What’s next for higher ed?  Mt Holyoke gave us a hint.  In the 1980s.

What’s next for higher ed? Mt Holyoke gave us a hint. In the 1980s.

D-Day is less than 2 weeks away. On June 1, high school seniors and recent graduates will decide which, if any college to attend in the Fall. But, for most, they still won’t know where they’ll be living first semester.

Higher education, like so many other industries, has been rocked by the Coronavirus pandemic – classes are taught entirely on-line, students moved out of dorms and back home months before they planned, campuses are closed, and thousands of employees have been laid off or furloughed.

Like most other industries, colleges and universities have scrambled to respond and to prepare for what’s next.  Most pushed Decision Day back a month, from May 1 to June 1, to give prospective students more time to learn about schools offering admission and to assess their own ability to pay for and attend schools when classes resume.

But colleges and universities are facing a challenge that most industries are not.

Their customers are rebelling.  They are filing lawsuits.  They are asking a fundamental question, “What does my tuition actually buy?”

Before the pandemic, people though they knew.

It was only 30 years ago that most high school graduates opted to go to college.  According to research from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, in 1970, only 26% of middle-class workers had any post-high school education.  By 1992, it had jumped to 56% and 62% in 2018.

Today, prospective students, and their families believe that a college education is the cost of entry to a middle-class life.  You hear it in the Jobs to be Done (problems to be solved, goals to be achieved) they express when you ask why they want to go to college:

  • “I want to get a good job when I graduate” – functional Job to be Done
  • “I want to make a good living” – functional Job to be Done
  • “I want to have more independence” – Emotional Job to be Done (i.e. how I want to feel)
  • “I want to be part of something bigger than myself” – Social Job to be Done (i.e. how I want others to see me).

In response, colleges invested huge sums of money to convince students and their families that they offer the best solution to all of these Jobs to be Done.

  • Functional Jobs to be Done:. “I want to get a good job when I graduate” and “I want to make a good living”
    • Elements of the “College Solution”
      • Strong reputation
      • World-class education
      • Renowned faculty
      • Access to alumni network
      • Active Career services department
      • Relationships with employers
  • Emotional Job to be Done: “I want to have more independence”
    • Elements of the “College Solution”
      • Location near a major metro area or a fun college town
      • Access to student housing
      • Access to food
  • Social Job to be Done: “I want to be part of something bigger than myself”
    • Elements of the “College Solution”
      • Student clubs
      • Social clubs
      • Diverse student population
      • Championship athletics
      • Great living facilities

These elements and more are marketed in beautiful glossy brochures, recruiting roadshows, and campus tours.

The message is clear, “All of this and more could be yours if you are accepted and willing to pay.” And pay the students and their families did.

But here’s the rub.

When America went on lock-down in mid-March, colleges and universities were forced to close their campuses and send home students.  Classes were moved to virtual settings with little to no training to help faculty adjust to the new format. Overnight, almost all the elements of the “College solution” disappeared or were compromised, leaving a list that looks like this:

  • Functional Jobs to be Done:. “I want to get a good job when I graduate” and “I want to make a good living”
    • Elements of the “College Solution”
      • Strong reputation
      • World-class education*
      • Renowned faculty
      • Access to alumni network*
      • Active Career services department*
      • Relationships with employers*
  • Emotional Job to be Done: “I want to have more independence”
    • Elements of the “College Solution” – n/a
  • Social Job to be Done: “I want to be part of something bigger than myself”
    • Elements of the “College Solution” – n/a

(* = significantly compromised due to moving to a virtual setting or to economic conditions)

Yet the price of the “College solution” did not change. What happens when the customer thinks they’re paying for one thing (long list of elements) and the seller gives them something less (short list of elements) and refuses to refund a portion of their money? Lawsuits. As Mark Schaffer, the parent of a George Washington University student, explained in his Washington Post Oped:

“When my daughter was deciding where to go to college, we were persuaded by George Washington University’s promises of an extraordinary on-campus experience. The school’s recruiting materials tout a dazzling array of opportunities — to engage one-on-one with renowned faculty, join more than 450 clubs and organizations, or explore passions in high-tech labs, vast libraries, and state-of-the-art study spaces.

