`Time for Greek Olive Oil to 'Solve for X' - Olive Oil Times

Time for Greek Olive Oil to 'Solve for X'

Feb. 18, 2013
Costas Vasilopoulos

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Google’s approach to novel ideas and pio­neer­ing think­ing is called Solve for X’. The whole con­cept is that a big prob­lem, no mat­ter its nature, requires a rad­i­cal solu­tion that can become fea­si­ble by using the most state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy avail­able. As Astro Teller com­ments in a Wired mag­a­zine arti­cle, Google X Head on Moonshots: 10X Easier than 10 Percent,” think­ing about solv­ing a global prob­lem is not only appro­pri­ate for big com­pa­nies and pow­er­ful orga­ni­za­tions, but every­one can give it a shot if he can cud­gel his brains and think out of the ordi­nary to come up with the solu­tion. And, con­trary to com­mon belief, try­ing to improve by 10 times instead of only 10 per­cent is usu­ally eas­ier. This so-called moon­shot think­ing’ is the very oppo­site of incre­men­tal think­ing; instead of slowly carv­ing your way to the solu­tion, focus on the big things and go directly there.

When it comes to olive oil and given today’s spe­cial cir­cum­stances, the par­al­lelism is obvi­ous: if the olive oil farm­ers and pro­duc­ers in Greece are able to over­come the unfa­vor­able sit­u­a­tion, then they have to pur­sue and sus­tain a pro­duc­tion that will return a rev­enue big enough to keep them going. But if they do every­thing by the book, then the mis­sion is too hard to be accom­plished. This means that they must be flex­i­ble and open-minded, and that they should look ahead to find an over­all solu­tion to their prob­lem no mat­ter their size and power in the olive oil indus­try. In other words, they should do a moon­shot think­ing.

Matters that go on for ages and tan­ta­lize the indus­try can be put on a moon­shot track and become obso­lete. For exam­ple, instead of dis­card­ing the liq­uid residue com­ing out from the oil mills, a prac­tice that some­times makes the oil mill own­ers answer­able to pub­lic author­i­ties because of pol­lu­tion, a dif­fer­ent path can be taken to purify it and turn it to water suit­able for irri­ga­tion. The tech­nol­ogy exists but it is very expen­sive for a sin­gle mill owner to buy and use the nec­es­sary equip­ment, so the pro­duc­ers could come up with a cost-effec­tive solu­tion, maybe by cre­at­ing a waste pro­cess­ing plant serv­ing many olive oil mills.

Every sum­mer the debate goes on whether the pes­ti­cides for the olive fruit fly were effec­tive or not and if the fresh olive oil will be good or not, since the fly has a sig­nif­i­cant impact on its qual­ity. But if the pro­duc­ers focus on the prob­lem and try not to improve things just a bit but instead elim­i­nate the whole prob­lem, they will see that genet­ics just might be the place they haven’t searched so far to find the answer to their prob­lem. This approach needs to be clar­i­fied at a European level, but remem­ber that try­ing to make things ten times bet­ter could prove eas­ier than aim­ing at a mere ten per­cent of improve­ment.

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Exports of Greek olive oil are ane­mic and the world mar­ket is dom­i­nated by Italian and Spanish oils. Some more tons of olive oil going to Germany, Russia or China are good for the export­ing com­pany, but they are not that impor­tant com­pared to an holis­tic attempt to estab­lish the Greek olive oil qual­ity in con­sumers’ minds and brand­ing it world­wide.

Olive oil farm­ers and pro­duc­ers com­prise a sen­si­tive part of the Greek agri­cul­tural caste and they are a rather large cog in a much larger wheel. Simply put, they are too impor­tant to fail and incor­po­rat­ing advanced think­ing or solv­ing for X” can be all it takes to sur­vive and even pros­per.

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