Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
Audience Business Culture Design Locations Media Methods Services Social Issues






















Experience design

Interaction design


Service design

Ubiquitous computing












Mobile phone


Virtual world






User experience

User research


Financial services


Public services



Urban development


Digital divide

Emerging markets


Social change


Search results for 'kirah'
5 December 2009

Bill Buxton, Martin Raymond & Anna Kirah presentations – Imagine 09

Bill Buxton, Martin Raymond and Anna Kirah were some of the speakers at Imagine09, a conference organised by Microsoft Advertising on 28 October in London.

Living in the age of turbulence
Anna Kirah, partner, CPH Design (and former senior design anthropologist, Microsoft Corporation)
Anna explores how advertisers can flourish in the new Age of Turbulence by understanding the needs of people in their everyday and not so everyday lives. This is the age where people’s values, their needs and their desires change abruptly, and where people no longer view their ‘digital’ and ‘real’ lives as separate.
Reflecting on the impact people have on technology, as well as the impact technology has on people, Anna will introduce ‘BIG SISTER’, a concept where benevolent, caring, technology guides you through the Age of Turbulence with seamless convergence.

Martin Raymond, co-founder, The Future Laboratory
Barack Obama describes it as the ‘audacity of hope’, innovators, planners, academics and authors are referring to it as Dreamtelligence, a new vital and visionary way to use play, fantasy, dream- thinking and innovation to kickstart ideas and stimulate consumer engagement. Martin unpacks the trends and outlines what dreamtelligence means to digital business amidst the continued growth of a content-savvy consumer.

The long nose of innovation
Bill Buxton, principal researcher, Microsoft
Hear Bill Buxton share his vision for ‘The Long Nose of Innovation’ addressing the impact of future technologies on advertisers and marketers.

Watch videos

29 May 2008

Interview with design anthropologist Anna Kirah

Anne Kirah
Anna Kirah is a design anthropologist specialised in people-centered innovation. She has collaborated with many companies such as Microsoft (where as senior design anthropologist she contributed greatly to the success of MSN) and Boeing. She was the founding dean of the Danish 180º Academy and is currently working as innovation leader at Future Navigator and at her own consulting company.

In this interview she shares her thoughts about teaching person-centred and innovative thinking to business managers, about using virtual environments or Web 2.0 tools to backup learning experiences, and about people-centred learning.

Read interview (pdf)

6 December 2007

Anne Kirah and the 180°academy turning business education on its head

Anne Kirah
Business Week profiles Anne Kirah, former design anthropologist at Microsoft, and now Dean of the new Danish school called 180°academy, where she is “shaking managers out of their traditional ways of doing things and forcing them, perhaps for the first time, to understand their customers’ cultures and to discern their needs.”

In September about 20 executives, mostly from Scandinavia, hopped on a plane for a trip designed to shatter their notions of how to do business. The group, comprised of the first batch of students at a new Danish school called 180°academy, jetted off to South Africa. There they worked with a group called the Business Place to help would-be entrepreneurs realize such dreams as opening a hair salon or starting a toy business, though they had no relevant experience or skills.

The program isn’t anything like business school, where students focus largely on areas of their expertise. And that’s the point. Conventional business education leads executives to build on their strengths—improving profit margins, boosting efficiency, and benchmarking the best practices of rivals. This school aims to teach midcareer executives something many think is unteachable: how to be innovative. “We’ve got to break them from what they know best,” says Anne Kirah, the academy’s kinetic, gum-chewing, American dean. “When you’re only focused on your competition and what you know best, you don’t innovate.”

Read full story

(Kirah has been featured before on this blog and also been interviewed by me last year.)

28 May 2007

Spanish translation of Experientia interview with Anne Kirah

Anne Kirah
Luis López Toledo, a Chilean industrial designer, has published a Spanish translation of the interview I did last year with Anne Kirah, former senior design anthropologist at Microsoft’s MSN Customer Design Centre, and currently dean of the new 180º Academy in Denmark.

Thank you Luis.

- Read interview in Spanish
Read interview in English

13 February 2007

Anne Kirah: “When culture meets technology and when technology meets culture”

Anne Kirah
Anne Kirah, until recently Senior Design Anthropologist at the Microsoft Corporation, spoke recently about her experience in developing software user interfaces that are based on local cultural conditions.

The 50 minute talk, which can be seen in video stream, was held on 30 January at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

Using multiple case studies from global ethnographic field research and participatory design in 12 countries, we find the level of technological adoption as a mitigating factor in determining what types of social software are being used and how they are being used. On the other hand, culture and social context mitigates what is successful and what is not on the social front. A key take away from field research and participatory design is that software takes on its own life based on the cultural and social contexts of everyday life. At the same time, global trends are developing based on the level of technological adoption. Understanding the interplay between technology and culture through deep understanding of peoples’ motivations and aspirations, as well as understanding how technological adoption pushes the envelope, will help us build software that is useful, culturally relevant and desirable.

Anne Kirah
Until recently, Anne Kirah served as a senior design anthropologist for the Microsoft Corporation. Kirah was responsible for global field research and participatory design.Kirah’s primary focus is on future product innovation, people centered research and strategic direction. She recently won the award for MSN Contributor of the Year. Kirah left her job at Microsoft to become the dean and faculty member of 180º Academy, a new global innovation school created by a consortium of Danish and international industry leaders. She is a partner in a small consulting company focused on introducing radical innovation processes in to companies wanting to approach the rapidly paced and global world we live in.

13 November 2006

Experientia interviews Anne Kirah, senior design anthropologist at Microsoft

Anne Kirah
Anne Kirah (bio) is senior design anthropologist at Microsoft’s MSN Customer Design Centre. In this interview, she talks on the importance of taking off your blinders and focusing on the real lives of real people. She discusses her work at Microsoft and her latest challenges.

She highlights that “it is just as important understanding people who are not using technology as it is to understand people who are using technology” and describes what the challenges were in changing Microsoft from a tech-centred company to a people-centred one.

She reflects on how companies can change to have a people-centred focus no matter what their products and services are, on the new 180º Academy where she is directing the programming, and on her new consulting activities.

The interview, which was conducted in October, is published as a prelude to the European Market Research Event that Anne co-chairs and Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken will attend and blog about.


Anne Kirah (bio) is senior design anthropologist at Microsoft’s MSN Customer Design Centre. In this interview, she talks on the importance of taking off your blinders and focusing on the real lives of real people. She discusses her work at Microsoft and her latest challenges.

The interview was conducted by Mark Vanderbeeken and took place in October 2006.

