Manipulating Core Values: Repurposing
My final core value is repurposing. And I love this one, this is where we take a core value that we think is doing just fine, it's doing a really good job, and we give it far greater worth. We have to find out who we're not serving it to or who didn't need it, and think about why and who would do better. And I wanna tell you a story about this 'cause there's one example of repurposing that for me stands out above everything else and so in terms of taking something that had a value and upping the anty on that value, ten fold or a hundred fold. And it's a guy that I met at a humanitarian engineering conference in called Saurabh Phadke, Indian guy. He's an architect and a philosopher and an educator and he specializes in going into the big slums of India and trying to come up with human solutions to hygiene issues. Right in the heart of those slums. So he has written a whole series called Angry Young Bottle on how you can go in and build sort of latrines and all sorts of bits and pieces.
But one thing he did, one thing, one series of slides he showed has resonated with me ever since. Because in terms of repurposing and getting greater worth it sorta keys back to backwards lens but it is so amazing. So picture this, you're in the middle of a slum and there's rubbish everywhere, India, slum. And so the first thing he does is he finds a community within the slum that wanna work with him and he gives them a generator and an iron, iron, iron, ironing, the thing that irons things with heat, right? So he sends them out, he sends his people out into the slum to collect as many plastic bags as they can. When they come back they sit here and they heat weld those bags together, in various directions. And he takes those bags, the value of which was a once off carrying item of dubious use because there're always holes in them right? But he takes them and he irons them together so that they actually end up becoming a tarp. So once he's developed these chunky tarps he then goes and collects soda bottles. You know the ones I'm talking about, two liter, let's call it Coke, Fanta, whatever it is, Pepsi, thing, right? Generally missing their lids 'cause people have already used them. So the value of that thing was it was cheap, durable, containment all the liquid, for a one off use and maybe it's been used a couple of time since depending 'cause you're in the slum and maybe you used it but it's hangin' around. So he brings the bottles back, and here is what he does, that's amazing. He chops the top off the bottle and he stuffs the bottles up each other to form columns that are somewhat structural. He can then put them as posts into the ground and then he can put them as structural rafters across the top to form a roof structure made of plastic bottle columns. Then he gets his tarp, his new plastic bag tarp he puts it across the bottom, to form a floor but we know that that floor's still gonna get pretty mucky and our feet'll probably go through the plastic at some point. He's chopped the bottom off those soda bottles. So he takes that bottom with that little molded thing and he plunks them, embeds them into mud on top of the tarpaulin to form a hard floor. Then he wraps the tarpaulins around the walls and uses mud to create walls. Then he lays the tarpaulin on the bottle rafters to create a roof but you know that as soon as it hails or as soon as a bird comes down on that roof we're gonna get holes, 'cause even though it's plastic and it's welded together, it's still plastic bags, right? But no, because then he takes those soda bottles, he's already cut the bottom off, now he cuts the bottle in half. So he has two curved halves and he uses them as tiles to create roof tiles that give this thing a solidity. So you have the tarp underneath for waterproofness, you have the roof tiles on top creating a hard roof and then he takes his long pipes of soda bottle he cuts 'em in half and he creates gutters and downspouts and he can harvest fresh rainwater in the middle of a slum, into that building. So this guy has taken stuff that had minimal value and was lying round as rubbish and he uses it to deliver something of massive value. Clean water in the middle of a completely polluted environment. Using nothing but, the iron and the bags and the bottles. This is such an incredible vision. Kind of know even where to begin right? But you can't look at bottles the same way when you realize that someone somewhere in the world is using those things to create gutters and downspouts and roof tiles to catch the clean water. Isn't that incredible? It's an amazing thing. He's quite hard to find online but in terms of adding greater value and purpose I think his concept of reusing is extreme. So, we're not all Saurabh Phadke and we're not all dealing with like the plastic rubbish as something that we want to repurpose into higher use. But, we do have our core values. So how do we go about repurposing? We need to think about who we currently serve and we need to think about who we don't. We need to use a little bit of sideways here. And go, who is this not for? What's a different market? Think of Gordon Murray and the flatbed, OX flatbed truck. Taking his core values and going okay I'm currently servicing millionaires with super cars, pointing at race. But if I'm performance and technology, who aren't I serving? Voomp, people with no money, who could they be? You know so often we wanna service immediately, the people that you would turn to, the people you're not servicing, generally are the people with no money. So I ran something with the Bank of Brazil with the same sort of thing. I said what do you do, they said we do this, we do this lending, who don't you service? Well obviously I don't service people without money. But of course that is how micro-lending started. Right, the people with no money are still able to lend and payback, it's just in such tiny amounts that it's never really registered as more than a blip on our radar. So if you're looking to repurpose have a look at your core value and look at how that thing might translate to people that can't pay for it or can't pay much for it. And then think really, really hard about how you could make that into something really, really worthwhile. So has anyone got something they do in a business setting that we can look at repurposing? Business, what do we do on the daily? Something.
