Reconnecting People

Blog

Occasional fits of obsessive analysis, bits of what I'm learning along the way, with a dash of self-promotion.

Helping Solve a Big, Big Problem

 

Collaboration, Not Chaos

If—and only if—we can welcome everyone's voice without letting the conversation devolve into cacaphony, then teaming up with people across disciplines and socio-economic backgrounds enriches creative endeavors. To collaborate productively, we need a structure that helps us navigate the challenge of maintaining forward momentum and a sense of direction while inviting contributions from everyone. The bigger the team, the greater the need for structure.

Orchestrated by OpenIDEO

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OpenIDEO seeks to pull together enormous teams to solve enormous problems: "At OpenIDEO we design better, together for social good. This means collaborating as a global community to generate ideas which speak to big global challenges."

OpenIDEO is an "open innovation platform" that orchestrates the contributions of members around the world. It takes the problem-solving methodology of global design consultancy IDEO and applies it to structure creative teamwork on a massive scale. The OpenIDEO community has tackled some huge issues from preventing genocide to managing e-waste to improving health in low-income communities.

Interviewing an Innovator

I love solving problems that matter. When a friend told me that OpenIDEO was doing a project on renewable energy, I wanted to contribute some original research. I called up Kevin Tibbs for an interview. Kevin is the co-founder and "mad skills scientist" at Better Life, a natural cleaning product company based in St. Louis. Back when I was starting out as a freelancer, I worked with Kevin and Better Life to create their application video for ABC's entrepreneurial show Shark Tank. They won a huge deal and have continued to grow their business.

Kevin Tibbs, Better Life's co-founder and "mad skilled scientist", stands on the rooftop of the manufacturing plant in St. Louis.

Kevin Tibbs, Better Life's co-founder and "mad skilled scientist", stands on the rooftop of the manufacturing plant in St. Louis.

Better Life's manufacturing plant is powered by a 50 kW solar system installed on the rooftops of their North St. Louis manufacturing plant.

Better Life's manufacturing plant is powered by a 50 kW solar system installed on the rooftops of their North St. Louis manufacturing plant.

They moved to a larger manufacturing facility, and six months ago they installed a solar power system. Kevin kindly granted me the interview. It was a blast to hear him—passionate, scientific man that he is—talk about Better Life's decision to invest in renewables and why it matters to him.

Here's the empathy map I created to distill insights on the interview.

Here's the empathy map I created to distill insights on the interview.

My hope is that, in the hands of the OpenIDEO community, the two posts I contributed based on my conversation with Kevin will stimulate new ideas about transitioning to renewable energy production. Here's what I wrote about (clicking the title takes you to the full post on OpenIDEO):

  • Incentivizing Early Adoption: True innovation only happens when a dream becomes viable in the marketplace. I sat down with Kevin Tibbs, the formulation chemist behind aptly-named Better Life's plant-derived, all-natural cleaning products, to discuss the recent installation of a 50 kW solar power system at their manufacturing plant.
  • What Motivates an Early Adopter?: Early adoption is crucial to all innovations. Understanding their motives will help us design a solution that meets their needs. My insights come from my interview with Kevin Tibbs, co-founder and "mad skills scientist" of Better Life, a natural cleaning product company based in St. Louis, Missouri.

Check out the full posts at OpenIDEO and let me know what you think. And don't be shy about contributing your own work to the project.


Yes, I did alliterate those section headings on purpose. Couldn't resist, mate.

Update (December 16, 2014): During today's huddle—a webinar with IDEO designers and renewable energy experts—OpenIDEO cited Kevin's interview as an example of useful community research. In the segment of the webinar I embedded below, OpenIDEO explains how the research phase of the design process feeds the ideas phase. Their shout-out made me proud of my research and grateful to Kevin for sharing his vision for a better world.

Update (January 24, 2015): The journey continues in the Ideas Phase on OpenIDEO.