How to convert corporate sustainability reports from a poorly defined marketing exercise to a source of real actionable data
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There’s an old joke about an optimistic young boy who wanted nothing more than a pony. He begged his parents for years, and one sunny morning he woke up to see a huge pile of manure in the farmyard. Immediately, he dashed out and started digging wildly in it. His mother rushed out crying, “What on earth are you doing in that muck?” “With this much manure,” he beamed, “there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”
In 2012, a report came out showing that public stock markets have been outperforming VC funds for a decade. It’s been widely noted that almost all returns from VC come from less than 5% of deals – take out the one outlying, top performing investment and the average performance of VC funds can completely deflate.
From March 17 to March 19, over 300 executives gathered in Boston for the 10th annual Lux Executive Summit Americas, networking and presenting their experiences seeking new business opportunties from emerging technologies. For those clients who weren't able to join us for the event, this edition of the Lux Quarterly provides a glimpse into the proceedings – Chris Hartshorn's article "Solving the Innovation Information Problem to Enable Long-Term New Business Success" provides some of the highlights from his opening keynote address, while Cosmin Laslau's piece on "The Underappreciated Key to the Cars of the Future: Safety" is adapted from one of the best-received Lux Research keynotes from the themed track sessions. Meanwhile, this article reviews some of the top external speakers.
We’re bombarded these days with the potential of data, from understanding and segmenting populations to optimizing manufacturing operations. However, for companies targeting new business in B2B domains, the quality and breadth of data can be limited. While they typically know their existing customers and markets, they struggle in identifying, segmenting, and attacking genuinely new opportunities. Corporate functions such as R&D, venturing, and innovation need to lead the charge into new business areas but often focus on areas that lack a critical mass of quality information around successful and unsuccessful initiatives. As a result, metrics can’t be effectively set and measured, prescriptive action and predictable results are impractical, and proving the value of these innovation-enabling functions to the skeptical CEO is impossible.
There are many visions for the future of the automobile. Some look to the drivetrain and debate whether the internal combustion engine (ICE) will give way to battery-powered plug-in vehicles, or to fuel cell vehicles, or evolve to run on biofuels or natural gas. Others point to advanced materials, or to self-driving cars, while others still look beyond the car itself, to disruptive use cases like car sharing and taxi replacements (see Figure 1). While debates tend to revolve around whether one or another of these innovations will or won't become a dominant solution, the reality is that multiple advances will reshape the industry over the coming decades. One common but under appreciated thread runs through all the innovations that are likely to succeed – safety.
The ongoing water crisis in California has generated some dire predictions about the state's future. The New York Times recently asked whether the “state’s driving engine has run against the limits of nature.” But California isn’t running out of water. It’s running out of cheap water. The drought damage is estimated as $2.2 billion, which is significant, but hardly the "end of growth" for California’s $2.2 trillion economy. The problem for businesses, however, is that cheap water jeopardizes water security. Executives need visibility into the issue and strategies to manage it, but unfortunately, the slow policy response and inconsistent price signals slow innovation. So let’s do the math.
Protein is essential to health and nutrition, but the challenges of finding sufficient and sustainable food for the populations of the 21st century will be most acute for protein. The ways most of us have eaten for millenia will change as powerful factors are shifting demand and driving the development of novel sources. To wit:
The building and construction sector has gone through huge changes over the past, from the financial crisis in the United States and Western Europe, to the recent slowdown in BRIC countries, to the ongoing rapid growth in "green" buildings. Manufacturers of building materials such as insulation have suffered from compression of operating margins as well.