I built a weather app for San Francisco.
Oh goody what's the weather app?
What's the weather app, tell us about it.
The weather app's called Karl Weather. It's a San Francisco weather app and because San Francisco has some micro climates and the temperature from one part of the San Francisco's very different from another part of town and this weather app shows the weather of entire San Francisco and you can kinda slide to see what the weather's gonna be from hour or two or three to four, five from now all at a overview glance.
Yeah, right now it's San Francisco only. But, you know, I don't really know what would be the best way to get it into more hands of the people.
Well say we weren't tryin' to get it in more hands, say we decided that we were just gonna repurpose it.
So who is it currently for? Who do you feel like it's for right now, who's your key audience?
People that go outside in San Francisco.
Interesting. Okay so if you're thinking about this thing and we keep it, we're not gonna change what it is. Really if we said what the core value is it would be, what would the core value be of that? Yeah it'd be reminding people of their immediate neighborhood I mean really the relevance is to the people that it's affecting I suppose.
Yeah basically kinda helping people plan their day because it
You can see what the weather's gonna be like for the rest of the day so.
It's interesting because immediately as someone in rainwater harvesting which is another thing that I do. I immediately think oh that is so useful to show people how much water they can save. 'Cause people in California always say there's no rain. They love telling me that, oh in summer there's no rain. But in fact you can harvest precipitation from the fog of San Francisco quite effectively. And the fog, as we know, runs, well you would know in many of the micro-climates of San Francisco. It's pretty consistent through summer. So, immediately I think, oh what a great tool for people that are trying to show that in fact you can save water and harvest rainwater or dew water in San Francisco. It's interesting. It's not a complete repurpose but it's changing the market out. Because you're probably not marketing to people in rainwater harvesting.
Who don't, I mean again, that would be people that don't live in the area, right? But they're selling to the area. Interesting.
I had thought about, you know, since people who are looking at the weather are already planning the day out maybe it could do something else that can help people plan the rest of the day out. Whether it's bar schedule or something or public transportation or something.
What do you reckon, what would you say the core value is of that service? Is anyone else, can anyone think of anything? It's convenience, it's maybe not getting wet. I mean what's the core value of knowing, what do you think Dylan?
Like a more personalized weather report? 'Cause like if you look at the news it's just kinda like generalized if you look at that it's very specific like this at this time, this at this time. Like you said, the second you go over like the hills into Noe Valley the weather changes completely so it's like that ability I guess not to have to carry a hoodie everywhere you go.
Yeah, it's like convenience, right? What do you think, pass it down those three.
Mine's kind of just going off that. It probably is different for different people but the main my core value from that would be what I'd where in the day, so like say I'm working around the city and I know I'm going to like the Mission and then maybe I'm going to like I don't even know, somewhere else, like Marina then I'd know that if I'm going to those two places instead of kind of risking if that's just gonna wear a bunch of different layers it's gonna be hot in both those places or combo those places and just wear one thing because I feel like, when you get ready, especially in San Francisco you wear like 500 different layers.
Yeah you could almost have it as a, you would almost call it as what to carry.
Or what to wear, were you gonna say the same thing?
Yeah similar 'cause I worked in hospitality for awhile. So, tourists, I've seen plenty of tourists standing in Market Street...
Down and they're wearing shirts, t-shirt and flip flops at four o'clock in the afternoon and they're shivering. So it's like readiness may be a core value.
Yeah readiness could be, yep. What do you think Joanna?
I'm a little bit on the way over there. One more thing I was thinking though is when I thought of the app in different areas is it's kinda going off tourists. I feel like people come and they don't really know that San Francisco has more than one weather.
Therefore maybe if they were looking in saying like what am I gonna do when I'm in San Francisco if it was like, you get a notification being like it's gonna be really warm in like the Haight today and it would direct you there before other places.
Right, so it's almost like Waze but weather.
See this is, see what's happening here this is a little bit of idea sharing in action, yes.
I'd like to tie up pretty much the exact same thing for like touring and then even tour guides and that can like pretty much make a route based off of what they see and what the weather's gonna be like. 'Cause there's no point in seeing the Golden Gate Bridge if you can't see it through the fog.
Right, yeah. Or at least you can prepare. You can manage expectations by going we're heading for the Golden Gate which by the way is gonna be really wet and drizzly. And we've got raincoats, for $5. What do you think Tamara?
