Category Archives: Bet Small

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.

weed

Bamboo grows like crazy all over the south. Some call it invasive. It makes some people see red. But it has the ingenious teams at MakeLab* and HERObike seeing green. Green as in fresh new jobs. As in a renewable resource. As in dollars flowing back into the local economy of a rural Alabama town.

We define ingenuity as the clever, original, and practical use of existing resources. That’s why we were so inspired when Lance Rake, professor of Industrial Design at the University of Kansas, transformed the much-maligned weed into HexTube technology—a breakthrough in material design that allows bamboo bike frames to be lighter, stronger, standardized, and easily assembled for the first time.

Thanks to their successful Kickstarter campaign, the HexTube will make its commercial debut in February 2014 with release of The Semester Commuter and Semester CityBike.

It’s all part of HERObike’s ingenious plan to build more than a cool bike. They’re building new jobs and brighter futures for—and with—the people of Greensboro, Alabama. And we’re not the only ones who are high on HERO’s bamboo bikes:

If this story makes you feel good, pass it on—and don’t Bogart.                                            

*full disclosure, Future is a proud member of MakeLab.

“smokin” © 2013 CC BY-NC-SA Blair Stapp

toxicThe problem-solving orthodoxies they teach you in business school kill ingenuity.

Greg Galle explains why at TEDxGrandRapids.