Monday, June 18, 2012

Stay Focused

When you create your company you set out with ideals and build on a promise to the customer or client, this grows into your brand promise and becomes your position in the consumers mind. Use our service or product and you will receive a level of quality that isn't offered by our competition, we are what you want, because we are better than anyone else. If you are wise early on your will already have established dominance in your domain and niche in the marketplace, either being first to market or by solid marketing.

Sadly though as you grow and think of investment and future positioning it is tempting to consider something that isn't exactly aligned to your current business. It offers riches and success beyond your wildest dreams, and surely everyone else seems to be making the changes. Trouble is though that this probably isn't exactly in the your domain of expertise. So you go ahead and make the move as company anyhow, whether through acquisition, investment or merger. The reality is that what you have started to do is blur your companies boundaries, take it out of focus. This not only causes confusion within your own company for employees but more importantly it affects the mind of your customers. Your brand maybe known for reliability or safety and the wrong growth in the wrong area may make people start to question what your brand stands for. You may offer one very successful product, but then start to offer alternatives not quite in alignment. What happens, you muddy the waters of all that you had laid down before. It can lead to short term gains, but ultimately alter the brand perception.

So how to avoid this. Stay Focused. Keep to your company goals and brand values. Keep to your core products and improve all that surrounds them. Of course disruption comes along and times change, but think how to integrate the right opportunities that continue with the right brand voice. Don't be tempted to blur your company or brand for the sake of a quick profit, the damage maybe hard to undo.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What Star Wars Teaches Us About Branding - Audience Participation

When you create something and place it in the public domain, there is value in leaving enough space for people to project their own personalities onto it. Create a compelling message and wrap it in a evocative story. The critical part is to let the audience grab the concept or idea and make it their own, give them the tools to edit, copy and paste their own content into the work, this not only can increase your marketing reach with word of mouth and social sharing but also it starts to create unique stories and a shared culture that can live without the original creators input. The brand can become far more organic and find a more natural path to success.

Catastrophic Star Wars Costumes

A great example of the power of this is the film and franchise of Star Wars. It doesn't take much to find Stars Wars on YouTube and see all the fan videos, remakes and outtakes that they have made. Search for Star Wars on Google and see all the fan sites and forums about the Star Wars universe. Think about how a whole generation bought into the story and still talk about it today. Consider the iconic characters and their cultural place as references in conversations. Did George Lucas plan all of this? Or did this occur through the adoption of the film by people that fell in love with the brand all the way from films and books to toys? 

The genius of the Star Wars brand is how people adopted it and made it their own. There was enough space and depth to give people a platform to build from. They could relate and find meaning inside the story. There is a powerful brand lesson here about telling stories, allowing room for adaptation and most importantly allowing audience participation in the messaging. Don't just build a brand with dogmatic imagery and messaging, keep some space between the lines for people to fall in love and become your biggest fans.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Innovation Begins with Real People

If you are trying to innovate and are looking for new ideas and insights for new products or services, nothing proves more useful and fruitful than getting out of the office and out from behind the computer, then immersing yourself in the World outside. Where real people live and work. Go to where your customers and potential users are.

The art of seeing and observing people with an open mind and especially recording those observation with good ethnographic techniques, such as video, diaries and in person interviews. Makes you more aware of existing pain points, that can be fixed and improved upon. It can also fuel new ideas for things that can be introduced and created to improve peoples lives and make your services and products better and easier to use. Techniques such as participant observations where you try for yourself what others have to go through, will give you incredible first hand experience of what people do and how they do it. Living with a customer for a day or watching them use your service or product without prompting can be incredibly insightful, about what is lacking, and where improvements can be made. The data and information your gather can fuel many insightful innovations.


This you cannot gain from sitting at a computer and just assuming what people do in the outside World, where noise and distraction can occur. You cannot even always believe what people say they do, you sometimes are best seeing them do it and then trying it for yourself. Then you can better empathize and really begin to use design to solve and build something with a clear purpose for improvement. Designers are incredibly adept at solving problems and coming up with innovative solutions, sadly though their focus is not always finely tuned to the exact problem they are solving or they are tasked with the wrong problem to solve by their clients. Getting them out of the office and educating your clients that can hide behind their data from focus groups gets you closer to problems and ideas that really need fixing, inventing or improving.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Core of the Brand

Too often the style guide is confused as being a brand guide in design projects. The style guide document says that the logo is yellow and the suggested color palette along with that is black and the font Helvetica, that doesn't mean that the brand is the summation of all these design elements. The brand is not about the right combination of these elements. To often the company focuses on seeing beautiful design work and expect that it will fit their definition of cool, versus their rivals. The designers themselves can also be to blame about what a website or interactive experience can be. They sit down and produce portfolio worthy concepts that look amazing and really make those brand elements shine. 

However, underneath all of that is the true brand of the company. The story that the company tells itself and it's consumers or customers of it's content. They should all be focused on making all decisions on building and supporting those messages. Once you pull back the curtain and see the client and their brand at its core then you can begin to make design decisions that help support those ideals. Until then you are only working on a fraction of the overall brand value you should be thinking about. Yes the logo is important and the style sheets valuable, but they do not get to the heart of the message and the direction things should move in. The visual aesthetic can be thought of as the language of the company the brand though is the message and meaning they support.

The great thing is once you get to the brand core then decisions become surprisingly easier. What should our website experience be? Look at the brand. What user experiences should we work on in mobile? Look at the brand. I think the concept is clear. The brand can be the driving force behind many decisions and help design teams focus their ideas and attention to the right ideas. The client is also about to understand an idea and it's true value if they to are reminded of their brand value and messaging.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Doodling in meetings is a good thing

Drawing skills are an important skill for any designer, but especially for user experience design.

Whenever you attend a client meeting you should automatically start doodling, and ideally get up to the whiteboard and capture the moment visually for all to see. People tend to talk in abstracts and your job as a user experience facilitator is to help not only the client solidify their goals but help the team you work with understand the vision. So why doesn't this happen more? Well most people's first reaction to being asked to draw anything is "oh I am not good at that, I do stick figures only". Well guess what they work too.

Here are a couple of considerations of how you might go about capturing user experiences with sketches.

Firstly loose the detail. Yes people and hands are difficult to draw and we all struggle with them if you try to capture the details. If you think of people as stick people. It gets a lot simpler. Take for example these examples from Austin Kleon about how to draw faces. Communicating an idea doesn't need a Michelangelo rendering to get the point across.

