Archive for October 2014

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0614

October 4, 2014

What is Design thinking?

In my last blog I talked about Design thinking and I promised more on this subject. When I was growing, my parents wanted me to develop the habit of saving by asking me to put coins or notes in a small earthen pot with a hole. Whenever we get money by way of pocket money or gifts from relatives and friends, we were encouraged to put money into the earthen pot (which is called Piggy bank in the Western world – it has nothing to do with the animal Pig although it is shaped like pig as etymologically it also means earthenware). The Piggy bank was a great tool to save as people used it in different way viz put money daily or put in leftover change after shopping, etc. However, when the technology advanced to plastic money the concept of Piggy bank slowly started disappearing. The question is how do we bring the Piggy bank concept to the modern world. How do we create the technology to support an observed behaviour or habit? One of the Banks extended this concept in their debit card account. The customers who use their debit cards to make purchases can choose to have the total rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference deposited in their savings account. This was the birth of electronic piggy bank. Few others leveraged this idea to promote donation by asking to round off the dollar to a charitable fund or trust. The key to the concept is that innovation or creativity is powered by a good understanding of what people want through direct observation. Now having grounded you with the concept, here is a test for my readers. Go through my experiences and suggest a good design to improve services in restaurants.

Show me the way!

Scene 1: On 18th September, 2014, I missed my early morning flight from Toronto to Newark and had to spend more time in the Airport until my next flight could depart. I walked past the waiting area and was heading towards a small coffee shop and observed tables with Ipads. I assumed that these were kept for people to browse internet and check their e-mails. My immediate thought was centered on the technology progress we had made moving away from desktop browsing to Ipad browsing in public place. I needed a shot of caffeine to boost my thought process and so I approached the coffee shop and asked for a cappuccino. Lo and behold, what the person on the counter mentioned was a pleasant surprise. He pointed to the seating area and said you can place the order through Ipads, which were placed in each of the tables. Next to the Ipads were credit card swiping machine (which I failed to notice earlier) to facilitate payments. I quickly ordered a Cappuccino and used my credit card to pay for the transaction and within three minutes one of the staff served me what I ordered.

Scene 2: On 27th September, 2008, during my visit to Jakarta, my close friend Shahul Hameed invited me to have dinner with his family at Saravana Bhavan (not sure if this is owned by the Chennai chain). What impressed me in the restaurant was that the waiters had a PDA in their hands and were taking order and relaying the information to the kitchen. Once we finished dinner, the payment was also done through the PDA.

Scene 3: It was 4th September, 2010, and I was treating my wife to an anniversary dinner at a Bangalore restaurant which is reputed for its good food. We were seated in a comfortable table but it took a while for someone to show up and take our order. Any wait is frustrating these days and I was telling my wife about an idea which occurred at that moment. Instead of sending someone to take an order, I quipped that a device in the table should take the order and convey to the kitchen. This was really not a novel idea as it was a modified version of what I saw in 2008 in Jakarta. I did not think this would be a reality until I experienced it in Toronto airport.

Scene 4:On 2nd September, 2014, I went to Mas Malo at LA for lunch with my wife and a beautiful lady walked towards our table and gave us a Menu card and was guiding us in navigating through the dishes in a pleasant manner. It took me a while for me to believe that she was a waitress employed by the restaurant. I whispered to my wife “why is she here? She should be a model or actress”. Of course, my wife had a typical reaction like any wife would do which is to focus my attention on food and not on the bearer of the food. However, my earlier thought of having a device in each table disappeared quickly and immediately concluded that it was a stupid idea. Really!!!

If you have to design a service model for restaurants, what would be your design? My answer will be posted in my next blog with more emphasis on further design thinking. Please do respond with your answers.


Minds are like parachutes; they only function when open. With those thoughts I sign off with my usual signature “Life is Beautiful”


%d bloggers like this: