My Motivation

Last week, I gave a presentation on the Future Flip Book (in English and in German) in Hamburg. While preparing for the presentation, I asked myself: Why am I doing what I am doing? What motivated me working on sustainable innovation, what was the driver for my work on the Future Flip Book?

I put it in bold on one of the slides: I do not want to surrender to a gloomy future. That is simply it. I strongly feel that we can do something about the dreary future ahead of us. I am convinced that innovation plays a role here. Of course, I am not naive. We cannot continue as we have, and hope that we innovate ourselves out of this mess. We have to change attitudes, mindsets, and behavior, too.

If we were doing a Polak Game (, I would certainly be on the right side of the room. I am certainly not fully in the front or the back of the room. I am somewhere in the middle.

At times I feel outraged and at time I feel optimistic. For everybody, who feels the same the podcast Outrage & Optimism is a must (

Sustainability Uncategorized

I am Beautiful

No, no, no. This will not be a post where I can live my narcissistic side. This is about an ad campaign by German McDonald’s.

They show a used paper coffee cup and claim in bold letters: I (the paper cup) am beautiful because I might become a book someday (see here).

I was stunned to see a one-way packaging item be the center stage of a campaign. I could imagine that one-way packaging is part of a campaign advising against its use. But here, right to the contrary: this campaign clearly associates one-way packaging with positive attributes.

Why on earth would you want to do this? – Frankly, I have no idea.

If I look at this, a lot crosses my mind. The first thing is that McDonald’s is greenwashing here big time. The second thing is that McDonald’s is the largest fast-food chain in Germany. Judged by the number of restaurants McDonald’s (1,484) is larger than the next two chains (Burger King, 750; Subways, 692). So, being Mcdonald’s is something (or not nothing). What could you have done with the size and the resources that come with it, other, I mean, than hiring Scholz and Friends for this campaign?

You could have thought about establishing a system of reusable cups and packaging. I imagine that you (as McDonald’s) could have built a business from the reusable cups by (kind of) forcing this reusable packaging system on other providers of system gastronomy.

I could only speculate why we see greenwashing instead of doing something that changes the system. It would be nice to see research on the power structure, the motivations, the resource allocation, and the decision-making processes concerning circular business models inside McDonald’s. It would also be nice to see the role of business development and innovation in McDonald’s Germany and sustainability’s role in the internal discussions.

Note: The image here is by Martin Abegglen. It is not the image used in McDonald’s campaign.

Design Innovation

Money, money, money, must be funny, …

You will probably know this line from the oldies’ charts, 70s parties, or from your not-so-favorite radio station. Well, it’s been a while since it was in the charts. But it is still en vouge. Not for the tune, but for the lyrics. At least for the first part. Money is still important and will remain to be so. It is funny, or at least interesting, how different businesses approach it in different ways. One more convincingly than the other.

Santander enters the BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later) market with its new brand Zinia. And Klarna (a BNPL business) enters the credit card market.

You might think that this is boring – a traditional bank adds a ‘modern’ service to its portfolio and a modern fin-tech adds a rather traditional service to its portfolio. It may be boring. But read an enlightening piece at that tells the story, assesses the innovativeness of the endeavors, guesses who knows their customers and target groups, and speculates about the time pressure behind the two initiatives.

A nice piece about service innovation, customer expectations, and the future of payment.

Entrepreneurship Uncategorized

Helping Activists

My idea of systems entrepreneurship is that someone recognizes that a system is somehow broken and then does something about it.

If that were a broadly acceptable definition, then we’re looking at systems entrepreneurship here:

Emily Laquer has recognized that the media system (especially primetime TV / Radio discussion panels) is somehow broken: Primetime barely features social movements. “We want to change that. Whether it’s a talk show, a live interview on TV and radio, a sound bite on the news, or a newspaper interview: We empower activists to dare to stand in front of cameras and microphones and build bridges to the editorial offices.” writes

Offering PR training for activists and connecting them to journalists. Wow. You don’t have to subscribe to every idea of the protagonists, but this is a great idea to increase the diversity of opinions and views in the media and to enable an exchange. That’s what democracy thrives on.

Miscellaneous Sustainability

Meat you halfway?

