The role of accidents in business
In 1894 Dr John Kellogg and his brother. Will, were supervising a hospital and health spa in Michigan. The patients were on a restricted diet. One day, the brothers left cooked wheat untended for more than 24 hours. When they returned, they saw what they had done. It was no good to eat, but they decided to run the stale wheat through rollers, just to see how it would turn out. Normally, the process produced long sheets, but they were surprised to discover that this time the rollers created flat flakes. They baked them, and then tried the same thing with corn. From this accidental discovery came the cornflakes that generations have now been eating for breakfast.
Accidents happen; there is nothing predictable and orderly about innovation. Nobel laureate Sir Alan Hodgkin, who discovered how nerve cells transmit electrical impulses between the skin and the brain, commented: ‘I believe that the record of my published papers conveys an impression of directedness and planning which does not at all coincide with the actual sequence of events.’
The same rule applies in business. The mistake that gave US cornflakes keeps repeating itself in the history of disruptive innovation, the kind that transforms markets. Louis Daguerre, for, instance, discovered the technique that gave US photography in the 1830s, when drops of mercury from a shattered thermometer produced a photographic image. The microwave was discovered when Peroy Spender, a scientist with Raytheon, was testing a new vacuum tube and discovered that the sweet in his pocket had melted. The artificial sweetener, saccharin, was the unintentional result of a medical scientist’s work on a chemical treatment for gastric ulcers. While working for the firm 3M, researcher Art Fry had no idea he was taking the first steps towards Post- It Notes when he used bits of adhesive office paper that could be easily lifted off the page to replace the scrap paper bookmarks that kept falling out of his hymn book.
Breakthrough and disruptive innovation are rarely driven by orderly process. Usually they come out of a chaotic, haphazard mess, which is why big companies, full of managers schooled in business programmes designed to eliminate random variation and mistakes, struggle with them. In these sorts of environments, accidents are called failures and are discouraged.
It is no surprise then that research from the late British economist Paul Geroski and London Business School’s Constantinos Markides found that companies that were skilled at innovation were usually not that skilled when it came to commercialisation, and vice versa. Their book, Fast Second, divides businesses into ‘colonists’ and ‘consolidators’. Small and nimble, colonists are adept at creating market niches but are terrible institution builders. Consolidators, with their strong cultures of discipline and cost control, know how to take clever ideas from other firms and turn them into massmarket items. Microsoft is a prime instance of this.
With companies spending hundreds of billions of dollars on research and development, US academics Robert Austin and Lee Devin examined how managers can encourage productive slip-ups. In their article Accident, Intention and Expectation in the Innovation Process, they argue that business processes actually prevent helpful mis-steps from occurring. According to their catalogue of accidents, not all false steps and mishaps are equal. Accidents, they say, come from unlikely mental associations such as memories and vague connections, looking for something and finding it in an unexpected way, looking for one thing and finding something else, and not looking for anything but finding something valuable.
Accident-prone innovation, they say, requires companies to get outside the ‘cone of expectation’. It means throwing together groups from diverse backgrounds, and combining ideas in unpredictable ways, other strategies also include having systems that watch out for accidents and examine them for value, generating them when they do not happen often enough, seizing oil the useful ones, capturing their valuable features, and building on them to add value and give potential for useful accidents.
All this, however, requires thinking that is often counter-intuitive to the way businesses operate. In other words, it is the kind of thinking that goes against the beliefs of most business managers. It runs counter to the notion frequently pushes by consultants that you can ‘harness’ creativity and direct it to line up with intention. ‘The cost of accidents business, people tend to call such efforts failure.’
There are tentative signs that more companies are starting to realise that failure can lead to commercial gain, and that this is part or the risk-talking that underpins innovation. Australia’s largest brewing company, for example, made a bad error when it launched a new beer called Empire Lager, pitched at younger consumers. Having spent a fortune creating a beer with a sweeter taste, designing a great-looking bottle and a television campaign, Foster’s was left with a drink that no-one wanted to buy. The target market was more interested in brands built up by word of mouth.
Instead of wiping the unsuccessful product launch, Fosters used this lesson learned to go on and develop other brands instead. One of them, Pure Blonde, is now ranked as Australia’s fifth-largest beer brand. Unlike Empire Lager, there has been almost no promotion and its sales are generated more by word of mouth.
Other companies are taking similar steps to study their own slip-ups. Intuit, the company behind financial tools such as Quicken, holds regular ‘When Learning Hurts’ sessions. But this sort of transformation is never easy. In a market that focuses on the short-term, convincing employees and shareholders to tolerate failure and not play it safe is a big thing to ask.
Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in Reading Passage? In boxes 1-5 on your answer sheet, write
YES if the statement agrees with the views of the writer
NO if the statement contradicts the views of the writer
NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this
1. The delay in the process used by the Kellogg brothers affected the final product.
2. Sir Alan Hodgkin is an example of someone whose work proceeded in a logical and systematic way.
3. Daguerre is an exception to the general rule of innovation.
4. The discovery of saccharin occurred by accident during drug research.
5. The company 3M should have supported Art Fry by funding his idea of Post-It Notes.
Complete each sentence with the correct ending, A-H, below. Write the correct letter, A-H, in boxes 6-9 on your answer sheet.
6. The usual business environment
7. Geroki and Markides’s book
8. Microsoft is an example of a company which
9. The origin of useful accidents
A can be found in unusual thoughts and chance events.
B can be taught in business schools.
C has made a success from someone else’s invention.
D is designed to nurture differences.
E is unlikely to lead to creative innovation
F says that all mistakes are the same.
G shows that businesses are good at either inventing of selling.
H suggests ways of increasing the number of mistakes
Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.
10. How do Austin and Devin advise companies to get out of the ‘cone of expectation’?
A by decreasing the number of company systems
B by forming teams of different types of people
C by hiring new and creative people
D by holding regular brainstorming meetings
11. In recommending ‘counter-intuitive’ thinking, what do Austin and Devin imply?
A that failing at business is bad for staff morale
B that innovation cannot be planned for
C that most businesses should be devoted to avoiding mistakes
D that the cost of mistakes is an important consideration
12. The writer describes the Empire Lager disaster in order to show that
A success can come out of a business failure
B the majority of companies now value risk-talking.
C TV advertising works better on older people
D young beer drinkers do not like a sweet taste
13. Pure Blonde has been more successful than Empire Lager because
A digital media other than TV were used.
B it was advertised under a different brand name.
C it was launched with very little advertising.
D the advertising budget was larger
14. The writer concludes that creating a culture that learns from mistakes
A brings short-term financial gains.
B can be very difficult for some companies.
C holds no risk for workers.
D is a popular move with shareholders.
Olive Oil Production
Olive oil has been one of the staples of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years and its popularity is growing rapidly in other parts of the world. It is one of the most versatile oils for cooking and it enhances the taste of many foods. Olive oil is the only type of vegetable/fruit oil that can be obtained from just pressing. Most other types of popular oils (corn, canola, etc.) must be processed in other ways to obtain the oil. Another important bonus is that olive oil has proven health benefits. Three basic grades of olive oil are most often available to the consumer: extra Virgin, Virgin and Olive Oil. In addition to the basic grades, olive oil differs from one country or region to another because of the types of olives that are grown, the harvesting methods, the time of the harvest, and the pressing techniques. These factors all contribute to the individual characteristics of the olive oil.
Olive trees must be properly cared for in order to achieve good economic yields. Care includes regular irrigation, pruning, fertilizing, and killing pests. Olives will survive on very poor sites with shallow soils but will grow very slowly and yield poorly. Deep soils tend to produce excessively vigorous trees, also with lower yields. The ideal site for olive oil production is a clay loam soil with good internal and surface drainage. Irrigation is necessary to produce heavy crops and avoid alternate bearing. The site must be free of hard winter frosts because wood damage will occur at temperatures below 15°F and a lengthy spell of freezing weather can ruin any chances for a decent crop. The growing season also must be warm enough so fruits mature before even light fall frosts (usually by early November) because of potential damage to the fruit and oil quality. Fortunately, olive trees are very hardy in hot summer temperatures and they are drought tolerant.
The best olive oils hold a certificate by an independent organization that authenticates the stone ground and cold pressed extraction process. In this process, olives are first harvested by hand at the proper stage of ripeness and maturity. Experts feel that hand harvesting, as opposed to mechanical harvesting, eliminates bruising of the fruit which causes tartness and oil acidity. The olives harvested are transferred daily to the mill. This is very important because this daily transfer minimizes the time spent between picking and pressing. Some extra virgin olive oil producers are known to transfer the olives by multi-ton trucks over long distances that expose the fragile fruit to crushing weight and the hot sun, which causes the olives to begin oxidizing and thus becoming acidic. In addition to the time lapse between harvesting and pressing, olive oil must be obtained using mechanical processes only to be considered virgin or extra virgin. If heat and/or chemical processes are used to produce the olive oil or if the time lapse is too long, it cannot be called virgin or extra virgin.
