The New Adulthood

Published on June 2, 2015 by

While Peter Pan might have wanted to never grow up, some otherwise age-appropriate individuals are having trouble entering anything like a traditional adulthood. For decades, society has been slowly erecting higher and higher barriers along the pathway to adulthood, to the point that no clear pathway to a socially prescribed adulthood exists. In that historical context, individuals are reassessing and revaluing traditional adulthood, ultimately giving rise to what could be called a New Adulthood. Some curious twists in that new-adult model have become clear lately: (1) Be Responsible, Postpone Responsibility; (2) Less Is Not Just More, It’s Freedom; (3) Immaturity Is Innovative; and (4) Adulthood? There’s an App for That. Whereas the older adulthood happened “all at once,” when some signature event took place – for instance, marriage, military service, graduating and the like – the New Adulthood seems to emerge over an extended period of time, requiring the individual to acquire coping skills slowly.


If you want to read more about the New Adulthood, please contact us



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Finding Solutions in Unusual Places

Published on March 6, 2014 by

Companies that look for solutions outside of their given field or narrow band of focus are often rewarded.


UPS has developed new shipping containers made of a composite material called MacroLite, similar to that used in body armor, as well as an active fire suppression system.  Tests show that these new containers which weigh less and are more durable than legacy aluminum or polycarbonate-sided containers can confine an internal fire of 1,200 degrees for 4 hours.  Bob Brown, a UPS member of the group developing the new container, stated that some of the solutions were found in unusual places,  “We had to go outside of aviation into the automobile industry, Navy submarines and space programs to see how they handled fires.”   (Aviation Week and Space Technology)


While the containers cost more, the company stated that the added expense will be offset by transportation savings stemming from its reduced weight and by reduced maintenance.  What’s equally important is the company’s approach to the project.  Members of the development team went outside the walls, or silos, of this company to explore products and practices in other companies and industries.  Expanding their vision to the periphery helped this team develop a new product with benefits that should be felt for many years.

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Diapers and Bras- A Sensor Revolution

Published on March 4, 2014 by

Wearable computing is just in its infancy, but already some are taking it to places we wouldn’t have imagined.  While there will be many benefits to the technology, there is a real threat of decision making continually being outsourced to technology.  Two examples recently caught our attention:


Researchers in Japan have designed an organic, disposable sensor that alerts caregivers when a new diaper is needed on a baby. It is made of a thin plastic film, which is embedded in a diaper for a few cents. (Investor’s Business Daily, paywall)




Sensors that monitor heart rates and body temperature have now been installed in bras to help wearers know when they in the company of a potential true love. The sensors send signals to smartphones with special analytical software, and if the wearer’s natural body signals are determined by the software to be “right,” the bra unsnaps! (Guardian Weekly)


These are just two of the many developments occurring in the growing world of inexpensive sensors. The diaper invention holds the promise of alerting young parents, who may be engrossed in a video game, Pinterest, email responses or catching up with their long lost kindergarten friend on Facebook. While the small cost of the sensor is appealing, a no-cost crying baby may still be the best indicator of a wet diaper – and also offer the opportunity of bonding between baby and caregiver.


If we were to start listing other places where sensors could enhance the “undergarment market,” this blog could quickly become R-rated. But we will say that these are yet more examples of interpersonal decisions being turned over to technology.

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The Costs (and Benefits) of Extreme Weather

Published on February 28, 2014 by

Extreme weather events and the resulting damage may be the new normal.   These seemingly constant states of emergency are creating real costs for those who fail to prepare, and in some cases, these weather events are changing the ways organizations operate.


Homeland Security officials have declared that failing to prepare for extreme weather events cost the U.S. $1.15 trillion from 1980 to 2010. Two years ago, 15 states had climate protection plans, now 36 states do. Delaware, which has invested in shore protection, has noted that for every dollar it has invested, it has received $10 in value back from the investment. (USA Today)   Electric grid, water management, transportation system upgrade and shore protection all seem to be slated for increased funding over the next several years.