* * * * *


How did you start your work as an anthropologist for Microsoft?

When they hired me eight years ago as the first official anthropologist, they weren’t sure what to do with me, so they had me design my own job. I soon realised that Microsoft had until then the tendency to come up with feature and product designs within the confines of its own walls. Microsoftees just didn’t have much of an idea what real people in their everyday and not so everyday lives were doing. After all, I think it is just as important to understand people who are not using technology as it is to understand people who are using technology when you are meant to be building products or services that are meaningful, relevant and useful to people in their everyday and not so everyday lives. What went on in the minds of Microsoft’s brilliant software engineers and of people outside the walls of Microsoft, was not always very congruent. So I created the Real People Real Data (RPRD) programme for Windows XP’s development cycle.

Tell me more about how you started out with the RPRD programme.

At first I went to meetings and listened to people (employees at Microsoft) talking. They were just on another planet for me. It was like going to another country where I didn’t speak the language. Then there was the disconnect with what was going on outside Microsoft. For example I was asked to go out and watch people purchase computers, and set up an internet connection. In the usability lab it took on average 3 hours (three hours!) to set up computer and internet. But outside the lab none of the 40 families I studied were able to set up the internet. Those 40 families by the way were randomly chosen families from all over the United States (not just Redmond, my first big win). Later on I would also get them to realise the importance of research outside the United States. So none of the 40 families were able to do it by themselves without serious technical support, and even then they took much longer than the average usability lab time of 3 hours. This told us that people who signed up for usability lab assessment were not average people, but rather techno hobbyists who knew something about usability.

So Windows XP was changed to accommodate those insights.

Not immediately. Microsoft first launched the beta of XP and the same thing happened. We had 1000 beta testing consumers and I had my 40 families also setting up the beta. My families were plaguing the tech support guys assigned to the beta. At first my boss was furious and asked me what was wrong with my people. Later on we found out that the 1000 beta users were again IT-pros who enjoy taking software home, while my 40 families were more representative of everyday people. I had made a video of the first field study, which showed a very angry customer who couldn’t manage to set up his computer. I was called in by the Vice-President of Windows who asked me what I needed to stop humiliating him. That is when Real People Real Data got a budget and it became possible for us to impact not only the future design of XP and other products, but to change the company culture to focus on people. It didn’t hurt either that during my first year at Microsoft, I had the intense surprise of going to our company meeting with 40,000 other people and have Steve Ballmer name the Real People Real Data programme as a symbol for what we were going after.

That must have been very moving.

It was. But most moving were the comments from the families. The families are those who really inspired me by giving me the opportunity to see into their lives and letting me understand their aspirations and motivations. This allowed me to transform these data into meaningful and relevant information for software engineers, so that they could make changes to the designs of our products and services in order to meet those people’s aspirations and motivations. A couple aged 78 came to the “release to manufacture” of Windows XP. They had written a letter to me, which was read out by the VP. It said they couldn’t believe that Microsoft would be interested in them and that they were stunned to see their thoughts and ideas incorporated in to the design of Windows XP. Afterwards tons of software engineers were in tears to meet them saying that they finally understood whom they were building for. Honestly I cried too! The moments I have truly loved at work are the moments when the deepest cynics got a twinkle in their eye and I could see change, change from tech-driven to people-driven. That is what I am most proud of, not the features and services that have come out of it.

[Anne adds after the interview that Howard, who was the husband of the 78 year old couple died recently at 85. “I found out that tech support for Windows VISTA had a corner of their office called: “Howard’s corner” dedicated to making the product acceptable to Howard as a symbol for everyday people in their everyday lives. I went to Howard’s funeral and delivered a speech for the family. It was very moving and most importantly of all, I realised that Howard was a symbol for so much and he will live on in the hearts of many people in my company.”]


Changing a culture…

My work on the RPRD programme was in fact the start of a revolution within Microsoft, and helped the company change from techno-driven to people-driven design. I did of course have some impact on Windows XP but I am much prouder being part of the cultural change at Microsoft than I am of the products and features that have been impacted by Microsoft’s anthropological research. Today, I firmly believe that products and services that are not grounded in understanding the people they are being made for, will result in failure.

What came after your Windows XP experience?

I worked on a product that failed. We predicted it, the group went ahead anyway and it failed. This failure gave me credibility since we had predicted it. I since worked with mobile applications and Messenger, both MSN in general (in Europe people often think it is only Messenger), as well as individual apps such as Hotmail, communications, MSN Spaces, etc.

You worked mainly on mass-market consumer applications?

People are not just consumer or enterprise or whatever. We switch roles all during the day and when we have data relevant to an area within Microsoft, we give them to that area.

Fair enough. But these are all apps that are also consumer apps.

No, XP is also enterprise. There is a Messenger that is for enterprise. There are calendar issues that are not consumer. And when we have relevant data for these areas, they go to the enterprise people.

Microsoft makes quite some applications that are only for business.

The problem is that you are thinking within a mental model of business vs. consumer. In the course of any given day, real people are in both spheres and they overlap! I even worked sometimes in the small biz space when I had relevant data. In fact they are integrated. I have a big issue with how we are taught to think. It is as if we have to unlearn to get to what I think is fairly obvious. I believe strongly that if you want to innovate, you must take off your blinders built through your education and your work experience. As long as you are blinded by these two things, you can not see the world and the potential around you. You can only make changes incrementally based on the lack of understanding of what is really happening around you.

So you don’t focus on particular types of applications?

The data my team collects are holistic. It is not for any one product, be it service enterprise related or consumer related. It is related to the real lives of real people, not to market segmentation. I can easily get annoyed with market segmentation that is purely built on averages and superficial field research. There are plenty of people out there calling themselves ethnographers who do work that is of dangerously poor quality. Of course, we can argue the same for nearly all disciplines. But I am obviously only one person and therefore tend to focus on areas that can have impact for as many people as possible.

How has the user-focused process evolved since?

Let me first say that I never speak about users. Did you wake up this morning defining yourself as a user? No. Maybe you woke up with an alarm clock, so you are an employee. Maybe you woke up with a baby, so you are a father. Maybe you woke up with your wife or lover, which makes you a spouse or a lover. But you sure as hell didn’t wake up and say: good morning world, I am a USER. If we create jargon to deal with our research, then we are no better than the engineers and anyone else who doesn’t speak the language of everyday people in their everyday lives and not so everyday people in their not so everyday lives or any combination thereof. The kind of innovation I am involved with means changing the cultures at work by speaking the same language and culture as the people the company is innovating for.


Describe me Microsoft’s people-centred development approach then.

