project to build trust early.
• Monitor the level of mutual trust during the project in order to avoid a rift and improve efficacy. Too often, managers pay no attention to trust; it is left to develop, or degrade, haphazardly. Proper monitoring should include a clear warning system.
• Ensure that there is an appropriate level of healthy criticism. If too much trust develops, it might be necessary to remind the team of its objectives and priorities. Here again, careful monitoring can alert management to an excessive buildup of groupthink.
• The risk of excessive trust should not be overestimated, however. Barring extreme conditions, there is still a creativity gain. It is just lower than the peak that occurs in the medium-to-high-trust range.

This article is adapted from “Why Too Much Trust Is Death to Innovation,” by Francis Bidault and Alessio Castello, which appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review.
Technology Review
July 30, 2010

Genes to Make Hydrocarbon Fuels

The startup LS9 reveals a discovery that could lead to biofuels that would work in conventional engines.
Many species naturally make small amounts of hydrocarbons. Now researchers at the startup LS9, based in South San Francisco, CA, have described the genes and enzymes responsible for this production of alkanes, the major components of fuels such as diesel. The findings, reported in the current issue of the journal Science, have allowed the researchers to engineer E. coli bacteria that can secrete alkane hydrocarbons capable of being burned in diesel engines. LS9 had previously reported using bacteria to produce hydrocarbon fuel, but this is the first time the researchers have revealed how they did it. "This is the first characterization of these enzymes. Virtually nothing was known about what enzymes were responsible, and how do they do it," says Frances Arnold, a professor of chemical engineering, bioengineering, and biochemistry at Caltech. Arnold was not involved in the LS9 work. The discovery "opens up a whole new set of possibilities," she says. "These reactions are very interesting. Nature has made a few versions of them. Now, in the laboratory, we can make many more versions, so your imagination can run wild." Any commercial applications Arnold and others discover, however, will likely require a licensing agreement with LS9, which has filed for a patent for its discovery.
Technology Review
July 30, 2010

New Focus for Digital Photography

Software that gives users more control of a camera could revolutionize photography.
Camera-phone owners can use new software to reprogram these devices--and capture images that would previously have been impossible to get. Stanford University researchers have made software for the Nokia N900 phone that gives developers, and users, greater control over the phone's camera components than ever before. This software makes a variety of apps possible. Using the software, developers have already created apps that can capture both light and dark parts of a scene, stitch panoramic photos together automatically, and capture extremely sharp photos even in low light.