Additionally, the conditions across the United States have caused numerous school cancellations and are creating challenges for schools to meet state class-time requirements.  Under a new Ohio law that took effect this year, districts that max out on “calamity” days can use up to three “e-learning days” to meet state class-time requirements and avoid having to add extra days on to the end of a school year.


To implement e-learning days, the state requires district teachers to post lessons and assignments online for students to complete during the snow day.  At Grandville High School in Michigan, an AP calculus teacher uses online technology for snow days to assign lessons and provides videos of herself teaching the lesson and working out sample problems, that way she doesn’t have to rush through lessons with fewer school days.   (Education Week)



These events have also created planning and budget issues for many schools and has pushed teachers to explore new ways of connecting with their students.   Out of these storms may come some helpful operational changes.  As just one example, the AP calculus teacher in Michigan now tapes most of her classes as it provides another connection for kids that are absent, or who just want to hear the lesson again.


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Solving the Complex Problem

Published on February 6, 2014 by

What is the best way to solve challenging problems?  Who inside or outside the organization is best equipped to do so?


Business scholars Karim Lakhani and Lars Bo Jeppesen studied Innocentive, the service that helps connect companies that have a problem or technical challenge with ideas and solutions that anyone in the world can offer. Their research found that when a company posts a highly complex problem, they are not typically solved by professionals in the discipline in question, but rather by what they describe as a “borderline expert” – someone with knowledge of the field in question, but whose expertise lies in an adjacent field. The second marker of success involved individuals who have “interdisciplinary expertise” – the ability to draw connections between one subject and another. One of the scholars opined, “You have to be close enough to comprehend the technical aspects, but not so close that you’re biased by the way those immersed in the problem tend to think.” (The Atlantic)


This research suggests some takeaways for decision making, human-resources planning and staffing.  There are benefits to hiring people with non-traditional backgrounds for work in a related field. Diversity of a person’s professional experience can offer a broader range of insights and ways of approaching a problem. Changing a person’s area of focus and analysis can broaden his or her ability to make connections and gain insights. Companies should avoid having staff operate in siloes of expertise among colleagues who share a similar expertise.


In a recent real-world example, a team of researchers in Boston and Japan have discovered something other scientists are calling “shocking,” “astounding,” “revolutionary,” and “almost like alchemy” – a reference to the ancient belief that lead could be transformed into gold: Researchers learned that by dipping mature adult cells into a bath of acid for half an hour, the cells will transform on their own into stem cells. Currently, the art of creating such induced pluripotential stem cells or iPS cells, involves a series of highly technical steps with the use of specialized drugs. (Boston Globe)


This discovery could be a transformational landmark in the application of stem cell research, which has spent years looking for approaches to offer stem cell therapies that do not involve creating or destroying embryos. What is also significant, as noted by the Boston Globe, is that “the approach is so simple and so out-of-the-box that it might never have been tried if it hadn’t been for the persistence and curiosity of Dr. Charles Vacanti, an anesthesiologist working largely outside the field of stem cell science” [emphasis added].


Consider that Dr. Vacanti works in an adjacent field to stem-cell research but is not considered an expert therein, not dissimilar from the most successful researchers found in the study on Innocentive.



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The World We Are Creating

Published on August 2, 2013 by

 We have suggested that in the deployment of technology, the means justify the ends – that is, if we can do it, then we should do it. With that perspective, humans will be forced to adjust to the presence of technology wherever they go and whatever they do, seemingly without regard to effects


As part of the investigation into the Asiana Flight 214 accident at San Francisco Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board learned that the pilot had set the plane’s speed at 137 knots and assumed the auto throttles would maintain the speed. The system did not maintain that speed, actually leaving the Boeing 777-200ER engines at idle speed through the final portions of the plane’s landing approach and placing the aircraft very near an aerodynamic stall less than 200 feet above San Francisco Bay. A 777 fleet captain for a different major carrier was quoted by Aviation Week and Space Technology, “I don’t know how the whole crew could take their eyes off the speed.” 


