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Posts in category 'Business'

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.”

26 September 2012

The magic of good service

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THE customer is king. So some firms have started appointing chief customer officers (CCOs) to serve the king more attentively. These new additions to the (already crowded) C-suite are supposed to look at the business from the customer’s point of view. They try to focus on the entire “customer experience”, rather than on individual transactions.

An article by The Economist reflects on the matter, and refers to the book “Outside In” (Amazon) by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine of Forrester Research, who observe that customers are growing more powerful.

“The internet makes it easier to shop around and share complaints with a wide audience. Yet poor service persists. Mr Manning and Ms Bodine have been asking customers about their experiences with American companies for years. In 2012 a third of the 160 firms they asked about were rated “poor” or “very poor”. Health insurers and cable companies fared worst.”

The article ends with this hilarious recommendation: “Phone a firm that has appointed a chief customer officer and see if you can reach a human being. If not, that CCO might as well be tossed from an executive-floor window, no doubt clutching his collection of ‘journey maps’ and ‘customer archetypes’.”

23 September 2012

SAP’s new Mobility Design Center uses user-centered design approach

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A few days ago SAP announced the opening of the new SAP Mobility Design Center to help customers meet the growing need for individualized mobile solutions.

Headquartered on the company’s campus in Palo Alto, Calif., the center is focused on enabling companies to keep up with the consumerization of IT trend by conceptualizing, designing and building mobile solutions to better connect with employees and consumers.

To achieve consumer-grade experiences, customers collaborate with a team of user experience (UX) designers, architects and developers. The team employs design thinking principles and validates mobile solutions with end users continually throughout the build process.

The SAP Mobility Design Center is a one-stop shop for designing, developing and validating customer-specific mobile enterprise solutions that are intuitive for users and leverage features such as touch, camera, GPS and other device functionality across a variety of device platforms.

21 September 2012

Can ethnography save enterprise social networking?

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In this guest post for Ethnography Matters, Mike Gotta from Cisco Systems, makes the case for bringing the human back into enterprise software design and development, starting out with enterprise social networking (ESN). The introduction to the post is by ethnographer Tricia Wang.

“One of the biggest problems with ESN’s right now is that developers and trainers don’t account for culture. Often times ESNs are implemented with little understanding of the company’s social and tech context. For example, companies try to incentivize employees to fill out social profiles, or blog, or join communities, but often employees don’t understand why, or what’s in it for them to change their behavior to collaborate in such a public way. The result – slow adoption of the ESN. Can better design practices solve the problem? How can ethnographers help fill the context and cultural gap?”

16 September 2012

Luxury brands need luxury retail experiences, even in the online space

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Jonathan Ross, business development director at FACT-Finder, discusses the steps luxury brands can take to ensure a more rewarding online retail experience for consumers.

“A recent study by McKinsey and Altagamma, the Italian association of luxury brands, appears to finally dispel the idea that online shopping is the preserve of discounted brands and shoppers looking to pick up a bargain. As far as the luxury category was concerned, there was a nagging suspicion that shoppers needed to experience a tactile relationship with their potential purchases in a way that could never be achieved online.

The McKinsey study surveyed more than 300 luxury brands, 700 websites and more than 2.5m online comments, including those on social media platforms. Digital sales are expected to reach about €15bn in the luxury market by 2016, but the survey also found that use of the internet by consumers for research and price comparison meant that about 15% of total sales in the luxury goods industry are directly generated by digital media. As much as a fifth of store sales (a market worth in the region of €34bn) is said to be directly influenced by the online experience.”

> Financial Times article about the Digital Luxury Experience report

16 September 2012

PARC ethnographer on the power of observation

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In an article for GigaOM, Ellen Isaacs (personal site), a user experience designer and ethnographer for PARC, explains the benefits of using ethnography to develop better mobile products.

“Ethnographic studies likely save businesses far more time than they take. These observations and analysis can reveal insights that shift projects toward demonstrated problems. They also provide specific information about what features to include and how to design them to fit with people’s current practices. And perhaps most importantly, they can keep companies from developing a technology that solves the wrong problem or does it the wrong way. With benefits like this, it seems to me that companies don’t have time not to do ethnography.”

4 September 2012

Africa embracing m-commerce

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In a new report from its ConsumerLab, Ericsson maps out the potential of transformation within m-commerce across the region of sub-Saharan Africa.

Based on in-depth, extensive interviews with mobile phone users in Ghana, South Africa, and Tanzania, the report has four key findings: that consumers are constantly looking for new ways to improve their personal budgets; the speed and convenience of m-commerce points to great potential in the market; current behaviors and social structures indicate that the use of mobile payment services will expand; and that consumers need more information about the functionality and security of m-commerce transactions.

Consumers tell Ericsson researchers that they use mobile payment services for person-to-person transfers and purchasing airtime on their mobile subscriptions, and that they like the convenience of accessing money everywhere and at anytime, regardless of service hours. In Tanzania, for example, 38% of subscribers send money person-to-person over the mobile phone.

Another conclusion of the report is that people who use m-commerce keep little separation between private and business accounts.

Experience leads to greater trust, and the report finds that 44% of non-users of m-commerce are very worried about the integrity of their account information in case of theft or loss of their phones.

- Press release
- Media kit

2 September 2012

Focus on service design – in UK and in Italy

 

Earlier this year, the UK Design Council and the Arts & Humanities Research Council conducted a wide ranging review of the place of design research in UK universities, and its connection with businesses and policymakers. The aim was to identify future areas for research funding, and new and innovative ways of bringing research and industry together to contribute their ideas.

