Tuesday, November 9, 2010

appropriate technology & right sizing

In his TED talk, Steven Johnson talked about using appropriate technology for your target user.  He talked about using technology that people were familiar with and could fix, operate, teach about, and the like.

Plunking a machine built for one company in a specific city or country, won’t necessarily work somewhere else. Remove to a second world country and it’s another ball of wax. I love that phrase, my grandfather used to use it.

Steven specifically cites an example in Africa about medical x-ray equipment built with car parts.  Why car parts?  He says it’s because Africans are really good at keeping their old cars running.  If the x-ray machine had parts like a car, it’d be familiar enough to encourage their fixing, right?  It’s true.

Where else are they really good at keeping their cars running?


I visited Mexico for the first time in 1998.  Right away I noticed all the old model cars on the road. I actually recall saying out loud, “they really know how to keep their cars running.  Are you designing equipment for Mexico?  Maybe listen to Steven’s talk again before your next design review.

Organizational systems can be similarly designed to fit the culture and size of a company.  What works for a 500 person organization will be a tad cumbersome for a 12 person operation.  I’m working on right-sizing a Quality Management System currently.  While it’s always a goal to minimize paperwork, it will be especially critical to minimize control and documentation for a team where each member wears many hats. 

This right sizing will start with leaner processes and combining of tasks to keep it as simple as possible.  That acronym didn’t catch on for nothing.

What in your job is really painful - paperwork or process wise?

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