We do both exploratory and reactive research. Exploratory research means taking off the Microsoft hat and studying life stages and life events associated with a life stage. This means looking at people who are at a basic level focused on everyday aspirations and motivations. For instance, a new mother needing support or trying to figure out the best diaper to buy, or a lonely single person looking for someone to love. We look for patterns across life stages, within life stages, across cultures, and within cultures, and we make design recommendations based on the themes that emerge.

How does that then lead to new applications?

From the exploratory research, we get data that are being condensed into themes. We then have these very cool ideation sessions — brainstorming, story boarding, rapid prototyping, dream ideas based in the motivations and aspirations of people — with the programme and product managers (the PM’s). We create lists of concept ideas, which we prioritise based on market research and design research, and then develop into new features, products and services. Even when a programme manager comes up with an idea for an app on their own, they first of all ask if we have data to support the concept and we work with them to be sure the idea is relevant, meaningful and useful.

Where do Microsoft’s user experience designers fit into this process?

They are part of the link between our data and the coders. For example on my old team the user experience designers worked with the data from the field and the PM’s, and bridged the link through design. I am not a designer… I can’t design anything. I can come up with ideas, concepts that need to be transformed.

How would you describe this transformation process?

It’s like an illustrator, an interpreter. You have to read the book first to be able to illustrate. In fact, they are the most important part of the process because they breathe life into the concepts. But in the end, we are a team. Let me give you an example. One day not so long ago a designer, a PM and myself brainstormed on a certain topic. By listening to the two others, and thinking through the themes, I came up with a patentable idea. They immediately told me that I should patent it. I said no, WE patent it. Nobody and I mean nobody comes up with an idea alone. I just don’t buy that. We might feel we do at times, but we forget the experiences and people behind these experiences that are inherent to our ability to come up with ideas. I would never have come up with that idea if I hadn’t been sitting and discussing a topic with people of a different mindset than my own, each representing different styles and different parts of the process. So they deserve as much credit as I do. I came up with the concept idea with them, not alone. WE came up with the design together. All of this is teamwork and this is vitally important to me.

You also mentioned reactive research.

Reactive research is when you study a particular product or product area. For example when Messenger was not succeeding in Japan, my team was sent there to figure out why and to come up with solutions that would be meaningful and relevant to the Japanese. It turned out that in Japan synchronous communication is considered the rudest form of communication possible. So we made Messenger asynchronous, which means that you can send a message even if the other person is not online. However in doing this, we realised that this intervention, which originated from a culturally specific need, was also meaningful for the rest of the world. In the end we changed the platform globally.


Do you also do reactive research on Windows, for example, to help prepare a new release?

Yes, we do and have done. For Vista there have been six real people feedback programmes that are directly related to what you ask: Windows Vista user experience, customer love, living with Windows Vista, working with Windows Vista, living with Windows Vista global, and Windows desirability. In short, they addressed living with Vista at home, at work, in different countries and in different contexts. But all this is done as a team: usability, design research, coders, programme managers, software engineers and anthropologists. I am proud of my team, of the other teams that I worked with. They are amazing people. Success is built upon working together as a team.

I am asking this question about Vista for three reasons: it is a major release, it is the Microsoft programme that most people will use in a few years and it is promoted with a strong emphasis on the user experience. So I am trying to better understand what is behind that claim, and how you have helped in making that happen?

Well, I am the founder of the Real People programme and worked on Vista at its earliest stages. I left Windows 3-4 years ago though I since still had meetings with the people over there. I started the Internet version of the Real People programme and our data often overlaps. In fact, we became now completely integrated after a recent reorganisation. But Vista is not really my baby.

Fair enough. You started out by talking about the change from a tech-centred to a people-centred company. Is Microsoft now a people-centred company?

Parts of it are, parts of it are not. But that is the direction they are going and it warms my heart.


Where are the biggest obstacles still?

Well, you can change people by giving them experiences that change them. It starts with the education models that do not take into account people-centred design enough, that are not equipped to address the rapid changes that come with the technological revolution (as opposed to the incremental changes of the industrial world), and that do not yet see the world as a global world, though it IS.

You told me that you are involved with some new initiatives, in part dealing with education, which are not immediately connected to Microsoft…

I am very loyal to Microsoft which has given me amazing opportunities. But yes, I am now on a 50% leave from Microsoft, working as a corporate consultant and helping set up an academy.

Let’s talk about the academy first. How will it change education?

In fact there are two academies. The first one (see also article on Putting People First) is a 9-module course for people in the workforce now. It will start off next year. It’s called 180° Academy, based on the concept that we want to turn people 180° around. The other provides a fulltime Masters and PhD. It is not ready for a few years and is only in the concept stages. Both were formed with a focus on front end research before concept making and the commercialisation of concepts.

The 180° Academy was started by some top Danish business…

Yes, companies such as Bang & Olufsen, Lego, Novo Nordisk, Gumlink, Middelfart Sparekasse, Nokia, and Danfoss. I was hired to create the curriculum and hire the faculty. I am just so passionately involved with it. It has given my life new meaning because all I really want to do is save the world and to be able to touch the lives of powerful people (me not being powerful), I have a chance at it. I truly believe that the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. It is the most exciting thing I have ever done.

What makes you so excited?

My passion for working at the academy and in educational world in general is based on my deep belief that we need to change the educational system to be successful in any industry. I work on change management in my consulting work for the same reasons because companies just can’t afford to wait for the educational revolution to take place. They really want to turn things upside down a bit. This all goes back to people-centred design. How can companies change to have a people-centred focus no matter what their services and products are? How can education change to create people who can adapt to this rapidly moving world and focus on the matters of the heart? This is where my passion is and where I will continue to work for the rest of my working years.

You are advocating a new educational approach…

Education has to stop creating models and start giving people tools that help them adapt to rapid change, that allow them to take “context” into account. Each situation is different and you need to have a new tool kit each time. Education should stop creating a one-directional model. The world is not linear. Production and design is not linear. Even the word iterative can be annoying because then it just becomes one linear process on top of another – the same old thing over and over again. I know I am being provocative, so I apologise but if I could stand on top of the Eiffel tower and be heard. Here are some of my core ideas on this:

  • Values from connecting the heart and mind
  • We work too much with our blinders on
  • Innovation comes from learning to see people and things through new lenses
  • Observing the lives and the environment of people
  • A willingness to build with the people we observe
  • Allowing for values of the heart and mind to be embraced
  • Being humble and practicing humility
  • and taking risks!

There are still too many top-down models in just about everything. In education. In politics and governance. In urban planning. Etc. We have to find more creative ways to work bottom-up, to let people co-create.

