Innovation … It's Easy as P___!

If innovation is still the best source of competitive advantage, then this truism should apply beyond the world of fashion, IT, and pharmaceuticals, and into less obviously promising areas, like aircraft toilets! A client who works in this sector told me recently that men (still) make up 70% of airline passengers carried. (Reason in itself to re-read Chapter 13 of Re-imagine!) Further, and without going into unnecessary detail, he told me that three out of every four visits passengers make to the toilet during flights is to pee. So, putting these two statistics together, over 50% of toilet utilisation on flights is by men peeing. Question then. Why are there no men’s urinals on planes, as there are in just about every other venue where men and women co-exist in large numbers?

Some cynics amongst us might say that this is largely because the status quo does not cause a big problem for men! But things are starting to change. DASELL Cabin Interior (see the Washroom with Urinals page on their website) has just won an industry prize for offering the first aircraft urinal as a unique feature for their customers, the big airlines and plane manufacturers. These novel facilities are certainly more space- and weight-efficient, and attractive for the specifying aero-engineers on that basis alone. But it’s likely to be the women passengers who turn out to be the biggest beneficiaries of this particular piece of German ingenuity. Having to share toilet facilities with us men on long flights can’t be the best aspect of the air travel experience for women passengers. Installing urinals to take most of the male traffic opens up the attractive possibility of an airline’s being able to designate some of the conventional toilet facilities as for “ladies only” without inconveniencing the male majority. This seems like a really good service innovation to me. But how could I possibly know or understand!

Does anyone know of similarly mundane innovations that had surprising benefits?

Richard King posted this on April 23, 2008, in Innovation.
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