.how to draw faces

Simplicity is key to communication, especially in meetings and when using a white board, because after all as your sketching you meant to be listening to the client speak and be ready to step back into the conversation. Anything longer than a couple of minutes work is probably too detailed and missing something simple about the concept you are capturing. Sometimes it is unnecessary to draw complete people, just hands work or a close up of a face. Just drawing objects helps, especially in UX where devices are just boxes(think the black brick that is every mobile phone), this means that you can convey a moment of interaction by doing a close up of the device and maybe just a hand gripping it. Again think cartoon style, I would even say that like Disney only use 3 fingers to represent a hand, it works fine it has enough information to express action.

 disney 4 finger hand sketch quebob

These are the types of sketches you need to be practicing when you are doodling, these basic drawing techniques. Think of a action like holding a phone and try and draw it on your note pad. Think how you might draw a gesture such as waving, or pointing, action arrows help a lot in capturing motion. Study how others draw storyboards. I find that thinking about people as Lego figures helps, I always find that these simple characters can capture a whole host of interactions just by playing with poses and making a small additions to what they hold and how their faces look. People don't get represented much simpler than this, plus if you use the real Lego's you can practice drawing what you see.

What is critical about these drawing skills is to use them to help remind all in the room of the discussion that took place and allow people to review them at their leisure during the communication. Also, their value is in the storytelling of the experiences and touch points with end users and consumers. It gives you something to capture and share at the end of a meeting that helps everyone remember some of what was discussed, more than just a bullet list of notes. I always try my best to do more drawing in meetings and I think all designers should have the skills to draw what they are talking about as part of the communication process.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Technology for Consumption

Introducing a new technology into a retail environment requires a good understanding of the types of customers you are trying to entice to use it and why. Technology can be rejected and ignored if it is not adding value to the consumers shopping experience. Is the technology there to enhance an existing product experience or inform the consumer about the product to help in the decision making process? Do your research and get to know your customers, their shopping habits and process. Most importantly get to know how they shop your services or products.

Technology should move beyond being merely digital billboards and displays that offers an alternative marketing message with more glitz design, and work towards helping consumer learn and make informed choices. The consumer is often either already fairly sure what they are looking for with existing knowledge gained from the web or social groups, or are making a compulsive purchase there in the store. This is when they are most influenced by what they learn on the spot. Making the technology available to help with either of those scenarios is going to delight and ultimately gain the consumers trust and desire to use the technology at hand. Even if the sale is not made at that moment the brand loyalty will be building, and will lead to greater return for the next purchase.

Consider how the technology can be integrated into people's digital lives. Allow sharing socially what they find and ask questions to those that they trust easily. Think how the experience can be pre-sale, present-sale and post-sale. What might they bring, create and take away from an interaction in your retail space. Building brand recognition and loyalty will ultimately lead to repeat business and word of mouth spread of your name and the experience.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Microsoft Kinect for Retail Experiences

Microsoft Kinect seems to be popping up everywhere and is definitely a topic I find myself talking about more with retail clients on projects. With the general acceptance now of the Kinect on the XBox platform and with all the Kinect game titles, people are beginning to understand gesture based interactions. Plus with the new Kinect Xbox applications such as TMZ and iHeartRadio, that I have worked on these interactions are moving beyond games towards application experiences. The next logical question we are addressing now is what comes next and how might we use this device in the consumer space, other than what Microsoft has planned for the technology on Xbox. Clients now are coming and asking how they might get in on the Kinect buzz and incorporate it in their retail space. We have all seen the research and hacking projects that people have already started making using Kinect, such as controlling helicopters and making shadow puppets, the reality though is how can these ideas translate into an in-store experience. Before I get into that let's outline some of the considerations that need to be given to a general Kinect interaction.

Give me some space, please.

The first thing to understand about Kinect is that it needs more space than a standard touch Kiosk. Ideally it should have a dedicated area for the interaction that allows for someone, or maybe a few people, watching or interacting, to be standing around and most likely be waving their hands about, 8-12ft is not unusual. So depending on the overall experience you are trying to create you may want to think how it can work in your retail environment, especially if space is an issue.

What you need to be careful of is anyone that is just trying to passively shop and maybe wants to pass by the display isn't inadvertently sucked into the interact zone. You should make sure they aren't going to interfere with the Kinect camera, breaking the experience for someone else and more importantly doesn't end up getting a slap to the face by a energetic consumer already in the zone. I think, as the examples below shows, that Best Buy and Microsoft Store, do a good job of defining a space for the interaction and making it clear to passersby not to enter the "interact zone" with the use of colored carpet and a small wall at the back of the zone to allow people to pass in safety. The Microsoft store places the experience at the back and at the front of the store in dedicated areas out of the way. The individual using the Kinect can also see where they are meant to stand and move and not have to worry about bumping into people. This keeps everyone aware of their place in the interaction or not.

Consideration also needs to be given to the height of the camera, it is optimal to have the camera at about waist height to allow for tall and short people(think children) but it can also be placed in other locations but it can affect it's visual zone or picking people's full bodies up for the tracking.

Get Moving.

Next consideration is to the interactive experience that best suits a Kinect device. The Kinect camera is not at this point as sensitive to body detail as you might expect, it at this time cannot pick up for example individual fingers and facial details without some modifications or custom work, that is not to say it cannot be done or isn't being worked on by others. The out of the box experience is much more about skeletal tracking. Below shows an example of what the Kinect sees and interprets to make the interactions. As can be seen it is basically a skeleton stick figure.
This means that the interactions are all about moving parts of your body, hence the warning about space for people to move. The motion tracking is really very good and fast, very little delay. The real issues arise in what gestures work best and are most easily picked up by the camera.

I have found that big exaggerated gestures are easiest to learn and use for the camera and the user. Something like swiping your right arm from far right to left (or vice-versa) or raising you arm in front of you. Lifting you legs and leaning also work well. These gestures really benefit from short animated tutorials with the experience or some clue to what the interaction needs to be with arrows for example. Things get a little difficult when you try spinning around or standing sideways, the camera tends to get confused when parts of the body overlap, it can make the skeleton jump around and get a little funky. We have found that we can make these harder interaction work by placing the camera off center but this starts using more space and makes the arrangement more awkward for a tight retail environment. We even worked out some solutions using two cameras but that we found works best for autoshows where space isn't an issue.

With that in mind the interactions for Kinect are best for big interactions versus very detailed and intricate manipulations at this time, we are not quite at the level that "Minority Report" has filled our heads with, but I am sure we will get there. Still you can come up with some neat interactions and designs using these limitations. An important thing keep in mind is that many people do the same action differently. Just asking anyone to swipe in front of them and see how many ways different people do this action, so every interaction should be considerate of interpretation, by the individual. Allow for the gesture not being recognized the first time by the device, make the user feel compelled to try again and try to minimize frustration.

