Thursday, May 17, 2012

Businessweek Feature Stories: on Jay Heinrichs / DNA Fold Manufacturing / 3D Printing / Manufacturing Efficiency / Clayton Christensen

There's been a number of interesting feature stories to mention from Businessweek lately.

From the Mar 19 issue, Peter Heller wrote the feature "Jay Heinrichs's Powers of Persuasion" on the communications consultant who charges five figures for corporate sessions. Specifically, he teaches Aristotelian rhetoric to organizations doing either leadership development or message creation. Heller covers Heinrichs's use of Aristotle's persuasion tools of ethos (argument by character), logos (argument by logic) and pathos (appeal to the emotion) and the assertion by Heinrichs that ethos carries the most weight of the three (though all important). Heinrichs sounds to have interesting ideas about this important area of communication effectiveness and he published in 2007 the book Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion.

The May 7 issue had two features of interest, with "Clay Christensen's Life Lessons" by Bradford Wieners and "Is Origami the Future of Tech?" by Drake Bennett.

This second piece was particularly fascinating and covers the topic of DNA fold origami manufacturing... and brings to mind some other interesting BW stories on the same topic of building stuff, like "3D Printers: Make Whatever You Want" by Ashlee Vance and "My Week at Private Equity Boot Camp" by Brendan Greeley on (among other things) efficiency gains in production.


Blog post addition: After continuing to think back on (and then reread) the Drake Bennett piece, it seemed this story and it's topic of DNA fold orgami as a manufacturing method merited more written on it here. It's an amazing idea that departs completely from manufacturing paradigms based on sculpture (take a block and chisel away what's not needed) or piece-together assembly. Instead, Bennett describes a process of manufacturing for objects (both large and nano-sized) based at least in part on the work of mathematician and computer scientist Erik Demaine...

"Fold-and-cut allowed you to make any shape in the world, any collection of shapes, even, as long as they had straight sides. One could, in an angular font, create the entire text of this page with the right folds and the right cut. In a paper published two years later, Demaine expanded on this idea, extending it into three dimensions: Any faceted solid, he showed, no matter how complex or irregular, could be folded from a single uncut sheet of paper. Start with a piece of paper big enough, and you could model Notre Dame down to the last gargoyle."

The idea seems outlandish, but is actually based on objects in the natural world like flowers or snowflakes (with the idea of folding illustrated by paper snowflakes usually made in school). Remarkable concept that seems to me likely the type of innovation Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Perlman had in mind when he said the following (from an April 2011 Businessweek story that I wrote about in this blog post)...

"Facebook is not the kind of technology that will stop us from having dropped cell phone calls, and neither is Groupon or any of these advertising things," he says. "We need them. O.K., great. But they are building on top of old technology, and at some point you exhaust the fuel of the underpinnings."

It's not to find fault with communication platforms like Facebook or Twitter, but rather to highlight this case of what could be real true breakthrough innovation in the field of manufacturing.