“Finally, in contrast to the fast paced world of minimal design where the mantra is “fail quickly,” Bentley’s user experience students take a more productive approach by “succeeding quickly” based on a deep understanding of users, design, and enabling technology.”—The Four Waves of User-Centered Design | UX Magazine
Peak Oil is the idea that one day (soon) the world will top out on the amount of oil it can extract from the earth and it will start a decline. Maybe TV might soon hit its own peak where it’s no longer guaranteed engagement with an audience.
NYTimes covers a recent study showing that while TV is still American’s favorite pastime, use of the TV for entertainment is suddenly starting to drop with people ages 12 to 24 as they switch to other media channels (mobile) and activities (gaming):
It has long been predicted that these new media would challenge traditional television viewing, but this is the first significant evidence to emerge in research data. If the trends hold, the long-term implications for the media industry are huge, possibly causing billions of dollars in annual advertising spending to shift away from old-fashioned TV.
Today at the Service Design Network Conference in San Francisco I presented the Business Case For (Or Against) Service Design.
I care about service design because I come at it as a leader of an organization that design services for our clients. Therefore, it’s in my best interest to know how and why it delivers real value. The more value it creates, the more organization will seek out, use, and pay for our work in service design.
I believe strongly that the approaches and mindset of service design can bring about more human and more empathetic services that connect people and business in better ways. But to forward this potential I focused this presentation hard toward the numbers side to find the spaces where service design has the best economic impact.
This presentation contains some updated versions of some of the market sizing work that I’ve shared in previous posts here. As always, these are my estimates based on the facts as I continue to collect them.
If roughly half-a-billion dollars is spent on the design and planning of services in the U.S., then why are service designers only doing $70 million of that work? (And for the record, I think this is an extremely conservative guess at the total market size.)
I think the answer is clearly that other professionals, and possibly numerous different types of professionals with very different skills, are doing the work.
Based on some prior fact-finding, I constructed the following two estimates of the total U.S. market for service design, in dollars. They’re very rough, but the only attempt I’ve seen at doing it.
First, a top-down evaluation of the market size. This estimate works from the size of the U.S. service economy down to how much a subset of businesses would spend on planning and designing those services:
As is the case with all market sizings, this top-down is larger than the following bottom-up market sizing. But the difference is quite large.
Second, the bottom-up market sizing. This estimate works from the number of service design firms and internal teams to a total annual investment in service design:
The question I have is why such a huge discrepancy between the top-down and bottom-up estimates? There’s a 614% increase from the bottom-up estimate to the top-down estimate.
My hypothesis is that farm more “agencies” and internal teams are doing the work of service design, but they call themselves different things or approach the work with different toolsets, approaches, and mindset. There are many ways to plan and design a service.
Service workers outnumber goods-producing workers by a 5-to-1 ratio. "According to preliminary statistics compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and published in Establishment Data Historical Employment (2005), workers who provided services (111.5 million) outnumbered workers who produced goods (22.1 million) by a ratio of five to one." [source:stateuniversity.com]
While the U.S. is running an overall trade deficit, it has a trade surplus in services. "U.S. services exports totaled $551.6 billion in 2008, up $54.4 billion (or 10.9 percent) from 2007. This rise in exports helped the U.S. to have a record trade surplus in services at $144.1 billion, up $24.9 billion (or 20.9 percent) from 2007." [source: U.S. Department of Commerce fact sheet]
The big service industries are trade, transportation, utilities, and government. ”The largest category of service-providing jobs is found in the group of trade, transportation, and utilities occupations (23.1% in 2005). Federal, state, and local government jobs (21.8 million) accounted for 19.5% of the total service-providing jobs in 2005.” (See Table 2.2.) [source: stateuniversity.com]
Who are the big U.S. employers? I’m asking this question as I hypothesize that those who employ many people are more likely to be service-oriented organizations.
