Becoming Rich by Designing for the Poor

(This essay was first published on Egology – The Ideafarms Blog on December 12, 2013)

Last year, Amit Gulati, who runs Incubis Consultants, invited me to participate in an interactive session to think through design ideas for a low-cost washing machine. The workshop brought out some very interesting and fascinating ways of seeing’ that completely overturned the engineering / tech / product way of approaching design problems. Did we need to redesign the washing machine (Product) under stricter constraints [this is the way most people think – start with an existing product, strip it of features, use cheaper materials and processes, reduce quality and make it low-cost], or did we need to go up a level and reframe the problem itself.

Orbits of Influence

Image Courtesy: Incubis Consultants, 2013.

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In the old days — as recently as the dying years of the last century — technology was trying to keep up with our needs. But instead of playing catch up, its pace overtook our needs. In the end, technology, especially those products that were powered by the silicon chip, won the race. Today we have more technology than we need and yet, rather than using what already exists to solve societal problems, we still go after creating more and more technology for the narrowest part of the pyramid – the top. Continue reading “Becoming Rich by Designing for the Poor”

Social Apps and the Mobile Frontier

There’s a huge shift in the way India’s budding entrepreneurs are looking at the business of tomorrow. The standard business-plan-must-come-first refrain is fading, at least in the minds of youngsters that are looking more and more to first creating value than simply to make money. And apps seem to be driving their models — mobile apps.

So here’s my equation …

VALUE = Mobile + Social

via Social Apps and the Mobile Frontier.

Farewell Web 2.0?

The sheen of Web 2.0 is fading. People have laid their claim on the next ‘version’ – 3.0. See how our thinking is so linear. Why are we forcing ourselves to believe, and in retrospect, that there was something called Web 1.0! Isn’t that how versioning happens?

I’d rather have called it Web-as-a-Platform (WaaP) because that’s really what it is.

My reasoning is simply that by ‘componentising’ the Web we have created –

  1. a way for individuals and groups to ‘talk’ to the world and to each other in ‘open spaces’;
  2. collaborative software to capture, exchange and share collective ideas and ideologies;
  3. a philosophy where people can improve upon – or add value – to other people’s efforts; and
  4. less dependence on technology ‘consultants’.

What I have yet not been able to see is the ‘meta’ part of the phenomenon. Call it Web-as-a-Vehicle (WaaV) – likened to a mass transportation system and not a car. I might call it Meta-more-for-less (sounds like metamorphosis). We need a hard look quickly at how to design the interfaces (if they do exist) between the existing technology components or we run the risk of building yet another set of ‘silos’ made up of existing Web 2.0 pieces. Which in simple terms means bridging the “gap in capability” between the ‘individual’ creating the content and the techie who built the component.

Google’s Chief economist, Hal Varian, says executives in wired organisations need a sharper understanding of how technology empowers innovation, here.

… the kinds of innovations I think will arise on top of that will be innovations in how work is done. And that’s going to be one of the most exciting aspects, in my opinion.

That’s the key here. How work is done must supersede how things work.

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Catalytic Innovation for cataclysmic social transformation

Two new words have entered the ever-growing repository of adjectives that are prefixed to INNOVATION – “reverse” and “catalytic”.

I have a problem with the word “Reverse” for its connotation; first we were called an underdeveloped nation, later to be euphemistically toned down to ‘developing’. (Reverse has to have originated in the West’s lexicon to mean backward – pun intended).  

Google Search for Reverse Innovation

Catalytic Innovation however, for me, has some very insightful and valuable realities attached to it. Continue reading “Catalytic Innovation for cataclysmic social transformation”

Cynicism 101 – Does India need Facebook?

I know nothing about sex because I was always married. – Zsa Zsa Gabor

With due respect – and with a slight twist while keeping the flavour: 

We know everything about social networking because we were never social.

I’d like to dedicate my quote to all social networking initiatives, sites, professionals and users. (And by the way, I too have memberships of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn).

First, a bunch of disclaimers:
1. If it creates controversy, great. It is meant to. If it provokes your intelligence and emotions; and punctures your ego, my job is done. It is intended to.
2. I have no intention here to suggest ‘mine-is-better-than-yours’ OR that Indian culture is any better than others.
3. This is not a patriotic or a political rambling. So please read between the lines. (If you read only with your eyes, white space is all you’ll see).
4. This post is an ‘equal opportunity, equal responsibility’ piece. Me included.

My thesis is simple. India does NOT need Facebook.   Continue reading “Cynicism 101 – Does India need Facebook?”