Ethnography, Globalization, and Experience Design

December 2, 2009

Rosetta Stone

One of the most visited posts on this blog is titled, Empathic Research Methods and Design Strategy. Indeed, if you google or bing “empathic research”, the post pops to the top few links, or vey close, often even ahead of IDEO. My aim in that post was to add to points made by Adam Silver, a Strategist at Frog Design, noting that globalization and digitalization in the 1990s resulted in product and service interfaces with more culturally diverse and geographically distributed customers. The combination of these economic and social forces led designers to search for new methods to augment artistic intuition about form and function. Considerations of form and function also required attention to feel, emotions, features, and interactivity attuned to the needs, wants, and beliefs of users/customers. The power of ethnographic research to discern empathic insights by observing and interpreting people’s cultural activity is now widely recognized.

Recognizing the implications of globalization for design and marketing is certainly not new. The now classic book, The Design Dimension, by Christopher Lorenz, explained the crux of the point as early as 1986. Lorenz noted that,

…globalization does not mean the end of market segments, but their explosion to worldwide proportions. Far from declining, the number of market segments may actually increase…Though industrial designers frequently can – and do – substitute for the absence of marketing imagination. In most companies the most potent force for imaginative marketing and product strategy is a real partnership between marketing and design (pp. 146-147).

 The significance of Lorenz’ point came back to me recently while reading “How does our language shape the way we think?, by Lera Boroditsky, an Assistant Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Symbolic Systems at Stanford University. Boroditsky’s research into language and thought complements a key point made in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, Gladwell informs us that one basic reason exists for the tendency of Chinese students to outperform others in math skills. Quite simply,

Take a look at the following list of numbers: 4,8,5,3,9,7,6. Read them out loud to yourself. Now look away, and spend twenty seconds memorizing that sequence before saying them out loud again.

If you speak English, you have about a 50 percent chance of remembering that sequence perfectly. If you’re Chinese, though, you’re almost certain to get it right every time. Why is that? Because as human beings we store digits for about two seconds at a time. We most easily memorize whatever we can say or read within that two second span. And Chinese speakers get that list of numbers—4,8,5,3,9,7,6—right almost every time because—unlike English speakers—since the Chinese language allows them to fit all those seven numbers into two seconds.

Whereas Gladwell’s interest is in the way language and culture affect our view of talent, Boroditsky is interested in whether, and how, language shapes the contours of thought itself, the kinds of questions people who speak a language are able to ask, and the kinds of significant symbols they recognize. Boroditsky’s research looks at an old question, and controversy, in anthropology and sociolinguistics — the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

Read the rest of this entry »


Thoughts on Cisco, Telepresence, and Reciprocity

November 18, 2009

While meeting for drinks and food at Llywelyn’s Pub a few weeks ago on a Sunday evening with two of my oldest friends, one of them mentioned recently using Cisco’s Telepresence video conferencing. I was keen to learn about the experience. Rocky said the experience was really immersive and described in vivid detail the sense of sitting around an oval table with video feeding into displays that curve with the shape of the table to present participants at distant locations.

My first question was whether the configuration provided a reciprocity display to reflect back to each location how local participants are seen by others at different places. He said that it didn’t. I said it didn’t surprise me at all, given the name of the service — telepresence. It really is a pretentious name if you stop and think about it. After all, presence is roughly the sense one gets from being in an environment, and telepresence is the extent to which one feels present in a mediated environment, rather than in the immediate physical environment.

I consider myself an early adopter of communication tools that provide unique opportunities to engage other people. At the same time, I recognize the fact that face-to-face communication adds interpersonal depth, and not just bandwidth, to relationships that is either missing in asynchronous communication (whether user-generated or marketing -driven), or takes much longer to develop.

Read the rest of this entry »


Customer Competencies, Co-Creation, and Brand Communities

October 20, 2009
Courtesy of Wonderfully Complex's photostream on flickr.

Courtesy of Wonderfully Complex’s photostream on flickr.

Word of mouth communities and networks using social software are increasingly spread over regional, national, and international borders, making them much more important to those who market branded products and services, online and off. The recent buzz around the concept of social business points to the growing importance of social networks and communities to the evolution of business practice. Whether companies are in fact closing the community gap or the engagement gap remains an open question though.

