Posts tagged “innovation”

ChittahChattah Quickies

Why You’re Doing Customer Research All Wrong [Inc.] – It comes as no surprise that many innovative ideas hit the cutting room floor before ever seeing the light of day in consumer testing. The author suggests that too many great ideas don’t get chosen for testing and this is where the problem lies. While I agree that this is a grave problem for customer research, it’s not nearly as reprehensible as the omission of consumers from ideation sessions, and the failure to converge in the ideation process. In fact, I’d argue that the problem could be averted with two steps upstream in this process. First, start with the end in mind when planning a brainstorming session and invite customers and executives to help generate stakeholder-inspired ideas. Secondly, make sure those ideas get clustered and prioritized before anyone leaves the room. Ideation should include both divergent and convergent thinking! This results in more collaborative value-added ideas and less ‘intuitive’ choices about which ones merit further testing.

Affinnova studied 100 testing campaigns that its clients had done in the past. Typically the testing process went like this: A company came up with a long list of potential ideas to test, whittled it down using mostly executives’ intuition, and then tested the much shorter list of ideas. Affinnova, on the other hand, took the initial brainstorming list and tested everything on it, presenting the ideas in groups and asking participants to select their favorites.

Looking To Hire And Keep Great Innovators? Focus On The 3 Rs [Co.Design] – When companies look inward in a quest for amping up their innovation capabilities, they undoubtedly see the potential of their human resources. The three Rs of getting and keeping innovative employees are Recruiting, Retraining and Rewarding. Given the very premise of the article a fourth R, Reflection, seems mighty important. While the ROI (yikes, another R word!) of a strategic debrief may be hard to justify in some cases, the cost of ignoring valuable lessons learned from experience can be catastrophic. Consider how many times companies learn the same lessons over and over again. It’s Ridiculous. Besides, a healthy organization that engages its employees in regular reflection is likely to keep those folks feeling engaged, valued and loyal, thereby reducing the need to look outside for more innovators.

Innovation relies on people more than other processes. This reliance on employees, management, and executives in an organization requires that the “right” people are attracted, and then given the appropriate tools and techniques for a sustained innovation success. Their passions and capabilities also must be ensured to align with the needs and expectations of the firm.

Building Self-Control, the American Way [New York Times] – Although this article is focused on parenting strategies for cultivating self-discipline, I think the lessons can be applied to nurturing innovative thinkers. This article talks about the importance of play in allowing children to practice and develop skills like self-control, self-esteem and social interaction. Companies who rely on their people to continually generate creative ideas should explore opportunities for productive play experiences that challenge and nurture their employees’ essential abilities to manage themselves through intrinsic motivation.

Fortunately for American parents, psychologists find that children can learn self-control without externally imposed pressure. Behavior is powerfully shaped not only by parents or teachers but also by children themselves. The key is to harness the child’s own drives for play, social interaction and other rewards. Enjoyable activities elicit dopamine release to enhance learning, while reducing the secretion of stress hormones, which can impede learning and increase anxiety, sometimes for years.

 

ChittahChattah Quickies

Are You Learning as Fast as the World Is Changing? [HBR Blog Network] – Innovation is about the new. It begins with new thinking and typically involves learning new things and being exposed to new ideas. Through our self-funded study, the Omni project, we describe this challenge to keep up with the pace of possibilities in the Transformations theme. Here the author suggests three “habits of mind” (diverse sources of¬† inspiration, copy success from other industries, and collaboration) that promise to keep you learning as fast as the world is changing.

Today, the challenge for leaders at every level is no longer just to out-hustle, out-muscle, and out-maneuver the competition. It is to out-think the competition in ways big and small, to develop a unique point of view about the future and help your organization get there before anyone else does. Which is why a defining challenge of leadership is whether you can answer a question that is as simple as it is powerful: Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

The human factor in service design [McKinsey Quarterly] – The¬†customer service landscape is continually evolving and responding to the winds of technological change and floods of social media. Here, three company stories illustrate different ways to think about the human side of service interaction.¬†The article suggests that you ask yourself three questions to diagnose opportunities for improvement: How human is your service? How economic is your service? Can your people scale it up? The only question I’d add is: How do you know? since this line of inquiry into the design of services is fueled by research with humans both inside and outside the organization.

