Letts Media publication ‘Surviving’ outlines a possible roadmap to reduce global warming – for Earth Day.
We should all understand the challenge by now. If we don’t keep global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels we risk an irreversible climate crisis.
“There are two ends of the problem that need to be addressed. We need to both reduce emissions and get better at capturing and storing carbon in the right places, rather than letting it escape into the atmosphere which adds to the heating problem.”
The article goes on to look at 5 macro-level solutions to the crisis that are proven, deliverable in the shorter term and internationally relevant. As we celebrate Earth Day 2021 it is important to not just focus on the risks that climate change presents – but to highlight the advances and approaches that can start to solve the problem.
Letts Media publication ‘Surviving’ is about navigating business, innovation and life. It is edited by Philip Letts who is supported by some amazing analysts and researchers at the Surviving thinktank.
This year we celebrate the 225th anniversary of Letts. We will mark this extraordinary milestone with a series of articles and events – from the early years right up to today. The first article examines the founding of the original diary business by John Letts.
John Letts founded the business 225 years ago, in 1796, when he opened a stationery shop in the City of London. The first of our commemorative articles will look at how we invented the commercial diary and our approach to developing new products.
John Letts invented the world’s first commercial diary in 1812. It was an innovation in that it was future-focused and not designed simply to record past events. It was also a commercial product responding to the growing trade in the City of London. Moreover, the 1812 edition is interesting in that it is quite clearly testing this market. It is a single gathering of 104 pages, stitched into marbled paper wrappers. It simply prints the dates of a six-day working week from Monday to Saturday with no information other than the public holidays as they fall. The product is branded by a printed label on the front cover.
That this test was successful is demonstrated by the rapid sophistication of the product both in content and presentation, and by the early 1820’s a range of diaries providing different sizes and formats was published. They were a most effective combination of the old and new, incorporating between one set of covers the detailed information, governmental, legal, commercial and astronomical, of the long-established almanac, substituting for the plain notebook often sold in conjunction with it the printed format of the diary or bills due book.
The diary soon established itself as an essential feature of commercial life, unaffected by the slump which followed the boom years of the Napoleonic wars. It was given a further boost by the publication of the works of two major diarists – John Evelyn in 1818 and Samuel Pepys in 1825. These publications created a literary interest in diary-keeping and and no doubt stimulated demand for the new product in its more traditional role.
John Letts demonstrated a keen ability to read the market in his popular stationery shop while developing products in the back room. He located himself at the heart of things in the bustling City of London, and his early products were clearly aimed at the traders and financiers that surrounded him. He developed an effective process for testing new concepts and ideas which today is at the heart of Letts Group’s modern day incubator.
Letts Incubate may be a little more sophisticated and high-tech these days but the core principles remain the same. Indeed, we are currently testing three of our latest projects with paying customers in the live environment – just as John Letts launched his first ‘concept’ diary in 1812.
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In the 1990’s it became clear that the battle for the digital diary would be lost before we could go after it in any meaningful way. We were hemmed into paper based products.
The desk diary market was destined to get eroded by Microsoft with their windows PC’s and MS Office software, which included integrated diary features.
Soon after, Nokia and Motorola launched calendar features for their mobile phones which, over time, would erode the traditional pocket diary business.
It was a huge wake up call. How could we have dominated the diary market for 175 years only to watch these upstart technology companies out innovate us?
For the Letts family it began the process of gradually divesting of paper based products so we could focus on a new, diversified group and a digital future. The seed of the future Letts Group was born.
We made a promise to ourselves that we would not get out innovated again. But how could we guarantee that? We had a hunch that it would not be enough just to focus on digital media and publishing. It came to us in a possible moment of madness that we should build a private incubator to help us develop our various ideas and turn the right ones into profitable products and services. A repetitive process that would be the engine of this new diversified group.
In the late 1990’s we started to experiment with what ultimately become Letts Incubate. We understood early on that we would need an incubator methodology to ensure that we could develop new products and businesses in a scalable and process-driven way.
We were also interested in the idea of incubating businesses and products that we could spin off and sell. Some carrying the Letts brand and some that were not Letts branded (which we call partner companies).
As a long standing family business we understood the constraints of many private, family controlled businesses. Access to capital is more limited which works for certain kinds of businesses and markets, but not for all.
Our incubator would need to be world class and one that could create and nurture a range of different ideas. So we designed a methodology calle Innov@te™. It took us a decade to complete the work as we wanted to develop it while we were also nurturing the early fruits of the nascent incubator. So we could road test the process.
Innov@te™ has come a long way. It has 7 key stages and 49 steps. Our manual is over 50 pages long and is constantly evolving. The 7 stages include:
We use it whenever we incubate a new Letts branded idea or a partner company. We have incubated quite a number of partner companies in the last twenty years.
Today, we also use Innov@te™ to help leading corporates develop a more effective approach to innovation and we recently established an incubation centre in the southwest of England.
We offer a newsletter, called Surviving, which helps business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs to navigate the future. Subscribers to Surviving can also tap into the team and our panel of experts.