Reading The Art of Innovation - Chapters 1 through 15 - Complete
My copy of The Art of Innovation has finally arrived, and I have begun reading it. I will be blogging as I finish each chapter. I will add the notes on the latest chapter to this original posting and change the title to indicate how many chapters are included...
Chapter 1 - Innovation at the Top
This chapter begins by stressing the growing importance of innovations for organizations that wish to survive and thrive in a fast-changing environment. There is a short discussion of how the author joined IDEO, the firm founded by his brother.
There is a brief discussion of how Tiger Woods refined his swing in conjunction with his coach, and this is used to illustrate than even something that appears to be a great solo performance was perfected through a collaborative effort -- a good illustration for the CSG!
The IDEO method is discussed in five basic steps:
1) UNDERSTAND the market, client, technology, and constraints
2) OBSERVE real people in real-life situations
3) VISUALIZE new-to-the-world concepts and the customers who will use them - possible use computer-based renderings, simulations, prototypes
4) EVALUATE AND REFINE the prototypes through quick iteration
5) IMPLEMENT the new concept for commercialization
The remainder of the chapter provides an account of the Nightline segment on the Deep Dive, and the chapter ends with a discussion of the growing importance of creativity.
Chapter 2 - Winging it in Start-Up Mode
This chapter deals with the early days of the group that became IDEO. There are discussions of how a few folks from Stanford came together in a private design business and how they built their own physical and cultural environments. I am not certain that I want to encourage you to read this chapter since it includes a discussion of how David Kelley decided against pursuing a Ph.D. to start the company. The chapter concludes with some stories of how the company happened into some work for Apple and other Silicon Valley companies.
Chapter 3 - Innovation Begins with an Eye
This chapters discusses the IDEO approach to investigating how clients and products might interact in real settings by doing detailed observations. There are great vignettes involving special products, including: a better toothpaste tube and cap, a medical instrument used for angioplasty, snowshoes, an office storage system, a computer input device for 3-5 year olds, a toothbrusch for kids, the NEC Versa laptop computer, a conference call system, a bike water bottle, and a fishing system for kids that makes life easier for their dads.
Here are some key lessons:
1) Go out and watch people. Don't expect them to be able to tell you what you need to know. Don't rely on focus groups.
2) Pay particular attention to the things that bug you or customers in a situation. Michael's observation on the coffee cup at our last meeting is a good example.
3) There are no dumb or naive questions.
4) Try developing things for "left-handed" consumers, that is, people who are very different from you. A case in point would be kids; our experience as adults will not be a good guide for the experiences of kids.
5) Embrace the crazy user. Such users can provide very important information that will be generally useful in the design.
6) Find people who break the rules when they use things.
7) Practice observations informally as a matter of course.
8) See products in motion, that is, in use; think verbs, not nouns.
9) Cross-pollinate - borrow ideas from one area for use in another.
10) Think about making your customers into heroes - design things that will make them successful and effective.
Chapter 4 - The Perfect Brainstorm
This chapter discusses brainstormers, the collaborative 1 hour sessions used at IDEO. While everyone says they brainstorm, the folks at IDEO take is more seriously than most; they do it more often, and they try to improve their methods as they gain experience.
Highlights include seven secrets of brainstorming and six ways to kill a brainstorm.
Seven Secrets of Brainstorming
1) Sharpen the focus - try for a pointed question about customers
2) Playful rules - don't let the critics rule
3) Number your ideas - and try for 100 ideas per hour
4) Build and jump - a good session will lead to ideas building on ideas as momentum grows
5) The Space Remembers - Write on the walls and tables, etc.
6) Stretch your mental muscles - sometimes use warm-up exercises
7) Get Physical - move beyond drawing to 3-d model building, physically acting things out, etc.
Six Brainstorm Killers
1) The Boss Gets to Speak First
2) Everybody Gets a Turn
3) Experts Only
4) Do It Off-Site
5) No Silly Stuff
6) Write Down Everything
Another good strategy seems to be to learn from your brainstorming sessions and constantly review and revise the process.
Chapter 5 - A Cool Company Needs Hot Groups
This chapter discusses the importance of high intensity, high performing groups, and things you can do to encourage them. The IDEO approach has been to model their groups after a Hollywood-like system for building teams around projects and disciplines. As the firm has grown, it has divided into studios through a process that allowed individuals to select their own studios. The goal is to develop groups that are passionate about their work.
