Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Christmas lights and hand sanitizer - really understanding the problem helps find innovative solutions

Two fascinating videos that illustrate how understanding a problem from a user's perspective can lead to really innovative solutions...

The first addresses the serious problem of hospital-acquired infection. Whilst personal sanitisers are commonplace, the designers of Swipesense realised that measuring their usage was key to making sure they are used properly, ie modifying behaviour. What does a 5 year old kid do when their hands get dirty? They wipe them on their shirt. The device mimics this action and sends a signal to a sensor which collects data. The combination of an intuitive action and knowing that usage is being monitored seems to be enough to have a dramatic improvement in sanitation and perhaps save lives.

The second is a video of an unusual approach to persuading Columbian FARC guerrillas to come out of the jungle and go home to their families. If you ignore the overly-dramatic soundtrack, the results of simply stringing Christmas lights from trees to send a message seem impressive.

What's this to do with organisational learning, collaborative working or applying lessons? As I've often suggested, if we do not appeal to innate behaviour then edicts, policy or technology are going to be ineffective. Here are a couple of examples of 'Design Thinking' that really try to understand the problem (empathy) and come up with novel solutions (ideation).

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