I was just gonna say, you mentioned that it could help you pick out what to wear and it just reminds me I think I came across a weather service awhile ago that was partnered with like Forever 21 or something and as part of the report would tell you like what to wear. And you could go through and shop for those things. But like that kind of ties two things into one.
So this is kind of interesting. So you've got a weather app that's letting people know that have you ever specifically thought about it's relationship to clothing?
Actually there is a feature in the app, you can tap on the neighborhood, and there's a little character, tells you what to wear.
But there isn't anything that lets you buy stuff.
Yeah, it's an interesting thing. It's not entirely repurposing because if the core value was convenience or the core value was, you know, understanding how to stay in the sun, say, or something we could repurpose it, but it is pretty interesting to have like in that sort of cross-pollination thing four different people go, the most important part of that app is actually not having to carry too much clothing. Which sort of, sort of re-centers it a little. Right because if you were naming it or looking at it, you had a side aspect of that but in fact maybe the most important thing, the core value of it, is that aspect of convenience. Kinda interesting. Yes.
Also just kind going off that, I was just thinking if it was, instead of something that's like a shopping app but kind of being like, say you are from the area or say you're just in for the weekend it could be like a notification in the morning saying like, at the end of the day it's gonna get a little bit cold, so if you didn't have a jacket saying, but if you need something you can go here, here, and here which is really close to wherever you're going or wherever you work.
We could get really radical and say if you need something these three people are happy to lend you something. (Sally laughs)
Or if you need something, this lost property has five umbrellas.
Or even something simple where it's like kind of like I guess an alarm in the morning saying alright it's gonna be raining you shouldn't take muni today to work so you should get up like 20 minutes earlier.
That type of thing where it's, you don't wanna walk today.
Yeah so the personal aspect, the core value being personalized, could actually translate to a whole lot of other excellent things. It'll make people feel better. I like an alarm that tells you what to do.
Actually piggy-backing on that it seems too that certain professions or people who do certain things are more concerned about specific weather. So if you were a firefighter, you might really be concerned about it. If you were a wedding planner, you might be really concerned about that hour to hour outcome of the weather. If you were a nanny with little kids you might really care about that, so you could also target it, sort of specific groups of people that really care about the weather 'cause it'll really effect how they go about their job.
That's amazing, that is giving it more value. You're actually helping people, with a job. Instead of just being convenient you're adding value by actually keeping them out of the rain for the purpose of what they do, yeah Dylan.
It's like selling real estate, you can say of anywhere in the city, this is the sunniest place, and we have like stuff to back it up. (Sally laughs)
Here's the data, so sell the data as well, that's funny. I mean that's an interesting one when you think about repurposing something that's happening across the country right now across many countries, is the idea of big box structure. The huge retail superstores that were a fixture throughout the 80s and the 90s. As people buy more online, this infrastructure is being phased out, so if its core value was for instance, say you had a WalMart or some massive Sears or something, you have a huge store that's generally located at a core of community, it's normally off a highway with sometimes even its own exit off a main road, normally has like a massive amount of parking, so you know this huge, adjacent, open space that's easily accessible, often by public transport, definitely by car, and then you have this massive enclosed space that often has really good natural light because that was an economical way to light the place. It's usually fairly column free, right? But no longer is it full of retail merchandise because we fundamentally changed the way we shop. So then the value of these things becomes this architecture, this space, and this link back to community and so you see, across the country, these big box stores being repurposed as like libraries, or indoor sports centers which is sort of crazy. And all these community facilities, which you could argue, have a much greater value than the original shop in many cases. But it's sort of interesting to see the idea that something that we're so used to gets repurposed as something fundamentally different. Libraries, schools, community centers, indoor markets, in places that were once owned by one company with this one intent to go and buy. Repurposing can be really interesting, it can be tricky because again we're trying to bounce ourselves outside what we know. And so, our purpose is pretty specific, you've designed something that, you're like and this is what it does, this is what it does well. But then when you try and think about well what is the core value of that. Is it convenience, is it more than convenience 'cause you're actually helping people in their daily job? And then how could I make that even better? Maybe it's not weather, what else is it? Turning. Yes?
Kind of a cool example for the repurpose thing there's a park, I mean there's this old school in the Sunset I believe it's Francis Scott Key, and pretty much like it was shut down and they don't need to make new schools so what they're gonna do instead is repurpose it into a place for affordable housing for teachers.
Nice, I love that.
So it's that kind of like get the problem, they need more teachers not more schools so switch it over and then right now it's like a little park area and that and like a community garden for the surrounding neighborhood.
