Monthly Archives: July 2014

Good Idea + Hacker Heaven = Ingenuity

Our innovation firm, called Future, uses a discipline called “rapid ingenuity” to help organizations and companies solve big challenges. The definition of ingenuity we use is “a clever, original and practical solution to a big challenge using existing resources.” The key words that distinguish this from mere innovation are “existing resources.” In a rapidly changing world with increasing humans and diminishing resources, this distinction becomes an imperative.

So, I was really interested to recently hear Seena Zandipour tell the story about the development of Helios bicycle handlebars. Helios Bars are the world’s first integrated headlight & blinker system for bicycles. Features include smartphone connectivity (via Bluetooth® Smart), visual speedometer, GPS tracking, and turn-by-turn navigation. They also have a built-in headlight. Check out: http://www.ridehelios.com

The back story.

Seena, with his buddies Tony Belmontes and Kenneth Gibbs, had an idea while in college to put an integrated headlight in a handlebar. If bicycles are to replace automobiles for everyday transportation, a headlight is a necessary accessory for nighttime riding. Right? But add-on headlights are easily stolen. So, duh, just build it into the handlebar itself. Seemed simple. Why hadn’t anybody done this before?

Fast forward the team to a factory in Shenzhen, China and it turned out to be too simple in fact. The team and factory engineers figured out the handlebar/headlight almost immediately and had some time to kill before returning to the United States. Coincidentally, they happened to be 2 blocks from SEG, the largest electronics mall in the world. Otherwise know as
hacker heaven.

With the help of SEG, it turned out that there were tons of existing resources available to add multiple additional features into the bars. What started out as a good idea morphed quickly into an ingenious product.

Helios is currently taking orders for several different handlebar styles. Buy a pair for your bike and help humans reclaim the urban environment and transform US cities into human-powered meccas.

Disclosure: This post was written as part of Progressive’s Apron Project, helping tell the story of people and their initiatives making progress towards a greater good. I have been compensated as a contributor to this project, but the thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.

Car + Motorcycle + Electricity + Ingenuity = Magic

We’re always on the lookout for people and organizations that are finding ingenious ways to drive positive change. So, recently we had the opportunity to visit a cool little technology start-up in San Francisco. No, not Pinterest, Airbnb or Dropbox. It’s a company that’s “thinking wrong” about the future of urban transportation and making Tesla look conventional and old-school in comparison.

Founded by Daniel Kim, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate from their industrial design program, Lit Motors is trying to figure out how to make a super efficient small and light electric car drive on 2 wheels like a motorcycle, without having to balance it yourself. Wait! What?

First, the back story. Years ago, Daniel was working as a mechanic restoring old Land Rovers in Portland, OR. One night, while working underneath the frame of a Rover, something slipped and the heavy vehicle dropped to the garage floor. Daniel was able to escape getting crushed but it started him thinking that while the Rover was a sturdy and able off-road SUV, it was insane to haul that amount of steel around for everyday transportation.

Fast forward a few years and viola, Lit Motors. A potentially ingenious solution to a big transportation challenge that is looming in front of us. Increasing numbers of drivers in densely populated developing countries, diminishing reserves of fossil fuel, and carbon related climate change to name a few.

At Future, we define ingenuity as “a clever, original and practical solution to a big challenge using existing resources.” It’s a more rigorous standard than innovation because of the focus on using what you have at hand, like Macgyver in the 80’s tv series. Innovative solutions are good. Ingenious solutions are better. So, I thought it would be interesting to see how Lit Motors fits into our 6 ingenuity practices.

1. Be Bold
Take on the existing automobile industry and find a better, more efficient, less polluting, and more fun way to move people around cities.

2. Get Out
Escape the orthodoxies and conventions of the status quo. San Francisco, not Detroit.

3. Think Wrong
4 wheel car? Boring. How about gyroscope flywheels to keep a 2-wheeled vehicle as stabile as a car.

4. Make Stuff
Industrial designers think by making. Prototype, prototype, prototype.

5. Bet Small
Start with smallish projects that reflect an affordable loss.

6. Move Fast
Keep momentum. Learn from successes… and learn even more from failures. 

Best of luck to Dan and his team at Lit Motors and their crazy awesome project.

Disclosure: This post was written as part of Progressive’s Apron Project, helping tell the story of people and their initiatives making progress towards a greater good. I have been compensated as a contributor to this project, but the thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.