Project Loon from Google X – Idea to Product

Design thinking requires a prototyping mindset. So how does that look like? This is a great example from Google’s effort to build a worldwide network of balloons to provide wifi everywhere. Crazy, yes but step by step with rigorous testing.

The Idea

Wild concepts must survive ­rigorous ­vetting. Here’s how one idea—­Wi-Fi delivery system Project Loon—­progressed.

Google X’s Rapid Evaluation team bats around lots of issues worth tackling. Project Loon actually started as an idea involving connections between mobile devices. But in June 2011, Rapid Eval head Rich DeVaul decided to shift focus toward increasing Internet access for rural or poor areas.
Lockheed is working on a high-altitude communication airship that can stay in one spot, but keeping such a craft stationary is extremely difficult. DeVaul had an insight: What if an airship floats away but there’s another one behind it? In other words: balloons.
DeVaul bought some $80 weather balloons online and assembled radio transmitters in a cardboard box that could be attached. Then he launched the contraption at the San Luis reservoir, an hour southeast of Google, and drove along under it in his Subaru.
X executives commissioned Loon as an official project in August 2011, hiring a team to build a small fleet of prototypes. Xer Mitch Heinrich began to work on a Loon antenna; his team built a small house in their shop to see how the antenna might attach to customers’ residences.
X brought in entrepreneur Mike Cassidy to manage the project’s rollout as an actual business. The first step was a pilot program in New Zealand, where Loon went live, temporarily, in June 2013. As X now weighs interest from global telecom providers, the team is considering which business models might work best.

The Testing and Scaling Up

In Creativity, Mistakes Aren’t Mistakes—They’re Clues

Marty Neumeier has a good way of talking about failure. If you are serious about innovation we understand the need for failure. I am trying different ways to help my clients understand failure and how to talk about it. This is one of the ways.

In the realm of creativity, mistakes aren’t mistakes. They’re clues. Each one reveals a part of the mystery you’re trying to solve.

The fact is, if you already knew how to proceed with a project, you wouldn’t need creativity. You could just follow the recipe, read the manual, or tick the boxes. Creativity is the discipline you use when you don’t know the answers, when you’re traveling to parts unknown. On this type of journey, missteps are actually steps. Every mistake brings you closer to the solution.

But here’s the catch: You have to make bold mistakes. Smart mistakes. New mistakes. Because if you only do what you’ve always done, you’ll only get what you’ve already got. You have to try, fail, and learn. Then try something new, fail a different way, learn more.

The Power Of Human Energy

From Vogue

The basis for all human relationships, and where we derive our greatest strength and power, trust is single-handedly the most powerful source of positive energy and once in place unlocks a freedom and peace to explore,” she said during a TED talk in Los Angeles. “Intuition is the wisdom formed by feeling and instinct – a gift of knowing without reasoning… Belief is ignited by hope and supported by facts and evidence – it builds alignment and creates confidence. Belief is what sets energy in motion and creates the success that breeds more success.”

The Burberry boss concluded by quoting American poet Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you did, they will forget what you said, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”

Technology and measuring growth and impact

Tim Worstall

Put these two together and thus my claim in the headline. We can see in our own lives that things are getting better at an ever increasing rate. We can continually do more for less outlay. That that’s not reflected in the GDP numbers is a fault with the GDP numbers, not a fault with economic growth. Those Good Old Days of economic growth are right now.

How does social innovation happen in this context and how do you measure it?

If a child is having a good childhood, a baby boomer is caring without depression and a disabled person can now learn anything they want where will the statistics come up. And how much role will technology play?

Stories of Co

The Dept. of Premier and Cabinet in South Australia Better Together initiative put together a showcase last week on the ideas, projects and tools behind co-design, co-production and co-creation in partnership with my organisation The Australian Centre for Social Innovation.

We heard many stories of co from many different speakers from South Australia Pecha Kucha style. This was really heartening to hear the energy and the genuine focus on change that was evident.

Some 300 people attended the event and they were very excited by the idea of co-design and co-production. So, how do you go about implementing it?

My colleague Ryan and I closed the session with a workshop on three questions related to implementing these kind of projects.

1. What methods do I use when?

2. What about when we have to start with an idea?

3. How do I embed a culture of innovation throughout my organisation?

(I will update with a slideshow later and possibly a video when its up)

You can get a sense of what happened on twitter.

Martin SW, who is on the board of our organisation, who did an amazing job of facilitating the event, summarised the top 10 headlines from the day.

Which leads me to this brief post about some of the headline insights I captured from a showcase of “co” practice, put on in Adelaide by the South Australian Department of Premier & Cabinet and The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI), of which I am a director. And the session, which I facilitated, was called, suitably enough, “better together”.

Nine great stories latter – covering libraries, marine parks, universities, disability services, city transformation and a whole lot of other things – I emerged with some big themes and common insights from the discussion. Nearly 300 people in the room, a whole morning of presentations and debate and then a very solid hour of tools and techniques from TACSI to show how the instinct for “co” turns into real work and learnable practice, made for a very productive day.

