No One Really Cares About Your Great Idea

Design Leadership
Apr 08, 2014

I stumbled over a great Q&A over at Quora. Someone asked about what to do with their great ideas and inventions so that they won’t get cheated. I’ve decided to reproduce the question here and the answer by Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, as I often get asked the same question but in many different ways.

The question:

If I invent something which has a chance of earning billions if brought to market, what should I do to prevent others from cheating me out of what I deserve?
History is full of people who killed themselves after inventing something legen-wait for it-dary because they found out they earned much much less for it than what they actually deserved. Suppose I invent something great, what should be my plan of action to earn as much as I can and gain proper recognition for my invention.

Jimmy’s (almost legendary) answer:

Before I answer your question directly (and I promise I will) let me just offer the opinion that young entrepreneurs often think this is a real problem which faces them, when in fact the opposite problem is much much much more likely to be the case: far from other people seeing your thing as “legen-wait for it-dary” as you put it :-), no one will care about you or your idea at all.

Notice that this is more true the more paranoid you are about it. Just a few days ago I got a 3 page pitch letter from someone who simply described to me in stereotypical buzzwords how I could add synergistic brand value to their revolutionary value-add concept that would blah blah blah – 3 pages with absolutely no information whatsoever about what the hell the person wants to do.

I remember when I first had the idea for a freely licensed encyclopedia written by volunteers. I remember a feeling of urgency and panic because the idea seemed so obvious that I thought lots of people would be competing with me, so I rushed out and hired Larry Sanger to work for me as editor in chief of the project, and we launched Nupedia as quickly as possible. Nearly two years later, with the project generally unsuccessful at that point, no one else was competing with us at all. My panic about someone rushing to compete with me was not justified.

Now, to answer your question directly because, despite my view that in general this isn’t really the problem that you face, sometimes it is, and it’s worth a few words about that.

First, if your idea is the sort of thing that could be reasonably patented, then you can work to file a patent. I’m not a big believer in this for most things (particularly not software or dot-com ideas, where I find patents to be useless for protecting startups and pernicious for the industry as a whole), but if your legendary concept is a genuine scientific/engineering invention, then by all means, get a patent.

Second, and I’m stealing this line from Facebook (probably Mark Zuckerberg said it first, I don’t know): Move fast and break things. This is particularly important if there are “network externalities” in your idea, or any other kind of genuine “first mover advantage”. (Though notice: both those concepts are much much much overused.)

Just get moving and don’t look back.

Ok, so that is my direct answer, but now I want to go back and remind you of my first answer. THIS IS PROBABLY NOT THE PROBLEM THAT YOU REALLY HAVE. Far far more entrepreneurs have lost out on great opportunities because they were so paranoid about someone stealing their idea that they were unable to raise capital, unable to get started, unable to actually DO anything.

I would also like to add that ideas are cheap, it’s the execution that counts. The world is filled with great ideas, many of which are similar. It’s what you do with it that really matters. So go DO something today, no matter how small!

Via: Quora

Can we fall in love with our computers?


We don’t talk a lot about movies at Design Sojourn. Maybe we should?

Renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil, also a Googler working on machine learning and voice processing, reviews the latest Spike Jonze movie Her. Predictably the movie is about a man who falls in love with his operating system, or perhaps the artificial intelligence (AI) of his computer? Anyways the movie explores the notion of love and its manifestations.

While I’ve not seen the movie, I did feel troubled after watching the trailer. Though Charlize Theron, the voice of the AI Samantha, did help ease the discomfort. How about you?

Anyways Rays indicates that such learning and interactive “human level” AIs should come in about 2029, in about 15 years. A time of which with many of us would still be around. This would be made more possible with advances in tactile virtual reality systems that allow people to touch, shake hands or even kiss remotely.

I won’t go into too much more detail to spare you the spoilers, but Ray’s vision of the future is worth sharing:

In my view, biological humans will not be outpaced by the AIs because they (we) will enhance themselves (ourselves) with AI. It will not be us versus the machines (whether the machines are enemies or lovers), but rather, we will enhance our own capacity by merging with our intelligent creations. We are doing this already. Even though most of our computers — although not all — are not yet physically inside us, I consider that to be an arbitrary distinction.


Via: Ray Kurzweil and Verge.

Nimble Design Firms should Do Good

Design Leadership
Feb 06, 2014

So it seems that Frog’s Chief Creative Officer, Mark Rolston, has left to start Argo a “new type” of design firm that is a hybrid mix of design agency, incubator and product development group.

With argo, Rolston is looking to create a nimble design group that can develop independent products in house, as well as work on more traditional design projects with customers, he told me in an interview. When it comes to launching products, argo could help raise funds to get those products to market. The group is already working on a cloud-based piece of software, and another product that’s further down the road that will be a physical product, Rolston said.

Indeed a great idea for a design firm, but this is nothing new. Many design firms, both big and small, are already doing this. I would consider this is a big name validation of a business concept that works.

With Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter moving the economic power from the corporations and/or VCs to the customer, the only missing link is knowledge. The knowledge of how to create stuff. So it’s only natural that the people WITH the knowledge jump on the bandwagon.

However I also am seeing a great opportunity for designers to be finally empowered with the financial means to create both meaningful and sustainable solutions that people want, rather than having to accepting briefs from organisations that are too financially driven.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Victor Papanek’s Design For The Real World to ponder about:

There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them. And possibly only one profession is phonier. Advertising design, in persuading people to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, in order to impress others who don’t care, is probably the phoniest field in existence today. Industrial design, by concocting the tawdry idiocies hawked by advertisers, comes a close second. Never before in history have grown men sat down and seriously designed electric hairbrushes, rhinestone-covered file boxes, and mink carpeting for bathrooms, and then drawn up elaborate plans to make and sell these gadgets to millions of people. Before (in the ‘good old days’), if a person liked killing people, he had to become a general, purchase a coal-mine, or else study nuclear physics. Today, industrial design has put murder on a mass-production basis. By designing criminally unsafe automobiles that kill or maim nearly one million people around the world each year, by creating whole new species of permanent garbage to clutter up the landscape, and by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breathe, designers have become a dangerous breed. And the skills needed in these activities are taught carefully to young people.

In an age of mass production when everything must be planned and designed, design has become the most powerful tool with which man shapes his tools and environments (and, by extension, society and himself). This demands high social and moral responsibility from the designer. It also demands greater understanding of the people by those who practise design and more insight into the design process by the public.

Now go be awesome!

Via: Gigaom

Beyond Design : Explorations Towards a New Practice of Design


I thought you might like to know that I’ve been invited by my friends at the Shih Chien University Industrial Design Department to conduct a workshop to explore the future of the Design Practice and the Practice of Design.

Participants will understand and explore the changing roles of design and designers as a result of evolving industry trends and consumer needs. Central to our workshop discussions will be the function of Design Leadership and Design Research. I also think it will also be an interesting take on the application and evolution of Design Thinking from a Designers point of view. Have designers found a comfort zone with Design Thinking? Can designers better facilitate meaningful conversations? I’m really looking forward to this discussion!

Beyond Design is a 5-day workshop that will run in 2 phases. Phase 1 is from the 14 to 15 November 2013, and Phase 2 will run on the 8 to 10th of January 2014. Unfortunately it is by invite only, but I’ll see if the findings can be published soon.

What is the Value of Design?

Design Leadership
Sep 19, 2013

The British Design Council has found that every £1 spent on design gives you over £20 in increased revenue, £4 increased profit and £5 in increased exports. A very nice and handy statistic to be liberally used in your next discussion with a business leader or decision maker.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

The Design Council has been working with the Arts & Humanities Research Council to measure the value that design thinking brings to small businesses.

What we found is that design thinking does so much more than just make products look nicer or work better, it improves the way a business operates.

Our research found that not only can design thinking increase the range of products a business develops, but it can also lead to more inspiring workplaces, happier staff, better service and, as a result, greater customer satisfaction.

For more details and the research evidence backing this video, visit the British Design Council’s mini site.

The Key to Creating a Great Killer Product

“The key for having a great killer product is to have incredible hardware, incredible software, and incredible services. And combine them in such away that you can tell what’s what anymore. It becomes an elegant consumer experience. The real magic occurs in the intersection of those things.” – Tim Cook at D11 (around the 30 minute mark)

Industrial Designers have been saying this for years. We need to be focusing on creating great customer experience ecosystems (products, software, services, and systems etc.) not just focusing on one aspect in isolation. Such a declaration does not mean that they have not done so before, instead it means they really going to focus on this and “amp” it up.

Silent Design is Design without Designers

Design Leadership
Apr 13, 2013


I so love this term.

Apparently it was created by Peter Gorb and Angela Dumas for a London Business School paper:

“A great deal of design activity goes on in organizations which is not called design. It is carried out by individuals who are not called designers and who would not consider themselves to be designers. We have called this ‘silent design’.”

When companies and organizations become design centric, Silent Design automatically happens. The activity of design becomes part of the corporate culture and done by everyone. The issue, as implied by the cartoon, is that Designers are afraid to let go. I for one have no problem with this.

However, design centric corporate cultures do make a Designer’s job a whole lot easier and harder at the same time. It becomes easier because everyone has become people-centered, and harder because the role of design has blurred.

I would not worry though as this is pretty normal in multi-disciplinary teams, and when design is applied as a holistic activity. As long as there is mutual respect between roles and competences, Designers will have a very important role to play in organizations for many years to come.

Via: Marketoonist

Why Nobody can Copy Apple

Design Leadership
Apr 12, 2013

Well…they could if they did this:

I assert there’s something else that makes Apple is unique amongst its (asymmetric) competitors (e.g. Google, MS, Samsung):

It only focuses on one customer: The Consumer.

