Colourful offices to inspire creativity and innovation, like Google?

Amongst many things, Google is also well known for its creatively designed office and work spaces. The logic behind the colourful and playful design is to create environments that can nurture creativity and innovation within the people that work in these places. Google is acknowledged as one of the most innovative companies in the past decade or so with a variety of products and services that are significantly impacting and changing our lives.

This is quite a common trait of many tech companies too. And similarly these companies also adopt conditions that are designed to encourage creativity and innovation.

Of course, such conditions are not only confined to office space design. Values, management practices, and leadership play equally big roles.

I believe that environment shapes culture, and in the case of Google and the likes, how much do you think the office and work space design (colourful and playful) contribute towards the respective organisation’s innovative culture? 

Cool hipster place at one|half & awesome canteen in Taman Paramount PJ

Thanks to our hipster 16 year old daughter, we found these stores in Taman Paramount, Petaling Jaya – called “one|half” and “awesome canteen”. Both places were run by the same friends and creates a very hip ambience. 

What I found interesting was more to do with the marketing of low volume, hand made, local products – as you can see in the photos. Given these are low volume and very niche products – the pricing is not what you would call cheap. However, I believe by creating an experience and a social cause association with local producers – such products can be positioned and differentiated from merely low cost products.

What is additionally interesting is this experience can be used to increase appreciation for locally produced, low volume and hand made goods. I have seen these forms of experiences in US, Europe and Japan, places that are not afraid to create fresh experiences (and sometimes promote social causes) with niche products would thus create demand for such local goods. Some chain stores like “Lush” even take an activist approach to enhancing such social benefits to the eco system. No doubt this social activist approach helps draw and create demand from customers who share these ideals.

This should be something we should explore and fund to stimulate demand for local cottage businesses.


one|half and awesome canteen can be found at Jalan 20/13 Taman Paramount PJ. You can probably locate them on google maps.

Refocusing the cellphone – we want a not so smart phone with *long battery life*.

Smart phone, dumb battery.

That is the current pain point many of us will be familiar with. We all have very powerful and capable phones, but have short battery lives which frequently mean we have to use these many capabilities sparring in order not to end up with a dead phone when you most need it.

The introduction of fast charging helps in part.

But why can’t designers design phones that lasts longer? This is pretty much the appeal of so-called dumb phones which typically lasts days or weeks.

So I would like to propose a few ideas to address this. So here goes.

  1. Bigger battery. D’uh. We don’t need ever slimmer phones. It is ok for phones to be a little thick to allow for longer battery life.
  2. Monochrome screens – no fancy stuff, just light colour text on black backgrounds a’la the Punkt MP01 phone. This should reduce a lot of the energy requirement by the screen. We can keep the touch screen ability too. 
  3. Lock down services. We still like the google services like contacts, calendars etc, so we would like to keep this – but lock down other apps, notifications and stuff from the google play store. Perhaps it is worth dumbing-down the phone a bit, and leave only the essential google apps to allow you to get through the week without charging. All apps will need to conform to the monochrome requirement.
  4. A flip phone with both an OLED and EPD (electronic paper display) screens. The YotaPhone does this quite well, but shame it didn’t catch on.
  5. If you must have a browser – strip it down to only test / readability / instapaper mode. i.e. disable the rich graphics and animations – just deliver a browser that presents you with just the text that you want to read. Better if it is also presented on the EPD screen.
  6. Have a nice robust design, but don’t make it too expensive. The Punkt MP01 phone is a very nice phone, but I think the price point is more than what many will be willing to pay for. 

The subject of corporate innovation from BNET

one of the projects i am working on is putting together a framework for corporate innovation.

one thing’s for sure, this is no easy thing. but unfortunately – or fortunately – it is something of a must do. we as a nation are at a crossroad, and inflection point.

for the past several years, we prided ourselves as being a solid destination for foreign investment in manufacturing. our low cost structure, good infrastructure and investment friendly government policies helped to drive economic growth 1.0.

for economic growth 2.0, we realise that low cost manufacturing is something that we can no longer see as our strength. there are far too many countries that can manufacture what we do cheaper and faster.

we have no choice but to look at knowledge and innovation. these are two big words which mean many things to many people.

but in simple terms knowledge to me is the outcome of 4E’s: education experimentation experience engagement. it is about learning these things throughout our lifetimes.

innovation can be distinguished from invention as follows: invention is about converting cash into ideas. innovation is about converting ideas into cash.

the question is how to we create the right conditions in an organisation for knowledge and innovation to flourish and create value for the organisation’s stakeholders?

in truth, this is really a big question. and i will not be able to consider the various facets in one blog post.

so i will break this down into a journey of discovery. i hope that you can join me on this journey and perhaps engage and share your thoughts along the way.

for now, i would like to understand innovation a bit more.

BNET is a wonderful site for interesting management articles. a quick search on innovation on BNET brought me to the subject of Apple Inc.

Some articles:

how to innovate like apple: this article talks about apples ruthless focus on zen simplicity, its creative people, perfecting its small product line, setting out its own unique positioning, not being dictated by others, and learning from mistakes are what makes apple what it is today.

how to nurture new ideas: this article advises that idea development and innovation should be institutionalized at all levels as part of an organisation’s day to day practice. the other part is using problem solving & observing customer behaviours as vital processes to build new ideas.

four principles of apple’s success (and failures): provides four insights to how apple has carved its own space in the technology industry: leading customers by offering them a solution to their needs before they envisage it; mixing art with engineering; focusing on a very select target market, as opposed to mass marketing; and being very focused on beating their best benchmarks.