HBR’s Breakthrough Ideas for 2010 are Good for Your Supply Chain, Part II

The Harvard Business Review recently ran a great article on Breakthrough Ideas for 2010. While many of the ideas aren’t new (as a few can easily be traced backed decades), for many, their application would be. But more importantly, their application could fix a lot of problems in the world today.

What really struck me was how they all had good supply chain equivalents that could help you revolutionize your supply chain. So, in this post, I’m going to tackle the next three ideas and explain how their supply chain equivalents are ideas you should strongly be considering if you haven’t implemented them already.

  1. Develop Industry Standards for Supply-Chain Data Exchange.
    Just like agreed upon standards for digitally representing drug assets would spur pharma innovation, common digital standards would spur supply-chain data exchange. After all, wouldn’t it be nice if your ERP talked to your EIPP which in turn talked with your CMS which in turn talked with your Sourcing Suite which in turn integrated with your CRM? And if all of these systems could output data feeds in a standardized format that made multi-feed loads into your data analysis system a breeze and let you focus on the analysis and not the mapping and cleansing which isn’t nearly as important as most of the providers make it out to be?
  2. Develop Your Own PACE program for your suppliers.
    PACE stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy bonds which are being introduced in 15 states across the US as debt instruments, backed by property-liens, that enable businesses to retrofit buildings for energy efficiency.
    A supply chain equivalent, which could take the form of a low interest loan to a supplier in your supply base, would save you money (as your supplier’s overhead costs would go down), make you money (as you could charge interest or insure you are guaranteed preferential treatment if supply is tight), and greatly improve your public image. “We not only enforce strict standards of social responsibility and sustainability in our supply base, but we help our suppliers meet those goals.” Simply put, like smart supply chain finance, it’s win-win-win.
  3. Support a Free Market for Technology Licensing.
    … and while you’re at it, vote to get rid of software and business process patents.
    Allowing an inventor, regardless of whether he’s a professor or a guy in his garage, to license as he sees fit would dramatically speed up the commercialization of new technologies and both the U.S. and the world would benefit from them much more rapidly. Forcing professors to use an antiquated model that forces them to line up in a queue at the local, understaffed licensing centre doesn’t help anyone.
    Furthermore, getting rid of stupid software patents that allow companies to patent what are arguably mathematical constructs, which are supposed to be unpatentable, and stupid business process patents that allow companies to patent the obvious, would not only open up the playing field but allow companies to freely innovate. Think about how much more innovation we’d have if every innovator didn’t have to constantly worry about getting sued by a company that succeeded in patenting an algorithm fundamentally based on 20-year-old public-domain MIT research because the clerk doesn’t know any better. (For many of you, think about how much more innovation you’d have if Ariba and Emptoris took the millions they’ve spent on lawsuits and spent it on New Product Development in an attempt to beat each other at your RFP table.) Nothing stifles innovation more than stodgy lawyers. Follow the EU’s example and you’ll be on the fast track to success.

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