Orp Excitement

Almost a  year and a half ago I backed a little kickstarter project that was re-inventing bicycle lights and bells. It was named the Orp and labelled as the world’s first smart horn. I live in Amsterdam, and my only mode of transport is a bicycle with a beat up basket on the front and a chain guard held together with masking tape. Obviously what it needed was a smart horn. I signed up as a backer and waited.

Since then the guys at Orp have been spending a lot of time refining the design and the packaging, I’ve been getting regular updates, and in April they started shipping. I think you know where this is going.

MY ORP ARRIVED TODAY!

I choose orange as a nod to my adopted country, it seems to be easy to put on and take off the bike handlebars, it is rechargeable (via USB), the light is bright and has a flashing option. The design seems weather proof enough for the rigours of Dutch weather, but it’s the sound effects that won me over.

Here’s the on off switch;

 

 

And here’s the bike horn with the happy and scary noise effects;

 

That’s going to be a whole lot more noise than the usual mild Dutch bells, I’m very curious to see people’s reaction. If you want your own Orp Smart Horn, you can order it at Orpland.

Image: bike night via pixabay 

Dutch Design; Cycling Style

Two of the things I like about living in Amsterdam; cycling everywhere, and Dutch pragmatism. Both are combined in latest bike design from VANMOOF.

VANMOOF design for urban cyclists, so their bikes are sturdy, but light and stylish. It’s dark here at 4pm in winter so the lights are built in and there’s a dynamo integrated into the bike. Bike theft is the most common crime here, so there’s a built in lock – one that comes out of the frame. I’ve noticed their distinctive design around town but didn’t know what they were until recently.

The design is so good it’s won awards.

The interesting thing about this company is they’re trying to design new products with genuine co-creation, take a look at their facebook page – they are always asking for feedback at every step of the process. They’re heading for 7,000 likes, and the community is submitting photos and stories of their VANMOOF bikes from all around the world.

Not only have I “liked” their facebook page, I want one of their bikes!

(Disclaimer – no of course they didn’t pay me to write this).

Cutting Edge

“We want to be smart innovators – not cutting edge” said my colleague. I still not exactly sure what distinction he was trying to make, since avoiding cutting edge sounds like a need to avoid risk – but innovation requires that you take a risk.

But what does “cutting edge” come from? And what does it refer to?

Now days it means something new, so new that it might not be fully tested or fully know.It’s often used to apply to technology.

In terms of origin I only find information that it come from the idea of a knife’s blade – the cutting edge – leading the cut.

To take the expression to extremes someone has come up with the phrase “bleeding edge“, maybe that’s what my colleague meant.

Image apples via pixabay

Design 101; the User’s Perspective

In designing websites, buildings, business cards, kitchens, hospitals and pretty much everything else the user/visitor should be central in the decision making. In our current project to relaunch our corporate site we’ve named the visitor, and decision deadlocks are often broken by asking “What would Iris think?”

Paul Bennett from IDEO takes it further step, and discusses designers really going through the visitor experience.

He covers four broad themes in his talk.

1 A Binding Glimpse of the Bleeding Obvious

Sometimes the right idea is so staring you in the face that you miss it. In the case he gives showing hospital staff footage of the ceiling (as seen by a patient) gave the staff a better understanding of the patient’s experience than any amount of data or any fancy graphical representation would have done.

In our case seeing an analysis of the search terms actually used on our site told us that people visiting were looking for content that’s just not there, and (due to legal and organisational reasons) won’t ever be there. (We’ll solve this with an enterprise search engine, which can search across all company websites. We’re working on it, Shell’s already done it.)

2 Finding Yourself in The Margins

Notice the small things at the edge of the experience, these details make a difference. Look at how people subconsciously design their own experience.

This sort of thinking meant that his team noticed that nurses will often comfort a patient by holding their hand as they go through a diagnosis step – so a two-handed diagnosis-palm-pilot was not going to be a solution. They designed a less sexy device that can be used in one hand.

For us a random email set of a small but cool change. There is a glossary on our site, that covers technical financial terms, it’s good, but it’s probably not enough to help the consumer. A rewrite was already planned. And then I got an email, from someone who missed a term, suggested we add it. So our “Word of the Day” will include the possibility of suggesting a term,  suggesting a definition, and adding your email address so we can tell you when it’s added. It’s a tiny thing, and we’re not expecting a huge response, but it’s something on the margins that invites visitors to engage.

3 Having a Beginner’s Mind

Getting to new design solutions requires that you consciously start as if you know nothing; you need to unlearn.

His example is a project with IKEA, for children’s storage. It’s a cool solution from a kid’s perspective but probably not a solution from a parent’s perspective – and it’s not in the IKEA catalogue as far as I can tell.

Having a new person in our team has helped provide that fresh outside perspective.

4 Pick Battles Big Enough to Matter and Small Enough to Win

His example of this was a lightweight portable water pump, not very designer-y, but incredibly practical for the African communities it was designed for, and went on to get on to win design awards.

image design

Innovation and Strategy

I went to a seminar today given by C.K. Prahalad, author of “The New Age of Innovation“, discussing innovation and strategy. He’s an entertaining speaker, stimulating and teasing the audience.

Much of his speech focussed on the two big insights from his book, summarised as N=1 and R=G.

N=1
One consumer at a time
This encompasses the idea that successful, innovative businesses will customise the consumer experience to an individual level. He pointed to examples such as NikeID, iPod.
R=G
Resources are global
Few companies will have all the resources within the company to create these individual experiences so will rely on other companies and form partnerships

None of this felt new or startling to me, the book was published a year ago – but that’s not it. We’d discussed the same sort of concepts in a class I took at Nyenrode almost 10 years ago.

I found the question session more interesting; when asked about the current crisis his reaction was that we’re seeing a “fundamental reset of the finanical systems” adding that a year ago “no-one would have predicted you’d be able to buy a cup of coffee for the price of three GM shares”. He advised that the only certainty he could see is that we will be doing things differently “you can’t do more of the same to get out of this”.

As with any seminar we were anxious to know what was the takeaway – and the presenter obligingly asked him “what should we be doing tomorrow?”

C.K. Prahalad’s answer was “Don’t do anything tomorrow morning”

There’s answer I can use I thought, but he explained that to act without understand was doomed so time needs to be spent analysing, reflecting, thinking. And then when we do act we should “Think Big”, “Start Small” and “Scale Fast”.