As Rachael Happe of the Community Roundtable notes in commentary on the Community Maturity Model:

in the stages before a company becomes truly networked, metrics are isolated to supporting one business process vs. in a networked business the whole business becomes social and the communities are set up to support cross-functional goals.

In other words, customer communities approaching maturity produce value for the business, or organizational enterprise, rather than only a specific functional area — such as research and development, product management, customer support, or marketing. Rachel’s overall point receives validation in a recent article in the September (2009) issue of the Journal of Marketing that reports on long term ethnographic research on brand communities by Professors Hope Jensen Schau, Albert M. Muniz, Jr., and Eric J. Arnould, “How Brand Community Practices Create Value .”  The most interesting thought in the article for me is their point that customer competencies are a valuable resource for building co-creation opportunities in brand communities.

Unlike earlier discussions of customer competence, Schau, Muniz, and Arnould contend trying to co-opt customer competencies is the wrong strategy. Rather, their research findings suggest community management benefits from developing opportunities for customers to grow their competencies with the brand. They make it clear that their research indicates,

Companies wishing to encourage co-creation should foster a broad array of practices, not merely customization.” In other words, don’t try to keep the community focus only on what benefits the brand as you define it. The important point to keep in mind when discussing value in brand communities is that members create value for themselves through producing cultural capital distinguishing their status relative to the community, aside from the ROI and business value gained by the company owning the brand. Making sure members are provided opportunities to grow their competencies encourages them to reinvest their cultural capital in the brand community.

I discussed co-creation in several posts this past year in relation to eLearning 2.0 generally as well as Nokia and, back in 2005, its overall importance to the challenge of creating successful innovation, including the relevance of customer communities to innovation outcomes. The concept of customer competencies captures the overall significance of co-creation for efforts to produce value through engaging customers. However, Schau, Muniz, and Arnould offer the additional insight that the competencies critical to brand communities are developed through community practices. By practice they mean the linked, implicit way people understand, say, and do things. The term is further used to refer to the activities, performances, and representations (video, graphics, etc.) or talk of community members.  

Experience designers can use the concept of customer competencies  to inform choices about how to manage practices in customer communities.
Read the rest of this entry »


Using Social Network Analysis in Social Business Design

September 23, 2009

radical

My last post discussed the Open/Closed culture fallacy in social business design. I made the point that leaders of large corporations are typically unable to answer the key strategic questions posed by David Armano of the Dachis Group in a recent important post, Re-designing Your Business Culture. Among other questions, David asked:

Do we want real connections established between employees, customers, partners?
How can we reward those in our ecosystem who actively contribute?
Do we actually want to engage those who want to engage us? Can we?

As this post’s subject indicates, my interest here is to explain how social network analysis, applied to the ecosystems of organizations, helps apply social business design in a manner that avoids the fallacy of open/closed business cultures. We can’t know how open or closed a business culture is until we research, analyze, and understand both its formal and informal networks.

As I noted previously,

To paraphrase Valdis Krebs, a social network analyst, more connections are not necessarily betterValdis Krebs, and other social network analysts engaged in ONA (Rob Cross and Steve Borgatti, for example) contend that the most efficient and effective adaptation to emergent challenges lies in “the pattern of direct and indirect links” in the ecosystem. You can read a straightforward overview of ONA by Valdis.

This post continues David’s line of thinking by considering a combination of two of his strategic questions in light of the open/closed culture fallacy. I also take a stab at noting how to answer his last question.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Fallacy of Open/Closed Culture in Social Business Design

September 22, 2009

 Think about a closed business culture. Try to visualize what it looks like. What do you see? Does it look something like a pyramid?

Now, think about an open business culture. Try to visualize it. What image comes to mind? Does it look something like a spider web turned on its side?

 These two imaginings pose similar relationships between their parts. A three dimensional pyramid flattened out is about the same shape as a spider web. It is a matter of perspective as to whether one is more open or closed than the other. When connections are made across, rather than only between, the existing nodes in a network we can start to visualize informal relationships in a way that adds value to discussions of culture. It sounds simple, at least initially.

