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Putting People First

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Posts in category 'Business'

10 May 2013

How GE uses data visualization to tell complex stories

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GE, perhaps more than any other major company, is dedicated to the use of data visualization as a key part of its marketing and communications efforts. Stemming from last month’s Insight Center on visualizing data, Gretchen Gavett of the Harvard Business Review spoke with Linda Boff, GE’s executive director of global brand marketing, about the benefits and challenges of this approach.

“The power of a good story well told in any sort of medium cannot be overstated. Data vis has allowed us to do storytelling at its best. Experimentation is also key, getting in there, understanding a medium and a technique, and not being afraid to experiment with it and be open and collaborative. We have had data marathons with many universities where we’ve brought in students, given them a problem, and said, hey, let’s work over the next couple of days to solve this.”

30 April 2013

Unpaid internships are harming the design industry

 

Mark Busse calls on the design industry to set a higher standard (and as a company which has always paid its interns, we endorse this call):

” Employers, especially visible leaders in our community, are obligated to demonstrate best practices and need to think hard about the real value of unpaid internships: Are they really in the best interest of the company and our industry?

Employers, I implore you to rethink your policies and do the right thing by joining me in protecting the next generation and most vulnerable among us. And for goodness’ sake, pay them at least minimum wage.”

16 April 2013

Book: Hidden in Plain Sight (by Jan Chipchase)

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Hidden in Plain Sight: How to Create Extraordinary Products for Tomorrow’s Customers
by Jan Chipchase
Harper Collins Publishers
April 2013
256 pages
(Amazon link)

A global-innovation expert offers a new perspective on how consumers think and how to develop products and services that affect their everyday lives.

Who are your next customers—not just the ones you are serving today but the ones you’ll need three, five, or ten years from now? How do you figure out what goods and services will attract them in the future before your competitors do?

According to Jan Chipchase—whom Fast Company has called the “James Bond of design research” and Fortune has called the “Indiana Jones of technology for the developing world”—most of the clues are right in front of us. The key is learning to see the ordinary in a revolutionary new way. As the executive creative director of Global Insights at frog, an award-winning global design and innovation company, Chipchase draws on everyday objects and patterns to show us how to see the world differently, from making a phone call to filling up a gas tank to ascertaining whether it’s actually half-and-half you’re pouring into your coffee. Chipchase is always looking for opportunities—gaps, anomalies, and contradictions—that will give his clients, some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, a distinct competitive advantage, whether they’re delivering the most low-tech bar of soap or the most high-tech wireless network.

In Hidden in Plain Sight, Chipchase takes readers on his journeys around the globe and shares his methods for identifying the unmet needs of customers. No matter where he stops—whether Cleveland or Kabul—his goals are the same: to spot and decode the routines of daily life and to help readers use the very same tools that he and his team use to see, and capitalize upon, what is hidden in plain sight today to create businesses tomorrow.

- Excerpt
- Recent article by Jan Chipchase on Google Glass

15 April 2013

Does design thinking address quick fixes at the expense of root causes?

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Does design thinking address quick fixes at the expense of root causes, asks John Thackara, referring to “Why the d.school has its limits,” a provocative article in The Stanford Daily by Danny Buerkli, a Swiss Fulbright student at Stanford University:

“Like any method, design thinking structures how you approach and conceptualize a problem. The way the method is currently taught, however, preordains the result.

The answer to any problem unfailingly is a product or a service. Some problems are indeed best solved with a product or a service. Yet other problems need systemic solutions (e.g. political action).”

15 April 2013

To Dwell Is To Garden: An empathic approach to employee experience design

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Liana Dragoman writes on UX magazine about the role of experience design in employee empowerment.

“It has become increasingly important for customer-focused organizations to turn their lens on employee engagement or how employees connect with, think about, and process their work in meaningful ways.

Design researchers and practitioners — in addition to CEOs — have learned that in order to enable positive service experiences that yield increased customer satisfaction, organizations have to empower employees in authentic ways. In addition, employees who have a strong sense of shared purpose, the time and space to perform work appropriately, a synergistic work culture that aligns with their motivations and goals, and access to employee-centered resources (digital and otherwise) tend to collaborate seamlessly, develop innovative products, and deliver satisfying customer experiences.

Mutually beneficial work environments built around nurtured, reciprocal human relationships have the potential to increase an organization’s creative output and eventual profit margins but can also enhance people’s lives in the process. This is what success can look like.

