Posts tagged “process”

Photographer Michael Schmidt on Failure


Photographer Michael Schmidt, from the exhibit Grey as Colour
at the Haus der Kunst in Munich.

I once described myself as a dead-end photographer, meaning that I always wander into a dead end and find no way out. I then accept this condition and at some point I am back out. This means that failure is an integral part of my work process.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Ring Pops Inspire Mariah Carey Fragrances [ NYTimes.com] – [Perhaps this is the future: multi-layered endorsement/licensing/line-extensions/cross-promotions] Mariah Carey’s Lollipop Bling, three fragrances that Elizabeth Arden based on candy flavors and that will appear in stores soon, is the product of a partnership with the Topps Company, which makes Ring Pops. “Topps sells tens of millions of units of candy,” said E. Scott Beattie, chief executive at Elizabeth Arden, which also has fragrance licensing deals with celebrities including Britney Spears, Danielle Steel and Elizabeth Taylor. “Combining their customer base with Mariah Carey’s fan base and our fragrance base is a great way to cross-promote all the brands.” While the scents “take a candy element as a thread to be woven in a fragrance,” they do so in a way that “elevates candy into a prestige environment,” she said. (Thanks, Gavin!)
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Bowman vs Google? Why Data and Design Need Each Other [OK/Cancel] – [Tom Chi's thoughtful post on how engineering and design need to work together] "Design is really a kind of multi-variate optimization of extreme complexity…I’ve often said that 'Art is about freedom while Design is about constraints.'”
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] INTERVIEW: Sougwen [Design Noted from Michael Surtees] – [Nice reframing of drawing from a method of artifact production to a way of creating experiences] "I’m pushing a process with my work that counters the preciousness that some designers find fascinating. My performances are expressions of drawing as an activity, not about making a pristine or perfect image."

With a name like Murder, it’s got to be good…

Business strategist Nilofer Merchant presented her branded “MurderBoarding” process at the IxDA SF monthly meeting last night.

While brainstorming generates lots of ideas, you still have to discern the right choices to win. AND you have to get a group of people to believe that IT is the right solution.

The opposite of whiteboarding, the MurderBoarding™ decision process ensures teams creatively generate many potential options before “killing off” options one-by-one until there is single best solution for a specific organization and situation.

Merchant is certainly right that companies often have as much difficulty dealing with the aftermath of idea generation – What do we do now? – as the divergent exploration itself. There’s no question that for many organizations, moving forward from idea generation in a grounded way is a challenge, and it’s great that Merchant has structured a process for establishing decision-making criteria and prioritizing ideas for development. We’ve had to create this type of process too, and have increasingly been working with our clients from research through ideation to evaluating and prioritizing ideation results through the lens of what we’ve helped them learn about their customers.

Merchant’s book, The New How, just came out a month ago, and it’s quite possible that her presentation was intended to serve as a teaser for the book, rather than a standalone piece, but at the conclusion of the talk I felt like I was still waiting for it to start – for me, there was a bit of the “no there, there” feeling to it.

When a process comes along with a provocative new name like MurderBoarding, it can be both affirming and disappointing to find out it’s more or less in line with what you’ve already been doing.

It’s a bit like looking at the ingredients list on your sports drink and realizing that “Electrolytes” are just salt.

If you’d like to know more about our approach to generating ideas (if not murdering them), check out Steve’s BayCHI presentation, Well We Did All This Research…now what?, or catch it live at the Interaction10 conference next month in Savannah.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Pile it up, pile it high on the platter

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Temporary cardboard depot, Montara, CA, July 2009

I’ve started noticing this curious artifact around town on garbage days. At first I thought these piles of cardboard were mistakes (especially when one appeared at the foot of our driveway). But, for reasons that aren’t obvious, these are simply steps in the process: move the cardboard from individual households to multi-street piles, then gather and remove the piles.

It’s interesting to consider how many processes may present as error-ridden or incomplete depending on when (and with what context) they are viewed. Does the county get phone calls every week complaining about the pile of trash sitting on the street? How could they communicate more context in this pile to better suggest that they’ll indeed be right back to pick it up, don’t you worry?

