Big MS2 meeting with many new ideas

By Arthur BRICQ February 17, 2020 Edition CHIC 2019-2020Discover Applant project

Our MS2 meeting was very ‘intense’, if that is not an euphemism. We came to realise, for different reasons that are explained here, that our group was oriented toward the wrong direction. The product that we presented, a connected compost home plant pot, wasn’t satisfying our expectations for what we wanted to do in the CHIC program. This blog post is going to explain the reasons of our mistakes and then present the lessons learnt. Without any doubts though, we had a very productive weekend. 

Understanding of our mistake

Clearly, it is hard to know why we ended up working on a not-satisfying product and there is no hard answer to this question. But as we did spend the last 2 month working with this product, we thought it would be interesting to wonder what happened. In this section, I try to perform an analysis of our failure. You can skip and directly go to the conclusion, that’s in the next section. 

We were initially asked to work on Biodiversity. This theme happens to be very difficult mainly for 2 reasons. It deals with Life (in its various way) and therefore comes with many constraints. “How to deal with life ?” Clearly, not an easy question to answer. And second, it’s hard to find a viable connected device that is biodiversity-related. To build a product that makes sense, you need to have at the same time a meaningful solution (helping in the fight against biodiversity loss) which attracts many people (customers, buyers, clients) in their daily life. Maybe, what happened is that we faced one serious problem linked with all the issues of climate changes : what people want, often, isn’t very good for biodiversity. 

Our opportunity was to connect people with Nature. We understood there is an appearing need of having a greener life. We also understood that feeling more connected to nature helps us being happier. From there, we tried to find the very perfect product to help people connecting more with what’s outside. We came with many ideas, ranging from connected beehives, to insect farms, passing by wildlife monitoring systems and ending up to “plant systems”. It’s been a few months that we have been working with plants, as many people have them home and that their “living qualities” are often forgotten or misunderstood. The bigger problem then was the market already exist. Passing from solutions to different ones, we always felt like hitting a wall. So we kept adding  new components, new features, that others never did. As we were trapped into this corner, it was hard to step back a little, realise we have been trapped, and change direction. Instead, we kept digging and looking for “the feature” that would make the difference. And we forgot about our opportunity space. 

At the very end of this 2 month long process, none of us was very satisfied with the product planned but we all agreed that it was doable and that with some efforts it would also be presentable and viable. However, our initial message was “we want to create a stronger relationship between us and our plants”. Clearly, it wasn’t very true that this was what were doing. Luckily, we met great persons in this meeting (as John, from the Royal College of Art for instance. Also, all the 6 experts helped us) and we came to realise this. A few months ago, during the story telling workshop, the speaker said he wanted a connection stronger than Wifi, a poetic relationship. John came to us with the same idea, giving more insights about how to do this, and Marc allowed us to orientate toward this direction. It’s a very exciting second be

biginning!

What’s next

We have been working hard this weekend in order to come up with a new solution for our opportunity space. Thanks to the precious help of John, we realised a few modifications in our strategy.

  1. We want poetry in this project and it’s time to assume it (at least more than what we were doing). We will focus on how to construct this stronger, deeper, connection between us humans and plants. Plus, Marc is okay to let us do that. 
  2. We don’t need to target a big public. Museums and public place are all possible clients. In this sense, producing a connected artwork satisfies the requirement. 
  3. We have very different talent in our teams and it’s also time to use them. 2 ECAL students for the art, 2 EPFL students for the technical aspect and 1 HEC for all the economical justifications. Artist also have viable products, they are like every one. 

An artwork that would take the form of an installation with interaction between users and plants can be a very efficient solution to carry a powerful message. And there are so many important messages to be said about plants. As a little recall (that we use for our inspiration), plants are one of the oldest form of life present on earth, so old that they became a required condition for all other forms of life to exist, by providing food for all the other many of us and filtering from the air the CO2. As for us, humans, plants are source of contemplation, of relaxation, of beauty. And yet, despite all of that, one of the cornerstone of our society is to destroy forests to sustain our new needs.

What we want is to make people think, wonder, and feel something strong with plants. At the end, they are living organism that can communicate, adapt, survive. Very much like us, in those senses. We surely can feel a lot of things about them, with them. 

Conclusion

We are now going to explore this new actionable space. We are very excited to be first CHIC team ever to go toward something a little less practical and a little more artistic. We are going to work hard for the next 2 weeks and come back as soon as possible with more details about what we think about. 

Thank you for the week-end.