Thursday, July 4, 2019

How to come up with creative ideas: Think what can be better in a given user situation

[Note: I recently started sharing my scribbles on How to come up with creative ideas. To reiterate, my idea in sharing these is to look back at this list for my own inspiration and for those who are interested.]

Last week, while running Lean Start-up workshop for our talented team at the Greece office, i shared the story of how Zoom became such a big player in video conferencing software industry. In a span of ~8 years, they achieved the valuation of close to $20B after a successful IPO. There are many parts of Zoom's story that I find fascinating, but I want to focus on one part below.

Here's an excerpt from Forbes article that I find quite fascinating:
Yuan’s secret for being everywhere: Zoom, of course. His habit of taking the most important meetings virtually started because of basketball. A diehard NBA fan since moving to the U.S., first of the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant for his work ethic and then of his local Golden State Warriors, Yuan made a point of attending every one of his three kids’ basketball games and gymnastics meets. One unique Zoom feature is a virtual background the user can change to show a logo or image, disguising where they really are. Last summer, his eldest son, now a graduating high school senior who set the local league record for three-point shots, had a tournament in Los Angeles. “I set the background as the Santa Barbara beach, and they all thought I’m there. After the meeting, I swipe,” revealing a sweaty high-school gym. “And they all say, ‘What?’ ”
I am a regular user of video conferencing software, like many professionals are. I often tend to use it within the bounds of what the software has to offer. For example, earlier today i was wondering why
do i need to tap click 4-5 times to even change the presenter from me to my colleague. More we use software, the more we get comfortable with the imperfections in the software. The more we get used to the imperfections, the more we find it natural to use. That's how most habits are formed.

But the question I raised today in my mind was: Do I really have to get used to imperfection in the software ? Can't the software vendor proactively do something about it ?

There is something that I learned from the above listed Zoom example. One of the constants in video conferencing world is the background. If I share my video, in addition to my face and upper part of body, the receiver can see the background. My background tells the receiver where I am. If I have to take the call from a place that is not as office-like, then I normally would try and change the surroundings to suit the expectations of the call. Zoom seemed to have questioned this pain user goes through and provided option to the user to change the background and make it look like the place that will suit the call.

Reverse-engineering the thinking behind this actually taught me a vital lesson about generating new ideas. The new ideas emanates not only from the pain user goes through but also by slightly altering our thoughts to focus on 'what can be better for a user'. I feel this is as simple as looking at each feature of the product and asking 'if i can better one thing in this feature that would make the life of the user better, what would that be?'

What do you think ? Will this approach open up new neural pathways in one's brain ?

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