That's really cool. It's an interesting thing, I mean mixed use is a really interesting way of repurposing. If you've got your core value and you're trying to think of repurposing, maybe you're just adding purpose. I mean you can try and think of an entirely new market but you could also, like Sourabh Phadke did in terms of taking this rubbish and making it into rainwater harvesting, secure building. But you could also take something you already know well and see what can glom on to add extra purpose, in that case you know you can just have housing or you can add into it, a little mixed use, a bit of artist live work, some lower income, some teacher to make this blend which of course then results in this sort of social cross pollination that gives us a more vibrant society. I mean much like cross pollination gives us vibrant thinking. If we try and cross pollinate our live work opportunity we're also gonna be more vibrant. And it's interesting to see like you know housing estates and high prices and things really homogenizing neighborhoods and cities right when we're all looking for more creativity and more innovation, we're at the same time filtering out so many people because they either can't afford to be here or they can't travel that far or whatever it is, we end up with something that's way less cross pollinating, just because. So you know if you can build that back in if you can just glom stuff on to the side that can also be a really interesting thinking path. Bearing in mind, you only need to hit it for around five to really bounce yourself out. Were you gonna say something?
Kinda adding back on to that, the con of kinda adding things, is a little minimizing as well but I went to a store in the city the other day and instead of having like clothing all around, it's kind of a small place 'cause in Mission, they only had one size of every single piece of clothing. But what they did was, they had like an iPad so you can say what you want and then pick your size and all that stuff, and with the leftover room they had, where they didn't have to put like every size of every dress, every size of all that, they had really big dressing rooms so they'd bring it all to you and they made it almost into a different experience so that instead of focusing on looking, browsing, you were focusing on trying things on and it kind of repurposed the extra space that they could be hanging things into like kinda more interactive, bigger dressing room. Where they had like an aux cord it had like a cupboard where, its like a two sided so they give you the clothing from the other side it made it like more a trying on experience, kind of repurposed that whole space into that which made it, I don't know, a cool experience for me. So I thought that, just repurposing the space they had was kinda changed the whole thing in general.
I think that is really interesting because I mean in retail you are seeing this shift where people say look you can browse and you can find something for cheaper online, but if we make the experience such that we have loyalty and we have engagement we're more likely to sell. So what you're saying is they're repurposing like what used to be all upfront sale, like you choose and then we'll sell it to you at the cash register, we're now gonna say actually no the experience is key. The actual thing is just one tiny-weenie part of this massive retail experience that we're gonna give you. It's gonna be super bougie and fantastic and at the end of it you're gonna wanna buy all of our stuff. Which is kinda the Tesla experience. I mean you struggle to test drive a Tesla but you walk into a showroom it's very beautiful, you can choose all your stuff and you can see one car. It's not necessarily repurposing for greater value but maybe it is definitely rethinking. Because it's rethinking that whole sales experience from the consumer gets to go and do all the stuff and the sales person serves to the sales person is very much front and center making sure that you're entire experience is fabulous.
Yeah well kind of also like the Tesla too because the whole thing would be on an iPad and I know you can make your own Tesla like pretty much using a iPad screen but it would be the same thing as if while you're waiting in there if you like something else you can through the iPad and kind of online shop but do it in the store too.
I think it's just that whole experience in general. I think most companies are moving forward with it anyway.
I think they are, I think retail has a big game in terms of tryin' to rethink and I guess it is sort of repurposing, its not as extreme as some of them but we are definitely in a state where we have to completely rethink the way we're presenting so many of the experiences that we think are you know basically standard. And again, that's the whole point of adventurous thinking is we think we know something but all you really wanna do when you have that mindset is bounce out of that into something new. To create the next reality, not the present. Quite exciting. So that is repurpose, the whole concept of repurpose is look for who you're not serving. Or, in that case of retail, look at who you're serving but completely change the way the environment, like how we're doing it, how can we do it completely differently? 'Cause it's sort of repurposing in a way. Emphasizing some other part of the function is probably the retail one. Who is it not for, who are you not servicing, if it's just a matter of money, that is a really good rethink. If it's just that whatever you do requires somebody to put this much money in, how do you change it, or rescale it to make it affordable to those people? How do you rethink this core value so you keep the purpose, and you keep the value, but you make it stronger or better? Or you simply go through the mental exercise. Remembering that your brain doesn't care if you result in something, or you don't. Its the simple firing of different parts of your brain and making them connect that is keeping you plastic, that is helping you grow in your neural pathways. That's the key. So now you have it, the three tools of rethinking. Maximize, minimize, repurpose.