So, how do these observations relate to culture and social business design?

Read the rest of this entry »


Reflections on Soil and Smartphones

September 1, 2009

dirtroad

I usually keep my discussions here focused on issues of experience design that cut across challenges faced by a range of professionals as they work to engage learners, customers, consumers, and just ordinary people. However, I saw something today that made me think about soil and the experience of working the soil. Just a little personal reflection I’d like to share.

I try to do a workout each day and today was no different. As I prepared for my 20 mile mental and physical excursion on my stationary bike, filling a large glass of water at the sink, my eyes were drawn to one of the guys who cuts our grass. He was on a large riding mower, stopped in the middle of my back yard, intently working with his thumbs on what looked like a smartphone from my viewpoint. Now I realize this is not a unique thing to see these days. Yet , it evoked a memory of mine that made me smile and take wonder in how an ordinary guy cutting a stranger’s lawn stays connected with anyone he needs to communicate.

I spent my youth in the late 1960s doing farm work in rural Alabama. One of my fondest, and most solitary, memories from that time involves driving tractors early in the morning. Farmers used to turn the soil each spring and then disc it into small clods before planting, a practice that since gave way to the better environmental practice of no-till farming. In the early spring, sometimes with frost still on the ground and a mist hanging in the air, I often found myself in a forty or fifty acre field alone on a tractor pulling a turning plow. Depending on how early it was in the spring, sometimes we tied cotton sacks along the side of the engine to bring back the heat for some warmth.

As the plow cut through the soil it turned the topsoil from about six to eight inches underneath onto the top of the ground. The crispness of the air and the earthy smell of the soil, provided a really pleasing experience, except for times when the wind shifted to blow the smell of the engine exhaust back in my face. The experience of such solitary work encouraged me to sing, which I enjoy doing to this day. Anyway, the image of the guy paused on the mower in my back yard texting someone to stay in touch made me wonder whether farmers still experience solitude when they are alone working a field with their machines.

Posted by Larry R. Irons

Share this post…

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook


Informal Learning in Health Care 2.0

August 19, 2009

transform-masthead

Update:

The presentations from Transform are now available online. Take some time and listen to these videos if you are in the least interested in how to transform health care. 


Health care is increasingly gaining attention as an area in which innovation involves informal learning, and many of the other topics that go along with using Web 2.0 to engage people. The current debates at the national level about changing health insurance carry with them an underlying focus on innovation in the design and delivery of healthcare services, an area referred to for several years as Health Care 2.0. And the Mayo Clinic is always at the top of the list when innovation is discussed in healthcare. So, it isn’t a surprise that the Mayo Clinic is sponsoring a symposium in September focusing specifically on innovating health care experience and delivery.

The symposium includes a number of segments with intriguing topics. However, the two I find most interesting are the Redefining Roles and the Content, Community, Commerce, Care, & Choices segments. It looks like a promising experience for those fortunate enough to attend.

Redefining Roles
This segment will introduce the emerging roles of disruptive technology and business model innovations in making products and services in health care affordable and accessible. It will touch upon the evolution of health care delivery systems — particularly hospitals — from geographically-centered and costly entities to decentralized and more focused operations. Participants will be introduced to emerging business models in health care, including facilitated networks — online communities of people who help to teach one another about how to live with their diseases. This segment will also explore the notion that health care can be designed to minimize the degree to which it disturbs peoples’ lives.

Content, Community, Commerce, Care, & Choices
Communities of people are sharing health care-related content online. This has come to be called “Health 2.0.” Individuals and organizations have built business ventures around sharing content. But what does it take for these models to evolve into reliable facilitators of wellness? How can these communities link with existing bricks-and-mortar care delivery systems in ways that help people in their journey to wellness? What are “microchoices” and how might they be more powerful than all of health care?

My interest in using communities to enhance the service experience goes back several years. I had not considered their application to health care services until recently when an associate pointed me to several hospitals using social media to connect with patients. It looks like a promising area for innovation and highlights the relevance of informal learning to health care services. 

Thanks to Tim Brown at Design Thinking for the pointer to the Mayo symposium.

