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Putting People First

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9 February 2014

A review of Adam Greenfield’s Against the Smart City

Masdar City

Chris Carlsson started reading Adam Greenfield’s new book, Against the Smart City, “with the expectation that it would be a critical view of the ways our urban lives have changed during the past half decade with the massive adoption of so-called “smart phones” and the rest of the ubiquitous technosphere.” But it turns out, writes Carlsson, he has “a rather different target in mind. His polemic, delivered by EPUB and kindle only (so far), is directed at a techno-utopian fantasy promulgated by large multinational corporations and their government client-sponsors.”

“The information platforms projected to undergird Smart Cities are to be privately owned. No open source or free software here! “The smart city is a place where the technical platforms on which everyday life is built are privately owned and monetized, and information is reserved exclusively for the use of those willing and able to pay for it.” As Greenfield notes in one chapter, the whole model is based on a neoliberal sensibility in which government is stripped down to its most minimal functionality (primarily policing and systems administration), while as much as possible of the surrounding society is privately owned. Most of what people might do with and for each other is to the greatest extent possible monetized and commodified, to be packaged and sold to the residents (clients) of the new towns. Greenfield has looked carefully at the promises and projections of the various corporate plans and nowhere has he found anything to indicate open access to “disaggregated raw [data] feeds.”

9 February 2014

How Big Brother’s going to peek into your connected home

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The tech industry easily convinced the public to accept a myriad of free services for the price of some loss of privacy. But getting them to embrace the smart home is going to be a far harder sell, writes Nick Statt.

“A Google spin on the smart home could become overwhelmingly influential enough to careen the industry towards a model of free or cheap products with subtle data collection caveats we simply ignore out of apathy or because the alternatives aren’t as good. In the age of NSA surveillance and mass adoption of data-sharing services and social networks, the threat of letting that strategy transition to the home is increasingly worrisome to those who think the option of keeping sacred certain aspects of our person lives should remain intact. [...]

That means going forward, the privacy discussion won’t just revolve around what data is being shared, with whom and for what purposes as if the debate were the same conversation that privacy advocates have regarding Facebook. Instead, the connected home market — with its many different products and platforms and no universal privacy protection — is offering consumers a thousand different ways to “make the home smarter,” with each coming with its own set of security risks and protection responsibilities that, if ignored or not followed carefully, can turn a system or product against its owner.”

31 January 2014

The Facebook ethnography kerfuffle

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At the center of this kerfuffle is an anthropologist, Daniel Miller, his ethnographic research with teenagers in a small town in the UK, and a press report on a blog post about his research that went viral.

What’s exciting about this story — leaving aside the business implications for Facebook for a moment — is that we get to observe the treatment of qualitative research in its moment in the spotlight. It’s not pretty.

Much of the drama came from the manner in which it was reported, which certainly is worthy of some discussion. Most came to the story with hyped expectations. But there is more to the story. Namely, how qualitative aids decision-making by giving access to insights unavailable to quantitative.

Peter Spear revisits the story, and particularly the bias towards quantitative and against qualitative understanding in the modern business world.

21 January 2014

How should we analyse our lives?

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Alex “Sandy” Pentland, a professor of computational social sciences at MIT Media Lab and others like him are now convinced that the great academic divide between “hard” and “soft” sciences is set to disappear, since researchers these days can gather massive volumes of data about human behaviour with precision, writes Gillian Tett in the FT Magazine.

“Sometimes this information is volunteered by individuals, on sites such as Facebook; sometimes it can be gathered from the electronic traces – the “digital breadcrumbs” – that we all deposit (when we use a mobile phone, say) or deliberately collected with biometric devices like the ones used at Bank of America. Either way, it can enable academics to monitor and forecast social interaction in a manner we could never have dreamed of before.”

Tett sees two problems with this approach: privacy concerns and the important (but often ignored) fact that digital breadcrumbs are not neutral, but reflect cultural and power relations.

19 January 2014

New XD Magazine to be launched

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XD is a quarterly print magazine, to be launched from Australia in April 2014, which showcases the work of experience design practitioners and researchers from a wide range of human service industries and fields.

Each issue of XD will feature a series of projects, interviews, visuals, reviews and creative inspiration – all of which help everyone understand why experience design is important, who does it and where, how experience design is done in practice and how experience design research can enhance practice.

XD aims to attract a wide readership across many fields and industries internationally. Its style is informal, conversational and designed to stimulate creative discussion around the concept and practice of experience design.