I have been following the trend towards more plant-based foods. I think this is important. For health reasons. For ethical reasons. And for climate reasons. Now, if this is good, how do we get there and increase the number of people embarking at least on a partially plant-based diet?

There are two approaches:

One is to restrict the offerings and make it somewhat harder for people to get their daily sausage. I have just come across Berkeley. It is the first US city planning to eliminate all animal products it serves. So for employees, it will be less convenient if they want to have an animal-based (is this the correct term to describe the opposite of plant-based?) meal. They have to get out and search for diners, restaurants, or food joints. Staying within the organization and have a plant-based meal is more convenient. Cool move by the Major and the Council.

For most company or university restaurants it would be nice to see plant-based meals to be the default and meat to be the exception. How about a Meat-Monday?

The second option is to make plant-based food really desirable and win over the most passionate carnivores. Vegan butchers (although this term seems to be a contradiction within itself) might go a long way in this direction:

Additionally, if you like the yummy taste of European sausages HEDI might be your supplier (the page is in German only).

However. I am not sure if plant-based food should ‘copy’ meat-based products. For certain occasions and certain cravings, this may be helpful. If perfect, this might win over some customers. But showing consumers that a plant-based diet has more to offer – in terms of taste and texture – can be a worthwhile endeavor.


Sounds of Extinction

The term creative destruction was coined by Joseph Alois Schumpeter as an essential dynamic property of capitalism. In short, it constantly creates new products and processes that make existing products and processes obsolete, they vanish.

This dynamic process of the new replacing the old changes our environment dramatically, of course depending on where we are. It affects what we see – have you recently seen a donkey cart? It affects what we smell – have you recently smelled exhaust fumes of a two stroke engine out in the streets? And it affects what we hear – have you heard the beeping sound of a modem recently?

Let us call label sounds that vanish due to technological progress as sounds of extinction.

A great example of sounds of extinction is the sound of a mechanical shutter of a camera. Here you find the shutter sound of 18 cameras recorded by photographer Sails Chong.

Really lovely, especially the old Polaroid X70 and the good old Rolleiflex 3003.

It is probably an intricate design question whether a photo app on a smartphone really needs to have a shutter sound that pretends that something mechanical is inside the camera. Do you really need to convey a message through a sound that suggests something that is not there? This reminds me of the discussion about whether or not the early iPad really needed a bookshelf app designed like a wooden bookshelf.


Cool Summer Retro

Apple has announced the 2021 Apple Design Award Finalists. I try to write here about design every now and then. Today is one of those days. The line-up of finalists includes an App under the category ‘Delight and Fun,’ which is just that – it’s a delight, and it is incredible fun.

It is

John Gruber wrote about

What kind of sick twisted people, who obviously know and love the classic Mac look-and-feel, would mix it with parts of the old Windows look-and-feel? And somehow make it work? I’ve consulted with experts, and we’ve determined that the Poolside vibe is 3 measures classic Mac OS, 1 measure Windows, 1 measure original, and the resulting cocktail is just what the good doctor ordered.

John Gruber

During the booting process, the start screen, with a somewhat MS-blue background, tells you that the system is


That is probably more on the side of what John describes as one measure of Windows.

Then after an ASCII-Island (I do not spoil this piece of art here) you enter a blend of really early Mac OS and Windows in your browser window.

You can select summerly playlists and videos from the late 80s and early 90s to light up your day and get yourself in a summerly mood.

How great is that?

And what is even more amazing is implementing an iOS-App that is not a copy of the website. Rather, it is a nice independent interpretation of the overall style and functionality.

I now head outside and get myself an iced tea or something.



Today, maybe in search for a ‘side-hustle’ (was it boredom that drove me?), I ran into a nice and brief essay by Josh Pillay about the very same thing: boredom

Perhaps our attitudes to boredom are really a by-product of our insatiable need for excitement and entertainment – an expectation and anticipation that something has to happen in any given moment.

Josh Pillay

At the end of the essay, Josh Pillay advises that

It is time we reinstated an active and joyful engagement with the natural world and its changing seasons,

I can full-heartedly agree with that, having been out in the dunes today and seeing tens of thousands of pasqueflowers—what a great sight. I want to share just a simple image. The weather, the flowers, just marvelous.

Art Design Miscellaneous

Death in Venice?

Rather to the contrary, I hope. Its about life.