Among the ten largest employers in 1955 were GM, Chrysler, U.S. Steel Standard Oil of New Jersey, Amoco, Goodyear and Firestone. Today, four of the ten largest companies by total employees are Walmart, Target, Sears, and Kroger. [source:Huffington Post]
Here’s my wife’s presentation on the evolution of interaction design, devices, and culture at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control Center. There’s some great stories about precursors to email, IM, and other technologies, as well as how interactions evolved — or didn’t — in the change from analog to digital
Some friends chairing a conference asked me today what I though the top 5 themes would be most critical to UX over the coming year. I said:
designing for mobile as the primary digital channel
experiences that bridge two channels — I used to say ‘web plus one channel,’ but it might be moving to ‘mobile plus one channel’
designing for and managing through the explosion of new devices
UX leadership inside the organization — leadership requires an entirely different set of skills (and perhaps values) than what is focused on inside the IA and UX community; organizations can’t invest in UX without individuals covering this gap; meanwhile, customer services, operations, and people from other backgrounds are jumping into the driver’s seat.
The UX factory — I’m not sure what else to call it, but I’ve seen many organizations staffing up UX teams in a big way, possibly in response to #3 above, or to compliment agile scrums. Designing the process, roles, and work for such staff — and doing it in a customer centered way — is a giant challenge until itself. While there’s plenty of UX-Teams-of-One out there, I believe there’s also growth in the UX-Teams-of-Plenty.
Usually when you read guidance on management and HR it’s a lot of conjecture. That’s what I like about Google’s research on 8 good behaviors of managers — its based on Google-style rigorous analysis of data. They poured through review data and interviews to find out what made a good boss at Google.
Here’s the 8 good behaviors of managers:
Be a good coach
Empower your team and don’t micromanage
Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being
Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented
Be a good communicator and listen to your team
Help your employees with career development
Have a clear vision and strategy for the team
Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team
Park Avenue Winter/Spring/Summer/Fall, a restaurant in New York, has completely transformed its menu and dining room every three months since June 2007. Craig Koketsu, the executive chef, says that the changeover now takes just two days because every dish is minutely plotted on an Excel spreadsheet, a process that begins about six weeks beforehand. Making such major changes in a high-level restaurant depends on systems, not cooking skills, he explained. “A really good kitchen is a machine,” he said. “If all the parts move smoothly, you can do anything.”
more on the little secret to product planning: cupcakes
Last week I posted this video on the Adaptive Path blog, showing the value that a cupcake mentality can bring to successful product planning:
I’ve found this cake metaphor to be a powerful concept because:
Everyone feels the pressure to get results quickly — whether the challenge is moving a business metric or responding to competition, everyone feels the need to make an impact in the near term, not just a gesture towards something that will be great in another 12 to 18 months.
However, it’s rarely clear how to also deliver something delightful — to differentiate and release something noteworthy, one of the common assumptions is that more has to be more. Cupcakes is a metaphor for thinking about what could feel complete and exciting, even if it is feature-for-feature less than another offering or substitute.
It’s easy to remember and reference — executives and staff both remember the cupcake idea. After I share the cake metaphor, I often hear references days and weeks later like, “that’s not a cupcake!”
One of the common results I’ve found from Cupcake Thinking (<— yes, I’m going there), is that a team will look longer and deeper for the things a business already does well. You’ll look for ways to leverage what’s already differentiating, then bake that into the solution. Rather than try to stretch to cover gaps that a business doesn’t address well, a team will often ignore gaps and end up embellishing the core strengths of the firm in the solution.
For example, a financial institution with a large force of financial advisors could try to compete with a digital channel as full featured as a Schwab or Fidelity. Or, in more of a cupcake mentality, it could use the digital channel to reinforce the financial advisor relationship and make the advisor’s services more evident and more valued. The latter is lower complexity, it’s valued by the client and the advisor, it’s differentiating, and it’s why the client moved to the financial institution in the first place.
And if you can’t sit through the movie, here’s the condensed one-frame summary:
I asked Peter about the reported rise in behaviors where people will both watch TV and use their computer simultaneously:
"A recent Nielsen study found that consumers now spend on average 3 hours and 41 minutes per month watching TV and browsing the Internet simultaneously and roughly three out of five TV viewers engage in two-screen consumption."
Is this a new behavior, or are media providers like Bravo just making two-screen easy enough of an experience (to build on Peter’s points in the talk).
People definitely multitask while watching TV, with internet/web usage as quite high. It makes me wonder what, activities, specifically qualify as “browsing the internet.” We saw everything from active publishing (blogging), statusing (Facebook), and researching (Wikipedia related to the show being watched).
