Tony Fadell is known as the mercurial “godfather” of the iPod and described as a born tinkerer with a combative reputation. His passion for life and design is contagious. In a recent TED Talk he spoke about the little things humans notice at first and perhaps become slightly perturbed by, and then invariably stop noticing as we get used to them, through a process called habituation. As a designer, he wants to fix those little things, by trying “to see the world the way it really is, not the way we think it is. Why? Because it’s easy to solve a problem that almost everyone sees. But it’s hard to solve a problem that almost no one sees.”
The tips he offers for ‘fixing’ habituation reflect his creative approach, his meticulous attention to detail and his drive to make the world a better place through design. First, look broader. Take a step back and consider the elements of a project or problem…consider removing one or combining them. Second, look closer. Focus on the tiny details that you typically overlook. Can you fix them? Would it make a difference to the consumer? Third, think younger. What would a child ask or say? Encourage the young minds around you to contribute. Ensure they’re part of your team.
After leaving Apple and taking a break, Fadell founded Nest, which “reinvents unloved but important home products” with a focus on “delighting consumers with simple, beautiful and thoughtful hardware, software and services.” He sold it to Google last year, but not before making some serious progress towards disrupting technology in your home in the best possible way.
Fadell talks about the future of the internet in a recent article on The Wall Street Journal. “Like a library,” he says, so long as you know where to look or you know the right question to task. He predicts that soon it “will be everywhere and in everything,” helping us to make more informed decisions as we navigate our way through daily life.
For those of us who are connected to the internet (note that apparently 4.4 billion people worldwide are still offline) it’s quickly becoming one of life’s necessities, right up there with our physiological needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy. But it’s not just people who will be more connected in the future. Devices will be too. Of course, computers and phones, but also appliances and armchairs. One of the major transitions that we’re going to see is a move from a reactive approach (where the internet will do things when we tell it to) to a proactive approach (where the internet will do things before we tell it to).
The future for Fadell seems big. Why doesn’t he just sit back and bask in the already hugely successful products of his labor? “I gotta keep growing,” he says. “Because I’m old, but I’m not that old. I’ve still got a lot of years ahead of me, and I’m not just going to sit here.”