Innovation Sighting: Tales of Things

Contradictions: A Pathway to Creativity
March 30, 2015
Innovation Sighting: The Cashless ATM Machine
April 13, 2015

One way you can use the Task Unification Technique is to make an internal component take on the function of an external component in a Closed World. In effect, the internal component “steals” the external component’s function.

One way you can use the Task Unification Technique is to make an internal component take on the function of an external component in a Closed World. In effect, the internal component “steals” the external component’s function.

Five universities in the United Kingdom got together and created a way for people to add stories to their own treasured objects. The treasured objects have the additional task of relating their stories to others. Future generations will thus have a greater understanding of a family heirloom’s past. They can even track their heirlooms after they have passed them on to the next generation. These objects will also be able to update previous owners on their progress through a live Twitter feed.

This project was dubbed Tales of Things, and includes both a software application and an online service that allow you to share and follow the “life stories” of personal objects. Tales of Things adds value to people’s lives in two ways: First, people have a way to assign more significance to their own possessions. Second, as people place more importance on the objects that are already parts of their lives, family and friends may think twice before throwing away something, and instead try to find new uses for it.

Here’s how it works. By photographing an object and attaching a QR code to the object, you enable anyone to scan it using a smart phone or other mobile device, and immediately view its history; read stories, tips, or advice about it; and attach his or her own notes, photos, video, or audio to it.

What’s the point of this? Imagine that your grandfather gives you an antique hammer that has been in the family for generations. Your great-great grandparents used it to build their home. Your great grandfather used it to hammer nails into the frame of the four-poster bed in which your parents still sleep. You treasure the object—and, even more, the fact that with it your grandfather gave you a written history of the hammer, a history that family members had been carefully preserving for more than a hundred years. Time passes. You use the hammer to build your kids a playhouse, to construct a dog kennel for your beloved golden retriever, and for other projects. Like your ancestors, you take time to write down for your children all the special stories related to the hammer. Then you give it to your son. You also hand him the historical record—by this time, almost two hundred pages long—and request that he continue the tradition. Tales of Things makes this sort of legacy not only possible but also easy.

Tales of Things uses Task Unification: taking a task (recording and passing on family stories about the hammer) that was formerly performed by an external component (ancestors) and assigning it to an internal component (the hammer itself ). In effect, the internal component steals the task from the external component.

The founders of Tales of Things have big plans for the future. They are especially interested in getting businesses hooked on the idea. They believe that companies will be able to use the service to engage customers at a deeper level than is now possible. Consumers can share with one another opinions and tips about products. Industries with vibrant secondary markets—say, automobiles or industrial equipment—can document the life cycle of a given car or table drill.

 

 

From “Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results”