Because the ballpoint pen inspired roll-on deodorant…

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”- Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr.

To explain what we’ve done, I must first explain why we did it.

The late Steve Jobs famously talked about experience and the risks of designing without knowledge built from diverse experiences; he said we “…end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem.”

There are countless business cases demonstrating that everyone – you and me – can benefit by sourcing inspiration from outside industry mindset. For example, did you know that roll-on deodorant was inspired by the ballpoint pen? Or that the microwave oven started life as a radio-wave booster that allowed the U.S. government to more clearly hear enemy communications? One scientist walked too close with a chocolate bar in his pocket and it melted … light bulb!

If all creative resources were restricted to the one’s industry, we would be writing with quills and eating cold left-overs…

Daedalus gets it. For 35 years, we’ve drawn from our experiences in one industry to improve products in another. For example, our team drew inspiration from the gaming industry to design the interface of a scanning electron microscope for laboratories. When Troemner needed a new case for their precision weight set, we looked to the watch industry for inspiration, leaving the archaic wood and felt behind for a sleek design that echoed the value of the product. We’ve sourced inspiration from car roof racks, and then applied the buckle technology to safety harnesses for more efficient strap adjustments (FYI – the new buckle design is now patented and the safety harness sold its first year’s sales forecast within five weeks).

When our clients struggle to innovate like this within their own culture, we facilitate Knowledge Driven Innovation™ or KDI sessions for clients, training them to generate their own innovative solutions to real problems. As President Matt Beale once said, “We teach companies how to fish instead of merely showing off the fish we’ve caught.”

Now that you know the ‘why’, here’s what we did:

We decided to add a new experience to our repertoire, not only to think outside the box but leave the box entirely. We took a morning to wander en masse to the Carnegie Museum of Art. There, we paired off in teams of diverse disciplines (Marketing with Engineering, Design with HR, Research with Sales, etc.), to help each other connect with and interpret the art from our differing perspectives.

CMA field trip-crop

What an eye-opener!

We found the modern art exhibits as diverse as our teams. From thought-provoking pieces on juxtaposition or politics, to bras made out of cigarette butts, we studied it all. We brought back our insights and shared them with the rest of the team over lunch. Some pieces touched or tickled us, while others left us stumped or put-off. One take-away rang true to our whole team: the exhibits created a different experience for each of us. And different can be good.

By exploring these new experiences and how they differ between us, we create an atmosphere at Daedalus that generates more thoughtful solutions to real problems – outside industry mindset. Design itself is a relatively fluid industry, required to be flexible and creative, but we are equally charged with the responsibility to avoid myopic thinking. It is integral to our process and teaming model at Daedalus, equipped with a full-service, collaborative interdisciplinary team in-house.

We push ourselves to think anew and act anew, not merely to be creative (because not all ‘creative’ ideas are actionable), but to develop better solutions to real problems in your own backyard.

Stephanie McHenry