Because TV is “unproductive”, people want to feel productive while watching TV. So, while in the past, it might have been household chores (and hell, Stacy and I still fold laundry while watching TV), or when I was a kid, it was doing my homework, now people are engaged in online behaviors. I would be surprised if the amount of multitasking has actually changed all that much — I suspect it has simply shifted to something easier to measure.
There are no easy answers for content publishers right now, which is why in some ways they can hardly be blamed for their iPad enthusiasm — at the very least, they aren’t ignoring the sea change that tablets represent. Perhaps like many of us, they need to fail their way to success. That’s a legitimate strategy, and if they’re nimble enough to recover from these wild miscalculations before it’s too late, then I applaud them for it.
More likely, they will waste too many cycles on this chimerical vision of resuscitating lost glories. And as they do, the concept of a magazine will be replaced in the mind — and attention span — of consumers by something along the lines of Flipboard. If you ask me, the trajectory of content consumption favors apps like these that are more of a window to the world at large than a cul-de-sac of denial. Social media, if it’s not already obvious to everyone, is going to continue to change everything — including publishing. And it’s a no-brainer to me that content consumption is going to be intimately if not inextricably linked with your social graph. Combine Flipboard or whatever comes along and improves upon it with the real innovation in recommendation technology that we’ll almost undoubtedly see in the next few years, and I can’t see how the 20th Century concept of a magazine can survive, even if it does look great on a tablet.
Positional good: 'How much do I need?’ vs. 'I want more than the next guy!'
I love behavioral economics because the field defines helpful concepts for understanding humans behaving as humans; oh, and they often back it with real empirical research, not just opinion. The better we understand how we behave the better we can design for good outcomes.
An example of such a concept from the Rotman Magazine’s Q&A interview with Dan Ariely, the behavioral economist:
Q: You have said that people don’t know what they want, unless they see it in context. What are the repercussions of such ‘relativism’ for decision making?
A: The term ‘positional good’ refers to the idea that in many cases, people don’t really care how big something is, they just want to have more than the next guy. Take sea lions, for example: they want to be bigger than the other sea lions, because if you’re bigger, you will attract more females. But in the race to become bigger, they tend to get much too big, and many die from health complications. Now think about humankind, and how nice it would be if our collective ‘footprint’ was half the size that it is now: we would use less energy; we would need less resources. In the race to have ‘more’, we have hurt the species — all because we care so much about comparing ourselves to others. Executive salaries fall into this category as well. Many executives make a substantial amount of money. The fact is, nothing would happen to their lifestyle if they made a bit less. But the way they look at it isn’t, ‘How much do I need?’, but, ‘I want more than that guy over there’. And it’s not just executives — we are constantly making these types of comparisons in many domains of life.
So, could one design for positional good, where having more or doing better than the next guy could help people actually make better decisions?
There’s two great ideas here that I push all the time with clients, internally at Adaptive Path, and when I teach and speak:
Working backwards — working backwards from the customer rather than starting with a product then trying to make it acceptable to customers. I call this an “outside-in” approach, working from the customer’s perspective back into the business. Businesses, often for very good reasons, start with the internal systems and procedures perspective and work outward to the customer. At Adaptive Path, we try to counter this bias and work from the customer’s perspective inwards.
Internal press releases — Amazon initiatives reportedly often start with the product manager writing an internal press release to describe the finished product. At Adaptive Path we often call this type of envisionment, a tangible future, or a [whatever]-from-the-future. That’s because these can take forms other than a press release. We’ve done blog posts, t-shirts, and posters from-the-future to help show the benefits of a successful initiative from the customer’s perspective. What they create is a clear vision for where we want to end up. Of course the final service deviates somewhat from the original vision, but everyone involved knows from the start what direction we are heading in.
Somehow, it doesn’t surprise me that Amazon’s on top of it.
William Gibson narrative on the commoditization of design practices
I’ve been thinking a bit on the commoditization of common (user-centered) design practices. Overall, it’s a good thing that organizations more often think about their services with the customer in the forefront. Practice-wise, it clearly means we can push farther ahead.
I’m reading William Gibson’s Zero History novel, and enjoyed this exchanges between the wealthy and shady risk-taker Hubertus Bigend and main character Hollis Henry.
