SVA Killer Work first assignment: dropcam

For those of you who’ve enrolled in, or are thinking of enrolling in, this fall’s School of Visual Arts (SVA) ‘Killer Work: How to Make Ideas That Make Other People Jealous’,  here’s our first assignment to get thinking on.


dropcam (now Nest Cam) is a camera home monitoring device.

Key benefit:
 Watches out for your home and family when you can’t (from their website).

To get you thinking:
We’ve done dropcam once before, so I’ll share a little wisdom from what we’ve learned. When I first asked students about the main benefit of dropcam, their first response was ‘home security’. But dropcam is not really about home security — it can’t prevent anyone from entering your home, there’s no alarm that goes off, it doesn’t trigger a security response.  Its true value is in seeing what’s going on when you’re not there. Certainly, security is one aspect of it (though it’s mostly after the fact). But there are a heckuva lot of other things you might want to know about. And that difference changes the emotional benefit of the product. If you think of dropcam as a protection device, the natural thought for its emotional benefit is ‘peace of mind’. But the true value of dropcam is simply in ‘the knowing’. And that’s a very interesting…

The human insight:
Ever since the dawn of humans we’ve had this drive to understand, this need to know. It’s what birthed both religion and science. If you ever wanted to know what was happening somewhere when you’re not — a party after you’ve left, what your cat does when you’re gone, whether the light in the frig stays on after you close the door — you’re able to tap into its true human connection.

Now get your mind whirring. Start by reading everything you can about dropcam and its competitors. What conversations people are having online? What great stories are there? Find someone who has it (I do, and I’ll tell you 5 interesting, weird things I’ve found out.)  Ask friends if they’d use it and why. Then sit down and write ideas on your laptop or freehand for 20 minutes straight without looking at your phone… then go do other stuff… then think and write again for 20 minutes… then go away… and then do it one more time. Look how much thinking you’ve already generated! You’re on your way. In Killer Work, you’ll learn how to jumpstart your thinking, how to generate as many ideas as possible, and how to turn the best of them into brilliant ones. And we’ll have a lot of fun in the process.

Look forward to seeing y’all in class!

Questions? email me at


All Posts