Play-Doh: An innovation that came from error or accidents

The mixture of flour, water, salt, boric acid and mineral oil was first originally used as a reusable soup product to help clean wallpaper as part of the Kutol company (Biddle, 2012; Hiskey, 2015; Wonderopolis, n.d.). Hiskey (2015), chronicles that in 1933 coal was used to heat a home in a chimney, but came at the cost of causing sooty wallpapers, which established the need for the product, and there was the added dimension of the problem that wallpaper couldn’t get wet.  Noah McVicker and Cleo McVicker were able to create a component to clean wallpaper without getting it wet and partnered with Kroger groceries to be their distributor (Hiskey, 2015).  When coal fireplaces were being replaced with oil and gas and a new type of wallpaper that can be cleaned with water and soap was introduced, sales plummeted (Hiskey, 2015).  However, the lack of toxic chemicals made it an ideal not only as a cleaning product but to become the toy it is today eventually (Hiskey, 2015; Wonderopolis, n.d.).  The transition occurred when teachers began to use this wallpaper cleaner in an innovative way, for a molding compound to make art for craft projects in school (Hiskey, 2015; The Strong, n.d.; Wonderopolis, n.d.).  When, the inventor’s nephew, Joe McVicker, eventually came into the Kutol Company and noticed this secondary use of their product, and though it would be good to rename the product “Play-Doh” and market it to schools (Biddle, 2012; The Strong, n.d.; Wonderopolis, n.d.). In 1956, the nephew devoted his time to creating Play-Doh as part of a company called Rainbow Crafts Company and sold to both Macy’s and Marshall Fields, and in one year made $3 million just by selling Play-Doh in the primary colors (Hiskey, 2015; The Strong, n.d.; Wonderopolis, n.d.).  In the 1980s, the color pallet was expanded to 8 colors, with future versions glowing in the dark, containing glitter, and smell like shaving cream (The Strong, n.d.) The recipe has been perfected over time and has remained a trade secret; Play-Doh is now part of the Hasbro Company (Wonderopolis, n.d.). Under the wallpaper utility of this product, it sold for 34 cents per can, but under the toy utility of this product the company was able to sell it at $1.50 per can (Hiskey, 2015).  In 2003, Play-Doh was added to the “Century of Toys List,” as it has hit 100 years of existence (Wonderopolis, n.d.) 700 million pounds of Play-Doh have been sold and played with (The Strong, n.d.).In 2016, a Play-Doh Super Color pack with 20 different colors goes for $14.99, and a Play-Doh Rainbow Starter Pack with eight colors goes for $4.99 (Hasbro, n.d.). However, the amount of Play-Doh per mini color tub is small compared to homemade versions.  There are many ways to make your version of Play-Doh.  One version of this non-toxic homemade version of Play-Doh, as stated by Nicko’s Kids DIY (2012): (1) mix 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of water, 1 cup of salt, 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil, and 1 tbsp. Of cream of tartar over low heat in a pan until it becomes a dough; (2) while it is still warm, knead the dough and don’t add any more flour to it; (3) finally poke a hole to the center of the dough and drop in a few drops of food coloring and work in the color.

Forces that supported it

  • Commercial: Besides selling it in one-gallon tubs to schools, sales skyrocketed when it got a national platform to the kids show Captain Kangaroo, who was promised to get 2% of the sales as long as the product was featured (Hiskey, 2011; Hiskey, 2015). Play-Doh, after leaving Kutol and joining Rainbow Crafts Company, was sold to General Mills, which sold it to Hasbro who still owns the right and intellectual property of Play-Doh (Hiskey, 2011).
  • Technological: It’s non-toxic everyday household product chemical mixture allowed it to be safely used by children (Biddle, 2012; Hiskey, 2015; The Strong, n.d.; Wonderopolis, n.d.). However, the formula was reinvented in 1955 to make it last longer and not dry out so quickly by chemist Dr. Tien Liu (Hiskey, 2011).
  • Financial: Under the wallpaper utility of this product, it sold for 34 cents per can, but under the toy utility of this product the company was able to sell it at $1.50 per can (Hiskey, 2015).