Using the Nightline shopping cart project as an example, six important conditions are noted for building a hot project group:
1) Everyone in the group was totally dedicated to achieving the end result with no one doubting the cart could be improved.
2) A slightly ridiculous deadline.
3) The group was irreverent and nonhierarchical
4) The team was well rounded and respectful of its diversity.
5) The team worked in open, eclectic space great for flexibility, group work, and brainstorming.
6) The group felt empowered to get whatever it needed.
Other things that promote hot groups noted in the chapter:
1) Build on the interests individuals
2) See opportunities in challenges
3) Take on a mission
4) House teams in close quarters to promote interaction
5) Make sure the team has the right mix of individual personalities
6) Abolish "they," the sense that someone else in the organization is responsible for things -- good and bad
7) Trust - the team members need to know that we care about them, that they can trust us, and that we are all committed to the success of the team
8) Hot teams perform - everyone needs a chance to perform
9) Hot teams give - gifts, fun, ideas
10) Hot teams feel special
11) Hot teams meet
12) Hot teams look the part - double the t-shirt budget
13) Hot teams need characters - the visionary, the troubleshooter, the iconoclast, the pulse taker, the craftsman, the technologist, the entrepreneur, the cross-dresser (e.g., someone trained as an engineer who is now into design)
Chapter 6 - Prototyping is the Shorthand of Innovation
This chapter deals with rapid prototyping as a technique to get projects moving quickly. The message is fairly simple: there is no substitute for building things enough to try them out, and there is much to be learned from real three dimensional models and other real-life trials. Examples in the chapter include testing new snowboarding goggles in a creamery freezer, a football with wings, the Apple duodock, and a new image for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
One lesson that is emphasized throughout the chapter is the advantage of learning as you build and saving time by getting moving before you are completely sure of where you are going. A particularly illustrative case is that of Jeff Bezos who, upon realizing that internet commerce would grow at 2300 percent per year, quit his job and had the moving vans start carting his things west before he had decided the new location of the enterprise that was to become Amazon; he later told them to head for Seattle.
If speed is important, and the author claims that the water is rising fast for us all, then rapid prototyping is a key strategy to accelerate learning and get things moving.
Chapter 7 - Build Your Greenhouse
Great teams need great space, space that inspires and reflects their work. This chapter discusses how to create spaces to spur innovation. Here are the key points.
Build Neighborhoods - neighborhoods tie together individual and team spaces so the connecting paths and group areas are important
Think Project, Think Personal - let individuals and groups express their identities through the design of their space
Building Blocks - sometimes the simplest, cheapest materials are most important as building blocks for the creation of spaces - There is a great example of foam squares originally used to control noise and later used to build all sorts of spaces.
Inspiration from Adversity - use problems with space or working conditions to inspire new ideas - There is another great example of hanging market umbrellas to handle glare from windows on computer screens.
Prototype Your Space - space arrangements can best be determined through experimentation - involve everyone in thinking about the arrangement of work spaces
Create a Team Icon - allow teams to create icons that represent their work - everything from flags and banners to small objects
Watch Your Body Language - make sure that the space arrangements do not contradict what you are trying to communicate - the space should reflect the message of the organization
Simple Team Space - keep space simple - Don't overdo things. There is a great example of Chiat/Day moving full-speed into totally open space with no private offices and spaces only to find people staying home to get work done. Workers had no sense of home or place in the totally open environment as they were expected to just grab a new spot each day when they arrived. Creative people do need some quiet spaces to think.
Hierarchy is the Enemy of Cool Space - don't reward superiors with superior space
Give Your Workers a View - situate group and collaborative spaces in pleasant areas - don't create shared resources in out-of-the way spaces - for example, don't hide a group library where it is difficult to access
Tell Stories - use your space to tell the story of your group or organization, use the entrance to let visitors know what you are about
Make Your Junk Sing - As an example, the author tells how one of the studio leaders at IDEO turned some boxes of "junk" parts that he used for various things into an IDEO feature, the "Tech Box," a cart full of elements of innovation. The "Tech Box" is now a feature at all IDEO offices, and some clients subscribe to the Tech Box. There is even a website with a catalog of the current elements in the Tech Box.
