Putting People First

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July 2005
25 July 2005

When cell phones become oracles [Wired News]

Cell phones know whom you called and which calls you dodged, but they can also record where you went, how much sleep you got and predict what you’re going to do next.

At least, these are the capabilities of 100 customised phones given to students and employees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — and they may be coming soon to your cell phone.

The phones were part of Reality Mining, a Ph.D. project by MIT Media Lab researcher Nathan Eagle, who handed out the devices as a way to document the lives of students and employees of MIT, ranging from first-year undergrads and MBA students to Media Lab employees and professors.

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25 July 2005

London exhibition of designer hearing aids [BBC]

The UK’s largest charity for deaf people and a design magazine are launching an exhibition of futuristic hearing aids to make them more popular.

The show, called Hearwear, opens at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London this week.

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(Related story: The new look of hearing – Red Herring]

25 July 2005

Mobile phones boom in Tanzania [BBC]

The enormous growth of mobile phones in Tanzania is helping to close the digital divide between Africa and the West.

Mobile phones seem to have created a new sector of the economy, and some now wonder if the emphasis on the internet when looking at the digital divide was wrong-headed.

Len Waverman, an economics professor at London Business School, says: “The digital divide that we thought was really very big between Africa and the rest of us in the Western world is really diminishing, and it’s the mobile phones doing it, not the PC.”

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25 July 2005

Single gadget weaves phone, internet and media services [International Herald Tribune]

France Télécom this month offered up its latest version of convergence by tacking on a few useful services to its Livebox home networking product, a “triple play” service combining Internet, telephone and television service.

The most interesting of the new “Liveservices” from the company is a Wi-Fi-based cordless home phone. Called Livephone, the device uses its wireless link to Livebox’s Internet connection to provide inexpensive Internet voice calls and other services including a connection to the user’s Web-based address book to find and dial numbers.

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24 July 2005

Harvard articles on the user-centred approach

Harvard Business School Publishing has some articles available as (paying) downloads describing how experience design and the user-centred approach can lead to innovation.

Let the Users Take the Lead – May 15, 2005
Interview with Eric von Hippel, the head of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group and a professor of management and innovation entrepreneurship at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Let the Customer Make the Case - March 15, 2005
Collecting and analysing the stories behind purchases can provide deep and invaluable insights into jobs-to-be-done, much more so than traditional surveys or focus group

Harnessing the Power of the Customer – March 1, 2004
Organisations that can effectively harness the burgeoning power of the consumer to help shape their own products and services, argue C.K. Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy, authors of The Future of Competition, are the ones that will dominate.

Making Routine Customer Experiences Fun – October 1, 2003
For certain service businesses, the addition of fun can be an important differentiator. The authors present three case studies taken from industries not known for fun–furniture retailing, consumer banking, and the grocery business–to show how it can be turned to profitable advantage.

The New Frontier of Experience Innovation – July 1, 2003
The intent of experience innovation is not to improve a product or service, per se, but to enable the co-creation of an environment in which personalised, evolvable experiences are the goal, and products and services are a means to that end.

24 July 2005

Residences for the elderly that feel just like home [Newsweek]

It seems so obvious: let people age the way they have lived. Today, finally, it’s beginning to happen. From upscale residences in California to family-size nursing homes in Mississippi, living facilities for the elderly are undergoing an architectural and cultural makeover: big, sterile institutions are out, small, homey environments in.

The need has never been greater. Today 35 million Americans are over the age of 65—by 2030, that number is expected to double. As baby boomers age into sixtysomethings, the demand for civilised living will only intensify.

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23 July 2005

Proctor & Gamble targeting teens with clever blogs [Fast Company]

On a blog called, the pastel geometric images of four faceless girls emphasize the four authors, code-named Vanilla, Tropical, Rose, and Peach.

Vanilla and her crew aren’t people at all. They’re the names of four perfume sprays, targeted to teens, created under the Secret brand by Proctor & Gamble. Secret Sparkle Body Spray products shipped in February, the blog launched in May, and already the colognes have 0.8 percent of the $10.4-billion global antiperspirant/deodorant market. The site, which has received 12,000 hits per week, combines teen “passion points,” as Michelle Vaeth of Proctor & Gamble calls them, which entertain visitors while subtly pushing the product.

The deceptively juvenile is more sophisticated than one might think—it embodies the next generation of internet marketing. On their way out are ads that alienated web surfers—the intrusive pop-up, the mass email known as spam—and made them all but blind and deaf to the message.

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23 July 2005

‘Zero waste’ is Seattle’s new garbage mantra [Seattle Post Intelligencer]

Moving beyond recycling to preventing garbage itself as the next generation of social and civic responsibility, Seattle Public Utilities is launching an initiative called Wasteless in Seattle.

With the long-term goal of “zero waste,” the city hopes to drastically reduce the need for landfills and to lower disposal, transportation and energy costs.

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Related: Seattle’s comprehensive plan, a 20-year plan for a sustainable Seattle

[via worldchanging]

23 July 2005

Don Norman on the pitfalls of human-centred design

Human-centred design has become such a dominant theme in design that it is now accepted by interface and application designers automatically, without thought, let alone criticism. That’s a dangerous state — when things are treated as accepted wisdom.

The purpose of this essay [published in the July|August 2005 edition of Interactions Magazine] is to provoke thought, discussion and reconsideration of some of the fundamental principles of human-centred design. These principles can be helpful, misleading or wrong. At times, they might even be harmful. Activity-centred design is superior.