"Designers are taught to invent characters, with narratives, who they then design products for or around. Standard procedure. They are similar procedures in branding, generally, in the invention of new products, new companies, of all kinds."
"So it works?"
"Oh, it works," he said, "but because it does, it’s become de facto. Once you have a way in which things are done, the edge migrates. Goes elsewhere."
Let’s continue to go elsewhere, please.
(Oh, and I’ll bet the novel does take this point to nefarious places… but that’s not my point.)
Starr insists that companies he funds can express their mission statement in under eight words. They also must follow this format: “Verb, target, outcome.” Some examples: “Save endangered species from extinction” and “Improve African children’s health.”
The mission statement is a key part of Mulago’s approach, but it’s not the only part. Once the mission statement is establish, Starr insists that companies that get investment “measure the right thing” and “measure it well.
“He always looked at things from the perspective of what was the user’s experience going to be? … The user experience has to go through the whole end-to-end system, whether it’s desktop publishing or iTunes. It is all part of the end-to-end system. It is also the manufacturing. The supply chain. The marketing. The stores.”—John Sculley: The Secrets of Steve Jobs’ Success | Cult of Mac
“Anyone who’s done serious iPhone development can tell you there’s a lot of design work involved with any project. We had two designers working on that aspect of the product. They worked their asses off dealing with completely new interaction mechanics. Don’t forget they didn’t have any hardware to touch, either (LOTS of printouts!) Combined they spent at least 25 hours per week on the project. So 225 hours at $150/hr is about $34,000.”—How much does it cost to develop an iPhone application? - Stack Overflow
This is some early and raw thinking I’ve been doing about designing and delivering experiences successfully across many touchpoints.
Organizations are channel-bound. Customers aren’t. This outlines components and practices necessary to deliver great customer experiences across more than a single channel.
With the proliferation of new screens and new moments in peoples’ lives, it’s natural for businesses to conceive of great new customer experiences that are more desirable and scalable, and therefore much more valuable to everyone. However, organizations lack the simple practices to plan, deliver, and manage a customer experience across more than one touchpoint.
I’ve obviously borrowed some ideas from business strategy, service design, brand strategy, and that wacky world of design thinking.
The diagram shows some of the key concepts to define and manage. The top row plans for the experience predominately from the customer’s perspective. The bottom row is — while still customer centric — taken from the perspective of what’s smart for the organization to do. The middle is the important interaction between customers and organizations that forms the experience.
The value column is key to ensure the experience is viable to the business and useful to customers. The flow column defines what the experience should be. And the change column captures the means by which you can move from current state towards a better and more valuable experience. To explain ‘evidence’ in this column: showing evidence of the future experience is often the best way of helping the organization change and move towards it.
Can you significant improve a customer experience simply by following a few simple procedures? That’s what I’m going to explore for an upcoming talk at Failcon in San Francisco.
No it’s not ideal No, I don’t think that you can simply follow a few recipes and create a mind-blowing customer experience. That takes culture, leadership, vision, and other through-and-through elements that go to the core of an organization. But let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Much of this attitude comes from some long held believes about user research. I’ve seen (an unfortunately personally executed) more research and analysis of customers than can be effectively used on a project. There’s nothing wrong with great research that can be drawn on for years to help shape an organization’s understand of their customer, but there is a problem when the time and budget for good design and execution is usurped by overly-sophisticated research efforts.
For organizations that have little or no qualitative insights about their customer, the value of simply seeing their customer in the wild for the first time can be a greater value — I’m talking dollars spent per actionable insight — than extensive, deep research efforts that extract tacit subtleties in the lives of customers. Proctor & Gamble may need to understand the interplay between masculinity and shampoo suds, but many young business simply need to see where their service, say, fits in a 5-minute window between finishing your work and turning on the TV.
But it’s practical We may not be trained medical doctors, but with some simple CPR training, we can all dramatically improve a troubled person’s chance of living. We may not be gemologist, but we can follow the rules of the 5 C’s to evaluate what’s a good or bad diamond. Similarly, I’m working to propose a small memorable set of procedures to help teams get more out of the efforts by ensuring that their customer’s experience falls in the column of “mostly good” and not “mostly sucky.”