So now we understand the basic requirements of Kinect the really interesting next phase is how we might use this platform to improve a retail experience for consumers. Where does Kinect find a natural fit?

Kinect with Consumers

Kinect was of course designed to be used as an entertainment device for the Xbox, and that is where it excels in its experiences. Those experiences that consider it's origins seem to perform best. People like moving around and it makes them generally happy to do so, hence it's great success in the game sector.

However, people don't like to look like fools in front of others, and nothing is going to make you look more foolish than the wrong experience in the wrong environment at the wrong time. This means that this device and it's interactions can create amazing marketing and in-store experience but chose the experience carefully. Careful consideration needs to be given to the consumers you are targeting and where you position this interaction, as well as, what you goal is in getting people to use this gesture kiosk. For example, of course children are happy to jump about and be energetic interacting with Kinect, but older people less so. I would say the safest bet is to think about what supporting role a Kinect can play in a retail environment as either an extension of a marketing campaign or as a concentrated interactive experience. I wouldn't for example recommend thinking of the Kinect experience like you might a touchscreen kiosk and start product browsing your entire catalogue and filtering results.

Because Kinect is often setup with a large display, remember people will be 6-8ft from the screen for the camera to do full body tracking the content needs to work at distance. I would even say that the bigger the display the better to not only allow others to notice the experience from across the store but also as it gives a wonderful sense of control moving larger than life objects and keeps with the entertainment factor. This means you need to think more like a billboard designer than a touch screen. Content needs to be big and have nice large target zones for interactions to occur. It is a little like designing for mobile and finger interactions scaled up. Density of buttons should be very light and spread out. I would suggest 10 or less items on the screen at anyone time, and definitely people are not going to be reading product descriptions at this size, leave that for the touch kiosks, or mobile users.

Something else I should add, is that Kinect also does voice detection and can be setup to recognize certain key-phrases, I won't go into details here, as voice activation and use can be difficult in noisy environments such as most retail stores. Of course, if your retail environment is quiet and maybe more exclusive this can be a great way to also interact with the device commanding things with your voice.

So where to use it?

I would suggest studying your consumers interacting with your store and watching where there might be a good fit for a device that creates dwell time and think about the interference with regular shoppers doing ordinary shopping. I would also be considerate of products that you sell in-store that would benefit from a motion based interaction like Kinect. Looking for screws in a hardware store or finding a pair of shoes may not be the best product to target with this experience. Kinect will never replace the value of actually trying something on or make easy a entire catalogue browsing experience. I also would not recommend using it as a store map experience, it would be difficult to have multiple users and probably prove more frustrating to get to what you were trying to achieve than just using a more standard kiosk.

Where Kinect excels is in enhancing an experience of a product as say a virtual mirror allowing uses to do things they couldn't ordinarily such as see the back of themselves or change their environment they see themselves in.  So changing rooms would be an ideal experience, as well as quite private for someone whom might be self conscious about showing off.

I recently worked on a compelling example of one use for Kinect that allowed a consumer to browse and try a "virtual" 3D Nissan Pathfinder, that hadn't yet gone into production. The model was detailed enough to show all the details and features of the car, as well as, change color and walk around the car in real-time inside and out. These beyond reality experiences work well with Kinect and with a supporting interaction such as touch kiosk for more detailed browsing and interaction can be very pleasing to use and create social buzz.

In summary, Kinect is a new and exciting development in technology, it offers yet another way to interact and leave an impression with consumers. At this point its value is in extending a brand with an entertainment factor, it can engage with a consumer and offer a great way to see things beyond a physical product. Most people we have watched using this interaction have enjoyed the difference it brings and will often encourage others to get involved. It reminds me a lot of chimps watching each other and learning something new, people like chimps are inherently social animals and Kinect is a public and social experience, it works well to produce crowds and giggles. I hope that this article gives a little insight to some of the realities of Kinect for retail but also some of the possibilities. As the technology gets more accurate and better the experiences are likewise going to improve and be even more engaging to use. I am looking forward to where my clients want to go with it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Instagram's Tips for Success

In this talk given by the founders of Instagram, co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger discuss what they say are the myths of entrepreneurship based on their personal experience in building and starting Instagram. With the recent acquisition of Instagram by Facebook for $1 Billion it seems maybe we should be taking notice of what they have to say.

Firstly something important to remember is that they didn't just create Instagram from nothing and turn it into a company valued at $1Bn over night. Their first venture was an app called Burbn, that allowed people to check in different places and then share pictures and video of what you were doing. They admit themselves it was a huge failure. But what is most significant is how it lead them through those mistakes to work on Instagram, with this acquired knowledge. They soon realized that what people liked most about their original idea was sharing images of what they were doing.

Here are the myths and lesson they feel they have learnt from their adventures.

1. You cannot learn entrepreneurship from and book, blog or talk.
A day on the job is worth a year of experience. It is important to learn how to make snap decisions in the face of uncertainty. Only experience can teach you to make better decisions. It is important to listen to what you know and what your instincts tell you. They suggest that you trust your gut, and chose your investments on those feelings. Then see those ideas and investments through to the end. It is a good idea to have many side projects that can be running at any one time to learn from. It is critical to do something you can feel passionate about, and are willing to invest the time in to get things done, expect long hours. Remember it is not about being a entrepreneur but about the end product and what you deliver to users that really matters.

2. Startups only come from computer science students.
Neither of the Instagram founders were computer science students. They taught themselves enough to get initial prototypes built, and get things rolling. They believe that having the mindset of not knowing the answers but spending time finding those answers is important. Questions such as "what do we need to keep people using our product?" and thinking about scaling is critical in the initial phases of setting up. Networking socially is helpful in finding the right people that can help you. Try and find cofounders that compliment your skill sets. Generalists are great for startup companies, the ability to wear many hats helps.

3. Finding the problem is the hardest part.
Finding solutions is far easier once the problem is well defined. Instagram spent time writing down the top 5 problems people had with mobile photos. Such as, bad quality pictures, uploading and sharing. Then they looked to see how they might solve those issues. Solving problems people actually have is far easier to work on than making up something from nothing. They set about addressing something as trivial as uploading by reducing the image size, and starting the upload while someone writes the caption. They set about delighting people with their application by making it seem easy and seamless. You should verify you are solving the problem people have, and the only real way to do that is get your product in people's hands for use and test your hypothesis. Many people wait to long to test and invest to much into unknowns. Don't be put off by having simple solutions to simple problems. You don't always need to solve huge problems, and sometimes the small problems at scale are hard enough and worth solving.

