Randy Sarafan, technology editor for Instructables, has created an earth shatteringly incredible machine. In an effort to lower energy, Sarafan has crafted a wearable lamp device that only illuminates when the user’s eyes are open. When Randy blinks or closes his eyes, the light goes out, when he opens his eyes, the light comes back on. While the device is currently only utilizing his desk lamp and is haphazardly activated through electrodes connected to his face, the Energy Saving Light will soon revolutionize worldwide energy consumption. Just give it a minute. Trust us.
All jokes aside, the device does, in fact, work. And it brings up a very interesting point about the potential of discovery through the deconstruction of a problem down to the very basic of parts or principles. Randy’s little experiment was a tongue-in-cheek creation to celebrate Earth Day. Taking the broad environmental initiative of reducing energy consumption, Sarafan broke down one of the most elemental issues: the energy devices consume when those devices are not in use. (in this case, even down to the relationship between blinking and reading). Why should a TV be left on when no one’s in the room? Why should your iPhone screen stay illuminated when you’re not using it? Why should a light stay on when your eyes are closed?
Sure, there are more practical approaches to combating the waste of energy, but Sarafan’s approach teaches us a valuable lesson about solving big problems. Often we are swayed to focus on the biggest pieces of a given issue in an attempt to quickly find solutions and do the most good with the least risk. There are no lower limits to innovation – every bit counts. When we set objectives too high (i.e. solving the world’s energy issues) we are setting ourselves up for failure.
Let’s take a different example. Think about a manufacturer of bottled water. Their big problem would be: how do we continue to drive revenue from a product who’s packaging is the largest expense – compounded by the fact that expensive packaging is also filling up landfills and creating a barrier to usage? One solution is discovered through looking at the most discreet elements of the product. Aquafina is in the business of selling H2O. Yet by looking at the actual material that moves their product, they found a way to save money on materials, and solve a big issue. Through reducing the amount of plastic they use for the bottle and cap by even the smallest amounts, Aquafina made a positive environmental impact and lowered manufacturing costs.
By deconstructing the problem, looking at each physical, functional and even emotional element – notice Sarafan’s humor in the face of an overwhelming social concern – we find that solutions can live in the most unlikely places. By leaving no stone unturned and forcing ourselves to look at the smallest pieces of the puzzle, we become open to new sources of inspiration.
What might you gain by zooming in on the most discreet elements of your business? What’s your version of making the bottle-cap smaller? How can you take a lighthearted approach to bigger problems?