Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Art of Innovation and Wired to Care Reviews

I feel like I'm way behind in posting my book reviews. I thought I would get 2 done at once.

One great book I read was The Art Of Innovation by Tom Kelley. Kelley works at IDEO, an award winning design and development firm. Best known for bringing the Apple mouse to the world, but also known for bringing Polaroids instant access camera, Palm handheld and hundreds of other cutting edge products to market.

What I got from the book is, despite being wildly creative, IDEO has a method or process which is laid out in the book as follows:

1) Understand the market, the client, the technology, and the perceived constraints on the problem. Later in a project, we often challenge those constraints, but it's important to understand current perceptions.

2) Observe real people in real-life situations to find out what makes them tick: what confuses them, what they like, what they hate, where they have latent needs not addressed by current products and services.

3) Visualize new-to-the-world concepts and the customers who will use them. Some people think of this step as predicting the future, and it is probably the most brain-storming-intensive phase of the process. Quite often, the visualization take the form of a computer-based rendering or simulation, though IDEO also builds thousands of physical models and prototypes each year. For new product categories we sometimes visualize the customer experience by using composite character and storyboard-illustrated scenarios. In some cases, we even make a video that portrays life with the future product before it really exists.

4) Evaluate and refine the prototypes in a series of quick iterations. We try not to get too attached to the first few prototypes, because we know they will change. No idea is so good that it cant be improved upon, and we plan on a series of improvements. We get input from our internal team, from the client team, from knowledgeable people not directly involved with the project, and from people who make up the target market. We watch for what works and what doesn't, what confuses people, what they seem to like, and we incrementally improve the product in the next round.

5) Implement the new concept for commercialism. This phase is often the longest and most technically challenging in the development process, but I believe that IDEO's ability to successfully implement lends credibility to all the creative work that goes before.

Later in the book they talked about inspiration by observation. Which allowed them to develop a bigger toothbrush for small hands (kids).  So observation is also part of their process.

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Wired To Care: How companies prosper when they create widespread empathy
 by Dev Patnaik was another great book. It wasn’t really what I had expected. I had expected much more touchy feely on how we treat the people that work in our firms, rather more it was thinking about our companies and products and services from the point of view of the customers.

"Companies prosper when they tap into a power that every one of us already has-the ability to reach outside of ourselves and connect with other people."

"The quickest way to have empathy for someone else is to be just like them. For companies, the answer is to hire their customers."

"We've seen how empathy can be a driving force to develop more prosperous, more ethical, and more enduring companies. But it also has the power to hep us see how we can change the world for the better. Ultimately, every single one of us is biologically wired to care. Scaling that ability to the level of an organization can transform its mission. When we develop real empathy for the people we serve, our jobs start to become callings. There are no low-interest problems-only problem-solvers who don't have strong connections to the people they serve. Companies can serve a higher purpose than just making money. They can create wealth by enriching the wider society we all live in. Empathy can awaken us to the power that we have to change the course of everyday life. But only if we're willing to step outside of our own preconceptions and see the world through other people's eyes."

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