Reading Ahead: Research Findings

Reading ahead logo with space above

(Updated to include slideshow with synchronized audio track)

We’re very excited today to be posting our findings from the Reading Ahead research project.

Lots more in the deck below, but here’s the executive summary

  • Books are more than just pages with words and pictures; they are imbued with personal history, future aspirations, and signifiers of identity
  • The unabridged reading experience includes crucial events that take place before and after the elemental moments of eyes-looking-at-words
  • Digital reading privileges access to content while neglecting other essential aspects of this complete reading experience
  • There are opportunities to enhance digital reading by replicating, referencing, and replacing social (and other) aspects of traditional book reading

We sat down yesterday in the office and recorded ourselves delivering these findings, very much the way we would deliver them to one of our clients.

Usually, we deliver findings like these to a client team in a half day session, and there’s lots of dialogue, but we tried to keep it brief here to help you get through it. (The presentation lasts an hour and twenty minutes.)

It’s been a great project, and we’ve really appreciated hearing from people along the way. We welcome further comments and questions, and look forward to continuing the dialogue around this work.


Audio

Reading Ahead: Building models

Reading ahead logo with space above

We’ve been hard at work synthesizing the Reading Ahead data. There’s a great deal of writing involved in communicating the results, and sometimes it makes sense to develop a visual model that represents a key idea.

Here are several partial models evolving through paper and whiteboard sketches, and finally into digital form.

We’ll be finishing synthesis soon, and publishing our findings on Slideshare, with an audio commentary.

Stay tuned…

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models

Reading Ahead: Managing recruiting

Reading ahead logo with space above

There’s always something new in every project. Often we encounter a bit of process that we may not know how to best manage it. So we’ll make our best plan and see what happens. We learn as we go and ultimately have a better way for dealing with it next time.

In a regular client project, we write a screener and work with a recruiting company who finds potential research participants, screens them, and schedules them. Every day they email us an updated spreadsheet (or as they call it “grid”) with responses to screener questions, scheduled times, locations, and contact info. It still ends up requiring a significant amount of project management effort on our end, because questions will arise, schedules will shift, people will cancel, client travel must be arranged, etc. etc.

For Reading Ahead, we did all of the recruiting ourselves. Although we’ve done this before, this may be the first time since the rise of social media: we put the word out on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, email to friends, and here on All This ChittahChattah.

While Dan lead the effort, we both used our own networks, and so we got responses in a number of channels, sent to either or both of us, including:

  • @ replies on Twitter
  • direct messages on Twitter
  • Comments on Facebook posts
  • Messages on Facebook
  • Emails (directly to either of us, or forwarded from friends, and friends-of-friends

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A private dialog on Facebook

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Comments on a Facebook status update. Note that Dan is able to jump in and make contact directly

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Direct Messages in Twitter

Some people were potential participants, some were referrers to other potential participants, and some were both. And given the range of platforms we were using, with their associated restrictions (and unclear social protocols), we had to scramble to figure out who could and should communicate with who to follow up and get to the point where we could see if the people in question were right for the study. We didn’t expect this to happen, and eventually Dan’s inbox and/or his Word document were no longer efficient, and as some participants were scheduled or in negotiation to be scheduled, he ended up with this schedule cum worksheet:

schedule

Being split across the two of us and these different media, eventually we were interacting with people for whom we had to check our notes to trace back how we had connected to them, which was great for our sample, since it meant we weren’t seeing a group of people we already knew.

It was further complicated when we had finished our fieldwork and wanted to go back to everyone who offered help close the loop with them, thanking them for help. Technically, and protocol-wise, it took some work (who are the people we need to follow up with? Who follows up with them? What media do they use), basically going through each instance one-by one.

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We haven’t figured out what we’ll do next time; we won’t forget the challenges we’ve had but there’s just not time or need right now to plan for the future. If I had to guess, I’d imagine a Google Spreadsheet that includes where we got people from, who owns the contact, whether they are participant-candidate or referrer, etc.). Despite being very pessimistic about the demands of recruiting, we still underestimated the time and complexity required for this project.

Reading Ahead: Looking for the story

Reading ahead logo with space above

I started today by typing up all of the Post-it notes you saw in our recent blog post on Synthesis.

