The Anti-Sugar Rush
I enjoyed the story about Truvia ("The Sweet Science"). Way back in 1990, I wrote a book titled Sweet Success: How NutraSweet Created a Billion Dollar Business, about how an accidental lab incident — a researcher licking his finger to pick up a piece of paper — led to the first brand-named food ingredient in history. The successful branding of aspartame as NutraSweet was in part due to Ogilvy & Mather, the same firm now helping Cargill market Truvia. What everyone knew then, and what Cargill knows now, is that there are actually lots of very "sweet" molecules and glycocides in the world — some several thousand times sweeter than sugar. The challenge, as this story noted, is to package and present stevia-based products in usable forms that clear regulators and vigilant researchers concerned with what we put in our bodies. That takes time, and the sweetener market is a classic global science marathon where secrecy, speed, and regulatory competence are key. Thanks for catching me up on the race.
I want to congratulate Cargill's Zanna McFerson for the $32 million worth of sales and market capture in her lead to create Truvia. I am, however, disappointed that not once in outlining the development process was environmental stewardship mentioned or even hinted at. I understand and can appreciate the process to craft and launch a successful product. However, from one of our country's largest companies, I was hoping for a broader picture of leadership than what reads like a lab-driven quest for the almighty dollar. Prior to her next interview, maybe McFerson can refer to Cargill's "environmental innovation" and discuss her contribution (or lack of) to that mission.
Something to Share
This concept warms my heart to no end ("The Sharing Economy"). However, as more people drop out of the traditional system, the less this model can function as intended. The reality is that someone has to purchase the things we plan on sharing; someone has to go to college and pay back student loans in order to design and build the things we plan on sharing. Someone has to promote and drive the capitalist model or there will eventually be nothing left to share.
Portable reputations and collective accountability will be an enormous influence on the success of this space. It is inevitable that the web is decreasing the traditional notion of privacy. Rather than resist it, embrace it. Start using those assets to capacity.
Cisco may have a great idea for virtual medicine ("The [Virtual] Doctor Will See You Now"), but using a "red eye" as an example shows that whoever designed this program knows very little about eye care. Optometrists (like myself) use a biomicroscope to properly diagnose and treat the various causes. A photograph of a red eye is not an example of virtual medicine but an example of something that is virtually useless. It should be noted that in some cases of a red eye, improper diagnosis or delayed treatment can result in permanent loss of vision. Unless Cisco can send images of cross sections of biomicroscopic views along with sodium fluorescein staining of the cornea and photos of everted eyelids, this technology is no better than a phone call from a patient who says he has a red eye.
I'd like to thank you for bringing a wonderful concept to light and for sharing personal experiences regarding mentoring (Life in Beta). In many organizations, mentoring is overlooked. My wife and I cofounded a mentoring program in Miami called the Revenue Club, which pairs high-school students with professionals in the local business community who are also graduates of the same high school. The concept is to show students that graduates of Miami-Dade County public schools can go on to be successful, respected notables in the real world. Mentoring is the best way to give back to a community and encourage the next generation to aim higher.
Miami Lakes, Florida
"The Cure" demonstrated the power of a leader with solid business sense, courage, commitment, vision, integrity, and great communication skills. Regardless of the business, these qualities exemplify true leadership. The same principles could be applied to every hospital and have a major impact on our health-care costs and quality of care.
Vicki Hull Asher
Companies that are targeting social media need to monitor "social inventory," and for restaurants, that means tables ("As OpenTable Booms, Who Gets the Dough?"). Who will coordinate this? A company like Google or Facebook, or OpenTable? For Google to replicate OpenTable's reservation function, it would simply have to construct a database for holding table inventories, host it on a cloud server, publish interface specs, and send invites to all restaurants to join the new system for free. OpenTable network effect, meet Google's network effect.
Laguna Niguel, California
As much as I have long admired Linda Tischler's writing, this article on the Rhode Island School of Design is under-informed (Big Bang Design). The RISD faculty's 142-32 no-confidence vote in its president, John Maeda, was taken at a full-time faculty meeting with part-timers like myself included by invitation. This story states that this represents just 36% of the faculty, but those not in attendance were the less-invested part-time faculty, many of whom come to campus for just one class. The margin is a resounding message from the full-time staff of the school. The article also implied that RISD is analog and that its supposed aversion to the digital world is the source of the Maeda tension. In fact, RISD is highly digital. The real tension comes from Maeda's inability to listen to any voice but his own. What a slap in the face this article is for all of the people whose lives have been destroyed by bad management.
Providence, Rhode Island
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A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.