In my experience, the behaviors and culture of an organization (large or small) that focuses on the Consumer as a customer is diametrically incompatible with the behaviors and culture of an organization that focuses on Business as a customer.

Focusing on the customer/consumer resolves all the horrid debates people from different departments have, especially when the people around the table has to meet their own individual KPIs, quarterly results, or agendas etc. If not properly managed, these debates often result in compromises in strategy and watered down solutions.

Focusing on the consumer, focuses problem-solving efforts around one basic question: what would our consumer want? Any other issue after this becomes less important.

Quote Via: cek.log

Anthropology of Television

The following guest post is written by Maurice McGinley, a friend and former colleague at Philips Design. While some of the points might be a little outdated, this post showcases a methodology of Design Research and Design Led Innovation that is practiced in companies who aspire to be design leaders in their industry. I hope you enjoy the treat and also the process! Also don’t forget to click on the images for a larger view.


Television’s Secret Sauce

AppleTV, Google TV, Netflix, Ikea Uppleva… So why isn’t TV disrupted already? Where is TV going?

Longer term trends in human behavior can show us where TV is headed. Technology shapes Culture but Culture determines which technologies thrive; and culture changes more slowly than technology. An earlier post looked at television’s job to be done. This post looks at the Anthropology of Television.

The history of television use can be described in terms of four dimensions. These dimensions define the value space of television and we predict they will continue to drive its future evolution:

- Availability of Content,
- Convenience of Control,
- Sensorial Immersion, and
- Social Engagement.


…anything, anytime


The availability of content in terms of:
- Extent (What)
- Location (Where)
- Time (When)
- Cost (How Much)

- Limitless choice
- Always accessible
- Immediate gratification
- All media
- Low cost

- Rental / Subscription access
- Time and place shifting
- Granularity of content
- Move to online digital media storage
- Apps provide new narrow yet deep access to specialized content.
- User generated content gets integrated with commercial content.


…as easy as breathing


- The ease of getting the right content for any situation.

- A satisfying sense of control
- No thought needed
- Navigation by recognition (not planned intention or forethought)
- Automatic, flexible content management

- Curated choices and recommendations.
- Metadata enables content discovery
- Control from 2nd Screen.
- Integrated ecosystems of products


… sweeps me away


- The extent, degree, and quality of sensory stimulation

- Sensual escapism
- Enjoyment and beauty
- Authentic and credible content rendering
- Fluid and natural control

- Increasing visual and motion quality rendering.
- More senses, more fully stimulated
- Psychology-based compression and reproduction technologies
- Integration of navigation controls with content
- Apps providing synchronised extensions to content on screen.


…how I express myself; how I find myself


- The social and cultural aspects of our relationship to media; shared viewing enhances the experience.

- Social currency – know what my peers are talking about.
- Discover content “gems” that suit me personally.
- Expression of my identity through my choices
- Pleasure and reassurance of being part of a group

- Strong links to pop culture and fashion
- Social curation
- Check-ins
- Playlist sharing
- Real-time sharing
- Tagging
- Live!

Hit this link for a A3 High Resolution .pdf suitable for printing.

Maurice McGinley works at AVG as a User Experience Architect. You can follow him on Google+, on Linkedin or on his awesome UX/UI research blog: “How I got my Kink“. This post has been reproduced with permission. Credit for the project goes to Philips Design.

Design is the Spirit of Things

Design Leadership
Apr 02, 2013

Image by Start-Up@Singapore.

A few weekends ago, I gave seminar on Design Thinking to a number of entrepreneurs at the Start-up@Singapore competition. It was to help them acquire the skills as well as prepare their Start-up pitches for the next round of funding.

During the Q&A session after the seminar, one of the participants asked: “so Design Thinking basically creates the “Spirit” behind our products and services?”

Spot on.

What a great analogy. I was concerned leading up to the seminar of what I could share in an hour that would not confuse them. This was because they would be familiar with Start-Up staples like Lean Methodology, Kaizen, and Market research etc. Much of these methods focus on learning and extracting data from consumers and optimizing and/or improving their offerings. Very much like the core methodology of Design Thinking. They are two-sides of the same coin, so to speak.

So I focused on the Experience Design aspect of Design Thinking, and I guess some of what I shared stuck.

But what is this “Spirit”, and what does it mean? I know this is becoming a fluffy discussion, especially when Designers are now moving into the company boardroom and need to be more tangible. So let me summarize what this “Spirit” that design creates: Meaning.

Design creates the Spirit that gives meaning to all our products, services and processes.

Often when you optimize a product, service or process, it gets a lot quicker, works better, faster, cheaper etc. What happens is people just end up liking it rather than loving it. For example, I like taking a train to work because it gets me to my destination fast and cheap. It gets the job done. But I don’t love it.

Design’s divergent process and human centered activities allow you to create meaningful propositions and solutions that go beyond measurable function or specifications, and into the realm of love and loyalty. That is what this “Spirit” is.