Friday, February 20, 2009

Designers Need to Design the Business Model

An often overlooked part of creating a new product is to also design the Business Model. This is also the responsibility of the engineer or designer. Read about Business Model. Your choice of a business model provides many opportunities for innovation.

This is not the same as a Business Plan, which contains much more information including financial projections. Rather, your Business Model considers and defines the key elements needed to manufacture, distribute and finance your proposed idea.

Now More Than Ever- People, Products and Companies Must Create Value

Each of us needs to constantly ask ourselves, "How can I create more real value for my customers? What is the "Value Proposition"?" In the past, we could get away with simply creating products or services that looked better or were advertised in a clever way.
In this New Reality, long term success depends on producing real value.
  • Products need to be FAR BETTER in Every Way, than what exists.
  • Make the USER #1- Put the user first and always do what is best for him/her, rather than what seems best way to produce near term profits for you and your company.
  • Green is good, but whatever it is, needs to be less expensive.
  • Products and services need to provide additional FUNCTIONS. Look at the Apple iPhone. It isn't just a cool phone or a camera. It can provide a growing list of additional functions
  • These new functions need to create value. Don't be fooled by applications that are just "Cute", with no real value that you can point to. How do they save- time and money?
  • Perhaps the easiest route to making products better is to make them "smarter". Add low cost sensors and electronics in order to add value.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Willem Kolff, MD Lives On!

Dr. Willem Kolff, inventor of dialysis and heart machines died at 97. Read his obituary. I had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Kolff several times at meetings of the American Society of Artificial Organs, in the 1970's.
He knew that making progress requires taking risks, even with a person's life. But the results of his risk taking, vision and hard work have saved the lives of many thousands of patients, who rely on connection to a modern dialysis machine to keep them alive.
  • He did not accept that failure of an organ meant certain death. Insisted that there must be a solution.
  • Used readily available materials and quick tests to prove his concepts
  • Improved results through iteration and collaboration with others.
  • He was always open to new ideas and to listening to young engineers (like me).
Dr. Kolff's life and accomplishments live as an inspiration to future innovators. I teach a freshman design studio at RPI. Three years ago, Oliver Williams and his 3 teammates, were working to design a device to filter water and make it safe to drink. They did research and found 10 different methods. One was "reverse osmosis". They read that an animal intestine could be used as the membrane. Just like Dr. Kolff, Oliver built a working model, using sausage casing from the local butcher, a hand pump, some plastic tubing and 2 plastic 1 gallon jugs. He put apple cider in one jug, pumped and got clear water out into the second jug. Dr. Kolff LIVES.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

IDEO Teaches Important Skills for Innovation

Dave Blakely, one of the leaders at design firm IDEO, has very important things to say-Watch his video.

I have met Dave a number of times and I always learn something important from him.
Note what he says about:
  • Social responsibility
  • "T-Shaped" skills and Human Centered Approach.
  • Empathy as key to success
  • Need to understand and consider business- cost/ pricing, strategies and tactics
  • Constraints- are important to innovation
  • Suspend judgment in early stages of ideation and "Encourage wild ideas"
  • Prototyping, low fidelity- "Right, Rapid and Rough"
  • Keep learning forever
  • Learn from your failures.
  • Engineering education leading to other opportunities.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Changing Obsolete Business Models Can Lead to Disruptive Technologies

Excellent article by Janet Rae-Dupree in the New York Times January 31, 2009. Health care today has many problems-
  • Millions of Americans without insurance means reduced access to care, loss of life, lack of efforts aimed at prevention and maintaining good health.
  • Rapidly increasing cost of providing health care means that other areas of the economy must suffer

The author urges us to examine business models as an entry point in our efforts to make meaningful changes, "Disruptive Innovations", that can improve lives of many and save money as well. She also writes about the need to consider the entire SYSTEM, in considering how to create meaningful change- Important advice for achieving innovation.