4 experience hacks I’ve been looking at my own practices and thinking through the case studies of others to identify relatively low-cost and low-effort activities that can up your slugging percentage. While none of these are panaceas, I hope they can really help improve the chances of success. I’m still working on the exact language, but here’s where I stand today:
Get customer empathy into your business — see a handful of customers face-to-face, finding patterns of insights that tell you how to meet your business objectives. I think this can become almost recipe-like given the right picture of integrating business objectives and customer insights.
Define the experience you want customers to have — this is an obvious step that’s too often skipped. Beyond being freaking “friendly” and undoubtedly “easy to use”, what should the experience be like? Create some experience principles to guide every design decision.
Customer experience ideas are cheap. Have lots of them, but only execute the best handful. — Avoid the decision-making bias of primacy.Your first idea is rarely the best idea. Don’t waste development cycles and customer attention to find that out. Instead, have many ideas and use your insights and experience principle to vet them and find the best bets.
Return to the customer context. Often. — Working on a fast-paced design project we realized that we had become so engrossed in our own understanding of the business requirements that we lost the perspective of the customer. We didn’t have budget for usability testing, so we instead conducted a “dry-run-of-one.” We found a single representative customer, halted the design process for an afternoon, and walked the customer through our best paper-based simulation of the current design. We learned tons. It was such a good use of valuable time that we stopped and conducted other dry-runs-of-one at other points in the design process. It’s may not be as rigorous as full usability testing, but it was a great ROI.
So that’ my list. And I hope to reduce them down to some pretty basic tactics for execution. What would be on your list to help someone else easily but meaningfully up their likelihood of customer experience success?
California recently passed a law requirement restaurants with more than 20 chains to post the calorie content of their food on menus and interior menu boards.
It’s a smart law, but it brings up an interesting issue: there’s no simple symbol for the calorie unit. This will clutter up boards and menus with “Cal.” listed all over the place. It seems like there’s a growing need for a calorie symbol. Here’s my rough suggestion:
From looking at other symbols like the at (@) or the pilcrow (¶), it seems important that the symbol be able to be handwritten as well as flexible for different typefaces. I thought the simple dot inside the upper case C implies eating or gestation.
Of course, we could fully adopt the International System and have to start all over with Joules.
We’ve all heard JFK’s goal to send an man to the moon within the decade. At workplaces, we use goals to set targets and motivate each other. I myself am very goal oriented. But theWharton School of Business has a great reviewof a new paper by Lisa D. Ordóñez from the Eller College of Management and Adam D. Galinsky of the Kellogg School of Management titled, “Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting.”
An excerpt from Wharton’s review:
In early 1969, just as the U.S. was preparing to reach John F. Kennedy’s lofty goal of sending Americans to the moon, the famed Ford executive Lee Iacocca gave a similarly ambitious mandate to his team of engineers.
Faced for the first time with competition from low-cost, high-mileage foreign imports, Iacocca set a specific target: Ford would design a new automobile that weighed less than 2,000 pounds and sold for under $2,000, and it would be on the showroom floor in time for the 1971 model year. What resulted was a mad dash to create the Ford Pinto.
It seems many of the worst blunders in business can be said to be in-part due to the poor use of goals: Sears overcharging for car work in the Nineties, Enron not evaluating the actual profitability of the deals its salesforce made, and maybe even No Child Left Behind. Like pain meds for talk radio hosts, goals have be over-prescribed in organizations.
The review goes on to quote past MX Conference keynote and organizational behavior expert Chip Heath of Stanford University, who “found that people tend to think that other people need extrinsic rewards more often than they really do…. To us, our work is interesting and meaningful, but we tend to think that other people come to work because of money.”
This is one reason I like when organizations focus on concrete things. Prototypes, pictures, whatever tangible thing they want to focus on to make happen in the world. Things make it easier to consider consequences and make results visible to everyone in the organization. Prototypes and other things certainly may not address every situation (e.g., sales targets), but I think they move groups of people closer to the intrinsic reward that is both interesting and meaningful.
Q: How many iterations did you go through before deciding on this “O”? Was it your first idea?
