Dean Kamen on Innovation

There’s an interview in the latest Make magazine with Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and many other cool things. It’s a good interview, and definitely worth your time to read it. One thing that stuck out was this quote on designing things: “I do very little research as to what the product should be … if you do “product research”, the product that you end up with will be similar to what already exists”.

I think this is why we see so many products that only get evolutionary upgrades, instead of revolutionary ones. People are stuck on what already exists, instead of being willing to throw it all out and start anew.

This reminds me of the ClearRX medicine bottle redesign. Pill bottles have looked basically the same for as long as I can remember. Now someone has come along and turned it on it’s ear. None of the changes required new technology to be invented, it just needed someone to think about the problem differently.

Ruby on Rails is much the same. Everything in there had been done before, but someone came along and said “let’s look at this problem differently.” And it’s turned the web development world on it’s ear. Even if Rails were gone tomorrow, it’s impact would live on for years to come.

What else is due for an overhaul?

Here’s my short list, off the top of my head:

  • PDAs
  • IDEs
  • Email
  • CRM
  • Cars

What’s missing?