Fail Like You Mean It
Dean Kamen is an American scientist and inventor whose products include the Segway human transporter (HT) and the iBOT battery-powered wheelchair. His inventions include medical devices and futuristic gizmos that Kamen hopes will revolutionize the way we live and travel.
In 1989, Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a robotics competition for high school students. In 2007, it held 37 competitions in countries such as Israel, Brazil, Canada, and the United States.
Kamen is the President of DEKA Research and Development.
Kamen was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1997 for his biomedical devices and for making engineering more popular among high school students. He was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 2000 by then President Clinton for inventions that have advanced medical care worldwide. In 2002, Kamen was awarded the Lemelson-MIT Prize for inventors, for his invention of the Segway and of an infusion pump for diabetics. In 2005 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his invention of the AutoSyringe. In 2006 Kamen was awarded the Global Humanitarian Action Award by the United Nations.
Question: How is it when the creative process hits a dead end?
Dean Kamen: I wouldn’t know what it’s like to hit a dead end. Every project I’ve ever worked on ends up ahead of schedule and on the budget. We always get it right the first time and we shipped it. And it’s always perfect. But I can imagine that there are a lot of people that don’t have that situation.
Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth. Every project we’ve ever done without exception, we start out with some simple objective. It always seem simple and then you get into the ugly reality of trying to accomplished that simple objective and nature, it’s not cruel but it’s very subtle and inevitably, you’re surprised along the way as you try to make things happen and almost all the surprises are bad surprises. New problems keep cropping up. Things that seem that they should work, don’t. A simple elegant idea turns out to have a bunch of ugly facts are related to that elegant idea, and no matter how elegant the idea is, the facts win. So you rethink that idea, you try different strategies, you employ different technologies.
And as you said, in the end if it finally works. People think you start it with this idea, you went on a straight line and concluded with this product. In fact, they not only think that but the way media present it, it reinforces that because media has a finite amount of time to tell a story. Media has a finite attention span.
Nobody wants to hear literally the five years of frustration that you took taking the wrong paths. For one thing, no matter how fast you’d speak, if they ask you about this project that took you five years, if they really wanted the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, it would take you five years to tell it. You don’t have to tell all the crazy places you got on a piece of spaghetti and you ran through every strand of spaghetti in that bowl until you got to the end. They don’t want to know all about that spaghetti. They want to know where you started and as quickly as they can, they want to know the result and how it can affect them.
So we all, as a matter of course, when I asked about how we do anything in our lives, we start with some big thought, we might tell a few of the funny incidental side-path, but then in a finite amount of time, an interview and a book, we get to the conclusion people want. At best, with a couple of references to a little sidepath here and there.
As a consequence of all of that, people begin to think that some inventor in fact really starts with a big idea, runs along the line, gets to the conclusion, ships it off and starts the next idea, when in fact, at least in my case, you jumped in the spaghetti bowl, you crawled over every strand in that bowl. Some of them will swear you, covered at least five times, and then if you finally ever emerged at the other end, where you want it to be, which does sometimes happen but it is rare. Instantly you forget about all that spaghetti in the bowl. You bask for a moment in the victory of getting where you want it to be. The story gets told as a little quip and you move on. And the great myth that it was a straight line is unintentionally, I think, supported by that.
The most consistent character I have ever seen of people that succeed is that they never give up. They work and they work and they work and they fail, not once in a while, but they fail way, way, way more often than most people fail because they are trying to do something that other people haven’t done yet. And when you try to do something that hasn’t been done, when you have been given the road map, because no road map exists yet, you’re obviously going to get more mistakes and take more wrong turns than anybody that likes to travel with a map.
So those people that go out and try to do a new and different thing fail away more often than the people that don’t. It doesn’t matter however because once they succeed they hand all of us the map, and then we enjoy the benefits of all their failures and they move on to try to solve the next problem.
Conducted on: June 9, 2009.
Inventor Dean Kamen discusses how successful creative people fail frequently, rarely work linearly and never give up.
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What does sports fandom look like in the new normal?
- With the masses huddled at home and glued to our screens, the last several months of frozen competition provided an opportunity for sports franchises to experiment with creative modes of fan engagement, often involving multiple media channels.
- On another level, this is a challenge that wasn't prompted by COVID-19 and won't go away when COVID-19 does.
- Franchise marketers are accelerating their digital transformation processes, finding innovative ways to connect with fans online, with VR, community building and repackaging classic content.
