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Think Smaller: 3 Examples of Human-Centric Innovation

Innovation. The word is overused and mostly invokes thoughts of big, sweeping changes on a grand scale. As in, BOOM:Innovation!

I like to think smaller.

Innovation is sometimes quieter, sneakier than all that. Maybe it’s a thought-provoking idea that leads us to a better way; a subtle point of breakage from the status quo that turns out to be something we can’t live without. Not always earth-shattering, sometimes the smaller shifts make the most profound differences over time. Below are three articles that have eye-catching appeal for thinking differently; small-ish, smart examples of innovation with lasting impact:

1. The one I won’t notice, but I’m so glad somebody did it: Design at Scale: Fast. Smart. Reliable. Authentic. Iconic. This is the Visa Experience

A mega-brand like Visa knows that every customer interaction is a brand experience… and that every brand experience matters through a customer’s eyes (and now fingers).  In this case, one big design system corralls it all to create the Visa experience. Favorite note in the video: they planned ahead and created design standards for brand experiences that aren’t yet in market. Making a case for visionary thinking on the subtle plane, this is innovation that “shows” as if it was there all along. No muss, no fuss. Buy-in guaranteed. Bravo!

2. The one I hope I won’t need, but I’m glad someone is thinking about it: Mediprint presents the Nova Cast

This may be old (ish) news, but its still good news. The story of customer-centric innovation in medical care via new technology could begin here. Anyone who has had a ‘human-unfriendly’ yet routine procedure can attest there is room for improvement in human-centric product design and development in the medical arena. (*See mammogram imaging machine below, a beastly exampleamong countless others.) In the case of NovaCast, the creative use of 3D printing to replace plaster casts for setting our broken bones addresses (and improves upon) all aspects of why wearing a cast is so…crummy.  That screamin’-orange, custom-made, 3D-printed, waterproof plastic NovaCast is a favorite example for rethinking status quo, and answering the question “how could this be better for the patient (customer)?”

* Nope, painting it pink does not make the experience better.

3. The previously boring one that now makes me laugh –  on a daily basis: Anand Sanwal and the CBInsights Newsletter

We’ve taken data and analytics to predict technology trends and we’ve made it conversational and interesting while still being thoughtful, smart and one step ahead.”

While the CB Insights newsletter is presented as a quick skim of VC news and technology trends, its an easy and enjoyable read for the humor, consistently good data visualizations, and the CBI team’s innovative approach to communicating big concepts (and interesting anomalies) that may impact our future world.  Also for the occasional shout-out to “The worst graph, EVER.”  And of course, every email wraps up in the ultimate human-centric way:

“I love you.  – Anand@asanwal

Love, knowledge, and humor in one daily newlsetter? Engagement: check. (We love you too, Mr. Sanwal.)

These three examples (among others) are inspiring nuggets of innovation, reminding me to keep stretching, and to look harder at whatever it is we assume to be “as good as it gets”. Each is an example of what can happen when we dream further than our assumptions, and ask if there’s a better way to improve an experience. Purchase experiences, research and learning experiences, even a patient’s treatment experience are but three out of the looooong list of experiences we will shuffle through during each of our lifetimes. None are earth-shaking individually, but each has an impact on our lives, all the same. Innovation, from a design-for-humanity point of view, can improve our life experiences in small ways that have lasting impact. “Smaller, quieter” is sometimes the most interesting innovation, when we get it right.