Think Tank Methods

Think tanks are a group of people that review the literature, discuss about the literature, think about ideas, do tons of research, write, provide ideas, legitimize ideas, advocate, lobby, and arguing just to address a problem(s) (Mendizabal, 2011; TBS, 2015; Whittenhauer, n.d.). In short, they are idea factories: creating, producing, and sharing (Whittenhauer, n.d.). The balance between research, consultancy, and advocacy and their source of their arguments/ideas: applied, empirical, synthesis, theoretical or academic research; help shape what type of think tank they are (Mendizabal, 2011). Finally, there are two types of think tank models, one roof model where everyone gathers in one physical place to meet face-to-face or the without walls model where members only communicate through technological means (Whittenhauer, n.d.).

McGann (2015) stated that the explosive growth of think tanks could be attributed to the growth in information and technology and a decline of government’s control of information, while there is a rise in the complexity and nature of the issues.  The U.S. houses 1989 think tanks, which is about 33% of the world’s total think tanks at 6,618 and housed in 182 countries around the world (McGann, 2015; TBS, 2015). Meanwhile, Europe houses 1822 think tanks (McGann, 2015).

Current trends in think tanks are: globalization; growth of international actors; democratization; demands for independent information and analysis; big data and super computers; increased complexity of policy issues; the information age and the rate of technological change; increasingly open debate about government decision making; global “hacktivist”, anarchist, and populist movements; global structural adjustment; economic crisis and political paralysis; policy tsunamis; increasing political polarization; and short-termism (McGann, 2015).

Think tanks within a company can be used to help Research and Development teams within the company (Penttila, 2007).  Think tanks in both capacities have the challenge to harness their knowledge, information, and energy to support progress (McGann, 2015). However, some companies cannot afford an innovation center or a think tank, even though it is a vital in today’s current market, due to competitive challenges, resource challenges, technological challenges, and policy challenges (McGann, 2015; Penttila, 2007).  Penttila (2007) gathered five strategies from think tanks that are a positive force for innovation: (1) combining ideas by looking for intersections between ideas and how they may work together; (2), think backwards by starting with the desired outcome in mind and working your way back; (3) rapidly prototype by putting ideas into action on a small yet realistic scale; (4) have funds set aside for encouraging people incubate and chasing after ideas; and (5) record ideas through an online environment.  For companies with little budget adopting a without walls, model thinks tank is more economical, and most overhead costs are not paid by the think tank, allowing for more money to be invested into research (Whittenhauer, n.d.).

Measuring the influence of a think tank composes of: the number of active scholars in it, publication record, scholarly achievements, how well they are attracting and holding visitor traffic from their web portals, average yearly revenue, number of categories they address, and how deep did their research affect the culture (TBS, 2015).  This is essentially assessing them by their intellectual depth, influence (politically or within the organization), marketability, value generating capabilities, etc. (McGann, 2015).

The top 10 most influential think tanks in the U.S. according to TBS (2015) are:

  • Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (Politically Independent)
  • Earth Institute (Politically Centrist)
  • Heritage Foundation (Politically Conservative)
  • Human Rights Watch (Politically Liberal)
  • Kaiser Family Foundation (Politically Independent)
  • Council on Foreign Relations (Politically Independent)
  • Brookings Institute (Politically Progressive)
  • Cato Institute (Politically Libertarian)
  • Ludwig von Mises Institute (Politically Libertarian/Classical Liberal)
  • American Enterprise Institute (Politically Conservative)

Looking at the top two think tanks more closely

Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs: Based off of Harvard, this university-affiliated think tank deals with issues like nuclear power plants, nuclear security, international security and defense, cyber espionage, environment and climate change, energy, science and technology, international relations, conflict and conflict resolution, governance, economics and global affairs (Belfer Center, n.d., TBS, 2015). They have a monetary monthly traffic of $7.7M and have over 100 media references (TBS, 2015).

Earth Institute: Another university-affiliated think tank, founded by Columbia University, the primary focus of research for this think tank revolves around the climate, water, energy, agriculture, ecosystems, global health, urbanization, hazards and risk reduction, which are all foundational to the earth’s systems and life (Earth Institute, n.d.; TBS, 2015). They have a monetary monthly traffic of $5.2M and have over 100 media references (TBS, 2015).


