What do Aquaduct and Airbnb have in common? Great Design!
Aquaduct is a bike with a water filtering system that works powered by the person biking. People in rural areas will usually go long distances to collect water. The bicycle allows them to collect and carry it, and the water is filtered as the person cycles back.
We’ve been carrying water on our heads for centuries, and we’ve always had issues accessing clean drinking water. What did it take to come up with this innovative solution that uses easily accessible technologies and cheap parts?
Something we’ve always had as well is spare rooms in our houses or apartments. We have those empty spaces because the house it too big, a child moved out, or we are on holiday. Airbnb is a company that allows people to rent out their spare rooms in their houses. What did it take to get people to rent out their private spaces to strangers?
Aquaduct and AirBnB are both results of great designs: The first one, a technological breakthrough design within specific constraints, and the second, the product of designing for trust between strangers.
As you can see, the field of design is so much wider than people usually have in mind when they think about design. To delve deeper into the subject we’ve read two books by two people who have been named among the World’s Most Influential Designers by Bloomberg in 2010.
The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman
A Norman Door is a door that is poorly designed. You stop at the petrol station and you try to open the door: should I push, pull, wait for it to open, should I step back maybe the sensor didn’t pick me up the first time. If we can be stunned by something as simple as a door, what about all the everyday things we interact with daily basis?
The field of design itself is relatively new, and covers many areas. Don Norman focuses on what he calls “everyday things”: the teapot, the watch, the typewriter, the faucet, and off course the door.
Don Norman’s seminal work on design, The Design of Everyday Things, reads like a textbook. You’ll learn from Don Norman what makes good design and why, and which designs don’t work so well. Don Norman proposes the philosophy of Design Thinking, which is “finding the basic, fundamental (root) issue [that] needs to be addressed”, and ensuring that the resulting product really fits the needs and capabilities of people.
“The understanding comes about primarily through observation, for people themselves are often unaware of their true needs, even unaware of the difficulties they are encountering.”
And about the Bloomberg distinction, Don Norman clarifies that he thinks of himself as a Design Thinker, rather than a Designer.
Change by Design, Tim Brown
The focus on fundamental human needs is what drives design thinking to depart from the status quo. It is what leads to breakthrough innovations instead of small incremental changes.
Tim Brown is the CEO of IDEO, a design company. He encourages designers and managers to think about design as an approach, Design Thinking. Tim Brown makes the bold claim that design, and more specifically Design Thinking has the power to change the world. The claim is very ambitious; but IDEO, an “Innovation and Design” company has worked with large multinationals and NGOs. Their designs include: a bike that filters water in India (the above-mentioned aquaduct), the patient experience for a large healthcare provider, or Apple’s first mouse.
One big idea that Tim Brown supports is that of participation: Design Thinking means believing that the people who face those problems are the ones who hold the key to their answer. In our article about “Why change is difficult for employees” we had that same idea, that front line employees usually hold the answer to their problems.
While Don Norman is very academic and someone that anybody interested in design should read, Tim Brown is more motivational. We find in both the same approach to Design Thinking: Observing instead of just asking questions to focus groups; bringing people from multidisciplinary teams to generate ideas taken from other disciplines/industries; the need to look beyond current customers to the extremes (non-customers) etc.
As consultants, our work is very much of the nature of going to companies and observing. Executives often acknowledge that they need a “fresh” eye. They need someone who has not yet gotten comfortable with the status quo. Employees will often say “this is how we do things here”, “that’s how we’ve always done things”. Consultants will instead ask enough questions to understand the problem, and then drive a team towards finding effective solutions.
What are your examples of very good or very bad design? Comment below, or on Twitter #designupgrade
« Who moved my cheese? » is a story of how different people react to change. The author uses two mice, “Sniff” and “Scurry”, and two people, « Hem » et « Haw » looking for cheese to illustrate his lesson.
The mice and the people both start by lacing up their shoes and searching the maze for cheese. They eventually find it in Cheese Station C. They sit down and eat to their hearts’ content until the cheese is gone.
Sniff and Scurry don’t think too much about it: No cheese here? No problem. Let’s go back into the maze and look for another cheese station.
On the other side, the people side, things are different. They don’t know how to deal with change!
How people react to change
Hem is outraged and wants to fight the “injustice” of not having cheese. Hem categorically refuses to move from where the cheese was before. Haw is shocked and depressed, but finally resigns to look for cheese elsewhere. It takes a while though to enact that decision because Haw is afraid of going back out there: what if there is no cheese; what if I get lost. But then, after a while, hunger overcomes fear, and Haw laces up and heads back towards the Maze.
What would I do TODAY if I weren’t afraid? #changemanagement #overcomefear
Who moved my cheese is an allegory for Change.
While the two mice enjoy the cheese they find, they never lose the instinct and the process of finding new cheese. The little people, on the other hand, once they find their cheese, settle and declare themselves successful and happy. They stop honing the skills they had needed to find the Cheese in the first place. When the inevitable change comes along, they are not prepared to deal with it.
We’ve all heard the excuses:
“It’s comfortable. It’s what I know”
« I’m getting too old for that”
“It’s not what I’m used to”
Technological change especially looks scary
On International Archives Day on June 9th, journalists interviewed a number of professionals about the future of archives. One interviewee said with great authority that physical archives are more reliable than digital archives because they are tangible: they can’t be erased at the push of a button. She didn’t seem to realize that physical archives are: rarely available in more than one copy, that unique copy can be corrupted: water, fire, mold, mice, theft, a physical copy is not readily accessible or retrievable. On the other hand, digital copies can be stored in several places, and protected against unauthorized access.
Does this fear of the ‘new’ come from a sense of fear of the new and too much comfort in the old? Lack of education about the “new”? Whatever the case, holding on to the “old” only makes one inefficient and ineffective in the short-term, and obsolete and redundant in the long term.
Holding on to the “old” makes a person inefficient in the short-term and redundant in the long term #upgradeyourself
As Haw eventually realized and wrote down on the wall, “Noticing small changes early helps you adapt to the bigger changes that are to come.”
Which recent workplace change have you been struggling with? Leave your comment in the section below.