On May 22, the 2021 Biennale Architektura opens its door. The bold question How will We Live Together? is the overarching theme of the exhibition.

Hashim Sarkis the curator of the exhibition says:

The world is putting new challenges in front of architecture … I look forward to working with participating architects from around the world to imagine together how we are going to rise to these challenges.

Hashim Sarkis

Nicely put, but – if you ask me – a bit too weak an expression on the first page of the Biennales website. The topic has been set well before the pandemic and was expected to focus on climate change, migration, and political polarization. Now the pandemic will put its mark on the exhibition as an additional aspect.

If you want to see what the Biennale has to offer in this department, then you might be itching to go to Venice because – and now sit tight – the event is supposed to be a physical event. For one reason or the other, you and I might share the fate that we cannot attend. Luckily, some countries such as Estonia, Switzerland, Lithuania, Great Britain, Finland, and Luxembourg provide a self-organized online platform to supplement the main event. This initiative is joined by other countries as well.

The platform:

I am very much looking forward to spending time at the virtual part of the Biennale this year.

Art Innovation

Slow Development of Heavy Metal

It is not the case that innovations get developed over night. Most of the goods and services that we currently see have – of course – been innovations once. And these innovations do not fall like manna from heaven. Most innovations have multiple parents.

Polyphonic explores those multiple parents for a music genre innovation in the early 1970s: heavy metal.

The 11-minute video uses sound bits to convincingly highlight the influence of blues, The Beatles, The Who, and naturally the first metal bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple.

Yle’s Genealogy of Metal poster illustrates the sub-genres of metal and list even Johann Sebastian Bach as pre-metal influences, which would be supported by Vince Neilstein:

Bach … is the quintessential forefather of metal. His shit is just so raw, evil-sounding and full of emotion…

Vince Neilstein

However, I would lean more towards Nicolas Ellis’s assessment that Beethoven was the heavy metal of the early 19th century.

Art Design Innovation Sustainability

Beautiful Power

Jason Kottke has a blog post today about the beauty of gas stations. I agree that sometimes the architecture ist quite stunning.

My favorite is the Skovshoved Petrol Station located in Copenhagen and designed in 1936 by the Danish architect and designer icon Arne Jacobsen.

Skovshoved Petrol Station by Arne Jacobsen. Image: Wikipedia

Do you wonder when we will have beautiful electric changing facilities? Oh wait a minute. Again the Danes:

Ultra fast charging station for electric vehicles by Cobe

This is a charging station for electric vehicles designed by the Copenhagen architecture studio Cobe founded by Dan Stubbergaard in 2006.

He believes architects have a profound responsibility to create resilient, long-term solutions that improve life – cities, buildings, and landscapes that are made to outlast our generation.


About the charging station Dan Stubbergaard says:

Electric vehicles are the way of the future. With our design we offer EV drivers a welcome break and an opportunity to recharge mentally in a green oasis. The energy and the technology are green, so we wanted the architecture, the materials and the concept to reflect that. Hence, we designed a charging station in sustainable materials placed in a clean, calm setting with trees and plants that offer people a dose of mindfulness on the highway.

Dan Stubbergaard

More generally he is

…inspired by the transformation of Copenhagen from an industrial port city to a beacon for liveability and sustainability… He is the leading figure in Cobe’s work to create surroundings that actively contribute to extraordinary everyday life.


This is an excellent claim, and I promise to visit Cobe’s website more often to learn about their projects. I am sure they can convince me over and over again that sustainability can (and has to be) aesthetically pleasing.

By the way. The cover image above is from Cobe as well. It a bicycle parking spot under a hill.

Innovation Miscellaneous

Crisis and Small Scale Innovation

My colleague Johannes Dahlke summarizes his thoughts and a paper of ours under the headline ‘Why we need to support small-scale innovation projects during crises‘. There are three reasons:

1) People are willing and capable of generating crisis-driven innovations in their communities.

2) Being part of innovative solutions creates a sense of purpose and control.

3) We need to support crisis-driven innovation at the local level.

In my opinion his most important thought in Johannes’ piece is the following.

To make it clear: This is not at all to be understood as an argument for handing over complete responsibility to citizens by loosening restrictions or launching reopening projects for political gains at the risk of vulnerable groups.

