Electronic Product Design

13/03/2012 - Innovation, design and profit (part 2)


Following on from last week, we look into innovation creation, its environment and its presentation.


Innovation is a creative process and requires imagination. We all have degrees of imagination and this is particularly true of children. In adult life, we may be coerced into a life of boundaries and expectations where the requirement for imagination is limited. As a result, like an unused muscle, it becomes weak.

A child's view of the world has far fewer boundaries and many possibilities exist. The surrounding adults “allow” children to express their unreasoned views because they are children after all. As we grow up the expectation is for more reasoned opinions. We are also required to observe various boundaries.

Our day out

Let's use a little imagination now. We are going to take a group of people away from the confines of the work place into a different location. It could be the village hall, a museum or even an open park (provided it doesn't rain!). How do we arrange the seating? In rows? Randomly? You might be prompted to avoid any organisation that is too rigid. Our day out is all about innovation.

After we have arrived at our location, we should ensure that our group is comfortable and provide them with refreshments and point out the location of the toilets. Apart from any Health and Safety announcements, our aim is to make sure that the group is relaxed in our care. The next declaration is that for the purposes of this meeting there are no stupid ideas – all are allowed.

Now we set a challenge of some description and the dialogue begins. The dynamics will depend on the size of the group. It is highly likely that it will gravitate into sub-groups. Within these groups there will be the shy retiring and the one who likes the sound of his/her own voice. Yet in all this chaos, there will be an evolution of some concepts.

A few concepts will be far from radical. Hopefully we will come across some ideas that are challenging or odd. There may even be some totally off-the-wall propositions. This might not appear to be news – it is not meant to be. The whole narrative was a walk through of “stuff” we already know but most businesses do not do it.

Return to the office

We have to take our group back to their work place. Some of the group will secretly think that it was all a waste of time. Others will simply relish the idea that it was time away from the mundane. It is likely that one or two (more preferably) will consider some form of success was achieved. This might be purely at the personal level – their idea was considered good. Success might be judged by the fact that some novel creations came out of an initially challenging proposition.

Can you imagine speaking to the manager of this work place and presenting the raw notions? The manager is likely to think of the project as a costly exercise with no immediate or practical use. The functions of the workplace have been interrupted. The work output is still required meaning that there is now additional pressure due to the “lost” time. It soon becomes clear that creativity does not fit easily into a regimented structure.

Our second rest

Having enjoyed the freedom of our excursion, we have returned to the stark reality of the work place. We might even feel pessimistic about the outcome. Let's walk away from this – after all no one is going to listen. Or are they?

Next week we will look at what we do next. Suppose we walk back to the manager's office and say “our day out means that we now have an affordable way to give you twice the profit”. Does he stop to listen? Was the day a waste of time now? Can the disruption to the normal work flow be overcome in light of this prospect?

Posted by: Peter Hawkins on 13/03/12.

Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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