That is my mission in life. We are on the edge of a revolution and I think we will see a paradigm shift in the next five to ten years when we will get the people with blinders on either to see the light or to move on.


You are also getting involved in corporate consulting…

Yes, it’s currently called the Kirah Group, although we keep changing the name of it. We are focused on the stage before they realise they need companies like yours [i.e. Experientia, an experience design consultancy]. We run workshops with the top management of companies to help them see that by understanding people, environment, context, you can actually open your minds and see the vast areas of innovation. If you ask the wrong questions you get the wrong answers. I set them up to hire people like your company to help them.

The name sounds a bit like a family consultancy. The Kirah’s.

LOL. There are four of us. We are in a sense a family, very close-knit people whom I love dearly: my partner Stefano, my colleague Soren and his wife Vivi. We are very diverse and supplement each other very, very well.

You are basically working on a strategic level rather than doing actual on-the-ground research?

Yes, we focus on strategy, vision and change management.


And now you are co-chairing the European Market Research Event.

I participated in the Market Research Event in San Francisco last year. It provides an opportunity for those working in market research to link better to product development and to learn about different methods and practices in the industry. I got involved more intensely when I sent them some reflections on the San Francisco event. I also adore the other co-chair of the European event, Christian Madsbjerg of RED Associates, a great company.

Anne, thank you so much.

My pleasure.

* * * * *


Anne Kirah serves as a senior design anthropologist for Microsoft’s MSN Customer Design Center and is responsible for global field research and participatory design. Her primary focus is on future product innovation and people centred research for MSN. Kirah recently won the award for MSN Contributor of the Year (2004).

Kirah is currently working with a consortium of Danish industry leaders to create a curriculum and hire faculty for a new global innovation school called 180º Academy, and is also a partner in the Kirah Group which does consulting work.

Kirah, who joined Microsoft in 1999, previously worked as a research associate for Boeing, the world’s leading aircraft manufacturer. She helped conceive quantitative research surveys for use onboard lengthy international flights and led a team of field researchers seeking input from passengers and crew to improve customer and employee satisfaction of aircraft design.

Kirah has lived and worked extensively in Europe and Asia and is fluent in English and Norwegian. She also has some knowledge of French, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. Kirah has written award-winning newspaper articles in Japan, edited and written books about contemporary Norwegian society and won several research grants, fellowships and scholarships.

She holds an upper level graduate degree in social and cultural anthropology from the University of Oslo, Norway; a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Washington and an undergraduate degree in social and cultural anthropology, with minors in the sociology of education and developmental psychology from the University of Oslo, Norway.

Kirah has two children, Aase and Miriam, and lives in Paris, France. Away from work, Kirah is involved in her children’s activities, cooking, writing, rock climbing and running.

Download interview (pdf, 188 kb, 8 pages)

23 July 2008

In three years…

Three years ago we founded Experientia. It has been a very exciting ride since.

In three years we worked with some of the best companies in the field and some of the best people too.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

Our clients
Alcatel-Lucent (France, Spain), Area Association (Italy), Arits Consulting (Belgium), AVIS (Italy), Barclays (Italy, UK), Blyk (Finland, UK), Cittadellarte (Italy), City of Genk (Belgium), Condé Nast (Italy), Conifer Research (USA), CSI (Italy), CVS-Pharmacy (USA), Design Flanders (Belgium), Deutsche Telekom (Germany), Expedia (UK), Facem (Italy), Fidelity International (UK), Finmeccanica (Italy), Flanders in Shape (Belgium), Haier (China), Hewlett Packard (India), IEDC-Bled School of Management (Slovenia), IKS-Core Consulting (Italy), Istud Foundation (Italy), Kodak (USA), LAit (Italy), Last Minute (UK), Max Mara (Italy), Media & Design Academy (Belgium), Microsoft (USA), Motorola (USA), MPG Ferrero (Italy), Nokia (Denmark, France, Finland), Research in Motion (Canada), Samsung (Italy, Korea, UK), Swisscom (Switzerland), Tandem Seven (USA), Torino World Design Capital (Italy), Voce di Romagna (Italy), Vodafone (Germany, Italy, UK), and Whirlpool (UK).

Our collaborators (interns, consultants and staff)
Sven Adolph, Ana Camila Amorim, Andrea Arosio, An Beckers-Vanderbeeken, Josef ‘Yosi’ Bercovitch, Enrico Bergese, Niti Bhan, Elena Bobbola, Janina Boesch, Giovanni Buono, Donatella Capretti, Manlio Cavallaro, Gaurav Chadha, Dave Chiu, Raffaella Citterio, Sarah Conigliaro, Piermaria Cosina, Marco Costacurta, Laura Cunningham, Regine Debatty, Stefano Dominici, Saulo Dourado, Tal Drori, Dina Mohamed El-Sayed, Marion Froehlich, Giuseppe Gavazza, Valeria Gemello, Michele Giannasi, Young-Eun Han, Vanessa Harden, Yasmina Haryono, Bernd Hitzeroth, Juin-Yi ‘Suno’ Huang, Tom Kahrl, Erez Kikin-Gil, Ruth Kikin-Gil, Helena Kraus, Francesca Labrini, Alberto Lagna, Shadi Lahham, Jörg Liebsch, Cristina Lobnik, Maya Lotan, Ofer Luft, Davide Marazita, Claude Martin, Camilla Masala, Myriel Milicevic, Kim Mingo, Emanuela Miretti, Massimo Morelli, Peter Morville, Muzayun Mukhtar, Giorgio Olivero, Pablo Onnias, Hector Ouilhet, Christian Pallino, Giorgio Partesana, Magda Passarella, Romina Pastorelli, Danilo Penna, Andrea Piccolo, Rachelly Plaut, Laura Polazzi, Laura Puppo, Alain Regnier, Enza Reina, Anna Rink, Michal Rinott, Silvana Rosso, Emanuela Sabena, Vera de Sa-Varanda, Craig Schinnerer, Fabio Sergio, Manuela Serra, Sofia Shores, Massimo Sirelli, Natasha Sopieva, Yaniv Steiner, Riccardo Strobbia, Victor Szilagyi, David Tait, Beverly Tang, Akemi Tazaki, Luca Troisi, Raymond Turner, Haraldur Unnarsson, Ilaria Urbinati, Carlo Valbonesi, Marcello Varaldi, Giorgio Venturi, Anna Vilchis, Dvorit Weinheber, Alexander Wiethoff, Junu Joseph Yang, and Mario Zannone.