The university promises that living at the school opens the door to “world-class” internships, lifelong friendships with neighbors and roommates, and the chance to “become a part of the nation’s capital and make a difference in it every day.” In exchange, GWU expects around $30,000 per semester.   As college campuses across the country have shut down to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, most schools, including GWU, have offered only online classes since mid-March. The reason for the shift is not the schools’ fault. But this remote education is nowhere near the caliber of the on-campus experience students were promised. For this reason, I and other GWU parents have requested a partial refund of this semester’s tuition and fees.   Unfortunately — and offensively — the university has refused these requests. This is why I am suing GWU for damages to compensate my family for losses suffered because of the school’s breach of contract, and why I am seeking to represent all families similarly harmed by the school through a class action.”

What happens in the Fall is unclear

As lawsuits against GWU, Northwestern, University of Chicago, NYU, Columbia, and other schools wind their ways through the legal system, everyone is scrambling to figure out what happens in the Fall. Most schools haven’t made decisions and the few schools that have seem to be falling into 3 buckets:

  • Return to pre-pandemic normal by resuming all on-campus classes, activities, and operations: Brown University (as advocated by their president in a NYT Oped), Purdue University
  • Proceed cautiously with a phased approach to resuming on-campus operations, classes, and living: UC Berkeley
  • Stayed closed and continue virtual classes: California State University (the largest university system in the US)

Students are also struggling with their decisions.  Without clarity as to what the Fall semester looks like and certainty as to their families’ financial means due to the economic downturn and rising unemployment, many students are considering taking a gap year or enrolling in a lower-cost option, such as a community college or public university.

What happens in 2021 and beyond is much easier to predict.

Certainly, the impact of decisions made about the Fall semester will reverberate for years to come as colleges cope with lost revenue from enrollment and a fairly high fixed costs base.

But the greater impact will come from students’ and families’ sudden awareness of the Mt. Holyoke Phenomenon and the role it’s played in their decision making.

First witnessed in the 1980s, the “Mt. Holyoke Phenomenon” reveals that  “charging higher tuition leads to a greater number of applicants, as well as academically higher quality applicants.”

The impact of this phenomenon is simple – higher tuition attracts better students, better students demand better education and experiences, better education and experiences improve the school’s brand, a better brand means schools can raise tuition and make more money.

Given that college tuition has increased 260% since 1980, compared to the 120% increase in all consumer items, it’s reasonable to assume that, more and more, tuition is buying access to the college’s reputation.

And, as the lawsuits and declining enrollments suggest, people thought skyrocketing tuition paid for a lot more and, suddenly aware that it doesn’t, may no longer be willing to pay the premium.

The result will re-shape higher education as we know it.

Instead of getting into the most prestigious school possible and relying on financial aid and loans to pay for it, high school seniors will consider a wider variety of post-high school options, including:

  • Trade schools which lead to high-paying and highly in demand skilled work
  • Community colleges that grant Associate’s degrees and/or a path to transfer to a 4-year college
  • Co-op programs that allow them to gain work experience at the same time as a college degree

Colleges, too, will step away from their all (on-campus) or nothing solution to offer a wider portfolio of options.  In fact, some schools already have:

  • Miami University has several campuses, one in Oxford offering a traditional, residential 4-year experience, and two other campuses nearby that offer part-time associates and bachelor’s degrees
  • Harvard University offers a traditional 4-year college education, and undergraduate and graduate degrees through the nonresidential Harvard Extension School, and online certificates through Harvard X
  • SNHU famously offers online and campus degree programs and a special “Military Experience” that offers generous tuition discounts, credit transfers, and support programs to active duty military and their spouses

 It will take years for demand (what students want and are willing to pay for) and supply (what colleges and universities can offer) to reach equilibrium.  But that equilibrium will look very different than it does today.  Mt Holyoke taught us that in the 1980s.  The coronavirus reminded us.

Isaac Newton Knows What’s Next for Air Travel

Isaac Newton Knows What’s Next for Air Travel

I took my last flight on Friday, March 13, two days after the president’s first address to the nation about COVID-19.

It was a JetBlue flight from Charlotte, NC back home to Boston.  And it was awesome!

Setting aside the fact that I was wearing disposable gloves and wiping down every surface with Clorox wipes, I felt like I was flying private. I was the only person in my row, with no one in the row ahead of or behind me.  Snacks and drinks were plentiful.  The stewards were friendly and attentive.  Even the boarding process was swift and orderly.

But when stay-at-home orders went into effect the following Monday and I shared my travel story with clients, they were aghast.  How could I take such risks?  Did I feel safe?  Did I wear a mask?

