I love this article about the 5 chief lessons Tony Fadell, formerly of Apple, learned about introducing new products. Now he’s invented the “iPod of thermostats.” If Brett Thomas is correct about integral needing to become more like Apple to reach its next breakthrough moment, and I think he is, then World Spirituality (by whatever name) can benefit from learning all of these lessons.
LESSON #1 Reintroduce a product //Apple is credited with creating new markets, but that oversimplifies the feat. What Apple really did was let people interact differently with products they already knew. That’s why Fadell saw so much promise in thermostats: 10 million are sold every year, but only 11% of users actively program them to save energy. “People treat it like a light switch, adjusting it manually 1,500 times a year,” Fadell says. “What we’re doing is making them think, Yes, there’s got to be a better way.”
LESSON #2 Build up slowly //Fadell has plans for a full thermostat ecosystem–multifunction, iOS-like software upgrades, connecting with lots of devices. But for now, he’s just offering the ability to control it from any laptop or mobile device. That’s because Apple taught him to go slow: Let people understand and buy into the device, then build a world around them step by step. “If we’d come out with the iPhone of home-energy management, people would just get confused,” he says.
LESSON #3 Design for one function // The thermostat, like the iPod, is controlled by one large circular dial–and not just because people like whirling their fingers. “You have to think, What are people going to do with the device 99% of the time? Make sure every detail supports that main interaction,” Fadell explains. “The iPod is about scrolling through long lists with one hand, and a thermostat is about dialing the temperature up or down.”
LESSON #4 The experience starts in the box //The iPod was exciting before you even turned it on, thanks to what Fadell calls the “unboxing experience”–the compact, comprehensive packaging. His thermostat’s unboxing is built with that in mind. It comes with a custom-manufactured screwdriver, and a level indicator is built into the back casing so customers know if the unit hangs straight on the wall. “This isn’t cheap,” Fadell says. “But when you take it out of the box, you want it to be easy to install–at all costs.”
LESSON #5 Make it a status symbol //The iPod’s earphones were designed to give it an “iconic design language,” Fadell says–a symbol of hipness, intended to be shown off. He similarly designed the thermostat to be a badge–a “jewel on the wall,” he says. “It’s a symbol of a green home. You’ve never seen a kid go up to a thermostat and go, ‘Whoa, cool!’ But kids who see ours do that. And if they’re interested now, they’ll be even more so in 20 years when they become homebuyers.”
via Fast Company.
Those of us engaged in World Spirituality are really co-inventing the “iPod of Spirituality,” a product that lets people interact differently with spirituality as they have previously known it. We are making it programmable, so it adjusts to our unique station in life, allowing it to regulate our life and “save our soul” and “heal the planet.”
To expand the Operating System metaphor of Ken Wilber’s, we are upgrading the product that lets people connect with lots of different domains of life — art, science, religion, health, politics, culture — making it more flexible, flowing, and mobile. Our task is letting people understand the new vision of spirituality and win their buy in to its capabilities. Then, we “build a world around them step by step.”
Apple designed the iPod for just one function: playing great music that you can take with you wherever you go. Now the World Spirituality movement must reach inside itself to identify that special function that will become its defining characteristic. Is it its capacity for interdisciplinary meta-theorizing of academic discourse? Is it its capacity for training leaders to be more flexible and creative in their decision-making, or resolving conflict and driving productivity within organizations? Is it its capacity to upgrade theology to an Integral Theory of Religion within religious institutions?
Of course, all of these are possibilities and there is a role for each one. But my answer is to say that the core function of World Spirituality is to provide the platform or foundation for charting a path of self-realization from the conventional self to the radically self-realized person, and then to the ultimately trans-personal Self. In short, it’s a way of being in the world as who you truly are, giving people a roadmap to finding themselves, clarifying their values, facing and healing their shadows, and eventually losing themselves again in the bliss of identity with the driving force of evolution itself: Love. It’s that simple and elegant.
Something like this is the Next Chapter of Integral, I imagine; at least in the form that is shaping up in the World Spirituality community. I can’t wait for the next iteration of World Spirituality to come into public focus, one which helps to “democratize enlightenment,” as Marc Gafni puts it. But we don’t need to wait for the latest and greatest Integral book to be released. This is our moment. The world needs us to be more fully ourselves right now, more connected and plugged-in to the divine spirit which moves within us all.