An Innovative Topic discussed in TED

In Winter’s (2016) TED talk, she expresses her thoughts on re-engineering the process flow of our by-products back into nature.  Similar to this idea is the use of greywater, which is gently used water from bathrooms, showers, etc., which appears to be dirty due to its contents but are great for irrigation systems of yards, parks, and green spaces (Greywater Action, n.d.).  Winter (2016) goes one step further; she wants us to the excrement and manure of our body, which is rich in bacteria and carbon to feed trees, yards, parks, and other green spaces.  She is suggesting that the use of manure never touches or comes to contact with people, but is buried under gravel and soil under areas to help foster a green space. This is considered as holistic (or closed-loop) waste/sanitation management because everything gets reused (Winter, 2016).

Rosen and Bierman (2005), suggested that manure is a valuable fertilizer, that is cost efficient, greener, readily available, and best for giving fruit and vegetable crops a nutrient source.  Charles (2013) agreed and stated that this is part of the natural cycle and manure from other animals have been used in organic farming.  Manure from animal and humans provide many nutrients and micronutrients, for plants and crops (Rosen & Bierman, 2005; Winters 2016). Nutrients from the food we and animals eat, don’t just disappear, but they reappear as manure and excrement, and the best thing to do is to bring it back to the source of the nutrients, plants (Charles, 2013; Winter, 2016). Other benefits to using manure include improvements in soil structure, soil water holding capacity, drainage, reduction of wind and water erosion, etc. (Rosen & Bierman, 2005).

The amount of manure use on plants can vary on a case by case basis.  A stingy application of this innovation can lead to nutrient deficiencies and low yields, while the excessive application can yield to excessive growth in some groups and lakes of certain chemicals, like nitrate, phosphorus, etc. (Rosen & Bierman, 2005).  The type of manure also matters.  Winter (2016) suggested using raw/fresh manure.  But Rosen and Bierman (2005) warn that raw/fresh it can have a high concentration of nitrogen, and in some cases pathogens.

Finally, impacts of this holistic approach to waste/sanitation management can be seen through the lens of climate change.  This innovative process can help provide carbon and many of the key nutrients and micronutrients needed to make trees grow, which not only reduces entry of carbon into the atmosphere from our waste product but with the new tree growth, these trees can remove more carbon dioxide from the air (Winter, 2016).  This is one of the many amazing feedback loops of reusing our waste that just keeps getting better.

Forces that impact the innovation

Legal – The Food and Drug Association finds manure a food safety risk, with harmful bacteria like e Coli. and Sal Manila (Charles, 2013). Winters (2016), said that some of the laws used to keep humans safe from getting sick of manure are outdated and were assumed that there was not going to be a reinvention to the way we should treat our waste.  Rosen and Bierman (2005), suggested that for farming it is best to apply this waste product 3 months before harvesting.  However, if we remove the farming aspect out of the picture, then there would be no need for the Food and Drug Administration to get upset about.  However, Winters (2016) stated that in some states there are laws on how we should deal with this particular type of waste, outside of just farming applications must be addressed to move forward with this innovative use of our waste. Laws must change, but treating this innovation as “better safe than sorry” without further research is not a solution (Charles, 2013).

Cultural –  People are uncomfortable about talking about their bodily waste products, which is what is slowing down how we innovate in waste management (Winter, 2016).  I agree with this thought; it is difficult to discuss it.  Out of all the different types of innovation that could have been discussed, I thought it would be best to bring this innovation into the light, through this post.  To help break down this cultural barrier to innovation in waste/sanitation management.


An Innovation that is possible 15-20 years from now

Innovation idea that is not possible today but will be in the next 15-20 years

Mobile technology is everywhere today, and their use is prolific among all the diverse populations in the U.S., even to segments of the populations that do not own a computer own a smartphone (Kumar, 2015).  Electronic transactions carrying trillions of dollars, sensitive flight data, etc. take place all the time (Kumar, 2015; Safian, 2015).  Safian (2015) is calling that mobile voting will be one of the many things that will occur in the next 20 years.

