I've always been interested in how people use technology for unintended (but positive) purposes. Two such stories I noticed over the Christmas break included some examples of technologies that were used to help people who had found themselves in a spot of trouble.
"The power lines were down, the neighborhood dark, but John Sweeney’s house was glowing with lights and his wife was watching television.
During an ice storm last week Sweeney, of Harvard, Mass., powered his house by hooking it up to his Toyota Prius. The Prius, a hybrid vehicle, starts the gasoline-burning mode of its engine every 30 minutes to recharge the battery with an internal generator. In turn, Sweeney ran his refrigerator and freezer, wood stove fan, lights and television off the car’s battery."
In the second example, an MP3 player used as torch by tourists stuck on a Swiss mountain - a spokesman for the mountain rescue service explained that:
"The two winter sports enthusiasts were found by the crew of the Rega helicopter shortly after midnight - thanks to the faint light of their MP3 player"
Did the designers imagine this use case for the technology they developed? Maybe in these examples its possible they did think about alternative uses, but I doubt very much that they became part of the design brief or marketing plan. On one hand this kind of innovation is amazing - particularly if its saves a life - but of course, it can be dangerous too. I use my mobile phone as torch all the time, but I'm not sure it would be a good idea for me to play around with connecting my car as a power source for my house!
To what unintended purposes are people in your organisation applying the technologies they have on hand to solve problems I wonder? Probably more than we think.