Our partners
Amberlight, Design for Lucy, Fecit, Finsa, Flow Interactive, Foviance, Italia 150, Launch Institute, Prospect, Savigny Research, Syzygy, Torino World Design Capital, UPA, URN, Usability Partners International, Usercentric, UserFocus, User Interface Design, and UXnet.

Our friends (insofar not covered by the above)
Nik Baerten, Valerie Bauwens, Toon Berckmoes, Ralf Beuker, Marco Bevolo, Daniella Botta, Stefana Broadbent, Francesco Cara, Jan Chipchase, Allan Chochinov, Elizabeth Churchill, Gillian Crampton-Smith, Regine Debatty, Federico De Giuli, Jesse James Garrett, Adam Greenfield, Hubert Guillaud, Wilfried Grommen, Laurent Haug, Bob Jacobson, Marguerite Kahrl, Anna Kirah, Simona Lodi, Peter Merholz, Bill Moggridge, Donald Norman, Nicolas Nova, Bruce Nussbaum, Laura Orestano, Vittorio Pasteris, Gianluigi Perotto, Carlo Ratti, Hans Robertus, Bruce Sterling, John Thackara, Joannes Vandermeulen, Lowie Vermeersch, Judy Wert, and Younghee Yung.

Thanks to you all!

Pierpaolo Perotto, Mark Vanderbeeken, Michele Visciola and Jan-Christoph Zoels
The Experientia partners

PS. We are constantly looking for great talent! We currently have openings for interaction designers, communication designer, information architect, IT staff, usability consultants, etc.

24 April 2008

U² Understanding Users – a workshop in Brussels

Design Flanders and Flanders In Shape organise a one-day conference and intensive training on user-centred design in the Flemish Parliament in Brussels on 22 May.

Experientia’s Jan-Christoph Zoels and Mark Vanderbeeken (the author of this blog) are in charge of the afternoon workshop on ethnography.

The event web page explains the importance of empathy in the creation of a successful user experience and stresses the relevance of a user-centred design for small and medium size companies.

The day will start off with a series of presentations:

The afternoon will feature four parallel workshops:

  • Workshop 1: Justin Knecht of the Centre for Design Innovation (Ireland) will provide a practical “DIY” manual to understand users (mainly aimed at SME’s).
  • Workshop 2: Jan-Christoph Zoels and Mark Vanderbeeken of Experientia (Italy) will demonstrate the ‘ethnographic research’ as a new innovation method.
  • Workshop 3: Jurgen Oskamp and Tim Ruytjens of Achilles Associates (Belgium) will demonstrate the use of ‘personas’.
  • Workshop 4: Valerie L’heureux of the Human Interface Group (Belgium) will discuss ‘Design Patterns, a perfect technique for user-centred design’.

Patricia Ceysens, Flemish Minister of Economy, Enterprise, Science, Innovation and Foreign Trade, will provide the closing speech.

Programme and registration:

10 October 2007

Presentations online of the INDEX: 2007 conference

Index: 2007
The Copenhagen Prelude Conference inaugurated the alliance between INDEX: and AIGA/Aspen Design Summit on the role of design to improve life for people around the world.

During four sessions in two days late August 2007, leading international design and innovation thinkers and doers from around the world lectured on, debated and engaged in conversations with the audience on four themes and sub themes within the realm of user-centred design, innovation and design to improve life.

Audio files and presentation slides are now online.


Global Challenges and User-centered design and Innovation
Speaker: Ged Davis, Co-President of Global Energy Assessment [and formerly in charge of scenario-based foresight at Shell]
Audio (5.4 mb, 23:42) | Presentation (pdf, 1 mb, 34 slides)

Case: Dongtan Eco-city, China
Speaker: Alejandro Gutierrez, Associate Director at Arup and design leader of the Dongtan Eco-City project
Audio (5 mb, 21:55) | Presentation (pdf, 6.5 mb, 34 slides)

Users in architecture or rather proactive design?
Speaker: Bjarke Ingells, Founder of BIG, one of the leading Danish architectural companies
Audio (4.8 mb, 21:10)

UCDI version 2.0
Speaker: Arnold Wasserman, chairman of The Idea Factory, Singapore
Audio (6.4 mb, 28:01)

Panel debate on UCDI & Global Challenges
A conversation between Ric Grefé, Ged Davis, Alejandro Gutierrez, Arnold Wasserman, Bjarke Ingells and the audience
Moderated by Alan Webber
Audio (5 mb, 21:55) | Presentation (pdf, 6.5 mb, 34 slides)


UCDI in the dialogue between First and Third World
Speaker: Ravi Naidoo, founder of Design Indaba, Cape Town, ZA
Audio (9.9 mb, 43:14)

User = consumer?
Speaker: Anna Kirah, acting dean of 180 Academy, Denmark
Audio (6.2 mb, 27:12) | Presentation (pdf, 572 kb, 24 slides)

Life Straw and Space Safe – two examples of non-users
Speaker: Torben Vestergaard-Frandsen, CEO Vestergaard-Frandsen A/S
Audio (3.6 mb, 15:50) | Presentation (pdf, 1.9 mb, 19 slides)

Panel debate and dialogue with the audience
Panel: Anna Kirah, Ravi Naidoo and Torben Vestergaard-Frandsen
Moderator: Ged Davis
Audio (6.4 mb, 27:51)


Radical innovation on a conscious and strategic level?
Speaker: Dan Buchner, Vice President of Design Continuum, USA
Audio (4.8 mb, 21:00) | Presentation (pdf, 2.1 mb, 36 slides)

The sharp end of innovation – making ideas happen
Speaker: Pontus Wahlgren, Senior Industrial Design at IDEO, UK
Audio (6.5 mb, 28:24) | Presentation (pdf, 2 mb, 23 slides)

Get rid of the crap!
Speaker: Christian Madsbjerg, partner at ReD Associates, Denmark
Audio (2.4 mb, 10:32)

Case: service and welfare design in the elderly sector
Speaker: Heather Martin, co-founder of CIID, Copenhagen Institute of Interactive Design, Denmark
Audio (3.6 mb, 16:00)

Panel debate and dialogue with the audience
Panel: Dan Buchner, Christian Madsbjerg, Heather Martin and Pontus Wahlgren
Moderator: Finn Lauritzen
Audio (7.5 mb, 32:42)


Concept Design – How to solve the complex challenges of our time
Speaker: Finn Lauritzen, Director General, Danish Enterprise and Construction Authority
Audio (13 mb, 56:46) | Presentation (pdf, 2 mb, 23 slides)

