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Innovations and Opportunities

Jack Uldrich
February 27, 2008

Last week, I stumbled upon a fascinating article suggesting the best way to board an airplane is not from back to front as commonsense might suggest. Instead, the most efficient method is to allow passengers to board 10 at a time in every other row. The advantage of this innovative approach is that people are able to load their luggage more quickly -- thus alleviating the largest source of time congestion in boarding a plane.

The study might seem inconsequential, but I'd like to suggest otherwise. If passengers can board more quickly, not only are they happier (which is something that I would think, but am not always sure, airlines desire), but quicker boarding might allow airlines to either schedule additional daily flights on some of the more popular routes or reduce the number of gates that an airline requires. Although, this might not have a material impact on the profits of airlines, it could improve the customer experience for passengers on Southwest (NYSE: LUV  ) and JetBlue (Nasdaq: JBLU  ) .

On a broader level, the finding points to how even more mature industries can perform old activities in new and innovative ways.

Squeezing more oil from corn
For example, this month, agricultural scientists at DuPont (NYSE: DD  ) identified a key gene that determines oil yield in corn. According to the research, the gene could boost the yield of oil and oleic acid by 41% and 107%, respectively.

The former could be a boon to the r