The right frame of mind - making a disruptive impact with lateral thinking

We all face challenges in our everyday lives, but it’s often far too easy to fall back into the same problem-solving behaviors. We tackle those tasks head on, trying to think vertically because it’s so familiar. It’s a tactic we’ve all followed countless times in the past, but sometimes tradition should be challenged. Because why would you keep thinking vertically when you can start solving laterally?

Automation motivation via home security inspiration

I’ve always approached problem solving with a creative mindset. You need to be able to have an open mind and be willing to view issues from unusual angles in order to find the very best solution. I’m often on the lookout for ways to optimize how I work and make certain processes and procedures more efficient as a result - and that ethos also extends to my life outside of work. There are so many manual tasks that needlessly take up time when they could be streamlined and properly optimized with automation.

Take my home surveillance system, for example. I have a camera installed inside my intercom that watches the front of my house 24/7. I decided I wanted to be notified the moment someone crossed my front lawn, rather than waiting until they’d rung the bell by my front door. Either I was going to have to watch a live feed from my phone all day or I was going to have to own the problem and troubleshoot an alternative. I knew I needed to come up with a script to create a special run-time setting that would automate the process, but the question was how was I going to make it work in this unusual setting?

Cue in lateral thinking

I’d been recently reading up on some of the latest developments in artificial intelligence, when I suddenly had a stroke of inspiration. I could use object detection to scan the area in front of my home, which could then send me notifications if persons (or any recognized objects) were detected. I’m not a software developer by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have a little experience using Python (a coding language), and eventually I had a rudimentary version up and running. I was incredibly proud I’d found a creative solution to my specific problem, and when I showed our COO and co-founder Bram Verniest, he had his own lateral thought.

What if the same creative approach could be applied to CHILI publisher? So instead of automating a camera to track movement, we could automate the platform so that images are always aligned to ensure the subject remains properly within a frame. It was a brilliant idea and trust that was placed in me to innovate and deliver on that concept was both frightening and exciting. So, I sprinkled a little magic on the project using the complex coding I’d written for my home surveillance project.

Taking ownership - the direct approach

Now I had a new challenge on my hands: finding a way to analyze the image used in the editor and calculate the subject coordinates to get it properly aligned in the frame. I knew I wanted to make an impact with this new addition so I decided to set up a JavaScript that took the URL of the image and delivered it to a Python-based server. A few clever calculations later and now values could be sent back to the JavaScript defining the optimum location of an image within the image frame. Now we have a new and unique feature that’s entirely automated, providing value to our users in an instant every time an image is used.

Our CEO, Kevin Goeminne, often says, “Whatever you do, make an impact,” so when I was given the idea to take my creative approach to a problem at home and integrate it into a new and more challenging setting, I was determined to see it through. The solution wasn’t straightforward or vertical in its design, but not every answer has to be. Sometimes you need to be disruptive with your problem solving and be willing to innovate, even when it flies in the face of the norm. This is the collective mindset that makes the biggest difference, especially at forward-thinking companies that embrace and trust those willing to think outside the box.

Can't get enough?

Neither did marketing, which is why they asked to tell a bit more on screen. 😊




Piet Saegeman

Sep 6, 2019

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