Once at the mill, the leaves are sucked away with air fans and the olives are washed with circulating potable water to remove all impurities. The first step of extraction is mashing the olives to create a paste. The oil, comprising 20% to 30% of the olive, is nestled in pockets within the fruit’s cells. The olives are crushed in a mill with two granite millstones rolling within a metal basin. Crushing and mixing the olives releases the oil from the cells of the olive without heating the paste. A side shutter on the mill’s basin allows the mixed olive paste to be discharged and applied to round mats. The mats are stacked and placed under the head of a hydraulic press frame that applies downward pressure and extracts the oil. The first pressing yields the superior quality oil, and the second and third pressings produce inferior quality oil. Some single estate producers collect the oil that results from just the initial crushing while many other producers use an additional step to extract more oil. The olive pulp is placed on mats constructed with hemp or polypropylene that are stacked and then pressed to squeeze the pulp. Oil and water filter through the mats to a collection tank below. The water and oil are then separated in a centrifuge.
Regardless of the method used for the first pressing, the temperature of the oil during production is extremely important in order to maintain the distinct characteristics of the oil. If the temperature of the oil climbs above 86ºF, it will be damaged and cannot be considered cold-pressed.
The first pressing oil contains the most “polyphenols”, substances that have been found to be powerful antioxidants capable of protecting against certain types of disease. The polyphenols are not the only substances in the olive with health-promoting effects, but they are quite unique when compared to other commonly used culinary oils such as sunflower and soy. It is these polyphenols that really set extra virgin olive oils apart from any other oil and any other form of olive oil. The more refined the olive oil is, the smaller the quantity of polyphenols.
The result of the producers’ efforts is a cold pressed extra virgin olive oil with high quality standards and organoleptic characteristics, which give the oil its health-protective and aromatic properties.
Choose the correct letters A, B, C or D.
15. According to the text, which of the following does NOT affect the individual features of olive oils from different regions?
A Olive varieties
B Access to water
C The date of the picking
D Picking techniques
16. According to the text, which of the following is NOT part of olive tree management?
B Careful watering
D Killing parasites
17. According to the text, what is the main danger of frost?
A The olives produced will be small in size
B It kills the olive trees
C The fruit won’t mature
D Not enough fruit will be produced
18. According to the text, which of the following does NOT affect the “extra virgin” olive oil certification?
A Using water in the extraction process
B Which pressing the oil is taken from
C The time gap between tree and bottle
D The temperature of the extraction process
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage? In boxes 32-34 on your answer sheet, write
TRUE if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this
19. Olive trees don’t need a regular supply of water to survive.
20. No other cooking oils apart from olive oil contain polyphenols.
21. Damage to olives before they are pressed can affect the taste of the oil.
Complete the flow chart below. Use NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from Passage for each answer.
The Olive Oil Production Process
Stage 1: Olive trees should be planted in (22) ……………. earth with good drainage in a year round warm climate.
Stage 2: Trees must be carefully irrigated and fertilized and (23) ……………….. must be controlled if you want to get (24) …………….. that will make you profit.
Stage 3: Olives are crushed to form a (25) ……………..
Stage 4: The paste is put on round mats inside a (26) ……………….. Water is blended in with the paste as it’s pressed and a water/oil mixture escapes.
Stage 5: Water is removed by a (27) ……………….. process. The Oil is then bottled and distributed.
UNDOING OUR EMOTIONS
A. Three generations ago, 180 young women wrote essays describing why they wanted to join a convent (a religious community of nuns). Years later, a team of psychological researchers came across these autobiographies in the convent’s archives. The researchers were seeking material to confirm earlier studies hinting at a link between having a good vocabulary in youth and a low risk of Alzheimer’s disease in old age. What they found was even more amazing. The researchers found that, although the young women were in their early twenties when they wrote their essays, the emotions expressed in these writings were predictive of how long they would live: those with upbeat autobiographies lived more than ten years longer than those whose language was more neutral. Deborah Danner, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky who spearheaded the study, noted that the results were particularly striking because all members of the convent lived similar lifestyles, eliminating many variables that normally make it difficult to interpret longevity studies. It was a phenomenal finding’, she says. ‘A researcher gets a finding like that maybe once in a lifetime.’ However, she points out that no one has been able to determine why positive emotions might have such life-extending effects.
B. Barbara Fredrickson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan, believes that part of the answer is the ‘undo effect’. According to this theory, positive emotions help you live longer by shutting down the effects of negative ones. Fredrickson’s theory begins with the observation that negative emotions, like fear and stress, enhance our flight-or-fight response to very real threats. However, even when the emergency is gone, negative emotions produce lingering effects. Brooks Gump, a stress researcher at the State University of New York, explains that one of these effects is excessive cardiovascular reactivity. Behaviourally, Gump says, this reactivity is related to excessive vigilance: the state of being constantly on guard for potential dangers. Not only is it physically draining to live in a perpetual state of high vigilance, but high cardiovascular reactivity could be linked to increased chances of a heart attack.