The overall point is that physical space can be an important tool for innovation and innovative groups.
Chapter 8 - Expect the Unexpected
This chapter deals with those things that cannot be anticipated. There are examples of things that happened by accident - e.g., ivory soap - a soap that floats as a result of a mistake by a factory worker who left a soap mixer on while he went to lunch, velcro - invented when a mountaineer returned from a hike covered in prickly cockleburs, saccharin - discovered to be a sweetener by a researcher at Hopkins who carried it home by mistake and found his bread sweetened. There are also examples of things that looked like certain successes but still failed - the Dynabook laptop computer or the Momenta pen-based computer.
So, what can be done to take advantage of that which cannot be anticipated?
Good timing is important as for the Polaroid I-Zone camera that delivered small pictures for kids from a small camera.
Nimble response helps as when Kimberly-Clark realized that a product designed only to remove cold cream might be more generally useful -- Kleenex.
Looking cross-eyed or borrowing from diverse fields helps as when an IDEO engineer borrowed from the swivel mount of a computer monitor to design the sun tracker beach chair.
Exercising cross-pollination muscles through devices like the Tech Box that contains lots of things that can be used for diverse purposes.
The chapter concludes with 7 tips for increasing cross-pollination borrowing of ideas:
1) Subscribe to diverse magazines and surf the Internet widely for ideas.
2) Play director - i.e., play film director, break the world into scenes and become expert at watching people perform even the smallest tasks.
3) Hold an Open House - use these to feature your products and engage in new conversations with others outside your group. They will give you new ideas and new information.
4) Inspire Advocates - individuals who press different viewpoints
5) Hire Outsiders - get new talent and new perspectives from those outside your group
6) Change Hats - take the perspectives of others in deliberate ways
7) Cross-Train - borrow the habits and techniques from one setting and introduce them into another
Chapter 9 - Barrier Jumping
What do you do when you encounter a barrier? One strategy is to anticipate and recognize barriers.
Watching the Border - One way to anticipate barriers is to examine how different countries/cultures deal with new products and services. For example, Americans prefer loud vacuum cleaners that seem more powerful, but Japanese prefer quieter machines and will even pay for more insulation and step-down motors. Europeans see little need for cup holders in their cars, but Americans spend so much time commuting that cup holders become essential. Barriers can be overcome by force as illustrated by the UK's conversation to the metric system, but as the US case shows resistance can stop such change.
Sometimes barriers are created by initial assumptions that are false. Efforts to develop a PDA that replaced the desktop computer met with failure. It wasn't until developers saw the PDA as a computer to compliment, not replace a desktop machine and so made it simpler that the device took hold.
Deal Killers - fear, uncertainty, and doubt can kill the acceptance of innovations.
Patent Pending - prior patents can chill innovation in an area
Barriers and Bridges to Innovation:
Hierarchy-based (barrier) to merit-based (bridge)- embrace new ideas from any source, not just those at the top
Bureaucracy (barrier) to autonomy (bridge)- those who are masters of their own destiny have the self-confidence to take risks
Anonymous (barrier) to Familiar (bridge)- good organizations make you feel comfortable enough to make mistakes
Clean (barrier) to Messy (bridge)- a jumble of things, ideas, and experiences may lead to new thinking
Experts (barrier) to Tinkerers (bridge) - experts may shut you off from new learning while tinkerers ignore the status quo because they know it will change tomorrow
Other strategies to overcome barriers:
Skill Sets - don't let fear that you don't have certain skills prevent you from trying them, e.g., most of us avoid drawing but we can all employ it to good effect
Handshakes - look at people with unusual or special needs, look at the devices that we all create to make current arrangements more workable
Rituals Reward - look at rituals because they tell us about important barriers, e.g., the ritual use of corks in wine bottles
Evangelism Works - sometimes it is important to put extra energy into launching something new, even developing a grassroots movement to launch things - the importance of effort and persistence
Chapter 10 - Creating Experiences for Fun and Profit
This chapter expands on the theme of thinking in terms of "verbs" not "nouns" for innovations. This means focusing not on the things or objects (new product, report, campaign, store) but on the experience of customers using these things. When IDEO designed the interior of the ACELA train for Amtrak, they focused on the experience of the train passenger.