4. Stealth Start Ups don't give you feedback quickly enough.
In order to test the thing you are working on is working, you need to put it in front of people. Build the minimum viable product is a good thing to aim for. Don't build past what you need to build to answer the questions. Start everything as "what is V1 of this feature". Fail early and fail often, make failing as cheap as possible. You need to fail to find the right solution. You need to fail your way to success. It is notable that the Instagram guys gave their initial prototypes to people that had large twitter followings in certain communites. Especially the designer community and people that would have an interest in this type of iPhone app. This is something that Malcolm Gladwell talks to that helps spread an idea quickly. Finding those influential people that have many contacts and push over other people. They go on to say that although it proved successful, they still believe that the fact that the product was useful and usable were the most influential factors of why it became such a success.

5. Start a bidding war among VC's with a slick pitch deck.
Raise only what you need to get of the ground. Optimize for people not for valuation, if you have a great idea it will do well and it will most likely get a great valuation anyway. Seek out the people you want to work with, don't just hire people on their resumes. Raising VC, is like hiring people to be on your team, find people who believe in what you are doing. Do not assume you need a lot of money to get going, Instagram raised only $60k to launch their first version. Focus on the prototype and gaining traction do not waste time on a fancy pitch deck. Bringing a prototype into a meeting speaks louder than graphs predicting future earnings. Prototypes are tangible and something that people can understand and talk about.

6. Starting a company is the same as building a product. Starting a company is only 50% of the work you'll do, starting a company is also about bank accounts, building and managing a team, raising capital, paying taxes and getting insurance. The other stuff is a lot of work. As Jim Collins suggests in his book, bringing in the right team and having the right people on board can change a company from good to great, it applies in start ups as well. Building a company is not like building a product. Growing at the right stage is key to keeping at the right size at the right time, don't be larger than seems right at the beginning, without testing out the ideas first. You should work hard but not long, or else you will burn yourself out. Remove distractions, be productive. Always be aware and you find that work and life blends into one state of consciousness. Watching people use your product, using it yourself in the field, these are all part of the process.

7. Ideas don't hit you in the shower. Ideas are the result of a lot of iterations. Ideas in the social space are often combinations of other ideas. Allowing ideas to mix and fold with each other with an eye on the problem space, allows more useful solutions to come to mind. Sharing and discussing ideas is part of the process, also getting the ideas in front of people is critical to knowing if you have something they may want to use. The first idea is not going to be the last one, you will have many ideas. It is important to explore the solution space. Certain themes will follow you. You will find yourself attracted to certain problems and ideas. Teach yourself the skills that help you grow in that domain of knowledge, try out ideas and explore. It will not be an overnight success but will evolve over time, often years. Most companies are not overnight successes. Make sure you know what question are you answering. It never gets easier or less busy, it is a lifetime commitment, so make sure you love what you are doing. It is a good attitude to realize that things change and it helps to be excited by those challenges and alterations from the original course. It helps to think about smaller goals than the end goal. Look to the next hill not the destination.

As they say there is no better time to start than now, starting a company is a huge learning experience and you have nothing to loose in terms of knowledge. It is critical to have the hunger to build stuff and put it in front of people.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Halo Effect

Google has always had an air of mystic around them, as a creative and honest company. It seems that even though they are a multi-billion dollar company they don't have the stigma of other tech firms of a similar size. People trust Google far more with their data and information than most high tech firms. You search using their search engine and store you email in their servers, and very few people question Google's good intentions to let you use their stuff for "free". It's almost as if because of the early reputation that Google gained as a open and honest company that enabled you to search more effectively and easily on the internet without in your face advertising and banner ads that they have now become an authentically honest company with a certain playful approach to everything. Of course, the reality of a multi-billion dollar company such as Google is that they have many of the same motivations and drives as any large corporation, they wish to make money and the easiest way to do that is to use our collected data and information to influence us. So how has this general positive perception of Google occurred? This is something that can be attributed to what psychologists call the "Halo Effect".

The Halo effect is essentially a biased heuristic that we have when we see something positive in someone or something we like. We are more likely to transfer those beliefs into other traits about that person or object. So in this instance the early reputation of Google that was perceived and promoted by people has now become the accepted attitude of Google to everything they do. They are now considered an honest open and trustworthy company, whether or not this is true, it is at least perceived that way. The same thing happens with real people, if someone you know has a reputation as being a "good" person through something they may have done in the past you will be inclined to transfer that perception to anything they do, you might assume they are more likely to give to charity for example, or may be more likely to take part in community activities, whether or not that would actually be true. The tendency is to assume if a certain trait is true such as being good, then you automatically assume that other qualities such as being kind, generous and humorous are also true of that person. Interestingly, it is even suggested that the attractiveness of someone can influence our perceptions of them without even knowing anything about them. We assume that attractive people are somehow nicer people.

The Halo effect has it's reverse referred to as the "devil effect" which as expected is if a brand or person has a negative trait, then the bias tends to influence all considerations of other traits towards the negative feelings.

Particularly in business this powerful and often subconscious effect is one that should not be overlook when considering any brand placement or messaging. It seems that it can work positively in a brands favor when encouraging positive marketing and PR, Google and Apple have definitely gained from this effect. However the reverse can also alter people's perceptions and these are the hardest influences to remove from peoples minds, I think the best example is Microsoft, that no matter how they innovate, has always had the stigma of being a monopolistic giant and carries even today a generally negative perception in the public mind. I think also it is important to think closer to ourselves about how we judge other people, we should try and be a little more conscious of what we truly know about other people and not fall into the trap of judging all things by limited knowledge. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Knowing Yourselves

We have all been in situations in which we don't quite feel like ourselves, it's almost as if someone else looks out through our eyes and takes over for a short while. Our friends notice and exclaim that we don't appear to be ourselves. Of course nothing really changes from our point of view we just respond to our environment and play the role that we think best suits that moment. Many thing can trigger this from work to anger from parties to gambling can release alternate versions of ourselves. It's almost as if we have multiple personalities within us.

Rita Carter in her book "Multiplicity", puts forward this very idea that within each of us are these multiple personalities and how they can affect and influence each other, sometimes in good ways and at other times in negative ways. She suggests that by better understanding ourselves and these alternate selves we can begin to affect how we feel and act. We can no longer think of ourselves as a single person or character but as summation of many selves working inside us.