The incorporation of automated systems in many areas of endeavor might well be assumed to increase capacity and efficiency, but they also increase unanticipated risks.   Anyone care to go for a ride in a Google autonomous car?


Takeoff and landing are known to be the two key times to maintain maximum safety vigilance on all flights. With automatic capabilities now incorporated into the most advanced aircraft, one must question whether the technology guiding these planes is “training” flight crews to be less vigilant.  

With that being said, it is no surprise that a new study by psychologists at the University of Utah has learned that hands-free (voice-activated) texting – new technology that will be standard in some 2014 automobiles – is more distracting that talking on a cellphone, whether hands free or handheld. 


 Use the right lane while voice texting…

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Fast Food’s Place in a World of Healthier Living

Published on May 21, 2013 by

With numerous healthier alternatives now available, are the fast-food chains recognizing that they are relegated to a market share battle for value customers?


In 1997, researchers at the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that on a scale from 0 (least healthy) to 100 (most healthy), on average, fast-food chains including McDonalds, Dairy Queen, Taco Bell, KFC and Wendy’s, yielded a score of 45. Fourteen years later, researchers found that the use of the words “healthy” and low-fat” have increased 86 percent and 33 percent, respectively, but the average score among the fast-food chains only increased to 49. The average score for all foods available to Americans is 60.


Separately, McDonald’s recently increased marketing and added items to its Dollar Menu while chains such as Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Arby’s are now also testing new value menus.


In the past few years, healthier fast-food chains have entered the marketplace, including Chop’t, Maoz, Freshii, Zoes Kitchen, Veggie Grill (winners of the “best new restaurant” category in the 2012 Los Angeles Times readers’ poll), Tender Greens and Lyfe Kitchen.


While McDonalds is now offering an “Under 400 Calorie” menu and egg-white breakfast sandwich, it may not be enough to retain customers that are increasingly focusing on a healthier lifestyle.



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Bacteria, Viruses and Antibiotics, Oh My

Published on April 10, 2013 by

Public officials and media worldwide have paid considerable attention recently to developments around the H7N9 influenza, which, according to officials in China where the outbreak started, has killed 7 people and infected 24 others, most of whom suffered mild flu-like symptoms.  The virus is known to come from birds, like SARS back in 2003, but its genetic code has yet to permit it to jump from human to human – only from chickens to humans. Health officials at the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. and the World Health Organization (WHO) are closely monitoring the viral outbreak.


All the news from China, notwithstanding, other developments have received much less attention but are likely to be much more impactful.  For instance, a new and mysterious coronavirus has surfaced in the Middle East, killing 11 people and infecting an unknown number so far.  The source of the virus is unknown, but it is killing those known to be infected at a rate of 40 percent. Meanwhile, medical researchers are noting that we face “nightmare bacteria” that are rapidly mutating beyond current antibiotic capabilities.  Roughly 5,000 patients die each year in English hospitals from drug-resistant sepsis.  In addition, the Centers for Disease Control reports that one-tenth of all infections from one family of bacteria, Klebsiella and 4 percent of all enterobacteriaceae infections are now antibiotic resistant, a fourfold increase in 10 years with a potent 40-percent kill rate.


The steady stream of media attention to developments around the H7N9 virus seems rather odd, given the larger and more risky outbreaks elsewhere in the world.  The issue is stranger because the very public focus on a Chinese virus, which has no cure, seems to be coming at the expense of human awareness of killer bacteria, where cures could be developed. 


But then, the chances of finding a cure for troubling bacteria have been declining lately. Since 2009, 8 major drug companies have abandoned research on and production of antibiotics, preferring, instead, to focus their research money on more lucrative chronic illnesses (e.g., diabetes and high-blood pressure).  Level-three studies for promising antibiotics often get postponed because of cost, and so, the three companies remaining in the field of antibiotic development have not received FDA approval for anything new lately, and thus, drug-resistant bacteria move forward. 