What are the lessons?
Make Experiences Entertaining - Major retailers know this. Disney Stores sell the Disney experience. Barnes and Noble sells the comfortable coffee house environment as does Starbucks. An example some of us have experienced first hand involves the IDEO redesign of the Steelcase center at Columbus Circle. The Steelcase showroom presents the customer with an experience that begins with a stop at the cafe at the entrance, continues through a tour the offices using Steelcase products, and concludes with another snack opportunity at the end. (We did not experience the Polaroid camera provided to visitors so they can snap pictures of the furniture.) And the cafe overlooks Central Park. People stay longer and purchase more.
Another piece of advice is to learn from Vegas where an emphasis has been placed on providing visitors with a comprehensive entertaining experience.
Tell a Story - be clear about what you are offering customers and take all steps to reinforce the message.
Fix It - some companies prosper by fixing experiences that are broken. The iMac offers an easy to use computer with no 500 page manual. Dell makes it easy to configure a computer.
Rethinking Services - take broken experiences and improve them. A good example is the hospital room being redesigned by Wellness, LLC in Nashville. Most well-developed industries are ripe for a redesign. Top notch hotels now make the process of checking in and checking out painless.
Little Experiences Count - Even small changes make a difference as illustrated by the postcard from Warranty Service Camp sent by JanSport to customers who have returned products under warranty. A postcard reading "Hi" Warranty Service Camp is really cool. They say they're sending me home soon...Gotta run...we're doing zipper races today!" changed the tone of warranty service and eliminated most angry customer letters. The chapter concludes with an account of how IDEO changed the letters they send to job applicants. Little things count!
Chapter 11 - Zero to Sixty
This chapter focuses on the benefits (and necessity) of speed. The main idea is a recommendation to find ways to practice speedy development as your operations become established. The chapter focuses on the use of the Sand Hill Challenge, a local soap box derby, as a focal point for speedy design practice at IDEO. The competition provided an opportunity to practice design and development activities in a short-time frame and a competitive environment.
The lessons of this chapter are that speed counts; the faster you can come up with innovations, the more likely you will achieve marketplace success. So, look for competitions that you might enter or create to let your teams practice speed (and play).
Chapter 12 - Coloring Outside the Lines
Chapter 12 is a series of short tales of organizations that departed from business as usual to achieve success. Many of these are now well known -- the rise of snowboarding (missed by the major players in downhill skiing), the growth in popularity of mountain bikes (missed by Schwinn), Southwest Airlines different way of doing business, the Texas Bank and Trust secretary who watched artists paint over their mistakes in a bank window and invented white-out, Linux, Igloo coolers, Shoebox greeting cards, Sephora cosmetics, Target (design), Swatch, E-Schwab, Rubbermaid.
Fail offen to succeed sooner - if you don't take risks, you won't succeed
Thinking about what you might lose (market share, revenue, a title), prevents you from taking the necessary leap
The biggest rule breakers change our process -- they change how we work
Don't go too far out -- color outside the lines, but stay on the same page
HIGHLIGHT: Juggling is the perfect metaphor for embracing risk-taking.
"As I learned from my fellow Palo Altan John Cassidy, author of Juggling for the Complete Klutz, the trick to beginning juggling is not to use rocks, which may bruise your feet, or balls, which tend to roll under the couch. Beanbags are ideal for learning to juggle...because they put such a small price on failure."
So juggle beanbags by doing lots of prototyping in inexpensive ways so you will be confident enough when you get going for real.
Chapter 13 - In Search of the "Wet Nap" Interface
Okay, you want to know what the title to this chapter means. It's taken from Carl Ledbetter, former president of AT&T Consumer Products, who argues that products should be as simple to use as the directions on moist towelettes - "Tear open and use."
How do you achieve this?
Fight Feature Creep - When real innovation stalls, feature creep sets in. Don't just add features and complexity. One way to avoid this is to use your own products as if you were using them for the first time.
Give Simple Directions - edit features and complexity from products. Think of the iMac without the floppy drive!
Simple as a Frisbee - a terrific innovation that combined modern plastics and aerodynamics with the classic Greek discus. No moving parts, no directions, and fun with very little practice -- all for 15 cents worth of plastic.
