the last a couple of years, I’ve been working I worked on a book project with two of the founders of MAYA Design, Inc., Peter Lucas and Joe Ballay. I can’t talk about the book right now (maybe soon), though my My recent comment on the iPad reflects a key theme of it: the shift from a computing agenda driven by technophiles to an agenda driven by normal human beings who don’t care about technology per se.
(The term MAYA, which is borrowed from industrial designer Raymond Loewy, is an acronym for “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable” and has nothing to do with the Mesoamerican civilization or the well-known 3D software called Maya.)
Besides being high-end designers, the MAYAns are inventors and innovation consultants. They help people in business see things differently–radically differently if we’re talking about real innovation, as opposed to the little tweaks that the computer industry typically calls innovation. Real innovation is heresy, a deep break with the orthodox. It springs from a fundamentally different orientation to reality.
“Heretic” usually calls to mind figures like Giordano Bruno and Galileo, but Edwin Land, the inventor of the Polaroid camera, was certainly one. (Most people called him “Dr. Land” though he possessed no formal degree from anywhere.) The story may be apocryphal, but supposedly Land snapped a photo of his young daughter one day with a conventional camera. She exclaimed, “Daddy, let me see the picture!” and the rest was a pretty big piece of photography history.
Being a kid, Land’s daughter wasn’t in a position to create the camera and the company and all those happy picture-takers and tech-sector jobs. That required a grown-up willing to have his head turned around. It’s a rare quality. If you’re deeply invested in the conventional wisdom you’re not likely to escape the numbing effects of familiarity and suddenly see the world in a whole new way.
Even so, the MAYAns believe that some methodologies for cultivating innovation can be learned, and in fact they have a new spinoff, The Luma Institute, for doing just that.
For a quick glimpse into their world, take a look at two little side-projects they’ve cooked up around Apple’s new iPad: Sprocket and Facejobs. Sprocket (an app plus a wearable carrying bag) lets bicyclists communicate with the world behind them. Facejobs is a hand-puppet application.
Nobody said that heresy has to arrive in the world looking like the Grim Reaper (although that Facejobs guy is pretty scary-looking). If Sprocket and Facejobs seem too silly for serious attention, give your head a ten-degree twist and think about it again. Whimsy is often a doorway into originality. And MAYA’s vision of the future of computing does not look like “computing.”
You might also be interested in an iPad post from MAYA’s CEO, Mick McManus.