Their reactions surprised me.  After all, these executives are frequent travelers, even road warriors they travel so much.  Yet the fear in their voices revealed a changing perception of travel.  What was once a necessary evil for work and an efficient solution for vacation had, in just 3 days, become a senseless risk.

In the 2 months since that flight, the airline industry has been rocked.  Consider:

  • 94% drop in US commercial airlines’ passenger volume
  • 80% decrease in US private jet flights
  • 75% decrease in the number of worldwide commercial flights per day
  • 80% decline in the global daily number of flight searches
  • 61% increase in the amount of time between booking and traveling

That last stat – 61% increase in the amount of time between booking and traveling – indicates that people don’t expect to fly any time soon.  But is that expectation a reaction to the drastic measures taken to flatten the curve or is it a sign of changing travel habits?

Many experts and industry associations are looking to data about the airline industry’s recovery post-9/11 and the 2008 global financial crisis.  According to data from Airlines for America, it took 3 years for passenger volume and revenue to return to pre-9/11 levels and approximately 7 years to recover to pre-2008 financial crisis levels.

Here’s the harsh truth – we cannot possibly know what will happen next.  9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis were fundamentally different events than what we’re experiencing now.

So while I understand why people are looking to these past events – data offers a sense of comfort and control over the future – using data from them is pointless.  It offers a warm snuggly illusion that things won’t change that much and a return to the old days is inevitable.

Instead of looking to the past for answers, we need to look to physics.

Newton’s 3rd Law, to be precise.  It states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

By looking at the actions that airlines, and regulatory and legislative bodies, are currently considering, it’s possible to predict customers’ equal and opposite reactions and, as a result, what the new normal could look like.

Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

Action: Travelers who cross state or country borders must quarantine for 14-days unless they can prove that they are COVID-19 negative
Reaction: People will limit their travel to within their home states or countries

Most US states and many countries have 14-day mandatory quarantines in place for people traveling into their jurisdictions.  Given that most trips last less than two weeks, these restrictions essentially make most travel impractical.

Some places, like Hong Kong and Vienna, are trying to lessen that barrier by testing arriving passengers at the airport and, if they test negative for COVID-19, exempting them from quarantine.

But until a vaccine is widely available, “travel is likely to return first to domestic markets with ‘staycations,’ then to a country’s nearest neighbors before expanding across regions, and then finally across continents to welcome the return of journeys to long-haul international destinations,” according to Cecilia Rodriguez, a senior contributor to Forbes.

Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

Action: Prices increase due to fewer flights, reduced capacity
Reaction: Demand decreases as vacations become road trips and business travelers continue to use virtual meeting technology

According to research by Longwoods International, a research firm focused on the tourism industry, 82% of people traveling in the next 6 months have changed their travel plans.  22% of these people have changed from flying to driving. “Our clients are a little hesitant to get on an airplane right now,” Jessica Griscavage, director of marketing at McCabe World Travel in McLean, Virginia, told CNBC. “We’re already preparing for the drive market for the remainder of the year, and probably into 2021.”

In conversations I’ve had with business clients, the shift isn’t from air to road travel, the shift is more drastic – from traveling to not traveling.  For most large companies, business hasn’t stopped or even slowed. Instead, it’s shifted to technologies like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.  As people become more comfortable working “virtually,” these solutions will become far more attractive and just as effective as hopping on a plane.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Action: 4-hour pre-flight processing to ensure that all bags are sanitized, and all passengers are healthy
Reaction: Business travelers will choose private flights or fractional jet ownership over commercial air travel

The average business trip is approximately 3 days long according to Travel Leaders Corporate, an award-winning leader in business travel.  With most days packed with meetings, executives will have neither the time nor the patience to devote half-a-day to check-in, security and health screening, and boarding.

Instead, they’ll opt for private or private-like offerings such as NetJets that offer an expedited check-in, screening, and boarding process.

Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash

Action: Longer flight turnarounds due to the need to sanitize planes
Reaction: Demand (and prices) for direct flights will increase while demand to get to places that don’t offer direct flights will decrease

Consultants often joke about the “Misery Tax” – the premium that clients in hard reach location have to pay to make it “worth the firm’s wile” to serve them.  Although that may seem crass, there’s no debating that direct flights are significantly easier and less painful than ones that require connections.

