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Are You Using This Innovation Technique That is a Favorite of NASA?

Posted by Plish on October 25, 2018

I just saw the movie First Man, about Neil Armstrong and the quest to put a human on the moon. (Good movie 🙂 )

What struck me again while watching the movie is that the main innovation technique NASA uses to put a person on the moon is also one of my favorites.

SEGMENTATION

There are other names for it, but it comes down to this: break down a bigger problem, device, situation, etc. into smaller components that are easier to handle and design solutions for.

NASA uses segmentation extensively in the Apollo program.  The best way to illustrate it is by looking at the Saturn V rocket diagram below.

What’s with the red thingie?

That’s the component that ultimately mattered at the end – it’s the capsule that brought the astronauts back to earth.  The rest of the rocket components ended up on the moon, in orbit,  in the ocean or burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere.  They weren’t necessarily less important, but their jobs were specific to specific phases of the project.

apollo

Why throw it all away?

The physics of getting something into space is relatively straightforward.  Take something  and accelerate it to escape velocity.  The problem is that the the heavier the payloads, the more fuel that’s required, and the more fuel that’s required, the heavier the rocket  becomes.  It’s a nasty catch 22.

So, to solve the problem, you break things into modules.  Launch the rocket, when it gets to a certain speed, you get rid of part of the rocket, and use different fuels to propel what’s left (which now weighs less) even faster, and so on.

What’s the key then to Segmentation?

The key is that each component contains only what is necessary for that stage in the launch, or more generally, for each step in a process. By doing this, the design can be streamlined and optimized.

For example, the lunar module (shown below) had very specific tasks:

  1. Dock with the Command Module
  2. Land on the Moon
  3. Take off from the Moon
  4. Dock with the Command Module
  5. Separate from the Command Module

lunar_module_diagram

Landing gear and pads are only required for landing. Descent engine is for landing.  Ladder is for getting onto the surface of the moon.

Once business was complete on the moon, the upper half of the module left the lower half on the moon and was now smaller and lighter.  Its job was now to rendezvous with the Command Module, dock, and transfer the astronauts back into the Command vehicle.

It then was jettisoned.  None of the Lunar Module was brought back to earth – well except for the astronauts inside.  (There’s an interesting non-obvious segmentation going on here  – even the crew was segmented!  Only two astronauts went to the moon and back.  The third astronaut stayed in the command module.  Sending all three to the moon could’ve been done, but the segmentation solution was safer, more elegant and more efficient)

It’s about optimization

Next time you’re confronted with a problem, try Segmentation.  Break down the problem into stages and see if each can be solved with specialized solutions – all inter-related, but standalone in their ability to achieve a goal.

There’s a tendency to design products so that they solve all the possible problems a user might have.  What happens then is that the product can get unwieldy, lose its elegance and often its appeal.

Keep it elegant by  using Segmentation!

This coincidentally opens the door to modularity.  You can then sell modules that do entirely different, or complimentary tasks.  Why sell a frying pan with a lid that’s permanently attached with hinge?  Sure you may find it useful but the lid is only used under certain circumstances.  The rest of the time it’ll be clunky and difficult to manage.  Keep it separate.

Segmentation has always been a favorite innovation approach of mine.  Try it and I’m sure you’ll agree!

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Posted in creativity, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

When You Need Ideas, Make Sure You Invite This Collaboration Partner

Posted by Plish on April 30, 2018

I’ve been reading artist David Byrne‘s book, “How Music Works.” For those of you who don’t know, he was the founding member of the band, Talking Heads.

It’s a fascinating book, part history, part autobiography, part music science, and totally fascinating.

Sharing His Creative Process

Byrne is wonderfully introspective when it comes to his songwriting process.  He clearly pays attention to himself when creating, which, incidentally, on its own is a good thing to practice while being creative.

While the book is, in itself, an exploration of his creativity, a few of the pages delve into the specifics of his songwriting.  I found much of what he wrote resonates with my own songwriting and the creative process in general.

A Little Bubbly

One of the most powerful things Byrne does, and perhaps the most difficult, is listen to his subconscious and let it bubble to the surface.