First thing to make clear is that she is not talking about the mental illness of multiple personality disorder, where you have little control or consciousness over the people within you. She is suggesting that we are complex individuals with the capacity to behave differently in different situations and under different conditions. Her books helps you recognize and discover these personalities within and start to map them to better understand how they influence you in your choices and decision making. She argues that nobody is a single personality but is in fact made up of multiple characters within us, the important thing to do is recognize those that influence you in a positive way and those that do not and start to control which you wish to grow and those you wish to squash.

Her suggestion, is that most people have a few major personalities with many supporting minor personalities. The major personalities are those that guide a majority of our decision making, and whom we may most closely relate to, the minor personalities add to these cast members with less seen but equally important aspects of our character. It is very comparable to acting and playing parts within our lives all with the same shared life and knowledge.

She explains how these personalities can be mapped using the concepts of the OCEAN big 5 personality traits approach to mapping character. OCEAN is an acronym for:


This framework is a robust way for people to measure their personality type against. In Rita's book she maps these onto to a circular diagram with the opposing traits around the circle. Then through a series of questions you can begin to map your various personalities on the disgram to better understand their role in your mind.

The concept Rita puts forward is a fair idea and certainly it is consistent with new discoveries in science and psychology that she supports her argument with. It raises many intriguing questions. How well we can control these personality types is questionable, but at the very least recognizing them is a start in allowing you be aware when you might be behaving differently than your usual self. Equally interesting for me is the insight it gives to understanding ourselves and others and why people can appear inconsistent in some circumstances. It suggest that interviewing people for market research or using any kind of people study is going to only give a small insight to the complete domain of peoples thoughts and actions. As this area of study expands and gains insights it is going to go along way to explain many of the choices and decisions we make. Rita Carters book is a great introduction to these new ideas of the many selves within us.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pixar's 5 principles for success

Article over at Jump Associates website gives an insight to some of the concepts that took Pixar to the lead in innovative and blockbusting animated films. The interview with Oren Jacob revealed 5 principles that they live by to maintain success.

1. When it sucks say so.
This is often the hardest decision to make, whether something is excellent in the light of a looming deadline. Very often it feels easier to be satisfied with an adequate product or service rather than push on for excellence due to budget and time constraints. The question is at what cost to the end goal of brand building and ultimate success.

2. Defend your opinion and press play quickly
This is part of the review process, I like the idea of allowing the individual to accept or defend the feedback. I agree with autonomy that it allows. Of course if you have an opinion it is best defended with some examples and proof that your idea is better. This concept works well in a fair and unbiased work environment that allows open discussion without punishment for maybe being wrong.

3. Look upstream for the source of the problem
This is good point to make that not all problems exist at the point you observe, but maybe the result of something somewhere else in the system or process. It is always worth a deeper investigation if the problem solution is not immediately clear. Methods like the "5 Whys" that I have discussed before can help in this. Also open communications among team members can help keep these problem tansparent.

4. Match the medium to the message
This is always critical to the right step in the process of innovation. As Bill Buxton and others have explained the power of sketching early on and prototyping loosely can open up the right conversations, versus seeing "polished" artwork that instead of encouraging debate pushes people to aim their thoughts to criticism and negative feedback only. Seeing the work as the end result. These sketches and prototypes themselves also need thew right medium to encourage the right questions.

5. Hire for excellence.
Hiring the right people and putting them in the right roles is exactly what Jim Collins talks about in his book "Good to Great". Get the right people on the bus and all other things will begin to fall into place. Equally important is to get the wrong people off the bus. The right people are self motivated and need less guidance and motivation to perform excellently.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

SCAMPER your way to creativity

Alex Osborne an advertising executive in the 1940's came up with a technique for helping kick start the creative process. It is a simple approach and has proven effective in those quiet moments during a brainstorm when people begin to dry up with ideas. It isn't only useful in brainstorming it can have many applications in innovating new ideas and improving on existing ideas as well.

The technique has been summarized in the acronym SCAMPER.

S = Substitute
Can something be substituted for something else. Is there the possibility of replacing the rules, or the system.
C = Combine
Better know as synthesis how can related or unrelated items be brought together and mixed to create a new whole or part.
A = Adapt
Adaptation may mean looking out into the World an seeing if there is anything else that exists that already does something similar that can be tweaked or adapted to work for our situation needs. Maybe it can build on the work of something or someone else outside your current domain.
M = Magnify or Modify
simply, what can be made larger or extended. Is there a way to increase frequency. I would also consider the reverse can something be made smaller and reduced. Think scales and proportions. Like Charles and Ray Eames factors of 10. Can something be modified and given a new twist, what can be changed.
P = Put to other uses
Is there the possibility of putting something to a new use. How might you use it in another context. Is there another material that can alter its use.
E = Eliminate
Trim away excess, minimise. What if it were smaller. What if it was divided into many parts. What rules can be eliminated.
R = Rearrange or Reverse
What other arrangements might be better. Different patterns. Swap components. Reverse the context. What is the opposite. What are the negatives. Turn it around, upside down. How might it be unexpected.

The concept is based on the idea that everything is an addition or modification of an existing thing. Under these premise applying these thinking ideas should get things rolling again.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Disagree to Innovate

In a recent article from one of the designers at continuum, the idea of innovation occurring when disagreement happens is laid out. Daniel Sobol, puts forward 5 things you need to keep arguments in line with the creative process. One that particularly stood out to me was the paragraph about saying "No".

He suggests that where traditional brainstorming is mostly about building on the ideas of others and using the improv technique of saying "yes, and..." leads to a nice group dynamic, the power of saying "No, because..." can lead into a dialogue of critical thinking. This is an interesting idea and something I am keen to see how well it works. I think the value of this technique maybe after an actual brainstorm session has occurred and you are more in the mode of evaluating the ideas you have come up with and maybe looking for the best to build upon. My biggest concern would be controlling the group dynamic of criticism and keeping people from feeling to personal about the responses. I would also think that it could easily lead the generation of ideas to a halt as you analyze each idea in your mind. Still it is an interesting idea and I think with the right people and teams it can be an effective tool in brainstorming.

He outlines the other techniques to help in this augmentative approach as,

No Hierarchy. No one rules the ideas, and everyone is welcome to add to the idea pot.
Say "No, because..." Find another perspective that proves the original idea wrong. Say Why.
Diverse perspectives. T shaped people, and diverse backgrounds brings fresh perspectives.
Focus on common goal. Make sure everyone remembers the purpose and point of the exercise.
Keep it fun. Fun and happiness help people think and create outside the box.