Creating Value by Design
Speaker: John Heskett, Chair Professor, Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Audio (10.6 mb, 46:18) | Presentation (pdf, 580 kb, 36 slides)

Closing Panel Debate
Kigge Hvid, CEO of INDEX:, and Ric Grefé, CEO of AIGA, close the conference by discussing the future collaboration between their design organizations with the audience and which issues to pursue
Audio (11.8 mb, 51:51)

4 September 2007

People regularly featured on this blog

In alphabetical order:

Marko Ahtisaari
Ken Anderson

Nik Baerten
Genevieve Bell
Chris Bernard
Tim Berners-Lee
Ralf Beuker
Nina Boesch
Danah Boyd
Stefana Broadbent
Tyler Brûlé
Bill Buxton

Jan Chipchase
Hilary Cottam
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Alistair Curtis

Uday Dandavate
Liz Danzico
Regine Debatty
Paul Dourish

Jyri Engeström
Richard Eisermann

Jesse James Garrett
Fabien Girardin
Anand Giridharadas
Bruno Giussani
Adam Greenfield

Laurent Haug

Mizuko Ito

Bob Jacobson
Matt Jones

Jonathan Kestenbaum
Anne Kirah
Dirk Knemeyer
Jon Kolko
Mike Kuniavsky

Loïc Lemeur
Dan Lockton
Victor Lombardi

Nico Macdonald
John Maeda
Ranjit Makkuni
Ezio Manzini
Roger Martin
Stefano Marzano
Simona Maschi
Bruce Mau
Grant McCracken
Jess McMullin
Peter Merholz
Crysta Metcalf
Bill Moggridge
Peter Morville
Ulla-Maaria Mutanen

Jakob Nielsen
Donald Norman
Nicolas Nova
Bruce Nussbaum

Steve Portigal

Carlo Ratti
Howard Rheingold
Louis Rosenfeld
Stephen Rustow

Dan Saffer
Nathan Shedroff
Jared Spool
Yaniv Steiner
Bruce Sterling

John Thackara

Marco van Hout
Rob van Kranenburg
Mark Vanderbeeken
Joannes Vandermeulen
Jeffrey Veen
Timo Veikkola
Michele Visciola
Eric von Hippel

Tricia Wang
Luke Wroblewski

Paola Zini
Jan-Christoph Zoels

17 July 2007

Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design launches with pilot Masters programme

The demise of Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, now two years ago, has lead to the birth of several innovative companies, such as Experientia, CuteCircuit, Fluidtime, Interaction Design Lab, Project Bureau, ToDo, and Zora, as well as an innovative educational start-up in Denmark: the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

The school was founded by Heather Martin and Simona Maschi, both former Interaction-Ivrea professors. Alie Rose (who supported Experientia partner Jan-Christoph Zoels during the Interaction-Ivrea Applied Dreams workshops) is the school’s project manager. Martin and Maschi are also teaching at the Anne Kirah’s 180º Academy in Denmark.

Here is the launch press release:

Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID) is a new initiative happening in Denmark. The aim is to establish a high profile design institute that will encourage a multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary environment – providing an international setting for new thinking in design and technology. The structure of the institute will incorporate an integrated plan of teaching, research and consulting – all in the same building, at the same time – allowing the different areas to influence each other in their vision and philosophy.

Building on the positive response to our feasibility study and initial activities, Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID) is announcing a pilot of its Masters programme. We are looking for 15-20 students from Scandinavia, Europe and around the world to join us in Copenhagen for this pilot programme, starting in January 2008. At CIID, students will learn to apply design and technology to people’s lives and needs through an intense one-year interaction design education lead by experts in the field. This is an opportunity to meet an international network of like-minded people, acquire skills, create a body of design work, and help establish a new educational programme.

We will receive confirmation regarding the funding for this programme in September and the launch of the pilot programme will depend on this. Assuming this is secured, these students will receive sponsorship for this full-time, intensive, experimental version of our proposed two-year Masters course.

Working in a studio environment, students will learn how to design, develop and prototype new ideas for services, products and software – there will be a focus on hands-on learning, giving students the skills to build working prototypes of their ideas. Visiting faculty will lead investigations into a range of topics related to their specific expertise in design, technology and innovation, after which students will engage in a self-directed research project with a CIID or external advisor. A user-centred design process will provide inspiration and grounding and our multi-disciplinary approach will prepare students for careers where innovation crosses product areas within innovative companies and institutions.

The objective of the pilot programme is to prototype CIID’s Masters education with the students and faculty who will be part of it. By running this first year in a resource-light but content-intensive way, we hope to learn how to refine our programme before investing heavily in a long-term structure. We hope that this opportunity will attract an eclectic mix of students and faculty who are excited about creating a new institute. Tentatively, we plan for the pilot year to conclude at the end of 2008. However, if there is enough interest and support it will be extended. In fact, we hope that people involved with the pilot programme will remain part of CIID after the initial year in an educational or research capacity.

More details of the pilot programme can be found at:

10 June 2007

Spanish translation of engageID interview with Mark Vanderbeeken

Somebody seems to have a lot of time on his hands but we don’t complain.

Luis López Toledo, a Chilean industrial designer, just posted a Spanish translation of a rather lengthy interview with Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken, originally published in September last year by engageID, the student newsletter of the highly acclaimed Chicago-based Institute of Design (part of the Illinois Institute of Technology).

López Toledo also recently posted a Spanish translation of the interview Mark did last year with Anne Kirah, former senior design anthropologist at Microsoft’s MSN Customer Design Centre, and currently dean of the new 180º Academy in Denmark.

- Read interview in Spanish
Read interview in English (see also below) (alternate site)

31 March 2007

World Association of Newspapers: pay attention to the habits of the young

A young reader
Here’s how to get young people to read newspapers: pay attention to their habits, talk to them about their lives, and invite them to contribute, both in print and online.

That is the message that emerged from the 7th World Young Reader Conference (presentation summaries), where a fresh approach to attracting young readers was presented by those who have succeeded in getting young people interested in their products.

“Stop writing surveys about readership, and start watching people. Learn, look around, open your eyes,” said Anne Kirah, Dean of the 180° Academy in Denmark and a cultural anthropologist who has helped Microsoft design its products. “You need to engage in people-driven research and look at their entire lives. Observe people doing activities that define themselves, and are meaningful to them.”

Ms Kirah said she was distrustful of traditional readership questionnaires because “there is a difference between what people say they do and what they actually do. Do you really know how much time you spend on the internet, or read a newspaper? But you ask those questions. It’s not that people are lying to you, it’s that they really don’t know the answers.”

