If you flip through the design books at Stanford's D-School, you'll find a lot of bite-sized sayings to inspire innovation: "A Child's Eye," "Find Rule Breakers," "People are Human." The general trend is to encourage empathy. Understand others and you'll understand their needs. Understand their needs and a solution will soon follow.
But there's a second theme that ties these taglines together: "Cross Pollinate." Its creed? Find a group's pain-points, look at the solutions they've created, then apply those solutions elsewhere.
I would hardly call my experience with Apple as full of "pain points," but there is still huge potential for this type of cross-platform innovation. For instance, systems for video sharing, like Facebook's video posts, would fit seamlessly into Apple's Mail application. Imagine being able to send a video message (a V-Mail if you will) directly from your email window. It would be a great innovation, especially as camera-laden mobile devices become an increasingly dominant pipeline for email messaging.
Here's another idea: wouldn't the tabs that you find within Internet browsers be perfect for Finder? Currently, if I'm working with five different folders on my computer, each will be open in its own window. Is that really necessary? Wouldn't it be easier to have only one window open with a separate tab for each?
The desktop dock could also do with a little cross-pollination reform. Gamers playing "World of Warcraft" can create multiple "docks" for action commands on their screen. Why not multiple docks with Apple? Having a place to store folders could really clean things up. A dock at the bottom for applications, a dock to the left for folders.
Apple needs no lesson on innovation, but at the same time, it's interesting to see where simple overlaps could bring new life to its current products. If heart valves can inspire bottle nozzles, and thistles can inspire Velcro then imagine the cross-pollinating potential for a company as large as Apple. Retractable ear buds, laptop voice commands, a Finder that also browses the Internet. The opportunities are endless.
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