When putting together services that are economically attractive and grounded in a good understanding of what motivates customers, companies shouldn’t overlook their own employees-the other human beings involved in a transaction. Companies give themselves a big edge when they design service processes that a widely distributed workforce can easily adopt, understand, automate, and execute.

Let’s Debunk 4 Myths About How Great Companies Innovate [Co.Design] – This “mythbusting” article delivers a punchy dose that dispels any notion that innovative companies are fueled solely by visionary leaders, industry competition, market mimicking, and luck. It appears that we have no excuse not to innovate.

A growing base of consumers with new expectations and new demands only fuels the fire for more products and services. Firms that claim to be fast followers are often merely just followers. As a firm grows and matures, its bureaucracy, decisions, and approvals inhibit its ability to bring a new product to market quickly. The company can’t respond fast enough to innovators or consumer demands. In this period of rapid change and global competition, innovation isn’t a “nice to have” but an important core competence; those firms that can’t keep up will inevitably perish.

Innovation for Introverts

We here at Portigal are diverse practitioners, particularly when it comes to the polarizing spectrum of introversion and extroversion. Many a delicious dinner have been sprinkled with questions about how our preferences impact our practice. Steve, who identifies as more of an introvert, was interviewed by Gerry Gaffney for his User Experience podcast late last year and discussed the context of interviewing as a place where this gets manifested and managed. This topic is not new, but some recent articles remind me how important it is for innovation efforts that we acknowledge the valuable differences between those who draw energy from within and those (like me) who draw energy from the people around them.

The Rise of the New Groupthink [NYtimes] – Collaboration is the new black and, not surprisingly, it is not without its discontents. The author cites a range of studies (and Steve Wozniak as an exemplar) for why uninterrupted alone time is necessary and brainstorming in groups is not as effective as solo ideation. It doesn’t take loads of creativity to cherry-pick studies and successful individuals that support your case, in fact I think that’s called confirmation bias. Most disappointing is the characterization of collaboration as Groupthink which implies assembled individuals are stifled creatively and unable to reach their maximum creative frequency of Flow. Rather than supporting the case that collaboration isn’t worthwhile, I see a need for better communication, alignment, and understanding of diversity by the individuals that make up the group. A gifted facilitator, dedicated to stewarding collaborative creative processes and balancing different ideation styles, may offer a valuable remedy for this divergent diagnosis.

One explanation for these findings is that introverts are comfortable working alone – and solitude is a catalyst to innovation. As the influential psychologist Hans Eysenck observed, introversion fosters creativity by “concentrating the mind on the tasks in hand, and preventing the dissipation of energy on social and sexual matters unrelated to work.” In other words, a person sitting quietly under a tree in the backyard, while everyone else is clinking glasses on the patio, is more likely to have an apple land on his head. (Newton was one of the world’s great introverts: William Wordsworth described him as “A mind for ever/ Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.”)

Woz on Creativity: Work Alone [brainpickings] – My favorite source of cognitive candy offered a lovely, gentle rebuttal to the above article. It suggests, as do I, that creativity benefits from collaboration because fantastic things happen when ideas bang against each other. Neuroscientists tell us that new ideas are born of cognitive dissonance (when the brain struggles to hold two seemingly contrary concepts in the mind at the same time). This process has various monickers (forced connections, ideas having sex). In my experience it is guaranteed to produce innovative thinking and often works best when those two dissimilar ideas come from different people.

This, of course, should be ingested with caution – when taken out of context, it could easily become a distorted extreme. As Steven Johnson argues in Where Good Ideas Come From, innovation happens when ideas collide with one another, which can’t happen in isolation – an environment conducive to such collisions is essential for combinatorial creativity.

Federal Buzz: Does the government need more extroverts? [The Washington Post] – If you don’t have time for an in-depth study of the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) then this article offers a quick little lesson in some key distinctions between introverts and extroverts, as well as why there can be confusion and cases of mistaken identities. The article is a response to the argument that the government must hire more extroverts if it has any hope of fostering innovation. Plenty of voices chime in to dispel myths of introversion vs. extroversion and illuminate the challenges of employee retention within a work culture that neither nurtures nor rewards innovative contributions.

Several [introverts] also professed to being mistaken for extroverts because any personality type can exhibit the qualities of a good leader. Explained Kenneth Wells, an employee with the Navy, “I have been in positions where I had to act like an extrovert and make decisions quickly and decisively. Just remember that person who you think is an extrovert may be an introvert. All he or she wants is to get the job done, and then spend a little alone time to recharge and work on the next assignment.”

