Constraints are good: OLPC: One Laptop Per Child

I've watch this (OLPC) initiative for a while now. Not sure if I've ever posted about it. I just read that they are calling a cease-fire with Intel (they were publicly bickering about whose cheap-laptop-for-learning-children was better) and visited their website. Probably one of my favorite ideas/projects ever. (8 min video that talks about shifts in world education with a passing mention to OLPC.) I like the concept: Give technology to everyone. I like the participants: great ideas coming out of "our" (speaking as an American) elite institutions: MIT (a prof is at the center of the OLPC), Intel (has their own OLPC-like device), Microsoft (has a suite of software for $3 - since the OLPC starts with Linux). Great brains can come up with great ideas - even in the corporate and academic worlds. 3 cheers. I also like the attitude: You can't afford it? That won't stop us. It's the beauty of ideas in constraints at work. We come up with ideas based on the restrictions that we impose. (Mental trigger: 37signals talking about less is a good constraint, one link: "The art of marketing is not finding more money to do more marketing. It's figuring out how to tell a story that spreads with the resources you've got." If I may paraphrase: The answer is not not-having the constraint. Start with your constraint and make it happen. Link from Seth Godin: Recently, in a project I'm working on, I had a great idea but immediately dismissed it: "no way to do it in the budget of the project," I said. *crunch, crunch, crunch* By the end of the weekend my brain had started over with the budget constraint as an opportunity instead of a problem. I had an idea. *crunch, crunch, crunch* I had 3 general possible conceptual solutions (and 9 specific options). I've gone from "no" to "probably" in 48 hours. If you have to be cheap, use the cheap as an opportunity: we must find cheaper parts, we must find a way to trim out the excess of the thing (OLPC has a black-and-white screen, you don't usually need color), we must find indie artists to donate their music talent instead of hiring the sound production firm. Cheaper, smaller, less talented (yes, really), any constraint: we must ___________ since we've got the opportunity to do ___________ better than most. Anything kicking around your brain that you think you just can't do? Update: More on the OLPC (since it's a project I've been tracking and really think is cool.) Nicolas Negroponte's TED talk on the OLPC (video): MIT Bio on NicNeg: For the truly geeky: a VMWare image of the "Sugar OS" that runs on the OLPC-XOs. Fun to play with.

Monday, July 16, 2007, 12:00 AM

tagged: innovation, constraints, linux, olpc, sugaros, ted, vm