Design thinking and a Local Touchless Product Innovation
Some people think all good inventions stem from completely novel ideas; however Nick Moritz, metro-Detroit resident and co-founder of Toad Opener™, saw great potential and an exponentially growing need for an existing product on the market and decided to pursue it as a business venture.
The "Toad Opener" is a device you secure to the bottom of a door to prop it open using just your foot to open the door for a hands-free experience. The main goal is to reduce touchpoints in public facilities and office environments thereby reducing the chance of spreading dangerous contagions.
You may have seen a foot-door-opener in a restaurant or bar, but what you may have not realized is the level of effort that goes into the installation process of those products and the damage ultimately done to the doors. Moritz and partner Cliff Wells (both Metro Detroit natives) developed a drill-free design including the use of a 3M VHB™ tape so that the product can be easily installed and removed without damage.
Moritz said it was crucial to approach his idea from a Design Thinking lens to not only understand the need but to also reframe the problem (i.e. asking ‘how might we?’ questions). He explained, "If I needed these on 10,000+ doors – how could I make that happen?"
According to Harvard Business Review, to be successful, an innovation process must deliver three things: superior solutions, lower risks and costs of change, and employee/customer buy-in. To best enable these outcomes, the process of design thinking leverages "face-to-face research with customers, getting deeply immersed in their perspectives, co-creating with stakeholders, and designing and executing experiments."
Using Design Thinking in approaching the problem allowed Moritz and Wells to successfully work on finding a solution for a number of use cases, whether it be at a restaurant or bar with valuable antique or metal doors one would not want to damage, or at hotels, schools, city halls, zoos, Downtown Authorities, public parks with bathroom facilities, urgent care facilities, federal institutions, commercial properties, and gas stations.
Now that the design has been implemented and sold to over 50 local restaurants and bars as well as gaining distribution partners and independent sales representatives, Moritz and Wells are looking toward expanding their partnership with larger 3D-printing farms globally and injection molding to increase their ability to produce on a global scale. After joining the Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce and successfully reaching a profitability milestone in their venture this last month, the two have already begun giving back to the community and have recently donated and installed the product onto eleven public doors at the Royal Oak Public Library.