Posted by Larry R. Irons

Share this post…

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook


Talking about Flatland as Visualized by Carl Sagan

July 29, 2009

I first read Edwin Abbot’s Flatland several decades ago. It is considered the first science fiction novel, after all, since its first printing in 1885. I must say though, the simplicity of the story never really hit me until I watched the following Carl Sagan interpretation of it recently.


Social Business Design and Multichannel Team Collaboration

July 7, 2009

hub

David Armano recently asked the question, Is the Hub and Spoke Model Adaptable? Anyone who ever worked on a project team in a large organization, especially corporate enterprises, probably recognizes the hub and spoke team design depicted in the graphic above. In this post I take a closer look at the hub and spoke design’s purpose in hierarchical, bureaucratic, organizations–the kind associated with industrial society. Our next post discusses how David answered his question and what an adaptable hub and spoke model implies for social business design.

Project management, typically consisting of one or more team leads clustered in the hub, considers the failure of any spoke’s functional work practices to align with approved best practices as evidence of process ignorance, a failure of competence in following the detailed process requirements in the team’s project plan, not a failure of the organization’s adaptive capability. The hub and spoke model’s basic idea is that a matrix-organization, consisting of cross-functional project teams, optimizes the traditional hierarchical organization by adding increased flexibility in responding to market demands for innovation in products and services, and maintaining adherence to a standard management process. However, as Rob Cross and Robert Thomas observe in their recent book, Driving Results Through Social Networks,

…most projects and processes are enabled by productive networks that form among some (but not all) team members in combination with relationships that bridge to key resources and expertise outside of the team.

In other words, much of the collaborative effort going into innovation projects also involves social networks that aren’t part of project teams. Instead, these networks emerge from relationships with others in the enterprise, or from outside friends and associates. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that some research into geographically distributed teams shows that on average, only 75% of the employees on any given distributed team agree about who is, and who is not, on their team. The challenge increases in importance as project teams form and disband more rapidly to manage risk and opportunity, thereby increasing the already fuzzy distinctions of formal organization, i.e. official teams, and informal organization, i.e. social teams.

Ross Mayfield summarized the point well in the following observation:

Process is “how work should be done.” And Practice is “how work is actually done.” When process fails (exceptions), people use practice to fix things. When process doesn’t exist, practice fills the void. While people don’t realize it when they engage in practice, they actually are tapping into community — an informal social network within or beyond the enterprise to discover expertise and get things done. The problem is that we haven’t had the tools to support good practice. The problem is that we haven’t developed the group memory around practice that creates institutional leverage. In fact, we still design organizations to prevent practice and cultures that hoard knowledge and communities. 

I suggest that the real value of social business design comes from the promise it holds for enabling management practices to develop to deal with the following fact:  Social networks do not respect organizational walls, they never did.

Shared experience, not just shared information, is fundamental to the social networks underlying collaboration and innovation. Many, if not most, employees don’t only need to get to know one another through reputation systems, like who people tag as possessing expertise. As Thomas Vander Wal continues to point out, comfort with one another is needed to develop a shared experience that encourages the open sharing of information.  

Collaboration means getting to know that other employees possess expertise on this or that topic, but also developing comfort with one another by sharing significant symbols relating to self, family, friends, and social activities, thereby understanding one another as people. Shared experience with co-workers and customers is a key factor in innovative business practices. It is especially important to multichannel collaboration.

Read the rest of this entry »


Social Business, the Golden Rule, and Open Empathy Organization

May 20, 2009

empathyI first took real notice of the term “social business” in a post early this year over at Peter Kim‘s blog. The concept of social business is not limited to those enterprises seeking to “generate social improvements and serve a broader human development purpose,” though these are certainly admirable goals. Rather, social business is increasingly discussed as a frame of analysis for considering the business implications of  large numbers of people using web 2.0 technologies, especially social media, within corporate enterprises as employees, or outside them as customers.

Channels, policies, processes, touch points and transactions are increasingly viewed as parts of the social experience organizations use to engage employees in collaboration, and customers in conversation. The common goal of the discussion involves transforming business practices to incorporate social relationships into the value proposition to customers and other stakeholders.

