Intentional design (and complex systems)

The most productive type of intentional design. It’s “for whom?” Begins with and “What is it for?” As the basic question.

By the way, complex systems are muddy designs because there are many “who” to answer.

Take this common product found at a Hilton hotel, designed and sold by a division of the giant food service company Cisco. It’s a little bigger than your thumb.

Well, if the “what is it for” shower is to be used, and the “what is it for” hotel guests, it fails in countless ways.

It is almost impossible to read (white type on a clear background). If you are wearing glasses, or have steam, or need glasses, it is impossible to read.

It is also almost impossible to open. The diameter of the top is too small to get a good grip for most people, especially when used as a shower purpose. It turns out that the top is not even screwed, there is a small sharp lip that needs to pop up.

And now we get system problems.

The user did not purchase it. A good Hilton bureaucrat worked with a good salesman at a Cisco company to get the transaction done. Both were trying to please their bosses. It can be as simple as “buy something cheap”, but it can also be related to outstanding favors, financing options or distribution benefits.

But wait, it gets worse.

When this container is used only once, it is discarded. It has almost certainly been placed in an incinerator and burned for electricity or simply dumped in a landfill, where it will last for a million years. The bottle is not only made of plastic, it is at least five times thicker and heavier than it needs to work.

It is not a refillable pump that sticks to the wall and lasts for four years. It is a disposable jar that uses almost as much energy to produce and lasts for a day.

The end result is that hundreds or millions of these bottles are poisoning our world, simply because a designer asks the wrong question.

This is why Carbon Almanac has to be part of the conversation at a typical company like Hilton, such as for hard-working general employees, who are customers of the hard-working person who first designed the bottle. Because one person has designed an item that has been reproduced a million times, frustrating thousands of wet people in a few thousand showers and then producing countless pounds of toxic carbon emitted into the air.

No one will win if this happens. It wastes time and money and goodwill. All because the system is not clear for whom it is and what it is for

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