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.

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.

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.

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

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)

Innovation Sustainability

Earth Day 2021

Innovation can restore our planet. This is the second part of the headline of a piece on And it triggered something in me. Innovation – naturally, and restoring the planet. Great. What a promise.

This year’s Earth Day theme is restoration. We need to reverse the detrimental effects of climate change and stop the pollution of our eco-system to preserve our planet for future generations.

I fully back this statement.