Tom Hulme wants us to stop being afraid of technology. In his presentation at Design Indaba Conference 2014, the British entrepreneur and founder of OpenIDEO says technology is just another design tool.
“Our job is to harness technology and design with it,” says Hulme, formerly design director at global design firm IDEO and now general partner at Google Ventures.
In today’s tech-obsessed consumer culture, the key differentiator determining whether new products will stay the course is whether they meet real human needs in a low-friction way.
We often think technology addresses new human needs, he notes. But most of the time it’s just tools evolving to meet the same needs in a better way.
During the industrial revolution, for example, the precursor to the alarm clock was a long wooden stick that people called “knocker-uppers” in east London used to bang on factory workers’ windows to wake them up. An entrepreneurial lady designed a pea-shooter so she wouldn’t have to carry around the unwieldy stick. This ultimately led to the alarm clock – an arc of tools evolving to meet the same human need.
During his time as design director at IDEO, Hulme looked at how to use technology to improve the way social challenges are solved. He launched OpenIDEO, IDEO’s global innovation platform that issues online calls for solutions to specific challenges, makes the design process transparent and fosters collaboration.
The emergent platform is a global community that “draws on optimism, inspiration, ideas and opinions to solve problems together for the collective social good,” he explains.
OpenIDEO connects people who have never met each other but who are faced with common problems, often on opposite corners of the globe. The ideas developed are available open-source to anyone to implement.
“Necessity is the mother of invention. These people are solving stuff better than I could ever,” he says. “So creating a platform that takes the friction out of these people collaborating to me is the ultimate leverage.”
This year for the first time, the Design Indaba Conference talks make their premiere on our app, conveniently packaged in one place and available for free download. To watch Tom Hulme's full conference talk download the app here or keep watching designindaba.com for updates.