As he listens to musical frameworks, he uses them as springboards to lyrics.  He does this by singing passionate jibberish and writing it all down.  In essences, he’s sketching.

Stop Making Sense

He allows emotions, memories, sounds, patterns, to express themselves, even if they don’t make sense! Eventually those sung sounds will be transliterated into actual words and music, but not in the early stages.  Instead, he simply trusts that those sounds, the lyrical structure, all things being articulated, are connected to the music on a deep, visceral level.

However, all this is for naught if he judges his work too quickly.  He does his best to

Suspend judgement!

This is something that I always drive home to people when I am moderating brainstorming sessions.

Don’t judge!

Judging the ideas is for a later time, after the various ideas can be explored for their apropos-ness to the music.  For people who are innovating, the ideas should resonate on multiple levels, not just the physical, but the emotional as well.

“I try not to prejudge anything that occurs to me at this point in the writing process – I never know if something that sounds stupid at first, will in some soon-to-emerge lyrical context make the whole thing shine.  So no matter how many pages get filled up, I try to turn off the internal censor.”(Italics mine; pp. 219-220)

This can’t be overstated: What seems stupid at the beginning might be the key at a later time.

What if the internal censor doesn’t cooperate? (“…the conscious mind might be thinking too much.”)

“Exactly at this point…I most want and need surprises and weirdness from the depths.”

His goal here is to “distract the gatekeepers.” Go jog, cook, walk, drive, do whatever so that the conscious mind is occupied with something else, just enough to let the goodies come through.

Again, make sure you have a recorder, sketchpad, camera, clay, whatever, so that you can record these gems as they “gurgle up.”  Just a snippet of these pearls could be enough to connect everything and make the whole project come together.   What was once a garbled mess can become a pleasing coherent whole.

Bottom Line: Collaborate!

“With whom?” you may ask.

With yourself!  Access the emotions,  knowledge,  patterns, experiences and feelings of all that you are!  Each of us is a wonderful repository of so much more than we realize.  Just because we don’t think we remember something doesn’t mean that something we saw, heard, smelled, felt, tasted, learned, or even thought we experienced, didn’t leave a valuable experiential nugget in our beings.

Our imaginations and our experiences can work together to enable us to design a better future.  (For a fascinating article on how we imagine the past and the future in similar ways read, “Remembering the Past to Imagine the Future: a Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective.”) We just have to get out of our own ways.

Are More Better?

As I’ve written before, there are certain conditions in which small groups are good for collaboration, especially when participants are able to share their own unique perspectives and experiences.  However, at the root of that multi-person collaboration is the ability for each individual to collaborate with themselves, to not censor themselves.   Solo-brainstorming is indeed powerful! (See “Why Groups Are Less Effective than Their Members: On Productivity Losses in Idea-Generating Groups“)

But you need to be you.

Take these tips from David Byrne and internalize them.  Listen to yourself – your subconscious.  Access who you are. Sketch. Suspend judgement. Explore. Look for resonance between concepts. (Sometimes they’re in that order, sometimes not.  😉 )

Regardless of what you’re designing, your innovations will be more creative the more you’re willing to collaborate with yourself.

Here’s to better solutions and a better world filled with better music 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, imagination, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, product design, Service Design, Sketching, Social Innovation, The Future, The Human Person, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Future of Innovation: The World is Your Controller

Posted by Plish on March 30, 2018

 

We interact with the world even when we don’t realize it. 

The act of breathing changes the chemical composition of the air in our immediate vicinity.  Standing in the sun casts a shadow – the area in the darkness gets momentarily deprived of light.  Jump up and down and the floor vibrates.  Walk in a crowd and other people magically move out of the way (hopefully 😉 ).  We tell people we love them (or we don’t) and they respond on an emotional level causing chemical and electrical processes to be initiated in their bodies and in ours.

Go to any Home Depot or Lowes, and there are countless switches, knobs, buttons, sliders and more, that are used to foster interaction with the world around us.

Unfortunately, we’ve gotten so used to these mechanisms of interaction that we think these are the only ways to interact.  We call them switches, knobs, buttons, etc., but we no longer call them what they really are:

Controllers.

Interact with something and it controls something.

To the extent we can measure how the world reacts to our interactions, we can use those measurements to control other things.

