Flickering Paper

We’ve all seen at some point a strip of paper or tape glued to an air vent. And we all know why. Air vents are stuck to the ceiling, and we aren’t 10 foot humans. It is tough to get that feedback from the air vent that it’s working. And so the obvious workaround is to stick a piece of paper that would flicker when the air vent is on.

This is a classic workaround. A “hack” that people do. It’s as if we’re adding a new feature to air vents: the visual indicator that tells us whether the system is on or off.

This workaround is ubiquitous. We see it everywhere.

But is it enough for air conditioning manufacturers to include it as a feature or tout it as a value proposition?

As a feature, yes.

As a value proposition, no.

The extent to which people “hack” a product is an indication of the problem they’re facing and its significance. If people don’t pay to design the workaround or go to lengths to accomplish that workaround, then it’s an indication that it’s not that big of a problem.

Beyond just noticing hacks and workarounds, you’ll want to keep an eye out to the complexity of the hack. How much did people pay to hack the product? That will tell you whether there’s an opportunity to innovate or not.

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