The pain of connecting flights, however, is likely to go through the roof as the 30-minute turn-around times that airlines have been chasing become nearly impossible due to increased cleaning and sanitation guidelines.  Gone will be the days when travelers worried about making their connections.  Instead, they’ll worry about how to fill the hours between flights.

In fact, it’s likely that the misery of a given itinerary will shift from being a “tax” passed on to clients to a filter that business and leisure travelers will use when deciding where to travel.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Action: Airlines will use the need for more screening and sanitizing to justify more fees
Reaction: People will fly only when needed, instead opting for other, cheaper, and easier convenient options.

With $82B in additional revenue from add-on fees, airlines aren’t going to pull back from charging for “extras.”  Instead, the need for more passenger screening, social distancing, and control over what is allowed in the cabin, will inspire even more add-on fees.

For example, airline industry consulting firm, Simplifying, predicts that airlines will no longer allow passengers to pick their seats but will instead assign seats to ensure proper social distancing and offer passengers the opportunity to pay for premium seats and/or keep the seat next to them empty.

Other options under consideration are banning carry-on baggage (which conveniently increases the number of bags checked and therefore the revenue from checked-bag fees) and selling safety kits containing face masks, disposable gloves, and cleaning wipes.

Already tired of being nickel-and-dimed, travelers are unlikely to willingly pay extra for required services and, as a result, are more likely to be open to alternatives such as car trips or virtual face-to-face meetings.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

There will always be demand for air travel.
But it may take generations for demand to pre-COVID levels.

Unlike 2001 and 2008, air travelers have options beyond commercial air carriers.  Wealthy and business travelers can opt for private jets or services offering fractional ownership.  Businesses, already eager to cut costs, will be more open to virtual face-to-face meetings.  Families can re-discover the adventure of road trips and the creativity of staycations.

It is the availability of these comparable options combined with the invisible threat of disease that will cause people to re-think their habits and default options and slow the airline industry’s recovery.  If it ever fully recovers at all.

5 Unexpected Uses of Telemedicine and How They May Help You

5 Unexpected Uses of Telemedicine and How They May Help You

There is more to telemedicine – the exchange of medical information from one site to another through electronic communication to improve a patient’s health – than virtual visits with physicians.

Specialists like dentists, orthodontists, ophthalmologists, psychologists, and even veterinarians are using telemedicine solutions during the pandemic.

Like their physician counterparts, many resisted virtual visits until it became the only way to continue to care for patients and stay in business, as stay-at-home orders expanded from weeks to months.

Here’s a quick run-down of telemedicine’s use in other specialties and what the road ahead could look like for each.


Where we are now

According to the American Dental Association, since early March, 79% of dentistry practices closed except for emergency procedures, and another 18% closed completely.

This isn’t surprising given how COVID-19 is transmitted but, for patients in pain, it can be hard to know what constitutes a true emergency and what can be managed at home.  Helping patients figure out what needs immediate attention and what can wait seems to be tele-dentistry’s sweet spot.

“Research indicates that 80% of acute dental concerns can be addressed at home without an in-person visit,” explains Chelsea Acosta Patel, Head of Wally Experience at Wally Health, a dental care start-up based in Boston.  “Using technology, dentists can triage issues and care for patients while keeping them out of the chair.”

Where we go from here

The bigger, long-term opportunity, according to Patel, may be in preventative care by creating and monitoring at-home preventive care solutions across the patient dental journey.

“Most dentists don’t have the tools to keep an ongoing pulse with patients.  They just assume that if a patient has an issue or a question, they’ll call the office.  Teledentistry solutions enable dentists to develop customized, ongoing touchpoints to help patients remain healthy and catch potential issues early. This improves the patient’s experience, drives loyalty and word of mouth (pun intended) for the dentist, creating a virtuous oral health cycle.”


Where we are now

While Dentists need a way to answer questions, triage issues, and provide follow-up care, Orthodontists have a more pressing need – to make sure their patients’ jaws continue to develop and their teeth continue to move in the right way.