The problem is compounded when studying young readers, or the “digital natives”, since their habits are completely different those of the “digital immigrants” — those who remember the analog-only world and are the people conducting the studies, and making the decisions at media companies.

Read full story

29 November 2006

Learning people-driven innovation at the 180º Academy

Anne Kirah upside down for the 180 Academy
The website of the Danish 180º Academy, that I wrote about earlier, is now live.

The organisers “believe in people-driven innovation, enabling [their] students to understand innovation from the point of view of everyday people. Accepting this fact, 180°academy turns the traditional approach to innovation [which is technology-driven] around.”

The academy combines “theory with practice in a cross-disciplinary programme allowing students to understand the innovation process as a whole” and covers “topics as diverse as ethnography, competitive analysis, ideation, prototyping, branding, business plans and patenting, to name a few.”

The objective is “to educate top talent in large and small companies worldwide to innovate holistically – internally within their organisation’s different departments and externally by meeting the needs and aspirations of the people they are innovating for.”

The 180º Academy offers three part-time programmes which are designed for working individuals: the flagship nine-module Master Practitioner Programme, the three-module Executive Programme for executives, and a smaller six-module Insight Programme for mid-sized and small companies.

The acting dean is Anne Kirah, former senior design anthropologist at Microsoft (see my recent interview with her). Other professors are Richard Pascale (associate fellow, Oxford University) and Lars Thøger Christensen (professor, Department of Marketing, University of Southern Denmark). The faculty also includes the following visiting professors, consultants and associate professors: Teng-Kee Tan (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore), Kirsten Becker (University of Copenhagen, Denmark), Uday Dandavate (SonicRim, USA), Simona Maschi (Milan Polytechnic and former associate professor at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea), Heather Martin (also former associate professor at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea) and Pia Betton (Framework Identity, Berlin).

8 November 2006

In London next week

European Market Research Event
Next week I will be in London to attend the European Market Research Event and to blog from the conference.

I am listing here just a handful of the many speakers of the three-day event (in no particular order) to give you an idea: Anne Kirah, Senior Design Anthropologist Customer Design Center, MSN/Microsoft Corporation; James Surowiecki, Author, “The Wisdom Of Crowds“; Roula Nassar, Director Global Hair Care Consumer and Market Knowledge, Procter & Gamble; Flemming Ostergaard, Marketing Innovation Director, LEGO and Helene Venge, Global Marketing Manager, LEGO Interactive; Anat Amir, Head of Product Experience and Research, O2; Valerie Bauwens, Senior User Researcher, The Customer Observatory, SWISSCOM; Clive Grinyer, Director of Design, France Telecom Orange; Margaret Alrutz, Senior Design Researcher, Steelcase Iterative Design and Customer Feedback; Francesco Cara, Director Nokia Design, Insight, and Innovation, Nokia.

There are many more.

So read this blog if you want to know what the event is all about. A second edition is already planned for June 2007.

(And if you are around in London or at the conference, please let me know.)

5 October 2006

Denmark’s largest companies launch user-driven innovation academy

180º Academy
In just a few weeks, seven of the biggest players in Danish business and industry will launch a new innovation and concept initiator study programme called the 180º Academy (“One-Eighty Academy”), with the first group of students starting classes in June 2007, writes the Danish Mandag Morgen / Monday Morning Weekly (and here reported for the first time in English with the kind permission of the weekly).

Lego, Danfoss, Nokia, Gumlink, Bang & Olufsen, Novo Nordisk, and Middelfart Sparekasse are the seven companies who have taken the initiative to found and invest in the new educational institution, which offers courses in the Danish town of Middelfart and abroad.

The study programme is the only one of its kind in the world and is, according to its founders, a break from the traditional innovation concepts in Denmark.

It is practical, interdisciplinary and radically user-driven. It combines humanistic methodologies together with design and business thinking. Above all, it is about people, not technology, as is confirmed by Microsoft’s well-known design anthropologist Anne Kirah, who is Director of Development for the programme.

“The aim of the programme is to help students remove their mental blinders and be able to look beyond a company’s own production-related comfort zone. It is about breaking away from the focus on technological possibilities and learning instead about the future needs of the consumer,” says Anne Kirah.

According to its founders, the establishment of the Academy is a direct result of the acute need in Danish business and industry, to learn new user focused innovation methodologies. And businesses do not believe that existing university-level innovation study programmes meet their needs.

The Academy has hit a sore point in the Danish innovation strategy: the very gap between what companies want and what the state education system actually offers. The education programme also raises a number of fundamental questions as to what the recipe for effective innovation should be, particularly as the programme is a radical change to existing areas of study within the education system.

The 180º Academy follows the MBA model, where the instruction is planned to meet the needs of part-time students to fit around a student’s job. The course contents have been inspired by some of the world’s leading design and innovation schools, including the Stanford Institute of Design and the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Features of the programme can be summarised in the following four points:

  • The programme breaks away from technology driven innovation and concentrates instead on applying ethnographical methodologies for systematic collection of knowledge and data about life patterns, so as to identify needs that companies have not yet uncovered.
  • The education is interdisciplinary and trains students to operate in all areas of the innovation process from data collection and needs analysis to design development and development of prototypes and, finally, to commercialisation of the product.
  • The programme is practical. Students are not examined or assessed according to academic performance, but rather from practical experience with innovation.
  • The education programme has been privately funded and is conceived as supplementary education for employees and managers who already have several years of employment experience.

According to Anne Kirah, traditional, technology driven innovation is a relic from the industrial revolution. This type of innovation is no longer sufficient today in an era when a product’s lifecycle is becoming shorter and shorter. There is a constant need to know and adapt to consumer needs.

“The majority of companies make technology driven innovation. They are more concerned about making modifications to a product they already know. They have tunnel vision. How can you get any new ideas if you only ever look at existing possibilities and at what your competitors are doing? You cannot be innovative from within your own comfort zone.”

“At 180º Academy we will teach students to open their eyes to completely new markets, by analysing people’s needs,” says Anne Kirah.

During their course, students will be introduced to the traditional, ethnographic, participant observation methods, whereby they have to go out and observe people in their everyday lives before even attempting to put words and thoughts together as to which products they are likely to need in the future.

Students will then be thrown into a creative design phase, whereby they first have to analyse the data they have collected, learn various tools for idea development, and get to know the development of prototypes so as to finally be in a position to work with the actual commercialisation of the product.

Read backgrounder (pdf, 180 kb, 6 pages)

(Experientia/Putting People First will shortly publish an interview with Anne Kirah, in part also as its contribution to the upcoming European Market Research Event, which Kirah co-chairs.)