Stockholm’s School Without Classrooms [Architizer] – The Swedish Free School Organization Vittra is innovating the learning landscape with a new school designed to inspire creativity and community. The interior architecture is reminiscent of design studios (which are criticized in the above Groupthink article for lacking personal spaces). I, for one, drool at the thought of my son getting to attend a school designed to promote openness and interaction. Of course, my son is an extrovert like me so he would likely flourish in a school without walls. How is this kind of open environment experienced by a more introverted child? How do the teachers nurture and honor diverse creative kids in this context? I acknowledge my own confirmation bias here in suggesting that the teacher-as-facilitator seems like a viable anecdote for ensuring the students learn to stretch and shine, both alone and together.

The principles of the Vittra School revolve around the breakdown of physical and metaphorical class divisions as a fundamental step to promoting intellectual curiosity, self-confidence, and communally responsible behavior. Therefore, in Vittra’s custom-built Stockholm location, spaces are only loosely defined by permeable borders and large, abstract landmarks. As the architects explained, “instead of classical divisions with chairs and tables, a giant iceberg for example serves as cinema, platform, and room for relaxation, and sets the frame for many different types of learning,” while “flexible laboratories make it possible to work hands-on with themes and projects.”

Innovator’s Dilemmas

Some recent thoughts about challenges that accompany a desire to innovate (or not), from corporate culture to classroom to convenience store treat.

Give Your Employees Unlimited Vacation Days [Inc] – It will come as little surprise that letting employees take vacation time whenever they want (and for however long the desire) is a pretty clear indicator of an innovative company culture. It’s a policy that almost guarantees a deluge of resumes and hopeful job applicants. Apparently, it also promotes a highly productive work place. This article is anecdotal and autobiographical, so if you are looking for some statistics or a less shiny discussion of how this policy plays out in other companies, try this.

Through building a company on accountability, mutual respect, and teamwork, we’ve seen our unlimited vacation day policy have tremendous results for our employees’ personal development and for productivity. There. I said it. I think Red Frog is more productive by giving unlimited vacation days.

Do Innovation Consultants Kill Innovation? [Co.Design] – Bringing innovative thinking to organizations big and small is obviously a complex challenge. The authors contend that innovation professionals have stepped into an arena previously dominated by entrepreneurs and that this new breed is ill-equipped and ineptly motivated for the task of effectively transforming a company culture. It’s like blaming cigarettes for cancer when culpability actually lies with the smoker. The authors do encourage smokers, er, companies to learn from Hollywood and hi-tech industries and invest in better dream teams. With this approach, the challenge falls in the lap of the director, responsible for unleashing and wrangling the talent of the tribe. I am still stymied about how the authors (who are, as far as I can tell, innovation professionals) will fit into this proposed new order.

The new breed of innovation professionals we have encountered can be placed in two categories: innovation custodians and innovation word-slingers. The custodians are middle managers assigned to oversee the innovators and their processes. The word-slingers are external consultants that will take corporate managers through endless innovation workshops or blabber on about the aforementioned processes.

4 Lessons the Classroom Can Learn from the Design Studio [The Creativity Post] – Innovating the culture of the classroom requires a radical rethinking of how we think about learning and teaching and the contexts within which these activities occur. This articles highlights four key characteristics of the architectural design studio as possible solutions to classroom ills: critical collaboration, interdisciplinary problem solving, prototyping through mini-failures, and balancing the use of digital and analog.

From the everyday “Hey, can you take a look at this?” to the masters’ critique, learning in a studio is constant and multidirectional, formal and informal. Collaboration means communicating concepts, critiques, and questions for the betterment of the individual designer and the entire team. Studio surfaces are notoriously littered with inspirations, precedents, concepts, and drafts. In the studio, the process-not just the product-takes center stage.

Hostess’ Twinkie: An American icon in trouble [The Washington Post] – Here’s one for the innovation graveyard, where death (or obsolescence) await products whose time has passed. The Twinkie, originally created in 1930, may be retired this year as Hostess prepares for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Apparently rising costs of labor and ingredient prices are the culprit. I’m guessing the whole unhealthy thing probably isn’t helping either. [*note to Steve- the time is NOW if you ever want to experience a fried Twinkie]

They’ve been called the “cream puff of the proletariat.” They’ve served as a bed for a cockroach in the animated film, “Wall-E.” They’ve been used as a measurement of psycho-kinetic energy in”Ghostbusters,” and they were the basis of a defense argument in a famous murder trial. They’ve been deep-fried, made into wedding cakes and combined with hot dogs . President Clinton and the White House Millennium Council selected them as an American icon for the millennium time capsule.