The methods of experience design uniquely situate experience designers to address employee disengagement in textured ways. By uncovering the root behavioral causes and co-producing solutions with employees, experience designers can create the right kind of resources, which empower organizations to own their desired change over time.

As employee experience design is not a tidy activity, this article will focus less on concrete deliverables or step-by-step how-to-recommendations. Instead, a working framework is presented to assist experience designers in thinking through their own process-centric approaches and solutions.”

5 March 2013

Are our household appliances getting too complicated?

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Who needs a kettle with four heat settings? A washing machine with a ‘freshen up’ function? A toaster with six browning modes? What happened to the good old days of the on/off switch, asks Tom Meltzer in The Guardian.

“Function inflation or “setting creep” – both of which are names I’ve just made up – is not, of course, confined to the kitchen. We can see it in our computers and cars, our phones and televisions, and, in its purest form, in the deranged one-upmanship of a top-of-the-range Swiss Army knife, complete with a “fish scaler”, a “chisel” and a “pressurised ballpoint pen”. But is the surreal image of a war fought using descaled fish in Switzerland really progress? Or are all these settings just getting in our way?”

4 January 2013

Steelcase’s anthropologist on remaking offices to create happier workers

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Anthropologist Donna Flynn directs Steelcase’s WorkSpace Futures, a 19-member independent research group within the global office design company, that is responsible for “thinking into the future”: understanding the trends shaping the ways we work and sharing that intelligence with Steelcase and its customers.

The initiatives that WorkSpace Futures tackles are so big they call them “quests,” as they are long, oft-meandering journeys of discovery.

Flynn talked with Fast Company about a few of the most pressing quests for leaders to wrap their minds around: the ongoing redefinition of collaboration, the role of privacy in getting work done, the progression of worker well-being, and how all of these trends relate to the places in which we work. Places that are changing.

14 December 2012

McKinsey’s iConsumer Global Research Initiative

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Recent reports from McKinsey’s iConsumer Global Research Initiative:

Moving from “mobile first” to “touch first”
December 2012 (published on the EconomistGroup site)
Already, more than a third of the time people spend web browsing, using social networking sites, and using e-mail/messaging software is on mobile devices. In a couple of years, we expect it to be more than half. This is creating a ‘touch first’ computing paradigm, which means overhauling how information is delivered to and accessed by the consumer.

The rise of the African consumer
October 2012
The single-largest business opportunity in Africa will be its rising consumer market. A McKinsey report, one of the first of its kind, offers a detailed profile of African consumers, including their demographics, behavior, and needs.

The complex path to purchase taken by Europe’s iConsumers
June 2012
What are Europe’s iConsumers thinking? To find out, McKinsey & Company studied the digitally-based purchasing behavior of 40,000 Europeans in eight countries for the second year in a row. This study sheds light on future threats and opportunities by comparing European consumers and examining the resulting business implications.

The next stage: Six ways the digital consumer is changing
April 2012
The Internet, not yet 20 years on from its emergence into the consumer mainstream, is evolving as fast as ever.

13 December 2012

The man looking to turn Samsung into a Silicon Valley trendsetter

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Samsung is doubling down on technology investments in Apple’s backyard, including two new R&D buildings in Silicon Valley that will house 2,000 staff and a recently announced startup accelerator.

Leading this effort is Young Sohn, who started at Samsung in August as president and chief strategy officer. He has spent a long career leading several successful Silicon Valley semiconductor and storage companies after founding Intel’s PC chipset business and running its joint venture with Samsung in the 1980s.

MIT Technology Review business editor Jessica Leber sat down with Sohn in his office in Menlo Park, California, to talk about his new mandate, why he still uses Apple devices at home, and what his company needs to do to stay ahead.

“I think we have probably the largest platform in the world between the devices and displays and televisions we sell. We actually provide more devices that are interacting with consumers than anyone in the world. But if you think about our experiences, it’s device-centric. It’s experienced by itself. It’s not experienced in a connected way. So we think we can provide a lot more things than what we are doing today with an open ecosystem with our partners.”

12 December 2012

They know what you’re shopping for

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Companies today are increasingly tying people’s real-life identities to their online browsing habits. Research conducted by the Wall Street Journal on the practices of more than a thousand websites shows that the border between our public and private lives is blurring still more.

“The use of real identities across the Web is going mainstream at a rapid clip. A Wall Street Journal examination of nearly 1,000 top websites found that 75% now include code from social networks, such as Facebook’s FB +0.50% “Like” or Twitter’s “Tweet” buttons. Such code can match people’s identities with their Web-browsing activities on an unprecedented scale and can even track a user’s arrival on a page if the button is never clicked.

In separate research, the Journal examined what happens when people logged in to roughly 70 popular websites that request a login and found that more than a quarter of the time, the sites passed along a user’s real name, email address or other personal details, such as username, to third-party companies. One major dating site passed along a person’s self-reported sexual orientation and drug-use habits to advertising companies.

As recently as late 2010, when the Journal wrote about Rapleaf Inc., a trailblazing company that had devised a way to track people online by email address, the practice was almost unheard-of. Today, companies like Dataium are taking the techniques to a new level.

Tracking a car-shopper online gives dealers an edge because not only can they tell if the person is serious—is he really shopping for red convertibles or just fantasizing?—but they can also gain a detailed understanding of the specific vehicles and options the person likes.”

(Make sure to explore the video and the interactive graphics.)

3 December 2012

How Ford makes its cars smarter

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In the fast-evolving world of connected cars, CTO Paul Mascarenas is bringing Detroit and Silicon Valley together to chart Ford’s path into the future.

Brian Cooley of CNet interviews him during a walk through Ford’s advanced research facilities.

13 November 2012

An interview with three UX strategists

 

The role of UX Strategist is a relatively new one on UX design teams, and has recently addressed in two articles on UXmatters: “UX Strategy: The Heart of User-Centered Design” and “What Does a UX Strategist Do?“.

To provide more insight, Paul Bryan, manager of the UX Strategy and Planning group on LinkedIn and organizer of the the first international UX Strategy Conference (which will take place in Atlanta next year), interviewed three UX strategists at well-known companies: Nicole Netland of Best Buy, Rick Castanho of Lowe’s and Stephanie Sansoucie of Kohl’s.

“[Given the secrecy and confidentiality of what UX Strategists work on], the best that I can do is to continue to explore the topic of UX strategy tangentially, using knowledge that I can share openly to help push back the boundaries of secrecy. And that’s the spirit in which these three UX Strategists approached this interview, too. If, when reading their answers, it seems to you that we’ve omitted something important, it’s probably because we have. What I find most interesting about these interviews—besides the window that they provide into UX strategy practice—is that, while they begin by describing widely disparate evolutions of the discipline of UX strategy within specific organizations, they end with very compatible, even overlapping visions of the future.”

12 November 2012

Book: Advancing Ethnography in Corporate Environments

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Advancing Ethnography in Corporate Environments: Challenges and Emerging Opportunities
Edited by Brigitte Jordan
Left Coast Press
November 2012, 224 pages
[Amazon link]

Abstract
In this innovative volume, twelve leading scholars from corporate research labs and independent consultancies tackle the most fundamental and contentious issues in corporate ethnography. Organized in pairs of chapters in which two experts consider different sides of an important topic, these provocative encounters go beyond stale rehearsals of method and theory to explore the entanglements that practitioners wrestle with on a daily basis. The discussions are situated within the broader universe of ethnographic method and theory, as well as grounded in the practical realities of using ethnography to solve problems in the business world. The book represents important advances in the field and is ideal for students and scholars as well as for corporate practitioners and decision makers.

Brigitte Jordan, PhD, an independent consulting corporate anthropologist, has held positions as Senior Research Scientist at the Institute for Research on Learning, Principal Scientist at Xerox PARC, and Professor of Anthropology and Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics and Human Development at Michigan State University. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Corporate Research Award in Excellence in Science and Technology from the Xerox Corporation and the Margaret Mead Award of the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology. Dr. Jordan specializes in research methodologies and the design of lifescapes of the future. She is the author of almost one hundred scholarly, technical, and professional publications, some of which have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German and Japanese. Her website is www.lifescapes.org.

Download excerpt
Table of contents

4 November 2012

Anthropology of mid-sized startups

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In their natural habitats, social species organize into characteristic groups. Gazelles form herds, wolves form packs, and ants form colonies. Humans, in the same way, form tribes.

Of course, we’re pretty far removed from our natural habitat these days. But tribes are a large and fundamental part of our evolutionary heritage, and they have a corresponding influence on our mental and social lives. Organizing ourselves into tribes is one of the ways we manufacture normalcy. It helps our paleolithic minds perceive and act, more or less sensibly, in an increasingly complex modern world.

Humans also form kingdoms, nations, states, and civilizations, but those units of organizations aren’t as fundamental to our psychology.