This activity created a 6-page Word document of bullet points.

The next part of the process is something I always find challenging: taking an incredibly detailed list of observations, particpant statements, hypotheses, and ideas; figuring out what the Big Ideas are (there’s a point in the process where many of them seem Big!), and putting those into a form that tells a cogent story.

First step: make a cup of tea.

Ok, then my next steps were:

  • Categorize all those bullet points
  • Synthesize those categories a bit further
  • Write down in as short a paragraph as possible what I would tell someone who asked me, “what did you find out?”

Then I went into PowerPoint, which is what we use when we present findings to our clients. I’ll continue bouncing back and forth between Word and PowerPoint; each piece of software supports a different way of thinking and writing.

I dropped my synthesized categories into a presentation file, sifted all of the bullet points from my Word doc into the new categories, and then started carving and shaping it all so that it started to follow the paragraph I had written. (I’m mixing cooking and sculpting metaphors here.)

I printed out the presentation draft, and laid it out so I could see the whole thing at once.

Portigal-Consulting_synth10

Steve came back from a meeting and I asked him to read over what I’d printed out. He started writing notes on my printouts, pulling out what he saw as the biggest of the Big Ideas.

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We talked about what he’d written, which led to an energetic discussion in which we really started to breathe life into this. Tomorrow, I’ll start the day by iterating the presentation draft based on our conversation.

Reading Ahead: Analysis and Synthesis

Reading ahead logo with space above

Synthesizing field data into well-articulated, data-driven patterns, themes, and opportunities is a big part of our work, but it’s an aspect that generally has less visibility than the fieldwork.

An essential early step in the synthesis process involves going back over the fieldwork sessions. An hour or two-hour interview creates an incredible amount of information. By going back into a record of the interview, we make sure not to leave anything significant behind.

We go through and make notes on interview transcripts (done by an outside service), watch videos of the sessions, and look over photographs, sketches, maps, and participatory design pieces.

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Annotated interview transcript

We made a bulletin board of the people we met, so they’re ever-present while we’re working.

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Yesterday we came together to share the points we’d each pulled out. We present each interview, like a case study, to the team. Sometimes it’s just us, and sometimes our clients join us for part of this process.

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While one of us presented, the other captured the essence onto Post-its. We had a lot of discussion and debate while we did this, pulling together multiple viewpoints.

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When we were done presenting the interviews, the board looked like this:

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Our next step is to take these notes and start grouping them. We’ll look at different ways the information can be organized, and from there, will start refining our work and writing it up clearly and succinctly into a report.

Reading Ahead: Topline Summary

Reading ahead logo with space above

As soon as possible after concluding fieldwork, we write a Topline Summary, in which we capture our first impressions and the ideas that are top-of-mind from being in the field.

We’re always careful to be clear about what the Topline is and isn’t. There’s synthesis that happens from the fieldwork experience itself (which the Topline captures), and synthesis that happens from working with the data (which we haven’t done yet).

In the Topline we go a step further than the field highlights and start to articulate some of the patterns we think are emerging, but these ideas may change once we do a detailed analysis and synthesis of the data we’ve gathered.

In a client project, we’ll have a discussion with the client team around the Topline Summary. We encourage members of the client team to come out in the field with us, and the Topline discussion is a great opportunity for everyone who did so to share their experiences and tell stories. The Topline discussion is also a good time for our clients to let us know if there are any specific directions they want us to pursue as we analyze and synthesize the data we’ve gathered.

We’ve now finished our fieldwork for Reading Ahead. We conducted six in-depth interviews, with photo diary and participatory design activities (more in our next few posts about these methods).

Here’s our Topline Summary:



Portigal Consulting: Reading Ahead Topline Summary

  1. Reading is not just a solo activity; there are significant social/interpersonal aspects for many people
  • Recommendations, book clubs, lending

  • Books facilitate the interpersonal aspects of reading

  • Can be easily lent or given away
  • Given as gifts
  • People can use a book together: parents and kids, showing someone a passage or illustrations, etc.

  • Reading can be a big part of family life

  • Childhood memories, passing books between generations, reading with one’s own children.

