Beyond Groundbreaking Technology: Subtle Innovation in Everyday Life

by Jeremy Tang

Low touch innovation

I recently experienced a simple yet effective innovation in an unexpected place—a Ryokan in Kinosaki, Japan, a 1,300-year-old onsen town almost 2.5 hours drive north of Osaka. For the first time ever, I encountered a lift with a touchless button system. Instead of traditional buttons, this lift used motion sensors that activated when a finger hovered just 1 cm away. This design is not only hygienic but also a testament to thoughtful engineering, using existing technology to enhance everyday experiences.

This encounter reminded me that innovation doesn’t always stem from groundbreaking technology; rather, it’s about making our lives better and more convenient. Japanese culture exemplifies this philosophy, focusing on usability and the finer details in everything from packaging to customer service, and even toilets and now lifts.

Discovering such subtle yet impactful innovations in the most unexpected places reinforces the idea that there are always opportunities to improve—even in the most established and mundane aspects of life.

This illustrates that the absence of innovation is not due to a scarcity of opportunities, but rather a result of limited perspectives or attitudes.

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