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23 July 2005

“thoughtless acts?”: observations on intuitive design

thoughtless acts? is a book by Jane Fulton Suri and IDEO that invites you to notice the subtle and amusing ways that people react to the world around them. These “thoughtless acts” reveal how people how people behave in a world not always tailored to their needs and demonstrate the kind of real-world observational approach that can inspire designers and anyone involved in creative endeavours. allows you to preview the book as well as contribute observations of your own.

22 July 2005

The world is round [New York Review of Books]

The centrally planned economies that were constructed to embody Marx’s vision of communism have nearly all been swept away, and the mass political movements that Marxism once inspired are no more.

Yet Marx’s view of globalisation lives on, and nowhere more vigorously than in the writings of Thomas Friedman. Like Marx, Friedman believe that globalisation is in the end compatible with only one economic system; and like Marx he believes that this system enables humanity to leave war, tyranny, and poverty behind.

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22 July 2005

Designing customer experience with Kyle Coolbroth [Small Business Branding]

Somehow I attributed the first experience design podcast to the Experience Journal (see post). In fact, the honour goes to Small Business Branding. But they both interviewed the same person, Kyle Coolbroth.

“On today’s show, my guest is Kyle Coolbroth, the man with the coolest name on the planet. He’s the founder of Unlimited Options, a customer experiencer design firm. You can find his blog at As you might have guessed, our discussion focused on how to design memorable client/customer experiences and why it’s important for a business to do that. Running time is about 45 minutes.”

Go to website and subscribe to podcast

22 July 2005

From “System Design” to “Experience Design” [Philips]

Brian Regienczuk, a senior project manager & consultant at Philips (see previous post) also pointed me to the ambient experience info on Philips Medical.

“Imagine if you could break down the barriers that can make a visit to the hospital an intimidating experience for patients, harnessing technology to enhance patient comfort and understanding, while providing each patient with a personalised experience that eases anxiety.”

Go to website

22 July 2005

Design’s new school of thought [Business Week]

IDEO’s David Kelley is building a “D-school” that aims to put students in direct contact with the people they’re designing for.

An interview on the D-school as a B-school with Bruce Nussbaum.

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(via Metacool)

22 July 2005

The Financial Times reflecting on foresight

If we believe what we read, not only the South China tiger and the Cross River gorilla but the Japanese and Italians are heading for extinction. Doomsday projections make good headlines – we offer a few here – but the fact is that we would be smarter to expect the unexpected.

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22 July 2005

The future of shopping [Philips Design]

Brian Regienczuk, a senior project manager & consultant at Philips, commented on some of my previous Philips posts and pointed me to the very informative sites on the “Future of Shopping” (see link below) and “Ambient Intelligence“.

The “Future of Shopping” site, which argues for a strong user-centred approach in retail, starts with the mission statement “Putting the power of retail in the hands of the consumer” and envisions a future where “the consumer will drive the shopping experience”.

It features a series of scenarios and prototypes that explore how technologies can improve the shopping consumer for the consumer.

Go to website
Download positioning paper (PDF, 784 kb)

22 July 2005

This pen is mighty [International Herald Tribune]

Three French companies, with an assist from the Finns and the Swedes, have combined their ingenuity to come up with a digital pen-and-paper system called PaperPC that, broadly speaking, digitises anything you can write with a pen.

What makes it different from similar systems is that it also collects all of your notes, drawings or handwritings so that they are available to you – or the friends or colleagues you designate – from anywhere that you can access the Internet. Or they can be sent to your mobile phone.

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21 July 2005

Are we losing our innovation religion? [EDN]

You can outsource product design to a third party, which in turn may use big chunks of external intellectual property; you can outsource physical manufacturing; and now, you can even outsource your research and development. […] What’s left? Not to worry, many say: The companies that outsource so many aspects of their roles can do the upfront product definition, as well as the product marketing. Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?

However, all this outsourcing buries a reality: Once your outsource partners learn how you define products, how you market them, and whatever other “secret” understanding you have or you assume that you have, and you have an “in” on your markets, those partners no longer need you. It’s that simple. The “secret sauce” you think makes a difference may not be such a secret or maybe isn’t the barrier to entry that you thought it was.

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(via Institute for the Future)

21 July 2005

How Skandia generates its future faster [Fast Company]

Five years ago, at Swedish giant financial services giant Skandia, Lief Edvinsson became the world’s first director of intellectual capital. He quickly set out to revolutionise the corporate accounting with a new framework for measuring intangibles: the company’s valuable “soft stuff” such as customer relations and organisational knowledge. Now he’s reinventing another business practice — strategic planning, the corporate ritual of “accounting for the future” on the basis of past financial performance.

That’s why, in a sprawling villa just 40 minutes from Stockholm, Edvinsson, 50, is creating a centre to reach the future faster. Starting last May, he renovated a 130-year-old building into a future-focused thinktank and populated it with a carefully selected, generationally diverse group of knowledge pioneers.

Edvinsson’s new unit, Skandia Future Centers (SFC), and his handpicked team of 30 people from around the world, form an elite squad of five Future Teams. Their mission: to explore five key driving forces of the business environment — the European insurance market, demographics, technology, the world economy, and organisation and leadership. The goal: present a vision of the company’s future to the corporate council, the company’s 150 senior executives.

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21 July 2005

It rings, it plays, it has TV [Christian Science Monitor]

First there were TVs. Then came PCs. Now, mobile phones are becoming the ‘third screen’ for viewing video.

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