ChittahChattah Quickies

In East Harlem, ‘Keep Out’ Signs Apply to Renters [NYT.com] – When in a large city I often look at the residential spaces above dense commercial/retail and wonder who lives there and what it’s like (I once lived above a real estate office of some type – we never really knew what they did down there – and was constantly pestered by couriers and other delivery people) – but the answer may very well be that nobody lives up there. Naively, it doesn’t make economic sense, but the situation appears to more complex than that.

East Harlem has been undergoing a resurgence for two decades, yet the neighborhood is still pockmarked with four- or five-story walk-ups where the ground-floor stores are bustling and the apartments above are devoid of life. Their windows are boarded up, blocked up or just drearily empty, torn curtains testifying to no one’s having lived there for years. Although the vacancy rate in Manhattan hovers at 1 percent, at least some of the landlords of these sealed-up buildings are deliberately keeping their buildings mostly vacant, content to earn income from first-floor commercial tenants rather than deal with the trouble of residents. …At the corner of 106th Street and Third Avenue, the boarded-up windows and the remainder of the five-story building have been sleekly painted a rich taupe, allowing the Chase Bank branch below to escape looking as if it were in a forsaken slum. Still, no one lives in the apartments.

Reinventing Post Offices in a Digital World [NYT.com] – Digital, and all that it encompasses, is remaking every industry. We straddle the opposites of welcoming new services and holding onto traditional ways of receiving familiar services. Nice to see the German post office reframe this away from loss, towards reinvention. The article doesn’t characterize the pain that must have been felt by the organization and the customers but you can imagine it must have been tremendous.

With mail volumes decreasing 1 to 2 percent annually in many countries, European postal services from Germany to Sweden to Switzerland have reinvented themselves over the past decade as multifaceted delivery and information companies tailored to the virtual age. Though Deutsche Post by law still delivers to every address six days a week, it has jettisoned tens of thousands of buildings, 100,000 positions and its traditional focus on paper mail. “We realized that being a national postal provider was an endangered business, that we had to redefine the role of postal providers in a digital world,” said Clemens Beckmann, executive vice president of innovation of the German post office’s mail division. After selling off all but 24 of 29,000 post office buildings in the past 15 years, the German postal service is now housed mostly within other business “partners,” including banks, convenience stores and even private homes. In rural areas, a shopkeeper or even a centrally located homeowner is given a sign and deputized as a part-time postmaster. At the same time, many European postal services, including the one here, have developed a host of electronic services that are increasingly making traditional post offices and mailboxes obsolete. Bills and catalogs can go first to digital mailboxes run by the post office on customers’ computers, and the customers can tell the post office what they want it to print and deliver

Ford reintroduces the 1965 Mustang [Yahoo! Autos] – First I’m hearing that Ford has its own business supporting the classic car market. There are obviously design, performance and legal/safety issues why they won’t sell you an actual 1965 Mustang, but the idea of having someone make you a new version of an old car is very compelling. Who will make me one?

As part of its Ford Reproduction business, Ford revealed today it had approved a new stamping of the steel bodies for first-generation Mustang that buyers could then build into their own 1964 1/2 through 1966 Mustang, using whatever engine, axles, interior and other parts they can find on their own. The first-generation Mustangs rank as America’s most-restored vehicle, and the cottage industry of reproduction parts has grown to where it’s possible to build a Mustang just as it would have appeared on the showroom floor in the mid-1960s, down to the pushbutton AM/FM radio.

Flow in the interview

Earlier this week the San Francisco IxDa hosted a talk by Peter Stahl about The Rhythm of Interaction. As part of his presentation , Peter talked about Mih?°ly Cs??kszentmih?°lyi’s notion of Flow – “the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.”

Yesterday I came across a podcast I did a few years ago with the folks from Lunar where we talked about how speed, creativity and innovation intertwine in the design process and about getting results through design research. You can listen to the podcast at the bottom of the post; meanwhile I’ve pulled out a snippet where I describe entering a flow state when interviewing users.

