Sutherland looks at the value of small ideas in these TED Talks.
If you prefer reading the analog version, Rory’s premise is summarized in one sentence thusly: there are often ways to improve products by thinking out of the box. Let me relate a couple of examples that he gives. The train from London to Paris is about a three and a half hour ride. Engineers were tasked with the job of improving the transit experience, so they come up with the plan to lay £6B in new tracks to shave about forty minutes off the journey.
Rory’s solution is much simpler: hire all of the world’s top male and female supermodels and pay them to walk up and down the train handing out glasses of Château Pétrus. With this solution, he claims, you’d still have about £3B in change left over and people would be asking for the trains to be slowed down.
Sutherland ponders, “How many problems of life can be solved by tinkering with perception?” Real value does not necessarily require the addition of labor, raw materials, and costs, but rather, it can be created cheaply and often with no more than a shift in perception.
Some other examples that Sutherland makes note of: Diamond Shreddies, an elevator that lets you select your own music (instead of your floor), and a prototype interface for “impulse saving,” as opposed to “impulse buying.”
But it’s very rare that these simple solutions get noticed. Why? Because the people with the power want to do large-scale, expensive things to feel like they have an important job.