If you are interested in submitting material, please email the Editor Faye Miller, faye@xdmagazine.net with a short draft article (approx 800-1000 words) or drop her a line to chat about your ideas.

More info:
- Magazine website
- Editorial site (on WordPress)
- Twitter / Facebook / Pozible

19 January 2014

[Book] Junkyard Planet

junkyardplanet

Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade
by Adam Minter
Bloomsbury Publishing
2013, 304 pages
[Amazon link - video]

Abstract

When you drop your Diet Coke can or yesterday’s newspaper in the recycling bin, where does it go? Probably halfway around the world, to people and places that clean up what you don’t want and turn it into something you can’t wait to buy. In Junkyard Planet, Adam Minter — veteran journalist and son of an American junkyard owner — travels deeply into a vast, often hidden, multibillion-dollar industry that’s transforming our economy and environment.

Minter takes us from back-alley Chinese computer recycling operations to high-tech facilities capable of processing a jumbo jet’s worth of recyclable trash every day. Along the way, we meet an unforgettable cast of characters who’ve figured out how to build fortunes from what we throw away: Leonard Fritz, a young boy “grubbing” in Detroit’s city dumps in the 1930s; Johnson Zeng, a former plastics engineer roaming America in search of scrap; and Homer Lai, an unassuming barber turned scrap titan in Qingyuan, China. Junkyard Planet reveals how “going green” usually means making money—and why that’s often the most sustainable choice, even when the recycling methods aren’t pretty.

With unmatched access to and insight on the junk trade, and the explanatory gifts and an eye for detail worthy of a John McPhee or William Langewiesche, Minter traces the export of America’s recyclables and the massive profits that China and other rising nations earn from it. What emerges is an engaging, colorful, and sometimes troubling tale of consumption, innovation, and the ascent of a developing world that recognizes value where Americans don’t. Junkyard Planet reveals that we might need to learn a smarter way to take out the trash.

Reviews

“Having made the reasonable observation that consumption causes waste even more surely than it causes recycling, Mr. Minter’s pragmatism reasserts itself. “If the goal is a realistic sustainable future,” he writes, “then it’s necessary to take a look at what we can do to lengthen the lives of the products we’re going to buy anyway.” He cites several products that could be made more easily reusable or recyclable. Apple’s MacBook Air, for example, is so meticulously compressed that taking it apart and sorting out its component raw materials is bound to be dauntingly inefficient. Consumers should, Mr. Minter says, object to this kind of planned obsolescence.”
Erica Grieder, Wall Street Journal – Dec 20, 2013

“By 2017, according to the Solving the E-Waste Problem (Step) initiative, a UN-supported project, each person on the planet will discard a third more electronic waste than in 2012, a grand total by then of 64.4m tonnes. Much of it will be shipped from the affluent world to developing countries for cheap reprocessing, a pattern of trade that Step defines as a problem. Adam Minter, a journalist and son of a US scrapyard entrepreneur, would disagree. Minter does not see the global scrap trade as a morality tale of villain and victim, but a vibrant and eco-friendly business, a core component of the world economy.”
Isabel Hilton, The Guardian – 18 January 2014

“As Junkyard Planet shows, the commercial recycling industry does put others’ trash to the most productive use possible. But recycling is no “get out of jail free card” for those who, as Minter puts it, find consuming “more fun than conserving”.”
Sarah Mishkin, Financial Times – January 3, 2014

19 January 2014

Why the resurgence of user-centred design matters for marketers

Facebook mobile

Marc Landsberg, CEO of socialdeviant, believes that marketing departments will increasingly invest in social platforms that are committed to users’ needs and interests

In his article, Landsberg considers three immutable human truths, and how they connect to what’s happening in the marketplace:

1) People want to be heard
The explosion of Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr reflects this. Everyone has a story to tell, in both words and pictures.

2) They want you to know what they want
The social web is a tremendous environment for personalisation, delivering content and experiences tailored to an individual’s interests.

3) Everyone is on the go
Native searches and content origination are now predominantly mobile-based. People are on the go, fluidly moving in and out of their social spaces via their mobile devices. Platforms are therefore investing heavily in mobile enablement.

