Game developers have known for a long time now that a clever way to win consumers is by making their games “modifiable” — That is, adding custom levels in Quake, or creating scenarios in strategy games like Civilization.
As designers/innovators, we all know it’s particularly insightful to observe extreme/lead users and try prototyping designs that resonate with their behaviors.
Sometimes, though, it’s just impossible to anticipate what people might do with your stuff. I guess you just have to be comfortable, in those situations, with lots of ambiguity.
One company that has successfully made a product “moddable” is Toyota, with its Scion brand. But even this is sort of cheating, because customers decide what they want and the car is customized before they get it. This is different, and less nuanced than the “after market” mod culture.
Maybe we shouldn’t be designing for what people GET out of the box… Features and bells and whistles. Great, but ::yawn:: — What’s so good about it if everyone has that– and everyone gets the same deal on it? Not much, from a customer’s point of view.
This is sort of like building a platform for innovation (See, I learned something in Design planning), but not really. Not everything NEEDS an “API” or an easy way to plug into something else. In fact, making it something that is “hackable”—unintended BUT easy to ADAPT– this is what makes people feel creative.
I submit Ikea Hacker as a prime example. In the interest of full disclosure, I must say I am an Ikea fiend. I love their approach to affordable, design-aesthetic furniture. DWR is great, but come on, I’m a grad student. it’s clearly not within my reach. In any case, Ikea Hacker is a website created by a fellow Ikea fanatic that discusses “hacks” that people post. The site generates revenue through Google ads. And I’ll admit, I have amassed lots of good little ideas for future apartment renovations.
I don’t know if this occurs currently, but if Ikea designers actually monitor Ikea hacker frequently, and design with these future use cases in mind— they could foster people’s individual creativity while Ikea could sell more stuff. People feel great, Ikea’s happy, and the blogger is thrilled. Not too shabby.
According to Gary Hamel (whose book I have yet to finish reading), you can teach an old dog new tricks. His assertion that corporate leaders invest very little on training of innovation methods may well be true: even truer might be that corporate expenditure on innovation might be wasted in bizarre ways. Rather than allocating funds for the formation of effective prototyping and pilots projects that might actually work–and understanding problems in the first place, companies spend vast amounts of money on TRIZ and putting cross-functional collaborators in a satellite office somewhere with cool red lounge chairs and asking them to be more “creative”. Let’s also not forget about the vast amounts of money spent on idea management with little to no return [It seems like Stage-gate is only slightly more popular than Stargate]
Hamel makes a good point here (read below)– Often times it does appear that managers lack the right training. Training yields confidence in a prescribed methodology:
Today, innovation is the buzzword du jour in virtually every company, but how many CEOs have put every employee through an intensive training program aimed at boosting the innovation skills of the rank and file? Sure companies have electronic suggestion boxes, slush funds for new ideas, elaborate pipeline management tools, and innovation awards—but in the absence of a cadre of extensively trained and highly skilled innovators, much of the investment in these innovation enablers will simply be wasted.
Hamel goes further to suggest that companies need to target 4 key areas.
I’d agree that 1 and 4 are badly needed within organizations, and that the analytical and synthesis-based methods of Design can lend themselves to these endeavors. 2 and 3 seem, however like low hanging fruit that organizations should be obligated to using the tried-and-true methods of strategic planning and market research.
What I’d like to learn from Mr Hamel is about competing innovation initiatives. I envision these “4 U” buckets coming from different places in an organization- which might be a problem when it comes time to decide the “best” concept to move forward with. You can train people to innovate but it’s hard to train people to play well together. At minimum, it’s a nontransferable skill.
Hope he responds via trackback!
I was looking for a Firefox search engine plugin today for Google’s “I’m feeling lucky”. Why? Because I am militant about saving time, I search for stuff constantly, and I think it’s easier to type in “Illinois DMV” into a search bar and I’m pretty sure I know what the first hit is going to be on Google.
As I clicked the button and added the search engine to my Firefox, I realized what I was just doing. I have effectively just denied Google any opportunity what so ever to garner any revenue from me–Nay, not even an EYEBALL–I tend to avoid Google ads on most occasions unless there’s something specific I’m looking for and I’d prefer to buy from a “reputable dealer” that is willing to actually pay for google ads (weird how that works, isn’t it?)…. But now, without the ability to even prompt me for a chance to click on a sponsored link for… a driving school, or AAA (as the case was here).
Then it hit me. Not only is google providing me extremely valuable forwarding (Which I’m confident that it does for MANY many local businesses), but it’s closing itself to any sponsored ad revenue.
Why would they even have an I’m feeling lucky button? Googling (wow this is meta) a little more about this conundrum yielded this– I wasn’t the first to think about this problem apparently.
Shucks, now I almost felt guilty… until I read the comment by “joeduck” and woke up to real economic truth. Realistically, even if I didn’t use I’m feeling Lucky, there’s no way I’d be inclined to click on an ad if I knew exactly what I was looking for. It’s erroneous to assume that they’d garner any more revenue– perhaps a very tiny amount– by removing the I’m feeling lucky button.
I can sleep better at night now.
When I went to China last summer, I met a lot of [mostly businessmen] who had dual sim card phones.
In the late 90′s I remember clearly a device released that fit over your phone jack or connected to your phone and automatically dialed internationally using the cheapest provider for the call. (Nowadays, this would probably be almost universally utilize a VOIP calling plan to be cost effective..)
I wonder why more phones don’t have dual sim cards for international travelers, or this “switch to the cheapest plan” on-the-fly-type-system no longer seems to exist. I’m willing to bet that international travelers would love a phone that can switch between networks at their destination effortlessly.
Then again, maybe I’m just not looking in the right places..