This Week in Ideas 28FEB21
QR Codes and Innovation
When restaurants first begin reopening for outdoor dining last spring, many began using QR codes as a way to access the menu. Since then, I’ve had many casual conversations with people about whether this puts QR codes into the mainstream.
Fred Wilson has a blog post this week along those lines. He used the example of the Nest smoke alarm, which uses a QR code for product set-up.
I think this is a great example of how innovation works in general. Innovation begins with engineering, but realizes its potential with human adoption, which is not an engineering problem. Human adoption is a design, marketing, and PR problem.
As the Nest example shows, design, marketing and PR are not just for consumers. We forget sometimes that companies are just a collection of people and all innovation needs people to realize its potential.
Patricia Fara explained this well on the Conversations with Tyler episode that was released this week.
The Urban Cartel
Does that title sound like it references an article from Sinaloa or San Francisco? It’s the later.
Philo has a great analysis of the urban housing market as essentially a cartel to keep housing prices high and rising by restricting supply. It’s a new and compelling approach to the NIMBY/YIMBY story.
Spontaneous Brain Fluctuations
It sounds noisy and distracting, but apparently it’s actually really important. To be honest, I haven’t fully digested this one, but it fits with a mental model I’m developing.
Spontaneous fluctuation is crucial for discovery. Whether it’s discovering what you should do for a career, finding a partner, or breaking new scientific ground, it’s often the chance encounter or odd connection that leads to a breakthrough. We can’t control it, all we can do is expose ourselves to more spontaneous fluctuations.
Politicians Should Run NASA, but not this One
A whole deal is being made of the fact that Bill Nelson is pushing for the NASA job in the Biden administration. He famously argued against Jim Bridenstine as the past administrator because “The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician.”
I don’t agree with that. I believe the administrator should have an understanding about the moving pieces and be willing to engage in detail, but political ability is the most important in the top job. The number one issue that has always plagued NASA is not how to do the science, but how to get the funding. Getting the funding is a political job.
However, Nelson is not the guy for the job. He’s been pretty against private space companies, particularly SpaceX. Whether he is anti-SpaceX or just anti-anyone who didn’t create jobs in Florida is not important. He’s not the leader NASA needs.