18 January 2014

[Book] Practical Ethnography

 

Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector
By Sam Ladner
Left Coast Press
April 2014, 200 pages
[Publisher link - Amazon link]

> Download free sample: pdfkindle

Abstract – Ethnography is an increasingly important research method in the private sector, yet ethnographic literature continues to focus on an academic audience. Sam Ladner fills the gap by advancing rigorous ethnographic practice that is tailored to corporate settings where colleagues are not steeped in social theory, research time lines may be days rather than months or years, and research sponsors expect actionable outcomes and recommendations. Ladner provides step-by-step guidance at every turn–covering core methods, research design, using the latest mobile and digital technologies, project and client management, ethics, reporting, and translating your findings into business strategies. This book is the perfect resource for private-sector researchers, designers, and managers seeking robust ethnographic tools or academic researchers hoping to conduct research in corporate settings.

Sam Ladner, PhD, works as both an academic and a practitioner. A sociologist specializing in the social aspects of technological change, she has published articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Time & Society and The Canadian Journal of Communication. Ladner successfully operated her own research firm, Copernicus Consulting, until recently joining Microsoft as a Senior User Researcher in the Microsoft Office division. She served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ted Rogers School of Information Technology Management at Ryerson University in Toronto, where she also taught qualitative research methods as an adjunct professor. She holds a PhD in sociology from York University, an M.A. in communication from Simon Fraser University, and a Bachelor’s of Journalism from University of King’s College.

18 January 2014

Interview with Leisa Reichelt, Head of User Research at UK Government Digital Services

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Tricia Wang (see also previous post) just published her interview with Leisa Reichelt, Head of User Research at UK Government Digital Services.

Tricia introduced it with a kind reference to me (thank you!):

“>We are excited to interview Leisa Reichelt (@leisa) for our January EPIC theme at Ethnography Matters.  I met Leisa at EPIC 2103 in London at Mark Vanderbeeken’s townhall meeting on Big Data. When Mark told me about Leisa’s work, I became sooo excited because I just love talking to UX brains who are obsessed with strategy. While UX designers and ethnographic researchers engage in very different processes, both are creating products and processes for organizations–organizations that are often resistant to change. We are lucky to have Leisa share her thoughts on this topic in our interview. Leisa is also looking for passionate people to join her team at Government Digital Service!”

An appetiser:

Tricia: What are some of the biggest obstacles for researchers and designers to successfully working together?

Leisa: I think it’s often just lack of experience working together and not knowing what the other can contribute to each other’s work. Often this is due to each being involved at different phases of the project. You really need to be sitting right next to each other almost all the time in order to be properly helpful. We like to think of designers and researchers working as a pair just like programmers work in pairs. The most important thing is for each person to not feel like they have to know it all and be perfect – creating a project environment where everyone is encouraged to experiment, to be allowed to make mistakes and be wrong sometimes and where learning is valued.

18 January 2014

Tricia Wang: The Conceit of Oracles (talk notes)

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Sociologist and ethnographer Tricia Wang has posted the notes of “The Conceit of Oracles: How we ended up in a world in which quantitative data is more valued than qualitative data,” her inspiring and much appreciated opening keynote at the EPIC Conference in London, which she describes as “a conference for people who care deeply about making organizations more human-centered.”

Here is the summary:

Technology is playing an increasingly large role in decision-making processes. But are we really making more informed decisions? How do we even know we are asking the right questions? And what are we missing in our measurement-driven world?

This talk seeks to answer these questions by looking at methods of prediction from the Oracle of Delphi in Ancient Greece to the use of electricity during the Scientific Revolution and the invention of computers in the Age of Information. These historical events provide a lens for understanding how we ended up in a “data-driven” society: a world where computers are mostly valued as predictive machines; quantitative output is seen as “truth”; and the qualitative cultural context is seen as inferior to quantitative data. The danger in predictions, forecasting, and measurements that over-rely on quantitative data is that a misleading representation of actual human experiences can result. This is a terrible mistake and one that is committed frequently within organizations.

We are facing one of the biggest struggles of our times: the challenge for institutions is to treat their stakeholders (e.g users, employees, consumers, audience) as humans, not as data points. Connected to this challenge is the dominant belief that numerical measurements such as Big Data, will lead to more knowledge, justifying investment in quantitative research at the expense of qualitative research.

This struggle speaks to the important role of ethnography in ensuring that businesses, governments, and organizations are people-centered in the face of bureaucracy and numbers-driven thinking. But before ethnography can play a more strategic role inside institutions, the field needs to evolve. Ethnographers need to focus on making their work more visible, more integrated with Big Data, and more accessible. Our job is to teach organizations to design for experience, not usability; to create for people, not users.

