How firms can avoid being boxed in

Vijay Govindarajan Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Prof Vijay Govindarajan is widely regarded as one of the world's leading experts on innovation

Once upon a time I had an editor who was paralysed by the word "innovation".

"People don't understand what it means," he opined. "Don't use it."

It was an edict that made the job of making programmes about business rather difficult.

Because the era of doing things in the same way decade after decade is over. Organisations are confronted by external change and the urgent need to change themselves. Innovation is nothing less than a matter of corporate survival.

Well that particular editor is no longer in charge, so now I'm free to talk about inn-o-vation. Along with many other people. The need to innovate has become a commonplace corporate preoccupation. But acknowledging its importance does not make it any easier.

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Can a computer really recruit the best staff?

Computer data Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Can a computer algorithm find the best staff?

It's a difficult question - what exactly is an organisation?

It is one on which huge amounts of time, money and energy has been spent, as experts grapple with the ideals of management.

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The B&B where cannabis is part of your stay

  • 27 April 2016
  • From the section Magazine
Flower being cut from a plant in the trim room. Medicine Man Denver (pot dispensary), Denver Colorado Image copyright Alamy

Colorado's cannabis industry is growing fast, with armoured cars full of cash a common sight on Denver's streets. But businesses are stuck in a legal no-man's land - state laws allow the drug to be sold, but federal laws still prohibit it.

I am in a bed and breakfast, and it's Friday evening, Happy Hour. Drinks and nibbles are flowing freely, but there's something else - a sweet, sickly smell in the air. Yes I'm in Denver, the Mile High City, 1,600m in altitude, in Colorado, the first American state to legalise the consumption and sale of cannabis for recreational use, in 2014.

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The life and times of a newspaper baron

  • 1 April 2016
  • From the section Business
The plague at St Paul's Cathedral

Down in the crypt underneath the vast bulk of St Paul's Cathedral, down there where London started, there is a handsome memorial stone with a haunting inscription.

"Lord Thomson of Fleet," it says. "He gave new direction to the British newspaper industry."

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Changing how economics is taught

  • 3 March 2016
  • From the section Business
Dollar and euro bills Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Efforts are continuing to make economics degrees more relevant to the real world

There was an immediate response to my recent remarks on the "Rethinking Economics" movement that has grown to prominence in many university economics departments in the past few years.

In particular, I focused on the way that the campaign was ignited when undergraduates (in Manchester and other places) expressed their disquiet about what they were being taught.

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Are economics degrees fit for purpose?

  • 5 February 2016
  • From the section Business
New York Stock Exchange traders in September 2008 Image copyright Spencer Platt
Image caption Current economics courses have been criticised for not focusing enough on real world economics events

In many universities, something is stirring up the "dismal science", as economics is sometimes derogatorily called.

Students of economics are up in arms about what they are being taught, and how. They are not just protesting - they are doing something about it.

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How the craft beer revolution started

  • 30 December 2015
  • From the section Business
Beer vats
Image caption Big changes are underway for brewers, large and small

Big things are happening in the world of beer. Two giant brewing groups, Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, are in the process of merging.

They will produce a global monolith distributing almost one third of all the beer drunk in the world.

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The city where it is Christmas every day

  • 25 December 2015
  • From the section Business
Yiwu wholesale market Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Yiwu wholesale market is the centre of the world's supply of Christmas decorations

In the Chinese city of Yiwu, Christmas comes 365 days a year. But you have to look for it.

Yiwu could be anywhere in workaday urban China. It is a smoggy, swarming, unremarkable place some 300km (186 miles) south of Shanghai.

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Life in the comfort zone: From pipes to smartphones

  • 2 September 2015
  • From the section Business
Linus van Pelt (left) and his friends from the Peanuts comic strip Image copyright Gary Gershoff
Image caption Linus van Pelt (left) with his comfort blanket

The cartoon character Linus van Pelt from the Peanuts comic strip has a comfort blanket, and so do lots of children.

I have been out and about, travelling, and watching other travellers recently. This made me think about the history of comforters.

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Look no hands: Self-driving cars on a road near you?

  • 4 August 2015
  • From the section Business
A driverless car from Mercedes-Benz at the first Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Asia in Shanghai on 26 May, 2015. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption In theory taking human beings out of the driver's seat altogether could cut accidents to close to zero

Close your eyes and I'll take you there is what they sang in the musical, West Side Story. Fifty-eight years later, that proposition is the promise of the 21st Century automobile.

The self-driving car has long been the stuff of science fiction. Now it may soon be here, on the streets of Britain and other places.

Read full article Look no hands: Self-driving cars on a road near you?