Thirty-three states offer online voter registration and that allowed for 6.5% of the electorate to register for 2014 up from 1.7% in 2010 (Election Assistance Commission [EAC], 2015; Jayakumar, 2015). About 19.2% of ballots in 2014 were rejected due to improper registration (EAC, 2015).  Eighty cities and towns in Canada have experimented with mobile voting since 2003, and Sweden, Latvia, and Switzerland have tested the idea (Gross, 2011).  Since 2005, Estonia with a mobile voting period that last about seven days and is available for all citizens had about 1/4 to 1/3 votes cast were online (Vabariigi Valimiskomisjon, 2016).

Mobile voting, can help reduce the cost of elections, reduce the need for polling places, encourage and engage disenfranchised voters, reduce the time it takes to cast a vote, reduce the need to travel to a polling place, facilitate fast results, more convenient way of collecting huge data about the voting population and their turnout, while finally allowing for easier voter registration (Jayakumar, 2015; Kumar, 2015). However, to make mobile voting a key innovation in the next 15-20 years, the main goals of mobile voting must be addressed: security, accessibility, anonymity, conveniency, and verifiable (Gross, 2011; Jayakumar, 2015; Kumar, 2015 Safian, 2015).

Forces that define the innovation that may facilitate or reduce its likelihood of success

Technological: Paper ballots allow for and provide anonymity, free from manipulation (Jayakumar, 2015). Even though, some ballots could be switched. Mobile voting devices currently have issues with security and verifiability (Jayakumar, 2015).  However, other countries are working on providing democracy to all through allowing both paper and electronic ballots as previously discussed.  However, mobile voting is not like other typical transactional data from a bank, where a user can correct errors (Jayakumar, 2015).  Technology must take this into account.  Such that, voting data is unalterable in transit from the mobile device to the main destination (Jayakumar, 2015).  However, in 2014, Zimmerman and Kiniry were able to show how Alaska’s PDF Ballots are insecure, as proof that the technology is currently not as reliable to ensure a tamper free election.

Ethical: Mobile voting can allow for the lowest income workers afraid to take time off from work to vote, or single parents with no daycare options, or people without cars in a remote rural area, increase turnout during midterm and off-season elections, e.g. runoff elections (Jayakumar, 2015; Kumar, 2015). It is suggested that voter intimidation may also be resolved through mobile voting, as people can vote in the privacy of the person’s home (Kumar, 2015).

Financial: Huge cost savings could be realized because, in 2014, 732K poll workers were hired for 114K polling locations, which amounts to 6.4 people per polling location (Election Assistance Commission [EAC], 2015).


Innovation: Decision making tools

Decision making tools:

To provide opportunities for creative and innovative thinking one must (Hashim et al., 2016):

  • Keep asking and looking for answers
  • Making associations and observing correlation
  • Anticipating on future events and happenings
  • Making speculation on possibilities
  • Exploring ideas, actions, and results

Nominal Grouping Technique

A tool for decision making is known as Nominal Grouping Technique (NTG), where it can be used to identify elements of a problem, identify and rank goals by priorities, identify experts, involve people from all levels to promote buy-in of the results (Deip, Thensen, Motiwalla, & Seshardi, 1997; Hashim et al., 2016; Pulat, 2014).  Pulat (2014) describes the process as listing and prioritizing a list of options that is created through a normal brainstorming session, where the list of ideas is generated without criticism or evaluation.  Whereas Deip et al. (1977) describe the process as one that taps into the experiences of all people by asking them all to state their idea on a list, and no discussion is permitted until all ideas are listed, from which after a discussion on each item on the list can ranking each idea can begin. Finally, Hashim et al. (2016) stated that the method is best used to help a small team to reach consensus by gathering ideas from all and exciting buy-in of ideas.

Deip (1977) and Hashim et al. (2016) lists the following advantages and disadvantages to the process:

+     Dominance by high-status, aggressive, or verbal people can participate along with everyone in an equal manner.

