Work-around

Innovation. At PlusD2 it’s a word we pride ourselves on.

It goes into our work with great care and expertise in the hopes of providing you with an end result that is just that…innovative.

We’ll be sharing over a series of eight articles PlusD2’s theory and process of innovation as it relates to the product development and industrial design world as told by PlusD2 Principal Stephen Melamed.

If you missed the first two articles you can read them HERE.

Part three – Work-around

At some point in our personal lives or in our professional careers we’ve been confronted by a bothersome situation that created frustration while engaged with a product, device, or environment in which the experience was not as effective (or satisfying) as it was originally intended. This situation could be one as ordinary as using (the notorious) duct tape to reinforce a connection when the mechanical fasteners have begun to fail.

What might be considered a work-around?

It essentially means that an individual has developed a method for overcoming a particular problem or limitation (with a product, environment, interaction or system). I can say with confidence that everyone at some point in his or her life has experienced a personal need to create a work-around for a given situation. Most of us may have this experience daily.

When conducting human-centered research (HCR) professionally to improve upon a given situation and the development team comes upon a user implemented work-around, it’s like discovering the ‘Golden Ticket.’ Seeing first-hand how a user has created a unique work-around to resolve (even if temporary) a difficult situation is a real gem and may become a basis for innovation. In the field, a work-around can represent the ‘low hanging fruit’ for moving forward to innovate a product or experience. The humorous irony I’ve found after working decades in the field, is that most likely, the creator of that particular work-around doesn’t recognize their own solution as being extraordinary or particularly empathetic, because they were simply trying to make the task easier for themselves and/or reduce or eliminate the frustration involved with that task. It was more about “solving a problem,” rather than creating something groundbreaking.

I have personally observed a spectrum of work-arounds, everything from a surgeon in the operating theatre using the patient’s toes to assist with cord management, to the simplicity of using a safety pin to hold an article of clothing together when a button has fallen off. It’s the role of the professional to be vigilant and a keen observer of the surroundings in order to recognize and take note of these everyday work-arounds in order to turn these varied observations into actionable activities.

If I had to attempt to categorize this type of finding (keep in mind I’m proposing this for sake of comparison), I would tend to qualify this as a Level 1 Innovation. I would then propose that Level 2 might incorporate multiple points of discovery, including several observed work-arounds, and combining them all together to create an entirely new perspective using multiple data points that converge to create something new. Lastly, I would then propose that a Level 3 innovation would be of the type in which there is true discovery, real invention of something that did not previously exist in any form, materially or conceptually. This approach layers nicely over the current best practice of Three Horizons for Growth promoted by McKinsey.

PlusD2 is an Innovative Product Development Company based out of Chicago and Columbus. Our motto – The Art of Creation and the Science of Imagination.

If you’d like to speak to us about a product development project we’d love to hear from you. Email our team at info@PlusD2.com.

What is your take on both innovation and insight within the design industry?

Do you have any work-arounds that you use on a regular basis? Leave your comments below.