This is the third in a series of posts pointing out a few interesting products I saw at the 2007 CES (Consumer Electronics Show).
Seth Godin has written online and in print on the value of being remarkable, recently posting 10 thought-provoking suggestions on ‘How to be remarkable’. As I was reading through that, I started thinking about the flipside of Remarkable, which would be Non-remarkable, or Ordinary. I think it should be somewhat logical to observe how hard it is to succeed by being Ordinary. But that certainly doesn’t stop legions of companies from storming the ramparts with products ‘10% superior to the competition’.
These are the Me-Too Guys. The Knock-Off Artists, the Incrementalists. On the other side of the spectrum from this crowd stand the Free Thinkers. These are the people who make waves, who make interesting things happen.
Sometimes their efforts fizzle (see: Apple Newton), sometimes the value is questionable (see: Pet Rocks), but sometimes they redefine the rules, and they change the paradigm (see: Mr. Bell’s telephone).
CES had plenty of representatives from all of the ‘types’ cited above. Lots of news was made by Panasonic for its new 103” HD plasma screen. And it sure is cool, but let’s face it, it’s an incremental improvement by definition, and it will be noteworthy only until someone else’s incremental improvement surpasses it.
It’s fun to look for free thinkers among the little guys, since that’s where they most often emerge. Here’s one – it’s not going to change the world, but it’s a rethink of a common product. We all know what a power strip looks like, right? It’s long and rectangular, with a power shutoff button on one side. If you plug in one or two wall-wart plugs, you quickly block most of the empty plugs, at which point you go off to find an extra power strip.
The PowerSquid is a radical departure from this, and a great example of well-executed industrial design. I can show you a picture, and you can immediately understand what the thing does, and why it solves the problem I cited above. The design conveys the product benefit, no words required.
Another item I saw was a different approach to sound projection. Everyone knows what you need to project sound – you need a loudspeaker. Except when you don’t.
The Solid Drive by Induction Dynamics turns any solid surface into a speaker. Shop windows, coffee tables, walls, etc. The surface actually projects sound. The fidelity is not the best, but it’s not too bad either. Think of the implications of this for retailers, projecting messages to the sidewalk outside (or inside) the store. Or someone who wants music in the backyard without installing speakers – so they turn the sliding glass door into a speaker.
Think about your product, and then think as far outside the box as you can go – how could it be reimagined, and would that new version be an improvement? Your alternative is to slap a ‘New Improved’ sticker on the box, and hope that your competitor isn’t better at thinking outside the box.