Tag Archive: innovation


Parking on the Grass

I firmly believe that people are naturally innovative – especially when they’ve been doing something for a long time (long enough to become habitual).

For example, why do manufacturing engineers insist that they can dictate how to properly assemble a device better than the folks who assemble said device day-in and day-out? Sure, the engineers have a better grasp on the technical aspects (e.g. which torque values are optimal), but they lack much of the common sense aspects (You can’t put this part on there yet, because this part gets in the way, etc…).

…by the way, I was once in this role, so I can vouch for the validity of the previous statements.

In the same sense, it seems like we waste an awful lot of  time yelling at folks for doing things differently, but we seldom question the reason for them doing something in the first place.

“Stop parking on the grass!!!”

Well…why are they parking on the grass in the first place? Are there too few parking spaces left in the lot? Or, perhaps, did folks just find a better place to park? Would we benefit from making that section of grass into a legitimate paved parking spot instead of just yelling?

No, my blog did not get hacked…Today we’re going to talk about Innovation.

It seems like, nowadays, “Innovation” has become the latest buzzword.

This is great, because we want more innovative solutions to our everyday woes, but, in my opinion, this “buzzwordiness” also comes at a cost.

I recently heard it said by a very influential individual that innovation is “doing things differently“. Honestly, I think that this definition is inaccurate, and it represents the very issue that I would like to discuss:

By the very nature of making something like innovation into a buzzword, we tend to label things, which are not necessarily even innovative, as innovations. 

For example: I could eat my cereal with a knife.

  • Different? YES.
  • Innovative? NO!
  • (Dumb? YES!)

We all huddle blindly around that big light bulb hoping that some of its light will reflect off us and we will seem that much brighter.

I went to Mr. Webster’s fine book to find a better definition for innovation, but I got only “The action or process of innovating”. Thanks, Noah.

After a few days of deep thought, I have arrived at this: “Innovation is the act finding inventive solutions to problems that we didn’t even know that we had“. (I believe that the true art of innovation is seeing the problem that others don’t in order to produce the solution that no one else had yet thought of. You have to be predictive with the problem…not just with the solution.)

In this environment, we really need to be careful what we label as ‘innovative’ or else our true innovations, the things we should really be celebrating, will get buried in with the rest of the muck.

That being said, for your reading pleasure, I offer you what I perceive to be an innovative solution to some common camping/backpacking woes: Yes, that is a tampon in my mouth!

(As a side note, for those of you, particularly men, who haven’t heard of “artofmanliness.com“, I highly recommend that you give it a view and sign up on their e-mail list! They have a ton of fun stuff from axe throwing and straight razor shaving tutorials to biographies and write-ups on influential men throughout history to general camping/shooting/fighting/guy stuff. CHECK IT OUT!!!)

Now, go forth and innovate!!!

Today I wanted to give a thumbs up to Melnor (a company whose existence I was not aware of until last weekend)!

We’ve had some wonderful warm weather lately, and I wanted to wash the cars after a long winter of them being neglected. I needed to get a hose nozzle, and my wife wanted me to pick up one of the traditional nozzles (where you twist the nozzle to spread or focus the stream of water):

When I went into Lowes, I could not find this style of nozzle, but, as I looked, I found an even better nozzle (produced by, you guessed it, Melnor!):

Where can I start?!?

  • The trigger is in the front!!! It’s much more ergonomic than those old-school hose nozzles that had the uncomfortable “brass knuckle cut-outs” in the front and the trigger in the back:

  • Also, the trigger has a lock feature (that yellow plastic part at the top of the trigger). The old-school nozzle had a trigger lock too, but it was that annoying metal triangle that you had to navigate in between the nozzle and the handle while trying not to pinch the skin between your thumb and fingers.
  • The tip of the nozzle is METAL, and they advertise that it is metal! As I love to say, if you’ve got it, FLAUNT IT!!! and Melnor has done an awesome job at this!
  • The handle at the top of the nozzle adjusts the intensity of the stream. It’s easy to get to, and it does it’s job well (I was able to really crank it up to clean off my rims)!
  • The nozzle still twists to adjust the tightness of the water stream, but they’ve included a nice rubber grip!

Of course, I have to have some gripes or I’d feel like I failed…

This is all of the documentation that came with the nozzle:

This is sadly insufficient. I didn’t even know what the lever was on top of the nozzle until I got it home and put it on the hose! Again, if you’ve got it, flaunt it! The tag should have had a little diagram that showed off all of the features of the product!

Overall, I can’t say enough about this hose nozzle, they’ve really done an awesome job. Go buy one today; go buy two of them and give one to your Dad for Father’s Day!

Again, Melnor took something that wasn’t broken, but they’ve optimized it to make it something just short of a piece of art!

Quick Thought #1

Why are they still so big, and why doesn’t that bother us?

Task Lists.

Who ever thought that “Task Lists” were a good idea? Why are they so widely accepted and why  do we keep making them?!?!

A friend of mine at work recently showed me his current task list. He was feeling overwhelmed, and I can understand why!!!

When I looked at his task list, all I saw was item after item. I couldn’t tell what items were related, I couldn’t tell how much work was involved with each item, and I couldn’t tell which tasks were the highest priority.

Now, I realize that some of this can be overcome with boxes, bullets, arrows, bold headings, and outlining, but, while this may help create a sense of order within a project, the relation to other projects is often missed.

Here is my proposal (and please speak up if you have some better ideas or additions!):

  • Tasks are like bubbles rising to the surface of water in a jar.
  • The higher the bubble, the higher the task priority/the sooner the project is due.
  • The bigger the bubble, the larger the time commitment.
  • The color of the bubble indicates the status of the project (completed/not started/on hold/etc)
  • “Nested” bubbles are subtasks within a parent task.

I think it would look something like this (but nicer, if done with software):

Now, this may not have 100% of the accuracy of the information (the priority/workload/date due is relative), but I think this would help serve as a super quick visual representation of your total workload. It would be a much better way to have meaningful discussions with your boss about what to work on (comparing workload vs. priority).

What are your thoughts? How can we make this better? Do you have an idea as to which software could be used to create this graphic from a table of information?