12 April 2010

Chindōgu & Lasting Value

Chindōgu is the act of creating or conceptualizing a product whose usefulness is precluded by its absurdity.

Chindōgus are not absolutely useless, since they typically solve a problem; yet in practical terms, chindōgus are much more humorous in their inherent absurdity than they are useful.

The Japanese word chindōgu means unusual tool. Chindōgu, and its inventor Kenji Kawakami, were featured on the BBC television show It'll Never Work.

Sheep-like and Stupid

Chindōgu resonates because it tickles the funny bone and because it allows us to find humor in humankind's consumptive fixation - our need to buy things for a fleeting emotional bump.

Throngs of clamoring consumers camp out to be the first to buy the latest electronic device like the Apple iPad (Thingamabobs & Evo-Constants). Humans are sheep-like and seemingly stupid because, more often than not, instant gratification trumps reason.

Pet Rock Mindset

The Pet Rock mindset sullies inventors with silly ideas teetering on the edge of chindōgu-ism. If a new-fangled hunk of plastic costs $19.95 and acting now somehow sweetens the deal, it behooves us to examine the lasting value the object, if not the quality.
Imagine all the devices you thought you needed in a pile. Visualize a price tag on each item. Picture a garbage trunk compacting them. Are you grieving?

Change Minds & Behavior

The inventor's challenge is to make something that isn't throw-away, something that changes minds, and something that changes behavior in fundamental and lasting ways.

In Switch, Chip and Dan Heath argue for appealing to The Elephants and The Riders. The emotional side of change is known as the Elephant. The rational side of change is the Rider. They say, "The Elephant's hunger for instant gratification is the opposite of the Rider's strength, which is the ability to think long-term, to plan, to think beyond the moment."

Invented objects and concepts need to inspire and to appeal to our emotions, but more importantly, they need to provide lasting value.

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