16 August 2006

‘Digital natives’ changing office culture and news organisations

Anne Kirah
Elaborating on a recent Associated Press story that I blogged about, I found an interesting reflection on ‘digital natives’ changing corporate office culture by Anne Kirah, Microsoft’s senior design anthropologist:

“Kirah considers herself to be among the category which many of us older users fall into: the ‘digital immigrant’. This term defines those who have adapted to use technology, but were not born to it as digital natives were. We think we understand it, and perhaps many of us do, but learning to understand something and intuitively comprehending it are not the same qualities.”

“According to Kirah, digital natives are always online, even if they aren’t actually doing anything on the web. They are constantly involved with the internet or a PC when it comes to multitasking in their daily life.”

“One has to accept that this generation is wired differently and have personal and work ethics which contrast sharply with previous generations. Now, those values are being brought into the office as digital natives begin to enter the work force, and that is causing some issues.”

“‘These digital natives are now in the workforce. It’s a paradigm shift in how companies operate because, what do these companies do? They block the internet. They don’t allow instant messaging. They don’t allow all these behaviours which these kids have grown up with. Digital natives say, ‘Give me a deadline and I’ll get the work done. If I want to do it at 2 AM, that’s my business, but don’t tell me how and when”, says Kirah.”

Read full feature

In another article, this time published by the British entertainment website Monsters and Critics, Kirah shares her insights on news organisations:

“News companies must adapt to the new world. The way they can survive is if the reporters read the viewers constantly and give them what they want, by bringing in citizen video and stories. They must listen to the story unfolding and use all reasonable resources of the viewers. But they must give something back to build loyalty, and that’s authenticity. Not stories filtered through company or political bias, but real news.”

Read full story

3 August 2006

Putting People First blogs the European Market Research event

Putting People First is the “official blogger” of the first European Market Research Event, taking place in London from 13 to 16 November this year.

The European Market Research Event positions itself as the “only practitioner led event focused on the business value of market research and consumer insights”. It was designed to join market researchers, directors of insights and marketers, to discuss the business value of market research.

The speaker line up is impressive and features such companies as Barclays Bank, CNBC Europe, EMI Music, Eastman Kodak, IBM, Intel, LEGO, Lufthansa, Microsoft, Nokia, Pepsico, Price Waterhouse Cooper, Procter and Gamble, Orange, Steelcase, Swisscom Innovations, Unilever and Vodafone. Anne Kirah, Microsoft’s senior design anthropologist, is the event’s co-chair.

The event, which coincides with the UPA’s 2006 World Usability Day, is organised in various thematic “special interest groups”. Themes are Ethnography, Segmentation, Online Research, Global Research, Media, and Usability.

The main conference days (Monday to Wednesday) feature keynote sessions from leading practitioners from Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and authors including James Surowiecki, “Wisdom of Crowds”, and Peter Fisk, “Marketing Intelligence”. Academics from the London Business School, Northwestern University and other institutions also contribute keynote speeches. The afternoons of the main conference days are devoted to in-depth case-studies on Trends, Product Development, Shopper Insights, Return on Investment, Social Research, Branding, Business to Business, and Best Practices in Applying Market Research.

In the months leading up to the event, Putting People First will post several interviews with the organisers and some of the key speakers. During the event we will provide live blogging, including some short interviews with key participants. In the coming weeks, we will create a special page, accessible from an event logo on the home page, to gather all the information on this conference.

In addition, two of our Experientia partners, Michele Visciola and Jan-Christoph Zoels, will present a 45 min. thematic session on usability as a tool for innovation, and on the importance of empathic market sensing, user experience modelling and design prototyping.

2 August 2006

Putting People First official blogger of the European Market Research Event 2006

European Market Research Event 2006
A few days ago, we were contacted by the Institute for International Research (IIR) in New York about the first European Market Research Event, taking place in London from 13 to 16 November this year. Today, we are proud to announce that we agreed that Putting People First will be the “official blogger” of this impressive event.

The European Market Research Event positions itself as the “only practitioner led event focused on the business value of market research and consumer insights”. It was designed to join market researchers, directors of insights and marketers, to discuss the business value of market research.

The speaker line up is impressive and features such companies as Barclays Bank, CNBC Europe, EMI Music, Eastman Kodak, IBM, Intel, LEGO, Lufthansa, Microsoft, Nokia, Pepsico, Price Waterhouse Cooper, Procter and Gamble, Orange, Steelcase, Swisscom Innovations, Unilever and Vodafone. Anne Kirah, Microsoft’s senior design anthropologist, is the event’s co-chair.

The event, which coincides with the UPA’s 2006 World Usability Day, is organised in various thematic “special interest groups”. Themes are Ethnography, Segmentation, Online Research, Global Research, Media, and Usability.

The main conference days (Monday to Wednesday) feature keynote sessions from leading practitioners from Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and authors including James Surowiecki, “Wisdom of Crowds”, and Peter Fisk, “Marketing Intelligence”. Academics from the London Business School, Northwestern University and other institutions also contribute keynote speeches. The afternoons of the main conference days are devoted to in-depth case-studies on Trends, Product Development, Shopper Insights, Return on Investment, Social Research, Branding, Business to Business, and Best Practices in Applying Market Research.

In the months leading up to the event, Putting People First will post several interviews with the organisers and some of the key speakers. During the event we will provide live blogging, including some short interviews with key participants. All posts are accessible from a special page, accessible from the European Market Research Event logo in the left sidebar.

In addition, two of our Experientia partners, Michele Visciola and Jan-Christoph Zoels, will present a 45 min. thematic session on usability as a tool for innovation, and on the importance of empathic market sensing, user experience modelling and design prototyping.

1 August 2006

E-mail losing ground to IM, text messaging [Associated Press]

Texting teens
Associated Press has published a feature story on how email is losing favour with young people “to instant and text messaging, and to the chatter generated on blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace,” and how “the shift is starting to creep into workplace communication, too.”

The article, published on the MSNBC website, quotes Anne Kirah, senior design anthropologist at Microsoft [with whom I had the pleasure of working], who reflects on the difference in multi-tasking capabilities between young people and adults:

For that reason, she says bosses should go right ahead and use their e-mail — and shouldn’t feel threatened by IM.

“Like parents, they try to control their children,” she says. “But companies really need to respond to the way people work and communicate.”

The focus, she says, should be the outcome.

“Nine to 5 has been replaced with ‘Give me a deadline and I will meet your deadline,'” Kirah says of young people’s work habits. “They’re saying ‘I might work until 2 a.m. that night. But I will do it all on my terms.'”

Read full story