Hands On - spend the most design attention at the place where you touch the product the most. E.g., the spongy grip of the Oral B toothbrush.
Letting Go - Sometimes you have to let go of assumptions and preconceptions to move forward. Consider the Palm V - the designers had to give up earlier design features - e.g., a case that was glued together was used instead of screws
Building a Better Mouse - A brief discussion of designing the Microsoft Mouse with a new shape and a new way of including the logo in the molding process.
10 Objectives or Lessons
1) Make a Great Entrance - first impressions are important at the entrance to a hotel, theme park, or website
2) Make Metaphors - come up with a metaphor to inspire your new product - e.g., the Vecta Kart chair that easily stacks, inspired by the shopping cart
3) Think Briefcase - Why did people love the traditional briefcase? Because it was one of the few things at the office that the worker could take home - bridging the gap between work and home. Other examples include the Apple PowerBooks, Montblanc pens, etc. Imagine that the ideal customer is on a commuter train headed home and make him or her want to bring your product on that journey.
4) Color Inspires - Consider color early in the design process to set the tone or mood. E.g., Sony's use of yellow for its sports products.
5) Backstage Pass - Let your customers know what's going on behind the scences with your operation. E.g., Amazon's email updates to let you know where your order stands.
6) One Click is Better than Two - Make your product work faster and simpler. E.g. A copy machine that let's you make one copy on standard paper by pushing one button - what you want to do 90% of the time - saving more complicated options for other procedures.
7) Goof-Proof - Let your users correct their own mistakes. E.g., the "undo" command. Good products help users avoid mistakes; great products allow them to correct their mistakes. E.g., the foldable side-view mirrors on cars that spring back after you hit the side of your garage.
8) First, Do No Harm - Take the pain out of using your products. Why make users of irons touch a hot surface to know that the iron is ready? Eliminate pain for users.
9) Checklist - Identify critical features that will be necessary for your product to succeed at the outset. What will be essential?
10) Great Extras - Little features that make a big difference. On cars consider the drink holders or better storage or a better key.
Chapter 14 - Live the Future
The message of this chapter is to get in touch with the future now. The future is here; it's just not widely distributed. So, how do you get in touch with the future?
Know the state-of-the art in one field. This can give you a unique viewpoint on the future.
Look elsewhere for inspiration. For product design, look at what is happening at the local toy store. The IDEO folks have had luck looking at sailing and the associated gear, and they found things to borrow.
Empowerment Products - Consider things that make people more effective. If you make products for the young - watch skateboarders. If you make things for old people, hang out at coffee shops. Consider snowboarding that made it easier to go down a mountain than on skies. The power assisted bike empowers people to travel further. The aluminum bat, the oversize tennis racket, the golf club with the sweet spot -- these all make the rest of use power players!
Visit Places where the future is now. E.g., Finland for cell phones. Venice Beach for athletic apparel. Find the hotspot for the industry you are working in and hang out there. Check out where people are writing and talking and inventing the future for your sector. Cultivate the sages in your own environment - identify those who look forward.
Make Concept Cars - Auto makers use concept cars to bring new things together and try them out. They know these cars will not go directly into production; they use them to generate ideas.
Make Movie Trailers - use movie trailers to capture the essence of a project. The goal is to develop a visual prototype. Try writing the print advertisement for your new product.
Read All About It - Grab ideas from science fiction and other genres that anticipate the future.
Project 2010 - IDEO worked on a futures project for Business Week to envision what the world would be like in 2010. This gave them an opportunity think ten years into the future.
Chapter 15 - Decision Time
This final chapter begins by highlighting the importance of knowing when to stop and live with the current version of your new product. Clients and bosses with real budgets and schedules can help with this. Think of the school teacher who says that that secret to getting great art from second graders is knowing when to take the paper away from them.
Final Innovation Practice Tips
1) Watch customers and non-customers - especially enthusiasts
2) Play with your physical workspace in a way that sends positive messages to employees and visitors
3) Think "verbs," not "nouns," in your product and service offerings - create wonderful experiences for everyone who comes into contact with your company or brand
4) Break rules and "fail forward" so that change is part of the culture, and little setbacks are expected.
5) Stay human - allow plenty of room for hotgroups to emerge
6) Build bridges - from one dept. to another, from your organization to prospective customers, and from the present to the future.