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When Apple came out with the iPhone in 2007 it was a game-changing product. Everybody was talking about it, even those not flocking to AT&T. People at parties gathered around the phone to watch the pinch, the swivel, the pictures, and the games.

The technology industry, including our clients, reacted as well. They were frustrated at not being able to create a game-changer like Apple. Everyone wanted their version of the iPhone impact. Now business products feel the pressure to produce a cool experience in products at work.

Business has been searching for the Holy Grail to guarantee transformative innovation for years. Go scan the business bookshelves—innovation that produces major profit is a never-ending discussion. Everyone wants to know the secret sauce.

A quick look at those books reveals that the innovation discussion falls into two camps. Many, many books try to address how to restructure your organization or team so that the people within it will innovate. Let’s call that organizational innovation. And other books talk about “cool” as it relates to marketing—how you make your sneaker, band, or vodka sound cool by association with stars or life experiences. Many fewer books address what we might call design innovation

[1] —how to put products together that deliver practical innovations that people can put to immediate use.

Successful practical innovations like the iPhone deliver immediate transformative value. They are not a testing vehicle for what I call foundational innovation, interesting but as yet unproven technologies. Voice recognition is a great example of a foundational innovation that had promise but was not ready for prime time 25 years ago—or even 5. Products with voice recognition might make some money but they operated as prototypes and learning vehicles to help the technology mature. But today voice recognition—at least in English—is a practical innovation. Now we can really speak into the Droid at any text field and produce a sensible result that needs little editing.

Game-changing, practical innovations deliver value by transforming life—by changing how we work, live, and play so profoundly that they create the “can’t go back” experience. As one of our participants in the Cool Project said about the iPod, “What are we going to do, carry around a Discman® and CDs? No, we can’t go back!”

InnovationInCool hopes to bring to you knowledge, conversations, musings, fun, and our services too, as we explore the domain of practical design innovation. At the heart of our knowledge are our Cool Concepts built on the field data we collected through the Cool Project. What we have learned is that, although joy is at the center of the experience of cool, we know a game-changing product is cool because it creates that “can’t go back” experience. In the big or in the small, cool delivers something that once you have it you can’t imagine living without it.

But what produces that experience? Joy is our Geiger counter—it points us to what will feel like a profound impact. And the Wheel of Joy and Triangle of Design tell us what we should be thinking about to design for cool and produce successful, practical innovations.

The cool experience is intimately tied to successful design innovation. It’s not about finding one magic feature, not about being first with some new, untested technology that doesn’t quite work yet, not about finding a set of colors, transparent screens, black cases, or any other aesthetic. The cool experience shows us how to design game-changing practical innovation into products on purpose, every time.

Of course the experience of cool never lasts, because we get used to having the transformative impact on our life—we come to expect it. And then the hassles of everyday life creep in, blotting out our memory of how much worse it used to be. And so the opportunity for more cool and more practical design innovation emerges.

This is the endless cycle of product design. We must come to understand the cool experience so that when we look into the ever-changing lives of people we can see the opportunities to provide a new cool impact.

So join us, learn what we are learning about creating cool, design innovation, and product development. Contribute to our collective knowledge of design innovation by sharing your Cool Bites, your product stories, and what you have found that others should read.

——[1] The word design has become nearly impossible to use. Some people think design only refers to industrial design–the look of an object. Others think design is interaction or visual design of software. We think design refers to all of that taken together with the definition and structure of any product. Design means the design of the whole product.