Stories That Inspire Us To Do & Be More

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Life’s a struggle. We’re not talking about ‘first world problems’ like not being able to finish your movie on a flight or forgetting to bring your smartphone to the toilet while you drop some off – we’re talking about the days where you just think the world sucks. We’re talking about the days when you feel like there’s no point to anything you do. We’re talking about the days where you simply give up on people.

We all have them, and most of us have them more often than we’d like to admit – which is fine. Thing’s go up and down so what’s important is bouncing back quickly and not wasting time in that headspace. Here’s some stories that really hit our heartstrings and got us back on the saddle, we hope you like them.




Top Ten Innovations Taking Us Out Of The Stone-Age

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There are many things out there that people consider amazing, but we wanted to bring to you a list of things that you might not have ever heard of before. Prepare to be amazed, and then amazed some more. Here is a list of the top ten innovations that we think are doing things differently in a world of homogeny.


Rocketbook 3This is a notebook that you’ll want to throw into the microwave. ‘Why’ you protest? Because this is no ordinary notebook; it’s been specially designed so that when you’ve filled it up with your scribbles you no longer need to buy a new one – just throw it in the microwave and all the ink will disappear! Seriously. We’re not joking. Check out theirIndiegogo campaign page now if you don’t believe us, they already have over 10,000 backers. And if that wasn’t cool enough, they have an app that allows all of your pages to automatically be pushed into the cloud as pdf files. A reusable notebook that syncs to the cloud…wow. Colour us impressed.



NestWe understand that thermostats are not the sexiest things around, but does the above even look like a thermostat to you? Besides having a design that would warrant its purchase alone, the Nest Thermostat learns from you everyday so that it programs itself (and your house) to your needs. It’ll figure out that you get home every night at around 8pm and automatically adjust the temperature beforehand to be just right for when you arrive. When you’re away from the house it’ll also turn off by itself to save you money on your bills by up to 20%. It can be activated and controlled remotely if need be. It’s no wonder that Google bought this company for a ridiculous $3.2 billion. Yes, ‘billion’ with a ‘b’.



Rosa's Fresh Pizza owner Mason Wartman in Philadelphia invites customers to pay it forward.We understand that thermostats are not the sexiest things around, but does the above even look like a thermostat to you? Besides having a design that would warrant its purchase alone, the Nest Thermostat learns from you everyday so that it programs itself (and your house) to your needs. It’ll figure out that you get home every night at around 8pm and automatically adjust the temperature beforehand to be just right for when you arrive. When you’re away from the house it’ll also turn off by itself to save you money on your bills by up to 20%. It can be activated and controlled remotely if need be. It’s no wonder that Google bought this company for a ridiculous $3.2 billion. Yes, ‘billion’ with a ‘b’.



The PlantIf you haven’t heard of aquaponics before, a simple introduction is that it’s a food production system where fish, water, and plants all work together to feed themselves in a closed loop where nothing is wasted. The Plant is an aquaponics farm in Chicago that compromises of a fish hatchery, a hydroponic garden, an awesome kitchen, and a brewery for beer and tea. Their plans are to become a net-zero energy system where they can operate completely off the grid. They were shortlisted in Wallpaper Magazine’s Design Awards, find out more about The Plant here.



Tesla Model SEver wish that Tony Stark was real? Well, the closest thing we have in reality is Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors who has revolutionised the car industry by creating commercially viable (and desirable) electric cars. The car’s performance is incredible, the safety ratings are at the highest across the industry, and (most importantly) the design appeals to the masses. To further his vision of revolutionising the car industry, Elon Musk has made an unprecedented move of making all the Tesla patents open source – encouraging (and forcing) the competition to come after him. Just so you know, Elon Musk was behind PayPal and also runs SpaceX (rocket company sending people to Mars) at the same time as Tesla – the man is mental.



Rainforest-ConnectionBelieve in having a life after life? Well, you should at least believe your cell-phone can have one. Topher White is an inspiring engineer battling an age old problem, how do you stop illegal logging? Usually the trees have already been cut down before anybody finds out, so it’s not only about discovery but also real-time intervention. In this video he explains how he uses discarded old cell phones rigged up to recycled solar panels hidden throughout the forest as sensors that listen out for the sounds of chainsaws. Once it has been picked up, a notification is immediately sent to a nearby ranger who then goes to stop the illegal logging. It’s amazing nobody thought of this sooner. Check out Rainforest Connection, and give your phone an after-life by sending it to them!