“We serve a vulnerable pediatric population whose jaws are developing.  The adjustments we make as part of their treatment affect that growth and development,” explains Dr. Adam Welmerink of Welmerink Orthodontics in Reno Nevada.  “When we realized this would be more than a 2-week shutdown, we needed a way to keep our patients safe, make sure their appliances weren’t doing any harm, and ensure their treatment was progressing as planned,”

Through services like Orthodontic Screening Kit (OSK), patients receive instructions on how to take photos and upload them to the OSK site for review by their orthodontists.  Of course, the orthodontist’s ability to assess the patient’s need is determined by the quality of the photos, but, at a minimum, the service creates an opportunity for orthodontists to reconnect with their patients and give them guidance on signs that could trigger an in-office visit.

Where we go from here

Telemedicine in orthodontics, like many other specialties, will likely continue to be used to triage issues or to serve patients in remote rural areas.

“Many of our patients live in rural areas, with some driving 2 hours for a 10-minute appointment.  We’ll probably continue to use (OSK) to see if they need to come in.  And I could see using it in a limited capacity to triage patients who call with an emergency to assess if they can treat the issue at home or if they need to come in.” Dr. Welmerink mused.  “Honestly, time-wise, it’s quicker to see a patient in the office. But this is great for right now.”


Where we are now

Telemedicine’s use as a way to calm patients and triage concerns, deciding whether or not an in-office visit is required, continues with eye care.

“It is certainly a way to reassure patients that we are there for them, which is most important in these scary times,” NYC optometrist Dr. Susan Resnick told All About Vision.

While reassurance is important, most eye care professionals agree that telemedicine’s use is extremely limited.  Proper eye care requires pupil dilation and specialized tools to accurately identify problems like glaucoma or assess the health of optic nerves and retinas.

Where we go from here

Despite its limitations, Dr. Resnick sees value in continuing to use telemedicine, “We will continue to utilize this platform whenever necessary.  We do not view it as a disruptor or threat, but rather as a way to bolster our practice.”

Not everyone agrees.

“I’m not terribly enthusiastic (about remote eye exams),” Illinois ophthalmologist Dr. Benjamin Ticho told All About Vision.  “There’s going to be too many mistakes.  Plus, it diminishes the warmth and personality of the interaction.  For many patients, a good doctor visit is a pleasant social occasion, and for many doctors, that’s part of why we went into medicine.”


Where we are now

The data is staggering.

Before the crisis, 20% of US adults lived with mental illness but less than half received treatment according to federal statistics.

In the last two weeks of March, 45% of US adults felt that worry and stress related to COVID-19 were harming their mental health.  It’s likely that number has increased as stay-at-home orders extend, and job losses and furloughs increase.

Yet the adoption of telemedicine to address mental health concerns has been slow.  A phenomenon that is far from new.  Case in point – over a decade ago, Congress excluded mental health providers from a $30M investment in digitizing patient health records.  Even now, as CMS, private insurers, and state regulators are easing restrictions and increasing reimbursement for telemedicine to treat physical concerns, similar attention and flexibility have not been shown to mental health concerns.

As a result, “(providers) are kind of trying everything right now and seeing what can work,” John Torous, director of the digital psychiatry division at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center told Politico.

Where we go from here

More than other specialties, the jury is out on what happens next with regards to telemedicine for mental health.

On one hand, “so much of counseling has to do with body language, being physically present in the room, intonation,” Lynn Linde for the American Counseling Association told Politco.  “Sometimes, that’s lost when you don’t have a good internet connection, or one of your starts getting garbled.”

On the other, this could be a “tipping point for the way we practice,” said Peter Yellowlees, a professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California, Davis and former president of the American Telemedicine Association.

Optum, a division of UnitedHealth, seems to be betting on the latter.  Last week it announced that it was in talks to acquire AbleTo, a New York-based virtual therapy provider for $470M, or 10x forward revenue.


Where we are now

If telemedicine is good enough for humans, it’s good enough for our animal companions.

A relatively new addition to the specialties offering telemedicine solutions, only a handful of companies are currently playing in this field.  TeleVet, a “Texas-based, digitally optimized company focused on veterinary care,” is one.

Before the outbreak, TeleVet was in use in 1000 clinics across the US and even closed a $2M seed round in January.

“We can check for infections such as ear infections or drainage from either a still picture or a video, or even a live video conference with the owner,” Dr. Amy Garrou as Houston-area vet explained to Innovation Map. “The platform has been useful because we can do any of those consultations and get the information we need to manage the case without the pet owner having to come into the clinic.”