And all the power of noticing and stepping back and slowing yourself down and just disengaging yourself from the need to be making things happen, is just sort of creating that space and t hat’s where insights happen. That’s where creativity can happen. And I’m sure you guys have seen that moment when you’re in the field, where you have all this responsibility to be managing a session and managing the other people in the session and making sure you stick to your time, and it’s a lot of, lot of work. Your brain is just firing on all its cylinders. And then sometimes for me there’s that moment where you kind of – it’s almost like a hyperspace moment where the starts start to just stretch out. Things just get really, really quiet in my head and suddenly, I’m just riding it. Things are sort of happening and I’m riding it, and that can be – it’s, I guess, a flow moment, right? Things can be really insightful at that moment. I don’t know that I’m bored, but if I had to contrast that to the stimulation of trying to run everything and run everybody, that seems to be a really kind of creative moment for me when that happens.

Listen to the podcast:

To download the audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac).

ChittahChattah Quickies

You Can’t Innovate If You Ignore Your Real Problems [FastCoDesign.com] – I wish more thought leaders in our fields would be as honest as Sohrab is here. It’s a nod-your-head-with-pained-recognition piece that acknowledges the limits of the aspirations that drive so many of these programs.

After a week of intense exploration and discussion, the executives thanked us heartily. They then went back to doing business precisely as they had before. This outcome is depressingly common, not just for Ziba but for any organization that seeks to build innovation capacity in businesses. The clients in this example are masters of efficient production, making incremental improvements to their product line every year as they steadily lose market share. But they expected a seminar to give them the sudden capability to innovate, without changing any other part of their business practice. It doesn’t work like that. An innovation consultancy cannot turn you into an innovative company.

Heello is Twitter for Pretending [Waxy] – Andy brilliantly reframes fakery as he inventories the startling range of misbehaving accounts flying the flag of established businesses, brands, or web personalities.

It’s easy to write off Heello as a Twitter clone. Created by the founder of Twitpic, the shameless knockoff looks and behaves like a stripped-down version of Twitter. But it’s shaping up to be more than that. Creative fakesters are using the blank slate to turn Heello into the parallel-universe version of Twitter. Heello is like a blank-slate Twitter with no moderation or verification. I doubt the Heello team wanted or expected this behavior, but they inadvertently created a perfect playground for parody and meta-commentary

To win, deliver relevance

HP recently ran a series of full-page newspaper ads for its TouchPad. The different ads trumpeted different aspects of the product. Here’s one:

This particular ad focuses on the movie-watching benefits. Unfortunately, they ad begins poorly: The all-new HP TouchPad with the HP MovieStore powered by RoxioNow(TM).

The classic tech marketing mistake: brand soup (with a base of presumed relevance). Who is Roxio? Yes, readers of this post probably know, but let’s agree that most people don’t, and those who did haven’t heard of them for 5 years. What the heck is RoxioNow(TM)? We can infer that HP has struck a deal for some ingredient technology. Wonderful. But they shouldn’t presume that adds credibility to their offering. In the same way “HP MovieStore” is not a known brand and isn’t exactly dripping with credibility. At least you can figure based on the name that it’s somewhat like that other Pad company’s SomethingStore.

But it gets worse. Here’s the promise

It’s Hollywood’s recently released big screen movies and current TV episodes on your HP TouchPad. Catch up on something you missed or get hooked on something new.

But in this ad, where they can show whatever they want to highlight the compelling benefits, what movies do they display?

The highlighted films: Knockout, 8 of Diamonds, Being Michael Madsen, 3 Backyards, 30 Years to Life, Baby on Board, Mistaken Identity, and Kalamity.

Okay, anyone? 3 Backyards is a very recently released indie film. IMDB tells me 30 Years to Life is from 2001. Where are the recently released Hollywood big screen movies (note: direct-to-video doesn’t count) that I can get from the HP MovieStore powered by RoxioNow(TM)?

Next time you are sitting in a meeting and someone brings up Apple and wonders how it is they are so darn innovative, remember this example. This is how their competitors behave. This is their advertising – where they actually promise a wonderful experience; what does this portend for the actual delivery of the experience in the product itself?

