Thursday, 14 February 2013

Fire drills and innovation: a story involving a corky kinetic mouse

We've just had a quick fire evacuation here at Spike Island. Don't panic, I'm fine, and it turned out to be a false alarm thankfully, but it got me thinking about how innovation happens.

Whilst outside at our muster point I got chatting to a couple of fellow Spike Design tenants*. I kept them entertained with a riveting story about how my wireless mouse had space for 2 batteries but miraculously worked on just 1. Not surprisingly, we quickly moved on to the idea of whether the mouse would work with no batteries, and from there the idea of a kinetic powered mouse was born!
A quick Google search revealed (unsurprisingly) that the concept had already been developed by a designer (the Corky mouse) but that's not the point. It was a perfect reminder that innovation almost exclusively happens away from your desk!

The 5 minute conversation was everything that a normal work meeting isn't:

  • It was hastily convened...
  • with a disparate group of individuals...
  • standing up...
  • outside...
  • and there was certainly no agenda!

So if you've got a problem to solve, or an opportunity to grasp how about replicating the fire drill?

  • get up
  • walk away from your desk
  • grab a person or two (the more disparate the group the better)
  • find a nice space
  • remain standing, do not sit down
  • shoot the breeze for 5 minutes
  • see what comes up!
You might be surprised what you come up with.  It's got to be better than another 5 minutes of internet research!

Innovation is for established businesses as much as inventing new breakthrough computer pointing devices. There's a whole heap of innovation material out there but I always recommend the Gamestorming approach by David Gray as a starting point.  Get in touch if you'd like to talk more about innovation.


* Thanks to kinetic mouse innovators - Ali of Yoke and Ollie of Hot Head Films

P.S I do not recommend deliberately setting the fire alarm off in your office. Unless there's a fire of course.

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