Design and Innovation

Which of these two things is better designed?

The Robert Graves Tea Kettle by Alessi?

Or the little plastic thing that goes in the pizza box to keep the cheese from sticking to the box?

And which of the two is more innovative?

Does the Graves tea kettle heat water more effectively than other tea kettles on the market? For that matter, is the one manufactured by Alessi any better than the nearly identical one, also designed by Graves, sold at Target for about half the price?

I’m not so convinced that the answer to either of those questions is yes.

How about the pizza tripod? It does its job superbly. Is there anything better at what it does? Not really. Prior to the pizza tripod, we didn’t really have anything other than cheese stuck to our cardboard. It is a fantastic piece of design, and a great innovation.

We often mistake design for making things look pretty, or cool. Great design can be aesthetically pleasing, like the Graves tea kettles, but it doesn’t have to be. The pizza tripods aren’t the kind of thing that you can display in your house as art, but they sure get the job done. And they were completely new to the world when they showed up.

Great design isn’t just making stuff look great. Innovations aren’t just flashy technical gadgets. Great innovation and design should make our lives better. There are plenty of ways to do that, and many of them are as simple as keeping our pizzas intact.

My challenge to you today is to go out and think of a way to make things better. Your idea doesn’t have to be a thing. It can be a new way of doing things – a better way. But think of something, and do it. That’s innovation.

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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