My recent reading of Wired to Care by Dev Patnaik (with Peter Mortensen) provided some basic insights for me in thinking about the development of social business practices. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the intersection of experience design and organization. The book explores the concept of empathy in a manner that speaks to the social business discussion by pointing out that the result of a transformation is more than adoption of new technologies such as social media.

Wired to Care offers an approach to organizing business as well as creating design insights on how to engage customers to improve products and services. One of my earliest posts on Skilful Minds, Break the Golden Rule with Customer Dialogue Support, offered the following observation,

Many “customer care” approaches call for treating customers the way you’d like to be treated—the so-called Golden Rule. Treating customers the way we, as service providers want to be treated implies that we inherently know what’s best for them. A customer dialogue approach alternatively assumes that customers know, or can quickly learn, what’s best for them as individual customers. We need to treat customers the way their actions indicate they want, not the way we would want to be treated as a customer.

Reading Wired to Care persuaded me that my previous point only moved the discussion a part of the way to an understanding of the nuances of the Golden Rule for business. Wired to Care offers an interesting point of view on the limitations inherent in the traditional understanding of the Golden Rule, while contending that a full appreciation of it reveals truths about us as individuals, and our relationship to organizations, whether as employees or customers. It outlines three levels of the Golden Rule:

  1. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — the most basic level with limited efficacy unless people share the same view of the world
  2. “Do unto others as they would have done to them” — requires increased empathy to distinguish the wants and needs of individuals
  3. “Do unto each other as we would have done unto us” — provides for empathy by focusing on “how we’d all like to be treated, inside the company and out,” yet also recognizes that good business practice might additionally require treating people “better than they expect to be treated”

Dev contends that the third level of the Golden Rule provides a basis for integrating empathy into the everyday practices of organizations. Though he does not use the term social business, Dev’s analysis offers a foundational strategy for implementing social business through the concept of an Open Empathy Organization.

Read the rest of this entry »


Social Media, Word of Mouth, and the Cynefin Framework

April 20, 2009
cynefin
The Cynefin Framework

As noted in a previous post, the promises made by brands are increasingly judged on whether they converge with the customer experience across channels of service in organizations. The challenge is a longstanding one for all organizations. However, the increasing adoption of social media makes the challenge more pressing as word of mouth (WOM) from customers, suppliers, competitors, or others amplifies their ability to communicate their experience with your brand to others. Word of mouth communities and networks using social software are increasingly spread over regional, national, and international borders, making them much more important to those who market branded products and services, online and off.

Speaking the language of customer-centricity is not good enough. Companies must talk-the talk and walk-the-walk for brand strategy. Brand strategies are most effective when based in the design and delivery of business services themselves.  Listening to the conversations people engage online about a topic (such as your brand), and eliciting the participation of those people in the development and refinement of products and services, are two key parts of an experience design strategy. Even though you may think this is a “Duh!” insight, consider recent findings on the engagement gap.

PriceWaterhouseCooper’s 12th Annual CEO Survey recently reported that most CEOs,

…believe that data about their customers (94%), brand (91%) and employees (88%) are important or critical to long-term decision-making. However, strikingly low percentages of CEOs say they have comprehensive information in these and other critical areas that contribute to organisational agility. Just 21% have comprehensive information about the needs and references of customers and clients. Less than one third feel they have all the information they need about reputation (31%) and the views and needs of employees (30%).

Not surprisingly, the ability to anticipate customer needs is the widest gap between the information CEOs report they need to make decisions about the long-term success of their businesses, and what they currently possess. This post explores the Cynefin (pronounced cunevin) Framework as a helpful approach for thinking about the importance of dialogue with customers in efforts to bridge insight and action.

Read the rest of this entry »


Brand Experiences are for Employees and Customers

April 6, 2009

cem_puzzleThe topics discussed at Skilful Minds fall in a range of challenges involved in translating strategic business goals, and the complex needs of people, into exceptional experiences, for employees who provide products and services and those who consume them, whether the latter are customers, users, learners, or just plain people. Commentators and practitioners of experience design tend to focus on the latter while largely ignoring the former. A few recent posts by influentials speak directly to these concerns and merit specific attention for their insights into experience design and brands.