  • Connection between home life and outside world (school)

  1. Reading and Books are not always one and the same
  • Erica buys some books because she likes them as objects. She knows she may not read all of them. “I love books. I almost like books more than reading.”

  • Jeff says if you love to read, you’d like the Kindle. If you love books, you should try it out before you buy one

  • The Kindle facilitates types of reading beyond books: blogs, articles, periodicals

  1. Books do more than carry content
  • Books engage the senses: they are tactile, visual objects, with specific characteristics like smell and weight

  • Become carriers of specific memories

  • Develop a patina that carries meaning
  • An inscribed book becomes a record of an event, interaction, relationship

  • There is an art/collector aspect to books (which is absent in the Kindle)
  • First editions
  • Signed copies
  • Galley proofs
  • Typography
  • Pictures and illustrations
  • Quality of paper, printing, etc.
  • Books say something about a person
  • Others can see what you’re reading; like clothes, etc., this carries meaning
  • “Looking at someone’s bookshelves when you go to their house” (Jeff)
  • When people give books as gifts they are deliberately communicating something about the relationship, the event, themselves, and the recipient

  • Books can create a physical record of someone’s reading activity
  • Chris used to line up all the books he had read to get a sense of accomplishment
  • Annotations, bookmarks, tags all convey the reader’s personal history with that book

  1. Books are easily shared
  • Pass them along to others

  • Donate to library

  • Sell or buy at used book store

  • Borrow from the library rather than purchasing

  1. How books are stored and organized carries meaning
  • Emotion, sense of pride, expression of personality, record of engagement

  • Erica organizes her books by how the content/type of book feels to her: “dusty” classics, modern classics, etc.

  • Julie’s extensive shelves are organized alphabetically to reinforce the idea of library

  1. Libraries and bookstores provide specific experiences
  • As a little girl, Erica visited different libraries with her Mom. This was their daily activity, and Erica retains strong and specific memories

  • Julie and her housemate recreated a library atmosphere in their home

  • A quiet, comfortable space
  • Good lighting
  • Alphabetized bookshelves
  • A unified décor

  • For Jeff and others, spending time browsing in a bookstore represents having leisure time

  1. The Kindle
  • For people whose love of reading is bound up in their love of books, the Kindle loses much of the reading experience; it is only a content carrier

  • Julie has a history of wanting to read on electronic devices as well as from printed books, so to her, the Kindle is a big evolutionary step from her old Palm, the iPhone, etc.

  • For Erica, the Kindle signifies “computer,” so it does not let her “unplug” from the fast-paced connected lifestyle that books provide a refuge from

  • Several people described the kinetics of page-turning as an important aspect of reading books that is absent in the Kindle

  • Books afford ways of navigating content that the Kindle does not: flipping, comparing non-sequential pages, looking at the recipes at the end of each chapter, etc.

  • Peter finds it frustrating that when he buys a Kindle book from Amazon, he can’t share it. When he started working in an environment where people were passing books around, he went back to reading printed books

  1. Participant ideation about the “book of the future” and “reading device of the future”
  • NOTE: The first thing a number of the participants said when asked about what the “book of the future” could be and do was that it’s pretty hard to improve on the book-it works very well the way it is. In addition to all the qualities already mentioned, books are

  • Instant on-off
  • Durable

  • But people did have ideas. Here are some of them:

  • Interactive
  • Put yourself in the story
  • Leave the story for more information
  • Choose from alternate endings, versions

  • Size-shifting

  • Able to morph from bigger size for reading to smaller for transporting
  • Retain the book form while adding functionality

  • Book form with replaceable content: a merging of book and device, with a cover, and page-turning but content is not fixed-it can be many different books
  • Books that contain hyperlinks, electronic annotations, multimedia, etc.
  • Privacy

  • Hide what you’re reading from others, hide annotations, hide your personal book list and lend your device to someone (with content for them)
  • Projecting

  • A device that projects words that float above it, so that the reader doesn’t have to hold the device in their hands

ChittahChattah Quickies

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • How commercial software products are developed (or "get some empathy for clients, right here") – I worked on the "Windows Mobile PC User Experience" team. This team was part of Longhorn from a feature standpoint but was organizationally part of the Tablet PC group. To find a common manager to other people I needed to work with required walking 6 or 7 steps up the org chart from me. My team's raison d'etre was: improve the experience for users on laptops, notebooks and ultra-mobile PCs. Noble enough. Of course the Windows Shell team, whose code I needed to muck about in to accomplish my tiny piece of this, had a charter of their own which may or may not have intersected ours.

