Can a good innovation approach really turn anything into gold?
- Geplaatst op dinsdag 14 december 2021
- Leestijd 5 minuten
Yes, a good innovation approach can really make anything better. Even things you do in your spare time, outside of work. Let me share with you a short story on how I used an innovation approach in my spare time.
During my regular workweek at Avanade, I work with an amazing team to look at client challenges and see how we can create new innovative ways in solving those challenges. We approach this by using Design Thinking to properly define the challenge we want to solve, do research, ideate on potential solutions, and then test the concepts to see what a viable, feasible and desirable solution is. This approach ensures that you solve problems in an agile way, testing them very early in the process to ensure you don’t spend large amounts of budget on ideas or solutions that will not work in practice or that nobody wants.
Ok… I hear you think, how is that ever going to do something for you in your personal life. Well, I have a hobby, and as with every hobby, you want to try new things. I have been doing photography as a hobby for around 18 years now, and I recently started to expand into video. It first started with a drone that I bought to do aerial photography. But since it also had video capability, I started experimenting with that. But seeing that I also love nature photography, I wanted to combine the two. But that can be a bit of a challenge since you’re not permitted (for good reasons) to fly over many of our protected nature areas. So, I wanted to create a solution for that.
Problem statement and ideating
I started with a problem framing, so I had a clear goal for myself that I wanted to achieve:
“How might I create large scale landscape video shots that look beautiful and slick, using a method which is permitted in protected wildlife areas, and is portable enough to bring on a hike?”
After I created a clear goal for myself, I started to think of potential solutions. I discussed these with friends, and in the end, I had a first rough idea. The first step is to research if there are already solutions available. And, of course, there were several options. But none of them really suited my requirements. Either the scale was too small, way too big, also too heavy to carry on a hike, or they were way out of my budget. Therefore, I decided to create something myself, and in the process, had a lot of fun. Looking at other solutions and doing some research, was not time wasted though. It gave me lots of inspiration on what my first solution could look like.
Rapid Prototyping using a 3d printer
My idea was to create a dolly that could carry a camera across a somewhat large distance on a rope. This way, I had flexibility on the distance and where I wanted to film. The added benefit of using a rope means that it’s light and easily foldable to fit in a camera bag. So off to the first prototype!
The first prototype was to test out size, print times and how sturdy it would be. I used some online CAD tools for the design and started printing. The benefit of doing a 3d print is that you can physically hold it and look at it. Immediately after the print finished, I could already see some flaws and the area’s I needed to improve upon. Much of these had to do with assembly, solidity and if my camera could be attached properly.
‘’By doing a very early print, I could already improve the design right from the beginning.’’
Which resulted in the second printed prototype. This was a prototype that was fully assembled and ready to be tested in the field.
Real world testing
After creating the second prototype, it was time to do the first real-world user test. I already thought of a lot of different features and options but stopped myself from over-engineering. First the concept needed to be proven. What is the use of all these additional features if the idea is flawed at the very thing it was designed to do? So, as in my job, I wanted to do real-world validation as soon as possible. The goal of the test was to validate different aspects: how easy is it to use, how easy is the setup, is it sturdy enough for a camera, and very important: does it yield good results when filming.
So together with two friends, we set off to a large natural area near Amsterdam. Here we chose a good spot and did the first setup. After some tweaking of the rope, we did a first run. And it worked like a charm! It resulted in a smooth ride for the camera and some impressive first shots. But of course, we didn’t want to stop there. With this first great result, we wanted to push our test further. We wanted to go further, faster, slower, and more adventurous. The more we tested, the more data we gathered, and the more we learned.
‘’We concluded the first test as a great success proving that the concept works and gives great results. These tests also gave us some valuable insights on how to improve the experience.’’
One example is the way we attached the camera to the dolly. Getting the camera screwed in, was tedious and we also had no option but to balance it out. Even if the first test would have failed entirely, it would not have been wasted effort. I would have learned a lot from that and had allowed me to take a new approach very early in the process. Fail fast, learn fast!
One of the test video’s can be found at the bottom of this page.
Three different prototypes: prototype 1 for assembly and camera fitting testing, prototype 2 for first real world test to validate proof of concept and the third prototype as a first new iteration after initial findings during testing.
Currently, I’m designing and building the third prototype based on our real-world test findings. The goal of the third prototype is to improve upon the ease of use and flexibility with mounting the camera in different positions. With these changes I hope it will be easier to mount different camera types and to give more flexibility in balancing the dolly with a larger camera. I also removed the elements to tow the dolly, since the testing showed that there was no need for those.
I cannot wait to assemble and test the next version. Once all the minor issues have been solved and tested again, we might even motorize the dolly. This way we can even control it from our phone and create even better shots.
It has been an extremely fun experiment to do in my spare time, and it really demonstrated that the innovation process works. I started small, with a clear problem statement behind it and validated it very early on. And by using new cheap technology like 3d printing, I was able to build all of this for a little under 10 euro, excluding the costs for a 3d printer of course.