[Please note that in the following paragraphs I blow off some steam.]

Johannes wrote this on May 2. But today (May 6), it is even more true – especially the reopening part of the statement.

The German parliament has voted for loosening restrictions for fully vaccinated people and cured COVID patients. In Germany, we have less than 15% of the population this applies to, so no big deal, you might say. I still consider this move a thoughtless one. For two reasons: First, I do not see how you can possibly control this and enforce the remaining restrictions that might limit our freedom to save lives. In particular, the new quarantine rule sounds rather unenforceable. Second, being an economist, I strongly believe softened requirements are an incentive for creating a sizeable black market for vaccination documents (think: forged driving licenses for underage drinkers in the US). I frankly do not believe that this brings out the solidarity of people to carefully forego immediate satisfaction of needs for a greater common good.

Where are the politicians that call for solidarity by the vaccinated with the not yet vaccinated? To me, it looks like a move for political gains by all the parties in the parliament that I take seriously. After all, federal elections are coming up in autumn this year.

Just as human dignity, health is a fundamental human right that needs to be protected by the government because people cannot simply solve a pandemic on their own.

Johannes, I could not agree more.

Design Miscellaneous Visualization

Colors? What Colors?

I have to admit that I am not completely color blind, but I have some issues with red and green. I only recognize a 17 in the image below. Others – I am told – also see a 42.

Maybe this is why I opted for a clear black and white contrast in the re-launch of my website. After seeing the image below, I am even happier that I choose an easy and not ambiguous color scheme.

Colors can be deceptive. Look at this and decide whether you see balls of different colors.

If you believe that the balls are of different colors – shades of blue, red, and green – then you are not color blind, but the whole optical illusion worked.

Frankly, I could not believe it. I really had to test it with the pipette tool in Powerpoint (not any fancy graphical applications). Here are the colors of the top row of the balls (the ones that are cut off a bit):

Sustainability Visualization

Glaciers Then and Now

Taking up yesterday’s post and the notion of small multiples introduced by Edward Tufte in his Visual Display of Quantitative Information, I’d like to highlight another excellent interactive visualization of climate change. This time the melting of glaciers.

The Guardian’s Niko Kommenda has an excellent piece on this.

The illustration highlights how the outlines of the 90 largest and most surveyed glaciers shrink over the course of a couple of generations.

Sustainability Uncategorized Visualization

New Normals

This is not about the New Normal that is often mentioned when we discuss the future in the wake of the Covid-pandemic.

This is about the visualization of the shifts in average temperature for the US. This highlights pretty impressively how the temperature has changed over the last since 1901.

Every 10 years, NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – redefines “normal” weather (in terms of rainfall, temperature, and other characteristics of the climate). The base for each re-definition is the preceding 30-year window.

Now let’s have a look at the temperature to get an impression of global warming.

Annual U.S. temperature compared to the 20th-century average for each U.S. Climate Normals period from 1901-1930 (upper left) to 1991-2020 (lower right). Places where the normal annual temperature was 1.25 degrees or more colder than the 20th-century average are darkest blue; places where normal annual temperature was 1.25 degrees or more warmer than the 20th-century average are darkest red. Maps by NOAA, based on analysis by Jared Rennie, North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies/NCEI. Image is from

Rebecca Lindsay’s contribution has answers to some of the most immediate questions:

Is global warming affecting the Normals? (Yes). Are the Normals adjusted to “subtract out” global warming? (No.)  So the new normal reflects our changing climate? (Yes). Then how do we keep track of what used to be normal? (Different analyses.)

The influence of long-term global warming is obvious: the earliest map in the series has the most widespread and darkest blues, and the most recent map has the most widespread and darkest reds. Today, the normal annual temperatures across the country are warmer than the 20th-century average virtually everywhere. From 1901-1930, the annual average temperature was mostly colder than the 20th-century average.

For me, this is a brilliant presentation of data. This visualization really helps us to understand that something dramatic is going on.

By the way. The visualization is so impressive because it uses small multiples introduced by Edward Tufte in his Visual Display of Quantitative Information. In this case, the small multiples assist us in tracking temperature development across time and space.

Innovation Sustainability

The Boardroom and Beyond

Today Shira Ovide has a nice piece in the New York Times about the role and influence of tech companies’ CEOs on how we live our lives and on the overall economic, technological, and social development.