When companies prioritize experience, they will see a greater business value in bringing in experts to provide explanatory knowledge that is connected to real social experiences.

17 January 2014

[Book] Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers and the Quest for a New Utopia

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Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers and the Quest for a New Utopia
by Anthony M. Townsend
W. W. Norton & Company
October 2013. 400 pages
[Amazon link]

Abstract

An unflinching look at the aspiring city-builders of our smart, mobile, connected future.

We live in a world defined by urbanization and digital ubiquity, where mobile broadband connections outnumber fixed ones, machines dominate a new “internet of things,” and more people live in cities than in the countryside.

In Smart Cities, urbanist and technology expert Anthony Townsend takes a broad historical look at the forces that have shaped the planning and design of cities and information technologies from the rise of the great industrial cities of the nineteenth century to the present. A century ago, the telegraph and the mechanical tabulator were used to tame cities of millions. Today, cellular networks and cloud computing tie together the complex choreography of mega-regions of tens of millions of people.

In response, cities worldwide are deploying technology to address both the timeless challenges of government and the mounting problems posed by human settlements of previously unimaginable size and complexity. In Chicago, GPS sensors on snow plows feed a real-time “plow tracker” map that everyone can access. In Zaragoza, Spain, a “citizen card” can get you on the free city-wide Wi-Fi network, unlock a bike share, check a book out of the library, and pay for your bus ride home. In New York, a guerrilla group of citizen-scientists installed sensors in local sewers to alert you when stormwater runoff overwhelms the system, dumping waste into local waterways.

As technology barons, entrepreneurs, mayors, and an emerging vanguard of civic hackers are trying to shape this new frontier, Smart Cities considers the motivations, aspirations, and shortcomings of them all while offering a new civics to guide our efforts as we build the future together, one click at a time.

Interview

Q. Professor Townsend, a recent favorable review of your new book in The New York Times described you as “the rare technologist who is in the know without being in the tank.” Are you indeed worried that “smart cities” could backfire in some way, compromising privacy, say, rather than helping us address environmental, social, and economic challenges?

A: Absolutely – there are considerable risks going forward. The penultimate chapter of Smart Cities bears the title “Buggy, Brittle and Bugged.” The technological underpinnings of smart cities are extremely complex, yet we are throwing them together at a blistering pace. This is how bugs like Y2K creep in. Design decisions are being made for expedience and cost, not quality and robustness.

Smart cities are also the perfect tool for mass surveillance. As we are finding out in the post-Snowden era, it is actually far worse than even the most paranoid critics feared. All of these risks can be managed, but no one in the smart cities community was really confronting them head on.

17 January 2014

Why wearable tech is unwearable

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Belindar Parmar, CEO of Lady Geek and founder of Little Miss Geek thinks that current wearable devices are “emblematic of a lack of empathy that pervades the technology industries.

“Empathy is the ability to see the world from somebody else’s perspective. In order to develop products that customers want to buy the vendors must first attempt to relate to their audience and understand the desires and motivations of their customers.

Unfortunately most technology companies see empathy as a ‘soft’ and overtly feminine skill that’s downgraded compared to the ‘hard’ skills of engineers. The tech industry traditionally favours individuals who are systemisers — these are people who are able to work with hierarchies, processes and complex inanimate systems.

These are great skills to have and many of the world’s best companies have discovered how to extract the best from this kind of person.

Unfortunately companies dominated by systemisers tend to ignore the human aspect. The end-user does not figure within its circuit schematics and design goals. I’ve met people for whom the user is an unfortunate and pesky interface problem — best avoided or left to the marketing types.”

15 January 2014

[Paper] Designing customer-centric branchless banking offerings

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Designing Customer-Centric Branchless Banking Offerings
Claudia McKay, Yanina Seltzer
The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)
20 December 2013
pdf, iBook, Kindle

Branchless banking services have taken on a significant challenge: developing new channels through which to provide financial services to customers who have mostly used only cash before. Understanding the customer experience is critical, but focus groups and surveys may not be well-suited to understand customer needs in an environment with so many new and unknown dimensions. Intrigued by the success of design research in other industries, CGAP set out to explore how human-centered design (HCD) could be applied to branchless banking and its unique challenges.

