Design for Innovation


17 February 2016 - TIM HAWK

Wow! This one is hard. No one likes to change. No one. Even if we say we do, we don’t really want to change. Human nature seeks consistency. Look around. We like our surroundings to be familiar, consistent and predictable. Erratic patterns drive people crazy. To suggest innovation in the workplace is fueled by process change is complete crazy talk.

In Ohio the one certain change is the weather. Columbus has an average high temperature of 84 F in July and 21 F in January. This is a sixty-three-degree swing (63 F). The only constant in this data is the anticipated change! Conversely, San Diego, California has an average high temperature of 74 F in July and an average high of 64 F in January. This differential is 10 degrees, or trending towards consistent and predictable. So, given the choice, most people prefer San Diego’s weather over that in Columbus. In fact, lists San Diego as one of the top three cities for weather in each season.

Yawn. So consistent.

Now, let’s ask this: What kind of innovators have we found in each area?

Famous inventors from Ohio include:

Wilbur and Orville Wright, first in airplane flight. Dayton, Ohio.
Charles Kettering, invented the electric cash register and the electric starter for cars. Dayton, Ohio.
Thomas Edison, invented the phonograph, the movie camera, and projector. Milan, Ohio.
Granville Woods, invented overhead electric train wires and the train telegraph service. Columbus, Ohio.
Charles Martin Hall patented an inexpensive method for the production of aluminum. Oberlin, Ohio.
James Spangler invented a portable electric vacuum cleaner. Springfield, Ohio.
William Meriam Burton invented thermal cracking for the processing of gasoline. Cleveland, Ohio.
Josephine Cochrane invented the dishwasher. Ashtabula, Ohio.

Famous inventors from California include:

Theodore Harold Maiman invented the first working optical laser. Los Angeles, California.
The Rocket Chemical Company invented WD-40. San Diego, California.

Can’t find many more on the internet. I’m searching (not entirely objectively, I’ll admit), but I can’t find a lot of inventors from the San Diego area. Why is this? Is it just so nice out there that they are always sunning?

One could suggest that Ohio’s proclivity for fostering innovation is rooted in the natural resources found here that directed industry, and one could be correct. I surmise that the innovative nature of Ohioans is rooted in their ability to manage change. Ohioans accept modulations in process. We thrive in it. When we can expect each day to be different outside, in nature, we certainly can expect each day to be different in the office or the laboratory or the shop.

Be like those historic Ohioans, people. Let design force change in your process and watch the innovation unfold.

“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
Steve Jobs, Apple