What the 21st-century tech barons like Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma believe and do matters. 

It wasn’t a spreadsheet that decided to pay Amazon employees at least $15 an hour, and influenced wages at other employers. Nothing that momentous happens at Amazon unless Bezos wants it. Zuckerberg designed Facebook with him as absolute ruler, and his beliefs are fused into Facebook’s bones.

If Elon Musk hadn’t pursued his mission to destroy fossil fuels, governments and major car companies probably would not now be planning to kill conventional cars. Conflicting corporate agendas plus personal vendettas between the chief executives of Apple and Facebook, and Amazon and Tesla, are steering the future of the internet and space exploration.

This line of reasoning breathes a strange sort of image of tech CEOs if it means that it is all only to their credit. If we forget that technology is developed not by individuals but by teams in concert with numerous partners within and outside of the focal organization, that it is developed for different kinds of reasons, driven by different types of incentives etc. we miss essential contributors to the innovation process.

On the other hand, this reasoning shows us the power of single individuals in shaping economic, social, and technological development. Winning one of these over to the endeavor of sustainability transition would certainly be helpful for the cause. If we think ‘Greta’ in this context, we realize that these individuals do not have to come from corporate boardrooms but from every walk of life.

Art Sustainability

Earth Restored

It would be great to announce that the earth has been restored. But unfortunately, we are far from it.

When writing this headline, I should have remembered the good old René Magritte and his La Trahison des images (also known as Ceci n’est pas une pipe). It is not the earth that has been restored; it is images of the earth – pictures taken during the Apollo mission. I admit that I fell for the headline of Toby Ord’s page, who digitally restored the images.

As always, it is really humbling to look at the earth from the outside even more so looking at the remastered images.

By the way, the cover image of this post is composed of a wiki commons version of an image of the earth.

via (

Innovation Sustainability

Soccer of All Sports

The Bohemian FC, one of the oldest soccer clubs in Ireland, has appointed Sean McCabe as the World’s first Climate Justice Officer.

He says about the crisis and about his position:

This stuff has to be sincere, or we know that we failed. The world will let us know that you cannot trick the laws of thermodynamics.

A Climate Justice Officer in soccer of all sports, this is a great move. Trying out something new is highly applaudable. This is what we need.

Maybe this innovative initiative – as the first of its kind – helps promote and drive sustainability transitions by linking ideas of sustainability to existing lifetime communities.

So many people are emotionally attached to soccer. Especially as not many organizations are left (and popular) that people once felt attached to for a lifetime. Soccer clubs seem to be some of them. And the fan base is powerful, incredibly powerful, as the last couple of days have vividly illustrated in a matter that is completely void of sustainability: the Super League.

Alex Ward at The Vox writes that soccer fans destroyed the Super League:

There was just one problem: Fans hated the idea, and their revolt caused what would’ve been the biggest threat to the game in decades to dissipate after just 48 hours.

So let us hope that Sean McCabe can leverage the fan base. The German 11Freunde soccer weekly opened reporting about the fans’ role in the Super League’s failure with the title of a song from 1970 by the German agitpop band Ton, Steine, Scherben.

Break what breaks you.

Wouldn’t this be a nice motto for treating unsustainable behavior?

Source: CNN, 11Freunde, The Vox

Art Design

Black Lego

As a kid I have loved Lego. Now I ran into this and – frankly – it blows me away.

Ekow Nimako creates sculptures inspired by masks, African folklore, and medieval cities. He only uses black lego.

Let’s see how he works.

(cover image is from

Innovation Sustainability

Your Carbon Footprint

Finextra reports about an initiative of the Swedish payment solution provider Klarna:

Buy now, pay later giant Klarna is to provide shoppers with carbon footprint calculation tools from Mastercard-backed Doconomy to measure the emissions generated by their purchases.

Every purchase made through Klarna’s payment methods will include a carbon footprint measured by Doconomy’s Åland Index**, reaching up to 90 million Klarna customers

Is this a perfect deflection of a company that lives of potentially irresponsible consumption? I don’t know. We might still get the impression that more is possible than what we see now. If Klarna can do it, why would other companies not be able to identify and communicate carbon footprint on products?

(via Finextra)