Maybe when combined with all these other aspects he outlines the concerns I have disappear from the group. Still an interesting article and something I would love to try sometime.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Clicking With Others

So we have all had those moments in which we are talking with someone we have never met before or have know for only a brief time and you feel a sense that the two of you have much in common and you enjoy the conversation. We can think of this as clicking with the other person, they just seem aligned with our thoughts and beliefs and talking with them is enjoyable. You leave the conversation with them hoping to have some time again when you can again engage in a stimulating talk with them. So what are the things that make people click with us. Can they be analyzed and distilled down to certain traits?

Well Ori and Rom Brafman have written a book all about what makes people click, it gives insight to some of the criteria that are necessary to make these connections, in a meaningful way. What facinates me is the similarities to some of the ideas of Paul Adams when he describes people and their social circles that he has observed in his work on social networks for Google and Facebook.

Let's look at some of these requirements as outlined in the Brafman's book. They refer to these as click accelerators, because they talk mostly about rapid connections. I think these also apply to long term relationships as well. They outline these click accelerators as:

Showing our weakness's or how human we are can open others up to trust. Being honest and telling the truth offers others a chance to help us and share a problem or thought. Vulnerability can be considered as being shown in two stages the transactional and the connective. The first stage is made up of three steps:

Phatic, is not revealing.
Factual is only giving information about ourselves as data.
Evaluative reveals our views of people and situations, without emotion. This has limited risk of revealing information about ourselves.

The second stage the connective interactions are based more on our feelings and emotional point of view, these are far more revealing and authentic conversations. It consists of two more steps:

Gut Level, these are statements that are more emotional cues to how we feel about something or someone.
peak statements, these are the most emotional and inner thoughts and feelings we have towards others. They have the most risk of make us vulnerable to wrongful attack but are also the most valuable way to express ourselves authentically to others.

Moving through these steps of vulnerability takes our relationship and ability to click with another through different stages and levels of attachment. The more vulnerable you make yourself the more risk you take to get hurt, but also the deeper the relationship you will have with another.

Being close to someone physically makes a huge difference in our ability to connect with them. Whether working in an office or just meeting in at a football game. People respond better when they can be in close proximity to others. Having spontaneous communication helps forge relationships. Most of the work I have already looked into talks about the creative process improving when people interact more and are closer together in a building. Paul Adams also mentions that when people communicate they seem to prefer regular small lightweight interactions. These are going to occur more often if people are near each other. These interactions need not even result in a conversation, they might be what is referred to as passive contacts such as a nod of the head or can be thought of as liking something or someone in Facebook. It merely shows recognition of that person, but it all registers as another interaction, that adds up.

mihaly csikszentmihalyi, talks about this as being in a state of flow. Things just seem to be working, we are engaged at a deep level, with enough challenges and effort to keep us stimulated and enough progress to make us feel achievement and self satisfaction. This helps us make a connection with others when we can give them our undivided attention and listen intently at what they are saying. This level of engagement will be obvious to those involved both sides talking and responding with authentic conversation. There is a sense of agreement and acceptance of the others point of view and ideas. Much of this is about empathy.

Birds of a feather flock together, and we are no different. We tend to gravitate to those that have similar beliefs or interests as us. This makes sense when you consider how we want to support our own inner narrative, of who we are. Again Paul Adams talks about his observation of our social circles, and how we may have 4-5 distinct groups but how each group shares common attributes with us and with each other. It would make sense that to get a good connection we would look for similarities with those we converse with. We of course want to avoid conflict and are not always looking for arguments, and especially try to avoid those that cannot accept us for what we are or think. Interestingly, when in a business environment, we tend to align ourselves with others in our group, to appear similar, and avoid conflict. So when we can control our choices we prefer to find those that already believe what we do.

Safe place
The power of our environment has a profound effect on us. This is especially heightened when there is a shared goal or reason that puts us together. Adversity can bring people closer, and having a problem that is solved as a group or team makes that team string as a unit. But this doesn't need to be a negative event. Even sitting in the home of a person from another country than your own can have an immediate effect on forging new relationships, there is a sense of being removed from the normal status quo of your natural environment, and so you look for anything that can connect you to others in the group. This is all part of the wanting to be part of something larger than ourselves and looking for our our identities.

These are just some of the great ways that people can move from ordinary relationships such as they have with work colleagues to deeper relationships built on friendship and trust. These moments of clicking with another can be enhanced by some of these observations and being aware of them can help you achieve wonderful friendships that can last a lifetime.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Keep Talking The Power of Social Networks

Paul Adams who works on the product team within Facebook, has many great and wonderful thoughts on how and why people share content online. Certainly the experience and knowledge he has from working at Google and now Facebook places him at a wonderful vantage point to see how people use the social networks he has helped to build. He recently gave a talk and outlined many useful ideas and insights that can be utilized in designing for social media and networks.

Most importantly he emphasizes that people don't really share or like things what they are really trying to do is talk. Talking is the foundation on which most social media is really based on and the objects they share and comments they make are merely tools to help start those conversations with others.

So why do people talk? 

We talk to make their lives easier. They have am issue and want feedback, they have a thought and want to gather others opinions on the ideas they have.

We talk to build relationships. we have always since early days of tribal living wanted and needed to be part of social groups.

We talk because we like to help others. People usually like to help other people, especially if they have an experience or knowledge that maybe someone else doesn't.

We talk to craft our identities. The things we talk about and the people we talk with help us establish our self identity, and help us gain a great appreciation of who we are what we believe.

Paul mentions that people don't like and comment on social sites because they have a deep liking for the link or statement someone has made, but because they actually like the people behind the information. People look for commonality among others in their groups, jokes and humorous uploads can help see a match with like minded individuals. Most conversations we have are part of our reputation management, conversations help us define who we are.

Talking requires good listening and response. Today's conversations online are mostly what Paul calls Lightweight interactions and especially companies should be having many lightweight interactions with their customers. Talking and conversations are much more natural and long lasting into the future if they last for shorter periods of time but more frequently. The days of having deep and meaningful conversations are becoming rarer in our always connected world.

So who do we talk to? We mostly talk to people just like ourselves. People we have strong ties with. Most people Paul suggests have 4 small independent groups, in which 80% of the conversations are with the same 4-5 people. We are most influenced by the people we are closest to. People in each group are very similar to the person at the center of the social circle. Things that are interesting to friend in one group, will most likely be interesting to another group in your social sphere

So what do people talk about?

Personal experiences. 70% of talk is about this. This is one reason to build experiences around brands, it gives people more to add to their daily conversations.

People talk about other people. Not always in a bad way, but as part of what makes our lives, interacting with others. These form social norms, and gossip can help teach us how to behave with each other.