A: We actually presented seven or eight options in the first round, and the one that was ultimately chosen was among these. In terms of our internal process, though, I believe the logo — as we now know it — came out of a second round of design explorations. At any rate, it happened quite quickly, all things considered. The entire undertaking took less than two weeks.
This past week at CanUX I presented sketchboards, a low-fi technique that makes it possible for designers to explore and evaluate a range of interaction concepts. One thing we worked on was using a template that accommodates the sketching of 6 ideas. Here’s an example:
After some sketching on a problem, I asked the audience to tell me which sketch captured their best idea (the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth)? Admittedly, not everyone got to the fifth of sixth sketch, but the results still show the benefit of going beyond your first or second idea:
Note that no one thought their first idea was the best.
I’m lucky to have the pleasure of spending several days at CanUX in Banff, Alberta, plus getting the chance to present the skethboards method with the great folks at the conference. Here’s a sample of what I’m sharing:
We have open source browsers, operating systems, and other digital solutions, but it’s heartening to see open source also make it into physical products. October’sScientific American covers the Open Prosthetics Project, a clearinghouse for free new designs for better prosthetics. (Just think of groups of people swapping and checking in CAD files instead of pieces of code.)
All started by Jonathan Kuniholm—himself an amputee from the Iraq War—and his North Carolina firm Tackle Design, the project has generated numerous improvements to the classic prosthetic arm, fixing common failure points partially by working with test patients who take their prosthetic arms to extremes.
The problem for the Open Prosthetics Project is now an economic one. Through open source they’ve eliminated the cost of design and development, but they still battle the cost of manufacturing an improved design. There’s the challenge for physical product open source systems: after design and development, they still have to manufacture and distribute, something the digital world takes for granted.
9. Photo/video sharing services. A lot of the most popular sites on the web are for photo sharing. But the sites classified as social networks are also largely about photo sharing. As much as people like to share words (IM and email and blogging are “word sharing” apps), they probably like to share pictures more. It’s less work and the results are usually more interesting. I think there is huge growth still to come. There may ultimately be 30 different subtypes of image/video sharing service, half of which remain to be discovered.
I love-love flickr but I have to admit that that’s only one way of sharing photos. What about sharing where graffiti is encouraged? Or where camera phones, not PCs, are the based platform? Or where geography trump ownership as the primary means of organization?
13. Online learning. US schools are often bad. A lot of parents realize it, and would be interested in ways for their kids to learn more. Till recently, schools, like newspapers, had geographical monopolies. But the web changes that. How can you teach kids now that you can reach them through the web? The possible answers are a lot more interesting than just putting books online.
Amen. I run into people all over who are looking for practical education to help their career or fit their interests without having to go back to school. On the flip side, Adaptive Path has started virtual seminars and the tools are lackluster. They’re all stuck in one-point-oh-land, mimicing offline presentation behaviors. Why would you mimic something that didn’t work that well in the first place?
28. Fixing email overload. A lot of people, including me, feel they get too much email. A solution would find a ready market. But the best solution may not be anything as obvious as a new mail reader.
If this isn’t a problem for you now, it might be a problem soon. Emails are easy to cc and forward, but hard to consume and manage. It’s become a feed, not an inbox. People and organizations are ready to pay money to solve the information anxiety from email. Somebody save us.
This week Peter talked with BusinessWeekreporter Matt Vella about Subject to Change and the approaches necessary for focusing on experience as the product you deliver to customers.
On of my favorite points from the podcast was on lessons learned from our recent Managing Experience Conference. Peter put together patterns he was hearing from design leaders like Cordell Ratzlaff of Cisco and Chip Conley of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, California’s largest boutique hotel company:
“They both talked a lot about culture, and corporate culture… In order for an organization to successfully deliver great experiences, it’s a matter of mindset of people in the organization, that that is their orientation—to deliver great experiences. You need to have a corporate culture to do it.”
Over the past year-plus, I’ve been working on a book with my colleagues Perter Merholz, David Verba, andTodd Wilkens. The result is an interesting take on how organizations can embrace both the emerging and the long-held concepts behind research, design, and agile development to become more nimble and prepare to succeed in an uncertain future. We called it Subject to Change.