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] My Notes on Steve Portigal’s presentation – Design Fieldwork: Uncovering Innovation from the Outside In [The Pam] – [Pam pulls out the key points from my UIE WAMT presentation that most resonated with her.] The knowledge “You’re not your user” creates empathy, but going out to the field makes you listen and understand what your users are going through. Through fieldwork you can detect unmet business goals. Doing fieldwork can accomplish many research goals at the same time, not only about the users but also about your organizational goals.
  • [from steve_portigal] Web App Masters: Uncovering Innovation with Fieldwork [LukeW] – [Luke's summary notes from my 75-minute talk.] Be a methods-polygamist. Choose, mash-up, or create a methodology based on the problem you are trying to solve. Integrate with other methods. Create a library of methods and artifacts that you can call on and modify as needed. Different methodologies tell you different things. It’s not an either or.
  • [from julienorvaisas] Let’s Be Frank: Divisadero Public Discussion Board [The Bold Italic] – [Building on yesterday's quickie – here's a local example of the use of public space as a form for gathering thoughts of residents.] I think it's cool that people can participate after the event by writing their thoughts on the chalkboards. This neighborhood has evolved so much in the last few years, and I'm sure everyone who lives here has thoughts about the transformation, good and bad. I'm personally worried that the changes will leave out members of the old neighborhood, but I'm hopeful when I see the community come together on projects like these. However you feel about the change, I think it's a positive step when people are asked to voice their opinions in the process. So neighbors of Divisadero, don't be shy, what do you think the community needs?