The underlying theme is that brands are not simply about the way customers view products and services. The way employees engage customers in the design, development, and delivery of those products and services is also crucial to brands. However, exhorting employees to live the brand and talk customer-centricity is a prescription for failure when isolated from transformational changes to a company’s engagement with customers.

Read the rest of this entry »


Remembering VizAbility

March 3, 2009

vizMet Dave Gray, Andrew Simone, and Jim Durbin for coffee yesterday afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed the conversation over a range of topics. Dave’s approach to connecting visualization and explanation is always impressive. Andrew and I stayed around a while after the others left to talk about a range of things, but in particular his own interest in how we communicate what we know visually. The conversation led me to remember a Handbook from the mid-1990s that I worked through at one time called VizAbility, by Kristina Hooper Woolsey.

Upon entering my office at home I immediately pulled it out and popped in the CD to re-acquaint myself with a few of the exercises . I know a lot of books were written on visual design and communication over the past decade, but in my opinion VizAbility really stands out as both a classic and enduring resource of inspiration. It helped me through the visual design side of a couple of tough multimedia projects when I first read it in 1996. A short excerpt gives a good sense of its approach.

…for most of us, drawing is relegated either to our early school years or the hobbies of late adulthood, as if it were relevant on to the beginning and end of our lives. It is a skill that is approached lightly or not at all during the bulk of our education or professional activities.

But excluding people from the experience of drawing because they are not artistically “gifted” is like excluding people from speaking because they are not great orators or from writing because they are not first-class novelists. Drawing is not just a way to produce art, reserved for those talented in techniques and materials. It is a critial skill for bringing ideas into the world, and a tool for better learning and communication.

Anyone who doesn’t know the book ought to check it out. Now if I could just let that insight sink in again 😉

Posted by Larry R. Irons

Share this post…

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook


eLearning and Experience Design for Learnable Services

February 23, 2009

questionholesGood service is one of those experiences most of us recognize when we get it. Much of the time though, a good service experience is as much a result of how learnable the provider makes its business processes, the context of the service, as it is the products and services themselves. I discussed this a couple of years ago in a post on the importance of a dialogue strategy for customer experience management. A dialogue strategy builds on the assumption that companies learn more from customers when customers learn from them. More recently I noted that,

The increasing maturity and diffusion of social media over the ensuing years makes it clear that a dialogue strategy provides a coherent framework for communications, whether addressing collaboration, innovation, marketing, sales, support, or branding. The key to the process is understanding customers, attracting them, engaging them, and learning from them to improve products and services, thereby strengthening your brand…

Strategists increasingly recognize that listening to customers, engaging them in dialogue, and acting on what is learned lies at the heart of experience design’s relevance to brands, customers, and social media.

These insights are relevant to the current shift in focus for experience design, from primarily emphasizing the design of products to also emphasizing the design of services, as exemplified in Peter Merholtz’s recent series in Harvard Business online. Okay, you may ask, how does this all relate to eLearning and learnability?

Read the rest of this entry »


Museum of Lost Interactions: The Social Communicator in 1932

February 2, 2009
socialcommunicator
The Social Communicator

While reading the posts over at Design Observer recently, I scrolled through the images of the day and clicked on The Social Communicator image. The link takes you to The Museum of Lost Interactions (MoLi).

The Museum of Lost Interactions opened in 2006, and many of you may know about it already because of the initial sensation it caused among prominent thinkers about technology like Bruce Sterling. However, for those who don’t, I thought you might want to. MoLi is located in the University of Dundee’s Interactive Media Design program. MoLi aims to raise public awareness of the history of interaction design.

Read the rest of this entry »


Online Brand Conversations and the Engagement Gap

January 27, 2009
box

We Need A New Box

A recent report from the Chief Marketing Officer Council provides an interesting set of insights into the engagement gap. The engagement gap refers to the difference between the influence of the Internet in consumer decision making and the amount of spending, and effort, by corporations and government agencies in trying to interact with and shape the thinking behind those decisions.

