I’ve often pondered on how so many parts of our lives in 2014 have got so complicated. As if the multiple demands on our time aren’t enough, thanks to the technology and scientific development made possible by clever humans in my lifetime, many simple items and products seem to have become downright over-engineered. Our first instinct is to see this as the nature of progress – and in my case, I feel the need to constantly “keep up” with the latest and greatest just in case I get left behind or – even more scarily – miss out on something fabulous. But of course I know that the people who make these products – let’s use razor blades, shampoo and dishwasher detergent as excellent examples – need to keep a constant stream of “improvements” coming along so we feel like the increased cost per item for the better product is justified by the superior outcome.
Dishwasher detergent is my favourite example. When I was growing up we had a great dishwasher, his name was Dad. We used green fairy liquid and the result, whilst sometimes time consuming, met all our needs. Now I am fortunate in 2014 to have a shiny, German dishwasher (machine not human!) – it is very simple to operate and totally reliable. But in the past few years we have progressed from dishwasher powder, to tablets, to tablets with “powerballs” – in various colours – to the latest crowning glory, the dishwasher tablet which you don’t even need to unwrap. Now the cost per wash of the top of the range tablet is more than double the basic powder – yet I always felt the need to use it as it must be “better”. That was until the day I forgot to put the tablet in. My fancy dishwasher still got the dishes pretty much 90% clean. So a test – revert to the cheaper powder – and surprise!! The dishes are just as clean, I’ve saved 50% of the cost of the tablets ….. and I no longer get a soggy mess in the tablet drawer.
So I’ve done a lot of thinking about keeping things simple in all areas of my life, and doing more with less. These principals make environmental and economic sense – and are the building blocks of Jugaad Innovation – which is all about frugal innovation. This thinking can really change the way we view designing solutions to problems – and not just at work. And so, we get to the squeegee.
12 months ago I moved into a beautiful, almost brand new house – with fabulous bathrooms. Of course these bathrooms featured frameless glass shower screens – but designed with no doors and just a drain in the floor. Now these bathrooms function fine except of course for the amount of water flooding the floor when you step out of the shower – the water runs slowly to the drain but never quite seems to get there fast enough, soaks the bath mat and makes the floor slippery. I have pondered may solutions – adding doors to the showers (expensive and messy), new drains (impractical), wooden bath mat (works OK but eventually gets pretty smelly and mouldy). Then one day, brain wave. I purchased a shower squeegee from the supermarket. It cost me $5. A simple 10 second wipe of the tiles after each shower leaves the floor dry enough to walk on. Problem solved, with a high “feel good” factor.
I could recount many examples of where technology and scientific improvements have made my life better – but just as many where, by assuming the latest was “better”, I have made my life more complicated or more expensive. I’m not an eco warrior, and I will continue to be a fan of new technology and scientific improvements where they’re useful to me, but simpler, more sustainable solutions are bound to be better for all of us and the planet in the long run.
Must be more opinions out there – Comment on the blog or on twitter @eyesup2014.
For more about Jugaad Innovation, visit http://www.jugaadinnovation.com