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The Washing Machine – Part 2

By john on July 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

The Washing Machine – Part 2

Before moving on to our next product post, I realized that there was an innovation associated with the washing machine and many other products.  Although I said this series of posts would focus on products, this innovation warrants mentioning.

Innovations happen in many arena of endeavor.  One endeavor ripe with innovation is Ideas. Innovation affects the social context in which it occurs.  While writing these posts, I realized that true Innovation is not merely changes in Form, Fit or Function.  Innovation affects the context in which it occurs but also impacts future social contexts.    Innovations have a forward impact often not recognized at the time of innovation.

Adding more cycles, a steam feature or microprocessor control or any combination of features to a washing machine impacts the present societal context by changing how the washing machine is used.  What, if any, is the forward impact of such changes? I believe not much forward impact is provided.  Where is the next level of societal impact?  Where are the unexpected  ideas or unanticipated future result?  While changes to the washing machine may be creative and require expanded thinking about the concept of the process of washing clothes, this seems to be all the impact. There is little forward reach.  Where do you go after a steam cycle has been added?

The innovation associated with the washing machine is not a product innovation but rather an idea.  An idea which has taken many form and been asked in many areas of society.  The idea has raised the question:  Are there more efficient ways to use energy?  The whole process of raising, recognizing and broad societal acceptance is far beyond the scope of this post.  The way forward and the process for acceptance has generated much dialog and  raised a whole new level of acceptance of the importance of energy and energy production.  This question continues to be an issue of significant societal impact.  As never before efficient use of energy is an ongoing issue with both national and international impacts.  Addressing this question and all the associated issues:  energy supply, energy security, the national security impacts of energy and so on continue to impact our world.

  Energy Star is the implementation of the idea of efficient energy use associated with the washing machine.  Energy Star shifts the basic assumptions about the process of washing clothes.  Acknowledging the importance of washing clothes but asking: Is there a more efficient washing process? Not just more efficient in washing clothes but more efficient for our society. The premise of Energy Star is that clothes can be washed and energy saved while washing.  Energy Star generates awareness and acknowledges that energy is used while washing clothes. Energy Star helps identifies the societal impact of washing clothes and asks:  Can we wash clothes while using energy more efficiently?  This question has altered the daily process of washing clothes and the products associated with washing clothes.

Energy consumption and the associated methods of generating energy impact our society.  While not getting caught up in the whole debate about methods of producing energy and their effects on society, the fact that there is a debate emphasizes the impact of energy and energy production.  Solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, natural gas and coal are viable options each with costs and benefits.  I’m not here to resolve that debate but do suggest that efficient use of energy is important. I would argue that an idea which generates the dialog and asks how to use energy more efficiently is innovative. The forward impact of such a question is large.  Considerations around energy use are now raised in areas never previously considered.

Energy Star and other ideas and dialog about efficient use of energy are healthy.  They reach forward and eventually create a societal demand for more efficient energy use even if that demand is a long time in coming.  This is not a conversation about the shape or process involved but reflecting on the idea.  The process toward energy efficiency  had generated a useful and meaningful debate on the methods and tools needed to progress on the journey toward energy efficiency.


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