I recently attended the Fast Company Innovation Festival, sponsored by Dell and other amazing companies. One of the panels I attended, in partnership with Dell, featured Nikki Reed, a former actress and founder of Bayou with Love, a fashion brand with a focus on sustainable development. Also, on the panel was Senthil Balasubramanian of Sistine Solar and David Lear, head of Sustainable Development at Dell.
Here’s what I learned:
While we all care, to varying degrees, about the planet, sustainability, and ensuring we’re good stewards of it, it’s not always easy to do, and we don’t always do our part. It’s important that creators, engineers, and designers all do their best to make products that look great. People sometimes need to be enticed to use a product, not only because it is good for the planet but indeed because it looks good as well.
To get people to get out of their comfort zones, said Nikki, you sometimes have to do something that turns their heads.
Aesthetics Go a Long Way
As businesses look to create products that are better for the planet and supporting sustainability, they have to be designed with the consumer in mind. In essence, the advice is: build products that people will WANT. Senthil shared how his company could just make solar panels, but instead, they want to make solar panels that LOOK great on your home and that others will want to have as well.
Senthil said that “sustainability and aesthetics go hand in hand”.
David shared that as Dell creates products and product packaging, they work hard to ensure that the products they’re making today can be used (or reused) in the future. Dell’s product packaging, for example, is made to be re-used or recycled.
In fact, Dell’s partnership with Nikki Reed is all about re-use. Inside of Dell’s computers, and that of every other computer and electronic gadget, there’s gold on the electronic circuitry. When recycled in large quantities this can add up to a lot of gold. Nikki’s partnership with Dell lets her take this gold and use it in her jewelry.
Other insights from the panel included Nikki sharing that she has access to an advanced research tool where she can get insights from millions of people. It’s called “social media”. Leverage the power of social media and other listening tools to LISTEN to your customers.
Money Isn’t Everything
Senthil shared that difficult times can be great opportunities. When he first started his company he didn’t have all the funding he needed. However, he and his team thought “what can we make with the funds we have” and hence the line of good look solar panels was born.
Overall, Dell’s panel shows that smaller business can do big things. It just takes the desire to do so, being purposeful about it, and listening to and educating your customers.