Design is in the details

Yesterday, I had posted about a video from Charles Leadbetter about how users through crowdsourcing and open-innovation are contributing innovation of products/services through collaborative and interactive channels.  Today’s discussion is about design, and how the users are able to design products/services that do not necessarily need to solve big issues but may solve smaller ones, which are very important.

This talk was from Paul Bennett, creative director of IDEO.  He has given multiple examples throughout this talk about solving tiny solutions that delivered impact from hospitals to Ikea’s children storage unit to water pumps in Kenya. 

In the case of the hospital in Minnesota, solving tiny solutions was able to deliver a big impact.  The hospital was interested in the ameliorating the patients’ experience.  When IDEO investigated the users’ experiences, the changes that needed to be made were not big systemic ones, but smaller ones. Some ideas included attaching mirrors to the gurneys, to enable the patients’ to see the nurse or doctor when they were being transported around.  They involved hospital staff in their input to make the patient’s experience more enriching. A nurse suggested installing a whiteboard in the patient’s room so that notes, drawings, messages from the doctor/nurses/family/friends can be showcased and brighten an otherwise mundane room.  

Other examples of design innovations that incorporated thinking small and delivered a big impact came from the inventor of velcro.  He was walking through a field and was covered with burrs and that became his inspiration for velcro.

View objects peripherally to find opportunity. For example, notice on the street when there is a yellow line, people inadvertently follow it without any instructions.  Another example is if people put their empty cups (garbage) in one place, everyone else puts there cups there too.  Companies should pay attention to how people come up with their own design experiences and adapt their designs to improve this experience.

Start from scratch, the mind should be fresh. Throw out any pre-conceived notions.  When Ikea had to design a children’s bookcase, the designer understood that the idea of storage to children was quite different than grown-ups, children play on top and below big objects.  The designer was able to design a storage unit underneath tables, where children can place their toys. 

Pick battles big enough to matter, but small enough to win. For example, in Kenya, IDEO was sought to design a water pump that can be used by villagers.  It had to be compact enough to fit on a bicycle.  This pump had to be cost effective.  It incorporated both effective form and function mechanisms to enhance the lives of the villagers.

I believe that being able to think and feel from the user’s perspective is paramount to designing user-friendly products/services.  This certainly extends to so many different facets in life including communicating with people.  Much too often, the message and body language can be disparaging and derisive to the intended audience, and by empathizing with the intended audience, communication becomes much easier.

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