Beyond MeatOur team has an extreme love for food. Coming from all parts around the world and always experimenting with the strange (honey bees, snakes, balls, you name it), we thought that we’ve tasted it all…until we came across Beyond Meat. In simple terms, it’s meat from plants. They’ve created chicken that looks, feels, smells, and tastes just like chicken…only that it’s not chicken. We were very skeptical…but prejudices aside, we think that this could really be a game changer. After all, none of us eat meat because we like dead animals; we eat meat because it tastes good. So what if there’s ‘meat’ that tastes good without the dead animals part? We welcome you, Beyond Meat.



Planet LabsThese guys built rockets in their garage. No joke. You have to watch the TED talk to really understand how awesome their accomplishment is. The problem that they’re tackling: looking at satellite images of the planet and realising that the photos are all years old – it’s hard to improve things if everything you’re seeing is years in the past. Planet Labs have now created very cheap miniature satellites equipped with high resolution cameras that have been sent to space to orbit the Earth in a ring. These small satellites constantly take photos so that we have an updated database of the planet’s surface every 24 hours…incredible. Did I mention they built these in their garage? The applications for this technology and the assistance these images will provide to the world at large are monumental.



LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 02: In this photo illustration, a smartphone displays the 'Uber' mobile application which allows users to hail private-hire cars from any location on June 2, 2014 in London, England. The controversial piece of software, which is opposed by established taxi drivers, currently serves more than 100 cities in 37 countries. London's black cabs are seeking a High Court ruling on the claim that the Uber software is breaking the law by using an app as a taxi meter to determine rates. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 495663217 ORIG FILE ID: 495298219Out of all the innovations in the list, Uber needs the least introduction and may stick out from the rest since it’s more widely known. But we couldn’t leave it off the list because Uber doesn’t just represent itself, it represents a larger global movement where there’s empowerment in the everyman’s resources. Much like Airbnb, these services make previously useless entities a valuable resource. An empty room becomes a hotel. An empty car seat becomes revenue. You get the picture. This has radically disrupted the world in unprecedented ways and will continue to force innovation out of stagnant companies. The stone has been cast.



Original-UnverpacktLast but not least, Original Unverpacktthe supermarket of the future has no packaging. That’s right, we’ve all come home from the groceries with loads of plastic and wondered if there was a better way, well here’s a solution. Located in Berlin (Germany), this concept store completely removes packaging from all of the products and stores them in large dispenser bins. Customers bring in their own containers (or ones purchased in the store), fill them up with however much they need, and pay based on weight. Obviously this isn’t an end-all solution to the grocery store model, but it’s an interesting step in the right direction.

That’s it, folks. Like our list or think there’s something we’re missing? Let us know!


The Clothes You Wear Were Made To Fall Apart

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Each generation wears more clothes than the last, from our grandparents, to our parents, and to us now…but most don’t really know why this happens. Well here’s the secret: our clothes have been designed and manufactured to fall apart – it’s called ‘planned obsolescence‘. In simple terms, companies use this methodology to ensure that you come back to buy more; after all, a product that lasts forever only needs to be bought once – and that’s just not good business. I say this in an understanding tone rather than a critical one.

PO-2With my experience in fashion, I recently gave a talk about planned obsolescence at an event in Shanghai, and the reaction wasn’t surprise but a slow realisation. This isn’t just in fashion like with socks or H&M, but everywhere. We start to think about the rate we go through laptops, blenders, and washing machines compared to the older generations and wonder to ourselves ‘how are things breaking down faster even though technology is improving’? Consumer electronics such as smartphones are designed to be replaced ideally every two years; it’s not a coincidence that the phone plans and new product releases coincide. You don’t like it and want to be a hardcore resistor to the change? They’ll force software updates and security that makes your phone slow. Still okay with that? Then they’ll change all the available chargers and parts so your old phone is not longer supported. It’s not only the products that are designed with replacement in mind, but the entire ecosystem around it as well. Want an example? Look no further than at Apple’s planned obsolescence with their non-replaceable batteries and other strategies.


