Monday Buzz: Lessons in Innovation Flaws From a Smoke Detector

Sometimes you can get burned by being too innovative. Knowing how to put out fires caused by mistakes is key. Also: a list of all the small ways you can improve your life at work.

Sometimes, an innovation that’s meant to do good comes with negative side effects. Such is the case with the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm.

Nest Labs earned huge applause for the product when it launched; then Google acquired the company. But Nest Protect is off the market for now, after the company discovered that one of the most-heralded features of the device—the ability to turn off false alarms with the wave of a hand—had the undesired effect of turning off the detector during a “unique combination of circumstances.”

“This could delay an alarm going off if there was a real fire,” the company’s CEO, Tony Fadell, said in an open letter. (According to Fadell, there haven’t been any cases where this actually happened, but, as a precautionary measure, the company has halted sales of the product until the glitch is fixed. )

As Gigaom‘s Katie Fehrenbacher notes, flaws are a downside of being at the forefront of user interface (UI) design.

“[T]he issue with new markets and new technologies is that there’s not a long history from which to learn,” she writes. “Designers have to build the products with the new UIs and rigorously test them—sometimes it’s not until the customer has been using them for months before an issue emerges.”

This is a point that translates neatly to innovation in general: Sometimes, being ahead of the game means you may be stuck with unanticipated side effects. Let’s hope that in your organization’s case, that doesn’t mean a fire hazard.

Small Things Add Up

We’re always on the lookout for little ways to improve our work lives—whether by working faster, improving our reputation, or even getting a bit healthier. That’s why Officevibe’s impressive list of simple daily activities—both in graphic and list form—hits the mark.

The best one on the list? Number 22, which recommends that you adjust your sitting posture. But you can take it a step further: “As an advanced idea, you should consider asking someone in HR if you can get a chair that’s more ergonomical, and explain that it will have incredible health benefits, as well as make you more productive,” Officevibe explains.

Have any tips of your own?

Other GOOD reads

“You really have no idea what you are talking about. Can you stop blocking the project?” John Brandon, an Inc contributing editor, sent this two-line email to a coworker, and he’s still regretting it.

Instead of writing an email like Brandon’s to your boss, forward this along, Jamie Notter suggests on SocialFish.

Lifelong learning—even the casual kind—has major benefits in the office and beyond, Fast Company notes.

(Nest Protect press photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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