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  • Jack Lau

Selling a Sand Clock to Help You "Poo" Better? --- Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship


Picture this. You are young and fresh out of college. You want to start a business. Unfortunately, all you know is to make an ultra-low-tech sand clock. Yes, for those millenniums or post-millenniums, once upon a time, your ancestors figured out a way to keep time by gauging how long a bunch of sand would flow from one end to the other through a narrow funnel.

Furthermore, picture that you as the young gun do not know programming, do not know artificial intelligence, and certainly do not have any business experiences.

Well, don't despair. Hear us out. Someone did just that and is making millions of US a year. No, I am not kidding.

And, what a great story. How about I tell you that the entrepreneurs positioned the product as a clock which reminds a user not to loiter at the toilet. What if he even finds a medical professional to tell you the medical hazard of spending too much time at the toilet. What if he further tells you that this is a perfect father's day gift and it is really cheap --- like less than US $10. Now, that is much more interesting. A "toilet clock" which is a perfect gift because we care? Or is it a "toilet clock" which is perfect gift because we can make you laugh?

The founders actually went out TV to do pitching of their ideas. At first, we thought that was so ridiculous. After all, we were expecting to see a future Zuckerberg or Musk.

Funny as it may, the "Toilet Clock" was a success. It was exactly the right product idea for a perfect holiday gift.

Did the founder capture your emotion "for fun", making you laugh? Or do they figure out there is a human need to show your loved ones that you do care about their health?

Well, maybe it does not matter that much. What it is that entrepreneurs find a way for you to smile at a purchase, or even laugh at it. Imagine the reaction of the person who receives it as a gift.

Go watch this real case on YouTube. It was on a show called Shark Tank. Shark Tank is a reality TV show which features entrepreneurs asking the hosts for advice and real dollar investment. The show invites entrepreneurs to go pitch their business ideas to potential investors, including the famous Mark Cuban, who invested US $20M of his own money in the Shark Tank "deals".

The episode which caught our eyes is called the "Toilet Clock". A YouTube video of the show is shown below. (Credit: Sony Pictures).

Yes, a successful design is to understand and be able to empathize with human needs. The emotional connection that we all need as humans.

Last semester was a fun one --teaching an entire semester course on campus. It was indeed fun to see young and eager minds face to face. The name of the course is called Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship. We had many excellent master-level students giggling and learning for a whole semester.

And, we actually used this case in class to show that a good design is something that can connect to someone's emotion whatever that may be.

The "Toilet Clock" is really clever. And, the product is actually on sale at Amazon.

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