    My team had a very talented UI designer and my particular feature had a good, headstrong program manager with strong ideas about user experience. We had a Mac [owned personally by a team member] that we looked to as a paragon of clean UI. Of course the Shell team also had some great UI designers and numerous good, headstrong PMs who valued (I can only assume) simplicity and so on.

  • Not quite-credible story about Best Buy differentiating on making technology usable/understandable – Mr. Dunn said he wanted to create an atmosphere where consumers were attracted not just to products but also to services that help them master fast-changing technology and configure and connect devices.

    One of Best Buy’s main competitive strategies has been services, something it has done better in the past than any national electronics retailer. That translates into selling product warranties, or help with installing a home theater or configuring a computer.
    Mr. Dunn said a chief example of the kind of thing Best Buy wants to be known for is a service it calls Walk Out Working that it began introducing in May 2007. The service, which is free, helps consumers configure new mobile phones so that when they leave the store they are able to use features like music playback and Web surfing.

    …He argues that [other retailers] cannot compete with Best Buy when it comes to offering individual service, explaining technology to customers and charging to help them adapt to it.

  • Jobless Benefits Web Site Adds Insult to Injury – Jobless people seeking information about their benefits on the Brazilian Labor Ministry's Web were forced to type in passwords such as "bum" and "shameless." A private company that created the site's security system is blamed; its contract with the ministry wasn't being renewed, which may have prompted the pranks.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • UX guy complains about AA.com being crap and UX guy from AA.com responds – UX guy reprints email and then attempts to address corporate culture issue; strong opinions follow but most compelling part is the insight from the AA.com UX guy himself (known as Mr. X)

    "But—and I guess here’s the thing I most wanted to get across—simply doing a home page redesign is a piece of cake. You want a redesign? I’ve got six of them in my archives. It only takes a few hours to put together a really good-looking one, as you demonstrated in your post. But doing the design isn’t the hard part, and I think that’s what a lot of outsiders don’t really get, probably because many of them actually do belong to small, just-get-it-done organizations. But those of us who work in enterprise-level situations realize the momentum even a simple redesign must overcome, and not many, I’ll bet, are jumping on this same bandwagon. They know what it’s like."

  • Health management goes for ethnic marketing/customization: Asians and diabetes – Rice is a carbohydrate that is particularly unhealthy in large quantities for people with diabetes. That's why doctors and other health care providers are increasingly trying to develop culturally sensitive ways to treat Asians with diabetes – programs that take into account Asian diets, exercise preferences and even personality traits. "Diabetes is primarily a self-managed disease, and you have to try multiple approaches with different patients. But many of those are not culturally appropriate for Asians."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Some big-thinking on how the professional organization is changing: structure, environment, process – There will be a set of rituals, a cadence of events, that comes to define what differentiates the organization and supports how things get done. The places where these take place now are found by labels on doors—“conference room”—in otherwise undifferentiated space. The activities of the evolving place are about actions—collaborating, integrating, innovating—and not about hierarchy or formal processes.
  • In Detroit, Artists Look For Renewal In Foreclosures – In the late '90s, we used to generate fake "trends" mostly for fun, but also as a fatigued reaction to all the hype we were facing about, well, everything. One of my best – because it was just so ludicrous and therefore worthy of endless repeating in any ideation session – was that people were choosing to live in hovels [because hovel is definitely a good comedy word].

    Once again, I was 10 years ahead of my time.

    "Jon Brumit is an artist in Chicago…He and his wife just bought a house in Cope's neighborhood for $100. That's right: an entire house for the price of dinner at a nice restaurant for a family of four. Sure, the place needs a ton of work and it['s not that safe, but Brumit says it's worth it just to help bring back the neighborhood."

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