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] A Quandary for Swatch – It’s Too Popular [NYTimes.com] – [They are also looking to stop being the parts supplier to all of their rivals] Swatch, the world’s largest watchmaker, is rushing to add factory capacity so that it can make enough watches to meet demand. It wants to add as many as 2,000 employees this year ­ about 1,500 of them at home in Switzerland. But it is struggling to find enough qualified people. “Managing our stock is at the moment not an issue for us because demand is so big that we unfortunately don’t even have the time to build up any stock”… Swatch’s production and hiring problems reflect the overall health of a sector that has rebounded from the world financial crisis. Demand for watches has soared in Asia ­ a region that accounted for more than half of Swiss watch exports last year ­ with makers of mechanical watches capturing an increasingly large slice of the market. Exports of mechanical timepieces rose 32 percent in unit terms last year, compared with an 18 percent increase for less expensive quartz watches.
  • [from steve_portigal] Remembering the XFL, a 1-and-done league in 2001 [SFGate] – [Lessons from a failed attempt to innovate against an established competitor] While some ideas (trash-talking announcers, no penalties for roughness) didn't work, McMahon was a visionary in how he let fans inside the game. Players and coaches were miked up during games, and cameras were allowed into the locker room and behind the scenes. The XFL used the Skycam, the camera held up by wires over the field, and the NFL adopted that almost immediately. McMahon also did away with extra-point kicks, fair catches and coin tosses. At the start of the game, a player from each team would line up at the 30-yard-line and race to the ball at the 50 and fight for it in a "scramble." However, a member of the Orlando Rage separated his shoulder in a scramble the first week…In the end the XFL was caught in the middle. The football product on the field wasn't good enough to lure NFL fans, and there wasn't enough of the "personality-driven stories or crazy characters" to attract wrestling fans.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Side View Mirror Project – [Love Erik Dahl's deep dive on the ordinary to find ot the extraordinary, as he has spent years taking pictures of side view mirrors. He discovers some great themes and patterns although he acknowledges he didn't know where it was going to go when he started.] Taking these pictures changed the way I drive. I used to be very end-state oriented when I would drive. When I started taking pictures for this project I stopped thinking about where I was going, and started watching mirrors and looking for red lights. As designers, its important to remember that the goal and orientation of the user dramatically impacts their experiences.
  • [from steve_portigal] Two years after buying Pure Digital, Cisco ditches the Flip [Ars Technica] – [I always thought this was about driving a consumer-facing innovation culture into the org. Let's hope that this persists even without the specific line of products.] Cisco is killing off the line of pocketable video cameras in order to refocus the company around home networking and video. The news was a surprise to even Flip critics, leaving everyone wondering why Cisco bothered to buy Pure Digital (the Flip's former parent company) for $590 million just 2 years ago. The marriage never fully made sense, but we accepted it­most assumed that Cisco was making its own attempt to compete in the handheld market by simply gobbling up one of the hottest little gadget startups at the time. Two years later, Cisco's feelings about the acquisition have changed. Cisco announced that it's expanding the Consumer Business Group, but that the Flip business will no longer be part of it. There was no formal explanation given as to why Cisco chose to shut the group down instead of selling it.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from wstarosta] A Retrospective View of 50 Years of Advertising Research) [ARF.org] – The Advertising Research Foundation is celebrating its 75th year of being in the business of marketing research. When asked about some of the industry's advances in the previous 50 years, chairman Gian Fulgoni owes many of them to technology that allows marketers to more effectively communicate their message and measure it's impact. His sentiments and even the industry terminology he uses highlight the fundamental differences between market research and design research.] In the 1980s, for example, the availability of point-of-sale scanner data provided a much-needed solution for Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) and other industries. For the first time, marketers had the tools needed to quickly and accurately measure the impact of price, promotions and print / TV advertising on brand sales, develop sophisticated market mix models, and link sales lift to various promotional and advertising levers.
  • [from wstarosta] PSFK Asks the Purple List, What are the Limits of Digital? [PSFK] – [The next time you are brainstorming and you come up with an idea to make an analog object, action or experience better by digitizing it, pause and consider this fact that I just learned: Your brain can recognize the time faster on an analog watch than a digital one! More about the trade-offs of going digital here…] There’s another way to approach this question, by venturing to guess that there’s nothing un-digitizable, rather there are deeply human things that will just be conveyed in different forms. For example, our need for feedback as in the above is one representation of a “deeply human thing,” but another interesting manifestation comes up when you start thinking about digital books. There’s a lot of social data encoded into the act of carrying a physical book. If I see you on the metro and you’re carrying a book I’ve read, it makes me want to talk to you. And if I don’t, I’m at least subtly comforted knowing that I’m in the company of someone likeminded.
  • [from julienorvaisas] Plastics News Executive Forum: Human behavior holds clues to design [Plastics News] – [Is it possible to avoid a reference to The Graduate? I'll try. We often see design thinking methodology applied to development efforts of end-products and services, of consumable things. When it's already soup. Here the plastics industry is having a dialogue about inspiring innovation at the "ingredient" level. Interesting question about where the responsibility for innovation lies.] It may be tempting to think of concepts like “design thinking” or “open innovation” like they’re just new business buzzwords. But designers and many OEMs have embraced the ideas for years, and plastics firms would be smart to join the party, experts said at the Plastics News Executive Forum. One molder in attendance pointed out that, in his experience, some OEMs are bad at innovation. “Many of our customers come up … with new designs that are horribly flawed. What’s the fundamental breakdown organizationally, where companies [that] are supposed to do this for a living are really bad at it?” he asked.
  • [from steve_portigal] R2-D2 makers an attraction at WonderCon in S.F. [SFGate] – [The devotion of fans is a constant source of wonder and delight.] A fully functional droid can cost as much as a Toyota Corolla, and takes half a decade or more to complete…R2 builders study the movies frame by frame to mine the tiniest details for their droids. Builders say they get asked two questions all the time: "Can it fly?" and "Does it project a hologram of Princess Leia?" Neither of those visual-effects-enhanced features from the movies is practical or possible because the technology doesn't exist. Builders also get frequent requests to sell their droids, and to perform at parties. That answer is "no," too. The R2 Builders Club operates with the blessing of Lucasfilm, with the understanding that the droids are not produced for sale. There's also a Jedi-like code among the builders, who consider profiting from the droids a trip to the Dark Side.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Design Research with Sam Ladner [Johnny Holland] – [Looking forward to checking out this podcast. Sam always has smart things to say.] Jill Christ and Andrew Harris talk with Sam Ladner about design research, and the theories behind research design. They discuss how to choose the right research method, the differences between qualitative and quantitative research, and why certain research methods are used at certain times. "What I think designers can learn from sociologists primarily is …for two centuries now, sociologists have been thinking about how people interact with each other. And all of those findings, those theories, that deep research, that deep insight, they are still valid, and they do have a great amount of applicability in the online space. …Designers could learn a lot about this idea of the “Presentation of Self”…or where sociologists have thought about “how do we work in groups together?” …there are all sorts of sociological research and theory that would help designers."
  • [from julienorvaisas] Nokia Pure Typeface [Design Boom] – [This celebration of their bespoke font will surely reach a very limited audience. Their slow-font approach and aesthetic has appeal but seems a bit misplaced.] Citing the varied but expansive demands of smartphone usage as a design consideration, alongside the potentials opened by the clarity and sharpness of contemporary smartphone screens, Nokia has worked with Maag to develop a sans serif typeface that references the varying stroke weights and more rounded flow of handwriting, creating a more open effect than the classic 'Nokia Sans'. In an interesting return to analogue, Nokia celebrates the release of the font with the commissioning of a woodblock version of the typeface. Documented in the mini-film 'Pure Reversal' the blocks were created and used for a limited-edition print run. Designed specifically for digital and mobile devices, the 'pure' typeface is expected on Nokia devices and in advertisements beginning this year.
  • [from julienorvaisas] Defend Your Research: Imitation Is More Valuable Than Innovation [Harvard Business Review] – [Shenkar makes some bold statements. Bringing discipline to "imitation" and surfacing it as an form of innovation is intriguing. However, aspects of this phenomena are integrated into most robust innovation initiatives now (competitive analysis, landscapes, reverse engineering). They also occur quite naturally in human behavior (mirroring, transference) and culture (trends, memes). In art, it's known as appropriation and is perfectly acceptable; it may be a more apt analogy for this process than imitation. I do question his characterization here of imitation as taboo.] Q: If copying is so effective, why isn’t it embraced more? A: We’ve been socialized from a young age to treat imitation as undignified and objectionable, something done by those who are unoriginal. Even in companies that embrace imitation, many executives are reluctant to use the “i” word because of its stigma. The result is that imitation is done in the dark without the strategic and operational attention it deserves.

