If you are like me, there are many times a day when I question why something works the way it does (or doesn’t work). Little annoyances that I accept as “the way it is” present themselves to me. These moments represent innovation potential, if you activate this passive curiosity and pair it with prototyping and exploration as one mom I know did. Catherine is a veteran professional who decided to take a break for her son’s high school years to be more present in his life. She started noticing things and asking why. As her son hopped in her car with his muddy shoes one day, she was irritated that her purse was on the floor next to his shoes, since there was no where else to put it. Why? There had to be a better way.
Instead of stopping here, she followed her curiosity into a fabric store. Catherine had an idea. She bought some sturdy mesh fabric and sketched a design. She did not sew, so she found a shop that did and asked them to mock up her sketch in the mesh she had purchased. It did not take long and soon the hammock looking thing was installed in her car, providing a place for her purse. It wasn’t perfect, but she knew she was onto something. Catherine took her prototype to a friend who she knew would be the ultimate torture test customer to get feedback. Then, more sketches to improve the issues with the design, another prototype and this time a call to the patent attorney. With the provisional patent in place, she again bought more fabric and called more friends to ask if we would try this next version prototype in our cars for a week and let her know our thoughts. We loved it! We offered more suggestions. She went back to her sketch, optimized further and started looking for a manufacturer to make it in small quantities, as she was also going to prototype the sales, starting small and building. She did another round of prototyping during manufacturing start up too, as she needed to modify her design slightly to make it easily produced. At the same time, she worked the branding and other detailed designs of the product. In a veryshort timeframe (about 6 months), she is manufacturing and selling her creation.
(here it is in the car in black) Check out the facebook page and her webpage where you can order it on line. Pretty impressive for a working mom whose only difference versus you or me is that she had the curiosity to go beyond the frustrated “why” observation into prototyping and exploration. A lesson for us all–lean into your curiosity and you will see all kinds of opportunity.
TAKE ACTION THIS WEEK
Is there something at work or home that routinely frustrates you? Pick one frustration and pay attention to it this week. What is the objective it is supposed to serve? What are the assumptions that are operating within this space? Why are things the way the are? Then, take 10 minutes to sketch or physically prototype another way to accomplish the objective. Show it to a friend and get their feedback. You may be on to something, in which case you may want to keep iterating, prototyping and exploring to realize the opportunity. Good Luck explorers!