Weekend Digest: Innovation, Interpretation And Cutting Out Early On Fridays

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 84 views 

Editor’s Note: Talk Business begins a new feature on our blogs called “The Weekend Digest,” a compilation of interesting feature stories, analyses and recommended reading from a variety of outside Arkansas sources for our business and political readers. The intent is to provide readers with a wide-ranging look at events happening in other states, developing trends and some leisurely reading on the weekends when the news tends to be a little slower. Your feedback is welcome — just drop me a note at [email protected].

Is the U.S. curtailing its dependence on Middle East oil? It is, but it's not necessarily shifting rapidly to domestic independence.

The Washington Post examines the rapid ramp-up of oil exploration in North and South America thanks to shale fracking technology, a subject Arkansans know a thing or two about.

From Canada to Colombia to Brazil, oil and gas production in the Western Hemisphere is booming, with the United States emerging less dependent on supplies from an unstable Middle East. Central to the new energy equation is the United States itself, which has ramped up production and is now churning out 1.7 million more barrels of oil and liquid fuel per day than in 2005.

“There are new players and drivers in the world,” said Ruben Etcheverry, chief executive of Gas and Oil of Neuquen, a state-owned energy firm that is positioning itself to develop oil and gas fields here in Patagonia. “There is a new geopolitical shift, and those countries that never provided oil and gas can now do so. For the United States, there is a glimmer of the possibility of self-sufficiency.”

The story doesn't suggest a divorce from Persian Gulf energy reliance in the immediate future, but the economic dynamics are undergoing a fundamental change.

In some parts of the country, Memorial Day weekend is the official beginning of a new work routine: shorter Fridays.

The Wall Street Journal examines the growing trend of allowing employees more recreation time on Fridays from June through August. It can be an effective incentive in a competitive work environment.

Thirty percent of companies say they plan to offer some form of summer hours this year, according to a recent poll of 228 public and private firms by the Corporate Executive Board, a business research and advisory firm. Last year, just 15% of firms actually implemented the program.

Companies cited employee engagement as the top reason for implementing summer hours, followed by increased productivity. Cost savings and reduced turnover were minor considerations, the survey found. Brian Kropp, a managing director at CEB, says many employers are offering shortened workweeks in lieu of meaty raises this year.

But can summer hours really improve productivity? Time management experts think so.

Read more at this link.

A high school freshman from Maryland recently won first place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for his cancer detection sensor, which can find pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer in its early stages.

The test, which involves a paper sensor, only costs about

3 cents and takes 5 minutes to perform.

Andraka describes the process in this NPR Marketplace interview.

“So, basically there are these antibodies which capture a specific protein that's found in your blood, because it becomes elevated when you have those cancers. And so then, when you have blood that has those elevated levels, it'll change the conductivity of my paper sensor, and basically I was just measuring that,” he said.

African entrepreneur Ndubuisi Ekekwe blogs for Harvard Business Review. In his latest contribution, he notes how innovation can be overrated when looking at investments in entrepreneurial endeavors. At times, it's better to find those who imitate successful innovators, especially if they have a track record of success.

Some call it the Chinese method, where copycat companies more profitably produce new products or services. There are still risks, but at times, it may make more sense and the theory challenges conventional venture capital thinking.

I can understand companies copying ideas and adapting them for specific markets. But the story of these three German bothers, Marc, Alexander and Oliver Samwer, who've made their fortune building copycat companies, challenges that thinking. These brothers are among Europe's most consistently-successful internet entrepreneurs. They are rich and the company is estimated to be worth at least a billion dollars. They have copied top web companies from Pinterest to Groupon and eBay to Airbnb, and have invested in Facebook, LinkedIn and Zynga. Rocket Internet, their incubator, is a dominant force in Europe. They believe that, if you cannot create new ideas, you can legally copy them, as Oliver said in a recent interview: “Just as we might have a very good gift of execution, others have a unique gift for the purest form of innovation.” But, most times, the only difference they bring to the table is the name of the product — the color, the text, the photos — and everything else remains the same.

Read more here.

Bloomberg News offers analysis of next month's expected U.S. Supreme Court decision on the federal health care law.

Interpretation of the Interstate Commerce Clause will be key, and Bloomberg notes that there have been a variety of interpretations and re-interpretations of the commerce clause since 1937.

When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the justices said next to nothing about racial equality, the ideal that drove the landmark law’s enactment.

Instead, the court cited the constitutional clause that lets Congress regulate interstate commerce, saying the law barred discrimination at hotels and restaurants used by travelers moving across state lines.

In the last 75 years, the commerce clause has become one of the Constitution’s most potent provisions, underlying federal laws that affect every American business and consumer, from the 1938 minimum-wage statute to the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulations. Next month the 16-word clause will play a starring role again as the focus of the fight over President Barack Obama’s health-care law.

Read more here.