Tag innovation

Dyson II.

“If you think of doing the opposite of what should be done, you can often stimulate innovation and do something creative and interesting.”

- James Dyson

Knowledge transmission.

“The point here is that the crucial knowledge in any innovative industry is not standardized information, routine patterns or the public knowledge of science.  It is also often not the kind of data that can be obtained through quantitative market research involving the analysis of secondary data or statistical survey research, nor from qualitative methods such as focus groups and interviews.  What is really useful is what is new, what are the latest changes and the specialized know-how that individuals have acquired through practice and mistakes.

- Pierre Desrochers, “Geographical proximity and the transmission of tacit knowledge,” The Review of Austrian Economics

Eyes Wide Open I.

I recently signed up to become a volunteer at a local hospital.  One of the many requirements to participate in such a program is to ensure you have been suitably vaccinated and aren’t subject to any serious infections (e.g. measles).

Now my second time in the hospital in less than a year (this time on purpose), I made a point to again survey my surroundings.  In particular, I took a closer look at the heart monitor adjacent to where I was sitting along with the tools the nurse used to take blood from my arm.

Here are a few things I noticed in just 30 seconds:

Center of Gravity: The monitor rested on a short pole connected to a set of wheels that were arranged in 90 degree angles to one another.  What was interesting about this is that the pole was lowered approximately two inches so that its center of gravity was lower to the ground.  This allows the unit to be moved much more easily and rapidly with reduced risk of toppling over.

Robust Power Cord: The end of the power plug was larger in size than a standard power plug.  This allowed the cable to be removed from the wall with little effort, allowing for rapid transport to different locations within the hospital.

Protection: The needle that was used to draw blood from my arm had a plastic cover that was attached just below the collection tube.  After the blood was drawn, as if reading my mind, the nurse rotated the cover (using one hand) until it snapped in place, completely protecting her from the needle end.

Color: The unit was a bright blue color, making it much easier to spot in case of immediate need.

One of the main reasons I mention this experience is because one can find any number of design strengths or opportunities in virtually any situation.  While I have not had the need to use a heart monitor, I could still glean a few key design traits from the device that I could, in theory, use in future designs of my own.

Nurses and doctors who use the device on a routine basis may skim over what I’ve just mentioned, and instead highlight other traits that are more familiar to them.  For example, they may comment on the size of the display or the height of the actual unit; traits that I would take for granted given my lack of experience and exposure.

A good designer is always taking in the world around them to see what’s working and what’s not.  Similarly, design elements used in one situation or context can be employed in an entirely different situation; it just takes knowledge and understanding to enable the transition to occur.

In my next post I’ll give a real-world example and go a step deeper into this cross-pollination concept.


Dyson I.

“The more original your idea, the more resistance you will meet.”

- James Dyson


In an earlier post, I made the claim that most people are lazy.  And of course, that’s not intended to be presented in a negative way; I simply believe that no one wants to work harder at something than they have to.

In thinking more about this concept, I realized that there is an important example that further exemplifies this point, but is far more relevant than examples presented earlier.

Several months ago, I finished reading Tim Brown’s Change by Design – an interesting book on design thinking inspired primarily by Brown’s experience at IDEO where he is CEO and President.

There is an excerpt from the text where he describes his “barometer” for supporting new projects spearheaded by IDEO staff:

“… when I receive a cautiously worded memo asking for permission to do something, I find myself becoming equally cautious.  But when I am ambushed in the parking lot by a group of hyperactive people falling all over one another to tell me about the unbelievably cool project they are working on, their energy inflects me and my antennae go way, way up.  Some of these projects will go wrong.  Energy will be wasted (whatever that means) and money will be lost (we know exactly what that means).”

Browns’ comments immediately resonated with me.

In the past, I found myself taking the former route for initiatives that seemed significant enough to warrant some sort of “approval” (whatever that really means).  Not surprisingly, many of these ideas were put to rest before they even began.  Why does this happen?

Remember, most people (not all) don’t want to think – *especially* for ideas that are foreign or new.  As innocent as it may seem, the very act of asking for approval means that you aren’t sure whether your idea is a good one – and if you aren’t sure, your colleagues / manager / etc. is likely to be even less certain of your idea and the “difficulty meter” starts to rise.  Negative momentum is a likely outcome.

If you have an idea for something that you believe in, don’t ask for permission to do it.  99.9% of the time, no one is going to stop you. If you have energy and enthusiasm, you’ll already have momentum on your side.  And it’s much more difficult to stop something while it’s moving than keep it stationary.