Head back to the stadium – virtually<p>After months of deprivation, fans are panting to see their favorite teams. For the moment, they are so eager to return to live sports that they are ecstatic over any live game broadcast. On July 5, some 5.7 million people tuned in to the Southampton v. Manchester City match, making it the Premier League's most-watched match ever. </p><p>But as time goes by, the shine of live sports will wear off. An empty stadium is disappointing both for viewers at home and for players. The NFL's "virtual draft" event in April drew a larger audience (15.6 million) than Monday Night Football did last weekend (14 million), even though the former was little more than a televised Zoom call while the latter was a marquee matchup between two of the hottest teams in the league, the Chiefs and the Ravens.</p><p>The time has come for the sports industry to find creative ways to harness technology for the next generation of fan engagement. What can we learn about the future based on what worked best during the pandemic?</p>
Breathe new life into regurgitated content<p>Filling up gaps in the programming schedule with reruns of classic games worked well at first, but returns are diminishing. Success requires networks to put more work into their content choices.</p><p>Tommy Stimson, managing director at Qualitative Insights, <a href="https://marumatchbox.com/4-actions-fan-engagement-sports-covid-19/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">points out</a> that fans aren't very interested in games from the last 10-12 years. Footage from these games is already widely available online, plus "The known outcome and familiarity with the content makes the reruns less-than-satisfying." Instead, Stimson recommends showing iconic, historical sports moments that most of today's fans haven't seen or experienced. </p><p>Fans appreciate reruns far more when the footage is interspersed with new analysis and commentary, either from current players or from the athletes who were playing at the time. One of the darlings of Netflix's pandemic-era programming lineup, Michael Jordan's <em>The Last Dance </em>documentary, which followed the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls on their title run, drew an average of 5.6 million viewers for each of its ten episodes.</p><p>Many teams hosted social media-integrated "watch parties," where former players shared their personal memories and fielded questions from fans while streaming classic games, and fans were delighted with the multi-screen experience, which dovetailed perfectly with game rerun telecasts. <a href="https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/survey-sports-with-empty-stadiums-means-millions-of-americans-will-be-engaging-from-home-301094037.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">One poll</a> found that 76 percent of U.S. fans want more watch party-style viewing options moving forward.</p>
Screenshot of New England Patriots re-watch party ad
Credit: Facebook<p>Networks would also do well to tap into the <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/money-sports-success" target="_self">deeper reasons</a> why people follow sports, by sharing narratives about how teams come together as a unit, or times when players overcame adversity. Viewers are eager for behind-the-scenes content that reveals how players stay in shape, how managers set strategies, or the motivating factors behind decisions to trade, draft, and otherwise acquire talent.</p><p>As brands collect more viewer data, they can also deliver more personalized content experiences that engage fans more deeply. </p>
Invite fans to vote for in-game elements<p>Giving fans ways to have a real effect on in-game elements is another winner for the sports industry. Juventus has long been a trail-blazer for digital transformation, so it's no big surprise to see the storied soccer franchise leading the way again.</p><p><span></span>Juventus <a href="https://www.socios.com/new-goal-celebration-song-for-juventus-is-revealed/" target="_blank">invited fans to vote</a> for its new in-stadium goal celebration song using Socios, a token-based voting and rewards platform, to ensure that the results wouldn't be sabotaged by rival fans or manipulated by hackers.</p>
Credit: Twitter<p>Fans overwhelmingly chose Blur's "Song 2," and were rewarded by <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-7868543/Juventus-fans-chose-iconic-Blur-track-goal-anthem-pioneering-blockchain-vote.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hearing the song four times</a> in the first back-to-business game between Juventus and Cagliari. </p> <p>Socios has been doing some interesting work in the digital fan engagement realm beyond the Juventus example. Its parent company, Chiliz, partners with teams to issue blockchain-based, franchise-branded coins. Apollon Limassol FC decided to put on a head-to-head skills challenge between players, with <a href="https://medium.com/chiliz/apollon-fc-apl-fan-token-sells-out-in-6-minutes-generating-100k-f3bc6a98e75d" target="_blank">fans using tokens to vote</a> on the matchups. In esports, itself a social distancing-friendly concept, fans of Spanish team Heretics were able to vote on which players would go head to head in Fortnite death-matches.</p>
Encourage fans to connect together at home<p>Part of the beauty of sports is that it forges relationships. Season ticket holders connect with neighboring seatmates in the stadium; families bond over a shared love for their teams; friends come together to watch the big match and analyze it ceaselessly during and after the game.</p> <p>It's difficult to translate this to a situation where even private socializing is frowned upon, but it's not impossible. </p> <p>To build hype as the NFL season neared, Pepsi <a href="https://www.marketingdive.com/news/pepsi-delivers-tailgate-in-a-box-to-football-fans-hankering-for-game-day/584016/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tapped into this demand</a> with a "Tailgate-in-a-box" kit that includes an outdoor projector and a range of Pepsi products. The kit is valued at $5,000 and was delivered to sweepstake winners, so it's unclear how this will translate into the general market, but the opportunity is clear. Pepsi is also experimenting with a "tailgate tour" that brings live music and outdoor games to fans viewing from home. </p> <p>The <a href="https://www.sportbusiness.com/2020/09/nba-leverages-microsoft-partnership-to-revolutionize-virtual-fan-experience/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NBA led the way recently</a> by offering 320 fans the opportunity to "attend" games in the Orlando bubble. At-home viewers logged in through Microsoft Teams, and their streamed likenesses were beamed onto 17-foot video boards set up around the courts. The tech made it look like viewers were sitting next to each other, plus participants could interact with each other and see and hear their reactions in real time. The NBA has other plans to allow fans to chat during games, display a real-time statistical overlay, and introduce gaming elements as well. </p>
Credit: Instagram<p>Technological advances, including <a href="https://bigthink.com/what-would-it-take-to-create-a-fully-immersive-virtual-reality" target="_self">virtual reality</a> (VR) and augmented reality (AR), offer teams new ways to offer virtual fan experiences.</p> <p>Another option that could become very popular is <a href="https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2020/05/27/virtual-reality-sports-fans-broadcasts/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">audio AR</a>. Powerful recording equipment picks up the minutiae of sounds that make up the audio backdrop of in-stadium viewing, and then broadcasts it to at-home viewers. AR allows the noise to grow louder or fainter as viewers "move" closer to or further away from the action. Brands can even add crowd sounds, like gasps at a near miss or the shouts of vendors, to enhance the experience. </p> <p>In Japan, an app called Remote Cheerer allowed fans to capture their real-time reactions to on-field action and actually play triggered sounds in the stadium, instead of the canned crowd noise we've hearing in our MLB, NFL and NHL telecasts. This type of solution keeps fans at home more engaged and makes even the passive TV watching experience more authentic.</p>