Innovation starts in the field

Thailand_transportThis series of photos arrived in my inbox via a friend of a friend.  They were taken somewhere in Thailand.

They show us how important it is to start the innovation process by going out into the field.  If we sit at our desks, or only seek inspiration in situations, people, and aspects of the world familiar to us, we miss out.  We miss out on witnessing the challenges that real people encounter in the course of their daily lives.

Such as trying to transport a toddler when all you have is a motorcycle and sidecar.

It’s easy to be judgmental when viewing this photo.  I know I was — "How could he do this to that kid?", I thought.  But design thinking is about empathy.  Put yourself in his place and imagine how his morning is going.  What did he eat?  Where is he going?  How is he feeling?  Does he do this each morning?  Is this a temporary arrangement?  Is it really as unsafe as it looks?  Is money a limiting factor?  If so, how?  Did he think this arrangement up or does someone else do it, too?  Is there a market for something better?

Judgment is the opposite of compassion, and by deferring judgment, one starts the process of innovation.

3 thoughts on “Innovation starts in the field

  1. I tell students to listen for that judging reaction; not to suspend or supress judgement, but to learn how to feel yourself judging, and to realize that is a data point right there – if you are judging it’s because you are noticing something other than what you expect and that’s an opportunity to look deeper and ask why.

  2. great post…one thought: the opposite of compassion is indifference or apathy, but doesn’t seem to be judgement :-)…perhaps a small but important nuance.

  3. Paul,
    I disagree with your assertion that indifference, not judgement, is the opposite of compassion. Why?
    For this small but important nuance: compassion and judgement are both active ways of being. Indifference and apathy are about inaction. As Steve noted above, judging takes energy, and what’s important to innovation is pointing that energy toward a constructive end.

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