Everything has the potential to be a controller.

Some Gamers have taken this truism to an extreme by using objects as diverse as fishing reels to bananas to LED strips to control the games they’re playing.

This video shows the bananas in use.

 

What can we use as controllers in the game we all play: Life?

It’s important that we suspend all judgement of what makes a good controller, at least in the beginning.  It’s important that we play, that we experiment. After all, controllers are used in games.

In our increasingly connected world, the Internet of Things enables controlling systems in unimaginable ways.

The controllers of the future don’t need to have an obvious relationship to the things we want to control (bananas?!).  We only have to design the means for interpreting  our interactions with controllers and sending that information to whatever it is we want to control.

That’s my challenge to you.

Start seeing the everything in the world as a potential controller. Get wild with your ideas.  Think of it as a game, have fun!

Radical innovation may only be a banana away!

 

***If you’d like to learn more and want to structure a class on alternate controllers, take a look at this paper from the folks at the Rochester Institute of Technology who had a class in building alternative game controllers.

 

Posted in creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, games, imagination, innovation, Maker, Maker Movement, problem solving, product design, Service Design, The Future, toys, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What are You Seeing when You’re Listening? – Don’t Ignore this Key to Innovation

Posted by Plish on January 15, 2018

To observations which ourselves we make, we grow more partial for th’ observer’s sake. (Alexander Pope)

I really like the book, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers .   It’s chock full of insights and I like just picking a random page and reading.  But there’s a problem with it  – actually there’s a problem with all books that give the ‘secrets behind success’.

One can only see what one observes, and one observes only things which are already in the mind. (Alphonse Bertillon)

If you ask people, “what are you doing there?”, they will tell you what it is they think they’re doing.  The problem is that it may, or may not, be what they’re actually doing.

So is the information contained in books like Tools of Titans wrong?

No, not at all.  But it very well may be incomplete, or worse, inaccurate.  Very often people say what it is that they remember what they’re doing.  They share what they think is important  – the little things are left out.

Practical observation commonly consists of collecting a few facts and loading them with guesses.(Author unknown)

I was researching a surgical procedure once to determine if there were some improvements that could be made to the devices the doc was using.  He told me what he was doing, before, during and after the procedure.  He answered all of my questions.

However, what was surprising to me is that, while he said there were no problems with the procedure, there was a certain repetitive motion that the doc used.  It wasn’t even a comfortable motion, it was very awkward in fact.

But the doctor never mentioned it and said everything was great!

Developing better and more accurate observational skills is essential for everybody and every profession. Basically, If you can’t observe accurately, you can’t think accurately. (Tiit Raid)

You can observe a lot by just watching. (Yogi Berra)

The key point here is that observation is key to understanding what people are doing.  In fact, observation can be even more powerful that interviews alone.  But, communicating the observations such that they can become building blocks for future projects is a task unto itself.

There is no more difficult art to acquire than the art of observation, and for some men it is quite as difficult to record an observation in brief and plain language. (Sir William Osler)

Observing without communicating this information effectively can  create a situation in which people can reach inaccurate conclusions, and then that could result in a product that doesn’t meet  requirements, or worse: a project gets cancelled because there is no perceived need.

Tools of Titans‘ author, Tim Ferriss,  only shared information that he personally experimented with.  So, in essence, Tools of Titans is a list of things that worked for Tim.   That, incidentally, is a great way to show others what you’ve learned.  Try it and then share!

Everyone is in the best seat. (John Cage)

 

Everyone thinks that they know what they’re doing.    Especially if it has to do with their own habits/rituals.  That’s not bad, just incomplete.  Sometimes the only access we have to a person’s activities are through what they say they do.  We just have to  trust and try and flesh it out.  With the right questions, sometimes interviewees themselves are surprised to learn what they’re doing.

Tools of Titans does a great job of sharing people’s perceived actions and activities.  It’s a great resource.  But, it’s also a great reminder that as designers, as innovators, while we can learn powerful things from what people say they do, we can learn even more by observing.

 

 

Posted in Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, Interviews, observation, problem solving, Service Design | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Want A New Year’s Resolution to Increase Your Innovation Output? – Try This

Posted by Plish on January 2, 2018

Happy New Year!!