The findings from the initial scoping study indicated that a focus on service design is of the utmost importance, as it is an interesting field both in the design profession and in academic research, and one in which there is considerable opportunity for engagement with business:

“In relation to the UK design industry and the disciplines that we reviewed, we think it would be fair to say that the area that is perhaps most neglected is the developing sector and discipline of service design. It was certainly the area most regularly cited as in need of attention across all of the stakeholder research that we have conducted, but also has the potential to make major contributions to innovation and to major challenges such as health and sustainability.”

We believe that it is bringing together economists, design businesses and design researchers in multidisciplinary teams that will generate evidence that can fill some of the gaps currently seen in the literature.”

The Design Council will now conduct a study of service design that will conclude in November.

Italy

In Italy, there is a strong tradition of service design at academic level, with high-level English language Masters programmes at Domus Academy (directed by Elena Pacenti) and at the Milan Polytechnic (directed by Anna Meroni).

But too few of the students end up working as service designers in Italy, and despite good initiatives such as Feeding Milano (LIFT conference video), the impact of these programmes on public services is still scarce.

We at Experientia contribute to making that change happen, having hired former students from both programmes and also recruited their interns. They work with Italian and global players in multi-disciplinary and evidence-based projects, as recommended by the Design Council scoping study. Experientia partners Jan-Christoph Zoels and Mark Vanderbeeken also taught service design this Spring at resp. Domus and the Polytechnic, eager to inspire future positive change in the Italian context.

24 July 2012

Co-design in innovation

 

In a short post on the Huffington Post blog, author Soren Petersen describes how co-design – when firms and non-design users jointly design business and product offerings – is seen as a potential new avenue for breakthrough innovation in design.

“Inviting expert users and normal users to contribute their ideas has been used in design for decades; however, inviting users and other stakeholders to participate in the design synthesis process continues to be meet with some resistance from designers. Studies show that designers fundamentally believe that design and decision-making by committee caters to the lowest common denominator. In the process, concepts are watered down to a bland solution and make no one really happy.”

9 July 2012

Design alone can’t save UK companies

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Making products attractive and user-friendly is a smart idea, but it is no substitute for R&D and investment, argues James Woudhuysen, a professor of forecasting and innovation at De Montfort University, on Spiked, a British Internet magazine focusing on politics, culture and society from a humanist and libertarian viewpoint.

“Exaggerating design’s scope for impact is now a global pastime. For example, the New York City design firm Reboot seriously proposes that human rights can be designed, because ‘at our local health clinic, at our unemployment office or at our child’s school… [there] are the moments when human rights are realised in practical ways’. This underlines how the boosting of design’s economic contribution is part of a wider doctrine of what Virginia Tech professor Paul Knox rightly terms ‘hubristic design determinism’. Whereas Karl Marx argued that social being determines consciousness, design boosters contend that design plays a determining role in both economic growth and everyday behaviour. Arguably, they take a leaf from architecture here; but whatever the case, even leading economic commentators are now so bereft of a genuine strategy for growth that they find themselves pronouncing that ‘Design adds value to the product – in fact design adds most of the value to the product’.

This conception of design is completely over the top. If they want to be ambitious, and they should, designers should recognise that real economic growth will come from the development of whole new industrial and service sectors, capable of creating hundreds of thousands of properly paid jobs. Design cannot create those industries – they will come out of the much more elemental processes of R&D, the kind of R&D that led to the nuclear, plastics and pharmaceuticals sectors. And whether this R&D happens is, again, not a technical issue, but to do with the priorities and vision of society. Right now, the West prefers to talk up the merits of relatively cheap design than to do the dearer, riskier business of R&D.”

Read article

13 June 2012

Who’s the Chief Experience Officer?

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Method principal Reuben Steiger argues that companies need to start thinking about the holistic relationship between their brands, products, and services.

“Crafting an experience requires design that considers these 3 elements of brand, product, and service in order to generate successful results. Any company can be analyzed through these lenses to evaluate the experience it creates for its customers. The iPhone is a product that delivers services and fulfills the promise of the Apple brand. Other examples abound: Nike Fuel, Amazon Kindle and HBO GO. Put another way, a product is an experience that occurs in the moment. A service is a relationship that extends over time and across platforms and mediums. A brand is much more than the logo; it is the pattern our brains expect based on everything we have previously heard, seen, and felt. All of these components roll up into the larger experience.” [...]

“Ultimately, we all recognize a great experience when we encounter it, but designing your own is elusively difficult. The days of perfect plans within a top-down hierarchy are over. Instead, we need to influence our companies to embrace shared values and product principles. Then, each of us can be a Chief Experience Officer creating memorable experiences and a cohesive, engaging, and delightful brand.”

Read article

7 June 2012

Computational user experiences at Microsoft Research

 

“The Computational User Experiences (CUE) group [at Microsoft Research] creates technologies that augment our personal and professional digital lives to enhance individual and collaborative pursuits. We apply expertise in machine learning, visualization, mobile computing, sensors and devices, and quantitative and qualitative evaluation techniques to improve the state of the art in physiological computing, healthcare, home technologies, computer-assisted creativity, and entertainment.”

(Check the projects and publications)

6 June 2012

The curious case of Internet privacy

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Free services in exchange for personal information. That’s the “privacy bargain” we all strike on the Web. Cory Doctorow argues it could be the worst deal ever.

“Far from destroying business, letting users control disclosure would create value. Design an app that I willingly give my location to (as I do with the Hailo app for ordering black cabs in London) and you’d be one of the few and proud firms with my permission to access and sell that information. Right now, the users and the analytics people are in a shooting war, but only the analytics people are armed. There’s a business opportunity for a company that wants to supply arms to the rebels instead of the empire.”

Read article