Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Incremental Innovations

In this trip within the US, I saw a couple of incremental innovations that were pleasing. (When you live in a country for 20 years, you start to take things for granted and stop noticing the improvements.)

Used to be that in museums, we'd pay around $6-$8 to rent an "audio guide" – a long black hand-held device which would narrate once we pressed the exhibit's number. This time, I saw that in several places, they asked us to use our cell phones instead. No renting or paying anything. You dial the number and the displayed extension, and a voice recording tells you about what you are looking at, with options for more details if you are interested. I saw this in the OKC memorial, in art galleries in Taos, and also in a botanical garden in Lincoln, NE. This is a great way to increase the usage of a device that all of us carry around -- the cell phone.

In the Wal-Mart in Durango in Colorado, I noticed that the receipt was unusually small. Then I saw why. Both sides of the paper had been used to print our purchases! It may not sound like much, but I am sure eventually the savings in paper used adds up to something significant.

"Most of the innovations that matter are the tiny changes we constantly make to the millions of procedures and methods we use."
Robin Hanson, Innovations and Economic Growth

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