We talk about what's around us. Stuff in our Worlds, and in our current environment.

We prefer to talk about feelings not facts. We like to tell emotional stories.

So if you plan to build a social network or site that always social grouping and talking Paul suggests the following considerations as among the most important.

Why: Help people build relationships
How: Create lightweight interactions over time.
Who: Optimize for strong ties
What: Feelings not facts.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Brand experiences not products

I think we all believe that life's experiences are more important to us than the material possessions that we own. Well Susan Weinschenk recently wrote about the research that Carter and Gilovich did to prove out this idea and they uncovered some valuable ideas.

Their research looked to uncover why we value experiences over possessions. They proved that people use experiences to define their sense of self. People prefer to talk about themselves in terms of experiences rather than what they own. This can be thought of as part of our life story we carry around with us. People it seems prefer to talk about purchasing items through the experiences they have with it, rather than the material ownership of the product.

Knowing people by what they have experienced and how they use a product is more likely to give us a greater insight to the person than what they bought. Our memories associated with an object make that object more valuable and satisfying when the association is positive.

So with this in mind Susan put forward these considerations for products and experiences.

  • If you are marketing a product, put emphasis on what experiences you will have with it rather than what it will look like/feel like/ be like to own it.
  • If you are collecting purchasing info about target clients (as has been in the news lately with questions about privacy) you’d be better off to know what people’s purchases imply about the experiences they are having rather than just inferring from the data what they own.
  • The user experience of a product is more important than we think. It’s not just the idea that the product should be easy to use/ interesting. The EXPERIENCE part of user experience is not just a fancy word to use. People remember and evaluate, and even cherish experiences, even with technology.
  • Customers may resonate more with a brand if they can get a sense of what the organization has DONE, not just what products or services they sell.

Can Ford be Great?

Seems like the CEO of Ford has been reading "Good to Great" by Jim Collins. After reading this article at Fast Companies website I am reminded of some of the steps that Jim puts forward in his book to grow a company from good to great.

Getting the right people on the bus and taking the wrong people off the bus is important before driving anywhere. The right people are self motivated and dedicated to the cause of the company.

Confronting the brutal facts is critical in making progress and improving the wrong aspects of what you do.

Aligning everyone to the companies goals is crucial and making that message clear and easy to understand is equally important.

Knowing what people actually want is the hardest and most important part of any strategy, and makes things easier to sell if there is already a demand.

Having discipline and a clear objective but sticking to your core competences is critical in order to accelerate your growth.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Why do you Blog?

Small article discussing the reasons people blog. I know that personally I started blogging to fill in the gap I felt I had with having knowledge and wanting to find others that were interested. Some people make money from blogging and have other motivations, but I believe most do it as an outlet for creativity and self expression.

Seth Godin somes it up nicely.

"I blog because I don't really have a choice. The ideas in me insist on being shared, and this is the least painful way I can find to do it!"

Other reasons the article puts forward include.

  • To maintain a routine- motivation and accountability
  • To hone the craft of writing
  • To air new and provocative ideas
  • To spread cutting-edge information or timely opinion
  • To connect with a like-minded community
  • To forward the tradition of storytelling
  • To build resume or clout
  • To express creativity
  • To find catharsis after a traumatic event
  • To attract web traffic
  • To rant or vent
  • To see our names in print - ego

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ringing the Innovation Bell

This article from the NY Times website has an interesting story about the small group of scientists that produced some of Bell labs amazing innovations. Most intriguing to me was the insight to the culture that Mervin Kelly put in place at the lab to make things the most creative they could be amongst the scientists and engineers.

He setup an environment for creativity that allowed the exchange of ideas to flow between people. His focus was on making space one that allowed people to interact with one another easily. This is something that has been written about by Steven Johnson in his book about where creative ideas come from, the ability of people to cross pollinate ideas is a great way to inject others point of views. Like coffee houses in the old world, these types of environments foster conversations and debate that can lead to thinking in new ways about old problems. Being in close physical proximity to others even from other disciplines is a great way to have those chance encounters that can lead to interesting shared knowledge and problem solving.

Kelly also placed the labs inside the manufacturing plant, so that ideas could be transferred into things. This to me, describes the rapid prototyping ability that he wanted to foster. Prototyping gets people talking and conversing around a physical thing and can be a great catalyst as it keeps people focused on the task at hand.

He also believed in freedom for researchers to investigate the things that they most felt compelled and inspired to research. This is inline with the work Daniel Pink has written about, that autonomy is one of the driving factors of motivation for thinkers versus manual workers. It also allowed people to work at their pace and follow their own leads and direction. This I am sure was critical in helping Bell constantly create innovative new ideas and solutions to problems and new products. This kind of thinking is also what I think made Mervin Kelly a good leader of his group, he brought onboard the right people, self motivated and trusted them to work hard and produce great work, without constant monitoring.

Bell labs invented the laser, the transistor and the solar cell. I have no doubt that the insights of Mervin Kelly to the creative process and innovative environment he helped create were instrumental in the amazing work he and his team produced in their time.

Lewin's Equation for Behavior and The Social Web

Kurt Lewin, a german behavioral psychologist proposed a new notion for human behavior back in 1933, that challenged the popularly held belief at the time that we act according to our personality. It was believed that our intrinsic motivations dictate our behavior. Lewin proposed instead that our behavior was a result of both our personality and our environment together. He express this idea in an equation


This concept unlike the previously held notion does not require you to take sides in a nature versus nurture debate. It instead allows for the person and their environment to have influence on their behavior in complex and profound ways.

The environment is everything that isn't us, it can be the physical environment, which has an effect on what we do. It can also be other people, and what can be called our social environment. We are strongly influenced by other people and the social groups we join.

Our personality is of course a whole area of study and many theories and methods have been proposed to address how we can judge our personality type.

Most interesting for me as a user experience architect is how this concept applies to social software and social interfaces. In software design the interface can be thought of as an environment. Joshua Porter, suggests that the software interface is an environment that we play and work with on the web. He suggests that our behavior is greatly determined by the interfaces we use for these interactions. Social software he states should support the users personality, as well as, social environments and groups they are part of.

Joshua Porter outlines 10 key aspects of social behavior that need to be considered when building a social application or experience.