Most financial service providers do not launch branchless banking services based on well-defined insights about low-income clients. Instead, they go to market with a one-size-fits-all mobile wallet that customers sometimes struggle to understand and use. Several customer-centric research and product development methodologies have been used in financial inclusion work for some time with mixed success. Because of its track record in other industries, CGAP has been exploring how HCD may help branchless banking providers understand their customers more deeply and develop offerings better suited to their customers’ needs. The HCD process is centered on learning directly from customers and delivering solutions that work in specific contexts. Through careful listening and observation of customers in their own environment, designers understand the needs of the people they are designing for. Rapid prototyping and real-world tests with customers are then used to quickly validate (or invalidate) early designs and iteratively improve the final solution.

This Brief describes initial experiences using HCD to help five branchless banking providers understand their customers better and design offerings to meet their needs. Partners include large banks in Brazil, Mexico, and Pakistan; mobile network operators (MNOs) in Ghana and Uganda; and several leading design firms. Three lessons from early experiences include the following:

  1. In each project, the process uncovered critical aspects of the customer experience beyond the product that needed to function correctly for customers to trust and use the product. HCD was a useful tool to understand and improve the entire customer experience.
  2. Although the HCD process helped develop innovative product concepts arising directly from customer needs, it did not solve implementation challenges, which can be just as difficult if not more so than concept generation.
  3. The HCD process helped bridge the gap between senior managers and customers. Many senior managers engaged deeply and directly with customers for the first time and are adjusting organizational processes to ensure customers continue to have a greater voice in the organization.
12 January 2014

[Book] Design Transitions

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Design Transitions – Inspiring Stories. Global Viewpoints. How design is changing.
By Joyce Yee, Emma Jefferies and Lauren Tan
BIS Publishers
[Book site - Amazon link - selected pages]

Abstract

Design Transitions presents 42 unique and insightful stories of how design is changing around the world. Twelve countries are represented from the perspectives of three different communities: design agencies, organizations embedding design; and design academics.

Design Transitions takes you across the globe in search of the most innovative design practitioners, and their answers to the question ‘How are design practices changing?’ From small practices to vast corporations, the renowned to the lesser known: these are the stories of people working at the fringes of the traditional disciplines of design. They have opened up their design worlds to reveal the methods, tools and thinking behind their inspirational work. Some of the organizations and individuals featured includes: Droog, BERG, Fjord, thinkpublic, FutureGov, Hakuhodo Innovation Lab, DesignThinkers Group, INSITUM, Optimal Usability, frog Asia, Ziba, Banny Banerjee, Ezio Manzini, Carlos Teixeira and Adam Greenfield.

Design Transitions is divided into three sections:

  • Section I: Changing Practices features 25 stories from design practices in a range of disciplines.
  • Section II: New Territories features five organizations introducing and embedding design approaches into their core practice and operations.
  • Section III: Viewpoints features 12 interviews with leading design academics, offering additional insights and a critical perspective on the key themes that have emerged from our case studies and interviews.

Authors

Joyce Yee, PhD is a senior lecturer at UK’s Northumbria University’s Design School, teaching interaction, service and design methodologies across undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Emma Jefferies, PhD is an independent design consultant and founder of Design Doctors.

Lauren Tan, PhD has worked as a designer in various capacities in graphic design, management consulting, service design and social design.

12 January 2014

The new design: social innovation inspiring business innovation

 

Cheryl Heller of CommonWise argues that there’s a new design emerging that works from inside a community and at a systems level, impacting human relationships instead of things. It emerges from the new discipline of design for social innovation, in which the discipline is applied to re-imagining and reinvigorating human resources. This new design, applied to business, can shift cultures, instill broad creativity, and ignite the kind of transformational opportunities we need most right now.

“An emerging design practice has grown from the efforts of a relative handful of pioneering designers working in social impact design. It “scales up” the principles and processes of design to work at a systems level – creating the conditions, relationships, engagement and access to wisdom that shift cultures and ignite creative potential. This new design, developed through working in the social sector, requires skills and knowledge incremental to the core visual and technical skills that designers are currently taught: skills for mapping, storytelling, ethnographic research, analysis, facilitation, collaboration and persuasion. These new skills open the creative process to collective participation, engaging a culture in imagining and realizing it’s own future. And that is the heart of this powerful new tool for business.”

12 January 2014

Design’s next big frontier? Shaping behavior in real time

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Small devices with embedded intelligence can do more than just measure; they’re showing their potential to change the way we act, writes Sean Madden in Fast Company.