Yes, it’s the new year.  A fresh slate.  It’s time for that time honored tradition of making resolutions.

In the world of innovation, there is one resolution you can make that will result in more creative ideas, more really creative innovations.

But before we make that resolution, Let’s Toast with a Heineken!

Heineken’s interactive, Ignite beer bottle is a thing to behold.  It’s not just a passive hunk of glass that holds a liquid.  It’s an active participant, sensing and responding, thus encouraging certain behaviors.

But their work has gone beyond the bottle.  Heineken also uses IoT and AR to increase sales and optimize the sales and distribution process.

The point here is that Heineken is not just seeing themselves as providing beer.  They see themselves as providing an experience.  From the store to the nightclub, they understand that people have lives, they act in certain ways in certain situations. When designing products with this in mind, not only does Heineken see improved sales and distribution, but people enjoy the product more!

What does this have to do with the New Year’s Resolution?

Everything.   Great innovations come from great ideas that dive into the depths of reality.  In Heineken’s case, these innovations come from a shift in perspective.  They look beyond the obvious and embrace the breadth and depth of the product experience.

At the heart of these innovations is a realization that for every action there is not only a reaction but a pre-action, and there are reasons for these actions.

Let’s Buy a Hammer

I want to buy a hammer to drive a nail into a wall.  Chances are, I don’t just want a nail in a wall.  I want to hang a picture.  But, I don’t just want to hang a picture, I want to beautify the room, or bring back a memory.  You see where this is going.

Most hammer manufacturers are making something to drive a nail.  It’s why hammers are virtually unchanged for decades.  They focus on efficient nail driving. But,  the nail is more than that, and in fact, it’s part of the process to create an experience – it’s not just about driving nails. (Other companies have realized that.  Nail-less hangers and non-marring adhesives all get at the ‘hanging’ part of the process.  But they still don’t necessarily see the whole picture. HA! No pun intended 😉 )

Heineken, on the other hand, is exploring the many tentacles of before, after, during and why.  Beer is purchased and consumed in specific contexts.   It’s not just a bottle.  It’s part of an experience.  We share a toast.  We drink in clubs.  We clink bottles.  We savor and feel the beat of the music.  The bottle is in the midst of all this, and it’s a shame that it’s been a passive part of that experience. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.  

The bottle can enrich the experience. 

It can participate in the club environment – it can sense and respond, and because it does, it creates it’s own feedback.  We gain pleasure from experiencing the bottle and its contents, so we encourage and repeat certain behaviors.

At the end of the day though, it’s not about bottles. It’s about innovative products and services that bring exciting and memorable experiences.

So let’s make that Resolution!

I resolve to look for, and design for, the Truth behind the Reality.

whoa…. that’s deep.

Not really.   It’s just a more thorough way of innovating.

Explore context. Explore ritual.  Explore relationships.  Explore meaning.

Personally I like the AEIOU framework:

A: Activities are goal directed sets of actions – things which people want to accomplish

E: Environments include the entire arena where activities take place

I: Interactions are between a person and someone or something else, and are the building blocks of activities

O: Objects are building blocks of the environment, key elements sometimes put to complex or unintended uses, changing their function, meaning and context

U: Users are the consumers, the people providing the behaviors, preferences and needs (Christina Wasson, quoting E-Lab, 1977)

Courtesy of https://www.10000ft.com/design-recipes/aeiou-research-framework

There are other systems like POEMS, POSTA, etc., but the point of them all is to find and design for the truth behind the reality.  Look at the big picture – don’t settle for the obvious!

The Reality: I want drive a nail into a wall

The Truth Behind the Reality: I want to take a step to beautify a room with a picture from a vacation to remind everyone of the great memories there

The Reality: I want to have a cold beer at a night club

The Truth Behind the Reality: I want to have fun!  I want a night of memories, a night of interaction!

The Reality:  A surgeon wants to cut a hole in the skin

The Truth Behind the Reality: A surgeon wants to quickly and easily place a device. The surgeon wants the patient to feel better so that she can go to her grand-daughter’s wedding in a week.

Where do you think the innovations are going to come from?