So let’s see what happens when we treat startups as tribes.

30 October 2012

Designing products for value

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By encouraging more focused collaboration among multiple functional groups (notably marketing and sales, operations, engineering/R&D, and procurement), these leaders are combining deep insights about customers [particularly in developing markets], competitors, and supply bases to strip out costs and amplify what customers truly value. The results—including better products, happier customers, higher margins, and, ultimately, a stronger ability to innovate—should serve these organizations well in years to come.

In this McKinsey Quarterly article, authors Ananth Narayanan, Asutosh Padhi, and Jim Williams look at three such companies. Their experiences offer insights for any product maker hoping to improve its competitiveness.

17 October 2012

UX articles and dissertations from Denmark

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Mind Design, the Design Research Webzine of the Danish Centre for Design Research, contains a wealth of information, all available in English.

Here are some highlights:

Article
Companies: Design Research Works in Practice
Design researchers are developing new, applicable knowledge together with organisations in the private and public sector. That was the clear conclusion at the mini-conference on the impact of design research that the Danish Centre for Design Research held at The Black Diamond in Copenhagen on 17 September 2012. Here, Rambøll, Bang & Olufsen and other companies shared case stories about how collaboration with researchers is creating value for their organisations.

Article
Using Experience Design to Reach a Broader Audience for Classical Music
How can we use new, digital technologies to make classical music more appealing and accessible – especially for a younger audience? A group of symphony orchestras and educational institutions in Denmark and Sweden have set out to address that question in a large-scale research collaboration that has received funding from the EU’s interregional development fund.

Dissertation
Inviting the Materials Into Co-Design Processes
Materials are important actors in co-design processes. Therefore they should be invited in and assigned roles when co-designers organise projects, workshops or events, for example in the field of service design. That is one of the key conclusions in a PhD dissertation on the role of materials in co-design which Mette Agger Eriksen defended at Malmö University on 13 June 2012.
> Download dissertation (pdf)

Dissertation
Realising the Full Potential of Drawing
Drawing is a language in its own right that holds a large potential for idea development, says Anette Højlund, who defended her PhD dissertation on drawing and creation on 13 April 2012. In the dissertation she examines what she calls the dialogue between the drawing and the person drawing. In this conversation with Mind Design she concludes that the potential of drawing could be utilised far better, for example in visualising issues that reach across disciplinary boundaries.
> Download dissertation summary (pdf)

Dissertation
Hierarchies and Humour in the Design Process
Humour plays an important role in the design process, argues Mette Volf, who recently defended her PhD dissertation Når nogen ler, er der noget på spil (When someone laughs there is something at stake). In her dissertation she explores the design process as social construct. Humour is used, for example, to turn the formal hierarchies on their head.

Dissertation
PhD Dissertation Challenges Traditional Interaction Design
Interaction design can easily incorporate both a body element and an empathy element. This was demonstrated by Maiken Hillerup Fogtmann, who as part of her PhD project developed interactive exercise equipment for team handball players and computer-based play equipment for children. She defended her dissertation, Designing with the Body in Mind, on 23 January 2012 at the Aarhus School of Architecture.
> Download dissertation summary (pdf)

Article
Making Active and Innovative Use of Your Customer Base
Companies are keen to get in touch with their customers and users in order to gain new ideas for products and business potentials. A project headed by the Danish Technological Institute focuses on user types that are potentially valuable for business. The conclusion is that the key lies in getting involved, identifying the company’s needs and involving the right users at the right time in the strategic processes.

Article
Design as Innovation Facilitator
Design-driven innovation in companies can result in both actual product development and the development of processes and business strategies. That was one of the points made at the workshop Design Driven Innovation – Organizing for Growth held at the Kolding School of Design in December 2011. Furthermore, the role of the position of design in relation to the individual company or organisation was emphasised.

16 October 2012

The Age of User Experience Design – Infographic

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The growth of the User Experience Design field is breathtaking, but well deserved. Thanks to UX Designers all over the world, the quality of products has increased dramatically. Design really does matter now. It’s a user centric world in which there’s not only Apple on the scene anymore.

View infographic

(via InfoDesign)

10 October 2012

Top 10 things still to fix in experience design

 

Here’s the view of Ray McCune, managing partner at Flow, on some of the peaks we still have to climb if experience design is to become a mainstream business discipline.

It’s quite excellent.

