Affinnova, which is based in Waltham, Mass., has helped dozens of companies, including Staples, Procter & Gamble, Capital One and Wal-Mart, to reevaluate their products by using geeky evolution
simulation software to redesign products or packaging.
Jesse Scanlon writes: "Affinnova's premise is that, over time, consumer markets evolve much like the natural world: Strong products
survive while weak ones die out. Its software, a 'genetic algorithm' called IDDEA, essentially simulates evolution, creating generation after generation of possible products or packaging until the
strongest possible design emerges." (One commenter to the story points out, however, that it's creatures that adapt, like the cockroach, that actually survive.)
Scanlon offers two
compelling case histories. As a result of an Affinnova study, Staples made several changes to its branded paper line. And Dannon hired Affinnova in 2006 to figure out the best way to launch Activia in
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