Where we go from here

Like dentistry, orthodontics, and eye care, telemedicine’s use in the Veterinary space is a boon for providers and patients at a time when it’s not safe to be in a crowded office.  But as restrictions lift, like the other health care fields, it’s likely to be used primarily to answer questions, triage concerns, and perform post-surgery check-ups.



Yes, telemedicine is an incredible tool to have in our collective healthcare toolkit.  Its use across medical specialties is evidence that it fills a need for clinicians (provide care for my patients) and patients (address my concerns).

In “normal” times, those needs are well addressed by in-office visits, retail clinics, and urgent care.  It is only in very specific circumstances, like when medical professionals cannot easily or safely see patients in-person, that existing solutions fall short and telemedicine becomes the most attractive option.

However, telemedicine only became an available option when regulators relaxed rules, insurers increased reimbursement, and patients accepted emails and video-chats as treatment.

It took a pandemic to create the confluence of circumstances required for physicians, dentists, orthodontists, eye care professionals, mental health caregivers, veterinarians, and other clinicians to begin or expand the use of telemedicine.  It’s their experience, and the experiences and decisions of other players in the healthcare ecosystem, that will lead them back to the office and the hands-on care that is both desired and required.

10 Moments of Innovation Zen: Military

10 Moments of Innovation Zen: Military

Innovation is something different that creates value. Sometimes it’s big, new to the world, world-changing things. Sometimes it’s a slight tweak to make things easier, faster, cheaper or better.

Sometimes, it’s both.

It’s no secret that the military and NASA are birthplaces of incredible inventions (something new) and innovations (something different that creates value). Most people know that Velcro, nylon, and powdered drinks (Tang!) originated at Nasa, and that Jeep, GPS, and the internet come to us from the military.

But did you know that these 10 everyday innovations have their origin in the military?

Duct Tape

Invented in 1942 to seal ammo boxes with something that could resist water and dirt while also being fast and easy to remove so soldiers could quickly access ammunition when they needed it. Originally, it was made by applying a rubber-based adhesive to duck cloth, a plain and tightly woven cotton fabric, and has evolved over the years to be used for everything from repairing equipment on the moon to purses.

Synthetic Rubber Tires

Speaking of rubber, prior to WWII, most rubber was harvested from trees in South America and shipped to southern Asia where the majority of rubber products were produced. When the Axis powers cut-off access to Asia, the US military turned to Firestone, Goodyear, and Standard Oil to create a replacement substance. The recipe they created is still used today.

Silly Putty

Image Credit: thestrong.org

Like most inventions, there were a lot of failed experiments before the right synthetic rubber recipe was found. Silly Putty is the result of one of those experiments. A scientist at GE developed the strange substance but quickly shelved it after it became clear that it had no useful military application. Years later, GER execs started showing off the novelty item at cocktail parties, an advertising exec in attendance saw its commercial potential and bought the manufacturing rights, packaged it into eggs and sold it as a toy. 350 million eggs later, we’re still playing with it.


The result of another failed experiment, Superglue came onto the market in 1958 and has stuck around ever since (sorry, that pun was intended). Military scientists were testing materials to use as clear plastic rifle sights and created an incredibly durable but impossibly sticky substance called cyanoacrylate. Nine years later it was being sold commercially as Superglue and eventually did make its way into military use during the Vietnam War as a way to immediately stop bleeding from wounds.

Feminine Hygiene pads

Image Credit: Museum of American History

Before Superglue was used to stop bleeding, bandages woven with cellulose were used on the battlefields and hospitals. Seeing how effective the bandages were at holding blood and the convenience of having so many on hand, US and British WW1 nurses began using them as sanitary napkins and bandage makers adapted and expanded their post-War product lines to accommodate.


Image Credit: Foto-ianniello/Getty Images

While people have been wearing undergarments for centuries, the undershirt as we know it — a t-shaped, cotton, crewneck — didn’t come into being until the early twentieth century. Manufactured and sold by the Cooper Underwear Co., it caught the Navy’s eye as a more convenient and practical option than the current button-up shirts. In 1905, it became part of the official Navy uniform and the origin of the term “crewneck.”

Aerosol Big Spray

Image Credit: National WWII Museum

Soldiers fighting in the Pacific theater of WWII had a lot to worry about, so they were eager to cross mosquitos and malaria off that list. In response, the Department of Defense teamed up with the Department of Agriculture to find a way to deliver insecticide as a fine mist. The first aerosol “bug bomb” was patented in 1941 and, thanks to the development of a cheaper plastic aerosol valve, became commercially available to civilians in 1949.