C. Fredrickson believes positive emotions work their magic by producing a rapid unwinding of pent-up tension, restoring the system to normal. People who quickly bounce back from stress often speed the process by harnessing such emotions as amusement, interest, excitement, and happiness, she says. To test her theory, Fredrickson told a group of student volunteers that they had only a few minutes to prepare a speech that would be critiqued by experts. After letting the students get nervous about that, Fredrickson then told them they wouldn’t actually have to deliver their speeches. She monitored heart rates and blood pressure. Not surprisingly, all students got nervous about their speeches, but those who viewed the experiment with good-humored excitement saw their heart rates return to normal much more quickly than those who were angry about being fooled. In a second experiment, Fredrickson reported that even those who normally were slow to bounce back could be coached to recover more quickly by being told to view the experiment as a challenge, rather than a threat.
D. Fredrickson believes that positive emotions make people more flexible and creative. Negative emotions, she says, give a heightened sense of detail that makes us hypersensitive to minute clues related to the source of a threat. But that also produces ‘tunnel vision’ in which we ignore anything unrelated to the danger. Fredrickson speculated that just as positive emotions can undo the cardiovascular effects of negative ones, they may also reverse the attention-narrowing effects of negative feelings: broadening our perspectives.
E. To verify her theory, Fredrickson showed a group of students some film clips- some saw frightening clips, some saw humorous ones or peaceful ones. They then did a matching test in which they were shown a simple drawing and asked which of two other drawings it most resembled. The drawings were designed so that people would tend to give one answer if they focused on details, and another answer if they focused on the big picture. The results confirmed Fredrickson’s suspicion that positive emotions affect our perceptions. Students who had seen the humorous or peaceful clips were more likely to match objects according to broad impressions.
F. This fits with the role that positive emotions might have played in early human tribes, Fredrickson says. Negative emotions provided focus, which was important for surviving in life-or-death situations, but the ability to feel positive emotions was of long-term value because it opened the mind to new ideas. Humour is a good example of this. She says: ‘The emotions are transient, but the resources are durable. If you building a friendship through being playful, that friendship is a lasting resource.’ So while the good feelings may pass, the friendship remains. On an individual level, Fredrickson’s theory also says that taking time to do things that make you feel happy isn’t simply self-indulgent. Not only are these emotions good for the individual, but they are also good for society.
G. Other researchers are intrigued by Fredrickson’s findings. Susan Folkman, of the University of California, has spent two decades studying how people cope with long-term stresses such as bereavement, or caring for a chronically ill child. Contrary to what one might expect, she says, these people frequently experience positive emotions. ‘These emotions aren’t there by accident’, she adds. ‘Mother Nature doesn’t work that way, I think that they give a person time out from the intense stress to restore their resources and keep going. This is very consistent with Fredrickson’s work.’
Reading Passage has seven sections, A-G. Which section contains the following information? Write the correct letter, A-G, in boxes 1-6 on your answer sheet. NB You may use any letter more than once.
28. a conclusion that it is possible to train people to deal with anxiety conclusive evidence that lifespan can be influenced by emotions.
29. an explanation of the way negative emotions affect what people concentrate on
30. an experiment that showed how a positive outlook can help people adjust to
31. a stressful situation faster than others
32. a discovery beyond what researchers were investigating
33. an experiment where the nature of a material seen by participants affected the way they performed a task
Look at the following statements (Questions 7-10) and the list of researchers below. Match each statement with the correct researcher, A-D. Write the correct letter, A-D, in boxes 7-10 on your answer sheet. NB You may use any letter more than once.
List of Researchers
A Deborah Danner
B Barbara Fredrickson
C Brooks Gump
D Susan Folkman
34. People whose daily lives are stressful often have surprisingly positive emotions.
35. The body’s reaction to a crisis may trigger a life-threatening event.
36. It is unusual to have a study group whose circumstances were very alike.
37. The reasons for a link between positive emotions and a longer life have not been established.
Complete the sentences below. Choose ONE WORD ONLY from the passage for each answer.
In early tribes, negative emotions gave humans the (38) ……………… that they needed to deal with emergencies. Fredrickson believes that a passing positive emotion can lead to an enduring asset such as a (39) ……………….. which is useful in times to come. Fredrickson also believes that both individuals and (40) ……………….. benefit from positive emotions.