Sunday, April 1, 2007

Change is The Biggest Obstacle with Innovation: Shannon Boase, The Unrequited Canadian

Shannon Boase turned a bad personal situation into an innovative product with a great story behind it. In 1997 she moved to Malaysia but found that her allergies went wild from the burning of the leftover palm husks from the palm fruit harvests. The smoke was so bad it sometimes closed airports and schools. She thought that there must be a better way. She ended up creating a compostable food packaging product from the waste that remained after the palm oil had been extracted. The product is naturally water resistant, microwaveable and biodegrades within 3 months.

Sounds like a slam-dunk in this "Consumer society on steroids" we live in. A sustainable packaging solution with an abundance of renewable resources. Unfortunately, most companies from her native Canada weren't very interested in the idea. No matter how amazing the innovation, if it includes requiring the pre-customer distribution line to change it can still struggle. In this case Canadian companies viewed change as too expensive from the cheap plastic solutions. Why change something that is simple and working just fine? Changing from what is comfortable and cost-effective trumped benefiting the planet itself. Products like the iPod and NetFlix didn't face this hurdle.

The happy ending to this story is that she persevered and has been much luckier dealing with American companies such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and even Walmart.

I'm always interested in the impetus for innovation. This is a great product with a great story behind it. Learn more about Shannon's company, Earthcycle.

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