PO-1From a business perspective, planned obsolescence is really quite genius for various reasons. Firstly, there’s higher sales volume because people buy more often. Secondly, by creating an artificial lifespan for a product you reduce the amount of time between repeat purchases (shortened replacement cycle) – this creates higher rates of customer retention. So if a customer buys from a brand more frequently, it becomes more ingrained in them to naturally come back – one of the most important KPIs for brand marketers. But there are skeptics who protest ‘if I buy something and it doesn’t last long, I simply won’t buy from them again!’. What we need to understand is: ‘lasting long’ is relative to our experience and expectations in comparison to what’s standard across the industry. Companies don’t drastically reduce lifespans of products overnight but rather work together systematically over time to lower the standards across the entire industry (look at how lightbulb started out).

Now if we buy a shirt and throw it away after a few months we think it’s a bargain – times have certainly changed.


Creating A Spark – A Better Way To Work

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This weekend, thousands of motivated designers and entrepreneurs in over 100 cities across the world took part in a special design event – the 2015 Global Service Jam. I was invited to be a speaker in Shanghai (or a ‘Spark’ as they call it) with the task to inspire participants to believe that what they create can really improve the lives of others. It was a great honour to be invited to speak as there’s nothing more worth spending your time on than inspiring others; so I thought long and hard about what advice I could give to really help. As people were mostly interested in how I work, I thought it’d be great to share the processes that were used to create Refuture – how to build solutions with limited resources and time.

Traditionally, most of the work processes we use are linear and operate in a step-by-step manner. This is great because it’s simple, reduces the margin for error, and is easy to coordinate with your team. A very typical process is:

  1. Research the problem
  2. Brainstorm for ideas
  3. Execute the solution

This is what we do in most of our corporate jobs, but it’s actually terrible for when you’re working in a dynamic and fast-paced environment because you often don’t have the necessary resources and need to cut corners to meet deadlines. These days as most environments are increasingly dynamic and fast-paced, it’s increasingly important to find new ways to work. With Refuture, we adopted a working methodology called Human-Centered Design, advocated by the innovation firm IDEO. Here’s how it’s different:

Traditional Work Process

Service Jam 2015 Sparks 2

Service Jam 2015 Sparks 3The above work process is what we’re all used to; we start in the first phase by researching the problem (discover), then we brainstorm for ideas (ideate), and then we execute on the chosen solution (prototype). As time goes on, we progress more and more towards completion. The Human-Centered Design (HCD) process on the other hand, has the same phases but it operates as a cycle towards completion rather than a sequential linear process. Allow me to illustrate:

Human Centered Design Process

Service Jam 2015 Sparks 4

Service Jam 2015 Sparks 5The key difference in this work process is that you rapidly move between the three phases multiple times on the path to completion; discover > ideate > prototype > discover > ideate > prototype > discover > and so on. By spending shorter times in each phase, it is much faster to make a prototype into reality and therefore enables you to more quickly incorporate real world feedback into improving the original solution. In the traditional work process, it takes too long before any real testing of the solution occurs – so we spend a considerable amount of time on assumptions. I’m sure we’ve all encountered many situations where our original ideas were wrong and we’ve spent lots of time discussing the wrong problem and/or building the wrong solution. But in my humble opinion, the Human-Centered Design process excels above other processes in one key aspect: time.

Service Jam 2015 Sparks 6

Service Jam 2015 Sparks 7In fast-paced dynamic environments (tech, startups, consumer products, etc.), we’re often faced with very tight timeframes that can spontaneously change – and the last thing we want is to miss a window of opportunity. In the above illustration, the Human-Centered Design process would have went through 3 cycles of prototyping and feedback on the product before the traditional method has even started prototyping their solution. Essentially, the people using the traditional method would have been caught with their pants down.

Using this style of working has enabled the Refuture team to move quickly, responsively, and stay constantly connected to real-user feedback. If you’re interested in learning more, you can take a free online course with great materials here at the +Acumen Human-Centered Design Course.

I hope this provides some insight to how we work at Refuture and hopefully inspires you to go out there and create something awesome. It’s really as easy as 1, 2, 3. Or should I say…1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1…

Refuture Goes Social

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Our Facebook and Twitter is now up and running.

Show us some love and follow us – we’ll keep you posted on what’s going on behind-the-scenes and will make sure that you are the first to hear about what’s going on with Refuture.

Share, retweet, spread the word, and make sure to hashtag us:
#refuture #CommunityBacked.

The Beginnings

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The Refuture campaign is now live on Indiegogo!

OpenIDEO, supported by Coca-Cola Enterprises, has selected Refuture to be a part of the Community Backed Project. Together with four others, we’re tackling societal issues such as sustainability, Ebola, elderly care, etc. and trying to bring our ideas to reality. Check out more information here.