1. Targets and incentives within businesses must be aligned with long-term value
As long as business managers are incentivised only to deliver against short-term goals in narrow areas of business performance, companies will struggle to make significant improvements in their relationships with customers.

2. We need to stop designing experiences based on company structure
We’re already seeing a rush by individual business units within large organisations to launch their own individual mobile offerings, often with little thought for the overall experience.

3. The User Experience community needs to get out more
We are talking to ourselves more than anyone else. [...] We need to seek out opportunities to speak with politicians, business owners, executives and managers on their own ground and use a vocabulary that resonates with them: tying UX to social benefit, improved business performance and new marketing opportunities.

4. Improve the user experience of boxed products
All too often the out-of-the-box experience offered by third-party products simply isn’t flexible enough to create a valuable, differentiated experience for customers.

5. Most digital agencies are charlatans
Ten years ago, few digital agencies had any user experience offering, so it should seem like progress that today the majority of agencies make the vocabulary of UX central to their pitch and their proposition. Or perhaps not.

6. Pitches are a uniquely bad way of finding a good design agency…
…but they remain a very good way of finding a bad design agency. The traditional pitch process is flawed because it requires agencies to begin the process of making decisions about creative ideas and complex interactions in the absence of insight and understanding.

7. NPS is a blunt tool
While Net Promotor Score (NPS) is good at telling a company what is happening, it’s less good at telling a company why. What influences advocacy is subtle, and NPS lacks the subtlety to help inform experimentation and optimisation of customer experience.

8. The cult of data
Even if data is infallible, the high priests interpreting the data are not. In almost every company we know, data analysts find patterns in the numbers and then guess at their meaning. That guesswork is passed up the line, sometimes to board level, but it masquerades as fact because its source is ‘the numbers’.

9. Still not enough investment in solving basic usability issues
While companies have increasingly employed usability testing to improve their sales and service processes there is still a clear tendency to act only on the issues which are easiest to fix.

10. Too much disrespect for customers
Henry Ford still gets quoted by people who want to marginalise the opinion of customers. There’s a lazy acceptance by many in business that user research is futile.

(via InfoDesign)

2 October 2012

Anthropological study by Google on our magic relationship with mobile devices

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What is the emotional relationship people truly have with the mobile space and how they make meaning there? To answer this, Google conducted an anthropological study to gain a better understanding of how people feel about, relate to and find meaning in the mobile space, and how brands can engage their consumers in more emotionally resonant and impactful ways.

“We hired an anthropologist to interview dozens of ordinary mobile device owners and observe them as they interacted with their smartphones. The first thing we found is that the phone’s pocket size is anything but a flaw — in fact, it’s the key to understanding what it really means.

Anthropology teaches us that in every culture, miniatures possess the power to unlock imaginations. Whether it’s a dollhouse, toy truck, or some other tiny talisman, miniatures look and feel real, but their size gives us the permission to suspend disbelief, daydream, and play. Remember The Nutcracker? In between pirouettes, a toy nutcracker comes to life, defeats an evil mouse, and whisks the heroine away to a magical kingdom. That, in a nutshell, is the story we implicitly tell ourselves about our miniature computers — one of youth, freedom, and possessing the key to a much larger world.

“Because it’s in my pocket I somehow squeeze this time in for various things — and only because I think it just sits in my pocket,” one of our subjects told us.

The screens may be small, but they serve as gateways to the gigantic. We see this power manifest in insights gleaned from the anthropologist’s observations. Our mobile devices help us fully actualize our best self, or what we call the Quicksilver Self; they engage us to create a shared culture, the New Tribalism; and they help us to make sense of the physical world around us, an act we describe as Placemaking. Understanding the deeper levels at which individuals, customers, are finding meaning in mobile will enable marketers to put this powerful medium to its best use.”

Report by Think With Google

1 October 2012

Mass persuasion, one user at a time

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Nir Eyal writes how marketers are increasingly personalizing their products and services to meet their customers’ changing needs, and how customization used in conjunction with powerful persuasion techniques provides new weaponry to boost customer engagement and drive profits.

“Mass customization, of the kind used by Amazon to predict which products to offer based on past behaviors, is increasingly supplemented with “personalized persuasion,” whereby the psychological technique used to appeal to the customers is tailored to increase the intended action. Companies not only customize their experiences to give customers what they want, but they also keep tabs on users to present their messages exactly how the user wants it.”

Read article

Nir Eyal blogs about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business at NirAndFar.com. He is the author of the forthcoming book “Hooked: How to Drive Engagement by Creating User Habits.”