+     gain group consensus when everyone is involved

+     The focus remains on the problem and avoids premature evaluation of ideas

+     Minimal interruptions of creative ideas during the silence phase

+     Discussions only clarify items and eliminate misunderstanding

–      Cross fertilization of ideas is diminished

–      May reduce flexibility

–      Bringing everyone to the table may be costly

Delphi method

Dalkey and Helmer (1963), described that the Delphi project was a way to use expert opinion, with the hopes of getting the most strong consensus of a group of experts.  Pulat (2014) states that ideas are listed, and prioritized by a weighted point system to help reduce the number of possible solutions with no communication between the experts or of the results during the process until the very end.  However, Dalkey and Helmer (1963) described the process as repeated interviewing or questioning individual experts while avoiding confrontation of other experts.  Questions are centered on some central problem and between each round of questioning consists of available data requested by one expert to be shown to all experts, or new information that is considered potentially relevant by an expert (Dalkey & Helmer, 1963; Pulat, 2014).  The solution from this technique improves with soliciting experts with a range of experiences (Okoli & Pawlowski, 2004; Pulat, 2014).

Benefits and limitations (Dalkey & Helmer, 1963; Okoli & Pawlowski, 2004):

+     Encourage independent thought

+     Decreases group thought bias (predisposition to be swayed by another person or an entire group)

+     Minimize confrontation of opposing views

+     Easy to correct misconceptions that a person harbored over certain facts or theoretic assumptions

+     Ensuring that relevant data gets feed to all the experts

+     Allows experts to change their mind to obtain results that are free from bias

+     More penetrative analysis on the problem, through each round

–      Very costly on time and resources due to the multiple rounds and seeing each expert 1 on 1

–       Vague questions invite critical comments while providing little value to solving the problem

The main difference from the Delphi technique and nominal grouping is the avoidance of conflict through conducting decision-making processes on a one on one fashion rather than in a group setting.  Given that ideas can be triggered by words (or a particular word order), the nominal approach could, in theory, generate more solutions than the Delphi technique (Hashim et al., 2016; Deip et al., 1977).  Hashim et al. (2016) stated that other triggers for imagination/creativity/ideas could be images, events, possible events, conflict events, conflict occurrences, emotions, environment, culture, games, music, etc. But, with independent meetings rather than a group meeting, solutions are well thought out and avoid group thought bias (Dalkey & Helmer, 1963).  When, selecting between these two techniques, the type of problem and desired outcome of the process should drive the methodology.  However, there are many other different types of decision-making techniques as well, like multi-voting, basic brainstorming, etc. (Pulat, 2014).


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Innovation: Technology and Trends in museums

Definition of Museum: term applied to zoos, historical sites, botanical gardens, aquariums, planetariums, children’s museums, and science and technology centers (US DoJ, 2009)

Museum Edition: Key trend: Short-term trend: Driving Ed Tech adoption in museums for the next one to two years

With the introduction of mobile technology, increasing in processing speed every year and the introduction of Artificial Reality (AR) through Pokémon Go, there is a huge opportunity to create discoverable museums displays serviceable through mobile devices (CNET, 2016; New Horizons, 2016; Bonnington, 2015). The AR technology uses the mobile device camera and interlaces pocket monster’s called Pokémon in real time through some creative coding, therefore through a mobile device these Pokémon are made visible, even though they do not exist (CNET, 2016). Mobile devices are not just for gaming they have become the primary computing device for most people across the globe as well as a primary way to access information (Bonnington, 2015; New Horizons, 2016).  Adding in, Pokémon Go’s added benefit, which promotes end users to walk to key areas have been designated to be either Pokestops (for getting key items for game play) or Pokémon Gym (to either build up a team’s gym or take it down) therefore enhancing the experience (CNET, 2016).  It is projected that in the next 5-years mobile devices could have enough processing power to handle 4K streaming, immersive virtual reality gaming, and seamless multi-tasking (Bonnington, 2015).  Therefore, creating a new museum experience using an AR system similar to Pokémon Go, with interactive museum displays similar to Pokestops or Pokémon Gyms could become a reality, enhance exploration, interpretation, and sharing.  This would essentially be a more interactive self-guided virtual tour, similar to what has been implemented in the Broad Museum in Los Angeles and is a prioritized strategy for San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art (New Horizons, 2016).  If we can centralize/core up all of the museums into one interface similar to what Israel is doing with their museums (so far they have represented 60 museums), we could see bigger adoption rates (Museums in Israel, n.d.). According to New Horizons (2016), hyper zoom features on particular displays, gamification, location-based services, AR, ad social networking integration can increase patron’s experiences.  This area all aspects that Pokémon Go is trying to promote through their mobile device game.

Forces that impact the trend

  • Technological: There is a need to update the WiFi Infrastructure in museums to handle the increase in demand, which is a key force negatively impacting this technology (New Horizons, 2016; Government of Canada, n.d.). Though, computer codes and infrastructure designs are becoming more open source which is a force of positive impact.
  • Safety: There is added need to improve design and flow of a museum to accommodate distracted patrons using this new AR system.
  • Cultural: Museums at one point use to ban cameras, but now with many mobile devices and the proposed AR system above, it would be hard to enforce now (New Horizons, 2016). Also, given the fact that museums are wanting to increase participation.

Museum Edition: Technology: Improving Accessibility for Disabled populations

One in 10 people lives with a disability or approximately 0.65 Billion people (Disabled World, n.d.).  It is imperative and ethical that museums create exhibits for all their patrons. Deviations from societal norms have caused people with disabilities in the past to be considered as signs of divine disapproval, with the end thoughts and actions stating that they need to be fixed (Grandin, 2016), when there is nothing wrong with them, to begin with.  A few of the many areas for improvements with technology are:

  • Websites and online programming: making them more accessible and eliminating barriers through the incorporation of universally good design (New Horizons, 2016; Grandin, 2016).
  • Addressing Article 30 of the UN Disability Convention: Implementing technology to allow enjoyed access to performances, exhibits, or services (UN, 2006). This would allow, encourage, and promote all people to participate to the fullest extent possible (New Horizons, 2016; UN, 2006).
  • Use of software to create alternative formats for printed brochures: Braille, CDs, large print (US DoJ, 2009). Also, using that same software to create Braille exhibit guides (New Horizons, 2016).
  • Using closed captions for video displays (New Horizons, 2016).

An excellent way to test universally good design is for museums to partner with disabled students to test their design’s usability and provided meaningful feedback (New Horizons, 2016). Essentially, one way to approach universally good design is to ask the three questions (Wyman, Timpson, Gillam, & Bahram, 2016):

  1. “Where am I?”
  2. “Where can I go from here?”
  3. “How can I get there?” or “How can I make that happen?”


Forces that impact the technology

  • Educational: There is a lack of disability responsiveness training by the staff of a museum, which is leading to a lack of knowledge of best practices, how best to serve the disable population, etc. (New Horizons, 2016).
  • Financial: Lack of resources to design or even implement new programs for people with disabilities is a key force negatively impacting this technology (New Horizons, 2016; Grandin, 2016). However, the best designs are simple, intuitive, flexible, and equitable, therefore making accessible design a universally good design (Grandin, 2016; Wyman et al., 2016). How do museums know about universally good design? Museums are able to accomplish this by working with the disable community and advocacy organizations (New Horizons, 2016). So, as museums begin making their updates on exhibits, or to their building, they should take into account accessible design. For people with disabilities, a universally good design is one where there is no additional modifications are needed for them (Grandin, 2016).



One could define Innovation as an idea, value, service, technology, method, or thing that is new to an individual, a family, a firm, a field, an industry, or a country (Jeryaraj & Sabhewal, 2014; Rogers, 1962; Rogers, 2010; Sáenz-Royo, Gracia-Lázaro, & Moreno, 2015). Based on this definition above an invention can be seen as an innovation, but not all innovations are inventions (Robertson, 1967).  Also, even though something may not be considered as an innovation by one entity, it can still be considered as innovative if adopted by a completely different entity (Newby, Nguyen, & Waring, 2014).

Innovation moving from one entity to another can be considered as Diffusion of innovation.  Diffusion of Innovation is a theory that is concerned with the why, what, how, and rate of innovation dissemination and adoption between entities, which are carried out through different communication channels over a period of time (Ahmed, Lakhani, Rafi, Rajkumar, & Ahmed, 2014; Bass, 1969; Robertson, 1967; Rohani & Hussin, 2015; Rogers, 1967; Rogers 2010).  However, there are possible forces that can act on an innovation that can influence the likelihood of the innovation success, for example financial, technological, cultural, economical, legal, ethical, temporal, social, global, national, local, etc.  Therefore, when viewing a new technology or innovation for the future, one must think critically about it and evaluate it from different forces/lenses.


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