Nature seems to be taking advantage of human vulnerabilities, while companies that could address the problem are looking elsewhere.  Will governments need to step in?

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Drone Backlash Begins

Published on March 6, 2013 by

Invasions of privacy seem to be gaining the public’s attention, as surveillance capabilities continue to expand, especially when it involves law enforcement.


After a loud public outcry, Seattle’s police force abandoned its plans to deploy surveillance drones.  Virginia’s state government has imposed a two-year moratorium on the use of drones by police in the state.  In addition, 13 states are currently considering similar anti-drone legislation.  Meanwhile, online discussion groups have become rather aggressive, posting ways to interfere with the radio frequencies of drones circling overhead and even suggesting methods for shooting drones out of the sky. (New Scientist)


The question arises:  Will this sensitivity to being watched spread to Internet commercial monitoring?  So far, the answer is “not so much,” but it bears watching.

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Demographics and Older Workers

Published on March 1, 2013 by

Much has been written about the aging population and the demographic challenges that the U.S. will face, but it is not only the U.S. that will need to deal with these issues.  The following are some recent facts and events regarding the aging global population.   We currently don’t have enough intelligence to offer a new context, but we hope you find observations interesting and that they raises some questions.


Aging Global Population and Older Parents

  • In 1980, median age of the world was 23.  According to the UN, by 2050 it will be 38.  In 1970, about half of the world’s population was younger than 20.  In 2011, that it was a little more than one-third of the population.  The number of people older than 65 increased from 5 percent to 9 percent between 1970 and 2011.
  • Fertility has fallen below replacement rates in the majority of the 224 countries from which the UN collects data.
  • China in 2010 had just 11.3 people over 65 for every 100 people in the working age population, less than half of Britain’s 25.1 and the U.S.’s 19.9.  The UN estimates that by 2045, China will be at 39, almost the same as Britain and above the 34.6 forecast for the U.S.
  • American first time mothers have aged about 4 years since 1970 (25.4 from 21.4).  College educated women have a 1-in-3 chance of having first child at 30 or older.  The average age of American man when he becomes a father is between 27 and 28.


Potential implication: Countries will need to change immigration policies and aggressively pursue immigrants.

Potential implication: Resource demand will potentially plateau or decline


Economic effects on older Americans 

  • Americans in their 50s and 60s have lost the most earnings power of any group, with household incomes 10 percent below what they made when the recovery began.
  • Over the last year, the average duration of unemployment for older workers was 53 weeks, compared to 19 weeks for teens.
  • Just one in six older workers who were laid off during the recession had found another job and half of that group had accepted pay cuts.  Fourteen percent said the new job paid less than half of previous job.
  • More than one in every eight  people in late 50s is now on some form of disability.
  • Prescriptions for patients 65 and older declined 3.1 percent in 2011.


Potential implication: Safety nets will be tested (and needed) more than ever before.

Potential implications:  Those that are older and out of work will cut back on everything.


Work longer

  • Number of workers 75 and older has increased by 76.7 percent in the past 2 decades.  They were 7.6 percent of the workforce last year, up from 4.3 percent in 1990.
  • 30 percent of Americans now plan to work until 80 or older, up 25 percent from A YEAR AGO in a survey of adults with incomes less than $100,000.
  • Respondents in a recent survey said they will need a median of $300,000 in savings to support themselves in retirement, the average amount currently saved is only $25,000.  Fidelity claims that medical bills alone through retirement will cost $240,000 per couple in retirement.
  • As of 2011, more than 36 percent of employees at state level and more than 35 percent at the local level were over age 50.


Potential Implication: Harder for Millennials to get into the work force and when they do, there will be a knowledge gap.

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