Category Archives: Think Wrong

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.

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mcwrongs

Here’s an industry secret worth billions. Consultants like to use the term “best practice” to describe what the rest of us would call a precedent—just a method that has worked, before, somewhere else.

This isn’t to say best practices are useless. Precedence is great when you understand the challenge you’re facing and want to repeat a solution—say, when you want to select brakes for a train (or brakes for anything, really) or when choosing an open heart surgeon. But if you’re trying to outpace competition, solve a long-term problem that doesn’t seem to go away, or tackle a challenge you’ve never seen before…applying precedent is not so helpful. Precedence is not disruption, and is not meant to be.

But too often, consultants dress up plain precedence and offer it as an ingenious driver of organizational change—a glaringly obvious contradiction. Most of the time, there’s nothing better about a “best” practice, and you could say that consultants have found a clever way of selling old rope for new prices.

The truth is, these precedents don’t offer the potential for ingenious ideas. They only replicate the past.  So, if you want to unlock new ideas—stop thinking right, and start thinking wrong.

pantsThis post is courtesy of Future collaborator Mike Burn.

When was the last time you thought about how to put on your pants?

Chances are, it wasn’t recently. Once you got through the comedic phase of childhood where you ate facefuls of carpet while learning the one-foot-per-pant-leg rule, you probably stopped having to think about the challenges of clothing yourself. Your grown-up brain takes care of it for you, using hardened synaptic pathways developed over a lifetime of Levi-wearing to guide your legs gracefully into your garments.

Like most adults, I have dressed myself without a thought for the last 38 years or so. And then, 2 weeks ago I underwent a major surgery. Turns out my procedure has resulted in more than a pile of insurance paperwork—it’s also caused serious upheaval for my synaptic pants pathways.

Thinking about how to put on pants is now something I spend an inordinate amount of time doing. Which leg goes on first is a vital question (answer: the bad one). Putting on underwear and trousers at the same time halves the overall effort—and elasticated waistbands, though not suave, are a must. Finding a material that slides on easily helps too. In fact, I’ve been discovering a need to reroute my synaptic responses to many basic tasks that I previously took for granted. Stairs look like honey badger infested mountains, high shelves may as well be the moon, and sitting on the floor is Hades’ underworld. But the challenges aren’t daunting–instead, they excite me.

Facing my physical limitation has brought forth a wellspring of ingenious ideas. My former solutions are painful or physically impossible, and so my dormant ingenuity reignites—the ability to invent and create is there, allowing me to jump the ingenuity gap to reach the new practical solutions I need to overcome daily challenges using what I have. The thought of re-coding my brain to be able to do something today that I couldn’t do yesterday gives me a reason to get up in the morning, not a reason to stay in bed. What’s more, the humble challenge of how to put on pants is no different from the sort of problem-solving we sometimes need in the office.

Work can be like putting on pants—you just don’t think about it anymore, and your brain takes care of it for you leaving no need (or room) to rethink. But sometimes that humdrum needs to be broken. You may be under-serving customers, falling behind competing challengers, or you may face obvious inefficiency, economic difficulties, low staff morale, or even personally find yourself in a rut. But short of getting fired or reassigned, there’s often no work equivalent of having your pelvis sliced in three to kickstart a new ingenious solution.

That’s what the Blitz Cycle is for. The six rapid ingenuity practices enable you to fire up the same parts of the brain that respond when your body needs you to find a new way to get dressed. Future Blitz helps you break the cycle of precedent to start a new cycle of learning and positive change—all without breaking any bones.  Once you start creating ingenious solutions, you won’t want to stop; it will become the reason to go to work—and isn’t that how it should always have been?

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

Greg Galle explains why at TEDxGrandRapids.