We’re glad to see that Don Norman liked it to. After some grumbles complaining that we wrote a book that he couldn’t put down, he said Subject to Change is:
“Short, but powerful. Easy to read, yet profound. I’ve been searching for just this book: the one perfect book that summarizes the essence of modern product design. This is it. The lessons are as powerful as they are simple: The product is NOT the goal. Successful products are systems. Focus on the experience. This requires empathy, agile product management, real understanding of the target audience. This book practices what it preaches. I will use it in my courses for MBA students. You should use it for, well, for everyone. Short, simple, persuasive, and powerful.”
Tomorrow at the IASummit I’ll be presenting on The Long Wow, a systematic approach for building great customer experiences that lead to real customer loyalty. It’s one of three approaches to practicing design differently that I outline in Adaptive Path’s new book Subject to Change. This is a talk that I have a lot of fun with, so I’ll looking forward to doing it.
The premise of these three approaches is simple: If we all practice design (or IA, or UX, or whatever you call it) the same way within organizations, then no design practice will be considered truly strategic. Strategic applications of design only exist when design practices are focused on the aspects of an organization that make it distinct. Otherwise you’re just employing best practices, and your executive leadership will only see you as a cost center.
I’ll work to get the presentation onto Slideshare soon, but until then, here’s some detailed notes on some of the references I made during the talk:
Here’s a brief review of the peak-end rule from Daniel Kahneman. Also, the very interesting book Paradox of Choice makes some references to the peak-end rule and how it applies to concepts like the experience of colonoscopy exams.
For those not familiar with the often told story, here’s the history of OXO Good Grips and Sam Farber’s original inspiration
TripIt is the travel organization service I referenced as a good example for finding a wide area of customer need that they can return to again and again for new inspiration
There are thousands of case studies where design leads to success. But what about the cases where design leads to failure? These cases get swept under the rug and never talked about. So we never learn.
Geek Squad started with one college drop out, a car with a logo, and a lot of creativity. Founder and Chief Inspector Robert Stephens just spoke at “Customer Service is the New Marketing,” Sataisfaction’s one-day conference in SF.
Robert dropped out once from tech school and then again from art school. But between the two he seemed to gain a deep appreciation of the difference between right-brain and left-brain thinking. He said (as closely as I could capture it), “Right and left brain struggles exist in most businesses… there’s what you do [left-brain] and how you do it [right-brain]. How you do it matters… When two companies do the same thing, what’s going to differentiate one company from another? Customers crave an authentic experience. Just delivering an experience isn’t enough. You have to deliver an authentic one.”
Robert naturally considers service the means by Geek Squad differentiates. “Service is the intangible stuff, the stuff you can’t measure, and the stuff your competitor isn’t going to copy.”
But it’s also interesting how much of his story and obsession is with the cars, uniform, and other livery that signify the brand. But he feels it’s the creative and cheap way to remind people of Geek Squad, calling it “time release marketing”. Police cars obviously inspired their cars (because the pattern could adapt to any vehicle). NASA mission control inspired the uniform. He recognized the value of going for the geek-style uniforms, noting, “[I realized] these are things my competitors are not going to do.”
Overall, it was entertaining to hear from a founder that so clearly got how culture, trends, service, and referent leadership all fit together. On the topic of trends, he understood that technology in the home represented an opportunistic social shift: “now the most popular people in society seeking out the least popular people in society for help.”
by sociologist Harvey Molotch. It’s insightful because it’s a review of the design industry from the view of an outsider. His review of “how things come to be” dispassionately confirms many things you knew to be true but may not have heard said so simply. Some excerpts from just the first 3 chapters:
“Most [designers] tell [clients] of past success in developing profitable goods, sometimes involving vast profit. When they are given maximum responsibility and autonomy, designers argue, such outcomes are more likely” [page 28]. What I find heartening about this is that much of my recent work has gone against the idea of gaining maximum responsibility and autonomy. I’ve been wanting to open up the design process and get more non-designers involved. It can get more messy, but the buy-in and momentum can become much stronger.
“Rather than doing one thing really well, their special asset, designers often claim, is the capacity to combine across realms. They describe themselves as ‘problem solvers,’ ‘facilitators,’ and ‘generalists’” [page 30]. Molotch then connects this thought to some of Edward Debono’s thoughts on lateral thinking. I agree that some designers are possibly better practiced at this approach, but it’s certainly not something exclusive to design.