1. Humans are complex social animals, we interact for all reasons as outlined by Maslow's Hierarchy
2. Humans organize themselves into groups
3. Groups can be small and large, and for any purpose
4. Groups can be made of family, friends or anyone with something in common
5. Humans act as both group members and individuals at the same time
6. People behave differently in groups than as individuals
7. Humans play different roles in different parts of their lives
8. When humans are uncertain they rely on social connections to help them
9. People usually compare themselves to those in their social group
10. The people we know affect how we act
11. Sometimes being self-interested means to support the group, and sometimes it means to focus on oneself.
12. Humans are not always rational, but are usually self-interested
13. Unpredictable behavior emerges in groups over time
14. People derive value form social interaction, that cannot be described in monetary terms.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Get a Hedgehog to Make Your Business Great

There are many good companies in the World today, they produce adequate goods and consumables and they will continue to make products people buy and make money selling ordinary stuff. They are not very adventurous and don't take any unnecessary risks they also tend to not see the future so well and prefer to let things drift along producing average stuff like they always have. The problem with good companies are they are easy to tip over into struggling companies that suddenly look lost and scrabbling for something new or profitable that can make them once again good. The battle becomes harder and in too many cases these good companies either slow down and lose profits or disappear altogether. So what does it take to make a adequate company into a great company that rises from the average heap, well Jim Collins in his latest book "Good to Great" seems to believe he has an insight that will help companies grow into great companies that stand the test of time and become dominant leaders in their domain space.

After lots of research and evaluation of some of the best companies in the World that were selected on some strict criteria about sustained profits with his team he boils the great companies down to the all having the following traits.

1. Level 5 Leadership
This is a first requirement, having a leader that isn't thinking only about himself. Values his teams, and recognizes performance. Has a clear vision and willing to admit mistakes and inadequate knowledge. This is rare individual and is contrasted against a Level 4 leader who mostly wants the spot light and won't admit their short comings.

2. First who, then what.
Get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off. Only then can you drive the bus on the right road to success and direction that will succeed. The right people are self motivated and believe in the direction, they don't need so much pushing and hand holding. They also are experts in their domains and open to ideas.

3.Confront the brutal facts.
Part of being a level 5 leader is the ability to hand a paradox that Jim refers to as the "Stockdale Paradox", where you at the same time, have absolute faith in what you are doing, regardless of difficulties, but are also able to confront those hard facts about your current reality.

4. Hedgehog concept
The only way to get where you are going is to stick to what you can be best at. There is a reference to 3 circles overlapped, that reminds me of the power of branding. Do what you are passionate about, Do what drives your economic engine, and Do what you can be the best in the World at. This is focus, of the hedgehog concept that has to be understood at all levels of the company, and guide all decisions.

5. Culture of discipline
This is the focus of the company on the hedgehog concept, learning to say "No" to the wrong ideas. Not being swayed by tangential ideas and possibilities. This comes back to having the right people on the bus in the first place. Stop doing lists are as important as to do lists.

6. Technology Accelerators
New Technology is very attractive and shiny, but the goal should be to adopt technology not as a passionate interest but as something that supports the Hedgehog concept and drive the innovations and performance towards that goal. Don't adopt technology for technologies sake, make it work for you and the company goal. Start with the hedgehog concept then add technology not the other way round.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Apples Brand Thinks Differently

Tim Cook today announced the new iPad3 and a host of amazing improvements on an already successful game changing innovative device. The announcements today once again push the iPad out in front of it's competitors. Of course, this is all part of the course of any company in the technology and digital space to keep inventing and improving existing technology and setting itself apart from the others. Apple does this so well. Apple has a certain magical aura around it's image in the consumers eye. This I feel is reflected in what he said at the end of his presentation today.

“It’s the privilege of a lifetime for me to work with the most innovative people on Earth. Only Apple can deliver this kind of innovation in such a beautiful, integrated, and easy to use way. It’s what we love to do, it’s what we stand for.”

In this single statement he reveals how the very core of the Apple brand is about beauty, simplicity, ease of use. He also shows something about how they as a company view themselves in the World. Like the consumers the Apple products employees have a very clear message in their minds, how can they make something better and more desirable that falls inline with the brand values. This is what the company stands for, it is what raises it's thinking and products up to a higher standard than I believe most companies are willing to invest in, for fear of uncertainty and returns. Apple has always taken gambles and sold beautiful products that it believes people want. They appear to be right this time.

I was even looking at the logo evolution recently and liked the update that was shown today for this talk. It is a nice modern interpretation of the fantastic rainbow logo Rob Janoff did for Apple back in 1975.

It shows that Apple knows what it stands for, and tries constantly to add to it's brand image and the story it wants to tell, of itself to the public. Apple has made it's fair share of mistakes and bad assumptions about products but they have been very consistent with their brand and that is something that I think makes the company a very compelling idea to get behind. They try and improve the way people interact with technology. This is what Jim Collins in his book "Good to Great" would refer to a "Hedgehog Concept", and idea that drives every decision and path you follow as a company. What can we best the best in the World at, it seems Apple is the best at innovating and selling those ideas to people. Who doesn't want to consider themselves as someone whom thinks differently and creatively at the World. Buying into Apple is adding to your personal interpretation of yourself as that type of person. 

I don't regard myself as one of the brand faithful followers of Apple but I can't help but like their products and their brand. You won't find me queuing at 3am for a new iPad3 at the Apple store, but I am certainly going to be drooling from the window.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Applying Positive Emotions to Technology

Relax at Camp Cozy
A wonderful story of how the people at GE realized that their technology was being used by people in hospital often in difficult circumstances and with a lot of intimidation and fear about the unknown. This is especially true of the children in the children's hospital at Pittsburgh under going repeated treatment. The question was why does something that can help you have to be so clinical and scary?

The insight was to make the treatment more like an adventure for the kids. This was a wonderful approach to taking something that is highly scientific and necessary, down to a level that works for the people that have to use it. The results are stunning and a great example of how design can reach beyond the function of technology to create something very emotional and touching for those involved.

"The focus of the Adventure Series is to provide successful distraction therapy that will appeal to all five senses. Three-dimensional decorative elements were created for an enhanced viewing effect, and lights, sounds, and aromatherapy were added to create a one-of-a kind experience for each and every patient. "

Doug Dietz, Principal Designer, GE Global Design and one of the originators of the Adventure Series says.

“We did simple things that get overlooked,” he says. “I mean, some of the most effective insights we got came from kneeling down and looking at rooms from the height of a child.”

“Our first design session was actually in a daycare,” says Dietz. “We knew we had to come at this from a different perspective.”

Kathleen Kapsin, director of the Pediatric Radiology Department at Children’s Hospital, agrees.
“All of our equipment is very high-tech,” she says. “We can get you great images, but we can’t get them if the child isn’t laying still and feeling well enough to go through the scan.”
“We now have an elaborate way of almost pulling off a theme park,” she says, referring to the outfitted rooms.