There’s an ancient secret that fuels the spark behind disruptive product design. The Buddhists call it ‘beginner’s mind,’ the ability to see something as though you have never seen it before. No preconceptions, no judgments, no memories. Look at the world through brand new eyes and you will see it in a whole new way.
For example, look at a tape dispenser and pretend that you’ve never seen one. That’s what Derk Reilink must have done to come up with his new method for dispensing a roll of adhesive tape, one strip at a time. (OK, we all know it’s Scotch tape, but I don’t think we’re allowed to call it that.)
Reilink took a minimalist approach and created a donut-like object no bigger than a roll of tape. The ClickTape has all of the function of the traditional tape dispenser, but it takes up less space. It also invites everybody who stops by your desk to pick it up:
Cool. Where’d ya get this?
The difference between Reilink and so many other people who have good ideas is that he has follow-through. He had the idea, designed a prototype—using 3D printing—and launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a go-to-market strategy. (A far cry from most people who tell you they have a great idea, then tell you they can’t tell you what it is, then TELL you the idea anyway, and finally, tell you not to tell anyone so no one steals it.)
Another neat idea that transforms an age-old instrument is DrumLites. Dreamed up by two buddies in a college dorm, DrumLites were featured in the Super Bowl XLVIII half-time show.
Who could’ve imagined lighting up a drum from the inside?
Jeff Sevaldson and Joey Nesbitt. That’s who. And now they’re selling DrumLites so anyone can turn his or her drum set into a disco. Be sure to watch the video. All it does is light up drums, but it’s pretty mesmerizing. We’re starting to wonder if sitting around college dorms brainstorming blockbuster product designs is replacing the frat party.
The next best thing in product design — is there money in it?
New ideas are expensive to take from the brainstorming stage to market. Before investing too much time and too many dollars, it’s a good idea to test the market to see if someone else thinks your product design is as good as you think it is. And most people will be happy to offer you their opinions. There are a lot of people who want better products, but don’t want to fool around with having to design them. (That would be, like, almost everybody in the world.)
Take a look at this wish list, full of products and services that people would like to see somebody redesign. If you’re an inventor-type and you are having a dry spell, perhaps you can work with one of these gaps in the market. But then again, people are often quick to say what they want, and not quite-so-quick to shell out money for it. That may be a result of what the Buddhists call monkey mind, but that’s a topic for another day.
Sometimes, a new product design is so disruptive that nobody even knows they’re missing something until the product comes out. Take the ipod, for example. Or the Segway. Or a Nerf ball. Creators of these types of product designs are usually the kind of people who always see possibility in places where most people can’t see a thing.