The CMO Council report summarizes the overall results of the survey as follows:

What we are seeing is much stronger sensitivity to engage directly with customers and learn more about what shapes, influences and impacts purchasing decisions and intentions to do business. The move to quantify “customer affinity” and increase “customer advocacy” has become a new measure of marketing effectiveness…

Read the rest of this entry »


Open Innovation at Procter & Gamble’s Social Media Lab?

January 27, 2009
p_g_social_media_lab_small

P&G Social Media Lab

As part of an overall critique of self-oriented approaches to innovation, Skilful Minds first considered open innovation at Procter and Gamble back in 2006. The latter post is one of the most visited here.

Given my recent focus on transformation as a fundamental concern for those interested in design and innovation, the recent publicity about P&G’s Social Media Lab instantly drew me to take a look.

Read the rest of this entry »


Transformation as a Deep Metaphor for Design

January 7, 2009

Bruce Nussbaum recently declared Innovation is Dead, initiating a lively discussion around the issue of whether one term for change is better than another.

Before listing out Bruce’s key points, it is important to recognize that he isn’t saying that innovation is unimportant. Rather, he is pointing to the necessity of approaching meaningful change as a transformation of relationships between people and institutions, not just innovation at the edges through altering the systems allowing us to manage products and services.

Following his initial post, Bruce summarized his thinking in succinct form.

1- Our institutions aren’t working. They are broken. Corporations, investment banks, health care, schools, universities, Congress, transportation. The current crisis is accelerating the breakdown in the major institutions of our lives that began in the 90s.

2- Digital technology is disintermediating every organization, eroding the role of all middle men and women, from ad agencies to college professors, from newspaper editors to hospital administrators, from political parties to savings banks. The shape of all our institutions is radically changing.

3- The power to create and participate is moving to the masses. Digital technology is giving everyone the tools to tinker again, to design and shape their learning, their working, their play. Craft is back in newly significant ways that we are just beginning to understand.

4- “Innovation” is inadequate as a concept to deal with these changes. You have “game-changing” innovation, which is big but rare and incremental innovation which is small but common. “Innovation” implies changing what is. “Transformation” implies creating what’s new. That’s what we need today, a huge amount of totally “new.”

5- Design is the answer. I use the term “transformation” to capture the immensity of the task ahead of us and to guide us in the magnitude of that task, but the actual tools, methodologies and, yes, philosophy of that mission is found within the space of design and design thinking.

Read the rest of this entry »


Gestural Interfaces and Experience Design

December 11, 2008

gesture_bookDan Saffer’s recent book, Designing Gestural Interfaces, makes you think anew about the hand dryers and faucets in public restrooms that respond to waving hands. In fact, Dan notes that gestural interfaces are currently found in specialized products paired to specialized activities in specialized environments. As he observes,

 

Public restrooms are currently a great example of this, but other spaces could easily take on this sort of “hothouse” environment. The next likely place for such experimentation is kitchens: they feature lots of activities, plus a contained environment with tons of specialized equipment (pp. 160-161)

Designing Gestural Interfaces is the first attempt I’ve seen to provide an in-depth discussion of the challenges in designing devices that people control through gesturing. Although it isn’t the central point of the book, Dan discusses restroom interfaces that wet hands, dry hands, flush toilets, and dispense SaniSeats. And one of his example photographs is notated, “Apparently, public restrooms are excellent places to find gestural interfaces.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Lateral Thinking in Design

December 3, 2008

ideasearching1I just finished reading David Bramston’s new book, Basics Product Design: idea searching. First, I highly recommend the book, both for its writing and the visualizations of product ideas offered in it. The design of the book itself is as striking as the product designs it discusses and shows.

Given my recent posts on the importance of metaphorical understanding in the design of ubiquitous computing devices as well as design research more generally, Bramston’s distinction between literal thinking and lateral thinking in product design caught my attention.

Lateral thinking is a capacity to address conventional thoughts and assumptions related to a particular problem from a different or unorthodox angle…A literal approach to design still requires an imaginative approach, but tends to concentrate on more obvious aspects – a direct interpretation of meaning….In generating ideas for a design it is worthwhile exploring both aspects of literal and lateral thought patterns and, where possible, to instigate a hybrid approach of the thinking methods.

Share this post…

add to del.icio.us : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook