I had a problem over the past several weeks that needed resolved. I had been running without music. I acknowledge that this was not the end of the world. While I found that it is sometimes peaceful to run without the likes of Disturbed screaming in my ears (i.e., it gave me time to think), I also missed the the invigorating pulse of semi-angry music to push me through the end of my long runs.
The root of the problem is that I had managed to rust out my “running” headphones. Yes, I literally rusted them out. The sweat-induced corrosion had eaten through the speakers, and into the wires (I actually dissected them to discover this). I am either the only person in the world who sweats in his ears, or this was a design problem – I’ll go with the latter.
What I needed was a pair of earphones that would withstand sweat and corrosion, and that would actually stay in my ears when I ran. In addition to being the only person who sweats in his ears, I must have the oddest shaped ear canals in the world because earbuds NEVER stay in when I run – they rarely stay in when I am sitting calmly.
The Social Solution
I read a post on a running blog I only recently started following. katieRUNSthis mentioned in one of her recent posts a product called Yurbuds, which claims to be a product for athletes, developed by athletes. The website said that the simple technology of medical-grade silicone, and the unique, ergonomic design combined for a fit that was guaranteed to stay in place during the most rigorous physical activities.
While I tend to lean more toward skeptical regarding advertising, I found myself at BestBuy last Saturday purchasing a pair of Yurbuds. On Sunday I put them to the test with a 9-mile run. Yes, my ears did sweat profusely. The result? This product absolutely rocks!
In a day when innovation is king, I was excited to find a simple product that managed to meet my simple needs. The innovation in this case was not the design of a product that I didn’t know I needed until I had it in my hands (e.g., my first iPhone); it was a significant improvement on an existing product that had yet to fully satisfy my wants.
Simple is Elegant
This has caused me to think about innovation in my work. Like many, I tend to think largely about creating the next great innovation to meet the needs of my organization, even if our people don’t yet realize that they need it. Don’t we all want to design the next iPhone?
What I realized is that my time and energy would be better spent redesigning existing systems to better meet the current needs of organization, and our people. I wonder what sweaty-eared employee need could be met with a simple, yet elegant redesign?
What kind of innovation are you scheming?