A folding plug won the Brit Insurance Design Awards in the UK this week.
As gadgets get smaller, Britain has the largest plug in the world. A problem, brought to life in this video:
The traditional British plug was invented in 1946. Why did it take 64 years to invent a better one? More importantly, why didn’t any of the rest of us have that idea?
Listen to what nobody says
I think the reason is that it’s so hard to find unvoiced customer needs. No British customer has ever said to a product designer “I’d like a more portable electric plug.” Not even to the inventor. Instead the designer, Min Kyu-Choi, had an experience; he scratched his new laptop on its plug.
Their are so many ways to trigger the inductive leaps that create innovative new products. But for me, the best one is to have direct experiences. The easy part of that is that we all of us have experiences continuously. When my alarm goes off, that’s a customer experience. When I get on the train, it’s a customer experience. Buying my morning coffee – an experience. They all come bundled up with satisfaction and frustration.
The hard part is noticing the response rather than accepting the “how things are-ness” of it. One of the best ways is to keep a record of what happens – mark up every experience on a timeline and plot your emotional response.
Not taking problems for granted is the first step towards great product design.