Canned Food

Image Credit: Pacific Paratrooper — WordPress.com

While it’s not surprising that canned foods were originally created for the military, it may surprise you to learn that it was Napoleon’s armies that first used the concept. In response to the French Government’s offer of a large cash reward for anyone who could find a way to preserve large quantities of food, an inventor discovered that food cooked inside a jar wouldn’t spoil unless the seal leaked, or the container was broken. But glass jars are heavy and fragile, so innovation continued until WW1 when metal cans replaced the glass jars.


RadaRange on the Nuclear Ship NS Savannah

This is another one that you probably would have guessed has its origins in the military but may be surprised by its actual origin story. The term “microwave” refers to an adaptation of radar technology that creates electromagnetic waves on a tiny scale and passes those micro-waves through food, vibrating it, and heating it quickly. The original microwaves made their debut in 1946 on ships but it took another 20 years to get the small and affordable enough to be commercially viable.


Image Credit: Hodinkee

Watches first appeared on the scene in the 15th century but they didn’t become reliable or accurate until the late 1700s. However, up until the early 20th century, wristwatches were primarily worn as jewelry by women and men used pocket watches. During its military campaigns in the late 1880s, the British Army began using wristwatches as a way to synchronize maneuvers without alerting the enemy to their plans. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So, there you have it. 10 everyday innovations brought to us civilians by the military. Some, like synthetic rubber, started as intentional inventions (something new) and quickly became innovations (something new that creates value). Some, like superglue and silly putty, are “failed” experiments that became innovations. And some, like undershorts and feminine products, are pure innovations (value-creating adaptations of pre-existing products to serve different users and users).

Sources: USA TodayPocket-lint.com, and Mic.com

10 Moments of Innovation Zen: Travel

10 Moments of Innovation Zen: Travel

Sunday was Read a Roadmap Day which is, naturally, one of MileZero’s favorite days.

For hundreds of years, maps were works of art. Available to only the rich and powerful, they described the full sum of our understanding of the land and sea, and told stories of the fantastical creatures that lived beyond our shores.

Even as maps became more accessible, reading a roadmap still felt like reading a treasure map. As a kid, I loved to study the different types and colors of lines signaled different types of roads. Dozens of symbols each translated to some wondrous place or service. And don’t get me started on the wonder and magic of AAA’s TripTiks!

As time goes on, fewer and fewer people know how to read road maps, which is understandable given that technology puts real-time custom location information at our fingertips. But there’s still magic in maps and in the discoveries that only occur through travel.

So, for this week’s 10 Moments of Innovation Zen, and in honor of Read a Roadmap Day, here i are 10 innovations in travel that you can enjoy from your own home (which is really your only option at the moment)

Savage Beauty by Kari Kola in Connemara, Galway County, Ireland

Savage Beauty, the largest site-specific light artwork ever created because art need not be constrained to pencil, paint, and canvas

Nordlandsbanen Bodo — Trodheim

Slow TV in which there is no story line, no script, no drama, no climax, just 9+ hours of Norwegian landscape as viewed from a train

Easter Island

Heritage on the Edge by Google showing how World Heritage Sites are affected by global climate change

Animal Cams so you can virtually visit the pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoo or the penguins, fish, seals, and other inhabitants of the New England Aquarium

Dotonbori area in Osaka Japan

Virtual Walking Tours of NYC, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, LA, San Diego, and a few US college campuses

Staircase at The Vatican Museum

Virtual Museum Tours of the LouvreMadrid’s Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, and The Vatican Museum

Berlin Philharmonic Hall

Virtual Concerts performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra or the Berlin Philharmonic

Madama Butterfly, Royal Swedish Opera

Virtual Operas from all over the world, including the Royal Swedish Opera’s Madama Butterfly and the Polish National Opera’s Tosca

Arches National Park

Google Earth lets you visit anywhere on, well, earth and, with this link, you can visit any of the US National Parks

Royal Portuguese Reading Rooms, Rio de Janeiro, by Getty Images

Listicles of the best of anything, including the world’s most beautiful libraries (sorry, I just love books too much)

The 5 Why’s of Working From Home

The 5 Why’s of Working From Home

In middle school and high school my dad and I would have massive arguments about my math homework. And by “massive,” I mean arguments that make episodes of The Real Housewives look like polite differences of opinion over tea and crumpets.