“For the first time, we have in essence a kit of parts–sensors, software, wireless protocols, an ecosystem of smartphones–that makes it relatively easy to balance unobtrusiveness, access and appropriateness in almost any device. The greatest obstacles now are figuring out what to measure, and ensuring that we use the tremendous persuasive power of these new feedback loops to encourage the right behavior.”

12 January 2014

Solving the right problem and finding your own solution: an interview with Don Norman

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At the LAUX Meetup Group, Media Contour’s Luke Swenson was able to track down Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition and get his thoughts on problem solving, identifying the right problem, and why copying your competitors is unwise in a world where you should be focusing on your own strengths.

What about “featuritis.” Why is focusing on strengths so much more important than copying your competition?

You have to stand out. You have to look different from the others. Take the number of Android phones on the market today. They all look the same, right? Don’t feature match. Don’t design match. Make your phone stand out from the crowd. It’s about your company, not about your competitors. What are your strengths? What does your website design say about your company? What does your product design say about your company?

For instance, if your company is a fun, whimsical clothing company, your website needs to reflect that. You might not resonate with EVERY person who comes to the site, but you don’t WANT every person to buy your clothing. You want those who fit in with your company’s identity. That applies to every single business out there. You need to express what your business is like, what your image is, and then connect with people who share that. You need to show that you can solve their problem.”

12 January 2014

[Book] The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think

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The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think
by Douglas T. Kenrick and Vladas Griskevicius
Basic Books
September 2013
[Amazon link]

Abstract

Why do three out of four professional football players go bankrupt? How can illiterate jungle dwellers pass a test that tricks Harvard philosophers? And why do billionaires work so hard—only to give their hard-earned money away?

When it comes to making decisions, the classic view is that humans are eminently rational. But growing evidence suggests instead that our choices are often irrational, biased, and occasionally even moronic. Which view is right—or is there another possibility?

In this animated tour of the inner workings of the mind, psychologist Douglas T. Kenrick and business professor Vladas Griskevicius challenge the prevailing views of decision making, and present a new alternative grounded in evolutionary science. By connecting our modern behaviors to their ancestral roots, they reveal that underneath our seemingly foolish tendencies is an exceptionally wise system of decision making.

From investing money to choosing a job, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, our choices are driven by deep-seated evolutionary goals. Because each of us has multiple evolutionary goals, though, new research reveals something radical—there’s more than one “you” making decisions. Although it feels as if there is just one single “self” inside your head, your mind actually contains several different subselves, each one steering you in a different direction when it takes its turn at the controls.

The Rational Animal will transform the way you think about decision making. And along the way, you’ll discover the intimate connections between ovulating strippers, Wall Street financiers, testosterone-crazed skateboarders, Steve Jobs, Elvis Presley, and you.

Related

12 January 2014

[Essay] Empathy on the edge

 

Empathy on the Edge
Scaling and sustaining a human-centered approach in the evolving practice of design
Katja Battarbee, Jane Fulton Suri, and Suzanne Gibbs Howard
IDEO
January 9, 2014

Remarkable things can happen when empathy for others plays a key role in problem-solving. In today’s global marketplace, companies are being asked to design for increasingly diverse users, cultures, and environments. These design challenges can be so systemic and wickedly complex, the task of aligning all of a project’s stakeholders can seem impossible. But it’s not.

Design empathy is an approach that draws upon people’s real-world experiences to address modern challenges. When companies allow a deep emotional understanding of people’s needs to inspire them—and transform their work, their teams, and even their organization at large—they unlock the creative capacity for innovation.

In this essay, we’ll explore how design empathy works, its value to businesses, and some ways in which it can be used to effect positive change. We’ll discuss the need for scaling and sustaining design empathy, so that its benefits can reach more people and have long-term positive impact throughout organizations. And we’ll offer stories from the edges of our own empathic design practice. Our goal is to inspire other designers and innovators to share their practices and to expand the conversation about empathy to include the business community-at-large.

12 January 2014

The UX of commercial drones

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In order for commercial drones like Amazon’s or Australian startup Flirtey’s to become a reality, the drone (or any future-world technology, really) can’t merely do its job—meaning, it can’t randomly drop off deliveries and simply fly away as the drone in the Amazon demo video does. There’s a lot more to it than that. To make this kind of service take off (literally), companies will have to consider the user experience, and especially the microinteractions, the drones will have with customers, writes Dan Saffer in UX Magazine.

There are quite a few issues to be resolved, clearly.