Frugal Innovation

Charles Leadbeater on Frugal Innovation: (H/T: Martin SW)

Leadbeater looks at the developing world and thinks about how innovation happened in that context. Using that as an inspiration he looks into how we can import those ideas into the developed world. I have yet to read the book but I am keen to understand whether this is actually possible and if so, what is the mechanism for that.

This is similar to the idea of Reverse Innovation suggested by Govindarajan and Trimble for the private sector.

If you look at these models and others including what BRAC is doing in Bangladesh with maternal health, what Jacaranda Health is doing in communities in Kenya, or Medicall Home in Mexico or the Family Health Programme in Brazil, they all have similar elements, including:

They change the place where health takes place. — Health does not take place primarily in hospitals, doctors clinics, GP surgeries, medical centres, but in homes, communities and workplaces.

They change the kind of technologies that are used. — There is an entirely new wave of frugal, low-cost, simple, robust, portable and possibly reusable technologies which are being developed often in collaboration between the developed and developing worlds to help people on location treat conditions or symptoms. A very simple one, Monash University in Australia is developing a nasal inhaler for oxytocin, which is crucial for mothers who are bleeding just after giving birth. Traditionally it’s an injection, but for that you need a needle, a syringe and you need a fridge, none of which a mother will have in rural Kenya. But an inhaler would work.

They change who does the work. — They’re doing as little with high-cost doctors as they can and doing as much as possible with peers, nurses, community nurses and through self-help.

They change the nature of health. — What they’re doing in these types of schemes is creating health together, not delivering it. They’re enabling people to create it and make it, rather than thinking that it’s something that comes from professionals.

Finally, they change how health is paid for. — Financial innovation is a crucial part of it. Either through cooperative models or through vouchers or through per capita spending, these innovators are changing how and by who health is paid for. They’re delivering help to the home, through those in the home. They are creating the best mix of truly modern systems, which are networked and distributed, and very old systems, which focus on families.

Motivation and mutual support are the most powerful kinds of medicine. That is the DNA of these schemes. If we want to meet the challenges we face we will need to import these models.

Why Did Amazon Make a Phone? (And what can you learn from that)


Why did you make a phone?


Our product development process always starts the same way. We don’t start out by saying, “We have to build an X.” We say, “If we were going to build an X, how would it be different? How would it be better?” And it can’t just be different. It has to be different constrained by customers caring. It’s easy to be different if you don’t constrain it that way. But it has to be useful

Lots to learn from Bezos.

Now if you are creating new products and services for the disability sector, would you start the product development process like this?

How will you be different but more importantly how is it going to be useful. What aspect of the wants, needs and aspiration of your customer are you going to focus?

Follow the three steps. Understanding value for customers, then creating value and lastly how will you create impact and capture a part of the value you create in order to build a sustainable business model.

Worldview and stories

Understanding the context of the customer and their beliefs and values are key first step of innovation. To get to this kind of deep understanding you need to use ethnography and other design techniques. Qualitative rather than quantitative.

From Seth Godin:

Enough with the facts and figures and features and benefits. They rarely move people into action. It’s our worldview (the way we acted and believed and judged before we encountered you) and your story (the narrative we tell ourselves about who you and and what you do) that drive human behavior.

We make two giant mistakes as marketers:

We believe that everyone has the same worldview, that everyone in a group shares the same biases and expectations and dreams as everyone else… and,

We believe that the narrative is up for grabs, and we ought to just make the thing we make


Read the whole thing.

Can MOOCs scale IIT across India

From NitiCentral:

We need a plan to remove capacity constraints on the Indian education system, while delivering high quality education. There has been a mushrooming of private engineering colleges with capitation fees and uncertain quality.  Why can’t we leverage the best faculty across the country to teach the maximum number of students? Luckily with technological advancements, it is now possible to conduct Massively Open Online Courses or MOOCs.  The best universities in the world are experimenting with MOOCs. India should be looking at MOOCs for boosting capacity to provide quality education to millions of youngsters and expand its trained talent pool.

Here is how it would work. Let us say we admit 5 lakh students into an IIT MOOC. We currently have thousands of private centers across the country that provide JEE coaching classes. Rather than putting the attention simply on entrance, these kinds of centers can be used as local hubs for the MOOCs.  The best IIT professors can deliver lectures in their subject areas that can be webcast across the country. Local facilitators, the equivalent of teaching assistants, can help answer students’ questions. Unanswered questions can make their way back to IIT professors via the MOOC system and answered online via video webcast or on the website. The local facilitators can be engineering graduates, need not be PhDs. Regular student meetings in the local centers, and some at statewide centers, can build a sense of kinship with the batch.

Modi`s stop doing list

One of the key tenets of Innovation is to abandon things which have stopped creating value and start a stop doing list.

The new prime minister of India Mr.Modi is doing exactly that.

Give me 10 laws each in your department, which we can repeal,” the Prime Minister is learnt to have told the secretaries of all ministries and departments

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