The issue was not my struggles to understand the work (though I’m sure that played into things) but rather my insistence on knowing WHY I needed to learn the content in the first place.

My dad, a metallurgist before becoming a computer engineer, seemed to think the answers to “Why?” were (1) you will need to know this in the future and (2) because this is the assignment.

To which I would respond, (1) no I won’t because I’m going to be a lawyer or a writer and even if I’m not those two things I can say with 100% certainty I won’t be an engineer and (2) that is not an acceptable reason.

As you can imagine, things would escalate from there.

In the decades since, with the exception of some single-variable algebra and basic geometry, I have yet to use most of the math that I was forced to learn and I still insist that “because that’s the assignment/the rules/how things are done” is not an acceptable answer.

Usually I apply that same stubborn curiosity to help my clients find and capitalize on opportunities to do things differently and better, create value, and innovate.

But, in the last week as I, like most Americans, find myself largely confined to my home, my curiosity is extending to my own environment and habits and I’m not always prepared for the insights that emerge.

WHY am I trying to maintain all my pre-pandemic habits?

  • Initial Answer: Because the experts say I should
  • Insight: I have a choice and now is the perfect time to decide which habits to keep and which to change. So far, I’m keeping all habits related to basic personal hygiene, dressing, and eating, while also experimenting with other habits, like how I schedule my time
  • Real Answer: We’re in an unusual time of collective uncertainty which makes this the perfect time to examine, re-evaluate, and change the things we often take as given. Like our own habits

WHY am I watching non-stop news?

  • Initial Answer: Because information is empowering in uncertain times
  • Insight: A screen showing “Breaking News” AND the global and US COVID-19 diagnosis and death counts AND numerous experts AND a crawl with dozens of other stories is not information. It’s noise. If the “news” has been known for 4 hours, it’s not “breaking,” it’s broken, move on.
  • Real Answer: I need to schedule my information consumption and focus on facts.

WHY am I not using this time to get feedback from my own customers, especially since this is the first thing I tell my clients to do?

  • Initial Answers: (1) I don’t want to bother them, (2) They’re busy with more important things, (3) They never complained so I’m sure it’s all good (4) I need to focus on the future, not the past, (5) I have other things to do, (6) Oh look, another email/text/Facebook post/bird/distraction!
  • Insight: I don’t want to for the exact same reasons most of my clients don’t want to have open-ended EPIC (empathy, perspective, insightful, and connected) conversations with their customers — I’m afraid that even though they say they love me they also know that I’m not perfect and will have really great and helpful suggestions that will require me to change. (in all honesty, this is the nice version of what I say to myself)
  • Real Answer: Time to put on my big-girl pants, follow my own advice, and go ask for feedback. It’s the only way improvement, innovation, and most importantly, client delight will happen

WHY do I suddenly feel the need to go outside and spend all time with people?

  • Initial Answer: Because it’s Spring, the weather is nice, and I like people
  • Insight: I want to go outside and be with people because I have been specifically told NOT to do those things. Just as I’m an introvert who does not like bugs or pollen, I also have a rebellious (intrapreneurial?) streak which makes me want to do exactly what I have been told not to do.
  • Real Answer: I can go outside or open a window, stand in the backyard, or sit on the front porch. I can socialize, I just need to use technology and bring my own drinks and dinner to the FaceTime/Zoom/Skype/Google Hangout

WHY are there 6 dozen eggs in the refrigerator?

  • Initial Answer: My husband is losing his mind OR he forgot that he bought 2 dozen eggs in each of the last two trips to the grocery store.
  • Insight: These are strange and uncertain times and that rattles even the most stoic and level-headed of people. My husband was a submarine warfare officer in the nuclear navy and often tells stories of sleeping on the missiles because they were more comfortable than his bunk and unarmed. This is not a guy who reacts emotionally to events or who worries about the apocalypse. He is cautious and practical and, sometimes, annoyingly reasonable. But he also bought 6 dozen eggs in less than 7 days.
  • Real Answer: Be patient, have empathy, listen to, and support everyone. Especially they people who you think may least need it. Also, I need to get over my aversion to quiche and other egg-heavy dishes.

In conclusion

Stay curious, turn off the news, be open to feedback and change, be supportive of others, let me know if (1) you’ve ever had to use calculus in your personal life and/or (2) have a great egg-heavy recipe