Monday, September 13, 2010

Innovation Begins with an Eye

What do stand-up toothpaste tubes, all-in-one fishing kits, high-tech blood analyzers, flexible office shelves, and self-sealing sports bottles have in common?

Only that they're all products designed by the legendary firm IDEO; products inspired by watching real people.

As IDEO human factors expert Leon Segal says in "The Art of Innovation," "Innovation begins with an eye."

It's not just about product design, either.Whether it's art, science, technology, or business, inspiration often comes from being close to the action. Once you start observing carefully, all kinds of insights and opportunities can open up.

Here are a few IDEO practices you should think about:
  • No dumb questions - don't think you know the answers without first asking the questions
  • Look through the child's eye - literally, if you want to understand what they are seeing, touching, and feeling; figuratively, if you understand that the best designs embrace people's differences
  • Inspiration by observation - open your eyes and you'll be awakened to opportunities to improve things without leaving your office
  • Embrace your crazy user - good, insightful observation combines careful watching with well-chosen questions asked to get at the psychology of a person's interactions
  • Finding rule breakers - you learn best when observing people who break the rules
  • People are human - sometimes we reduce personal interactions to numbers and statistics. Empathy is about rediscovering why you're actually in business, whom you're trying to serve, and what needs you are trying to fulfill.
Seeing and hearing things with your own eyes and ears is a critical first step in improving or creating a breakthrough in your organization.

Try it today!

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