Tom Kelley in The Art of Innovation shares this story and principle:
Once you start observing carefully, all kinds of insights and opportunities can open up.
For example, the hugely popular elliptical cross-trainer exercise machines [that Condoleezza Rice takes on her overseas trips for her early morning workout] in your local health club got started from a single human observation.
Larry Miller, a human-factors-savvy person working at General Motors, was videotaping his daughter running one day and noticed the elliptical path traced by her feet as she went through her exercise. From that observation-based spark, Miller set about building a prototype of a device that would mimic his daughter’s elliptical movement—without the jarring impact of feet hitting the ground.
He sold his idea to Seattle-based fitness equipment maker Precor, Inc., which developed it into its EFX line of elliptical trainers.
Thanks in part to Miller’s epiphany, Precor is now the fastest-growing equipment company in the health club industry.
Source: Tom Kelley, The Art of Innovation: Lessons and Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm (London: Profile Books, 2001), 28.
A review of this fine book can be seen at Reviewing Books and Movies.
Dr. Geoff Pound
Image: One of the range of elliptical trainers.