Since the last update, the class has continued to read my book, done the “good-bad” exercises, listened to some excellent visiting lecturers, and begun to work on their final presentations. The first four groups, who focused on human fit, delivered their presentations a couple of days ago, and did outstanding jobs. The first group talked about a company that produces products for people suffering from arthritis (osteo, not rheumatoid). Arthritis is inevitable if one lives long enough, since it is simply due to the wearing out of cartilage. I am presently two inches shorter than I once was. When this was brought to my attention, I complained to my physical therapist daughter in law. She happily told me that if I lived a really, really long time, I could be six inches shorter than I once was, since six inches of me were cartilage, and it would all wear out. Nice kid! Of course, the products of this company (who advertises ther comfort of their products for everybody, not just their target customer group), are easier to use for everyone, and therefore the company is doing well.
The second company to be studied was a very successful maker of slot machines, and this group came up with the to me interesting conclusion that the human fit of this product was too good, since people became addicted to losing time and money to it. They illustrated this with a chilling video of a woman who was a slot-machine addict. The third group studied Wii, as a breakthrough in play stations, and in fact in its effect on computer game designs. Like the first two groups, they involved student volunteers in their presentations, and I was impressed at the Wii skills of the students who demonstrated. The fourth group talked about the makers of the Pill, a miniature speaker for digital devices that is enjoying great success, not only because of its small size and therefore compatibility with people seeking a portable speaker, but also because it was “cool”, which resulted in a fine discussion about the overlap between physical fit and emotional response.
The guest speakers provided an interesting contrast. The first was Nancy Gioia, who is the director of electrification for Ford Motor Company. She gave a superb summary of Ford’s plans for incorporating hybrid power, plug in hybrid power, and full battery power into their fleet. It was impressive not only for its completeness, but for the extent to which Ford has incorporated electrification into their product plans. She stressed not only the benefits of this, but also the necessity that it be compatible with the desired growth and profitability of the country. A bit of information on her is here. The next, Adam Grosser, who has had an extremely successful career beginning with Apple and now with a venture capital firm specializing in improving electricity distribution, began by pointing out that true innovation requires time and involves experimentation and failure, and may not be achieved if the sole intention of a company is to maximize income in the short term. However, after pointing out the many areas of potential improvement in the electrical power business, he ended up captivating the class with venture capital stories. But he emphasized at the end, that venture capital is a business seeking high returns as fast as possible. A bit of information on Adam is here and a longer U-Tube lecture at U.C. Berkeley is here. The final speaker of the period was David Klaus, the Director of Engineering at Proximity, a company in Myanmar producing irrigating equipment at very low costs ($15 U.S. for a foot powered pump). Proximity’s goal is to bring affordable life-changing products to people with very low income ($1 to $2 a day). They obviously seek enough income to not only stay in business but grow so that they can reach more people. An interesting short video on Proximity featuring David is here.
All three speakers were outstanding, and all in a sense promoting products that will improve the environment, but one as an executive in an established and very large U.S. automobile company, one as a venture capitalist backing entrepreneurs focusing on electrical power distribution, and one as the engineering director of an extremely idealistic company serving extremely low-income people.
The class is a bit behind on submitting its final good product bad product summaries, so I will include them in the next and final update.