Designing for “The Reality” or for “The Truth Behind the Reality”?

Sure, innovation can come from just designing for “The Reality”.  In a world where all that is needed are nails driven into a surface, a new design of hammer – a nail gun – will be hailed as an innovation.    But let’s look at the “Truth Behind the Reality”:    How will people with nail guns interact with each other and the nails?  What about being able to use it in cold, or heat, or rain, or underwater?  Are we just putting up boards or building a house that will be a home? What about types of materials being nailed?  Who is buying the nail driver?  Are nail drivers even necessary?

See the difference?  Ideas will start flowing once we look under the surface.

The choice is yours

You can choose to design for “The Reality”.  You can make another hammer, another beer, another beer container.

But understand the “Truth Behind the Reality” and you will design products and services that Ignite experiences.

Make the resolution and stick to it.  

I resolve to look for, and design for, the Truth behind the Reality.

The world will thank you!

 

 

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Empathic Empowerment Key to Transcending Innovation-Stifling Environments

Posted by Plish on November 23, 2017

Humans have a limited amount of bandwidth available for innovation.  Stress and creative thinking are intimately inversely related in our brains.  Increase stress levels and creative problem solving capability goes down.

People who live in high stress situations,  who face financial challenges daily, who are constantly bombarded by stimuli that evoke negative emotions, have a difficult time  thinking creatively.  This is because we expend brainpower when we have to cope with stress.

It’s also typically true that the best solutions to problems come from those people who are immersed in those problems.  The ‘insider’ is usually better able to come up with solutions than an ‘outsider’.  But there’s a catch.  Because of this innovation/stress relationship, if ‘insider’ people are overly stressed, they can’t come up with solutions to the problems that surround them.  So, the best solutions are prevented from materializing by the very environment that needs to be changed.

The first step then to  creatively and successfully solving problems in high stress environments is to help individuals deal with the stress.

A non-profit called EMPath is doing that by using brain science to enable people to deal with life’s pressures and take control of their lives — even if it’s one small step at a time.

When people are more in control, then stress levels go down.  Stress goes down, the brain energy bank doesn’t get depleted, and creative problem solving ability can go up.  The result is that people can now think of ways to improve their lives, their families and their neighborhoods.

During this Thanksgiving holiday, let’s make  a point of living our thankfulness by living with empathy, empowering others, lessening the burdens that people feel.

The result is more clarity, more peace, more potential unleashed to make the world a better place.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Posted in culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Social Innovation, stress, The Human Person, Wellness, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Use This Simple but Underused Technique for Being More Creative (and get a bonus!)

Posted by Plish on September 6, 2017

Wouldn’t it be great if solutions to our problems came to us from alternate universes? Places where the laws of nature may be different?  Where wonderful and fascinating things occur on a regular basis?

Guess what – they do.

They’re called our dreams.

All you have to do is remember and keep track of them.

Researchers have determined that logging dreams actually aids creative thinking.  From the abstract:

Enhanced dream recall through daily dream logging fosters aspects of creativity. Associations between creativity, dissociation, and thinness of boundaries, suggest that increased awareness to dreams increases creativity through a “loosening” of stereotyped thinking pattern.

The challenge then is to be able to remember what the heck we dreamed in the first place.  I researched multiple sites but at the end of the day, Amy Cope summarized the best ways to remember dreams here. I’ll paraphrase below with a few supplements 🙂

  1. Write the dreams down.  Don’t worry about catching every aspect of the dream.  Words, images, fragments, feelings, concerns associated with the dream, all are important.
  2. Seems obvious,  but make sure the journal is handy.
  3. Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine prior to sleep
  4. B-Vitamins
  5. Various herbs also increase vividness of dreams (the more vivid the better the chances of remembering them).  Calea Zacatechichi is one such herb.
  6. Eat foods high in melatonin
  7. Prime yourself for remembering your dreams.  Tell yourself: “I will remember my dreams” or “In the morning I will remember my dreams.”
  8. Set your alarm 20 minutes early.  This could in theory interrupt a dream and thus make it easier to remember.  However, some people get too startled when woken from a dream and they are so rattled they ‘shake loose’ the dream and forget it.
  9. Don’t move when getting out of bed. Use gentle movements to record the dreams.  Sometimes assuming the position you were in prior to waking  up and closing your eyes can take you back to the images/etc. of your dream.  Keep your eyes closed. Stay with the dream for a while. Meditate on the meanings.
  10. If you don’t remember anything, think of other dreams you’d had, or common images, movies you’ve seen, anything that might provide a connection to what you just saw.