Unfinished Business lecture: Culture, User Research & Design

I was recently in Toronto to speak at OCAD (Yes, we were in this awesome building) as part of the Unfinished Business lecture series. My talk looked at the notion of culture and it’s importance for user research, and design.

Culture is everywhere we look, and (perhaps more importantly) everywhere we don’t look. It informs our work, our purchases, our usage, our expectations, our comfort, and our communications. In this presentation, Steve will explore the ways we can experience, observe, and understand diverse cultures to foster successful collaborations, usable products, and desirable experiences.

Slides



Audio

I’ve split out the presentation itself from the Q&A, which was fun, challenging, and filled with big-picture type questions.

Presentation (1 hour, including a quick intro by host Michael Dila):

Q&A (40 minutes):

To download the presentation audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac). For the Q&A audio, Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac)

Note: In the talk (and the Q&A) I refer to my interactions article, Persona Non Grata. You can find that article here.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software [HeraldTribune.com] – [Spin in this article is that using computers to manage super-human levels of complex data will have employment consequences.] When five television studios became entangled in a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against CBS, the cost was immense. As part of the obscure task of “discovery” ­ providing documents relevant to a lawsuit ­ the studios examined six million documents at a cost of more than $2.2 million, much of it to pay for lawyers and paralegals who worked for months. But that was in 1978. Now, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, “e-discovery” software can analyze documents in a fraction of the time and cost. In January, Blackstone Discovery of Palo Alto, CA., helped analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000. Some programs can extract relevant concepts ­ like documents relevant to social protest in the Middle East ­ even in the absence of specific terms, and deduce patterns of behavior that would have eluded lawyers examining millions of documents.
  • [from steve_portigal] PG&E launches huge paper chase for pipeline data [SF Chronicle] – [You think you have a lot of data to process? Obviously their record-keeping incompetence is just now being surfaced and they have taken on a data task that is beyond human scale. We can create systems that we can't manage!] For the past couple of days, forklifts have been carting pallets loaded with 30 boxes each into 3 warehouses outside the 70-year-old Cow Palace arena in Daly City. Friday afternoon, there were still more than 100 pallets stacked outside the warehouses waiting to go in. "There are 100,000 boxes in there, and you can't believe the papers spread everywhere," one PG&E employee said …"There are records in there going back to the 1920s. "We're looking at all kinds of parameters, and our data validation efforts are going on throughout the service area,…We're doing a 24-7 records search involving at least 300 employees and contractors, and we're working to confirm the quality of our data through collecting and validating our gas transmission pipeline records."
  • [from steve_portigal] Hong Kong, 2011 [Flickr] – [My pictures from our recent trip to Hong Kong for the UXHK Conference]
  • [from steve_portigal] Understanding Culture, User Research and Design with Steve Portigal – [Reserve your tickets now for either Toronto event: a lecture on March 8 and a workshop on March 9. The lecture will focus on culture, insights, and design while the workshop will be a hands-on opportunity to practice synthesizing user research data into opportunities and concepts. Hope to see you there!]

Series

About Steve