Rock, Roll, Recycle

The word innovation connotes new - new ideas, new things, and new ways. What about new ways of doing old things – out-of-the-box thinking that counters the mentality of "we've always done it that way?"  What about new uses for old things?

Remember pay phones? Some readers, and I'm not suggesting who they are, remember going to meetings and conferences and waiting in long lines to use the phone to check in with the office. Pay phones and phone booths are iconic parts of our infrastructure that are no longer used.

New York City has reimagined them for modern use. A consortium of advertising, technology and telecom companies will deploy thousands of modern-day pay phones throughout the city that will offer 24-hour, free gigabit WiFi connections, free calls to anywhere in the country, touch-screen displays with direct access to city services, maps, and directions for tourists, and charging stations for cellphones. They will be capable of connecting to first responders and broadcasting alerts from the city during emergencies like Hurricane Sandy. The system will be the largest free municipal WiFi network in the world. But the old will not be totally abandoned. Some old pay phones will be retained for sentimental value, including three original Superman-style phone booths with operational phones, on the Upper West Side - for posterity.

Outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, holds a deep commitment to the environment. It lives the values of reduce, repair, reuse and recycle and has added a fifth R, reimagine. They've introduced a new platform that redirects potential buyers of new clothing to an on-line auction that facilitates the sale of used Patagonia clothing. Its Common Threads portal is an evolution of its environmentally sustainable clothing – quality, durability and classic styling. Despite its investment in the portal, only eBay, not Patagonia, received commissions on the sales of its used clothing. So what did Patagonia gain? Brand awareness and engagement soared.

Music Go Round recycles music. More specifically, this retail store in Albuquerque NM, recycles musical instruments. When you walk in, you wouldn't immediately know that their merchandise is used. The walls on one side are lined with guitars that look like they just came from the manufacturer. Music Go Round buys and refurbishes used instruments and sells them for a profit. The telltale indicator - the price tag on each piece of merchandise proclaiming "Reuse, Recycle, Rock." They offer affordable merchandise that might otherwise have ended up in landfills.

John Lennon asked us to "Imagine." These endeavors are pushing the limits and challenging us to reimagine. Creativity is at the core of these innovations without any new product being created. Creativity is positively impacting the carbon footprint. If creativity is part of your organization’s DNA – imagine the possibilities!

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