The Mindful Dreamer site has this great tip (In addition to many of the above tips): If you’ve got a problem that you need answered, write it down before going to bed.  It gives you something to start with before sleep and something to pick up on when you wake up.

Dreamstudies.org has this Snooze Method for remembering dreams.  It’s pretty much summarized above, but for the detailed method, check here.

Oh, and what’s the bonus I mentioned in the headline?

In addition to being more creative, if you practice the above regularly, the quality of your sleep will go up as well. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, innovation, problem solving, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

When Innovation is Counter-Intuitive: Fighting Fire with Fire

Posted by Plish on March 30, 2017

Wood.

A beautiful, versatile material, but humans aren’t the only ones who like it.

Bugs like it.

Fungi like it,

Fire destroys it.

So how do we make it more robust?

Typical approaches are to chemically treat the wood.  Soak it, coat it. But, some of those chemicals are downright nasty to humans and nature.  Plus, they often need to be re-applied frequently to keep the wood in its peak resistant form.

Turns out there’s a simpler, more effective way of making wood resistant to fire, and to critters of all sizes.

In Japanese the technique is called Shou-Sugi-Ban.  It’s been practiced there for at least 300 years, probably longer.

In English it’s called: Fire.

Yes, that’s correct.  Burn the wood.  Char it.  The process destroys the cellulose and leaves charred lignin behind which is much harder to ignite. (Ever try starting a fire with cold charred wood?  It’s possible but not easy)

From an innovation standpoint, I love the fact that Shou-Sugi-Ban is so counter-intuitive.

Often when people encounter a weakness in a material or design, the reflexive response is to avoid it.  Design around it.  This innovation hack embraces the weakness and capitalizes on it.

The technique is simple.  Look at the negatives and see if you can control and/or exaggerate them in time or space to create a solution that renders the negatives powerless at a later time or place.  In this case, fire is typically the end of wood.  However, by putting fire at the beginning of the wood treating process, the wood becomes resistant to fire down the line.

Another example from the world of fire?

For years oil rig fires have been extinguished by using explosions, and now a similar technique is being explored to put out wildfires.

Other examples of this contradiction based technique have directly impacted the lives of millions.

Vaccines for one.  By taking a pathogen and exposing the body to it in a controlled manner –  Voila!  Immunity!

There’s also Desensitization.

It’s used to cure people of allergies.  A psychological version of desensitization is used to cure people of phobias.  In both cases, people are exposed to the problem causing agent in a controlled manner.  Like the wood of Shou-Sugi-Ban, they become resistant to the very things that made them miserable.

So, next time you have a product that has an Achilles heel, see if you can use that weakness as a strength by applying the weakness in a preemptive manner.  The results could surprise you.

 

 

Posted in Biomimicry, Case Studies, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Sustainable Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Secret Behind The Invention of Spanx

Posted by Plish on February 9, 2017

When most people think about Spanx and how they were invented, people often mention Inventor Sara Blakely cutting the feet off of her pantyhose to create the first prototype.

But the secret wasn’t in the prototype per se

It was in the metaphor that drove her to cut the feet of those hose.

—“Shapewear is the canvas and the clothes are the art.” –Sara Blakely

While the metaphor may not have been explicitly articulated at the time, it was clearly already active in her mind.

Like an unsmoothed piece of gessoed canvas on which no amount of paint could hide the imperfections, the clothes women wore showed what was beneath.  Blakely didn’t like the fact that underwear, and how it assaulted a woman’s body, was able to be seen through clothes.  Every ripple, every bulge, insidiously showed itself.   The masterpiece of beauty was betrayed by faulty ‘canvas.’

