In an internal hackathon, one of our team created a weird application. They called it wall in love. It was an interactive video powered by Microsoft Kinect wherein an animated character — a girl, was responding to people genuine smiles. Anyone who gave a decent smile was greeted by the lady in video.
On the face of it, it looked like a tutorial to impress girls but underneath, it was fantastic. An experiment to explore the possibility of leveraging computation to control and change human behavior. I have always been attracted towards this philosophy and had a reason. During my initial career stage I realized soon that while I was good technically but very weak socially. I decided to leverage my tech skills to do experiments to fix things. Since then i kept on writing personal hack projects. The list is long. I wrote applications to control my chating and internet browsing habits. The programs used to kill the yahoo messenger and IE processes if i chatted or browsed internet for long. I wrote programs to keep track of my productive hours, to remind me of people birthdays and important occasions. Some of the programs were grand success and few failed miserably. Surprisingly, When i looked around i found a lot of people were creating their own personal hacks.
A developer from our team got frustrated with herself for not sticking to her workout regime. She wrote a program to post a self chiding message whenever the program didn’t find the four square check-in at her gym. She didn’t stop there and continuously kept creating her own solutions for anything she felt was not right in her mind. One of her app is worth mentioning here. She wrote a prototype for an app which allowed her to buy from a tweet. The program was darn simple, if you like something just tweet about it with some predefined hash tag. She wrote the program because she felt that online transactions were very cumbersome. She never bothered to take the idea forward and to my surprise after an year i saw a reputed bank launching services to buy from tweets. Imagine the impact on wearable and financial industry if few more people starts thinking like her.
Another developer wrote a hybrid mobile app for his father to help him cut down on manual record keeping. Before it, he never had written any mobile application and was able to develop with the help of community. Imagine the impact on skills and training industry if everyone relies on community for learning. Thanks to places like Khan academy, blogs and free series this has already started.
One of department head created her own personal framework to manage office stress. As per her it was a liberating feeling because she no longer felt dependent on upper management to fix common official chaos. Imagine the impact on the role of human resource departments who are in general responsible for employees well being.
Looking outside of my organization as well i found people doing weird projects. I came across a wonderful app called us+ which helps you get better at online conversations by analyzing speech and facial expressions. I wondered why it didn’t occurred to google and Microsoft to add this feature in their communication product. This is so cool and helpful! Mark wanted to explore the world and came up with the idea of backpacker intern. I was astonished to find such stories across the globe.
In all the stories there was one common pattern.
People are trying to solve their problems themselves
We are no longer hesitating to tap into our creative potential to fix things, thanks to technology advancement we have made in the recent past. The desire and intent to solve problem is not necessary always about name, fame and money but a believe in self and to enjoy the process.
These people are not fully makers because they are not after tools, technology or new creation but just don’t want to depend on others to solve their problems. This to me is maker mindset and is bigger than makers. These people are making learning a true life time journey, find new sources of meaning and develop ways so that all of us benefit and prosper.
Every company out there is shit scared because if everyone solves their problem who would care about them. Not only these folks are solving their problems but are happy to share all their learning for free literally lowering the barriers for other to get started. If you look closely,
The underlying reason for all the rhetorics around innovation and customer experience is the fear of becoming irrelevant in the life of consumers.
In fact the average lifespan for fortune 500 S&P company these days is around 10 years and decline rate is just not stopping. The biggest competition to corporates is not coming from other corporates but from people having a maker mindset. The fear is not about competition but getting disrupted by someone simple idea. A lot of times these ideas are so powerful that it doesn’t gives any time to respond. We all know what happened to pagers with the advent of mobile. Whatsapp popularity and later threat to Facebook is no longer news.
Responding to competition is no longer considered a good strategy because by the time something becomes a competition half of the battle is already lost.
It is not as if corporates are not doing anything about it. They understand that small ideas are the new currency and that is why almost every one wants to incubate innovation culture in their workplace.Numerous hackathons, ideas generation competitions are being organized to foster and leverage the small ideas from employees and community.
The rise of API economy, app stores and product as a platform are some other alternatives employed by corporates to ride on the benefits of maker mindset. In place of inventing everything themselves they are offering ecosystems for innovations and engagements. The idea of converting your competitors into collaborators is indeed powerful and has already started redefining the future business models. The intent of offering omni channel experience is also rooted in the desire to understand what is going on in the minds of consumers and then creating disparate things to ensure the brand relevancy in people life. The reflection of this intent is visible in the offerings of giants like Amazon and Google. The products and services are themselves companies in their own.
It is an old saying that in order to beat your competitor you have behave like your competitor. It would be interesting to see how corporates will adapt, internalize and derive benefit from the maker mindset.