What are insights and what role do they play in leading innovative changes in business?

I just finished reading a well-written and insightful paper about insights and the role they play in innovation consulting.  The author, Mark Payne, Fahrenheit 212 co-founder and President, seems to practice what he preaches.  The fundamental role of “commercial insights” he explains to be necessary for successful innovation consulting, for example, seem to have greatly influenced the design of his firm, the kinds of people they employ, and how they solve problems for clients.

Below are some of my favorite quotes and takeaways from this paper.

“To innovators, great insights are springboards with tensile value.  Throw weight of your imagination upon them and they will forcefully propel you in new directions.”

“…an energizing truth because yes, our reaction does matter.  Insight needs to inspire and ignite ideas and action among the people it touches.  Forget the lonely inventor in the garage.  Innovation is a team sport and great insights will electrify and galvanize teams around a sense of new possibility.”

“Consume insight is absolutely critical and instrumental, but it isn’t enough to ensure an idea represents as big a step forward for the business as it does for the consumer.”

I am an Introspector type of insight generator.
It was a tough call, because I think I generate insights in all three ways (Detective, Empathizer, Introspector), but if I had to pick just one, I think most of my insights come from personal experiences that I then seek to understand and validate with other people.

“Outside-In means looking inward at company assets from the standpoint of the consumer’s tensions and emerging needs.  Inside-Out means looking out at the consumer from the perspective of the under leveraged assets and tensions embedded in the company.”

“…it’s far easier to excite a consumer with creative, new transformational possibility than it is to get a company to embrace something it’s never done before.  Commercial insights hold the keys to winning over the company.”

I would partially define insight to be about seeing what is already there, but that others have not seen.  Nature already is already providing all the information we need, but we have to connect the dots, analyze the information, look for patterns, and look for the explanatory variables.

Will this technology replace 3D printing for design prototyping?

Maybe this technology could take a CADD file and quickly generate an interactive 3D model, which could be sent to colleagues over the internet!   …I think it offers a compelling sense for spatial aesthetics of a 3D product design, and then we wouldn’t have to wait for the 3D printer anymore.

Objectified [movie]


For all my friends who aren’t too familiar with industrial design and the role it will play in our future, I recommend watching this movie called Objectified.   It is available on Netflix.

Some of my favorite highlights from the film are:

  • Japanese toothpick design that features a breakable tip that breaks off flat and that is intended to act as a rest to keep the toothpick off dirty surfaces, such as tables, so that you can reuse the toothpick without worry.
  • Practitioners of the Japanese craft of bonsai say that one should trim the tree in such a way to imagine that a small bird should be able to fly through the tree.
  • For all the time Apple spends on designing its devices, Apple spends a significant amount of time designing manufacturing processes.  For example, one critical component of the MacBook Air (a solid piece of aluminum into which multiple other pieces are bolted) required being physically held by a variety of different tooling machines; hence Apple had to figure out how to have its robot tooling machines hold the piece at different stages of its crafting, so that it could be produced in large scale operations.
  • An indicator should only be visible when indicating something, and it should therefor be hidden otherwise.
  • Design firm SmartDesign, designs for the extremes and lets the middle take care of itself.  That is, it designs for the most capable of experts and the most incapable of novices, because the firm believes that such as process yields designs that will naturally satisfy the needs to users that sit between these two extremes.  For example, when the firm designed the OXO brand of kitchen utensils, it designed them for use by people with arthritis and weak grips.
  • Hamster and hamster-ball directed Rumba vacuum; and the innovations that are made possible by opening up technology platforms for development by third parties.  This was an ingenious way to satisfy the random pattern of covering the room floor.

Amen to a tool that helps the user focus on the craft; not the end result!

The Holga.D is one of the best examples of thoughtful and beautiful ID work I have seen in a long time.  I love the concept of a digital camera that forces user to wait to products of their labor, like the old analog film cameras.  I think this will allow the user to enjoy, and focus on, more the photo-taking experience (trying to capture the images they are seeing in the real world) rather than worrying too much–in that instant–how the images look.   See picture below of camera rear, lacking an LCD display.   Amen to a tool that helps the user focus on the craft; not the end result!

The first digital camera without an LCD display:


A switch hitting camera?  …let’em bat lefty!


Learn more about this concept and its designer: http://www.saikatbiswas.com/web/Projects/Holga_D.htm

Why haven’t most TV networks posted full episodes of their shows online?

so here is something that is curious to me…

One of my favorite TV shows is ‘The Mentalist‘ and it is broadcast by CBS, and, unlike NBC, CBS does not offer the ability to watch full episodes of their TV shows online.

It would be so great if I could watch full episodes of The Mentalist online, and as much as I hate to admit it, I think it makes a lot of sense from a marketing and advertisers point of view as well.   And here’s why:

As much as I hate commercials, I would actually watch them if I was watching my favorite show online–especially if the network eliminates the automatic increase to the volume of commercials (but that is a different blog entry).    What I don’t understand is why other TV are not following NBC’s lead.   I see it as an easy sell for the network’s Chief Marketing Officer…

Tell advertisers that you’ll be able better target advertisements to viewers because you’ll know who they are after they log into the website.  Then continue by telling them that you be better able to target advertisements to us as a result.   Then close with, “and if you don’t believe me, proof that the online viewer will see your advertisement is the fact that he is there in the first place.  That is, a person does not accidentally find himself watching a full episode of a TV show.  An online viewer deliberately goes online, browses to the TV show homepage, and finds the episode–so you know they are watching.   How do you know if I’m even watching a show on TV?  …couldn’t I have left the room/house and the TV powered on and tuned to that channel?”

This makes so much sense that I wonder why CBS and other networks have not put their episodes online.  Did TV manufacturers tell them that if they do so, that they are no longer going to be friends?  What is it?

If there is a Chief Marketing Officer for a major TV network reading this right now, please correct me by leaving me a comment below.

“If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both.”

“If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both.”

I came across this quote, and it describes well how I seem to live my life…always curious and interested in experiencing new things, I feel my focus is divided amongst a number of things.   It being a native american proverb, only makes me ponder even more seriously if I’ll ever succeed at achieving my life/career goals.

There is another native american proverb, however, that gives me hope:

“If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come.”

Unfortunately the first proverb seems to carry more weight since it seems to be more physically evident.

My hope is that my curiosity and willingness to try new things are strengths; not weaknesses.   I think it is just a matter of finding a place where these skills are truly valued.

Fortunately, I believe a career as an entrepreneurial industrial designer is an ideal place for me.  I believe the career and the work will continue enabling my ability to innovate (i.e. that connect ideas from seemingly unrelated disciplines, to create new ideas/products).  I hope I am right!

“Nissan Engineers use Special Suit to Simulate the Elderly”

How cool is this approach that Nissan took to designing a car whose intended market was the elderly drivers.  They took “putting yourself in the shoes of the user” to a new physical level.  Designers are leading great efforts to design good products, but perhaps we should be asking a separate question: Given their poor vision, hearing, and other physical limitations, should some elderly individuals be driving at all?