That first prototype solved the problem: The shapewear became a flawless canvas enabling a work of art to be ‘painted’ upon it.  The masterpiece could shine through un-detracted by the canvas beneath.  A new problem revealed itself: The legs of the cut hose kept rolling up.   But that didn’t detract from the fact that a solution had been found.  From that point on, the process of refining the product was geared towards comfort, manufacturability and scalability.

The Metaphor Stayed Active

As a guest on James Altucher’s Podcast recently, Blakely proclaimed: “Everything is a Canvas!” (A perspective that also drove her creation of The Belly Art Project.)    This metaphor has continued to drive the development of Spanx product lines.  It’s powerful because it acknowledges the potential works of art that are enabled through their products.  Spanx make people feel good about being walking art.

Feel The Metaphor

When solving problems, tune in to the emotions you’re feeling.  You may not be able to articulate what you’re feeling, but acknowledge it nonetheless.  If you can articulate them, great! Regardless, start acting on them.  Humans make sense of the world through metaphor.  Start acting on those feelings and see if a metaphor is revealed and if it is resolved.  Some kinks might still need to be worked out, but you’ll recognize the solution when it’s present.

“Good Design is Obvious.  Great Design is Transparent.” – Joe Soprano

Spanx are transparent, just as a smooth canvas should be.   The greatness is apparent to women and men worldwide.

 

 

 

 

 

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Three Words That Will Alert You To Opportunities for Innovation and Growth

Posted by Plish on January 20, 2017

“I don’t understand how anyone could vote for Donald Trump.”
“I don’t understand how anyone could vote for Hillary Clinton.”
“I don’t understand how anyone can play Pokémon for that long”
“I don’t understand why anyone would want to buy an iPad when an Android works just as well”
“How can anyone listen to {Taylor Swift, Kanye West, etc….}?”  (This is a veiled way to say “I don’t understand.”)
I Don’t Understand…

 

Those three words represent a disconnect from people and objects. They represent a lack of understanding of how people are being served, or how their desires are (or aren’t) being met. They point to how we don’t understand how people’s aspirations may be enabled and thus they point to how we don’t understand the opportunities present.

But perhaps more importantly, those three words highlight that we haven’t taken the time to understand people. What does that say about us? We like to think of ourselves as well informed, as perhaps at The Cutting Edge, as caring human beings.  Yet, we are confronted with seemingly inexplicable phenomena where millions of people are fans of a product, service, or person.

There’s a lesson here regardless of what products we like, or what people we want for president, or what games we play. We need to be tuned in to what other people want. If we really want to build better communities, a better world, we need to understand each other. We need to know where people are coming from. We need to know what types of things are passionately driving people in their day-to-day lives.

Niches of (Not) Understanding

Those words, “I don’t understand…” alert us to niches.  When designing products and services, we must play in those niches . And as we’ve seen, those niches can be comprised of millions and millions of people.

Pay Attention

Pay attention to what people do. Pay attention to what people say. Understand what excites people. What makes people happy? What do people feel that they will lose if they don’t have something? What will people feel they will gain if they do have something or if they don’t?

Today the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, is being sworn in. His election highlights the fact that there are millions upon millions of people in this country who don’t understand how somebody could vote for somebody else. That means that there are millions of people that’s simply don’t understand their fellow Americans people that’s too high a number.  If we’re designing a better country, (and that’s something that everyone seemingly wants), we need to rise above caricatures and start understanding each other’s motivations and pains.  We need to really understand and not lump everyone into neat little political, racial, socio-economic, etc. silos of categorization.

Misunderstanding

Thinking we understand is perhaps even worse than not understanding at all. When we misunderstand, we risk going down the unfruitful paths.  We risk spending money, time and energy on things that won’t resonate and hence won’t succeed.    Can anyone say “Edsel“?

Listen For Those Three Words

“I don’t understand”  Use those words as a springboard to exploring the relationships, needs, and desires, of people. Those words are the key to new products, services, and even in the bigger picture, a better world.  At at the end of the day, the best thing we can say is, “I understand why…” , or “I understand how…”

Once we understand, we grow.  When we’ve grown, we can get to work designing  solutions:  better products, better services, a better world.

Posted in culture of innovation, Design, innovation, observation, Politics, problem solving, Service Design, Social Innovation, The Future | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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