“Designers say they have the ability to make things cool. “Too get cool, designers use intuition (a trait they feel blessed to possess)…”[page 31]. Sadly, this is perhaps one of the worst reasons to work with a designer and one of the biggest abstractions of what design could add, yet it’s probably one of the biggest motivators for people to work with designers. TakeSteve Jobs who told Segway creator Dean Kamen to hire a design firm to redesign the Segway before its introduction: “There are design firms out there that could come up with things we’ve never thought of,” Jobs continued, “things that would make you shit in your pants.”
“…the referral system creates a category of design office, one that goes on–and here I speculate–to provide a kind of stamp to a large range of products that have all been designed by the same office”[page 35]. Interesting how the supply of projects can define who you are as a firm. A good reason to occasionally say no to some projects.
“Among designers, there is little ambiguity as to who should get the credit for a modern product. They should.” [page 47]. Ha. Ego is a big part of thinking you can design something that others will want to use — but this much ego?
But here’s my favorite rationale for why design hasn’t always gotten good funding and why Molotch sees how design is, but perhaps not what design could be:
“‘Men eat before they reason,’ Marx said–and that means well before they decorate.”
Annie Leonard’s flash video on the Story of Stuff puts all the things you probably knew about our world system of production and consumption into a straightforward 20-minute video that shows how broken this system really is.
Just a few excerpts:
our national identity has become one of consumers; not teachers or farmers, but of consumers. After 9/11, Bush told us to shop.
only 1% of the products we buy are in use 6 months after we purchase them
the average U.S. person consumes twice as much as he/she did 50 year ago
Shopping is really the only part of the system that consumers see; and advertising and retail embellish this view; We’re rather blind to resourcing, production, or disposal
For every 1 can of trash a consumer disposes of, there’s an estimated 70 cans upstream created by the production process to make the things in that trash can (hmm… I’d still like to see the math on this one)
In the New York Times Magazine’s 7th Annual Year in Ideas I found a few interesting experience and strategy related ideas:
Two-Birds-With-One-Stone Resistance Multipurpose tools are less likely to be selected by people for real-world tasks. It’s explained that, “connecting one tool or method to multiple goals weakens the mental association between that means and any one goal.” So remember that iPod-speaker-slash-toilet-paper-despensor? Not such a good idea.
Telltale Food Wrapping Contextual clues about the safety of our food can be conveyed on the packaging that surrounds it anyway. Best news is that the biological detectors can be applied to the packaging via ink-jet printer. Would love to design packaging that intermediates between people and their food.
Zygotic Social Networking Using DNA to establish your social network — because everyone’s related genetically to someone, so everyone shows up online with an instant friend-base.
Rock-Paper-Scissors Is Universal The different strategies of rock (smash ‘em!), paper (sneak up and smoother ‘em!), and scissors (divide ‘em!) seems to be baked into competitive lizard mating strategies, bacteria, and perhaps the corporate world. I’m not sure I buy that all strategies can be boiled down into a rock-paper-sissors metaphor, but something seems right about there always being a second and third strategy for any situation.
Left-Hand-Turn Elimination Large scale change of tiny behaviors: U.P.S. has further limited the number of left-hand turns its drivers make: not for the time savings but for the energy savings. It turns out idling in the left-hand lane is a small wasteful practice that has big impact when the behavior is changed across the entire fleet. I can imaging more UX and service design being applied to these types of mass-greening solutions — we’re already talented about getting people to switch channels, adopt new services, and other behavior modifications.
And a few just-plain-fun entries that made the list:
Mob Jurisprudence The New Zealand police force posted the 1958 Police Act online for wiki-style revision. One of the superintendent’s favorite suggested revisions was submitted by a user who requested that the name of the police force be changed to “The New Zealand Yum-Yum Teddy Bear Strike Force Z.”
The Self-Righting Object Two scientists mathematically proved and then manufactured a self-righting object. Called the Gömböc, it’s an object that no matter how you set it down will always turn over and rebalance itself to the same position. See the animation. Two cool observations: (1) It’s similar to beetle shells and other naturally-occuring evolutionary adaptations that first reach the design through trial-and-error; (2) It’s a physical proof of a mathematical problem.