Tony Fadell: Stay a beginner to drive change

Tony Fadell NestWhat’s the most powerful technique available to innovators? Observation.

Tony Fadell, the creator of the iPod and Nest thermostat, shared his mantra for innovation at a recent TED conference:

“It’s seeing the invisible problem, not just the obvious problem, that’s important,” Fadell said onstage. “There are invisible problems all around us. First we need to see them. To feel them. Then we can solve them.”

In his talk, Fadell talks about the phenomenon of “habituation”, which happens when we become accustomed to our surroundings and thus stop paying attention to the little things. It is in these little things where opportunity exists to design things that will make life better for people:

The talk is a look into a product designers mind and how they make decisions based on their observations. I’ve previously said that observation, noticing the littlest details, is the most powerful technique available to any innovator.

Fadell offered three tips to avoid falling into the trap of habituation:

Look broader

Consider an entire process — start to finish — to see the bigger picture ideas that need improving. “Using this approach, Fadell’s team at Nest improved thermostat design by incorporating an algorithm to predict user’s temperature preferences and save energy,” the TED blog explains.

Look closer

At the same time, make sure to also focus in on the tiny details. Fadell said that he spent months agonizing over which screw to use to make the Nest thermostat as easy to install as possible.

Think younger

Fadell says that having young team members with “young minds” who will ask big, creative questions, is an incredible asset. You need people with a childlike sense of possibility to find better ways to solve problems.

Bottom line: Stay a beginner, help yourself by practicing Vuja De to look at the world anew.